A biography of French anarchist print worker and militant Gerard Melinand.
Born 1952 - France, died 12/22 June 2000 - France
Gerard Melinand (Gege) died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 48 in the night of 21st to 22nd June 2000.
An important militant in the French libertarian movement, I remember him well from visits to Paris in the 1970s to meet comrades of the Organisation Revolutionnaire Anarchiste. His serious approach to politics was balanced by his wit. Gerard taught us visiting British anarchists to say 'Fuck Mao!' in Cantonese, which he had picked up from some Chinese anarchists then living in the Marais quarter of Paris.
His powers of free enquiry and intellectual curiosity made him question the chaplain of the Lycee Arago on the gospels, when he was barely out of childhood. The same outlook made the lyceen (high school student) discover libertarian communism immediately after May '68. He joined the! Organisation Revolutionnaire Anarchiste, the youngest libertarian organisation of this period. In the weeks and months after May' 68 hundreds and perhaps thousands of young people chose to join the anarchist movement. This in spite of the still powerful influence of State communism, which dominated the youth via the Leninist groups and which still had a powerful influence via Stalinism over the working class.
Gerard was exceptionally active in the struggles of the neighbourhoods of Paris, where he attempted to introduce ideas of self-organisation and counter-information, in the 5th arrondissement with the newssheet Cri du Vie, in the l3th arrondissement with the Canard du XIIIe and with the Maison pour Tous (House for Everyone) of the Rue Mouffetard. He took an active part in support for strikes in the banks, the post offices, at the newspaper Parisien Libere, as well as support to the occupied watch factory of Lip and organising opposition within the unions.
He took part in many activities against repression and for international solidarity, particularly with the Spanish anarchist movement and the revolutionary movement in Italy. Alongside this as an ORA member from 1968-1976, and then in the Organisation Communiste Libertaire (OCL) from 1976-1982, he was involved in campaigns against militarism, for freedom to flypost, mass leafletting at sorting offices entrances, and mass flyposting. Without forgetting his involvement with the Parisian autonomist movement which emerged with the 'suicide' of the Baader-Meinhoff (a left-wing urban guerrilla group. Strong evidence suggested the prisoners were in fact murdered) prisoners in Germany, with resultant violent demonstrations in Paris and which reached its height at the metalworkers' march in March 1979.
Alongside this were the debates on being for or against the unions, on the Organisational Platform, on armed struggle, and the fierce polemics on a new political concept, long since forgotten, the anti-statist dictatorship of the proletariat.
It was in the period of '68 to '78 that militant class struggle anarchism re-emerged in France, and the most important nuclei of militants were established, who would go on to build the movement of today. Gerard threw himself heart and soul into militant action, in propaganda by spoken and written word, support and participation in workers' struggles, confrontations with the police and the various stewards' organisations of political parties who tried to bar the streets to the anarchists.
Gerard was also heavily involved in setting up printshops at the service of the movement. He ended up as manager of the printshop Expression, a commercial printshop which, despite a precarious financial position, offered cut-price rates to anarchists. He always searched for collective solutions to problems, for unity rather than division. For several years he was close to, and then joined, the Confederation National de Travail (CNT-Vignoles, or CNT-F) the anarcho-syndicalist union which he saw develop into the strong libertarian focus within a much larger social movement independent from the parties of the Left and extreme Left.
He wanted to create bridges between different sections of the social movement and wanted libertarians to be present in this process.
He had a key role on the organising committee of the week of events in Paris including debates, films, plays and exhibitions which led up to the 1st May 2000 organised by the CNT and drawing in other components of the anarchist movement. Thanks to this the CNT has a much higher visibility and the 4,000 who marched on May Day under the red and black flags, well, it was due a little bit to Gerard.
A generous person who supported comrades, especially refugees, with lodging, money, jobs and all sorts of aid, Gerard both loved life and wanted to change it. He loved living it up, the conviviality of meals with plenty of drink, opera and the benefits where he could sing Italian songs of the people that he knew by heart.
As he said:
"The disappearance of the Soviet Union, the installation of so-called market socialism in the People's Republic of China, and the consequent collapse of Marxism-Leninism settles, quasi-definitely, the great controversy of ; the socialist movement: State socialism is dead.
"What lives today, as an idea, as a political and , social doctrine of emancipation, faced with the different versions of liberalism, is libertarian communism or anarchism. Outside of that, everywhere that we know, in all the developed countries grows the aspiration to liberty, to direct democracy, to self-management; our contemporaries want to control their own lives more and more.
"We, the libertarians, must understand this new reality and adapt ourselves to this new feeling which is favourable for us. We must lose our minority reflexes; now is the hour for audacity and the constitution of mass movements, open and without sectarianism."
Gerard's life was dedicated to the development of the libertarian movement and the preparation of the social revolution.
Edited by libcom