A short biography of Paul Denais, doctor and libertarian communist, active within French movement
Paul Denais was born at Rochefort sur Loire in France on 12th May 1922, the son of a secretary for the management board of the psychiatric hospital of the Maine et Loire department and of a dressmaker.
During the Occupation he refused to take part in the Service de Travail Obligatoire (STO), which involved providing compulsory labour by French workers to be deported into Germany to replace the severely depleted losses amongst the German workforce as a result of the war. He then joined the resistance organisation Defence de La France until Liberation.
In 1952 he qualified as a general medical practitioner and from 1960 worked as a rheumatologist in various health centres and with the Department of Social security in the Paris region.
By 1958 he had moved in an anarchist direction and joined the Federation Anarchiste. He became a contributor to its weekly paper Le Monde Libertaire via its readership committee the following year. He had doubts about the broad compass of the FA at the time and joined the anarchist communist tendency within it, the Union des Groupes Anarchistes Communistes (UGAC- itself primarily and originally a scission from the Fontenisist FCL) whose leading lights were Paul Zorkine and Guy Bourgeois. The UGAC affiliated to the FA in May 1961 and Denais joined it soon after. Within the UGAC he met the woman who became his life companion, Michèle Stern, and up until the first decade of the 21st century they were to be often seen at the various events and initiatives of the French libertarian movement. In September 1960 he signed the Appeal of the 121 Against The War in Algeria.
In the same period he began to frequent the circles of the Iberian Libertarian Youth Federation (FIJL) in exile in Paris. He came into contact with Octavio Alberola who was an important figure within Defensa Interior which had been set up by FIJL members to renew the struggle against the Francoist regime. Alberola had carried out a reconnaissance expedition under false papers in Spain in 1958. One of the targets identified was the grotesque monument to the Franco dictatorship, the Valley of the Fallen, built by the slave labour of thousands of Republican prisoners.
On 12th August, Denais, together with the Spanish anarchist Antonio Martin, planted a bomb at the monument. In the subsequent repression, various members of the FIJL within Spain, who had nothing to do with the attack, were rounded up, one of them, Francisco Sanchez Ruano, receiving a 28 year prison sentence, of which he served 11 years.
In 1964 Denais left the FA with the rest of the UGAC after the right to tendencies was ruled out at the Grenoble conference that year. He contributed to is magazine Perspectives Anarchistes Communistes (at least 7 issues of this appeared in 1967).In 1967 and 1968 Denais with other members of the UGAC journeyed to Yugoslavia to examine the experiments in self-management of the Titoist regime.
In June 1968 the UGAC was one of the groups that were the founders of the Committee for the Initiative for a Revolutionary Movement (CIMR) which attempted to unite libertarian groups with those of the non-Leninist Marxist left. This proved to be a failure. The CIMR subsequently was replaced by another attempt, in 1971, the Centres d’Initiative Communistes (CIC), which also proved to be a failure. Denais served as a member of its national political committee and as editor of its paper Action. Meanwhile the UGAC had dissolved itself at the end of 1969, with only its magazine continuing. This was renamed Tribune Anarchiste Communiste in July 1970. Following the general line of the TAC (see the libcom biography of Guy Bourgeois) Denais devoted much of the content of the magazine to anti-imperialist activity.
In September 1970 he was part of the French medical expedition to the Middle East after the Black September massacre in Jordan. He also took part in the committee for medical aid to Vietnam.
From May 1974, with the coming of the Portuguese Revolution, he was administrator for the eighth and last issue of Portugal Libertario, a bulletin produced by Portuguese supporters of the Organisation Revolutionnaire Anarchiste (ORA) from October 1973 to May 1974.
Together with fellow TACer Bernard Cnockaert he administrated the magazine Contre Pouvoirs Pour L’Autogestion (Counter Powers For Self-Management) which published between 1983 and 1985 with at least six issues, which again sought a regrouping of the revolutionary self-management left. After the failure of this initiative he became coordinator for a new series of Tribune Anarchiste Communiste between 1987 and 1993.
In the 1980s he signed off several postal worker members of the Union Des Travailleurs Communistes Libertaires (UTCL) on sick leave, enabling them to take time off from work to concentrate on organising work within the postal service.
In May 1989 he was one of the first one hundred signatories of the Appel Pour Un Alternative Libertaire (Appeal for a Libertarian Alternative) but did not join Alternative Libertaire, the organisation that emerged from this, because he thought it was still too much under control of the ex-members of the UTCL, one of its components. However he often attended its rallies and meetings.
At the beginning of the 1990s he took his retirement but continued to be active within Agir Contre Le Chomage! (AC!), a movement of the unemployed, from 1993, and in the support movement for the workers sans papiers (unregistered in France), together with his life companion Michèle.
He died on 10th July 2014 at the age of ninety two.
The above biography is based primarily on the article by Guillaume Davranche at
And on that by Rolf Dupuy at:
RIP. Sounds like he lived
RIP. Sounds like he lived quite a life, however!
This bit in particular is great: