Senninger, Jean aka Serge Ninn (1921-2019)

Ninn with son Franck

A short biography of Serge Ninn, active in French anarchist movement in 1940s and 1950s.

Jean Rene Senninger was born at Bonhomme in the Haut-Rhin region of France on 18th January 1921.
In 1939 he volunteered to fight in the war, and was then in the Free French forces, as a parachutist, operating in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Syria. In 1943 he was with Lieutenant Colonel Durand in London. He was apparently a member of the Communist Party. There he met the Belgian surrealist E.L.T Mesens and frequented the group around him, contributing poetry to Mesens’s magazine Message de Nulle (Message from Nowhere) in 1944 and becoming acquainted with people like Ken Hawkes, George Melly and Simon Watson Taylor, who all had links to the anarchist movement. In fact, in 1946 Senninger, now using the pseudonym Serge Ninn, contributed a poem, Clairvoyant’s Monologue, to Watson Taylor’s magazine Free Unions Libres in 1946. It was probably through such individuals that Ninn became acquainted with the anarchist movement, in 1944 encountering with Vernon Richards, and Marie-Louise Berneri who were editing the anarchist paper War Commentary. Ninn announced his conversion to anarchism at a War Commentary conference in that year.
It was through M-L Berneri that Ninn met her sister, Giliane, in Paris and they established a relationship, marrying in 1950.

Ninn and Giliane Berneri formed a relationship and were later married on 11th March 1950. They both took a very active part in the work of the Groupe Sacco et Vanzetti of the Fédération Anarchiste, in the 5th arrondissement of Paris.

Ninn was also elected to the national committee of the Fédération des Jeunesses Anarchistes (Federation of Anarchist Youth) at its founding congress on 13th September 1946.

He was elected general secretary of the FA at its congress in Lyon in November 1948, being replaced in this post by Georges Fontenis in 1950.

In 1950 he became a member of the secret organisation within the FA, along with Fontenis, Roger Caron, Robert Joulin, etc, the Organisation Pensée Bataille which sought to move the FA in a libertarian communist direction and throw out the individualists.

He was elected secretary for propaganda of the FA at the congress of 27th-29th May 1950. By now the Sacco and Vanzetti group had changed its name to the Groupe Kronstadt.

Because of his long standing links with the Surrealists, Ninn acted as a go-between with André Breton and his group and the FA, who then had a regular column in the FA paper Le Libertaire from 1951.
In March 1953 two months before the FA transformed itself into the Fédération Communiste Libertaire, Ninn was expelled from the OPB. In January 1954 Ninn made the existence of the OPB public, and several months later the Groupe Kronstadt published a Memorandum, which described in detail the various actions of the OPB within the FA. It ignored the fact that Ninn himself, and other members of the Kronstadt group, had themselves been involved in OPB manouevres.

Both Giliane Berneri and Ninn dropped out of anarchist activity after this, Berneri forever.

In 1956 Ninn became involved in the activities of the pataphysicians and joined the College de 'Pataphysique became one of its officials (Provéditeur) in 2007. Also in 1956, now describing himself as an individualist anarchist, Ninn joined the Alliance Ouvrière Anarchiste. This organisation had Fernand Robert and Raymond Beaulaton as its principal founders. It had left the newly reconstituted post -FCL Fédération Anarchiste in 1956, accusing it of being directed by freemasons. It began adopting increasingly individualist and negationist (denial of the Holocaust) positions. Both Robert and Beaulaton drew close to Marcel Renoulet, another ex-FA member whose magazine L’homme Libre, was an exponent of racist and negationist ideas and conspiracy theories, acting as a fifth column to attempt to spread this filth within the libertarian movement. Ninn himself drew close to Renoulet and wrote for his magazine, keeping in touch with the latter until well into the 21st century.

Ninn died at Cabourg in Normandy at the age of 98 on 17th December, 2019. Ninn and Giliane had two children, Hélène, born in 1950 and Franck, born in 1955. Both became doctors, and Franck is a well-known novelist. Franck became estranged from his father.

Nick Heath

Davranche, Guillaume.Entry on Ninn in the online Maitron Dictionnaire des Anarchists:
Biard, Roland. Histoire Du Mouvement Anarchiste 1945-1975. Editions Galilee. (1976)
Dubacq, Philippe. Anarchisme et Marxisme au travers de la Federation Communiste Libertaire (1945-1956) Collection Anarchisme et Mouvement Social. Noir et Rouge no.23 (1991)
Maitron, Jean. Le Mouvement Anarchiste en France, Vol. 2. (1975)
Fontenis, Georges. L’autre Communisme: Histoire subversive du Mouvement Libertaire (1990)
Skirda, Alexandre. Autonomie Individuelle et Force Collective (1987)

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May 25 2020 14:40


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