Obituary: Auguste Lecoeur

Auguste Lecoeur, politician, author and historian, born Lille France 4 September 1911, died Crissey France 26 July 1992.

AUGUSTE LECOEUR was a leading figure in the French Communist party until he was ousted from the leadership in 1954, and a key organiser in the wartime Resistance.

Born in 1911 in Lille (Nord), Lecoeur went to work in the mines at the age of 13. His family, which was Socialist and politically active, moved to Paris. He joined the Communist Party at 16. He was more inclined to union work than pure politics and he read widely to acquire an education. His two years of military service were devoted to acquiring the educational background he had missed. He was on the point of leaving the highly sectarian Communist Party when Stalin changed the party's line and he was caught up in the Popular Front enthusiasm and took on political responsibilities.

In 1937 the party sent him to Spain as a political commissar with the International Brigade and he became a battalion leader under Andre Marty. He was ordered to close an escape route for deserters, which he did with exemplary efficiency. And his discipline was noticed by the leadership. On returning from Spain in 1937 he became a full-time party employee as Secretary of the Pas-de- Calais Federation and was then put in charge of organisation. He showed all the outward signs of being an unconditional Stalinist. He supported the Hitler-Stalin pact (against the ordinary activists who deserted in droves) and was arrested and spent six months in prison. He was then called up, his platoon was captured in 1940, but he escaped and returned to France.

At the liberation Lecoeur was elected deputy for the Pas-de-Calais and nominated to the Central Committee in 1945. He was an under-secretary for Industrial Production in the Gouin and Bidault governments of 1946. Lecoeur was a rising figure in the 1940s and early 1950s. But the return of the party leader Maurice Thorez inaugurated the systematic removal of the Resistance. Lecoeur was put in charge of the party apparatus after the Comintern (the Third Communist International) had criticised the party's lack of revolutionary preparation. In 1950 he joined the Political Bureau and secretariat, as late as 1952 he appeared to be the third-ranking figure in the French Communist Party.

As a disciplined Communist, Lecoeur sought to bring the new Soviet de-Stalinisation to France. However, he encountered the resistance of the Stalinist Party leadership and he was swiftly demoted. Lecoeur was excluded from the party in a trumped-up 'show trial' in 1954. He was expelled in 1955. Lecoeur characteristically refused to play the game: he did not deliver an abasing self-criticism, refused to repent and flung himself into furious political activity. He went back to work and founded the journal La Nation Socialiste. He joined the Socialist party in 1958, but was critical of the Socialist-Communist alliance of the 1970s and briefly joined the centrist PSD (Partie Social- Democrate). He also published biographies on the Communist Party and exposed the party leader Georges Marchais' claims about his wartime career to public scrutiny.

In public Lecoeur was a humourless authoritarian, but he was a man of moral and physical courage (he was badly beaten up in 1956 for his views) and driving will-power. Although he broke some of the rules, Lecoeur kept to the unwritten code for ex-Communists that some of its murkier subjects were off-limits.

ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Marketing Executive

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Charter Selection: A professional services company ...

Project Manager - Bristol South West

£400 - £450 per day: Orgtel: Project Manager (PM), Key Banking Client, Retail ...

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor