FERNAND GRENIER was one of the authentic early Bolsheviks who remained faithful to Communism through its numerous twists and who was one of the first ever Communist ministers in a French government.
Grenier was born in 1901, the son of a foundry worker, and suffered an impoverished childhood. He became involved in activity against the French occupation of the Ruhr when he was a soldier. With Jacques Duclos - later another pro-Soviet Communist stalwart - he attended the party school in 1924. Although he claimed to be a bakery worker he was effectively a full-time party employee in the town hall of Halluin (in 'little Moscow' in the Nord region). He was moved to Paris by the party in 1932 to the 'Friends of Russia' (a fellow- travelling association) and he organised the defence in France of the Moscow show trials.
Grenier also campaigned against the dissident Communist Jacques Doriot and was elected councillor is Saint-Denis and then deputy in a by-election in 1937. Grenier supported the Nazi-Soviet pact and claimed that the war against Germany, would also be a war against the Soviet Union and the working class. He refused to vote the Assembly motion in support of the French army in January 1940. He was arrested in October 1940 and handed over to the Nazis but managed to escape in June 1941.
Col Remy, an agent detailed to France by de Gaulle to make contact with the Communist resistance - met Grenier in December 1942 and it was agreed to send a French Communist Party representative to the Free French in London. Grenier was chosen for this role, and became the party's representative on the French National Committee, implicitly recognising de Gaulle's authority. In October 1943 Grenier was a member of the Consultative Assembly in Algiers. However Grenier did not support de Gaulle against his rival General Giraud and clashed with de Gaulle over whether supplies could be dropped to insurgents in Vercors in June 1944. On 4 April 1944 Grenier became, with Francois Billoux, one of the first Communists in a French government. He was in charge of the Ministry of Aviation until September 1944.
Grenier was a deputy in the Constituent Assembly in 1945 and was returned to the Assembly as Deputy for Seine (1946-58) and Saint-Denis (1962-68). He was nominated to the French Communist Central Committee from 1947 to 1964. He kept up his role as a propagandist for the Soviet Union through the 1950s, when he headed a series of associations. He was the author of numerous philo-Soviet books and memoirs and was constantly on guard against deviations from the Soviet line.
Grenier was a sociable but intransigently pro-Soviet activist; he was a dedicated party professional who combined a popular touch with extreme rigidity.
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