Obituary: Pierre Debizet

Pierre Debizet subsisted for a lifetime on the margins of French politics where the mainstream, the criminal and the extreme right intermingle. He was in one sense a very French political type: a product of the Resistance, and its conspiracies and solid friendships, the Gaullist movement and the underworld.

During the Second World War he joined the Liberation-Nord network (for which he was decorated with the Resistance medal in 1945) and he ran the Bureau Central de Renseignements of Free France. After the war he organised the militia (Service d'Ordre) for de Gaulle's political party, the Rassemblement du Peuple Francais (RPF). In this capacity there were numerous pitch-ed battles between Communist strong-armed squads, activists and the RPF's guards with many serious injuries on both sides.

When de Gaulle returned to power in 1958, the Algerian war in full spate coupled with a resurgence of extremist underground violence on the Right - the OAS (Organisation de l'Armee Secrete) terrorists, for example. Debizet was co-opted for the rebuilding of the militia under Roger Frey (later interior minister), and these strong-arm squads became the infamous Service d'Action Civique (SAC).

The SAC was not a discriminating recruiter and became the cover for numerous petty criminals. In the meantime, de Gaulle's rapid moves towards the decolonisation of Algeria led Debizet to quit the Gaullist movement. He returned during the student upheavals and the strikes of May 1968 to stiffen once again the SAC against the upsurge of violence. The police at that time were over- extended and de Gaulle turned to the unquestioningly loyal for support. The SAC reorganisation was then set under way by Georges Pompidou after May 1968, and this was substantially the work of Debizet, who tried to rid it of some of its more unsavoury elements. This was not successful.

In July 1981 three SAC members in Marseilles were responsible for a horrifying incident in which Pierre Massie, a police chief (with SAC connections), and five members of his family were murdered - the so-called Auriol killings of 19 July 1981. This outrage at the beginning of Mitterrand's presidency led to an investigation and the subsequent dissolution of the SAC. Debizet, as a result of the incident, spent a month in preventive detention in Les Baumettes prison though he was later cleared of any charge.

In 1986 Debizet tried to launch a right-wing group, the Mouvement Initiative et Liberte (MIL), presided over by Alain de Boissieu, but this found few echoes. It engaged mostly in fly-posting, in France not an occupation for innocents (people are attacked and sometimes killed in this activity).

Pierre Debizet was close to many historic Gaullists such as Jacques Foccart but he ended his life with a jaundiced view of politics and politicians, retiring into private life crying down anathema on their works.

Pierre Debizet, wartime resister and special agent: born 1923; married; died Issy-les-Moulineaux, Hautes de Seine 11 May 1996.

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