Obituary: Pierre Herve

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Pierre Herve, politician and writer, born Lanmeur Finisterre 25 August 1913, married 1940 Annie Noel (one daughter), died Chatel-Censoir (Yonne) 8 March 1993.

PIERRE HERVE, Communist activist, Resistance fighter, journalist and teacher, was from a modest background but he had an adventurous career.

His father was a tax official in Finisterre. Pierre Herve was educated in Rennes, and at the Lycee Lakanal and the Faculte des Lettres in Paris. Although he started in politics as an anarchist he joined the Young Communists by 1932 and was a member of the Party Central Committee by 1936. When war broke out he was taken prisoner, but then escaped. He edited the journal L'Universite libre in the northern zone before being picked up by the police for Communist activity and escaping again. He made his way to the southern zone, joined the Resistance in 1941, and became an active member of the Resistance Liberation-Sud, rising to become head of the regional Mouvement Uni, then secretary-general of the Mouvement de Liberation Nationale.

Herve was returned to the constituent assembly for Finisterre (1944-45) and was deputy for that constituency from 1945 to 1948. He left the assembly in 1948 to devote his time to editing the Resistance journal Action (under Yves Farge, who directed the journal's party line) and he was a columnist and assistant editor of the Communist daily L'Humanite from 1944. As one of the Resistance generation he was viewed with suspicion by the party leadership, especially since he stood out against the party's crude imposition of Socialist Realism on the creative arts. Herve's ascent in the party faltered. He left L'Humanite in 1950 and in 1952 the party shut Action. His associate Yves Farges died in mysterious circumstances (Herve said that he was killed by the Soviets in East Berlin).

Before the war Herve had intended to enter the teaching profession as a philosopher. He was therefore able to return to teaching in a succession of schools. In 1956 he published his book La Revolution et les fetiches, which led to his expulsion from the Party and to a campaign of denigration.

Herve was an outspoken critic of both the French Communist Party and Soviet Communism at a time when those positions were not popular, and he was attacked by Sartre. They were difficult times but Herve continued to teach and to publish novels and critical works. He joined the French Socialist Party briefly but then swallowed his early harsh dismissal of de Gaulle ('a general educated by Jesuits') to become a left-wing Gaullist. He taught at the Lycee Francois-Villon from 1963 to 1973 but although he still wrote copiously he was politically less prominent.