OBITUARY:Gaston Plissonnier

Gaston Plissonnier was an eminence grise in the French Communist Party, whose true position is not known and may not be known until the archives of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in Moscow are opened to public inspection.

This is not just because the French Communist Party (PCF) itself is secretive, but because the likelihood is that, as with Auguste Lecoeur, another leading member of the PCF, Plissonnier had direct and individual contact with his Russian superiors, in particular Mikhail Suslov, the chief party ideologist, except when he had to go through Boris Ponomarev and Vladimir Zagladin who were in charge of the CPSU Department for Foreign Parties. Plissonnier was an authentic Russophile and maintained contacts with Moscow during the dog-days of CPSU / PCF relations in the mid-1970s.

Plissonnier was born in 1913 into a family of artisans in Batagnes (Sane- et-Loire). He joined the Young Communists and the Communist Union de la jeunesse agricole de France and was rapidly promoted. Plissonnier's organisational talent was evident when, in 1939, he was put in charge of the training of bureaucrats and activists and travelled around France on this mission. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union he joined the maquis in the Toulouse region, under the pseudonym "Duchne", and ended the Second World War as a captain in the Forces franaises de l'intrieur (FFI). After the Liberation he returned to his work as an organiser and in 1948 was sent to rebuild the Loir-et-Cher federation which was suspected of dissidence and was its first secretary from 1948 to 1953.

Plissonnier was made a member of the Central Committee in 1950 and entered the Political Bureau in 1964 when Maurice Thorez passed the post of secretary general to Waldeck Rochet. Plissonnier had played a crucial role as head of Thorez's private office organising the meetings of the secretariat and responsible for personnel.

In addition to this organisational knowledge, which had few rivals, Plissonnier was an unconditional admirer of the Soviet Union, for example telling the 27th CPSU Congress in 1986 that, "In attaching great importance to the people's self- government your party has revealed the democratic nature of socialism . . ." Even before the collapse of the Eastern bloc, this was regarded as breathtakingly uncritical.

Plissonnier was the go- between for the International movement and was the principal contact for the CPSU's Department in charge of Western Parties (Zagladin and Ponomarev). At Moscow's insistence he also assisted illegal Communist parties in Europe, and a former East European diplomat claimed in 1990 that Plissonnier had been the conduit for funds from the Eastern bloc - he denied this accusation. The former Communist philosopher Roger Garaudy states that Plissonnier was one of the pro-Russian hardliners responsible for promoting Georges Marchais to secretary general while Waldeck Rochet was ill in 1969.

When, during the mid-1970s, the French Party had a dispute with the Kremlin, Plissonnier maintained the continuity of relations with the CPSU with frequent visits to the Soviet Union. He is credited with preventing the French Party from going too far in its disavowal of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia and with introducing the phrase "globally positive" in 1979 to describe the Eastern regimes. Plissonnier probably directed the return to pro-Soviet positions in the late 1970s after the brief flirtation with "Eurocommunism". He controlled the International Department, nominally run by Maxime Gremetz.

Within the French party Plissonnier ran the section for party bureaucracy - the cadres - which gave him control over promotion and nominations and he was thus the most important figure after the secretary general. (When Marchais had a heart attack in 1975 it was Plissonnier who was made interim secretary general.) Plissonnier was a pure apparatchik, but seemingly devoid of personal ambition and seeing no higher duty than to serve. This self-effacement explains his longevity at the top of the French Communist Party and his concentration of power - he posed no threat and could be trusted to support the leadership. He was awarded the Soviet Friendship Medal in 1973.

Gaston Desir Plissonnier, politician: born Batagnes, Sane-et-Loire 1913; author of Une Vie Pour Lutter 1985; married 1954 Juliette Dubois (one son); died 16 May 1995.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Chief Executive

£28, 700: Whiskey Whiskey Tango: Property Management Company is seeking a brig...

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?