Gaston Monmousseau (1883-1960): trade unionist and political agitator of the Touraine.

Gaston René Léon Monmousseau was born in Luynes on 17th January 1883. He was the son of John and Mary Silvine Monmousseau.

Gaston Monmousseau, 1922

Gaston Monmousseau, 1922

Gaston spent his childhood in Azay-sur-Cher. After leaving school he was apprenticed to a carpenter from Luynes.
After military service, he worked for the state railway in Paris where, as an anarcho-syndicalist, he campaigned amongst the railway workers. In January 1913, he organised an anti-militarist rally in Azay-sur-Cher against “the law of three years” (1). In 1917 Gaston was greatly inspired by the Russian October Revolution. By April 1920, he was Secretary of Propaganda for the Fédération des Cheminots (Federation of Railway Workers), he was arrested for plotting against the state. He was released in February 1921. One wonders if he was present at the 18th Congress of the French United Socialist Party held in Tours on 25 December 1920. See my previous blog entry.

As a member of the anarcho-syndicalist minority of the CGT, Gaston Monmousseau became secretary general of the CGTU, a position he held until 1933.
In December 1922, he represented the CGTU at the International Trade Union Congress in Moscow. In January 1923, having participated in the International Congress, “Imperialism and War”, he organised against the occupation of the Ruhr by French troops, he was imprisoned once again. Monmousseau also participated in the Congress of the Red Trade Union International in Moscow where he met Lenin.
Picture2Turning away from anarcho-syndicalism, he joined the Communist Party in 1925 and became a member of the Central Committee and the Politburo. He was again imprisoned in 1927 following his involvement in the series of strikes directed against the Spanish-French colonialist war in northern Morocco (1920-26). Upon his release from jail, he married Alice Louise Marcelle Legendre at Courçay in the Touraine. Alice was the daughter of a peasant militant anarchist in the region.
In September 1929, as Deputy-member of the Executive Committee of the Comintern (Communist International), he was charged with conspiracy against state security and released in May 1930. In April 1931, he was again imprisoned for 4 months. The April 26, 1936, Monmousseau was elected, on the first ballot (with 17,527 votes out of 31,255) to the Chamber of Deputies to the National Assembly for St. Denis, Paris (1936 was the year of the General Strike in France – a strike that was betrayed by the French Communist Party under direction from Stalin and Co in Moscow. Maurice Thorez, national secretary of the French Communist Party, stated that “one must know how to finish a strike, at the moment that the main points have been obtained.” Thus, the opportunity for strengthening opposition and resistance to European fascism, internal fascists, royalists, Petinists and the like was lost.). At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, and after the dissolution of the French Communist Party, Monmousseau went underground. Convicted in absentia, it is stripped of his parliamentary mandate. His only son died in deportation in Dachau.

I have found no information as to Monmousseau’s role in the French Resistance during World War II. But I imagine he played an active part. By summer 1941 (and the invasion of the Soviet Union) the French Communist Party’s ambiguous position towards resistance changed, and along with propaganda work among the occupation troops, armed struggle became the order of the day. See my previous blog entry.

From 1956 to 1960 he was a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. He died July 11, 1960 in the 19th arrondissement, Paris.

(1) If there was a controversy that ignited France during the first half of 1913, it was the law of ‘three years military service’. This law extended conscripted military service by a further year. Announced in March 1913, the law was passed in August, despite strong resistance. It actually caused strong discontent in the working class, but also the peasantry, whose sons will miss working in the fields one more year. The Socialist Party, the CGT and the Anarchist Communist Federation (ACF) were at the forefront of the struggle, and organized several protest rallies in Pre-Saint-Gervais, near Paris, each time attracting nearly 100,000 people. The French state aimed to have 160,000 more men constantly under arms. This was an important step in the militarisation of France at that time, and a precursor to World War I.

Principle source:

About Jim McNeill

I am a blogger on 'The Social History of the Touraine region of France (37)' and also 'The Colonial History of Pennsylvania and the life & Family of William Penn'. I am a Director of Fresh Ground Group Ltd.
This entry was posted in 20th Century, Azay-sur-Cher, French Communist Party, Gaston Monmousseau, Luynes, Transport ~ roal. rail, water, World War I, World War II and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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