BY WAY OF CONCLUSION
Towards new struggles
1958 – an M.O.B. Steering committee meeting – on the left, head turned, Henry Le Lan. In the centre, Meriadec de Gouyon. On the right, Per Lemoine, R.Jegaden, Yann Poupinnot.(More photos of the MOB on the French site under 5. Photos).
The small team of militants who had taken up the directing of the M.O.B. was certainly varied but not ill assorted. It only became so a few years later. It was united in its desire to conquer for Brittany the regional autonomy and liberties that events indicated were increasingly necessary, as much from an economic and social point of view as from a cultural one. Their temperaments, characters and sensibilities of were different. This diversity seemed necessary and fruitful. The problem was to maintain an overall unity and to coordinate the work.
I knew very well that we were only sowing the seeds but I was convinced that the seed would germinate. It was essential first to break that iron circle of disapproval in which the post war repressions had tried to lock up the national Breton movement as a whole. Only militants of a new generation could succeed by freeing it from these constraints, prejudices and forged slander spread by the propaganda of a Jacobin State that had recovered its all powerfulness. The immutable system that characterised it had regained the upper hand with unlimited aggressiveness in regard to our political, cultural and institutional claims.
I also knew that the one who sows the seeds is not always the master of his harvest. The writer José Fuentes said, “Politics is a very particular kind of agriculture. On one side there is the one who works to prepare the soil and who sows the seeds: but it is others who gather the fruits”.
Seeds, just like ideas, sometimes germinate in the most unexpected places. I also knew that it is not generally those who make revolutions who profit from them. Those who profit only make their appearance when success has been achieved. The revolution we advocated was a long term one. But it was only apparently modest: its true objective was to dismantle or provoke the implosion of the Jacobin Centralist State and replace it with a federal State, guardian and guarantor of the multiple diversities and multiple internal autonomies, examples of which we were already beginning to see in Europe.
We also found comfort in the fact that of our small team only Pierre Laurent and I were from the older generation of militants. Amongst these newcomers who founded the M.O.B. alongside me, it was important to make room for those who held it together and who enabled it to play the role of “awakener” that we had assigned it at the beginning.
Yann Poupinot worked tirelessly. He had quickly integrated in the Ker Vreizh team of directors that had fortunately been taken in hand by Pierre Laurent after the communists had attempted to take over the association and its premises at the time of the Liberation. He had just written ‘Histoire de la Bretagne Contemporaine’. We had corresponded at length while he was writing it. His French was not always easy to follow, as he was neither clear nor refined. He wrote in the same manner as he spoke, with an easy eloquence that made him an excellent speaker in public meetings. Words, their sounds, the building up of them and manner of delivering them coated in resounding peroration were more important than their content. Dr.Clenet, mayor of Le Croisic, next to whom I was seated at our congress in Pouliguen, whispered to me after listening to him:
– “He speaks very well, but one wonders sometimes what it was he actually said.”
Nonetheless, Poupinot was the only of us who had the necessary qualities and talent to address the crowds. During our small meetings, he generally spoke little but decisively, his thoughts and powers of reasoning stimulated by the smoke he enjoyed from the numerous pipes that seldom left his lips. He was a Breton nationalist really, though he understood the importance of our struggle. The economic disparity and underdevelopment, the emigration that Brittany suffered were fundamental problems to him. He always kept in mind Gravier’s description and analysis in his book ‘Paris et le desert francais’. A materialist, he was barely interested in the fate of the Breton language or the “acculturation” imposed on the Breton people by the French State’s centralised system of education that was indifferent and hostile to our own civilisation’s values. He accepted our point of view on this matter but did not share it.
During the fairly frequent journey’s abroad he made, usually on his bicycle, he really was not interested in historical monuments or buildings and barely in the view, but in hydroelectric dams, factories, public works and town planning. When he came to Ireland to visit me, travelling on the Mariannik that dropped him off in Blacksod, he had eaten up in a couple of hours on his bicycle the significant number of kilometres between Blacksod and Cleggan. He merely expressed surprise that towns and villages that were shown in large letters on the maps were in reality just modest villages or even simple hamlets.
One day, on a lovely early summer’s evening, I walked with him from Ker Vreiz to Gare Saint-Lazare where he was to catch a train to the suburbs. I stopped for a moment on La Concorde Bridge to admire the architectural perspectives that one discovers on crossing it.
– “For me,” he said, “all these are just piles of stones. It is true,” he added after a silence, “that I have no culture.”
This culture, he undoubtedly learnt some time later when he was able to settle in Brittany, first in Lorient and then in Nantes. He undoubtedly felt it rising from the soil and from its History. The last work he left us, long after the M.O.B. had disappeared and shortly before he passed away, was the little book he called, ‘Le Sentiment d’apartenance bretonne en Loire-Atlantique’, or the Breton feeling of belonging in Loire-Atlantique.
Poupinot was the only one of his kind amongst us. None of the others reduced the Breton problem to a struggle purely for an increase in the standard of living. We were certainly all involved in a “regionalist” struggle. Some maybe went no further than this, but certainly not the majority. Very few Breton militants are still at that stage today, in spite of the meaningless statements of some and of their characteristic fear of words.
In seeking solutions adapted to the times, one could not help but arrive at federalism. Federalism is but an overall solution and is inseparable from multiple autonomies. It cannot function without them. If it does, it is only a caricature as was the case in the Soviet Union. Those who assert their autonomy as regards their people and their nation will easily accept independence and sovereignty. All this is but a question of stages and degrees in the evolution and progress of a people and a nation towards the exercising of their natural and essential liberties.
Above all, we had to be pragmatic and I think we all were. We knew instinctively that nothing concrete could be achieved with doctrines alone: the latter should be left to their writings or their churches. Poupinnot was also pragmatic in his own way. As for Ronan Goarant, he did not question the long term results of our struggle. He was convinced that it was essential and that it had to be done. As a member of the Navy where he had become an administrative accountant, he had sailed abroad and had spent some time in Algeria and Africa. He had returned with an even stronger sense of his identity and his differences. He had remained Brestois at heart and it was in Brest that he got married and later settled. It was due to him that the M.O.B. had finally been established rue de Brest, at the bottom of rue Siam, with a full time secretary. The latter was called Marie-France but Goarant had always refused to use that name and had christened her Sezaïg. He worked on a voluntary basis, organising the administration and secretariat of the M.O.B., keeping the accounts and its index of members as also those of the newspaper L’Avenir de la Bretagne. All of this thankless and selfless work relied on his dedication. Without him the M.O.B. would never have been what it was: it kept going thanks to him. Modest and efficient, he was one of those most devoted to the cause that we all defended. He did not get carried away in speeches or theories. He did not seek to stand out. Those who were purely good speakers annoyed him. He had no more time for those “it should be” types than I did. These abound in all political circles, unfortunately. They are usually no more than flying stars, unless with the help of a success they are easily rewarded. Goarant was not one of those. His faithfulness was unfailing, as is that of Pierre Lemoine.
Pierre Lemoine had done his Breton training in Paris, at Ker Vreiz, alongside Pierre Laurent, Jean Kergren, Poupinot and some others. He was and remains an excellent Breton. Having finished his architectural studies, he returned to Brittany. He was settled in Brest when the M.O.B. was founded. He was one of its first and most efficient supporters. It was he gave it the newspaper L’Avenir by associating it with Ar-Vro-Jeune-Bretagne that he had founded. As good, perseverant and as tenacious as Goarant, he possessed a great self-assurance, an exceptional presence and radiant personality. These traits in his character have been unfailing. He never spares his time or his energy or his money when it is a question of defending the Breton cause, whether it is political or cultural. He is at ease anywhere and in any circles. Only his precarious health can sometimes limit his activities. He was in fact, in every sense of the word an “awakener”. He is always ready to encourage and arouse, as I had also learnt to do, the vocations of militants searching within themselves, supporting their efforts, guiding their first steps: though not worrying about the direction they might then follow, even though it might not be directly in accordance with his thinking. Those who behave in this way are often thought of as naïve. They only appear to be so, as they know very well, just as Pierre Lemoine knew that they would often have to face ingratitude, pettiness, even underhand attacks through which the mediocre, the incapable and the indecisive take revenge on those whose superiority and radiance overshadows them. They also know that every little bit helps when the renaissance or emancipation of a people is at stake.
Referring to Poupinot, Lemoine and Goarant who were the pillars of M.O.B. does not in any way take away from the work and merits of the others who remained faithful to the end. Even those who were there in passing and gradually took up other directions. The team in charge of the compiling and technical production of L’Avenir suffered a number of changes owing to the availability of its members, through technical, practical or financial necessity. Over the years, L’Avenir has reflected the diversity of their interests and involvement. But this very diversity has borne fruit. Our aspirations after all were very wide and ambitious in the long term, though limited by the precise objective we had to achieve. It was, in brief, to achieve internal autonomy. Others after us would implement this autonomy, but it had to be obtained and achieved first.
When Pierre Lemoine transferred the compiling and the political and financial editing of Ar Vro to L’Avenir, the team that had started up was centred in Paris: Patrig Basclet, Yann Poupinot, Jean Kergrenn, Pierre Laurent, Morvan Duhamel, Mériadec de Gouyon and A.Latimer could get together more easily there. It was only after Yann Poilvet finally settled in Brittany that it became possible to concentrate the editing and publishing of the newspaper there. I continued to furnish L’Avenir with articles, one or more political articles for practically every issue. They helped to maintain the course in the pursuit of our action.
I was well aware however that I had to be satisfied with a sort of compromise in the practice of my activities. I continued to free myself from my professional obligations in autumn and spring, during which I travelled to Brittany for some time. The rest of the time I compensated for my absence with numerous correspondences. Also I did not have a permanent establishment in Brittany, nor any perspective of obtaining one. I could of course stay with my parents: but they were getting old. Marcel Samzun also: at the beginning of 1958 he decided to pass on the direction and ownership of the business in Cleggan to me. It was materially impossible for me to live without continuing my activities there: it provided me with the necessary financial independence for our daily lives and for the increasing costs that the continuation of my children’s studies imposed. Also, these activities provided me with a certain freedom for Travelling that I would have difficulty obtaining anywhere else. I was my own master and thus had acquired a material, intellectual and political independence. These were of incalculable value to me. I was not as vulnerable as I had been long ago to the French State’s influence, restrictions and eventual repressions in the action I had once more taken up. The maintaining of this independence was worth certain sacrifices. I therefore postponed my plans to settle back in Brittany. In Ireland, in spite of the relative geographic distance of my house on the beach, in spite of the work and at times very difficult pressures that went with it, I had at least a “sanctuary” that nobody could violate. Ten or twenty years later this sanctuary would be a great help to me. It enabled me to maintain my physical freedom, which was threatened by further political prosecutions reaching as far as the new European Parliament, where it was taken up. My subsequent entanglements with the French State after the creation of the M.O.B. in 1957 could undoubtedly fill another book.(‘En Prison pour le FLB’, shortly to be translated).
The creation of a limited company gave the Cleggan business a new judicial structure, better adapted than the simple partnership with trading conditions at the time, enabled me to buy out Marcel Samzun. I added to that in the form of commercial agreements with Breton companies, “Les Grands Viviers de Primel” and “La Langouste” from Roscoff who had until now been both our clients and our competitors. The financial cost of the deal had thus been substantially reduced. I retained in addition the ownership of the import business established under the name of Madame Fouéré that we set up some years earlier to facilitate our exports on the Paris market.
In that same year 1958, I also had to think about the children’s future studies. Rozenn had done a final year in Nantes where she was the guest of our friends Francois and Madeleine Goasdoué and had been able to attend the creation of the M.O.B. in Lorient. She was then to continue her university studies in the autumn. Jean would follow her one or two years later. The only possible solution for the time being was to register them in Dublin and to find lodgings for them there. It was more economical to buy an apartment or a house than to face the relatively high costs of renting. Galway University was certainly closer to us than those in Dublin, but from Dublin, with the development in air transport, I was only a few hours away from Brittany and from my main markets on the continent. During an exploratory visit there at the end of spring, Marie-Madeleine selected some available properties on the market. I joined her a few days later and we decided on a quite large Victorian house on three levels, built in red brick covered with a Virginia creeper, and with a good sized garden at the back. Access to the upper part of the house was by an attractive outside flight of stairs of granite with decorative wrought iron banisters. It faced south and let in the sun and light through its high windows. Those on the front opened onto the greenery of the park that faced it and from which it was only separated by a fairly large road. Although they were not that numerous the rooms were large and bright. The house had been built at the end of the last century in the Dublin style of the time, at the same time as Palmerston Park, or Stiguaire-Square, opposite, had been designed and opened to the public.
Situated at the southernmost end of the suburb of Rathmines, between Rathgar and Ranelagh, it was only a half an hour’s walk to the University and to the centre of town. It had many important advantages: its ground floor, built on a level with the garden and with a separate entrance from the main entrance, had already been converted into a separate apartment. One or other parts of the house could therefore be occupied or rented out separately, thus providing us with an income that could at least compensate for the overall costs and upkeep. Both parts of the house were already in separate furnished lettings. There was thus no renovation work to be done in the near future. The area was pleasant and relatively calm, more so then than it is now with the increase in traffic. On the other side of the park were the Trinity College Residence and the building that the Benedictines from Glenstal had opened for some of their ex pupils. Dan Breen’s house was nearby in Villiers Road and also the house where J.M.Synge lived at the entrance to Orwell Park. There was no shortage of greenery, trees and walks around the area. Beyond the Dodder valley and the built up areas of Dundrum, Churchtown and Rathfarnham, the Dublin Mountains were silhouetted on the horizon.
In October 1958, Rozenn started at University and settled into the new house with Marie-Madeleine and our two youngest daughters who were able to attend a primary school nearby.
My comings and goings to Brittany and back continued on a regular basis in the following years. My continental travels however increasingly took on an international dimension. On one hand, this was spurred on by the necessities of my business and its development. I still had a great deal to learn, especially in visits to similar installations to mine that were situated on the continent. From a business point of view also there were visits to old and new, or potential clients that were often necessary. It was therefore seldom that my visits to Brittany were not accompanied by visits to Paris and other parts of France, to Holland, Belgium, Germany or Switzerland. I very soon added a political extension to these international travels.
The changes in the judicial structures of the business in Cleggan, on one hand, and the increase in the number of periods away for professional business as well as private reasons on the other, soon led me to seek a permanent associate who would be capable of assisting and replacing me during my absences. The installations of the pond require looking after and supervision on a permanent basis anyway. At first, I had been able to find temporary assistants. One of them was Tony White from London, son of an English man and a French woman, who was a poet mostly but had also been an actor, and had decided to spend at least one full winter in the wilds of Connemara, in the midst of the winds, storms and wild seas, through the long nights and dark months by the turf fire, the strange scenery outlined by the light of the moon, darkened and brightened as the clouds pass over it chased by the wind. He was so taken by its magic that he returned a second year when he met Richard Murphy, the poet from Cleggan, whose father had been a senior civil servant with the British government. He finally built a stone cottage there where he would come as often as possible. His ashes lie now in Omey, in the sandy cemetery at the far end of the beach where burials are only at low tide.
During the fishing season I would often receive visits from students. Some were only passing through. Others stayed longer, interested in the work of the fishing season, and doing odd jobs for us. That is how we first met Jean-Francois Clénet, son of the mayor of Le Croisic. After his military service in Algeria and a year of additional studies at Galway University, he decided to settle in the country. I had been progressing with the building of an extension to our workspace and storerooms as well as a cold room, and was able to add a small, relatively comfortable apartment on top of all these. The main window opened onto the pond and the open sea, making it easier to keep an eye on the premises. Jean-Francois lived there for several years, assisting me during the season and replacing me during my absences. He remained there for another year or two after his marriage, in spite of the harshness of the conditions on this isolated Atlantic headland. He also was more of a contemplative. He knew how to adapt to solitude. His questioning mind was interested in everything.
I had already been convinced during my studies and my international travels before the war, and also from the period when I was political director of Peuples et Frontieres and with my own newspapers that in spite of the isolation we had experienced during the war and the Occupation, the pursuit of our struggle could not remain isolated in time and space. Many other peoples yearned, like us, for the political freedom that we had been deprived of through the course of history. We had to weave a network of friendship, solidarity and action between all these people. In fact, we had to struggle together in order that the Europe, gradually building itself up after the traumas of the last civil war, would not be an artificial one of States and merchants. The reality of Europe was not the one that we had inherited from the 19th and early 20th century, which had been the large State empires with the selfishness of the sovereign nation-states, destroyers of the fruitful diversity that make up the richness of our continent. It was to the building of this natural Europe, that of our peoples, our cultures, our many national communities, our stateless nations and our regions with no powers that we all had to work for and work together. Only a federal and federalised Europe guaranteeing multiple autonomies would make it possible.
From then on, my travels to Europe were no longer only on business. They often took on a political dimension. I had of course maintained contacts with the Welsh and Scottish national parties. The Celtic Congresses had started up again after the war. Their structure and activities however were purely cultural. We had to create a political structure and links between us. The defence and promotion of our various cultures and identities as a people, called unavoidably for political solutions: the achievement of Home Rule, and of autonomies was the object of the Celtic League we created with Gwynfor Evans and J.E.Jones, at the Eisteddfod in Rhys in 1961. Per Denez had come from Brittany to lend his support. Alan Heusaff was its general secretary for many years. At first, the League was simply a movement where national parties from the Celtic countries were represented in their own right.
This was the kind of structure that should be spread all over Western Europe, particularly amongst Stateless peoples and nations in the territories of the new European Communities’ member States. The building and borders of Europe should not stop there. For the moment however Central and Eastern Europe were forbidden to us by the dictatorship and imperialism of the Soviets. These were the same goals that led to the creation ten years later in Brussels of the Bureau Permanent des Nations Européenns sans Etat, or The Bureau of Unrepresented Nations. It combined the Basques, Welsh and Breton nationalist parties and the Alsace-Loraine movement.
I had been in contact again with my old friend Jean-Marie Gantois. On leaving the prison in Lille where the Jacobin repression of 1944-45 had led him, he had been prohibited, not only from Flanders but also from Brittany, the Basque country, Alsace, Catalonia and Corsica. The ecclesiastical authorities had exiled him to Haute-Marne, in Brachay near Charme-la-Grande, an isolated village in the midst of small wooded valleys. He had plenty of time to devote to his small ministry as well as his personal work. On my way back from visiting clients in Hamburg and Dusseldorf, I had stopped to meet him at Vitry-le-Francois station, the nearest one to where he lived. I subsequently visited him in his retreat. In spite of his exile, he was devoted to bringing together the French Flemish movement. He had hanging on the walls of his study the portraits of two politicians, deputies in his country, whom he considered to have been great Flemish patriots: Abbé Lemire and the socialist Roger Salengro.
In Colmar at a conference-debate organised by the young lawyer Vonfeld who, like Ferdinand Moschenross, wished to re launch an Alsacian autonomist movement, I had made contact with Camille Dahlet, one of the big names of their autonomist movement before 1914. Later on, another conference-debate, organised in Strasbourg under the aegis of Guy Héraud, followed by a study week organised by J.J.Mourreau, had definitely renewed my links with Alsace and enabled me to encourage the rebirth of the movement. I did the same in Brussels where the young lawyer Daniel de Conninck and the small Het Pennoen team were devoted to the renewal of the Flemish movement that had also been hard hit and decimated by the repressions after the war. Around the same time, the Frisian journalist, Groustra, asked me to speak at a seminar in Leewarden, intended for the young militants of the federalist Frisian youth.(See 8. International Conferences also on French site)
This growing international activity may have been the real reason why the French government saw fit to refuse, a few years later, to renew my passport, as indicated by its reply to the jurisdictional appeal I had instituted against this decision: “It was not in the interests of public security to facilitate M.Fouéré’s travels abroad”. Was this simply a bullying tactic or a political measure? It was undoubtedly both, as it was already no longer necessary at the time when this decision was taken to hold a passport in order to travel within the European Community.(See French site under 4. Archives).
In cities and capitals abroad, as in our own, in Lille, Strasburg, Rennes, Nantes or elsewhere, the theme of these conferences and debates that I addressed was invariably that of a federal Europe as we called it, whose policies and institutional base would rest, not on the large States, but on the peoples, the Regions and nations and consequently on the natural legitimate Europe. The Europe that I would call “Europe aux Cent drapeaux” or Europe of a hundred flags, in the title of the book I dedicated to it. The expression has since become famous! It has been chosen and still is chosen as the theme for a number of conferences, debates and study seminars. Some even, throughout Europe; use the term today without really knowing where it comes from.
In the meantime, the M.O.B. continued its career. I maintained my activities and continued to write regularly for the columns of L’Avenir de la Bretagne. I think that the congress in Saint Brieuc in December 1962 marked the peak of the movement. It was our fourth congress: over three hundred enthusiastic militants practically filled the Saint-Brieuc Theatre, all grouped behind the placards of their Federation. The militants had taken part in the efforts of the Comité pour l’action régionale or C.A.R., assembled by Pierre Lemoine in 1960 with the object of obtaining the vote of Brittany’s municipal councillors for an administrative decentralisation and for the setting up of a regional organisation of the French State and the creation of regional assemblies. In 1962 six hundred of Brittany’s municipal councillors had voted in favour. They were also involved in the efforts of C.E.L.I.B., which at the same time, had a thousand municipal councillors adopting the ‘Loi-programme’ or proposal for law reforms that C.E.L.I.B. had compiled based on the decisions taken by the “Etats generaux” in Pontivy in August 1961. The latter had assembled, without any distinctions made as to their parties or biased considerations, 1500 elected locals, parliamentarians, trade union leaders, professional and cultural representatives. Shortly before that, at the end of July 1961 in Quimper, ten thousand demonstrators in a merging of all allegiances had called for a Loi-programme for Brittany, the teaching of Breton and the reintegration of Loire-Atlantique in the administrative region of Brittany.
C.E.L.I.B. still had its monthly publication La Vie Bretonne that was mainly distributed in economic and political circles. L’Avenir de la Bretagne had developed and become a fortnightly publication from the beginning of 1962, mainly thanks to the commercial advertising by three main companies who supported the cause: Les Etablissements Ducassou, a public works company in Lorient, a foodstuffs factory and the poultry abattoirs of Magadur a Baud, its director Jean Le Meliner being the son of the mill owner who had gone to Wales in 1947 and finally Les Etablissements Roudaut that produced fertiliser. Between the three of them they covered the printing costs of the newspaper that was being administered on a voluntary basis in Brest by Ronan Goarant. In addition to the action and propaganda of L’Avenir there was the publication Ar Vro, created by Per Denez in 1959 with more in depth articles on the doctrine and the national struggle of Brittany. Unfortunately it ceased publishing in 1967.
My book La Bretagne écartelée had also been published at the beginning of 1962. It drew up the historical account of events in Brittany and those of the Breton movement from 1938 to 1948. It included therefore the period of the war and the Occupation, as well as the Liberation and the anti-Breton Jacobin repressions that had followed. Few newspapers in Brittany dared to mention the book: they preferred to remain silent. Some conventional historians, probably trembling with fear, have since decided it was safer to qualify it as a ‘pro domo’ plea. It is true that it spoke of events no one dared to speak of still. As such, it is and remains a true account, and of all the books on this period, the most correct and exact on the facts it reports. It is true however that many French intellectuals today do not like history. It tends to contradict too much the theories within which they want to enclose their realities and force the facts to conform.
At about the same time as La Bretagne écartelé was published, a national council of the M.O.B. had debated the problem of an eventual situation with no one officially in power in Paris, in the eventuality that the “rebellion” of the Algerian generals and the O.A.S or French organization which opposed Algerian independence in the 1960s, succeeded in overthrowing the authority of general de Gaulle and his government. The M.O.B. had requested that in such a case the five general councillors in Brittany should assume the Breton State powers, according to the provisions of the 1872 “Tréveneuc” law, and declare Brittany a federal region.
C.E.L.I.B., now protected on its flanks by the M.O.B. and strengthened by the quasi unanimity of the Breton political personalities and parliamentarians, as well as the municipalities and economic and social forces that supported it or were members, had hardened its action in the course of 1962. Spurred on and led by Joseph Martray and Michel Philipponeau, it had organized what was called “la bataille du rail” to protest against an S.N.C.F. tariff reform penalising the transport of Breton products to outside markets. All sorts of sabotage and blocking of roads and railway tracks were organised, as well as the threat of strikes in voting offices and amongst the mayors. It would disrupt the voting for the referendum and the elections planned for the end of year. The press in Paris wrote that Brittany was on the verge of a rebellion. Following a government order, the S.N.C.F. temporarily drew back and postponed the measure. De Gaulle, like Pétain, had always been in favour of a certain “regionalisation” and decentralization of the State. If the French electorate had adopted his 1969 proposal for regionalisation, today we would no longer be at the stage of minor regions with virtually non-existent powers and miserable budgets. But he could not stand unrest, except for those he provoked himself and that, by manipulation, could serve his own political purposes, such as his aggressiveness later on towards the O.A.S. generals and the “shambles” of May 1968. Yet, in the legislative elections of November 1962, eighty-six candidates of all affiliations, except the communists, had made a solemn commitment to vote in Parliament for the Loi-programme in Brittany. All those who were elected in Brittany, including a vast majority of “Gaullist” deputies had made this commitment. But with the assurance of a large majority in the House, the ministers and French senior administrators more Jacobin than ever, convinced them that it was not possible to yield to the pressure of a Breton rebellion that had the audacity to ask all the Breton parliamentarians to refuse to vote for the budget if a special Loi-programme for Brittany was not voted for by the Parliament.
It was, moreover, unacceptable to all Jacobins of every tendency grouped behind Michel Debré and for the senior administration whose fundamental dogma, under the pretext of equality, was complete uniformity of the State. It prevented the granting of any advantages or specific rights to Brittany, or even less of any legislation that would not be same as that of the other components of the State. Apart from four elected members of the opposition, the Breton deputies finally capitulated, thus breaking the promises they had made to the Breton public before the elections.
I said that 1962 marked the peak of the M.O.B. and to a large extent also that of the C.E.L.I.B.- unfortunately the following months also marked the beginning of their decline as the result of an orchestrated and concerted offensive by the State against both of them. The offensive against the M.O.B and its main leaders had already begun a few months before the battle of the Rail. The M.O.B.’s posters, although not offensive in any way as they had “Acheter Breton pour sauver la Bretagne” or Buy Breton to save Brittany, were systematically lacerated and torn by the police obeying orders from the Finistere prefecture. Conferences that I was to have given in Rennes and in Nantes were forbidden by the prefectures of both those departments, as were also Yann Poupinot’s conferences.
As from the beginning of 1963 a number of Gaullists, amongst them Abbé Laudrein, an elected member from Morbihan, were outstanding in their zeal with numerous interventions to prevent the General Council and the municipalities from paying subsidies to C.E.L.I.B., which mostly depended on these resources for its budget. The civil servants in authority in Brittany refused to meet those of C.E.L.I.B. who, according to threats made by the préfet for Morbihan “had come to maintain unrest and resistance to orders from government”. The préfet for Morbihan then decided to form the C.O.D.E.R., Commissions de Dévelopement Economique Régional, which were government organizations without any real powers in order to neutralise C.E.L.I.B once and for all, making it to inactive and ineffective. The State then sought, according to René Pleven’s words, “to centralize the decentralization”. It reinforced, in 1964, the powers of the Regional préfets.
C.E.L.I.B. broke up in June 1964. M.Philipponneau, the parliamentarians and trade union organisations that were in the “left wing” opposition of the government decided to leave it. By doing so, maybe not quite realising it, they were playing the State’s game whose objective was to introduce and foment political and ideological divisions between the opposing forces whatever their tendencies in fact. Skilful manipulators also provoked divisions and dispersing, finally making C.E.L.I.B. powerless.
In 1963 the authorities in Paris created the Cour de Sûreté de l’État, a special court whose main role was to repress “attempts against the integrity of the national territory”. We know the use that was made of it during the following twenty years against Breton, Corsican and Basque Nationalists.
It was also in 1963 that a political operation was set up in Brittany, undeniably directed against C.E.L.I.B. and the M.O.B.. Political and trade union organisations, most claiming to be from the left, decided to create a Comité Breton d’Action Régional or C.A.R. The main force operating within the Comité was the communist party faithful to the traditional tactics of infiltration and artificial gatherings that I was familiar with from the years before the war. But also operating within it, at least for the sake of form, was the P.S.U. or and the trade unions, C.G.T., C.F.T.C. and S.N.I.. A.Keravel had ill-advisedly accepted to also support the Comité with Ar Falz. The French communist party, who had always refused to support the efforts of C.E.L.I.B., had always showed the same hostility to the M.O.B., with demonstrations against their public meetings, creating disturbances that prevented them from taking place and insulting our candidates. The M.O.B. in principle however had no reason to stand aside from this new Comité, who’s openly confessed goals were like those of C.E.L.I.B., the defence of economic and cultural interests of the Breton people. Nonetheless, in Pontivy on 12th October 1963, we were categorically refused entry to their constitutional assembly under pretext that M.O.B. was a Breton nationalist movement and that we were thus classified as being politically right wing. Shortly after in L’Avenir de la Bretagne, I christened C.R.A.B. , this new Comité, with the name of that animal, which never walks straight in front of it but obliquely and sideways! C.R.A.B. only had a short-lived existence but its creation nonetheless contributed quite definitely to the scission in the M.O.B. in 1964 that led to the birth of U.D.B. or Union Démocratique Bretonne. Our last united national congress was held in Brest at the end of 1963.
Political manipulations of this nature are far from new in government practices, often very subtle, of the French State, its structures and its administrations. It is well known that the French Kings, especially Louis XI, “pensioned” some of the Breton nobles to incite them to look more kindly on their campaign against the independence of Brittany. It is also known that Saint-Georges “cavalry” played an important role during the debates of the États de Bretagne gathered in Vannes in 1532 to discuss the terms of the Traité d’Union between Brittany and France. It is less well known that it was also largely these types of arguments – money, honours and positions – that provided the French Jacobin Revolution with the faithful support of a number of the Breton bourgeoisie from the cities, whilst that bourgeoisie, especially after the Night of 4th August and the civil constitution of the clergy, was practically the only one in Brittany to continue supporting a revolution that, after a promising start, collapsed into persecutions, massacres, dictatorship and genocide.
It is undoubtedly because of all these precedents in history that the Bretons continue to have in the upper spheres of the French State the reputation of being easily “bought” or “neutralized”, with money more often than with honours or positions. Hard to believe that it was purely a coincidence then that if 1962 is considered as marking the peak of the M.O.B. and of C.E.L.I.B., 1964 can be considered as marking the beginning of their decline!
One can certainly have doubts and believe or not in games of intrigue and rivalries, and in the consequences of political manoeuvres. But, it was also in 1964 that there was the scission in the M.O.B., and in the C.E.L.I.B.. It was also around this time that the cultural federation Kendalc’h broke up and a new cultural federation was formed. A profound faith is needed in order to believe this accumulation of incidents is due simply to chance. The clever manipulators in the service of the French State are not left or right wing: they are found in all circles. They are in place where they are required to discourage, divide, breakup, and consequently weaken all tendencies, all movements and all parties that are thought to be capable of causing offence and threatening the all powerful State, the continuity of its structures and its institutions.
The history of these years remains to be written, as also in fact that of the M.O.B. and its newspaper L’Avenir de la Bretagne. It should tempt some researchers or historians. Others aside from me will undoubtedly do so: when they do they can count on my help and my support, for as long as I am able to give it to them.
Whatever the case may be and whether one wishes it or not, recognise it or prefer to ignore it, if a national political movement starts up today in Brittany, it is due to the M.O.B. and the small team of men of diverse tendencies that led it with determination. It marked a first positive step by establishing a base for a political platform that brought forth and developed a new momentum. It made new organisations, movements or parties possible, inspired basically and essentially by it, even if some followed other paths.
19th century historians often consider the history of Brittany to have stopped at the time of its union to France or at the loss of its autonomy under the thrust of the French Revolution. Apart from these dates, they said, “the history of Brittany merges into that of France.” I have never been of that opinion. We have been and are still many to demonstrate that is not the case. One cannot stop the life of a people any more than the march of a nation. Nobody during future centuries can ever boast of having written the last page of the history of my people and its nation.
Translation of poem written by Yannick Fouéré and published in the weekly ‘La Bretagne à Paris’ in 1930.
House in the wilderness, house of my dreams
Battered by the winds, battered by the waves
On top of tall cliffs
With the sea below
On blue waves the dream dances
Open spaces on all sides
Moorlands of Brittany in the boundless distance
Greater moorlands of the sea
Bay windows looking out to infinity
Letting in sea spray and cool air
Wave and wind together
Breakers whitening the shoreline
And the air filled with their sound
Breaking with a savage cry
Or the quiet sound of weeping
And on those days when the storm
Roaring in the distance, catches a broadside
From the revelling demons of the seas
Feeling the white rocks tremble
Singing fills the house
The wave, condemned, buckles
And at night, on the distant plain
The plaintive song of the Korrigan twirls
Spring is for the golden broom
Autumn for the heather
And the scent of the dying moors
Where the tide throws up its dust
Winter for the long raucous cries
Of petrels and cormorants
Whilst below the grey-blue waves
In wild assault, rise in rows
It is the continuous song
The poetry of every day
With the flight of the swallows
And the crashing of powerful oceans
House of my dreams, house in the wilderness
Battered by the winds, battered by the seas
Isolated and suspended
Between sky and sea.