Letter to the Guardian in response to Douglas Johnson’s obituary (available at http://www.theguardian.com/news/2004/sep/15/guardianobituaries.france ); not published.

    Douglas Johnson’s highly sympathetic obituary of Raymond Marcellin (Guardian, 15 September) seriously misrepresents the history of the French far left. Firstly he seems to confuse the June 1968 ban on several revolutionary organisations with the events of 1973, when following an over-enthusiastic demonstration by the Ligue Communiste against the fascist Ordre Nouveau, both organisations were made illegal.

    More important, though Marcellin’s intentions were doubtless repressive, his actions were a total failure. Contrary to Johnson, it is simply untrue that ‘a host of Trotskyist and Maoist groups were broken up’. The groups banned in 1968 reconstituted themselves under new names, and were on the streets selling their new papers within a matter of days. Indeed, the far left grew rapidly in this period, under the impulse of the 1968 general strike. In Spring 1969, Alain Krivine ran a high-profile campaign for the  Presidency, the first time an organisation to the left of the Communist Party had done such a thing. If the Maoist groups collapsed in the seventies, it was not as a result of repression, but because of their own inane voluntarism. The Trotskyist groups survived, and in 2002 Trotskyist candidates got a total of over ten per cent in the Presidential election. Anyone seeking to emulate Marcellin should learn the lesson that the far left is not that easy to crush.