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To Get to the Other Side

A journey through Europe and its anarchist movements

Nathalie Ménigon

In August 2007, Nathalie Ménigon was released on parole after 20 years in prison.  In 1978 she founded the urban guerrilla group Action Directe, along with Jean-Marc Rouillan.  The group was libertarian communist in orientation, viewing itself as a political-military coordination for the large autonomous movement struggling in France at the time.  They had commonalities with anarchist segments of the movement, and Rouillan had fought with the anarchist group MIL against the Franco regime in Spain.  Action Directe also served as an inspiration for the clandestine anarchist group Direct Action in Canada.

Action Directe carried out a number of bombings, expropriations, and machine gun attacks against French military and government buildings, employers’ and property management groups, Israeli government concerns, the nuclear industry, and others, as part of a general struggle against capitalism and imperialism.  She and Rouillan were arrested after a firefight with police in 1980, but they were released in 1981 after fierce prison struggles prompted President Mitterand to declare an amnesty for all communist and anarchist prisoners.  In 1985, Action Directe assassinated René Audran, manager of French arms sales.

On 21 February, 1987, four leading members of the group, including Ménigon and Rouillan, were arrested and given life sentences, with no possibility of parole for 18 years.  After 20 years, she was transferred from Bapaume detention center, and was allowed to work on weekdays but at nights and on weekends must return to prison.  She was also not allowed to make public statements during the period of semi-liberty, which may be followed by conditional liberty.