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MARTIN, HENRI (1927–)

French communist activist opposed to the French Indochina War whose arrest and incarceration set off a national outcry in France in 1950. Martin grew up in a communist and Catholic family. He joined the French resistance during World War II and participated in the liberation of France within a company of the communist-oriented Francs tireurs partisans (FTP). He was a member of the French Communist Party (FCP). In 1945, he signed up with the French Navy on a five year contract thinking he was going to fight the Japanese in Asia. He ended up taking part in military operations against the communist-led Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) and witnessed the violent take-over of Haiphong in November 1946. He requested to be repatriated and returned to France in 1947. Back in the metropolis, but still in the army, he secretly agitated against the colonial conflagration among his comrades. In July 1949, stationed at the naval dockyard in Toulon, he began distributing political tracts to new recruits urging them to oppose the conflict in Indochina. Military authorities arrested him in March 1950 because of his actions. The FCP rallied behind Martin and his cause in order to mobilize public opinion against the war. Militants organized propaganda campaigns, petitions, and songs. Pablo Picasso painted his portrait. In October, Martin appeared before a military court, was tried on charges of demoralizing the army, and was sentenced to five years in prison. Vincent Auriol had him discreetly released on 2 August 1953, as the FCP continued to rally behind him and the anti-colonial cause. The French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre also threw his intellectual weight behind Martin’s cause, publishing in late 1953 L’affaire Henri Martin. Alain Rusico, a leading French specialist of modern Vietnam favorable to the DRV and a longtime member of the FCP, has more recently kept the memory of Henri Martin alive. To this day, Vietnamese official communist historiography judges Henri Martin to be a “friend” (ban) of the DRV, for having “stepped up the struggle of the French people against the invading war in Vietnam”. The affaire Henri Martin certainly caught the attention of French public opinion, until then little interested in the war in Indochina, and contributed to mobilizing public opinion against the war. See also ANTICOLONIALISM; JEAN MARANNE; NEW HERO; INDOCTRINATION; INTELLECTUALS; MAURICE THOREZ; MYTH OF WAR; RECTIFICATION.