Henri Martin affair

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The Henri Martin affair was a political-military scandal that happened under the French Fourth Republic during the First Indochina War. It lasted from March 1950 to September 1953.

Henri Martin, a French communist (PCF) activist, was arrested by the military police for sabotage. He was released in September 1953.

Martin was sent to French Indochina in 1945 as a sailor, hoping to fight against the Japanese occupation, but Japanese forces had already been disarmed by the time Martin arrived. Martin assisted in the French shelling of Haiphong on November 23, 1946. Martin submitted his resignation, which was refused, and he eventually returned to Toulon.

In Toulon, in liaison with communists from Var, he started propaganda works at the armoury, distributing leaflets that encouraged sailors to demand a complete and immediate cessation of hostilities in Indochina.

The military police arrested Martin on March 13, 1950 for complicity in sabotage. Although eventually found not guilty, on October 20, the Brest naval tribunal nevertheless sentenced him to five years of confinement for distributing propaganda hostile to the Indochina War.

While Martin's membership in the communist movement was not public, it was hardly in doubt to investigators. During this time, a number of activists had already been jailed for illegal actions against the Indochina War, but the Martin Affair stands out due to the disproportionate sentence of five years for a simple political activity against military regulation.

This affair drove Martin into the spotlight as a symbol of the "struggle of the French people against the dirty Indochina War". At the initiative of the French Communist Party, as well as intellectual and political elites, a defence committee was formed. Notable figures in support of Martin included Jean-Marie Domenach and his magazine Esprit, Jean Cocteau, and Jean-Paul Sartre, who at the end of 1953 published a book entitled "The Henry Martin Affair".

The campaign against Martin's sentence reached a fevered pitch, with meetings, demonstrations, and leaflets in his support. On May 19, 1951, the judgement was set aside, and formally expunged by July 19. In spite of this, Martin was freed only on August 2, 1953.

Philippe Robrieux wrote that the Martin Affair took proportions that evoked the memory of the Dreyfus affair.[1][2]

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Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Those named Martin, Their history is ours - The Great History, (1946-1954) The Indochina War". documentary (in French). Channel 5 (France). Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-05-20. 
  2. ^ Ruscio, Alain (2003-08-02). "Guerre d'Indochine: Libérez Henri Martin" (in French). l'Humanité. Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-05-20. 

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