Action Directe

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Action directe
Dates of operation1979–1987
MotivesProletarian revolution
Active regionsFrance
Notable attacksAssassinations of René Audran and Georges Besse
1979 Attack on the HQ of Conseil national du patronat français
1986 Paris police station attack
Size180–200 "militants and [close] sympathizers" during its existence[2]
Means of revenueRobbery

Action Directe ([ak.sjɔ̃ di.ʁɛkt]; AD, lit.'direct action') was a French far-left militant group that originated from the anti-Franco struggle and the autonomous movement, and was responsible for violent attacks in France between 1979 and 1987. Members of the group considered themselves libertarian communists who had formed an "urban guerrilla organization". The French government banned the group. During its existence, AD's members murdered 12 people, and wounded a further 26. It associated at various times with the Red Brigades (Italy), Red Army Faction (West Germany), Prima Linea (Italy), Armed Nuclei for Popular Autonomy (France), Communist Combatant Cells, Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Factions, Irish National Liberation Army,[3] and others.

Elisabeth Van Dyck Command[edit]

The Elisabeth Van Dyck Command was a branch of AD that assassinated French Army General René Audran, on 25 January 1985. He was the Director of International Affairs (DAI) at the General Directorate for Armament (DGA). The team was named to commemorate Red Army Faction (RAF) member Elisabeth Van Dyck.

The command was created as a combined extension of both the AD and RAF. The AD appeared to take care of the organizational side of the command, and so naming it after a memorialized member of the RAF makes sense if they were seeking to at least publicly have a unified front. Both the RAF and the AD were actively pursuing their shared goal of political autonomy within their home countries, with the RAF based in Germany and the AD in France.[4] These groups' goal of political autonomy did not stop with their own countries however, and they often fought against their own countries' governments in the pursuit of what they claimed was 'political autonomy', or political freedom, for the world's working class.[5]

The command had only one claimed attack, the assassination of French Army General René Audran on January 25, 1985.[6] At the time of his death, Audran was a senior-level official in the French Ministry of Defense, specifically the Corps of Armament. The Elisabeth van Dyck Command took credit for the assassination via letter.[5] In the letter the members explained that they had killed Audran because he was the head of French's foreign arms sales and they believed that his "military and economic function is at the heart of the strategic imperialist project".[5] The project being referred to is what the AD and RAF believed to be NATO and its supporting European countries' goal of homogenizing the world into a capitalist culture, and that as they progressed along this goal it would widen the gap in power and wealth between the upper class and working class.[5]


In December 1981, AD member Lahouari Benchellal, known as Farid, was arrested for forging traveler's cheques, which were an important income source for the organization, in Helsinki, Finland. He hung himself while in the custody of the Finnish Security Intelligence Service in January 1982. AD did not believe Benchellal killed himself, and they named a direct action group after him.[7]

There is an ongoing campaign by some sections of the French far-left calling for the parole of the still imprisoned AD members, who consider themselves political prisoners. In December 2007, Jean-Marc Rouillan was allowed a state of "semi-liberty", able to leave prison for extended periods. In September 2008, a Parisian court called for the revocation of his status after he declared in an interview with L'Express that "I remain convinced that armed struggle is necessary at certain moments of the revolutionary process".[8][9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (fr)Serge Cosseron, Dictionnaire de l'extrême gauche, Larousse, collection À présent, 2007 (ISBN 978-2-03-582620-6) p. 61
  2. ^ Selon la police en 1989 in (en) Michael Dartnell, Action directe: ultra-left terrorism in France, 1979-1987, Paris, 1995, 224 p. (ISBN 0714645664, lire en ligne archive), p. 173
  3. ^ Jack Holland & Henry McDonald, INLA – Deadly Divisions, 1994, p.146-7, p.214-15
  4. ^ "Direct Action | French extremist group". Encyclopedia Britannica. Archived from the original on 24 February 2021. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d "Kommando Elisabeth van Dyck" (PDF). Social History Portal. February 1985. Archived (PDF) from the original on 11 May 2019. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  6. ^ Terrorist Group Profiles. DIANE Publishing. 1990. p. 44. ISBN 9781568068640.
  7. ^ Simola, Matti (2009). Ratakatu 12 – Suojelupoliisi 1949–2009. Helsinki: WSOY. pp. 123–127. ISBN 9789510352434./
  8. ^ "Le parquet demande la révocation de la semi-liberté de Rouillan". Libération. 1 October 2008. Archived from the original on 9 March 2012. Il faut clarifier les choses: le processus de lutte armée tel qu'il est né dans l'après-68, dans ce formidable élan d'émancipation, n'existe plus (...) Mais, en tant que communiste, je reste convaincu que la lutte armée est nécessaire à un moment du processus révolutionnaire." "Il faut clarifier les choses: le processus de lutte armée tel qu'il est né dans l'après-68, dans ce formidable élan d'émancipation, n'existe plus (...) Mais, en tant que communiste, je reste convaincu que la lutte armée est nécessaire à un moment du processus révolutionnaire.
  9. ^ Samuel, Henry (1 October 2008). "Terrorist group Action Directe founder 'does not regret murders'". Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on 8 February 2018. Retrieved 8 February 2018.


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