He also lived and wrote under various other names. His real name was Charles Cortvrint. Other names mentioned in sources include Charles Ridel', Damaski, Santiago Parane, Courami and L’Itinerant.
In August 1936 he joined the Sébastien Faure battalion in the Durruti Column and went to fight against the Francoists on the Aragon Front in the Spanish Civil War. He later became better known as an activist-journalist and anarchist propagandist. He published several books and contributed to the establishment of various journals and international associations.
Provenance and early years
Charles Cortvrint was born in Brussels. His father was French: his mother was from Chile. From the age of 16 he was actively participating in the Belgian anarchist movement. He contributed to "Réveil syndicaliste", edited by the "Syndicalist actions groups", headed up by Jean De Boë, Nicolas Lazarévitch and Ida Mett.
Unwilling to perform military service in Belgium, in around 1931 he moved to Paris where he made contact with the "Anarchist Union". In 1933 he was a delegate to the "Anarchist Union" congress held at Orléans. As a member of "Communist Anarchist Youth" ("Jeunesse anarchiste communiste" / JAC) he backed the Anarcho-communism project and actively supported the creation and organisation of the libertarian movement. In the Paris region he was involved in the wave of strikes in the early summer of 1936. He participated in the "Moules-à-Gauffre" anarchist group, together with Charles Charpentier and Robert Léger.
Spanish revolution and resistance
With the outbreak, in 1936, of the Spanish Revolution, he set off with Charles Charpentier and became a founder of the Sébastien Faure battalion, part of the International Brigades participating against the Francoists in the rapidly developing Spanish civil war. The Faure battallion became part of the Durruti Column, fighting on the Aragon Front. Before the end of 1936, however, Mercier-Vega had returned to France where he launched a massive campaign of information and support in respect of the Spanish republic. He published his "Carnets de route" in the 11 September 1936 edition of Le Libertaire (under the pseudonym "Charles Ridel").
Following deep differences, both over organisation and the role of "factory groups" in industrial confrontations and over the importance of the Spanish civil war, Mercier-Vega quit the Anarchist Union in November 1937.
By the end of 1939 he was being actively sought by the police. He tried, unsuccessfully, to embark from Marseilles and then, supported by activist networks, made his way to Brussels where he was accommodated by Hem Day. In the end it was from Antwerp that he embarked for Argentina.
He spent time in Chile and then recrossed the Atlantic to Africa. War had broken out, from the French perspective, in September 1939, which was followed by the German invasion and occupation of northern France in May/June 1940. The Germans never conquered the French imperial territories in Africa, however, and on 26 June 1942 Mercier-Vega signed up as a volunteer with the Free France (government in exile) organisation which was commanded, mostly from London, by Charles de Gaulle. By December 1942 he was in Beirut where, between April and December 1945, he was seconded to the Information Service (Radio Levant) of the Free French government. He ended the war with the rank of Adjutant. He left the region, embarking from Alexandria, in October 1945, landing at Marseilles on 11 November. He was demobilised in Paris on 6 December 1945.
Directly after demobilisation Mercier-Vega worked at the Grenoble based newspaper, Le Dauphiné libéré. Between 1946 and 1950 he was a regular contributor to Le Libertaire, writing under the pseudonyms "Damashki" and "Santiago Parane".
At the start of the 1950s he joined the "Friends of Liberty" ("Amis de la liberté"), the French section of the Congress for Cultural Freedom" ("Congrès pour la liberté de la culture"), and international anti-totalitarian intellectual organisation. In 1958 he created the "International Commission of Workers' Liaison" ("Commission internationale de liaison ouvrière"), a libertarian and revolutionary syndicalist network.
During his career he worked with the libertarian press on the creation of several reviews, such as " Révision" (1938) with Marie-Louise Berneri, "Aportes" (1966-1972) and "Interoogations" (1974-1979).
He was also the author of a number of publications.
Following the death in 1973 of his partner, Eliane Casserini, Louis Mercier-Vega took his own life on 20 November 1977.
- Guillaume De Gracia (5 July 2016). De sueur et de sang. Syllepse. pp. 316–318. ISBN 978-2-84950-509-0.
- "MERCIER-VEGA Louis « Charles RIDEL » ;« DAMASHKI » ; « Santiago PARANE » ; « COURAMI » ; « L'ITINERANT » [CORTVRINT, Charles dit]". Dictionnaire international des militants anarchistes. 7 May 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
- Patrick Iber (13 October 2015). Neither Peace Nor Freedom: The Cultural Cold War in Latin America. Harvard University Press. p. 178. ISBN 978-0-674-28604-7.
- "Léger, Robert ... Né à Clermont-Ferrand (Puy-de-Dôme) le 17 mars 1915 - Cuisinier - JAC – UA – FCL - CGT - Paris". Dictionnaire international des militants anarchistes. 22 March 2008. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
- Phil Casoar (15 June 2009), "Retour sur une controverse: Louis Mercir, Simone Weil", Extrait de l’article ... "Louis Mercier, Simone Weil : retour sur une controverse", in Présence de Louis Mercier, ouvrage collectif, ACL, Lyon, 1999., Les Gimenologues
- Martin S. Alexander; Helen Graham (6 June 2002). The French and Spanish Popular Fronts: Comparative Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. p. 141. ISBN 978-0-521-52422-3.
- "Circulaire". Document de la Sureté intérieure. 4 October 1939. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
- Georges Ubbiali. "La chevauchée anonyme. Une attitude internationaliste devant la guerre (1939-1941), Marseille, Agone, 2006 (book review)". Revue électronique Dissidences... Retrieved 31 January 2017.
- "Louis Mercier-Vega ... L'Adjutant Mercier (book review)". Agone ... Réalisation : William Dodé. November 2005. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
- Henri Lourdou (7 November 2012). "Luis Mercier-Vega "L'increvable anarchisme" (book review)". Retrieved 31 January 2017.
- José Fergo. "Présence de Louis Mercier". A contretemps n° 8 (juin 2002) spécial Louis Mercier. Les éditions Atelier de création libertaire. Retrieved 31 January 2017.