3 files

Interview with Alain Geismar

posted on 11.03.2021, 09:45 by Robert GildeaRobert Gildea
Geismar, Alain
Algerian War/ 22 March movement/Flins/Gauche Prolétarienne

Born 17 July 1939, Paris 16th arrondissement. Family of Alsatian-Jewish origin, came to Paris after annexation of 1870, father inspector of Banque de France, killed June 1940. Mother and Alain went to Zone Libre 1941, ‘hidden Jewish child’ in village in Savoy. Returned to Paris 1944, mother remarried 1947.

Lycée Carnot, Paris, and Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Mines, Nancy (1959-62). Lecturer at Science Faculty Paris 1962. Married 1965, child born 1968.

Political Apprenticeship
Politicised by struggle against Algerian War, which seemed to echo the German occupation. Gave literacy classes to Algerians, helped FLN militants, helped mobilise against possible coup by paratroops 1962. In students union (UNEF) and national secretary of lecturers’ union (SNESup) and Parti Socialiste Autonome (PSA).

emerged in May 1968 as one of leading trio with Jacques Sauvageot (UNEF) and Cohn-Bendit (22 March). Called for general strike in education 3 May, and for mass demo 13 May after meeting CGT/CFDT leaders. Late arrival in 22 March movement.

Post 1968
After 1968 met Maoists defending Flins factory outside Paris June 1968 and impressed by struggle at Sochaux, which left two workers dead. Wrote Vers la guerre civile with Serge and Evelyne July and Herta Alvarez and ran Gauche Prolétarienne with Benny Lévy. Believed that sporadic actions would lead to general insurrection. On trial for reconstituting a banned movement Oct 1970, sentenced to 18 months in prison. Promoted wider and more democratic movement – Secours Rouge. Murder of Pierre Overney 25 Feb. 1972 turned him against use of political violence.

Banned from regular academic post for activist past until 1978. Became acting president of Paris VII. Involved in Agence de l’informatique - computing in public/private sector from 1982.
No militancy till Socialists in trouble 1986-8, via physicist Claude Allègre joined team of Lionel Jospin, education minister 1988. In private office of mayor of Paris Delanoë 2001.

Pourquoi nous combattons (Paris, Maspéro, 1970), L’Engrenage terroriste (Paris, Fayard, 1981) and Mon Mai 1968 (Paris, Perrin, 2008)


Around 1968: Activism, Networks, Trajectories

Arts and Humanities Research Council

Find out more...


Date of interview


Place of interview


Name of activist

Alain Geismar

Activist date of birth


Activist Gender


Activist nationality


Name of interviewer

Robert Gildea

Name of transcriber

Alice Moscaritolo

Usage metrics