Action Directe

Action Directe ([ak.sjɔ̃ di.ʁɛkt]; AD, "direct action") was a French far-left militant group which committed a series of assassinations and violent attacks in France between 1979 and 1987. Members of Action directe 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] et cetera.

Action directe
Dates of operation1979–1987
Motives"Proletarian 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

Elisabeth Van Dyck CommandoEdit

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

The Elisabeth Van Dyck Commando was originally named after a second-generation RAF (Red Army Faction) member, Elisabeth von Dyck. This commando was created as a combined extension of both the Action Directe (AD) and the Red Army Faction (RAF). The AD appeared to take care of the organizational side of this commando, 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, respectively with the RAF being based in Germany and the AD being based 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 political autonomy, or political freedom, for the world's working class.[5]

This commando 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 Commando 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 money between the upper class and working class.[5]


In December 1981 an Action Directe member Lahouari Benchellal, called "Farid", was arrested for forging traveler's cheques, which were an important income source for the organization, in Helsinki, Finland. He hanged himself while in the custody of the Finnish Security Intelligence Service in January 1982. Action Directe 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 that the Action Directe members still imprisoned, who consider themselves political prisoners, should be paroled. 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 revoking of this 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 alsoEdit


  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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