Born in 1907 in Lézardrieux, in what is now Côtes d’Armor, Marc Bourhis was 34 years old. He and his wife Alice were both teachers in Trégunc, a town in Finistère located about ten kilometers south of Concarneau. As soon as he left the Quimper Normal School in 1926, Marc Bourhis joined the Unitary Federation of Education. It is in this union that he meets another teacher shot in Châteaubriant, Pierre Guéguin.
Active activist of the Communist Party and neighbor in Concarneau of the parents of Marc Bourhis, Pierre Guéguin quickly approached the young teacher whom he convinced to join the Communist Party in 1930. In disagreement with the political evolution of the Soviet Union and with the Of course followed by the PCF, Marc Bourhis left this party in 1933, the year Hitler became Chancellor of the Reich and opened the first concentration camps. Marc Bourhis then subscribed to the Trotskyist newspaper The truth and, at the trade union level, becomes the spokesperson for the “Emancipated School”, the organ of the Unitary Federation of Education.
From 1935, his links with Trotskyist militants grew closer, in particular with the return to Finistère of Alain Le Dem, with whom, in 1936, he joined the Parti Ouvrier Internationaliste (POI – Internationalist Party of Workers). On December 29, 1937, he chaired an important meeting of the POI in Concarneau, on which Workers’ struggle, the party’s weekly, January 6, 1938. Interesting to read that Pierre Guéguin, elected mayor of Concarneau in 1935, was present on behalf of the PCF to challenge Yvan Craipeau, who was the POI’s main speaker at this meeting.
After the expulsion of the Revolutionary Left current within the SFIO, its leader Marceau Pivert formed a new party, the Parti Socialiste Ouvrier et Paysan (PSOP – Parti Socialiste Ouvrier et Paysan). Along with most of the French Trotskyist militants, Marc Bourhis joined him and actively campaigned on his behalf.
Mobilized upon the declaration of war in September 1939, Marc Bourhis was sent to the “Le Bagne” barracks in Brest, before being transferred in May 1940 as a suspect element to the 137th infantry regiment of Quimper. A few weeks later, in June, this unit was blocked in its barracks by the German army. Quickly released to resume his class in Tregunc, Marc Bourhis reconnects with Pierre Guéguin who had publicly broken with the Communist Party when the signing, in August 1939, of the non-aggression pact between Stalin and Ribbentrop.
Throughout Finistère, Marc Bourhis and Pierre Guéguin – who had been stripped of all his mandates like all elected Communists – acted in secret against the Nazi occupation. In June 1941, Hitler invaded the USSR. On June 23, 1941, Pierre and Marc improvised a meeting in a café on Pointe Trévignon and publicly expressed their opinions and their satisfaction at seeing the USSR in the Allied camp.
On July 2, 1941, following a denunciation, Marc Bourhis – whom the Commissioner for General Information presents as “the soul of the revolutionary party in his commune” – and Pierre Guéguin are arrested as agitators by the gendarmerie on a warrant of the prefect of Finistère stopped and interned at the Choisel camp in Châteaubriant.
In this camp, where important cadres of the Communist Party are also detained, the Trotskyist Bourhis and the “renegade” Guéguin are slandered and quarantined by French supporters of Stalin, to the point that the Trotskyist historian Rodolphe Prager writes about by Pierre Guéguin: “the hatred of his former comrades condemned him to a difficult existence” even more painful than his “, according to Bourhis, who was not spared either.
Designated as hostages, Marc Bourhis, Pierre Guéguin and their 25 comrades fell under Nazi bullets on the afternoon of October 22 at the Sablière quarry in Châteaubriant.
At 27 de Châteaubriant, to the 48 hostages designated by the French authorities and shot in reprisal by the Nazis, we owe the same homage. But this homage requires that each of them be recognized in his political identity.
Marc Bourhis was an activist of the Fourth International, a Trotskyist activist. In 1945, his family had “Militant of the Internationalist Communist Party” engraved on his grave. On October 19, 1945, more than a thousand people attended a meeting of the PCI in Concarneau at the platform where Marc Bourhis’s father and Pierre Gueguin’s widow were seated, which did not prevent communist militants from attacking the gallery. In October 1946, Alice Bourhis, Marc’s widow, had the following point published in the PCI newspaper The truth:
Dear comrades, on the eve of October 22, when the PCF is preparing with a lot of propaganda, to commemorate the anniversary of the massacre of the twenty-seven hostages of Châteaubriant, I believe that “The Truth” must provide the following clarification.
At La Sablière where the twenty-seven hostages were executed, a monument was erected. Various commemorative plaques are placed there. In August 1945, the PCI had a plaque in memory of Marc affixed. Fifteen days later, while we were going to the exhumation of the bodies of Marc and Pierre Guéguen, we noticed the disappearance of the PCI plaque. Of course, no other is missing. That of the PCI alone has disappeared.
Who committed the sacrilege? Who was annoyed by this plaque to the point of desecrating this monument? Obviously, she contradicted the plaque which read: “In memory of the twenty-seven members of the PCF. You should not know that Marc Bourhis, who fell under Nazi bullets, was a Trotskyist. Scruples don’t bother them much! Hasn’t the Stalinist Carriou just declared publicly during a meeting in Brest that, if Marc was taken hostage, it was because there was an “error”.
Today, no serious historian disputes the membership of Marc Bourhis in the Fourth International. But we still too often “forget” to mention that he was a Trotskyist and that his friend and comrade Pierre Guéguin had approached the Trotskyists. This dark page in the history of the labor movement where Trotskyist militants were hunted down as “Hitler-Trotskyists” cannot be forgotten even if it must be turned forever.
By unveiling this plaque recalling that the remains of Jules Auffret, Guy Mocquet and Marc Bourhis were buried in this cemetery of Petit-Auverné, it is indeed the activist of the Communist Party, the activist of the Communist Youth and the activist of the Fourth International, to whom we pay tribute. And in their name to the 48 hostages of Châteaubriant, Nantes and Mont-Valérien.
Jean-Noël Badaud, David Blanchard, Jean Brunacci, Sandra Cormier, Robert Hirsch, Henri Le Dem, François Preneau, Eric Thouzeau, Catherine Touchefeu
Historians, political activists and trade unionists, the signatories of this tribute have shared, for decades, the same interest in this tragic and heroic period in our history, convinced that the memory of the 48 hostages will forever accompany our common struggle for a society finally free of all evil, oppression and violence.
Nantes October 12, 2021