Philippe Viannay


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Biography of Philippe Viannay


Philippe Viannay was a French resistance fighter and journalist, born August 15, 1917, died November 27, 1986.

He was the main leader of Défense de la France, an underground movement whose eponymous newspaper is the direct origin of France-Soir . Then, still with his partner Hélène Viannay, he founded the Journalist Training Center and the Les Glénans sailing school.


Born on August 15, 1917 in Saint-Jean-de-Bournay in Isère, Philippe Viannay completed his secondary studies at the Sainte-Croix-de-Neuilly college. From his Catholic education he retains a great attachment to religion, to the point of going to the seminary of Issy-les-Moulineaux. A very practicing Catholic, he was “on the shores of French Action” when he enrolled in philosophy at the Sorbonne. But if he gets his DES there, he is caught up in the war when he prepares for the aggregation. Officer of Moroccan riflemen until the armistice (June 22, 1940), he returned to the Sorbonne where he launched, in April 1941, the newspaper Défense de la France on the model of La Libre Belgiqueduring the First World War. Imposing himself at the head of the resistance movement of the same name which brings together non-communist networks, he initially displayed undeniable support for Marshal Pétain, a person he believed capable of ensuring the liberation of the country, in particular by the intervention of the United States of America. In 1942, he married a geography student of Russian origin who worked for the newspaper, Hélène Mordkovitch, an atheist and leftist. Opting for General de Gaulle after hesitating between him and General Giraud, he imposed himself under the name of Indomnitus as one of the main animators of the clandestine press.

From the spring of 1944, Philippe Viannay shifted his action from civil resistance to armed struggle. He assumes leading functions at the head of the maquis of Seine-et-Oise. Friction opposed him on this occasion to the future Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, head of the FFI in Ile-de-France. Wounded by seven bullets in July 1944, he received the Cross of the Liberation (in the name of the movement) and the same year published a book bringing together his writings ( We are all rebels ). In October 1944, he was appointed to the consultative assembly, but he resigned after a few months because he had not been able to take political and social action there.


In 1945, he founded the International Training Center with Jacques Richet before transforming it the following year into the Training Center for Journalists (CFJ). In 1947, it lost control of France-Soir , which had just been transformed from Défense de la France. He then founded the Glénans Nautical Center. From the 1950s, he supported the newspaper of his friend Claude Bourdet, France Observateur , of which he was, like many of its leaders, a member of the New Left (1956) then of the Union of the Socialist Left (UGS). Elected to the political council of the latter from its foundation (December 1957), he was reappointed in September 1958.

But he is not interested in the PSU, preferring the Club Jean Moulin where he is active in his last years. It was then that in 1960, Claude Bourdet and Gilles Martinet asked him to take over the finances of France Observateur.


Replacing Maurice Laval as administrator at the start of 1961, he “restored some order, regularized the glaring difficulties, set up a cash flow worthy of the name” and opened up the newspaper even more to advertising. Then, he obtained from one of his friends, René Seydoux, a donation of 100,000 francs to bail out the newspaper. Finally, in the face of increasing financial difficulties, in 1963 he created a company called Amis de l’Observateur which, with a capital of 150,000 francs (divided among subscribers), was responsible for reducing the weight of its debt and to strengthen links with the readership.

Alongside his administrative and financial duties, in 1962 he became an editorial secretary and wrote mainly articles for society. In favour, along with Hector de Galard, Walter Lewino, Olivier Todd and François Furet, of freeing the newspaper from the PSU, he supports the idea that the improvement of its image depends on its presentation as a “moral authority” that should offer its readers a “vision of the world, moral and poetic politics” . Thus, despite his long friendship with Claude Bourdet, he did not hesitate to criticize his attitude in the quarrel which opposed him to Gilles Martinet in 1963.

After the departure of the latter and faced with the worsening of the financial situation, he turns benevolently towards the proposals for a new formula put forward by Claude Perdriel and Jean Daniel. He then judges that the depoliticization of L’Express creates a space for the development of an Observer who is still committed but transformed in his form. Participating in the negotiations with the Perdriel-Daniel team during the summer of 1964, he was one of those who, like François Furet, pushed Gilles Martinet to accept the conditions of the new formula and then helped him to convince the other journalists. He then sat on the boards of directors and directors of the Nouvel Observateur , even if the rapid marginalization of the latter thereby limited his influence.

On the other hand, he plays a significant role alongside Claude Perdriel in his quest for financing. He follows him in his loan policy, not hesitating to guarantee them on personal property such as his apartment. But he becomes worried about his bold promotion and management methods. In 1966, he even wanted an intervention from the main shareholders on this subject, but the “plot” was cut short. This does not prevent him from maintaining friendly relations with the editor of the newspaper who sometimes takes his opinions into account. This is the case with his support for the launch of the magazine Le Sauvage in 1973. But his relations are more stormy with Jean Daniel who does not hide his desire to keep him away from the editorial staff.

If only to publish articles, he must first “make people of different sensitivities understand” from his the interest of his ideas. Thus, if he published a few papers on sailing, politics and religion, in particular a document on “The secrets of the council” on February 4, 1965, he almost stopped writing there after 1968. He then mainly played a role as vice -president of the CFJ, an (unofficial) agreement having established that the newspaper would offer an internship every two years to the two promotion majors, internships which would be likely to lead to an employment contract.

Alongside, he launched the International Education and Exchange Centers with Michel Debré, Paul Delouvrier and René Seydoux, the latter being a close friend like many left-wing bosses (Seydoux, Fauroux). Far from any ideological straitjacket, he supported the candidacy of Chaban-Delmas in 1974, before calling for Mitterrand to vote in the second round. An anti-communist who was part of this social-democratic left that fully accepted capitalism, he did not hide his criticisms of the Common Program and preferred to activate himself within the delorist club Echange et Progrès. He even participated in the creation of the very Giscardian Institut Auguste-Comte.

In 1975, he was one of the initiators of the Conservatoire du littoral. In 1976, he was enthusiastic about the launch of Le Matin . Agreeing to sit on its board of directors, he also has a great ease of communication with his editor-in-chief. But, after 1981, he increasingly disagreed on “management as on an increasingly irresponsible editorial staff”. In 1984, he therefore resigned from the boards of directors of the newspapers before retiring, the following year, from his duties as vice-president of the CFJ. He died on November 27, 1986.


On the good use of France: Resistance, Journalism, Glénans (for the record) , ISBN 2859566899.

Olivier Wieviorka, A certain idea of ​​the Resistance. The Defense of France movement , Gallimard, 1995


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