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Secours populaire français

Last modified: 2017-08-10 by ivan sache
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Flag of Secours populaire - Image by Ivan Sache, 19 March 2017

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Presentation of Secours populaire

The Secours populaire français (French People's Aid; website), usually known as the Secours populaire (People's Aid), is a non-profit association dedicated to fighting poverty and discrimination.
The association is organized in local committees (663 in 2013), departmental federations (98), and regional councils (22) It manages more than 1,250 reception centers. More than 80,000 volunteers work for the association.

The Secours populaire originates in the establishment in 1923 of the French section (Secours rouge international) of the International Red Aid, an organization founded in 1922 by the Communist International as an "international political Red Cross". Led by French Communists, the Secours rouge international gained the support of influent anti- fascists, such as the writers Henri Barbusse (1873-1935) and Romain Rolland (1866-1944; Nobel Prize in Literature, 1915), and the architect and designer Francis Jourdain (1876-1958).
The Secours rouge international defended the cause of convicts, anti- colonial activists, workers fired because of their unionist or political commitments, and political prisoners, providing material aid to their families. The association supported in 1927 the organization of mass protests against the sentence to death of the Italian anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti. Beyond its political agenda, the association provided aid to the children of poor families and unemployed people.

In the aftermath of the success of the Front populaire in the French general election, the association was renamed in 1936 as the Secours populaire de France et des colonies. The motto of the organization, "Tout ce qui est humain est nôtre" (Everything human is ours / is our concern) was coined in 1938 and has remained unchanged since then.
The Secours populaire provided support to refugees expelled from their country by war or fascist and nazi regimes. Banned during the Second World War, the organization remained secretly active, still publishing the magazine La Défense. One half of its leaders, however, were arrested, shot or deported during the German occupation.

The Secours populaire français was reorganized in November 1945 and registered on 29 January 1946, as the merger of the Secours populaire de France and of the Association nationale des victimes du nazisme (ANVN). The organization supported workers on strike and political activists; as well as people victims of colonial wars in Madagascar (1947-1948), Indochina (1945-1954), Viet Nam (1960-1975) and Algeria (1954-1962), offering them legal advice by the so-called "Lawyers of Secours populaire". The organization also supported the opponents to the Greek and Spanish rulers from 1945 to 1976.
In the late 1950s, the Secours populaire put emphasis on moral and material aid, placing its political agenda in the background. Aid was provided to the victims of natural disasters, such as the crash of the Malpasset barrage (1959) and the Agadir earthquake (1950), to the children of the miners on strike (1963) and to workers during the general strike organized in 1968. The campaigns were supported by several artists, such as Jean Cocteau (1889-1963), who offered several illustrations for posters and pamphlets.
In the 1980s, Secours populaire targeted its activity against poverty, demanding access for all to food, leisure and culture. The organization was recognized as a national association of people's education on 10 January 1983 and was state-approved on 12 March 1985.

Ivan Sache, 19 March 2017

Flag of Secours populaire

The flag of the Secours populaire is white with the logo of the association. It was used, together with the Breton flag, during the "Marche de solidarité", organized from Rennes to Marseilles (10 October - 20 November 2015) to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the association (photo, photos, photo, photo).
The logo of the Secours populaire is made of a white, right hand, outlined in black, equipped with two wings, red on top, blue on bottom. The name of the association is written beneath the hand on three lines, SECOURS (black) / POPULAIRE (red) / FRANÇAIS (blue).

Described as a "winged hand", the logo was imagined in 1982 by the Grapus collective and designed by Pierre Bernard, the founder of the collective. Dynamized by the wings, the open hand represents call to other and solidarity to everyone. Once a traditional emblem of peace, the hand is now a symbol of reconciliation and reciprocity; everyone can recognize his own hand a as well as other's hand. Placed above the name of the association, which highlights its goal in three words, the hand is the emblem of solidarity.
Featured for more than 30 years on the association's posters and pamphlet,s the hand suggests that the Secours populaire is physically present beside the population and highlights its significance at the national scale.
[Secours Populaire website]

Grapus was founded by Pierre Bernard (1942-2015), François Miehe (left in 1979) and Gérard Paris-Clavel, who were joined in 1976 by Jean-Paul Bachiollet and Alex Jordan, in the Institut de l'Environnement, a structure established in 1969-1970 in Paris on the model of the Bauhaus. Communist-oriented, the founders of Grapus were often called crap-stal (crapules staliniennes, Stalinist scum) by their colleagues; they answered by calling their group Grapus, a word built on crap-stal and graphiste (designer). Grapus, which defended "public-utility design", was disbanded in 1990.
Pierre Bernard then founded with Dirk Behage and Fokke Draaijer the Atelier de création graphique (ACG), which he would direct until his death.
[Télérama, 24 November 2015]

Ivan Sache, 19 March 2017