René Ferdinand ARTHAUD
Translation by: Robert C. Kuhmann

René Arthaud was a French politician, born on September 20, 1915 in “Marseille” (in the department of the Bouches-du-Rhone). He died on July 21, 2007.


He was a member of the first and second “National Constitutional Assembly” (department of the Vaucluse), “Deputy of Vaucluse“ from 1946 to 1951, “Minister of Public Health” from 24 June to 16 December 1946 (an approximate equivalent to the role of the “US Surgeon General” in the United States of America).


René Ferdinand ARTHAUD  1915 ~ 2007


Family reunion at “La Tour d’Aigues”, in the Vaucluse, France.


René Arthaud was the son of Eli Rodolphe Arthaud from (Orpierre, Hautes-Alpes) his mother’s name was, Jeanne RAVEL.  He had two older brothers: Marcel Henri Arthaud, and Albert Arthaud.


Family of Eli Rodolphe ARTHAUD ~ circa 1915

Parents: Eli Rodolphe ARTHAUD & Jeanne Clémence Pauline RAVEL.

Sons: Albert (top), Marcel (seated), René (baby).


His father was the Supervisor (conseiller général) from their township, deputy mayor of the city of “Gap” and President of the “Board of Supervisors” (conseil général) of the department of the Hautes-Alpes. At the tail-end of his secondary schooling at Gap, Marseilles and Paris, René Arthaud opted to become a pharmacist and graduated from the Faculté de Marseille in 1941. But from the age of 19 in 1934, he joined the Federal Union of Students (l'Union fédérale des étudiants et aux jeunesses communiste) and occupied the functions delegated to the world congress of students in Brussels. In 1936, he joined the Communist Party and became the editor of the newspaper, Rouge Midi. Mobilized in 1939 at the hospital (l'hôpital de Bar-le-Duc), he found himself in “Laon” on May 10, 1940. After the defeat and demobilization, he completed his studies and resumed the fight (secretly) in Avignon, where he had established himself as a pharmacist. René Arthaud organized the National Front (Front nationale) in the Vaucluse region and represented the French Communist Party for the departmental liberation committee. On 25 August 1944, he was appointed as deputy mayor of “Avignon”, a function which would be confirmed following the municipal elections of April 1945. In the elections of October 1945, at the first “National Constituent Assembly”, René Arthaud led the list of the Communist Party and collected 36,578 votes, against 37,974 on the Socialist list (which had two elected) and 26,126 for the MRP (one person elected).

During this first term, René Arthaud belonged to the “Commission on Family, Population, and Public Health -- as well as supplies” (la Commission de la famille, de la population et de la santé publique). In this capacity, he wrote several reports -- legislative proposals affecting the pharmaceutical profession, and education or pharmaceutical preparations. On 30 December 1945, he took part in the general discussion on the budget of the Ministry of Health (ministère de la Santé) during which he criticized certain guidelines: excessive emphasis imposed upon the population, to the detriment of
measures taken to maintain health and prevent the spread of disease, grants being given too systematically to private works – notably, confessionals.

In the elections to the second “National Constituency Assembly” (Assemblée nationale Constituante), René Arthaud again led the communist list, obtaining an almost identical winning result (with 36,339 votes), this time overshadowing the “SFIO” (31,044 votes), the “Radical list” (28,845 votes) and the “MRP list” (24,587 votes). He took on the same commission as in the previous Assembly and acceded to the function of the “Minister of Public Health” from 24 June to
16 December 1946 (under “Georges Bidault” -- 3rd President of the Provisional Government of the French Republic). The brevity of his role as Minister did not allow him to intervene in the proceedings.


On the 10th of November, 1946 during legislative elections, he further improved his results: with 39,877 votes, against 31,270 (Radicals), 24,804 (Socialists), and 22,022 (MRP). René Arthaud then took on his duties as “Commissioner to the Family and Population” (commissaire à la famille et à la population) and was elected Vice-Chairman of that Commission. But during his term, he diversified his powers: as part of the “Committee on Foreign Affairs” (Commission des affaires étrangères), and that of “Overseas Territories” (territoires d'outremer). As such, he was appointed a member of the Commission responsible for investigating incidents that took place within the country of the “Ivory Coast” on May 9, 1950.

During this term, René Arthaud was a parliamentarian who was particularly active. He submitted no less than 32 “bills” (drafts for laws, or resolutions): some concerning his department, the Vaucluse (for example: grants to the Arts – theatrical events at the ancient Roman theatre, in the city of “Orange”, and aid to farmers -- most others were related to public health or to the status of pharmacy and hospital staff, and the creation of the “League of Biochemicals” (Société des produits biochimiques), and so on.


René Arthaud was also often involved in meetings, especially as reporter to the “Commission on the Family” (Commission de la famille). On March 6, 1947, his concerns (for example) led him to charge that there was an excessive burden on the fledgling French Social Security system. On July 17, after he conducted a thorough review of the public health budget and documented the statistical numbers related to infant mortality (due to insufficient expenditures, to underwrite its prevention). On 5 December 1947, while the Communist Party was the opposition, René Arthaud took part in the discussion of the interpellation (a procedure in some parliaments, of demanding that an official explain some act or policy) of the Government, in the wake of incidents that had resulted in 3 deaths in Valencia, Spain during a strike and demonstration.  He in turn, denounced the behavior of the security forces who stood against strikers in “Avignon” and the “Vaucluse” department. That harassment continued up to June 10, 1948. A decree had been issued by “Poinso-Chapuis”, which reinstated disguised subsidies to private schools, as existed under the Vichy Government; René Arthaud called (at the same time) for the defense of secular schools on the 30th of July (following criticism of the new budget of the “Ministry of Health”), as compared to a “Directorate General of Health”.

But forward from August 19, 1948 the most important works by René Arthaud were his debates devoted to denouncing the “Atlanticist” policies of the Government (referring to the US “Marshall Plan”); the war in Indochina; and (on 22 December 1949) the general discussions on the budget (as related to terms very hard on "colonial exploitation"). He returned to a work-load on the same subject on
January 28, 1950 -- during the discussions relating to a draft of law, regulating the relationship between France and the new states involved in the Indochina conflict. He paid tribute to the struggle of the “Vietminh” and concluded by asking for the recognition of the “Democratic Republic of Viet Nam”, its independence, and the withdrawal of the French expeditionary corps. This intervention lead (on the same day) to an incident within which he found himself opposed to the Socialist MP (minister of parliament) from the Vaucluse, “Charles Lussy”.

In February of that year, René Arthaud filed a request for the “interpellation” (see explanation of the term, above) with regard to a policy of provocation -- as carried out (according to him) by the Government, and against the leaders of the “African Democratic Rally”. This was another opportunity for discussion on the (then controversial), French “colonialism” of
Africa (in opposition to the “Overseas Minister of France”). The outcome, towards the end of the legislative session, was to provide many other subjects to renew its attacks against "American imperialism" or the colonial policy of France: for example, on November 22, 1950, at another “interpellation” following setbacks in the French “Tonkin Delta”, it underscored the demoralized state of the expeditionary corps and called for immediate peace. Whereas, after November 27, during the discussion of the draft affecting “overseas labor code”, he denounced the many abuses suffered (according to him), upon workers in the colonies.

During the elections of
17 June 1951, René Arthaud was again at the head of the Communist list and he collected 39,258 votes. Despite the stability of his list, he was the victim of how severely the French system perceives “party affiliations”, in-as-much-as a Radical got the seat of the 4th department -- to his detriment.

As compensation, the Communist Party appointed him, “Advisor of the French Union” (conseiller de l'Union française), a function that prepared him further,  thanks to his interventions on specific overseas matters. He would be seated in the Assembly only from
9 October 1952 to January 13, 1953: the powerful within his party, essentially forced his ultimate resignation (for having supported positions that were seen as too close to those of the Socialists).


In the summer of 1952, he also left the post of director of the Communist  periodical, “The Renaissance of the Vaucluse”. (La renaissance du Vaucluse). 

He then abandoned political life.


En ligne (en Français):é_Arthaud

Online (in English):



René Ferdinand ARTHAUD

French Minister, Deputy, Member of the Assembly, WWII Resistance Leader


From the author of the French to English translation, above -- this is a very personal footnote:


René ARTHAUD was a great Frenchman.  He was a man of action, compassion, and love -- and ice-cold nerves (under literal fire, and throughout his political life). He was a truly great man.  René was a world-class, class-act, and cultured person -- a humanist, and a delightful human being. 


He was an intellectual and highly intelligent – a measured, handsome, demure, and articulate fellow -- a man who weighed the impact of his every word.  He was soft-spoken, well-spoken and highly spoken of…  He spoke my language (American) almost perfectly, but with that always charming “twist” that is the tonic and the melody of the language that is so quintessentially, Français !


I am proud to say that I had the good fortune to know René.  First, as a relative by marriage, then as a friend. We evolved into the “tutoiement” of a child to a parent (the familiar usage form of the word, “you” that a child uses with a parent or sibling).  He became my “almost” Uncle, an “adoptive-like” 2nd Dad -- from 1973 until his demise in 2007 -- at the ripe old age of 91 years, 10 months, and 1 day. 


He was an Uncle to my (former) French wife, a caring brother to my Father-in-law, a sensitive Grand-Uncle to my 3 daughters.  René was also a loving Father and husband at home within his private life.  I herby encourage his daughter to add her memoir to this contribution, if she is willing.  I have also enjoyed the company of his wife, Laure and daughter, Martine -- having visited my home and me, theirs many times -- across the years. 


Upon his demise, I learned (exactly) just what he thought of me too -- in-as-much as I was told (in a few words) that I was the son, he never had. 


The discovery emptied my heart, and let flow a spontaneous river of tears from my eyes to my cheeks (at the moment, and once more) …as I complete this phrase. 


Thus, God speed my friend!  Goodbye to my “adoptive”, 2nd Dad!   “Bon Voyage, mon ami !  Adieu, mon 2eme Papa adoptif !


I shall see you again, soon enough… 
Me Thinks.


RCK the 16th of May 2008


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last updated 30-Aug.2009 at 09:03