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The French Right between the Wars

The French Right between the Wars: Political and Intellectual Movements from Conservatism to Fascism

Samuel Kalman
Sean Kennedy
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 274
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  • Book Info
    The French Right between the Wars
    Book Description:

    During the interwar years France experienced severe political polarization. At the time many observers, particularly on the left, feared that the French right had embraced fascism, generating a fierce debate that has engaged scholars for decades, but has also obscured critical changes in French society and culture during the 1920s and 1930s. This collection of essays shifts the focus away from long-standing controversies in order to examine various elements of the French right, from writers to politicians, social workers to street fighters, in their broader social, cultural, and political contexts. It offers a wide-ranging reassessment of the structures, mentalities, and significance of various conservative and extremist organizations, deepening our understanding of French and European history in a troubled yet fascinating era.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-241-6
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. IX-X)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)
    Samuel Kalman and Sean Kennedy

    Even casual observers of contemporary French politics will recognize that to speak of the French Right in the singular is profoundly misleading. France’s modern Right has always been multifaceted in outlook, divided between moderates and radicals, pious Catholics and secularists, establishment elites and angry populists. While the lines between these various tendencies is often blurred, and short and even longer-term alliances are frequent, so is fierce rivalry and even outright political warfare. Focusing on the interwar period, the present volume seeks both to recapture the complexity and fluidity of the French Right, and contribute to a historiography marked by fierce...

  6. Part I. Political Movements

    • CHAPTER 1 Crowd Psychology, Anti-southern Prejudice, and Constitutional Reform In 1930s France: The Stavisky Affair and the Riots of 6 February 1934
      (pp. 25-47)
      Kevin Passmore

      On 6 February 1934, several tens of thousands of members of right-wing leagues and veterans associations converged on the Place de La Concorde in central Paris.¹ They were protesting against the installation in the Chambre des députés on the other side of the Seine of a center-Left government under the Radical-Socialist Édouard Daladier. The most determined demonstrators attempted to force their way across the Pont de la Concorde and into the Chamber, some of them hoping to ignite a “national revolution.” In the ensuing riots, fourteen demonstrators and one policeman died, and two more of the former succumbed some months...

    • CHAPTER 2 Avec une brutalité toute particulière: Fascist Sympathies, Racial Violence, and the Municipal Police and Gendarmerie in Oran, 1936–1937
      (pp. 48-64)
      Samuel Kalman

      On 23 August 1937, in the Algerian department of Oran, a local police captain named Léon Nicolas wrote a letter to French Interior Minister Marx Dormoy demanding a transfer to the state police. A sympathizer with theSection française de l'Internationale ouvrière(SFIO), the French socialist party, Nicolas had been initially posted to Sidi-Bel-Abbès in 1932 and then Perrégaux from 1935 onward. However, from his arrival he encountered unceasing harassment from extreme-Rightist colleagues, threats of violence from fellow officers, and official reprimands from his superiors. His situation became even more perilous during a 25 February 1937 demonstration by local communists...

    • CHAPTER 3 The Veterans and the Extreme Right: The Union nationale des combattants, 1927–1936
      (pp. 65-80)
      Chris Millington

      In spite of the attention devoted to the study of French fascism in recent years, the French veterans’ movement has largely escaped the consideration of scholars. Veterans were an important constituency for the extreme Right but histories of the period for the most part accept the benign role of theanciens combattantsduring the interwar years.¹ This is likely due in no small part to the infl uence of Antoine Prost’sLes anciens combattants et la société française,1914–1939 (1977), which argued that French ex-servicemen were essentially Republican. Prost claimed that though veterans’ associations were anti-parliamentarian and some “fascistic”...

    • CHAPTER 4 Pacifism, the Fascist Temptation, and the Ligue des droits de l’homme
      (pp. 81-94)
      Norman Ingram

      Michel Dobry and others have written about the “myth” of the French allergy to fascism.¹ France also suffered for many decades from an apparent allergy to pacifism—equally mythical, and one, too, which has begun to dissipate in the past twenty years or so. The alleged allergy to pacifism is strangely linked to the myth of the allergy to fascism. Despite the fact that many First World War and interwar commentators believed in a quite incoherent way that France was a profoundly pacifist nation, nevertheless the termpacifistacquired a strongly negative connotation in France following the Second World War...

  7. Part II. Gender and the Right

    • CHAPTER 5 Right-Wing Feminism and Conservative Women’s Militancy in Interwar France
      (pp. 97-111)
      Magali Della Sudda

      This chapter addresses an unacknowledged paradox during the interwar era in France: The presence of female agency within conservative movements. Since the publication of theLes Droites en Franceby René Rémond, historians have sought to provide a new understanding of the French Right, from the place of conservatism in Gallic politics to the vociferous debate concerning French fascism and the “immunity thesis.”¹ Among the new insights provided, the use of gender analysis has challenged the traditional view of Rightist hostility toward women’s emancipation. The pioneering work of Kevin Passmore on women’s militancy analyzed female agency within the Croix de...

    • CHAPTER 6 Gender, the Family, and the Fascist Temptation: Visions of Masculinity in the Natalist-Familialist Movement, 1922–1940
      (pp. 112-126)
      Cheryl A. Koos

      In an essay featured in the August 1940 issue of Alliance Nationale contre la dépopulation’s monthlyRevue,Paul Haury, a history educator and one of the organization’s chief propagandists since the early 1920s, could hardly refrain from gloating. For almost two decades, Haury had been condemning the fruits of republicanism as manifested in not only a declining birthrate, but also in an impotent parliamentarianism and an egoistic, self-possessed society. Since 1789, France had been gradually ruined by what he viewed as the most deadly byproduct of republican political philosophy: unbridled individualism. Here, two months after France’s defeat at the hands...

    • CHAPTER 7 Was There a Fascist Femininity? Gender and French Fascism in Political Context
      (pp. 127-140)
      Geoff Read

      In 1939, France’s political parties were reaching out to women in the pages of their newspapers. One paper offered expectant mothers advice on stylish but healthy clothing to wear; another promoted “a family politics,” including “the return of the mother to the home”; a third asserted that the proper “role of women in the nation” was to “found a home [and] have children.”¹ That these newspapers were the tribunes of the Communist Party (Parti communiste français, or PCF), the Parti démocrate populaire (PDP), and the Parti populaire français (PPF), situated on the far Left, center Right, and far Right respectively,...

    • CHAPTER 8 An Overview Of Women And Gender in French Fascism
      (pp. 141-160)
      Daniella Sarnoff

      Assembled in Reims for a 1926 meeting, the leaders of the Faisceau declared:

      There is no greater force than that which moves a man for his children; there is no greater force of civilization than that which makes a mother save for her children.

      The spirit of the family is the true founder of cities, the real force of arts and crafts.

      And it is this spirit that no institution represents in the parliamentary state.

      It is this force that fascism wants to make represented in the national state.¹

      In this proclamation, and many like it, the Faisceau presented...

  8. Part III. Intellectual and Cultural Trends

    • CHAPTER 9 “Our Body Doesn’t Have to be Ugly”: Physical Culture, Gender, and Racial Rejuvenation in the Croix de Feu / Parti social français
      (pp. 163-179)
      Caroline Campbell

      In the aftermath of the extraordinary destruction caused by the Great War, many Europeans were faced with mourning the dead and healing millions of bodies damaged by physical and psychological trauma. In France, an unprecedented influx of immigrants from Europe and the colonies added a new dimension to debates over how best to regenerate bodies comprising what many referred to as the “French race.” Women and men of the extreme Right were key players in polemical discussions over racial rejuvenation and national strength as supporters of extremist groups formed one of the most influential political blocs of the interwar period....

    • CHAPTER 10 Defending Christian Civilization: The Evolving Message of the Parti social français, 1936–1939
      (pp. 180-194)
      Sean Kennedy

      Writing inLe Flambeauin August 1936, Lieutenant-Colonel François de La Rocque, leader of the newly formed Parti social français (PSF), declared that there would be “no national reconciliation if it does not fall within the scope of our traditional civilization,” which was “specifically, historically Christian.”¹ As leader of the Croix de Feu (CF), La Rocque had long stressed the theme of national reconciliation, the process whereby the French people would reject both the class warfare of the Left and sterile elitism of the traditional Right and turn to his movement, which would ensure the regeneration of France. In the...

    • CHAPTER 11 Were French Elites Allergic To Fascism? A Study of the Reception of the 1930s Dictatorships in Three French Periodicals
      (pp. 195-209)
      Laurent Kestel

      One of the central problems tackled in French political histories of the interwar era has traditionally been—and certainly remains—the question of whether or not France succumbed to “fascism.” Specialists acknowledge its existence; there is no need for any further discussion. Similarly, there is no need to stimulate debate when, following the appearance of Zeev Sternhell’sNeither Right Nor Left,various French historians spoke of an “allergy” and an “impermeability of French culture” to fascism,¹ in keeping with the classic thesis of René Rémond. Over the last thirty years, this has been continuously and staunchly contested by numerous works²...

    • CHAPTER 12 Salvation, Satire, and Solidarity: Right-Wing Culture in Interwar France
      (pp. 210-224)
      Jessica Wardhaugh

      The creative relationship between left-wing politics and culture has been justly emphasized in studies of interwar France. Many histories of the Popular Front describe the lively performances of theOctobergroup in the occupied factories of spring 1936, or the state-funded production of Romain Rolland’sQuatorze Juilletin celebration of political victory, with actors and audience joining triumphantly inLa MarseillaiseandL’Internationale.¹ Studies of political engagement in film have drawn attention to Jean Renoir’s collaboration with the French Communist Party for the creation of electoral propaganda, and to the documentaries of the socialist Marceau Pivert, testament to the transient...

  9. Part IV. Historiography

    • CHAPTER 13 Beyond Left and Right: Rethinking Political Boundaries in 1930s France
      (pp. 227-239)
      William D. Irvine

      When in 1983, the Israeli historian, Zeev Sternhell, published a book on French interwar fascism, entitledNi droite, ni gauche,he provoked a major controversy. To some degree, the uproar was a response to his principles of inclusion and exclusion. Bertrand de Jouvenel was not at all happy to find himself included among the ranks of French fascists; others were troubled by a definition of fascism that excluded the huge but also incontestably right-wing Croix de Feu. But lurking behind much of the unhappiness with Sternhell, I suspect, was a widespread uneasiness that any political formation in France could somehow...

  10. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 240-242)
  11. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 243-249)
  12. Index
    (pp. 250-264)