Paris and the Right in the Twentieth Century 1847180949, 9781847180940

Certain images of Paris have become icons for the left, but the Paris of the right has received far less attention. This

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Paris and the Right in the Twentieth Century
 1847180949, 9781847180940

Table of contents :
Table of Contents
List of abbreviations
Introduction • Jessica Wardhaugh
Part I: The Right, The Street and The People
1. From Thoissey to the Capital via Fashoda: Major Marchand, Partisan Icon of the Right in Paris • Berny Sèbe
2. Fighting for the Streets of Paris during the Popular Front, 1934–1938 • Jessica Wardhaugh
3. The Front National and Paris • Elisabeth Dupoirier
Part II: Authority and Control
4. One Nation, One State, One Television: Making Sense of de Gaulle’s Broadcasting Policy • Jean K. Chalaby
5. Controlling the Streets in May 1968 • Daniel A. Gordon
6. Municipal Reform and Political Enterprise in the 1980s: Jacques Chirac and the Paris–Marseilles–Lyons Law • Melody Houk
Part III: Paris Imagined
7. “Entre le Louvre et la Bastille”: The Topology, Sociology and Mythology of Paris in the Works of Charles Maurras • Bruno Goyet
8. Robert Brasillach and Paris: Paradise Lost • Peter Tame
9. L’Épuration: The Intervention of Simone de Beauvoir • Imogen Long
10. “Du Côté de chez Blondin”: The Imaginary Paris of the Hussards • Nicholas Hewitt

Citation preview

Paris and the Right in the Twentieth Century

Paris and the Right in the Twentieth Century

Edited by

Jessica Wardhaugh


Paris and the Right in the Twentieth Century, edited by Jessica Wardhaugh This book first published 2007 by Cambridge Scholars Publishing 15 Angerton Gardens, Newcastle, NE5 2JA, UK

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Copyright © 2007 by Jessica Wardhaugh and contributors Cover illustration © 2007 by Jessica Wardhaugh

All rights for this book reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. ISBN 1-84718-094-9


Acknowledgements · vii List of abbreviations · viii Introduction · 1 JESSICA WARDHAUGH

Part I: The Right, The Street and The People · 17 Chapter One · From Thoissey to the Capital via Fashoda: Major Marchand, Partisan Icon of the Right in Paris · 18 BERNY SÈBE Chapter Two · Fighting for the Streets of Paris during the Popular Front, 1934–1938 · 43 JESSICA WARDHAUGH Chapter Three · The Front National and Paris · 64 ELISABETH DUPOIRIER

Part II: Authority and Control · 85 Chapter Four · One Nation, One State, One Television: Making Sense of de Gaulle’s Broadcasting Policy · 86 JEAN K. CHALABY Chapter Five · Controlling the Streets in May 1968 · 104 DANIEL A. GORDON Chapter Six · Municipal Reform and Political Enterprise in the 1980s: Jacques Chirac and the Paris–Marseilles–Lyons Law · 122 MELODY HOUK


Table of Contents

Part III: Paris Imagined · 147 Chapter Seven · “Entre le Louvre et la Bastille”: The Topology, Sociology and Mythology of Paris in the Works of Charles Maurras · 148 BRUNO GOYET Chapter Eight · Robert Brasillach and Paris: Paradise Lost · 169 PETER TAME Chapter Nine · L’Épuration: The Intervention of Simone de Beauvoir · 193 IMOGEN LONG Chapter Ten · “Du Côté de chez Blondin”: The Imaginary Paris of the Hussards · 211 NICHOLAS HEWITT Bibliography · 233 Contributors · 249 Index · 252


This book originated in a two-day conference on “Paris and the Right in the Twentieth Century”, held at the Maison Française d’Oxford on 8–9 July 2005 as part of a joint initiative between the Maison Française and the Modern European History Research Centre of Oxford University (MEHRC). The conference was made possible by the generous sponsorship of the Institut Français, the Maison Française d’Oxford, the MEHRC and the Oxford University History Faculty. I would like to thank those colleagues who supported the project from the outset with their advice and encouragement, especially Alexis Tadié, Martin Conway and Robert Gildea; and I am grateful to the administrator at the MEHRC, Teena Stabler, for her patience and good humour. It is also a pleasure to express my thanks to Andy Nercessian and Amanda Millar at CSP for their help with the manuscript. I am, above all, deeply grateful to my husband Benjamin for his generous assistance at every stage of this project: for his technical expertise, thoughtful advice and dedicated proof-reading, and for his unfailing love and support.


Comités pour la Défense de la République Confédération Générale du Travail Confédération Générale du Travail Unitaire Comité National des Écrivains Centre National des Indépendants Conseil National de la Résistance Comité National de la Recherche Scientifique Contrat Première Embauche Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité Délégation à la Protection et à la Sécurité École Nationale d’Administration Front National Front National de la Jeunesse Île de France Jeunesse Communiste Révolutionnaire Member of the European Parliament Mouvement National Républicain Member of Parliament Organisation de l’Armée Secrète Office de Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française Provence–Alpes–Côte d’Azur Parti Communiste Français Paris–Marseilles–Lyons Law Parti Populaire Français Parti Socialiste Parti Social Français Parti Socialiste Unifié Royal Air Force Renseignements Généraux Revenu Minimum d’Insertion Rassemblement du Peuple Français Rassemblement pour la République Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française Service d’Action Civique Section Française de l’Internationale Ouvrière Sûreté Générale Société Financière de Radiodiffusion

Paris and the Right in the Twentieth Century


Service du Travail Obligatoire Union de Défense des Commerçants et Artisans Union pour la Démocratie Française Union des Démocrates pour la République Union pour la Majorité Présidentielle



Certain images of Paris have become icons for the left: the birth of the Popular Front amid demonstrators on the Cours de Vincennes in February 1934; the euphoric crowds at the Liberation; the Existentialists debating in the cafés of the Boulevard Saint-Germain; and the youthful rebels of ’68 on the barricades of the Quartier Latin. Yet the associations between Paris and the right have received far less attention. How have right-wing leaders, militants and writers described the history and people of Paris, organised or portrayed their supporters in the streets, and claimed the city as their own? This book addresses the relationship between Paris and the right in the twentieth century, a relationship that had a decisive influence on not only the political life of the French nation, but also its intellectual and cultural development. Firstly, as the seat of the government and as the capital of a highly centralised state, Paris has witnessed at their most intense both the rhetorical swordplay and the physically violent confrontation of political opponents. In the streets, as in parliament, the boundaries between left and right have been constantly challenged, and the survival of the government has at times—notably in 1934 and 1968—been dependent upon control of the streets. From the late nineteenth century onwards Paris has also been both a particular focus for the development of the extreme right in theory and practice, and the theatre for its uneasy relationship with its conservative counterparts, culminating in the contemporary rivalry between Jacques Chirac and Jean-Marie Le Pen. Secondly, as an industrialising city with an increasing share of the nation’s population, Paris has offered a fertile field for popular mobilisation, and successive waves of migrant and immigrant workers swelling the suburbs have provided the right with both targets and scapegoats, influencing both electoral tactics and political rhetoric. Thirdly, as a centre of intellectual and cultural exchange, Paris has provided both subject and framework for the writings of such controversial authors as Charles Maurras and Robert Brasillach, whose personal and intellectual trajectories were to become inextricably entwined with France’s destiny during the German Occupation. Paris and the Right in the Twentieth Century is a Franco–British collaboration spanning history, literary studies and political science, examining how the right has influenced Paris, and how Paris has influenced the right. The



genesis of the book came with the observation that, despite the enduring interest of scholars in the history of Paris and in the history of the French right, the question of the relationship between the two had received little direct attention. One reason for this may be that histories of Paris and histories of the right have pursued essentially distinct lines of enquiry. It is noticeable, for instance, that histories of Paris in the modern period have focused on the physical transformation of the town and its population, rather than on its political characteristics. Thus, Bernard Marchand’s Paris: Histoire d’une ville XIX–XX siècle examines the disproportionate expansion of the population of Paris in the last two centuries, as well as the tensions provoked by the dual identity of the city as state capital and industrial town;1 and Louis Chevalier’s historical and documentary works reflect concerns at the rapid and profound changes in population and architectural character.2 Likewise, Philippe Nivet and Yves Combeau note in their Histoire politique de Paris the lack of political studies of the capital, and provide a valuable synthesis of recent published and unpublished research on its municipal history. Their own agenda is very specific: to weigh the political impact of Paris on national history and to chart the development of political forces in the capital, rather than documenting the political events that took place there. Street demonstrations in Paris are thus deliberately accorded little space.3 Certainly, the long and dramatic history of Paris is a challenge to those who wish to record it, and as Charles Rearick emphasised in the special edition of French Historical Studies devoted to “New Perspectives on Modern Paris” in 2004: “the underlying premise is that Paris in all its vastness and heterogeneity calls for many kinds of historical treatment.”4 That collection gives precedence to studies of considerable chronological or thematic breadth, including a number of articles on the planning of Paris and the legacy of Haussmann, as well as contributions to a more neglected field of Parisian history: the banlieue. Politics is not the principal concern of the collection, but a study by Danielle Tartakowsky of the Place de la Concorde in the last century suggests significant paths for future research. Providing a 1

Bernard Marchand, Paris: Histoire d’une ville XIXe–XXe siècle (Paris: Seuil, 1993). Louis Chevalier, Classes laborieuses, classes dangereuses (Paris: Plon, 1958), idem, Histoire anachronique des Français (Paris: Plon, 1974), idem, L’Assassinat de Paris (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1997). 3 “Ce livre est donc une histoire des forces politiques parisiennes, et non une histoire des évenements politiques s’étant déroulés à Paris. Ainsi, toutes les manifestations ayant lieu dans les rues de la capitale, parfois identifiées dans la mémoire collective à la vie parisienne, ne sauraient y être pareillement traitées.” Philippe Nivet and Yvan Combeau, Histoire politique de Paris au XXe siècle: une histoire locale et nationale (Paris: PUF, 2000), 8. 4 Charles Rearick, “Paris Revisited”, French Historical Studies 27 (2004), 1–8. 2

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valuable postscript to Maurice Agulhon’s hypothesis of an east–west political division of the capital corresponding broadly to left and right, she demonstrates that the Place de la Concorde is difficult to characterise so neatly, having been claimed by a diverse range of political groups in the course of over a century, from workers’ and students’ organisations to right-wing and nationalist groups. Tartakowksy’s study of the Place de la Concorde is an important challenge to established patterns of historical research, in that histories of Paris with a strong political dimension have often focused predominantly on the left. JeanPaul Brunet’s Saint-Denis, la ville rouge: socialisme et communisme en banlieue ouvrière 1890–1939 provides a detailed analysis of the growth of Communism in one specific area of the “red belt” of Paris, although with the expressed intention of taking Saint Denis as a microcosm of the French working class rather than as a means of studying the implantation of a political party in this particular suburb.5 Indeed, although the study includes some discussion of the right-wing Parti Populaire Français (whose leader, Jacques Doriot, was the mayor of Saint-Denis), little consideration is given to the violent clashes between Communists and members of the PPF. The “red belt” of Paris is also the subject of studies by Annie Fourcault and Danielle Tartakowsky,6 although in this instance they focus more on the myths and mobilisation of the left than on those of the right. So far, histories of Paris devoting significant attention to the political culture and imagination of the right have done so within a limited timescale, for example Christophe Charle’s Paris fin de siècle, and Évelyne Cohen’s Paris dans l’imaginaire nationale de l’entre-deux guerres.7 Although the relationship between Paris and the right is not in either case the primary concern, both histories suggest the importance of exploring the political imagination of the city in general. Why is it that, conversely, histories of the right have paid only passing attention to the relationship between the right and the capital? This omission can be explained partly by a concern to write national rather than local histories of the right, but it must also be traced to the nature of historical debate on the right in France, which has, from the publication of René Rémond’s influential La 5

Jean-Paul Brunet, Saint-Denis, la ville rouge: socialisme et communisme en banlieue ouvrière 1890–1939 (Paris: Hachette, 1980). 6 Annie Fourcault, Banlieue Rouge 1920–1960: Années Thorez, années Gabin— archétype du populaire, banc d’essai des modernités (Paris: Éditions Autrement, 1992); Danielle Tartakowsky, Noëlle Gérome , and Claude Willard, La Banlieue en fête: de la marginalité urbaine à l’identité culturelle (Saint-Denis: Presses Universitaires de Vincennes, 1988). 7 Christophe Charle, Paris fin de siècle: culture et politique (Paris: Seuil, 1998); Évelyne Cohen, Paris dans l’imaginaire nationale de l’entre-deux guerres (Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1999).



Droite en France de 1815 à nos jours in 1954,8 tended to focus strongly on the themes of definition and ideology. The particularly controversial question of whether or not the French extreme right of the late nineteenth and twentieth century can be defined as “fascist” has often reinforced this emphasis, with Zeev Sternhell’s argument for the French origins of fascism focusing mainly on rightwing writers rather than political groups or movements,9 and with his opponents denying that French groups of the extreme right attained the mass mobilisation of their German and Italian counterparts.10 Both single-author overviews and collective works on the French right in the twentieth century have continued this emphasis on definition and ideology. French studies such as La Droite en France de 1789 à nos jours11 and L’Extrême Droite en France, de Maurras à Le Pen12 provide concise overviews of the development of political doctrine, and a detailed consideration of the tensions between different tendencies within the right, but do not consider either the rivalry between left and right or the relationship of political parties and movements with particular localities. Recent general studies of the French right in English have similarly offered valuable overviews of doctrinal development, as well as of the continuing controversy over the nature of French fascism. Such studies include the collections of essays edited by Nicholas Atkin and Frank Tallet,13 and by Edward Arnold,14 as well as Peter Davies’ The Extreme Right in France, 1789 to the present.15 The recent collection edited by Brian Jenkins on France in the Era of Fascism provides a further selection of challenges to the “immunity thesis”, and a detailed study of the riot of 6 February 1934 by Michel Dobry, but again with a view to defining notions of French fascism and political crisis, rather than with reference to the 8

René Rémond, La Droite en France de 1815 à nos jours (Paris: Aubier, 1954). Zeev Sternhell, Maurice Barrès et le nationalisme français (Paris: Seuil, 1972); idem., La Droite révolutionnaire: les origines françaises du fascisme 1885–1914 (Paris: Seuil, 1978); idem., Ni Droite, ni gauche: l’idéologie fasciste en France (Paris: Seuil, 1983). 10 Michel Winock, Nationalism, Anti-Semitism and Fascism (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998); Philippe Burrin, “Poings levés et bras tendus: la contagion des symboles au temps du Front Populaire” Vingtième Siècle 11 (1986), 7–20; idem., La Dérive Fasciste: Doriot, Déat, Bergery 1933–45 (Paris: Seuil, 1986, 2003). 11 Jean-Christian Petitfils, La Droite en France de 1789 à nos jours (Paris: PUF, 1994). 12 Ariane Chebel d’Appollonia, L’Extrême Droite en France, de Maurras à Le Pen (Paris: Complexe, 1987). 13 Nicholas Atkin and Frank Tallett, The Right in France, 1789–1997 (London, New York: Taurus, 1998). 14 Edward J. Arnold, The Development of the Radical Right in France from Boulanger to Le Pen (London: Macmillan, 2000). 15 Peter Davies, The Extreme Right in France, 1789 to the present (London: Routledge, 2002). 9

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specifically Parisian setting of these challenges to the republican regime.16 The path taken by such debate has thus tended to divert attention away from the study of the intellectual topography and political culture of right-wing Paris, although important local studies have been made of the extreme right in the provinces, such as Kevin Passmore’s analysis of the Croix de Feu/Parti Social Français in Lyons between the wars, and Paul Jankowski’s discussion of the influence of Marseilles on Simon Sabiani’s branch of the Parti Populaire Français.17 Since the political dimension is often lacking from studies of twentiethcentury Paris, and since the history of the French right focuses more on definition and ideology than on political geography, culture and symbolism, Paris and the Right in the Twentieth Century offers a contribution at the intersection of two existing fields of research, while, it is hoped, adding a further dimension to each of them. The book is structured in three parts, examining firstly the relationship between the radical right, the street and the people; secondly the strategies of control employed by the conservative right in the capital; and finally the real and imaginary Paris of right-wing novelists in the twentieth century. Each section represents a collaboration between British and French researchers, with a number of the French contributors here publishing in English for the first time. The interdisciplinary nature of the book acknowledges the importance of different approaches in illuminating the different facets of the relationship between Paris and the right. Several questions, however, thread their paths through all three sections: questions of continuity and change, of definition and identity. How have the districts and images of Paris claimed by the right evolved in the course of the twentieth century? Where have boundaries been established between left and right, and between the conservative and extreme right? What role has Paris played in the construction of right-wing leadership? How do the Parisian symbols appropriated by the right relate to areas of right-wing influence and mobilisation? How have the images and myths of Paris constructed by the literary and militant right converged and diverged? Is it still possible to describe the intellectual topography of the French capital?


Brian Jenkins (ed.,) France in the Era of Fascism: Essays on the French Authoritarian Right (Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2005). 17 Kevin Passmore, From Liberalism to Fascism: the Right in a French Province (Cambridge: CUP, 1997); Paul Jankowski, Communism and Collaboration: Simon Sabiani and Politics in Marseille 1919–1944 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1989).



The Right, the Street and the People As an investigation of the dialogue between the right and the people in the street, the first section of the book presents some of the most contentious political movements in the twentieth century, from the leagues of the Belle Époque to those of the interwar years, and finally to the Front National of JeanMarie Le Pen. The aim is to describe the dynamics and structures of popular mobilisation, and so to investigate the changing intellectual topography of the capital, and the locations of areas contested between right and left. Within this context, Berny Sèbe’s chapter highlights a little-known aspect of the life of Major Jean-Baptiste Marchand (renowned in imperial history as the leader of the French Congo–Nile mission): his political career in Paris. Sèbe’s research into the police archives of the Belle Époque reveals that Marchand presented, as icon of the anti-Dreyfusard right, a far greater political challenge than has hitherto been acknowledged. The anti-parliamentary right was keen to find an effective successor to Boulanger, and Marchand’s embodiment of the authority and uprightness of the army appeared the perfect antidote to the alleged treachery of Captain Dreyfus. Sèbe’s analysis of Marchand’s political aspirations reveals not only the dense, interlocking networks through which he achieved renown and preferment, but also his controversial nature as a colonial icon, claimed by the government as by a wide variety of groups within the right—from the anti-parliamentary leagues to the monarchists, both traditional and neo-royalist. Sèbe deliberately allows Marchand to remain an enigmatic, even elusive figure, thus to serve as a reflection of the many and conflicting aspirations of his supporters. Major Marchand became, for instance, an unexpected point of reconciliation between colonialists and formerly antiimperialist nationalists; and while members of anti-parliamentary leagues looked to his lead in orchestrating a coup d’état, he was also fêted by mainstream republicans, and on his return to France in 1899 he became the hero of a triumphal procession through the capital, as the government endeavoured to bask in the glory of his success. Contrasting this triumphal itinerary with the Parisian districts in which Marchand sought support as a candidate in the elections of 1906 suggests two distinct nationalist images and geographies of the capital. Major Marchand’s political appeal and aspirations thus provide, through Sèbe’s interpretation, an insight into the mobilisation and imagination of the right in the Belle Époque. The second chapter, a study by Jessica Wardhaugh of the battle for the streets of Paris in 1934–8, is also set in a time of intense political conflict and polarity: the years of the Popular Front. Wardhaugh takes as her starting point the divided Paris of 19 May 1935, when the west of the city hosted the annual right-wing celebration of Joan of Arc, while the east witnessed the left-wing

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commemoration of the Paris Commune, culminating at the famous Mur des Fédérés in the Père-Lachaise cemetery. From these two celebrations she draws out the rival images of the capital nurtured and propagated by left and right: on the one hand a patriotic Paris fêted in militaristic display; on the other a revolutionary Paris whose legacy resonated in the Communist and Socialist municipalities of the “red belt”. The boundaries of these rival visions of the city were often traced in demonstrations or skirmishes in the streets, at a time when the potential of the people in the street to determine the fate of governments and political coalitions was widely recognised. Having explored the distinctions between these rival images, Wardhaugh then questions the association of the opulent west with the right and the working-class east with the left, and suggests that these associations, although firmly established, were also subject to important challenges in the period of the Popular Front, as both right and left deliberately crossed sensitive boundaries in search of new supporters and new identities. In order to assess the significance of these challenges, she explores three examples of such “boundary crossings”: the attack on Léon Blum on the Boulevard Saint-Germain in February 1936, the Popular Front’s celebration of 14 July 1936, and the riot in the working-class suburb of Clichy in March 1937. From these examples, she demonstrates the left’s ambition to underline its newly patriotic character, and the right’s ambition to appeal to the lower-middle and working-class populations attracted to the Popular Front. The battle for the streets of Paris thus reveals a battle for the political centre ground at a time when the politics of popular representation were very much open to question. Elisabeth Dupoirier takes the associations between the right, the street and the people into our own time by examining the relationship between Paris and the Front National, and the rivalry between Jean-Marie Le Pen and Jacques Chirac. Despite the traditional flourishing of nationalist, right-wing movements in Paris—as explored in the first two chapters—and notwithstanding Le Pen’s own predilection for the capital, Paris has never been an electoral bastion for the Front National, nor has the relationship between the Front National and the French capital received much scholarly attention. Dupoirier’s chapter is thus a pertinent contribution to existing research on the party, and she explores both the ideological importance of Paris in the speeches of Jean-Marie Le Pen, and the sociological constitution of the Parisian electorate, through which she explains the relative lack of support for Le Pen in the capital. Le Pen’s principal exposition of the Front National’s myth of Paris takes place at the annual celebration of Joan of Arc, during which he salutes the equestrian statue of the national heroine in the Place des Pyramides that was also saluted by Major Marchand in the 1890s, and by Colonel de la Rocque in the 1930s. Although attendance at this annual event is decreasing (the highest level of 50,000 was attained in 1988, when the date of the celebration fell between two Presidential



elections), Le Pen describes the moment as the zenith of the unity of the French people, and the procession is attended by Front National dignitaries from the provinces, as well as by representatives from sympathetic nationalist movements around Europe. Joan of Arc serves Le Pen’s rhetorical purposes not only as a national saviour but also as an example of the honest French people triumphing over their corrupt and blundering elites—a popular theme in the propaganda of the party. Yet as Dupoirier explains, the electoral results in Paris indicate a city impervious to Le Pen’s overtures, characterised by higher socioeconomic status than other French towns and consequently less sensitive to Le Pen’s mobilisation of fears of insecurity. Moreover, the “Chirac effect” continues to deprive the Front National of potential supporters on the conservative right, and Dupoirier predicts that even after Chirac’s departure from office, Paris will remain resistant to the appeal of Jean-Marie Le Pen and his successors.

Authority and Control Dupoirier shows the importance of the conservative right as a political force in Paris, and as one which determines patterns of political behaviour at a national level. Paris has, indeed, become a vital theatre for the construction of right-wing leadership, notably for Charles de Gaulle and—self-consciously his successor— Jacques Chirac. The second section of this book examines the exercise of authority and control in and from Paris by the conservative right, with Gaullism as its uniting theme. While the importance of street politics is recognised, emphasis is also placed on Paris as the heart of a centralised state, and on forms of communication and political representation at local level that adopt a particularly national resonance. Much of the existing research on Charles de Gaulle and the media has centred on the President’s overall communications strategy, particularly his broadcast addresses. Jean Chalaby’s chapter adopts an original approach by integrating de Gaulle’s media policy into his specifically “statist” understanding of government, in which social and political cohesion were to be developed by Parisian media under tight governmental control. At the heart of the state, Paris was therefore central to his strategy. Indeed, the closeness of state broadcasting to the current government was even symbolised by the location of the Minister of Information’s family home—on the top floor of the buildings of the national broadcaster, in the eighth arrondissement of Paris. De Gaulle’s statutes, approved by the National Assembly, maintained a strict state monopoly on public broadcasting, and Chalaby’s chapter analyses the nature of de Gaulle’s broadcasting policy by drawing out its different dimensions. For de Gaulle, he demonstrates, television, radio and state-building were inseparable, and the

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government thus maintained a firm attitude towards peripheral radio stations such as Radio-Luxembourg. National television was not so much a response to the needs or desires of viewers as a public expression of a certain idea of French history, unity and identity. To this end, television was intended to find a language and purpose common to all; to seek a via media between low-brow entertainment and abstruse educational programmes. Essentially, it was to act as the “voice of France”, not just within the nation but also internationally. And it is significant that this conception of state-dominated broadcasting, centred on Paris, was not contested by the opposition, which specifically opposed control by the government rather than by the state. Indeed, de Gaulle’s control was contested not so much in the media as in the street, and while recognising the vast literature devoted to the left and May 1968, Daniel Gordon’s chapter adds a novel contribution to the analysis of these events by focusing on the response of the right. The balance in recent research on May ’68 has been towards a consideration of symbolism and play-acting, and so Gordon’s return to the importance of physical confrontation in the streets of Paris provides a timely counterweight. Based on extensive research in the police archives, this chapter sheds light on the violent tactics employed by street activists of both left and right, with Trotskyists pitted against members of the extreme-right Occident. This comparative approach draws out surprising parallels, not least the important involvement of foreigners in street militancy, since Occident included members of Greek and Armenian origin. Youth militants of left and right also listened to the same jazz music, socialised in the same cafés of the Quartier Latin, and sought supporters from the same proletarian areas of Paris. One of the important contributions of this chapter is a challenge to the argument of a collapse in state authority, and here Daniel Gordon builds on Michael Seidmann’s recent research to explore state strategies for the maintenance of power, notwithstanding certain diplomatic retreats. In fact, the Gaullist counter-demonstration of 30 May 1968 was larger than almost any other demonstration during the events, and de Gaulle’s broadcast of the same day was an inspired political gesture. Gordon analyses this success, and highlights the presence among the Gaullists of many significant right-wing figures of the future, including Édouard Balladur, Charles Pasqua and de Gaulle’s 36-year-old Minister of Employment, Jacques Chirac. In considering the relationship between order, authority and the right in the Paris of 1968, a sharp distinction emerges between the Gaullists and the extreme right, the latter being among those responsible for fomenting disorder. Their ultimate failure underlines the enduring predominance of the right-wing concern to maintain rather than subvert order. Lastly, Gordon examines the place of May ’68 in the memory of the right, again contrasting conservative and extreme right responses as he juxtaposes Le Pen’s evocation of “la nausée” with Chirac’s more relaxed



perception of the events, a reflection of his role of diplomatic negotiation in 1968 itself. Jacques Chirac’s construction of leadership has included the ability to benefit from even the most seemingly unfavourable of situations. In her chapter on Chirac’s consolidation of power while Mayor of Paris, Melody Houk examines this ability in the context of the Paris–Marseilles–Lyons (PML) Law of 1982. Conceived by the Socialist government of François Mitterrand, this project of municipal reform instituted a system of district councils and mayors in the three largest cities in France, complementing—and potentially undermining—the authority of the existing mayors. In the case of Paris, where in 1977 Jacques Chirac became the first elected mayor since the Revolution (mayoral powers being hitherto exercised by the Prefect of Police), the law was intended both to undermine Chirac’s authority and also to challenge the power base of his party, the Rassemblement pour la République. Rather than suffering from the new law, however, Chirac contrived to turn it to his advantage, initially by a vocal and televised opposition to this attempted “dismemberment of Paris”, but principally through the strategic choice of candidates for the municipal elections of 1983, which, through successful negotiation with the Union pour la Démocratie Française, secured a right-wing victory in every constituency in Paris. The profiles of those chosen as chief candidates—including established Gaullists, existing allies of Jacques Chirac and those at the outset of their political careers—were such that the new mayors and councillors were less likely to assert their independence and undermine the central Town Hall than to become its successful ambassadors in the arrondissements. Furthermore, the new district mayors were also accorded the status of adjuncts to the Mayor of Paris, together with a number of material benefits, which integrated them within the central municipal government and established a personal link with Jacques Chirac. Both the initial “Appeal to Parisians” and also the creation of personal “feudal links” between Jacques Chirac and the new district mayors and councillors bore the marks of a distinctively Gaullist enterprise, relying closely on the development and expression of charismatic authority. Although creating a new level of representation at the infra-municipal level, the PML Law was so manipulated by Chirac’s political strategy that, far from favouring independence at a district level, it actually tied the new mayors and councillors even more closely to centralised municipal administration.

Paris Imagined In the third section of the book—“Paris imagined”—the focus shifts from themes of mobilisation, authority and control to the experience and depiction of Paris by writers of right-wing sympathies. The intellectual topography of the

Paris and the Right in the Twentieth Century


city, and its changing portrayal in the imagination of the right, are traced through the successive evocations of Paris of Charles Maurras, Robert Brasillach, Jacques Laurent, Roger Nimier, and Antoine Blondin. The paradoxical nature of the relationship between Paris and the literary right emerges very clearly in Bruno Goyet’s study of the intellectual and political trajectory of Charles Maurras. Originally from Provence, Maurras not only made Paris his home but also became fully integrated within the Parisian Republic of Letters; even if he remained distant from many of his contemporaries because of his extreme political views and activism. Paris was celebrated in his literary and political works as the “first village of France” and as the successor to Athens and Rome; but Maurras also portrayed the capital as a carnivorous modern city, seething with foreigners and dominated by Jews. Goyet’s analysis of this ambiguous relationship between Maurras and Paris is structured around three themes. Firstly, he describes the different quarters of Paris that Maurras resided in and frequented in the course of his career: the westward progression of his apartments from the Quartier Latin to the aristocratic seventh arrondissement, and his enduring attachment to the central districts of his bohemian youth. Secondly, Goyet analyses the impact of Paris on Maurras’ ideology, not least the transformation of his concept of the “people”. By analysing lists of participants in such monarchist activities as the “visit” to the mansion of the pretender and the attendance at the commemorative Mass of 21 January, Goyet explores the social composition of neo-royalism, from aristocratic families paying their traditional respect to the monarchy to caretakers and shopkeepers from the more working-class arrondissements, mobilised by energetic local sections of Action Française. Lastly, Paris emerges through the writings of Maurras as a town caught between myth and modernity: on one level, an idealised city, and on another, a rapidly expanding metropolis threatened by both internal and external dangers. The charred reminders of the Commune—not least the blackened walls of the Tuileries Palace—left an indelible impression on the young writer, whose xenophobic and anti-Semitic invective was well-known in the pages of Action Française. Through the experience and writings of Charles Maurras, Paris thus emerges as a series of overlapping cities, real and imagined: as a Republic of Letters, as a focus for monarchist support and activity, and as a New Athens drawing poetry and patriotism from the extreme right. For Robert Brasillach, at one time a contributor to Action Française, Paris was also a city caught between imagination and reality, and it is his construction and experience of the city that are the subject of Peter Tame’s chapter. Like Maurras, Brasillach was not originally from Paris but made it his home and his destiny, which was played out along the old Meridian line running through the capital. Tame evokes Brasillach’s relationship with Paris in four stages—his



student days, his fiction of the 1930s, his career as a political journalist, and the wartime collaboration for which he was executed—and illuminates in Brasillach’s life and work a common theme of Paris as “Paradise Lost”. The student days of the young Brasillach, observing Paris from the École Normale Supérieure, are portrayed in fiction and memoir as a student Eden, guarded by Saint Michael and blessed with parks and gardens such as the Parc Montsouris and the Jardin du Luxembourg. Paris is also the setting for the search for utopian political schemes, both in fiction and in reality. While arguing that Brasillach cannot be fitted neatly into any well-defined philosophical or theological category, Tame nonetheless suggests that his fiction, notably Le Marchand d’oiseaux of 1936, was a means of exploring political problems and solutions: of imagining a community or a society based on faith. He explores Brasillach’s ambiguous relationships with Paris and its inhabitants—his concurrent sympathy for and detachment from the “people”; his vivid evocation of the twisting streets of the old Jewish quarter; and his criticism of Paris as lost in the past, while seeing the dynamics of the future in the youth rallies of Nazi Germany. Tame thus traces Brasillach’s evolution from Maurrassian nationalism to National Socialism, while illuminating the search for political utopia in writing that was to overshadow his destiny during the German Occupation. The very real consequences of Brasillach’s political writing and imagination were his much-publicised trial and execution in Paris in 1945. The post-war trials—of which Charles Maurras was also a victim—were to have a powerful effect on right-wing literary and political activism in the years that followed, and Imogen Long’s chapter studies Brasillach’s trial through the eyes of Simone de Beauvoir in order to explore the meaning and danger of intellectual engagement in Paris. Organising the purges was a means of consciously effacing the shame of the Occupation, deliberately breaking the associations forged between Paris and the collaborationist right. It was a means of reestablishing the acceptable boundaries of political thought and activity, of imposing a new justice based on criteria different from those of the Occupation. But as Long argues, the trial and execution of writers in a country selfconsciously renowned for its elevation of the “intellectual” was of particular resonance, raising important questions about the freedom of thought and the involvement of writers in politics. Indeed, the petition for clemency towards Brasillach attracted many high-profile signatories, including François Mauriac, Albert Camus, Paul Claudel and Jean Cocteau, not all of whom were necessarily sympathetic towards Brasillach himself. De Beauvoir acknowledged the hypocrisy of persecuting writers while allowing economic collaborators to escape unscathed, and yet notoriously refused to sign the petition for clemency, thus underscoring her conviction that “to write is to act”. Ironically, she was in

Paris and the Right in the Twentieth Century


this respect close to Brasillach himself, who won her admiration for his dignified, even heroic comportment during the trial, accepting responsibility for his ideas and for their political expression. His trial in Paris might strike its observers—including de Beauvoir—as theatrical and hypocritical, yet for Brasillach the consequences of his search for utopia in writing had become real and unavoidable. The post-war years have sometimes been represented as years of eclipse for the literary right, thrown into shadow by the deaths of Brasillach, Georges Suarez, Pierre Drieu la Rochelle and Charles Maurras. Yet as Nicholas Hewitt argues in his chapter on the “Hussards”, the influence of the inter-war right remained significant, not only in the intellectual topography of Paris but also in the imagination of the city by the new generation of writers. In the Académie Française, the election of such established right-wing figures as Thierry Maulnier and Pierre Gaxotte testified to their enduring status and influence. In the streets, the Quartier Latin was as noisily contested between left and right as it had been in the inter-war years, with Communists vying with royalists (later under the aegis of Jean-Marie Le Pen) for the allegiance of the student population. Close by, the cafés of the Boulevard Saint-Germain that became so indelibly linked with the Existentialists also included the favourite haunts of the young writers of the right, congregating around reviews that challenged the current intellectual and political orthodoxy. For “Hussards” such as Antoine Blondin, Roger Nimier and Jacques Laurent, inter-war Paris also provided intellectual inspiration, and Nimier in particular became trapped in a heavily stylised depiction of high-society Paris in the 1920s. Hewitt also emphasises, however, that the post-war literary right was clearly distinct from its antecedents, not least in its lack of engagement with current social and political concerns. Compared with writers such as Maurras and Brasillach, the Hussards were remarkable for their retreat from reality into imagination. Far from the “mystic realism” of Robert Brasillach, Jacques Laurent’s depictions of Paris eschew thorny questions of political community in favour of playful fantasies on the theme of the metro, a popular motif in the novels of the Hussards. Indeed, Hewitt employs these experimental evocations of underground Paris to challenge the diametric association of left and right with the east and west of the capital, and to suggest that for the Hussards in particular, the imagination of the city was coloured by the interplay between the surface and the hidden depths. Is it possible to trace the decline of a distinctively right-wing Paris? Certainly, Hewitt demonstrates that by the 1970s the intellectual topography of the capital was much less clearly defined than in the 1940s or 1950s, not least because the rejection of post-Liberation orthodoxies by the literary right was never integral to a definite political programme or activism.



Taken cumulatively, these thematic approaches to the relationship between Paris and the right reveal discernible patterns in political geography and symbolism. Firstly, in tracing the boundaries of right-wing Paris, this volume explores both the strengths and the weaknesses of the traditional association of the right with the west of the capital, and of the left with the east. Throughout the twentieth century, the grand boulevards and opulent quarters of the Right Bank and the west remained privileged locations for public displays and private support for the conservative and extreme right. The Champs Élysées, the area around the Opéra and the Place de la Concorde have, for instance, witnessed successive right-wing processions and demonstrations. Yet the very fact of the explicit association between the left and the east has made this area the subject of challenges, both in rhetoric and in the streets. Marchand became an official candidate for Belleville-Saint-Fargeau in the elections of 1906; La Rocque and Le Pen have sought and gained supporters in working-class suburbs. Areas on the Left Bank have been hotly contested between left and right, with the Quartier Latin the stage for student skirmishes between Communists and Royalists in the 1930s; between Trotskyites and members of Occident in the 1960s. Hussards as well as Existentialists met in the cafés of the Boulevard Saint-Germain; and Antoine Blondin’s fiction focused closely on the Left Bank, especially the École Militaire, the Invalides, and the Quai Voltaire. Indeed, the Hussards subverted the left-right, east-west division of Paris by creating their own experimental dialogue between the surface of the city and its hidden depths. The post-war literary right also drew its inspiration from the bohemian past and present of Montmartre, poised above the city on the borders between east and west. The symbiotic relationship between left and right often led to borrowings in rhetoric and strategy, from rhetorical constructions of the “people” to tactics of street violence and the involvement of foreigners in groups of young militants. Thus the established boundaries between the Paris of the left and the Paris of the right appear to be important but perhaps insufficient for a full understanding of the political battles of the twentieth century. Secondly, this volume reinforces the vital importance of the capital as a setting for the construction of right-wing leadership and authority, even when support bases often remained stronger elsewhere. Major Marchand recognised the need for integration within the Parisian networks of power, becoming a hero for the anti-parliamentary right while also being fêted by the government during his triumphal procession. De Gaulle made Paris the centre of a state- and government-controlled communications policy, radiating from the capital a message of social cohesion and channelling television broadcasts into a closelymonitored format. Jacques Chirac, donning the Gaullist mantle of the saviour of Paris, made the capital integral to his consolidation of authority and control as Mayor, building a web of personal allegiances to bolster his position and secure

Paris and the Right in the Twentieth Century


his political future. Le Pen continues to style himself as a national saviour against a Parisian backdrop, to make Paris the setting for his call to national unity even though the electorate of the capital seems to remain relatively indifferent to his message. Thirdly, this volume describes the fluid relationship between the political and literary right. Maurras was essentially a man of both worlds, although in the Republic of Letters he endeavoured to draw a clear line between his literary and polemical work. The inseparable connection between literary and political engagement for Robert Brasillach contrasts sharply with the post-war retreat of the Hussards into a largely imaginary and sometimes archaic city, even if the wistful evocations of childhood in the works of Laurent and Blondin echo the theme of a lost childhood paradise also found in Brasillach’s writings. The literary right sometimes appears caught between an engagement with the city of the present and consciously melancholic descriptions of the city of the past, marked by the tensions between a real and an imaginary Paris. Maurras described Paris as bearing the legacy of Greek Antiquity, as the new Athens whose pure air contrasted favourably with foggy London, the unworthy home to the Elgin Marbles; yet he also described the capital as a sprawling modern metropolis, devouring men and overriding family and regional loyalties and identities. Brasillach was careful to record his memories of the medieval streets of the city that were threatened by its modernisation, and expressed in his wartime diary his fears of the imminent destruction of the Paris of his youth. Amid the modernisation of the capital, right-wing novelists delighted in capturing the traces of its more rural past. Maurras evoked the sound of bell ringing in Paris as if in a village; Brasillach celebrated the rural quality of the markets on the Rue Mouffetard; Blondin included in his Paris que j’aime of 1956 a series of photographs of Parisian “villages” such as Bercy, Charonne and Vaugirard. Throughout these chapters there also emerges the sense of Paris as a stronghold and as a homeland, even for those writers who, like Maurras and Brasillach, did not begin life in the city. There is a patriotic, almost proprietorial quality to their writing—Brasillach, for example, described the Quartier Latin as “notre patrie”—so that the city, both modern metropolis and symbolic successor to Athens and Rome, becomes almost a muse, a source of inspiration as well as of fictional characters and topographies. How will Paris inspire the writers, leaders, and parties of the right in the twenty-first century? Will the right reject or retrace the paths of its predecessors? This book will, I hope, promote future research in the areas here studied, and already the twenty-first century offers new scope for such research: the Parisian militancy against the European constitution of 2005; the strategies employed to control the suburbs in response to ongoing violence and discontent; and the contemporary mobilisation of Action Française—its organisation of



pupils and students, and the commemoration of its past. Léon Daudet, Charles Maurras’ friend and collaborator, observed in his own reflections on the capital city that “Paris [is] like the inclusion of a crowd of novels—the story of the families who live there—in a very great drama: its own history.”18 In describing this drama and in telling these stories, Paris and the Right in the Twentieth Century encourages further exploration of a city whose images, myths, and opportunities for political mobilisation have inspired politicians, writers and researchers alike.

Jessica Wardhaugh Christ Church, Oxford October 2006


“Nous convenions ensuite que Paris était comme l’inclusion d’une foule de romans— l’histoire des familles qui l’habitent—dans un très grand drame, son histoire à lui.” Léon Daudet, Paris vécu (Paris: Gallimard, 1930, 1969), 10.



Major Jean-Baptiste Marchand (1863–1934) has remained famous for his meeting in Fashoda (now Kodok) with the Sirdar Kitchener, then commanderin-chief of the Anglo–Egyptian Expeditionary Force to the Sudan, on 19 September 1898. The face-to-face meeting between the two men was the most symbolic and perilous event of the Franco–British confrontation in the upper Nile (and even in Africa), and has since been mentioned in nearly all studies of modern European imperialism or diplomacy. In Britain, Fashoda—and consequently Marchand—have fallen into such oblivion that a recent book on the Congo–Nile mission bears the title The Unknown Frenchman.1 In France, Marchand is still remembered in certain post-colonial and nationalist circles as the “Hero of Fashoda” (see Figure 1.1), and historians have carefully analysed his role as the leader of the French Congo–Nile Mission.2 Little has been said, however, about his celebration as an icon of the anti-republican right in Paris following his return to France at the end of May 1899. In a detailed study of the French colonial party, Charles-Robert Ageron simply stated that: When Marchand returned, some Republicans feared he would become a “second Bonaparte returning from Egypt” … But Marchand discouraged the troublemakers. The nationalists did organise a “Marchand day” in Paris, but it soon became a popular feast.3


Hillas Smith, The Unknown Frenchman, The Story of Marchand and Fashoda (Lewes: Book Guild, 2001). 2 See in particular Marc Michel, La Mission Marchand 1895–1899 (Paris: Mouton, 1972). 3 Charles-Robert Ageron, France coloniale ou parti colonial? (Paris: PUF, 1978), 186– 187.

Major Marchand, Partisan Icon of the Right in Paris


Figure 1.1 The statue of Major Marchand in Thoissey4

Although Marchand was, as a good officer, averse to any illegal move, new evidence suggests that the situation was more serious than Ageron argued, particularly in the summer and autumn of 1899. The historiography to date has not taken account of the short-lived, but nonetheless real, hopes raised among 4

Photo © Berny Sèbe. The plinth of the statue in Thoissey (Ain) reads: “To Major Marchand, Hero of Fashoda and the Great War, 1863–1934”. Jacques Delebecque provides the following description of Marchand’s statue: “Droit mince, svelte, il donnait l’idée d’une de ces lames de pur acier, dont aucun défaut n’affaiblit la trempe. Dans ses campagnes et expéditions au Soudan, aux jours les plus pénibles de la mission Congo– Nil, plus tard au cours de la guerre, son endurance s’est révélée prodigieuse.” Vie du Général Marchand (Paris: Hachette, 1936), 7.


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the ranks of the nationalists and the monarchists by Marchand’s return to Paris in May 1899. Most of the studies in English of the Fashoda incident either overlook Marchand’s potential role as a nationalist leader, or simply mention it in passing:5 his action as a colonial lobbyist and officer thus overshadows the political figure which he briefly became, notably under the impulse of various nationalist movements. Marc Michel, who does mention the episode at the end of his study of the Marchand Mission, believes that the Major ended up being a nuisance to the anti-parliamentarian group.6 Such an analysis tends to obscure the fact that Marchand was perceived for at least half a decade as a potentially strong partisan icon of the anti-parliamentarian, anti-Dreyfusard right, both by the Government and also by the ligueurs and other anti-governmental elements. In a country torn apart by the Dreyfus affair, the anti-Dreyfusards saw in Marchand the embodiment of the righteousness of the Army, setting an example against what they considered to be the counter-example par excellence: Captain Dreyfus. Marchand’s attempts at a political career—mainly in Paris—in the decade following Fashoda have been equally overlooked, mainly because most of them failed. Using unpublished primary sources, this chapter seeks to throw light upon this little-known aspect of Marchand, to show how the Major cut an original figure on the French political scene and to describe how he was perceived by informers of the Sûreté Générale, both on his return from the Sudan in 1899 and also during his attempted entry into politics in 1904–6. The case of Marchand reveals the centrality of Paris in the creation of political networks and careers. It is also, however, deeply revealing of the relationships and tensions between different elements within the Parisian right. Marchand became, for example, an icon for nationalists who had hitherto been strongly anti-imperialist, thus providing an opportunity for collaboration between different facets of the right. Equally, Marchand’s political trajectory demonstrates the complex relationship between the right and parliament: members of anti-parliamentary leagues looked to him as the potential author of a coup d’état, and yet he also won the support of mainstream nationalists and of republican politicians. Indeed, the government had no choice but to try to claim the Marchand legend as its own during his triumphal procession of 1899. Comparing the itinerary of this triumphal procession with the constituencies in which Marchand was considered as a possible candidate in the 1906 elections also unveils two different nationalist geographies of Paris. Marchand’s participation in politics—hitherto neglected by historiography—thus provides a valuable insight into the relationship between the nationalists, the right, the street and the people in the early years of the Third Republic. 5

E.g. Patricia Wright, Conflict on the Nile. The Fashoda Incident of 1898 (London: Heinemann, 1972), 216. 6 Michel, La Mission Marchand, 249.

Major Marchand, Partisan Icon of the Right in Paris


From Thoissey to Paris As usual in a highly centralised country such as France, Marchand’s rise to fame and ascent of the social ladder were made possible by a close relationship with the French capital, which dated back to the early days of the officer’s career. Paris was the place where he made and developed most of the contacts that would prove useful during his career: hierarchical superiors, journalists, lobbyists, and ministers. The eldest son of a modest carpenter from a remote village in the most westerly corner of the Ain department, Jean-Baptiste Marchand came from a background where life was harsh and honours unknown. He left school aged 14 to become a clerk for the local solicitor, and had hardly any qualifications when he entered the French Navy on 17 September 1883 as a second-class soldier.7 He then worked hard to pass the competitive entrance examination to the military school of Saint-Maixent, a respectable alternative to the more prestigious, more aristocratic school of Saint-Cyr. His promotion to sublieutenant in March 1887 marked the beginning of a glorious career, during which he would climb to the rank of General after a series of African campaigns and a mission in China during the Boxer rebellion. Marchand earned his first distinction after he was wounded when attacking the village of Koundian in Senegal. He was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour while still a sublieutenant,8 after a report sent to Paris by Louis Archinard—then Colonel Commander of the French Sudan—stated that he had led his men to victory in the front line of battle. This early distinction shows that Marchand had quickly managed to attract the favourable attention of his superior; it would prove most useful in the future. Louis Archinard (1850–1932), a Polytechnician, is considered to be the architect of the French conquest of the Sudan; Marshal Hubert Lyautey (1854–1934) saw in him the master of French colonial development together with Gallieni. From then on, Marchand and Archinard were to stay in contact, as shown by the correspondence they later exchanged and by the close socio-professional relations they maintained, mostly in Paris.9 Archinard remained a powerful support for Marchand throughout the early years of his career, trying to provide him with the official honours he undeniably coveted. Later, Marchand suggested to Archinard his own promotion to the rank 7 Archives Nationales, Paris (AN), LH/1729/36 (Legion of Honour record), état de service established in Saint-Louis, Senegal, July 1890. 8 AN, LH/1729/36 (Legion of Honour record), form dated 12 September 1889. 9 AN, 231 Mi, Marchand papers, box 2, file 6: letter from Louis Archinard to Marchand dated 3 August 1891 concerning Marchand’s promotion, and letter from LieutenantColonel Bonnier to Marchand dated 17 September 1892 evoking Archinard’s invitation to have dinner when all three would be in Paris.


Chapter One

of Officer of the Legion of Honour “because he had no boss to advocate his case.”10 While Archinard could facilitate Marchand’s ascent of the military hierarchy, politicians could also back up any potential application for a higher rank in the Legion of Honour or even in the Army. The future President of the Republic Paul Doumer personally supervised the progress of Marchand’s promotion in the Legion of Honour, just four months before becoming Finance Minister.11 Another deputy, the Republican (but formerly a staunch Boulangist) Le Hérissé, deputy for Ille-et-Vilaine (Brittany), and an influential member of the colonial group at the Assembly, seems to have given strong support for Marchand’s promotion, as shown by the letter that the happy Captain sent him just after he was promoted Officer of the Legion of Honour: My dear Comrade, you do not have to be the least grateful to me, you owe your distinction only to yourself and to your exceptional deeds. My intercession has merely avoided an injustice and on that account I am most happy.12

Furthermore, on 1 February 1899 Le Hérissé submitted a proposal to the Chamber of Deputies according to which the men involved in the “Marchand Mission” would be granted a “national reward”.13 The proposal was supported by as many as 200 deputies out of 585. Two names headed the list: Le Hérissé, and the famous colonial lobbyist Eugène Étienne, a republican of the left (“Républicain de gauche”) whose support indicates the broadening political appeal of nationalism. In spite of his successive African missions, Marchand remained an assiduous letter-writer. He maintained close contact with some fellow officers, of whom the most notable were Victor Largeau, Émile Hourst, Gustave Binger and Charles Mangin.14 Moreover, he never failed to visit them in their Paris headquarters when the opportunity arose. It was through his connections with Sudanese officers that Marchand managed to meet Hanotaux, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, so as to submit his plan for a Congo–Nile Mission in the 10

“Je n’ai pas de chef pour présenter ma défense.” AN, 231 Mi, Marchand papers, box 9, file 11, letter no. 28 to Archinard, thought to have been written in 1894–95. 11 AN, 231 Mi, Marchand papers, box 2, file 10, f. 38, letter from Paul Doumer on letterhead from the Chamber of Deputies, dated 12 July 1895. 12 “Vous n’avez, mon cher camarade, aucun gré à me savoir, c’est à vous seul et à vos seuls services vraiment exceptionnels que vous devez cette distinction. Tout au plus mon intervention a-t-elle pu servir à éviter une injustice et de cela je suis bien heureux.” Ibid., f. 52, letter from René Le Hérissé, 17 July 1895. 13 Chamber of Deputies, seventh legislature, session of 1899, “Annexe no.695 au procès verbal de la séance du 1er février 1899”. 14 AN, 231 Mi, Marchand papers, box 1, file 6, and box 2, file 6.

Major Marchand, Partisan Icon of the Right in Paris


summer of 1895: the encounter took place in Paris, in the lounge of his physician Louis Ménard, who was well-known in Sudanese circles.15 During his occasional stays in Paris, Marchand never failed to get in touch with societies or individuals who might provide useful contacts. As early as 1893, Marchand approached the Comité de l’Afrique française (launched in 1890) and met its influential founder, Prince d’Arenberg. He was also admitted to the prestigious Société de Géographie de Paris (founded in 1821), under the patronage of Gustave Binger and Charles Maunoir,16 the latter being the permanent secretary of the Society. Marchand entered the world of explorers and geographers when the Society’s popularity was at its peak, with more than 2,000 members— compared with 217 in 1822, 219 in 1832 and 560 in 1868.17 He was quickly coopted into this highly reputable Parisian institution, as shown by Maunoir’s wish to make the Society’s President publicly acknowledge Marchand’s attendance at the general assembly, if he were to come.18 These connections are very likely to have helped Marchand when the time came to lobby for his Congo–Nile Mission, as was subtly implied by the Société de Géographie Commerciale when preparing the invitation cards for a lecture given by Marchand: I am convinced that you are placing a high trump into the cards of the Minister of the Colonies, and that this trump will come at the only favourable moment. You owe this to us, which I would thank you to understand.19

In the same summer of 1895, the restless Marchand corresponded regularly with Auguste Terrier, a journalist at the Journal des Débats and the general secretary of the Comité de l’Afrique française: Terrier offered to publish a paper by Marchand in the Comité’s bulletin on the question of African slavery.20 Terrier also gave Marchand a few books, to help him set up his exploration


Henri Wesseling, Le Partage de l’Afrique (Paris: Denoël, 1996), 471. AN, 231 Mi, Marchand papers, box 2, file 6, notification of admission dated 9 January 1893. 17 Bulletin de la Société de Géographie de Paris 1 (1822), 12–24; ibid. no. 116, 1832, 377–380; ibid. (1868), 3–28. In 1996, the Society had 438 members. 18 AN, 231 Mi, Marchand papers, box 2, file 10, f. 27, letter from Charles Maunoir dated 18 July 1895. 19 “Je suis convaincu que vous mettez un bon atout dans les cartes de M. le Ministre des Colonies et que cet atout viendra au seul moment favorable. Vous nous devez cela et je vous remercie de le comprendre.” AN, 231 Mi, Marchand papers, box 2, file 10, f. 112, letter from the Société de Géographie Commerciale, Paris, undated but probably autumn 1895. 20 Ibid., file 1, ff. 14 and 19, letters from Auguste Terrier dated 25 January 1896 and 9 February 1896. 16


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projects.21 Terrier, who enjoyed a network of powerful contacts (mostly in Paris), was to prove a reliable intermediary when Marchand left France for Africa: he kept him informed of controversies or governmental changes which were likely to influence the outcome of his mission. Backed up by colonial advocates, Marchand also found a receptive audience among those who wished to expand the influence of France more generally. The head office in Paris of the Alliance Française asked him to join its propaganda committee and to give a series of lectures to schoolchildren and their parents, at which it was suggested that he intermingle recollections of exploration with “economic and political considerations on the need to spread the French language.”22 When in Paris, Marchand also made useful contacts with two important categories of opinion-makers: publishers and journalists. Among them was Henri Méhier de Mathuisieulx, a friend from the early days in Toulon, who had become a geographer and an engineer, and who was working at the time for the “bookseller-publisher” Hachette and for Elisée Reclus’ Géographie Universelle.23 Méhier, who acknowledged that he “was not short of contacts in the world of the press”, was to be an unconditional supporter of the man whom he called “his Buddha”.24 A writer of military stories who dedicated some of his works to episodes of the Hundred Years’ War, Captain Paul Paimblant du Rouil contacted Marchand in 1895 so as to include his biography in his book on “soldier-explorers”. Émile Cère (from the Political Department of the Petit Journal) was fascinated by Marchand’s dauntlessness.25 Cère, who was to become an MP for the Jura area (supporting the moderate Republican WaldeckRousseau), was also enthusiastic in March and May 1894: he wished Marchand “new triumphs” and hoped that the crowd would line the platform when he returned.26 In fact, Cère could have hardly been more visionary. At roughly the same time, Marchand corresponded with A. Henry from L’Éclair, with L’Illustration, and with E. Bourgeois from Le Tour du Monde, three newspapers with high levels of circulation. 21

Ibid., f. 47. Ibid., file 10, f. 142, letter from the Alliance Française, 20 November 1895 and box 2, file 1, f. 13, dated 23 January 1896. 23 Ibid., box 2, file 1, f. 61, undated letter from Henri Méhier de Mathuisieulx, probably written in the spring of 1896. 24 Ibid., file 3, f. 95, letter from Henri Méhier de Mathuisieulx dated 5 April 1900. 25 Ibid., file 7, letter from Émile Cère dated 15 September 1893. “Vous savez combien nous vous aimons. A cette grande affection, il faut joindre l’admiration. Revenez vite qu’on vous couvre de lauriers et aussi qu’on vous presse tendrement sur le cœur.” 26 Ibid., file 7, letters from Émile Cère dated 8 March 1894 and 2 May 1894. Both are also written on headed notepaper from Le Petit Journal. For his relationship with Joseph Joffre: see box 2, file 1, f. 23. 22

Major Marchand, Partisan Icon of the Right in Paris


Paris emerges as the place where Marchand gained fame, and where he found the opportunities for social mobility for which he longed. The contacts that he already enjoyed in the capital tend to cast doubt on the view of G. Neville Sanderson, for whom Marchand was still in 1895 “a mere junior officer on leave from Africa” who “cut no figure whatever in the political society of Paris.”27 Rather, Marchand seems already to have been a promising officer who enjoyed powerful contacts with journalists, biographers, learned societies, senior officers and, above all, politicians, regardless of their political position. Two of Marchand’s most prominent political supporters were not official nationalists: Paul Doumer sat with the Radical left in the Assembly (he voted in favour of legal action against General Boulanger), and René Le Hérissé was registered with the Democratic left (although he was an unusual case, having been a Boulangist at the end of the 1880s, a nationalist, and an anti-Dreyfusard).

The Congo–Nile Mission and the Fashoda Crisis Although Marchand’s career already looked promising in the mid 1890s, it still needed an outstanding achievement to become truly memorable. The long rivalry between France and England in Egypt and over the Nile offered Marchand the opportunity he sought.

Looking for a Barter in the Upper Nile France and England had been struggling for political, economic and cultural influence over Egypt since 1798. The digging of the Suez Canal by the French between 1859 and 1869 against considerable British resistance, followed by the strong British interest in the Suez Canal Company once it had been completed, and the establishment of dual financial control over the country by the two Powers in 1879 had sharpened the competition between London and Paris for primacy in Egypt. The situation became more acute in 1882, when a weakened Freycinet Government decided not to intervene in Egypt in spite of widespread civil unrest, while the British ordered the Home Fleet to act alone, bombarding Alexandria, landing, and winning the decisive victory of Tel-el-Kebir on 13 September 1882. Although Gladstone had pledged that the British occupation of Egypt was only temporary, the prolonged stay of the British Expeditionary Force and the growing influence in Cairo of the British Consul General Sir Evelyn Baring (later Lord Cromer) increasingly worried and angered the French government, which could not come to terms with this fait accompli. Naturally, 27

G. Neville Sanderson, England, Europe and the Upper Nile (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1965), 271.


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the government sought to exert pressure upon Britain in order to “re-open the Egyptian question.” For such a purpose, the Nile Valley seemed ideal.28 Following the Anglo–Egyptian retreat from the Sudan in 1885 (marked by the death of General Gordon and the short-lived Gordon Relief Expedition led by General Wolseley), the weakness of the British system in Egypt lay in the south. Some French colonials thus toyed with the idea of blackmailing the British with the Sudan and particularly the Nile Basin—a prospect which was feared in England, notably by Sir Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, who declared in the House of Commons that the late Samuel Baker had told him that “any European Power holding the upper Nile would hold Egypt at its mercy.”29 The idea of a progressive occupation of the Ubangui river as a first step towards the Nile was first suggested on the French side by Savorgnan de Brazza, the conqueror of the French Congo, who ordered his subordinate Victor Liotard to follow such a course of action as early as 1891. In April 1893, Delcassé, under-secretary for the Colonies, gave orders for an expedition to the upper Nile to be ready as early as possible. In January, the Polytechnician Victor Prompt had demonstrated in a conference at the Institut Égyptien in Cairo (the influence of which had been amplified by the distribution of lithographed copies of the paper), and to his friend President Sadi Carnot, that damming the Nile at Fashoda would give France the opportunity to exert control over the Nile waters and thus to force the British out of Egypt. In May 1893, Carnot ordered the 38-year old Captain Monteil to occupy Fashoda in order to re-open the Egyptian question. The project aborted in 1894, the victim of Belgian activity in the area, of the Anglo– Belgian agreement, and above all of a warning from the British ambassador on 29 June. However, the idea was taken up by the Comité de l’Afrique française and the Groupe Colonial in 1895, and their lobbying was so efficient that the Liotard Mission left the Congo with the goal to occupy Fashoda, just a few months before Sir Edward Grey declared famously at the House of Commons, on 28 March 1895, that any French encroachment on the Nile Basin would be seen by Britain as “an unfriendly act.” Edward Grey’s warning was answered firmly by the Minister of the Colonies André Lebon. Meanwhile, in the summer of 1895, a young colonial officer on leave did his best to convince the “official mind”30 that his project of 28

Ibid., 142. Hansard (Commons) 32 fourth Series (1895), 391. 30 Marchand’s task had been made more difficult by the acute governmental instability of the time: between January 1895 and April 1896, Marchand had had to deal with three Presidents of the Council (Alexandre Ribot, Léon Bourgeois and Jules Méline), and therefore three Ministers of the Colonies (Émile Chautemps, Pierre Guieysse and André Lebon) and three Ministers of Foreign Affairs (Marcellin Berthelot, Léon Bourgeois and Gabriel Hanotaux). The “official mind” tended to be rather inconsistent. 29

Major Marchand, Partisan Icon of the Right in Paris


a Congo–Nile Mission, submitted on 11 September 1895, was feasible and worthy. Marchand’s future second-in-command, Captain Baratier, acknowledged in his unpublished memoirs Marchand’s relentless effort to get his project accepted. He argued that the Mission was entirely Marchand’s idea, that he had fought for it for almost a year, and that the result was a tour de force of which only Marchand was capable. He recognised that the mission entirely changed the course of French international policy, directing it against England without Germany’s neutral benevolence, and making the risks of this new line of conduct acceptable.31 Marchand did not try to conceal the implications of his mission, since he recognised in a note that the “extension up to the Nile of French influence … could potentially create an incident in international politics.”32 This was not the most desirable prospect for French diplomats: the Franco–Russian alliance was only a stopgap measure, while Franco–British relations had been tense in the spring of 1895, and both sides were trying to arrange an appeasement.33 Although only 31, Marchand had grand designs: he had also contemplated organising a Trans–Saharan expedition to avenge the assassination of Colonel Flatters by the Tuaregs in 1881, but finally opted for the upper Nile project.34 The orders for the Marchand Mission were issued on 30 November 1895 by the new Minister for Foreign Affairs, the scientist Marcellin Berthelot; and Marchand and his officers landed in the Congo in the summer of 1896, much to the dismay of Liotard, who had recently had to abandon his own expedition after Chautemps’ decision to cut his funding. The mission left Loango in July 1896 and endeavoured to carry 600,000 kilos of equipment and supplies to Brazzaville, 500 kilometres inland. From Brazzaville, the mission actively prepared the next step of its plan, which took a year to undertake: the crossing of 2,000 kilometres along the valleys of the Congo, Ubangui, M’Bomou and Sueh rivers, with the help of a steamer, the Faidherbe, and a flotilla of canoes. Having reached the limit of the Congo Basin when the M’Bomou became impracticable, the small party managed to dismantle the Faidherbe and carry it in parts 100 miles north-east, to the Sueh, part of the Nile Basin. Having reached the banks of the Sueh in the spring of 1898, the Mission waited several months for the rise of waters. The crossing of the swamps of the Bahr-el-Ghazal proved 31

AN, 99 AP, Baratier papers, box 2, notebook entitled “La Mission Marchand de l’Atlantique à la Mer Rouge, Loango–Fachoda–Djibouti, 10 mai 1896–29 mai 1899”, 5. 32 Centre des Archives d’Outre-Mer, Aix-en-Provence (CAOM), Missions, box 42, “Note analytique complémentaire du projet de mission au Nil dressé par le capitaine Marchand”, 11 September 1895. 33 Michel, La Mission Marchand, 27. 34 AN, 231 Mi, Marchand papers, box 2, file 10, f. 72, undated letter from Albert Baratier.


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particularly slow and exhausting, but the mission gathered speed as it reached the Bahr el Djebel and the White Nile, which led it straight to Fashoda. Marchand and his men reached the former Turkish post on 10 July 1898. They found that the fort had been severely damaged by the Dervishes of the Mahdi and by more than a decade of abandonment, and immediately endeavoured to rebuild it. Marchand and his men successfully repelled a Dervish attack on 25 August, and had no choice but to “greet in the name of France”35 Kitchener and his flotilla of five steamers when they arrived at Fashoda on 19 September 1898, just seventeen days after the battle of Omdurman. In Europe, no-one knew the exact fate of the mission after its departure from Brazzaville. From very early on, the French government had tried more or less successfully to avoid leaks to the press about the mission, although British and Belgian newspapers, such as the Mouvement Géographique from Brussels, sometimes reported on its progress, often spreading unfounded rumours of annihilation. Some letters sent by officers to their relatives, which revealed that they had used force to quell local unrest, forced the Minister of Colonies in person to write to reprimand Marchand.36 However, the lengthening of communication lines, especially after the crossing of the Bahr-el-Ghazal, meant that the metropolis was left with no news from the mission members, and the problem was, so to speak, solved by the absence of incoming post. The line of communication between Marchand and Paris was so stretched (via the Congo) that Delcassé did not receive any direct report on the occupation of Fashoda by the French force until 22 October 1898, when Baratier, having been transported from Fashoda by Kitchener’s steamers, telegraphed the long-awaited document from Cairo.37

The Fashoda Climb-down When the crisis broke out over Fashoda between Britain and France, the English press had already shown serious concern for some months about Kitchener being overtaken by his Gallic rival.38 Marchand had been warned as early as June 1897 that the British were becoming nervous about his mission.39 Not surprisingly, jingoistic feelings were exacerbated by the fact that the British saw 35

Expression used by Marchand in his letter to Kitchener dated 19 September 1898. Transcript in Albert Baratier, Fachoda, souvenirs de la Mission Marchand (Paris: Grasset, 1941), 142–143. 36 CAOM, Afrique III, 35 b, letter from André Lebon to Marchand, 12 January 1898. 37 Sanderson, England, Europe and the Upper Nile, 348. 38 CAOM, Afrique III, 35 b, report from the French ambassador in London, 12 January 1898. 39 AN, 231 Mi, Box 2, File 2, letter from M. Terray to Marchand, 9 June 1897.

Major Marchand, Partisan Icon of the Right in Paris


the results of Kitchener’s overwhelming victory over the Mahdist troops threatened by the French party. By contrast, the French paid little attention to the fate of their expedition, as the more pressing issue of the moment was the Dreyfus affair, particularly after Colonel Henry’s confession and suicide (30–31 August 1898) and the call for revision launched by Mme Dreyfus (3 September). At best, the French press echoed the fall of Khartoum to Kitchener, and advocated the seizing of this opportunity to solve the Egyptian question once and for all. The popular Le Petit Parisien did not dedicate much space to Marchand until 13 September 1898, when the long article “La Mission Marchand” was published on the second page, followed on 16 September by an editorial by Jean Frollo. When the news of the meeting with Kitchener was publicised, the French press initially reacted with caution, was surprised by the violent accusations of the British press, and generally called for a friendly but firm response from the French government. While French diplomats tentatively attempted to initiate negotiations with their British counterparts—who did not want to negotiate but instead required an immediate French withdrawal from Fashoda—the French press adopted different lines of argument. Moderate newspapers such as Le Matin, Le Journal des Débats, Le Petit Parisien or Le Temps acknowledged that the situation was tense, but hoped that two civilised nations would be wise enough to find a mutually convenient solution. They also tended to stress that in any case Fashoda was not important to France, in particular because, as Le Petit Parisien pointed out, “France cannot desire to direct towards the Nile, i.e. towards British hands, the products of [her] territories.”40 On the contrary, the interest of the French nationalist press in the Fashoda crisis increased as Delcassé’s position became more hazardous. The first significant article on Fashoda in Henri Rochefort’s nationalist and antiDreyfusard L’Intransigeant appeared on 13 October. Le Petit Journal, L’Instransigeant, Le Gaulois and L’Éclair attacked Britain for trying to prevent France from reaping the rewards of the Marchand expedition, and Delcassé for bending to the supposedly unacceptable British demands of withdrawal.41 Delcassé was a particularly easy target; Rochefort did not hesitate to declare that “The Dreyfusard newspapers, unofficial and even official mouthpieces of the Ministry of Treason, unanimously encourage [Delcassé] to back down and congratulate him for his cowardice in response to the provocations of


Le Petit Parisien, 30 October 1898. For an analysis of the British and French public opinions, cf. Rachel Arié, “L’Opinion Publique en France et l’Affaire de Fachoda”, Revue d’Histoire des Colonies 41 (1954), 329–367; M. Hugodot, “L’Opinion Publique Anglaise et l’Affaire de Fachoda”, Revue d’Histoire des Colonies 44 (1957), 113–13; and Ageron, France coloniale ou parti colonial?, 175–187. 41

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England.”42 The ultimate goal was to make Marchand an expiatory victim of a weak Republic undermined by the Jews and the Masons, and to glorify the role of the Army at a moment when the re-opening of the Dreyfus case seemed to threaten its prestige. In that context, the decision to recall Marchand in early December 1898 sounded like treason to the nationalists and anti-Dreyfusards. Marchand was spared the humiliation of being repatriated on the Nile by British steamers, and instead moved eastward to Djibouti, via Abyssinia. Obviously against the Government’s will, Paul Déroulède’s Ligue des Patriotes sent a special envoy to meet Marchand: the journalist, director of L’Éclair, and former Orleanist and Boulangist Georges Thiébaud. He presented Marchand with a medal, a gift that was deemed by the Cabinet to be a political manoeuvre of the antiparliamentary elements, the nationalists and the anti-Dreyfusards. The event was mentioned with interest in the nationalist press, but no incident was recorded. Once it had reached Djibouti, the whole of the mission, including the Senegalese infantrymen, boarded the cruiser D’Assas and headed for Toulon.

Major Marchand in France, May–June 1899: From Toulon to Paris The prospect of Marchand’s return to France did not appeal particularly strongly in government circles. The combination of the Dreyfus affair and the Fashoda crisis had revealed deep social and political divisions in France, as well as the economic, military and naval weakness of the country. In particular, a strike of 43,000 road workers and unskilled builders in Paris at the height of the Fashoda crisis (28 October 1898) had demonstrated that the country could be brought to a standstill at times of social unrest. Even worse, on 23 February 1899, Paul Déroulède had tried to turn the funeral of President Félix Faure into an antiparliamentarian “journée” and had been close to succeeding in his attempt to divert General Roget’s horse towards the Élysée Palace. Among officials, the incident generated the fear of a coup d’état, for it was understood that the nationalists had learnt from the failure of Boulangism in the late 1880s, which they had attributed to Boulanger’s reluctance to turn to illegal means of seizing power. Marchand and the officers and soldiers under his command landed in Toulon on 30 May 1899. Marchand was invited to lunch on board the battleship Brennus (a squadron flagship), and to a formal dinner at the Prefecture. Admiral De la Jaille solemnly presented him with the medal of Commander of the


L’Intransigeant, 22 October 1898.

Major Marchand, Partisan Icon of the Right in Paris


Legion of Honour.43 The Major also visited the Town Hall and answered questions from journalists on the occasion of a reception at the Grand Hôtel,44 where he and his party were accommodated free of charge. Marchand did not leave Toulon alone: according to Le Figaro, 5,000 people gathered at Toulon’s railway station to cheer him.45 He headed for Paris on a train that also carried “his officers, the members of parliament, the delegations and the journalists.”46 The Senegalese infantrymen stayed in Toulon under the direction of Captain Mangin, presumably in an attempt to deter any nationalist coup supported by Marchand’s small but well-disciplined troops. The train was greeted by a dense crowd in Marseilles, where Marchand was invited to have lunch with some fellow officers and veterans. In Avignon, Lyons, Mâcon, Dijon and Laroche, delegations waited for the train and showed their ardent enthusiasm for Marchand, sometimes in the middle of the night. The train finally reached the Gare de Lyon in Paris early on the morning of 1 June. The following day, Le Siècle and Le Petit Journal both gave detailed accounts of the day of festivities, which allow us to follow the itinerary of the Marchand celebrations in Paris. Marchand was welcomed at the station by a committee including numerous high-ranking civil servants and influential individuals: as well as the representatives of the Ministries of Navy, War and Colonies and the director of African affairs at the Ministry of Colonies (Gustave Binger), there were the secretaries of the Société de Géographie de Paris and the Société de Géographie Commerciale, the brother of Colonel Bonnier (who had seized Timbuktu for France five years earlier), the conquerors Savorgnan de Brazza and Gouraud, Prince Henri d’Orléans, the poet François Coppée and the writer Jules Lemaître (both members of the Académie Française), the former Boulangist Lucien Millevoye, and “all the nationalist MPs and those of the anti-Dreyfusard Groupe de Défense Nationale”, according to Le Siècle. The composition of the welcoming committee revealed the circles where Marchand had become most popular: nationalists, Orléanists, anti-Dreyfusards in general, and of course colonialists. Marchand was being fêted while the prospect of the re-opening of the Dreyfus affair was looming (the Court of Cassation invalidated the 1894 judgement on 3 June), and the day after Paul Déroulède and Marcel Habert (cofounders of the Ligue des Patriotes) had been acquitted at the trial following their attempted coup on the occasion of the funeral of President Faure.


AN, “Legion of Honour” files, LH/1729/36. L’Intransigeant, 28 May 1899. 45 Le Figaro, 1 June 1899. 46 Le Siècle, 1 June 1899. 44


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Figure 1.2 The itinerary of the Marchand celebrations in Paris

Major Marchand, Partisan Icon of the Right in Paris


The Gare de Lyon was the starting point for a day of Parisian celebrations of Marchand and the Congo–Nile Mission (see Figure 1.2). From the station, the cortège followed the bank of the Seine down to the Pont Henri IV, crossed the Seine and the eastern tip of the Île Saint-Louis, crossed the other branch of the Seine at Pont Sully, entered the Boulevard Saint-Germain and followed it until it reached the Pont de la Concorde. The crowd became more densely-packed at the intersection between the Boulevard Saint-Michel and the Boulevard SaintGermain. Marchand and his officers were invited to have lunch at the Ministry of Navy by the Minister himself, M. Lockroy, who was Marchand’s ministerial patron. In the afternoon, the party crossed the gardens of the Champs-Élysées to pay a visit to President Émile Loubet at the Élysée Palace, which was carefully defended by roadblocks for the occasion. Crossing the Rue du Faubourg SaintHonoré, Marchand and his officers entered the Interior Ministry (Place Beauvau) to meet the new President of the Council, Charles Dupuy. They then continued to the other bank of the Seine, crossing the Pont de la Concorde once again, were particularly cheered by the dense crowd gathering in front of the National Assembly. They stopped at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (where they stayed no more than a few minutes), and reached the Ministry of War via the Rue de Bourgogne. Twenty minutes later, they crossed the Pont de Solférino to reach the Pavillon de Flore, where they were met by the Minister of the Colonies, Antoine Guillain. The cortège then crossed the Seine again to reach the Boulevard des Invalides and the Hotel des Invalides to pay an unplanned visit to the Governor of Paris and former Minister of War, General Zurlinden, who did not receive them in person, officially because he was not in his office. The last part of the programme led the party to the Cercle Militaire, near the Place de l’Opéra, via the Rue de l’Université and the Rue de Solférino, the Quai and Rue des Tuileries, the Rue des Pyramides and the Avenue de l’Opéra. This itinerary meant that they passed by the statue of Joan of Arc on the Place des Pyramides, which of course Marchand respectfully saluted. The different points of the itinerary reflect the Government’s attempt to limit the risk of a nationalist uprising: the “official” celebrations staged at five ministerial headquarters and at the Élysée Palace showed that the Republic remained in control of the “Marchand legend”. The roadblocks around the Élysée were obviously set up to prevent any Boulanger- or Déroulède-style attempt. The majority of the supporters who acclaimed Marchand were likely to be nationalists and anti-Dreyfusards, as on several occasions the crowd was reported to have shouted slogans such as “Long live Marchand! Long live the Army!”, “Long live the Army! Long live Marchand!” or “Long live the Army! Long live Marchand! Down with the traitors!” The itinerary had also been chosen to avoid all the working-class areas of Paris, as well as the main Parisian areas where spontaneous support for a nationalist uprising could be expected. In


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any case, Marchand himself seemed willing to appease the situation: he shouted on several occasions, notably from the balcony of the Cercle Militaire, “Let us unite for the fatherland! Long live France! Long live the Republic!” and, later that evening, “I repeat my evening call: Unite! Long live France! Long live the Republic! Long live the Army!”47 Nevertheless, the political situation in Paris remained tense during the following days. On 5 June, Baron Cristiani made an attack with his cane on the new President of the Republic, Émile Loubet, at Auteuil, because of his proDreyfusard leanings. On 12 June, the Prime Minister Dupuy resigned, “swept away by the nationalist crisis.”48 However, ten days later, the new Government presided by Waldeck-Rousseau judged that Marchand was no longer a threat to the Republic. Therefore, all the officers, sub-officers and infantrymen were invited to parade together at Longchamps on the occasion of Bastille Day. Although the danger seemed contained, informers of the Sûreté Générale still checked meticulously on Marchand’s life and projects.

The Celebrations Viewed through the Reports of the Sûreté Générale As early as 28 May 1899, as Marchand was still sailing on the Mediterranean, George Duruy lyrically called the readers of the right-wing Le Figaro to prepare to welcome this “pure embodiment of military honour”: Here comes at last, after the gloomy succession of sombre days, a pure day, a radiant day that will soon dawn … Soldiers and citizens of France, prepare the laurels as if you were waiting for your brother!49

At the end of the article, however, Duruy advised Marchand to keep away from demonstrators, arguing that “Strength should bow in front of the Law, its natural sovereign.” It can be easily understood that the Government of a weakened Republic, which had to face the anger of the nationalist, anti-Semitic, antiMasonic, anti-Dreyfusard and anti-parliamentarian ligueurs, was particularly worried by the prospect of Marchand being turned into their “providential man”, a new and this time successful Boulanger. The comparison is all the more accurate as one of Marchand’s staunchest supporters, the previously mentioned 47

Le Petit Journal, 2 June 1899. Jean-Marie Mayeur, La Vie politique sous la Troisième République 1870–1940 (Paris: Seuil, 1984), 181. 49 “Voici donc enfin, après la série lugubre des jours sombres, un jour pur, un jour radieux qui va se lever … Soldats et citoyens de France, préparez fraternellement des lauriers!” Le Figaro, 28 May 1899. 48

Major Marchand, Partisan Icon of the Right in Paris


Georges Thiébaud, had played a major role in the launching of Boulangism.50 Under such circumstances, Marchand represented a real danger which the Government did its best to contain. Police informers were concerned about—and kept very busy by—the prospect of Marchand’s return to France. They reported as early as 27 May that all orders regarding the common celebration of Marchand by nationalist and anti-Semitic groups and leagues had been issued by Déroulède, and that on the occasion of Marchand’s arrival in Paris the Ligue des Patriotes had planned to distribute 100,000 copies of photographs of Marchand and Baratier in the streets, as well as copies of a letter from the famous poet François Coppée to Déroulède.51 Another informer reported that representatives of the Ligue des Patriotes, the Jeunesse Antisémite et Nationaliste, the Ligue Antisémitique and the Parti Républicain Socialiste Français (Rochefortiste) had met to organise demonstrations “planned for the three affairs: trial of Déroulède, trial of Dreyfus and arrival of Major Marchand”—the worst combination government spies could imagine.52 The leader of the Ligue Antisémitique and editor of the newspaper L’Anti-Juif, Jules Guérin, was thought to contemplate kidnapping Marchand in order to “carry him in triumph.” The same informer feared, on 1 June, that Déroulède had planned to excite the crowd in front of the Cercle Militaire, and to lead it to the Élysée Palace in an attempt to re-enact his attempted coup of 23 February, this time with more success. On 31 May, the Plébiscitaires and Bonapartists were reported to be actively preparing a “patriotic demonstration”, planning to show strong support for the Head of the Napoleonic Maison Impériale, “Prince Victor”, in favour of the Marchand mission. The two groups were concerned by Government measures taken to preserve order. An informer reporting from Édouard Drumont’s anti-Dreyfusard and antiSemitic La Libre Parole revealed a shift of hopes in May 1899 from one colonial hero to another. Following the lack of enthusiasm of the crowds for Gallieni (who had returned from Madagascar earlier in May), nationalists transferred all their hopes to Marchand: “At the Libre Parole headquarters, all hopes are resting on Marchand and, from what they say, they will try to stir up the crowd the day the Major dines at the Cercle Militaire.”53 50

AN, F/7/15981/1, Police records of the Sûreté Générale, file “Notes de police 1899– 1906”, Report from M898, “Thiébaud et Marchand”, 4 July 1899. 51 Ibid., file “Manifestations en province au retour du commandant Marchand”, report from the informer “Alger”, 27 May 1899. 52 Ibid., report from the informer “Berlin”, 27 May 1899. 53 Ibid., report from the informer “Jean”, 29 May 1899. The Cercle Militaire was near the Place de l’Opéra. It was relocated in the Place Saint-Augustin (Paris, eighth arrondissement) in 1927.


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The Sûreté also sounded out revisionist newspapers. L’Aurore and Le Journal du Peuple feared that the nationalists, anti-Semites and ligueurs would attack their headquarters on the occasion of the Marchand celebrations, as they expected the official ceremonies to make the nationalists more “audacious”. L’Aurore was particularly fearful of a dictatorship: Georges Thiébaud was reported as saying “This man [Marchand] is of the stuff conquerors are made of. He is an unexpected opportunity. If we do not seize it, we will be severely done for.” For its part, the moderate Republican Le Siècle feared the official and unofficial celebrations of Marchand would alienate Britain, and that “Déroulède, Drumont and their crew” would threaten the re-establishment of nearly normal Anglo–French relations.54 The files of the Sûreté Générale reveal that Marchand’s opponents, mostly Dreyfusards, had designed some plans for a counterattack. This aspect of the struggle is generally not mentioned in the accounts of the Marchand mission, apart from by Marc Michel, who describes the anti-nationalist Le Petit Bleu de Paris as reporting that the crowd would have shouted “Vive Gamelle!” at the nationalists.55 The threat to the Republicans embodied by Marchand was felt not only at government level, but also among the socialists and leftist revolutionaries in Saint-Ouen and Saint-Denis.56 Informers gathered that the révolutionnaires (notably at the Journal du Peuple) were expecting noisy demonstrations in front of the Journal’s headquarters (Rue du Faubourg Montmartre) and were preparing to retaliate should these actually take place. They were also considering sending some groups to whistle their disapproval should the patriotes shout any praise of the Army.57 Marchand’s obvious lack of interest in a coup did not clear him from all suspicion to the eyes of the Sûreté Générale. In September 1899, Marchand and Baratier rented a house together in Barbizon, some sixty kilometres south of Paris, where they were under close surveillance by the fourth bureau of the Sûreté Générale. The episode of La Villa Fougères shows how popular Marchand had remained among nationalist circles, and how fearful the Government was of his remaining potential influence. Marchand and Baratier were observed by a full-time spy, who asked for five or six more inspectors,


Ibid., Report from M669, “Ce qu’on dit de l’arrivée de Marchand chez les révisionnistes”, 18 May 1899. 55 Michel, La Mission Marchand, 241. 56 AN, F/7/15981/1, Police records of the Sûreté Générale, file “Manifestations en province au retour du commandant Marchand”, report from the informer “Albert”, 27 May 1899. 57 Ibid., file “Notes de police 1899–1906”, report from M732, “Nationalistes et anarchistes à l’arrivée de Marchand”, 30 May 1899.

Major Marchand, Partisan Icon of the Right in Paris


“just about enough to do the job.”58 The Sûreté Générale had in its files a report from the Ministry of the Interior, dated 10 August 1899, warning that Marchand had finally yielded to the nationalists’ solicitations, and that he had promised “in the most formal manner his most serious and most devoted support to this party.” The informer went on to explain that Marchand would even be prepared, if necessary, to resign from his commission as officer, but that the nationalist party, uncertain how best to employ his support, preferred him to remain in the Army, as his departure would entail the loss of his prestige in France. The nationalist party seemed to prefer that Marchand should be submitted to a disciplinary sanction by the government, which would then be put to full use politically.59 Influential visitors did seem to flock to Barbizon to meet with Marchand: the Irish nationalist Maud Gonne; the editor-in-chief of Le Petit Journal and an old friend of Marchand’s, Ernest Judet (who spent two nights at Villa Fougères); the anti-Semitic founder and editor-in-chief of La Libre Parole, MP for Algiers since May 1898, and self-proclaimed leader of the anti-Jewish party, Édouard Drumont; the famous Academician François Coppée, as well as numerous officers of the École d’Application de Fontainebleau. In Barbizon, Marchand did not interact much with the local population, apart from the former commander of the Cavalry School of Saumur, General Rottwiller, who lived with a wealthy American, Mrs Coolmans.60 Maud Gonne had just ended her relationship with Lucien Millevoye, Nationalist-Republican MP for the second constituency of the sixteenth district of Paris, and the editor-in-chief of the nationalist newspaper La Patrie. He had been very close to General Boulanger, of whom he had been a chief adviser, and had been one of the main contributors to the 1889 Programme de Tours stating the main arguments of the Boulangist camp. All such visitors were indeed potential threats to the Republic as President Loubet was pardoning Captain Dreyfus (19 September 1899), thus bypassing the Rennes verdict.

Marchand and Paris after Fashoda: The Political Bid Marchand’s stay in Barbizon did not mark the end of his influence in Paris. With Paris being the unrivalled cultural and political centre of France, the promotion of Marchand in the press or in bookshops had a significant echo in the capital. Nationalist newspapers had given broad coverage to his return to 58 Ibid., file “Direction de la Sûreté Générale: 4ème Bureau”, report from M. Tomps to the director of the Sûreté Générale, 19 September 1899. 59 Ibid., file “Commandant Marchand à Barbizon: septembre et octobre 1899”, letter from the Ministry of the Interior to the Sûreté, 10 August 1899. 60 Ibid., reports dated 5, 11, 14, 17 and 19 September 1899.


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France, and dozens of books on Marchand were published in 1899 and 1900. Some of them, such as the highly hagiographical portrait by Michel Morphy in his 28-volume Le Commandant Marchand à travers l’Afrique, met with great success, while attacks on Marchand, such as Louis Guétant’s MarchandFashoda, proved to be complete failures: the pro-Marchand market was much bigger than its anti-Marchand counterpart.61 For its part, the socialist press did its best to undermine the Marchand legend, with ironic articles such as “Marchand’s Achievements”62 or “Marchand, the jackdaw dressed in peacock’s feathers.”63 Nevertheless, lectures given by Marchand remained in general highly popular and politically sensitive. A freemason informer of the Sûreté Générale reported having heard from students that a patriotic demonstration in support of Marchand was planned for 10 January 1900 at the Trocadéro, on the occasion of a lecture organised by the Société de Géographie in the Salle du Trocadéro. The presence of Prince Henri d’Orléans was announced, and it was expected that, rather than being scientific, the conference would be an indictment of the Government, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and their colonial policy.64

The Marchand Candidature in Paris in the 1906 General Election After a few months’ rest, Marchand was sent to China. In the spring of 1904, the news broke of Marchand’s resignation from the Army. He had been ordered to take a post in the French Sudan and, after an illness had prevented him from leaving, in Indochina. These orders had been issued despite his wish to be sent to Russia as an attaché to the General Kouropatkine in Manchuria (the RussoJapanese war had just begun). Marchand enjoyed a significant network of friendships in Russia, including the Tsar, which seemed to have worried the President of the Council Émile Combes and the Minister for War General André, who preferred to send him away to Indochina. He chose to resign, arousing speculations about the true reason for his decision, and leading certain newspapers, such as the Radical-Socialist and anticlerical La Lanterne (founded by Rochefort before he became a nationalist), to foresee a manoeuvre in view of


See the detailed study of the market for books on Marchand in Berny Sèbe, “Celebrating British and French Imperialism: The Making of Colonial Heroes who Acted in Africa, 1870–1930” (Unpublished Oxford D.Phil thesis, 2006), Part 2, Chapter 1. 62 La Petite République Socialiste, 25 July 1900. 63 L’Aurore, 26 July 1900. 64 AN, F/7/15981/1, Police records of the Sûreté Générale, file “Notes de police 1899– 1906”, Report from A.971, “Rapport”, 5 December 1899.

Major Marchand, Partisan Icon of the Right in Paris


being elected MP.65 Marchand’s resignation was said to cheer the nationalists and above all the Plébiscitaires-Bonapartistes, as they hoped to make him “their man”. The same informer reported that Marchand did not intend to take up their offer,66 while another informant noted that “in nationalist circles, it is increasingly felt that Marchand is very boring and very empty” and that he is “perceived as an ill and unbalanced person.” 67 A few months later, another informer reported that Marchand had told his close friends that he did not intend to deal with politics.68 In August 1904, Marchand published a series of articles in Le Figaro on his experience in Fashoda, which considerably weakened his reputation as they did not offer anything new and failed to reveal an outstanding personality. Le Figaro was said to be dissatisfied with Marchand’s contribution.69 Their publication had probably been triggered both by Marchand’s resignation and also by the signing of the Entente Cordiale treaty between Britain and France. The Sûreté Générale followed the political projects of Marchand with great interest after his resignation in 1904, and above all in view of the 1906 general election, in particular when it became plausible that he was planning to run for MP. The places where it was believed that Marchand could be a candidate differed significantly from the places in which the official 1899 celebrations had been staged. In early May 1904, only a few weeks after he had resigned, informers gathered that Marchand was considering becoming a candidate in the fourteenth arrondissement of Paris as a substitute for the nationalist Dr Dubois. Jules Lemaître recommended the abandonment of this idea at the end of May 1904, Marchand’s success in this district being far from guaranteed. In November 1904, rumours established that Marchand intended to run for MP as a representative of the Patrie Française in the working-class district of Montreuilsous-Bois, where the “independent Republican, socialist and patriot”70 Charles Hémard was being impeached. Once again, Marchand declined. In December 1904, Marchand was suggested by Henri Rochefort71 as a potential candidate for the second arrondissement, where he could succeed the recently-deceased nationalist deputy Gabriel Syveton, one of the hopes of French nationalists and a founder of the Ligue de la Patrie française, who had been found dead the day before the opening of his trial (9 December 1904). The prospect was “widely 65

La Lanterne, 13 April 1904. AN, F/7/15981/1, Police records of the Sûreté Générale, file “Notes de police 1899– 1906”, report from “Metz”, 27 April 1904. 67 Ibid., 20 May 1904. 68 Ibid., 20 June 1904. 69 Ibid., 9 September 1904. 70 Jean Jolly, Dictionnaire des parlementaires français (Paris: PUF, 1960), 1950. 71 L’Intransigeant, 12 December 1904. 66


Chapter One

discussed in the corridors of the Chamber”, as it did not necessarily suit the interests of the mainstream nationalists, who saw Marchand as the candidate of radical dissenters. Paul Doumer strongly supported Marchand’s candidacy, but was reported as being embarrassed by the support lent by Henri Rochefort to the same candidate. In any case, it was assumed that Marchand would not present himself as a nationalist.72 Other informers reported that Déroulède, Hoilhan (secretary general of the Patrie Française), General Jacquey and Jules Lemaître strongly supported Marchand, as did Thiébaud, who saw in Marchand “the Napoléon he had long been searching for to save France, which was so weakened.”73 Several newspapers (L’Intransigeant, La Patrie, Liberté, La Presse, La Petite République and Gil Blas) dedicated articles to the question of the second arrondissement. As Marchand was unsure of the outcome of the election, he finally decided to step down. Marchand was then said to be a potential candidate in the Seine-et-Oise department, in place of Roger Ballu, MP for the second constituency of Pontoise, who had beaten the Radical ÉmileThéodore Aimond in 1902 and did not intend to run again. Marchand’s supporters also imagined he could be a candidate in the fourteenth arrondissement, against the Republican Adolphe Messimy, a Saint-Cyrian officer roughly the same age as Marchand, and an administrator of the Compagnie Générale du Niger. The prospects of a victory against Messimy being slim, and Major Driant having been chosen in the meantime to succeed Ballu, Marchand became in January 1906 an official candidate in the twentieth arrondissement of Belleville-Saint-Fargeau (upon invitation of the Comité Socialiste-Patriote). This made him the rival among the right of the Count Castillon de Saint-Victor, a staunch monarchist. The predicted bitter contest between Marchand (who could count only on the support of the Patrie française) and the monarchist supporters shows how divided anti-governmental forces could be; informers reported that nationalist supporters even hoped the ambitious general would turn against them for electoral purposes, so that they could finally exclude him from the nationalist sphere of influence.74 A day later, he was reported as being considered by the nationalists as “a useless and arrogant person who has been helped by the circumstances of an African expedition and who has since seen himself as the mainspring of France.” Beyond the reservations among his own natural, if not formal, camp, the obvious obstacle for Marchand was the socialist Édouard Vaillant, who had held the seat since 1893. Observers believed that Marchand faced the prospect of an


AN, F/7/15981/1, Police records of the Sûreté Générale, file “Notes de police 1899– 1906”, 13 December 1904. 73 Ibid., 12 December 1904. 74 Ibid., 24 January 1906.

Major Marchand, Partisan Icon of the Right in Paris


“appalling failure.”75 By early February, Marchand seemed to have changed his mind once again, and to have chosen to run for MP in the tenth arrondissement. It was soon predicted that the militants would support him only reluctantly, as they preferred another candidate, a M. Girou. However, local supporters tended to consider Marchand “a sick man, rather unhinged.”76 This hesitation had been detrimental to Marchand’s image, even within the nationalist camp. Finally, Marchand did run in the tenth arrondissement, where one of the main arguments of his campaign was the establishment of the “family-based proportional vote”, which was to his eyes the only way of maintaining the unity of households. He obtained 7,230 votes in the first round, while 5,464 went to the socialist Groussier (a mechanic and engineer) and 2,344 to the RadicalSocialist Monteux.77 This was a very honourable result for Marchand given that he was competing in a working-class district that was not a nationalist stronghold, although Bonvalot, a member of the nationalist party, had managed to take over Groussier’s seat in 1902. (Groussier had previously held the seat from 1893 to 1902). The Dictionnaire des parlementaires français noted that Groussier “had had to face a significant challenge in the person of Major Marchand, the hero of Fashoda”, and that the campaign had been “tough”. Groussier won the second round of the election on 20 May with 7,540 votes, against 7,114 for Marchand.78 The very day Marchand was beaten, informants reported that Henri Rochefort wanted to turn Marchand into one of the “ornamental representatives” of his small Parti Socialiste-Patriote.79 The idea was never implemented, and Marchand never ran in an election in Paris again. He was only elected in 1913 as a conseiller général for the canton of Sumène, in the Gard department, where his wife owned an estate.80

Conclusion The archival sources on which this chapter is based demonstrate the crucial role that Paris played in Marchand’s military career and political bid. They remind us that an ambitious young man from the provinces had no choice but to build a network in Paris and become integrated in the circles of Parisian society relevant to his field of action: officers, colonial lobbyists, geographers, journalists, writers, and nationalists. 75

Ibid., 25 January 1906. Ibid., 4 and 13 February 1906. 77 Delebecque, Vie du Général Marchand, 207. 78 Jolly, Dictionnaire des parlementaires français, 1893. 79 AN, F/7/15981/1, Police records of the Sûreté Générale, file “Notes de police 1899– 1906”, 25 January 1906. 80 Delebecque, Vie du Général Marchand, 211. 76


Chapter One

Beyond these formative years, the case of Marchand reveals how the traditionally anti-imperialist, nationalist right came to fête a purely colonial hero, and how “Greater France” became part of the nationalist discourse. Marchand’s popularity in May–June 1899 resulted from a unique alchemy between an internal crisis (the Dreyfus affair) and a colonial failure (the Fashoda humiliation), thus bringing the nationalist and militarist antiDreyfusards and anti-parliamentarians forcefully towards the colonial cause. For the first time in the history of the Third Republic, the nationalists did not question the opportunities for colonial expansion, but rather cashed in on an imperial icon, whom some of them at least dreamed of turning into a successful charismatic politician. Had Marchand not been reluctant to threaten the Republic, he could have presented France with a colonial version of a Boulanger, a Déroulède or a Roget. Imperial and metropolitan experiences were more closely intertwined than ever before. The itinerary of the cortèges organised for the “Marchand Day” of 1 June 1899 reveals the political geography of Paris: official celebrations in ministries, nationalist gatherings around the Cercle Militaire and the Place de l’Opéra, possible counter-demonstrations by the socialists in the working-class outskirts, Saint-Ouen and Saint-Denis. The different districts where Marchand contemplated running for MP between 1904 and 1906 show not only the extent of nationalist influence over Paris, but also, by inference, the nationalists’ reluctance to send their best candidates outside the capital. Marchand did not condescend to seek an elected position in the provinces until 1913, although, in the summer of 1899, he had attracted cheering crowds everywhere he went in France.81

81 For an analysis of the Marchand celebrations in different French cities and towns, see Sèbe, “Celebrating British and French Imperialism”, Part 2, Chapter 1.


On 19 May 1935, Paris was a divided city. In the west of the capital, the broad boulevards of Baron Haussmann formed the backdrop for the annual right-wing commemoration of Joan of Arc: a dense procession moving slowly from the Église de La Madeleine along the elegant Rue de Rivoli, and concluding at the equestrian statue of the national saint in the Place des Pyramides. The Croix de Feu, the largest right-wing league of the 1930s and a prominent participant in the procession, supervised the production of a silent film of the occasion, a triumphant record of this right-wing domination of the streets. The short film, now preserved at the Centre National de la Cinématographie,1 sounds a martial and patriotic note, picturing the marching feet of veteran soldiers, the waving of the tricolour, and the united singing of La Marseillaise by the assembled crowd of men, women and children. It also includes a photomontage of newspaper cuttings in which the enthusiastic celebration of the national heroine is juxtaposed with the remembrance of Paris as a city of revolution. For during the afternoon of 19 May, the east of Paris witnessed the annual commemoration of the Paris Commune of 1871 by the Socialists and Communists of the Popular Front movement: a closely-packed mass of supporters surging from the Place de la Nation along the Boulevard de Charonne and the Boulevard de Ménilmontant to the Père-Lachaise cemetery, and finally to the wall marking the place where the partisans of the Commune had been executed. This occasion, too, was captured on film as part of a documentary by the intractable Socialist Marceau Pivert, and was presented in the Communist daily, L’Humanité, as revealing the


I am grateful to the AHRB for funding the research on which this chapter is based, as well as to those who commented on the original lecture. 1 La Fête de Jeanne d’Arc, 1935, Centre National de la Cinématographie, Bois D’Arcy.

Chapter Two


true face of the people of Paris, in contrast to the “thirty-five thousand fascists” in the procession honouring Joan of Arc.2 These sharply contrasting images of Paris reflect not only the political polarity of the 1930s, but also the importance of the streets of the capital as a theatre for political spectacle and opposition. The riot in the Place de la Concorde on 6 February 1934 and the consequent collapse of the Daladier government had reaffirmed the role of the Parisian crowd as political actors on the national stage, and it was the first time since the Paris Commune that a government had been toppled by street violence. In towns and cities across France, the sufferings of the Depression and the heightened political tension between left and right were bringing people into the streets, whether in hunger marches, trade union processions, spontaneous demonstrations or official commemorations, but it was in Paris that the politics of the street was of the greatest numerical and symbolic significance. Centre of government and headquarters of political movements and parties, rapidly industrialising city and intellectual heart of the nation, Paris was a focus for both popular mobilisation and symbolic domination.

Street Politics and the Popular Front Both the leagues of the extreme right and the political groups and parties that were to form the anti-fascist Popular Front movement recognised that the politics of the street held the potential to be both creative and destructive. In the volatile climate of contemporary Europe, public opinion was particularly sensitive to the political repercussions of street violence outside parliamentary buildings, and the demonstration of 6 February 1934 was represented by the right-wing leagues and also by the French Communist Party (PCF) as a brave attack on a decadent parliamentary Republic. Just as the street provided the locus for the expression of deep-rooted discontent with contemporary political representation, so too did it provide the setting for the development of new claims to the representation of people and nation. It was the Popular Front alliance of Communist, Socialist and Radical parties that proved the most successful in this respect, organising demonstrations in the name of anti-fascist solidarity and republican defence, and the zenith of its domination of the street came with the official celebrations of the democratically elected Popular Front government in 1936. Throughout the years of the Popular Front movement and government, however, the street was also the setting for demonstrations and processions by the leagues and parties of the extreme right, and, whether or not


L’Humanité, 21 May 1935.

Fighting for the Streets of Paris during the Popular Front, 1934–1938


these were granted official permission, they constituted a continuing challenge to the Popular Front’s claims to represent the French people. This chapter focuses on the rivalry between the Popular Front and the extreme right that was one of the driving political forces of the years 1934–8, and that was often at its most intense in the streets of Paris. Politics in the street could be manifold in form: violent skirmishes between small groups of militants, street protests accompanying strike action, hastily-organised demonstrations and counter-demonstrations, as well as more formal or official processions with routes well trodden and rituals annually observed. The aim of this chapter is firstly to explore the creation of the two distinct images of Paris evoked in the initial description: a patriotic Paris of the right, and a revolutionary Paris of the left. These two rival images of the capital were constantly reiterated and defended, and continue to structure the street politics of left and right in twenty-first century Paris (see Figure 3.2). Yet despite their potency in political rhetoric and imagination, they should not be seen as unchallenged. Indeed, the years of the Popular Front were deeply marked by the deliberate crossing of boundaries between right-wing and left-wing Paris: provocations that were not only territorial but also symbolic in character. Secondly, therefore, the aim of this chapter is to explore three particularly controversial instances in which such boundaries were challenged: the attack on the Socialist Party (SFIO) leader Léon Blum and its aftermath in February 1936, the Popular Front celebration of 14 July 1936, and the riot in the working-class suburb of Clichy in March 1937. By investigating why these boundaries were challenged, and why these challenges were considered to be so controversial, it is possible to illuminate some of the areas of contest between right and left in the 1930s, and the common search for a political culture that would be both national and popular. Such a comparative approach offers an original departure from existing studies of this period, for the analysis of the rivalry between the Popular Front and its opponents has generally been obscured by an exclusive focus on left or right. Histories of the right-wing leagues—such Eugen Weber’s monumental history of Action Française or Robert Soucy’s detailed overview of the extreme right in the interwar years—devote some attention to street action but do not focus directly on the nature and dynamics of opposition between left and right.3 Indeed, the recent historiographical trend towards challenging the “immunity thesis” (according to which France was inherently unsusceptible to fascism) has brought particular attention to the theoretical definition of French fascism and to the comparison of the conservative and extreme right, with a consequent eclipse 3

Eugen Weber, Action Française (Paris: Fayard 1985); Robert Soucy, French Fascism: The Second Wave 1933–1939 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1995).


Chapter Two

of other political contrasts. The contribution of recent collections has thus been a valuable rethinking of the ongoing debate over the radical right in France, and a conceptualisation of “crisis” in the Third Republic, rather than an exploration of its street politics.4 Among studies of the left, Julian Jackson’s history of the Popular Front describes the importance of the demonstration in contemporary political culture,5 and he has also evoked the dramatic expansion of right-wing parties such as the Parti Social Français.6 Danielle Tartakowsky’s substantial work on the demonstrations of this period provides the clearest indication of the existence of a contest between right and left in the street,7 although she is reluctant to analyse the relation of the right to the people in the public space, and unwilling to describe their gatherings as ‘popular’.8 Philippe Burrin’s article on political symbolism during the time of the Popular Front similarly emphasises the significance of contest, although he is concerned principally with the republican conversion of the French Communists in response to foreign fascism, rather than with the impact of this ideological transformation on the French right. Likewise, while offering a detailed description of some of Marceau Pivert’s documentary films of Popular Front demonstrations, he does not mention that the opponents of the Popular Front also made use of documentary film, and indeed relies only on secondary sources for his consideration of the right.9 4

Edward Arnold (ed.), The Development of the Radical Right in France from Boulanger to Le Pen (London: Macmillan, 2000); Brian Jenkins (ed.), France in the Era of Fascism: Essays on the French Authoritarian Right (Oxford: Berghahn, 2005). For a full discussion of the “crisis” of the Third Republic, see Kevin Passmore, “The Construction of Crisis in Interwar France”, France in the Era of Fascism, 151–199. The political geography of Paris is likewise relatively distant in Dudley Andrew and Steven Ungar’s evocative mosaic of Popular Front Paris, which analyses February 1934 largely through Alain Resnais’ 1974 film about the notorious swindler Stavisky: Dudley Andrew and Steven Ungar, Popular Front Paris and the Poetics of Culture (Cambridge, Mass., and London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005). 5 Julian Jackson, The Popular Front in France: Defending Democracy, 1934–1938 (Cambridge: CUP, 1988). 6 Julian Jackson, France: The Dark Years, 1940–1944 (Oxford: OUP, 2001), Chapter 3, 65–80. 7 Danielle Tartakowsky, Les Manifestations de rue en France 1918–1968 (Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1997) and Le Front populaire: la vie est à nous (Paris: Gallimard, 1996). 8 Danielle Tartakowsky, “Les Fêtes de la droite populaire”, in Alain Corbin, Noëlle Gérôme and Danielle Tartakowsky (eds.), Les Usages politiques des fêtes aux XIXe–XXe siècles (Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1994), 316. 9 Philippe Burrin, “Poings levés et bras tendus: la contagion des symboles au temps du Front populaire”, Vingtième Siècle 11 (1986), 7–20.

Fighting for the Streets of Paris during the Popular Front, 1934–1938


A comparative analysis of political rivalry in Paris during the years of the Popular Front therefore contributes to a fuller understanding of the symbolism and rhetoric of the right, and also to the identification of ideological borrowings and tensions between political opponents. Based on the study of Parisian police reports, as well as on the contemporary press, this chapter suggests that while Paris was imagined and perceived as a city sharply divided between left and right, it was also the theatre in which these political opponents sought to construct new identities, crossing both territorial and symbolic boundaries in their response to the contemporary crisis of representation.10

Paris: A Divided City When the Communist militant Paul Vaillant-Couturier described the two demonstrations of 19 May 1935, he wrote that the nationalist celebration of Joan of Arc had paled into numerical and symbolic insignificance beside the commemoration of the Commune by the people of Paris.11 Vaillant-Couturier’s assertion was voiced in a well-established language of political symbolism. Both the Popular Front and the extreme right accepted and reinforced the division of Paris along territorial and symbolic lines, and it is possible to map out the street politics of 1934–38 so as to add both detail and colour to these contrasting images of the city. For the conservative and extreme right, the intersection between politics and the streets and squares of Paris was determined by themes of national order and defence. The official military parades made annually along the Champs Élysées on 14 July and 11 November were thus approvingly documented in words and images in the newspapers of such leagues as the Croix de Feu, Action Française and the Solidarité Française. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe, and the statue of Joan of Arc in the Place des Pyramides were also the goals of smaller, partisan processions organised by individual leagues. This led to a clear and widely accepted identification of the right with the west of Paris, an association strengthened by the violent, anti-parliamentary demonstration of 6 February 1934 in the Place de la Concorde, opposite the Chamber of Deputies. Those who were injured or killed on this occasion were likened to the young men who had sacrificed their lives on the battlefields of the First World War, as in this eulogy of patriotic Paris by Jean Ferrandi, a rightwing municipal councillor: 10

This crisis of representation is discussed in detail in my thesis: Jessica Irons, Rival Representations of the People during the French Popular Front, 1934–1939 (Unpublished Oxford D.Phil. thesis, 2004). 11 L’Humanité, 21 May 1935.


Chapter Two

Figure 2.1 The political geography of Paris during the Popular Front

1. Arc de Triomphe 2. Champs Élysées 3. Place de la Concorde 4. Église de La Madeleine 5. Place de l’Opéra 6. Rue de Rivoli 7. Place des Pyramides 8. Boulevard Saint-Michel 9. Panthéon/Quartier Latin

10. Place de la République 11. Place de la Bastille 12. Faubourg Saint-Antoine 13. Place de la Nation 14. Cours de Vincennes 15. Boulevard de Charonne 16. Boulevard de Ménilmontant 17. Père-Lachaise 18. Mur des Fédérés

Fighting for the Streets of Paris during the Popular Front, 1934–1938


Paris of 6 February, Paris of our beautiful young generation, who, ardent, patriotic and disinterested, went to their deaths on the Place de la Concorde, just as zealous as their elders in the mutilated woods of Verdun, stay ready and vigilant. France will have need of you.12

The martyrdom of these young men was seen to transform the Place de la Concorde into a place of remembrance: a battlefield to be commemorated with wreaths and flowers on each anniversary.13 The leagues also recognised the presence of potential supporters in the wealthier quarters of the Right Bank. Militants from Action Française held demonstrations in the Place de l’Opéra14 (their headquarters being in the nearby Rue de Rome), and Colonel de la Rocque rented a mansion from the Comtesse de Mortemart on the Avenue George V, next to the Champs Élysées, for the exclusive use of his Croix de Feu and Briscards.15 Yet the Left Bank also possessed right-wing strongholds, not only on the Boulevard Saint-Germain, but also among the student population of the Quartier Latin, a significant number of whom were members or supporters of Action Française. The political groups and parties of the Popular Front were only too well aware of this situation, referring to Saint-Germain as a centre of “fascist” activity, and warning their supporters to be wary of inflaming the volatile tempers of right-wing militants when in the vicinity of the Boulevard Saint-Michel.16 Associating Paris with displays of patriotism and military grandeur, the leagues styled their own activities and opposition to the Popular Front as continuing in a traditional defence of Paris against revolution. Each of the leagues possessed a series of militant groups, sometimes referred to as “groupes de choc”. These were employed to protect meetings from outside disturbances, to distribute tracts and to put up posters in the streets of Paris, and to challenge their Communist and

12 “Paris du 6 février, Paris de notre belle jeunesse, ardente, patriote et désintéressée, qui allait à la mort, sur la place de la Concorde, avec autant d’élan que ses aînés dans les bois mutilés de Verdun, reste prêt et vigilant. La France aura besoin de toi.” L’Ami du peuple, 28 avril 1934. 13 “En cet anniversaire, la foule parisienne a prouvé sa fidélité aux héroïques victimes. Comme les années passées, elle s’est pressée nombreuse sur la place de la Concorde pour fleurir le lieu central.” Action Française, 7 February 1938. 14 “P.P. 11 octobre 1934”, Archives de la Préfecture de Police, Paris (hereafter APP) Ba 1893. 15 “P.P. 19 octobre 1935”, APP Ba 1901. 16 “Enfin, le Boulevard Saint-Michel n’est pas un endroit commode pour des manifestations pacifiques. Des éléments fascistes y pullulent, et on n’y est pas très éloigné de certains quartiers où se trouvent des éléments du ‘milieu’.” Le Populaire, 8 April 1938. See also La République, 18 July 1936.


Chapter Two

Socialist counterparts to skirmishes in the street.17 Although members of such groups were renowned for their violence and were frequently arrested by the Police, the leagues nevertheless sought to portray themselves as ordered, disciplined defenders of the Parisian population, dispelling the darkness of the shadow of the Commune.18 The left, too, imagined and claimed the capital city along historical lines, and the elderly veterans of the Commune who participated in processions to the Père-Lachaise cemetery were a living testimony to the working-class idealism and martyrdom that was elevated to the status of a guiding principle. For the Socialists and Communists of the Popular Front, Paris was the city of the revolutionary working people, resonant with the ardour of the past and the hopes of the future. The legacy of the sans-culottes of the 1790s and the remembrance of nineteenth-century revolutions forged an indelible link between the left and the east of the city: the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, the Place de la Bastille, and the Mur des Fédérés in the Père-Lachaise cemetery.19 These areas of Paris formed the focal points both for spontaneous demonstrations of opposition to fascism and also for the annual celebrations of 1 May, the Commune, and the fall of the Bastille. Socialist and Communist leaders of the Popular Front placed great emphasis on the transmission and continuity of revolutionary sentiment among the Parisian people, and depicted fascism and war as the new Bastilles to be overcome by this strength and solidarity.20 Even the Radical Party, which 17

The Croix de Feu possessed their “dispos” (see APP Ba 1901, “P.P. 10 juillet 1935”, also “Les Croix de Feu”, APP Ba 1973); the Action Française their “Camelots du Roy” (“La Fédération Nationale des Camelots du Roy”, APP Ba 1893); and the Francistes their “corps franc” (“P.P. 13 juillet 1935”, APP Ba 1907). 18 “Le Nombre, quel qu’il soit, ne nous fait pas peur. Le Nombre révolutionnaire ne doit épouvanter personne. Ce Nombre-là, c’est l’Asie barbare. Combien de temps cette trouble cohue eût-elle tenu contre deux ou trois légions ou phalanges organisées des Ligues Nationales?” Action Française, 18 February 1936. 19 “Chère et magnifique rue, cher et magnifique faubourg!” wrote Yves Grosrichard of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, describing the Popular Front demonstration of 14 July 1936. “C’est là qu’on vit aux fenêtres, drapées dans de généreuses robes écarlates souveraines, les descendantes des citoyennes qui ont pris la Bastille et qui sont un jour allées à Versailles réclamer du pain. Il n’est pas de vraie fête populaire sans ces déesses puissantes.” 20 Victor Basch, President of the Comité National de Rassemblement Populaire that supervised the organisation of Popular Front demonstrations, declared on 14 July 1935: “Comme lors du 14 juillet 1789, le peuple de Paris a démoli le donjon royal, en ce 14 juillet 1935 le peuple est résolu à donner l’assaut aux Bastilles survivantes: Bastille du fascisme, Bastille des lois scélérates, Bastille de misère, Bastille des congrégations économiques et financières, Bastille de Guerre.” “P.P. 14 juillet 1935”, Archives Nationales, Paris (hereafter AN) F7 13305.

Fighting for the Streets of Paris during the Popular Front, 1934–1938


participated in Popular Front demonstrations for the first time in July 1935, but which was always more closely concerned with the preservation of republican and public order, sought to portray its members and supporters as descended from the revolutionary people of Paris. When the Radical Édouard Daladier met with the Socialist and Communist leaders Léon Blum and Maurice Thorez to discuss the significance of Radical participation in the Popular Front alliance, he insisted on this common identification with the revolutionary past. Describing Blum and Thorez as representing the two great proletarian parties of France, he said that he had come “to plead the cause of the middle classes, of the petty bourgeoisie who, together with the proletariat, toppled the Bastille.”21 The parties of the Popular Front tended to assimilate the anti-fascist crusade, whether against Colonel de la Rocque or General Franco, into the familiar mental framework of a battle against the “reaction”, the “Versaillais”, the aristocrats of Coblentz or the armies of Bismarck. Yet the relationship between Paris and the left was defined not only by the revolutionary legacy, but also by the spread of industrialisation that was expanding the boundaries of workingclass districts and the number of potential supporters. “The Paris of the people, the great city of revolutions, has certainly remained worthy of its legend” wrote Léon Blum. “The only difference is that its suburbs extend more widely.”22 The Communist and Socialist Parties established their influence in the suburbs not only at the level of street politics, but also through municipal channels, with successive elections bringing increasing numbers of left-wing mayors and local councillors. The municipal success of the Communists in particular appeared to more moderate political observers as a revolutionary occupation of the banlieue rouge (red belt).23 Furthermore, the banlieue rouge was characterised not only by high levels of membership of the Socialist and Communist parties (SFIO and PCF), but also by the emergence of dissident revolutionary groups, especially after the PCF began rejecting its “class against class” tactics from 1935 onwards in a concern to widen the appeal of the Popular Front. In the 1920s, committees for proletarian unity were formed in the Citroën factory at Javel and in the Renault factory at Boulogne-Billancourt,24 and from 1935 onwards, dissident socialists and communists were joining the Groupes d’Action Révolutionnaire, and mingling with Popular Front demonstrations to distribute their own 21

“Je veux, devant vous, plaider la cause des classes moyennes, de cette petite bourgeoisie qui prit la Bastille avec les prolétaires.” Le Courrier d’Alsace, 1 July 1935, AN F7 13305. 22 “Le Paris populaire, le grand Paris des révolutions est décidément resté digne de sa légende. Ses faubourgs s’étendent plus loin; voilà toute la différence.” Le Populaire, 20 May 1935. 23 “P.P. 23 octobre 1934”, AN F7 13134. 24 “P.P. 5 février 1935” and “P.P. 7 février 1925”, APP Ba 1939.


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internationalist tracts. In the Seine region, these groups were concentrated in the eighteenth and nineteenth arrondissements of Paris, and at Clichy, Drancy, Nanterre and Saint-Denis.25 Just as the right-wing leagues portrayed themselves as well-organised and efficient in their crusade against revolution, so too did the militant groups of the left style themselves as calm and well-disciplined in their opposition towards “fascist” Paris.26

The Crossing of Boundaries On one level, it is therefore possible to identify the symbolic and social definition of a Paris of the right and a Paris of the left during these years of heightened political tension. The more moderate parties, such as the Radicals, were indeed deeply concerned by the progressive division of Paris between “reactionaries” and “revolutionaries”, and by the consequent decline of their own influence. The current reality is this: as much in its town council as in its regional council and legislative representation, the Parisian region is represented by two large constituents: a reactionary constituent and a revolutionary one. The government of Paris and its suburbs is disputed by reactionaries and “nationals” on one hand, communists and socialists on the other. Both elements have made progress, the first in 1928 and 1932, the second in 1934 and 1936. There are no longer any moderates, there are very few Socialist Republicans, and there are increasingly few Radicals.27

Contemporaries thus recognised and developed two rival visions that were mapped out in rituals of celebration and demonstration, as was the case in the initial example of 19 May 1935: a patriotic Paris of Joan of Arc focused on the well-to-do districts of the west of the capital and on the Arc de Triomphe, and a 25

“P.P. mai 36: au sujet des Groupes d’Action Révolutionnaire”, APP Ba 1939. Léon Blum: “Nous convions les travailleurs à une démonstration de leur puissance. Nous leur demandons de prouver à la France entière qu’il y a autre chose dans Paris que les sections d’assaut royalistes et fascistes. Nous leur demandons d’attester leur existence par le nombre, leur force par le sang-froid et la discipline.” Le Populaire, 11 February 1934. 27 “Le fait actuel est le suivant: Aussi bien dans son Conseil municipal que dans son Conseil général et dans sa représentation législative, la région parisienne est représentée par deux larges fractions: une fraction réactionnaire et une fraction révolutionnaire. Réactionnaires et ‘nationaux’ d’une part, communistes et socialistes de l’autre se disputent le gouvernement de Paris et de sa banlieue. Toutes les deux ont progressé, la première en 1928 et 1932, la seconde en 1934 et 1936. Il n’y a plus de modérés, il n’y a presque plus de républicains socialistes, il y a moins de radicaux.” “La Semaine radicale” in L’Ère nouvelle, 25 May 1936. 26

Fighting for the Streets of Paris during the Popular Front, 1934–1938


revolutionary Paris of the Commune identified with the poorer, working-class areas of the east and with the banlieue rouge. Despite the distance between these rival territories, fears of potentially violent confrontations were never far below the surface. During the preparations for three separate demonstrations in Paris on 14 July 1935, a survey of public opinion by the Parisian police emphasised high levels of concern about the possibility of a direct and violent confrontation between the Croix de Feu procession and that of the Popular Front, even though the first was directed westwards to the Arc de Triomphe and the second eastwards to the Cours de Vincennes.28 The very intensity of this concern, the requirement for official authorisation for public demonstrations, and the strict police control of the public space, cumulatively ensured that these political enemies were usually maintained at a safe distance from one another. There are, however, instances in which the carefully established boundaries between the patriotic Paris of the right and the working-class Paris of the left were deliberately and provocatively crossed. Furthermore, these examples of “boundary crossings” seem to suggest that there was more at stake than the impromptu skirmishes that fill the pages of so many contemporary police reports. Instances can be cited in which the popular, republican character of the Popular Front movement was deliberately challenged by the extraparliamentary, right wing leagues. In 1935, while the Communist, Socialist and Radical parties were collectively preparing the Popular Front celebrations of 14 July, Jean Renaud, leader of the Solidarité Française, staged his own ceremony in the Place de la République. The Solidarité Française, which was directly inspired by Italian fascism, and which had declared that within hours of taking power, the socialist press would be suppressed and Léon Blum executed, was notoriously anti-parliamentary and contemptuous of the current regime. Yet Jean Renaud laid a wreath at the foot of the statue of the Republic, declaring himself to be firmly opposed to dictatorships of both right and left, and a model of republican fidelity. It was a ceremony that provoked an indignant and violent response from local supporters of the Popular Front, for the Place de la République was an integral part of the well-established routes of their own celebrations and demonstrations.29 If the republican claims of the Popular Front were challenged by the extreme right, so too were its claims to the representation of the Parisian people. Jacques Doriot, the ex-Communist who was later to die fighting the Soviet Union under the banner of Nazi Germany, established his right-wing Parti Populaire Français in 1936 in the working-class stronghold of Saint-Denis, where he continued to hold the position of mayor. Doriot’s success in attracting to his new party some 28 29

“L’état d’esprit de la population et le 14 juillet”, APP Ba 1861. “P.P. 13 juillet 1935”, AN F7 13305.


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of those workers who had accepted him as a Communist leader was a powerful challenge to the PCF’s own claims to the banlieue rouge, as well as to their determined disassociation of the workers from fascism. Moreover, in 1937 Doriot threw down a further challenge to the left’s appropriation of Paris by deciding to proclaim the social as well as the national character of his party in the streets of the capital. Not only did he honour the statue of Joan of Arc in the Place des Pyramides, but he also commemorated the martyrs of the Commune at the Mur des Fédérés in the Père-Lachaise cemetery, deliberately trespassing on the territory venerated by his left-wing rivals.30 At the same time, there are also examples of the Popular Front crossing boundaries into the territory of the right. The Panthéon was, for example, at the very centre of the right-wing territory of the Quartier Latin, close to the Law Faculty where Action Française could number so many of its student supporters. Yet the Panthéon was surrounded by the street processions of the Popular Front during the demonstration in support of Léon Blum in February 1936, and similarly encompassed by the annual commemorations of the assassination of Jean Jaurès. The Communists might mock Doriot for celebrating both the Commune and Joan of Arc in 1937, yet in that same year they too celebrated both these examples of martyrdom, objecting to the appropriation of Joan of Arc by the right, and contending that this particular saint should belong to “the entire people of France.”31 The patriotic Paris of the right was challenged by the patriotic Paris of the left: by Socialist and Communist commemorations of the Commune that emphasised the patriotic fervour of the National Guard, who had defended Paris against the invading Prussian armies and thus fought for France while the government at Versailles was negotiating with Bismarck. While the extreme right seemed to be challenging the boundaries of revolutionary, working-class Paris, so too did the left appear to be challenging right-wing claims to the patriotic Paris of Joan of Arc. This reclaiming of national fervour and defence from the extreme right was also important for more the moderate left, notably the Radical Party, which described the Popular Front’s commemoration of 11 November 1935 with particular pride. Hitherto, the procession along the Champs Élysées to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier had 30

Paul Marion (previously a follower of Colonel de la Rocque, now an ally of Doriot) described the aptness of celebrating both Joan of Arc and the Mur des Fédérés. Joan of Arc was a heroine of the people and a national icon; and the communards of 1870–1871 were great examples of national fervour, to whom the Communists—“agents de l’étranger”—should lay no claim. L’Émancipation nationale, 5 June 1937. 31 “Encore une fois, donc, les chefs factieux qui depuis longtemps devraient être en prison, ont voulu créer des incidents, en détournant cette manifestation pacifique de son véritable sens, car Jeanne d’Arc n’est pas à eux, elle est au Peuple de France tout entier!” L’Humanité, 10 May 1937.

Fighting for the Streets of Paris during the Popular Front, 1934–1938


been dominated by the leagues, vaunting their patriotism and their representation of veteran soldiers. The commemoration of this day of remembrance by the Popular Front was therefore a significant symbolic act: The veteran soldiers’ movement eludes the fascists; the republicans have regained mastery of the street in Paris. These are two essential facts, and the anger of the reactionaries reveals the measure of their importance.32

What do such “boundary crossings” reveal of the political culture of the Popular Front period? Although violent skirmishes in the streets of Paris were a salient characteristic of the 1930s, it is clear that the territorial provocations that are here described held an important ideological dimension. The mobilisation and strategic control of the people in the street was inseparable from their representation as political actors, a representation on which the official and public toleration of political groups and parties was closely dependent. Equally, deliberate incursions into areas of Paris that held especial significance for either left or right were more than idle provocation. They testify to a deliberate engagement with popular politics, and to a common determination to provide a convincing solution to the crisis of faith in the Third Republic, a crisis that had been exposed by the riot of 6 February 1934. The nature of such solutions can be illuminated by a more detailed consideration of some of the more controversial “boundary crossings” of this period, and the following section explores challenges that were deemed contentious in both territorial and symbolic terms. The attack on Léon Blum and the resulting counterdemonstration in February 1936 provide an insight into the contest to control and represent the people in the street; the Popular Front celebration of 14 July 1936 exposes rival conceptions of the French nation; and the riot at Clichy on 16 March 1937 demonstrates the ongoing rivalry between the Popular Front and the new parties of the extreme right to claim the working-class and petty bourgeois inhabitants of the Parisian suburbs.

The Attack on Léon Blum in February 1936 Many of the controversial boundary crossings of 1934–8 can be inscribed within cycles of provocation and revenge, and the attack on Léon Blum falls into this category, although the “provocation” offered by Léon Blum himself was in this case accidental. Indeed, the attack of February 1936 shattered the relative calm that had characterised the streets of Paris in the preceding months, for after the 32

“Le mouvement ancien combattant échappe aux fascistes, les républicains ont repris à Paris la maîtrise de la rue. Ce sont là deux faits essentiels: la colère de la réaction permet d’en mesurer l’importance.” La Lumière, 16 November 1935.


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various demonstrations of July 1935 the government had strengthened its control over the public space by refusing authorisation to proposed demonstrations with increasing regularity. While there had been 200 cortèges between May and October 1935, there were a mere 27 between November 1935 and April 1936.33 On 13 February 1936, however, the car transporting Léon Blum, the Socialist deputy Georges Monnet and his wife, chanced to encounter the funeral procession of the right-wing author Jacques Bainville on the Boulevard Saint-Germain. The participants in the procession objected violently to a disruption of the ceremony which they wrongly interpreted as a deliberate slight on the author whose death they were mourning. The windows of the car were smashed, Léon Blum and Georges Monnet injured, and further violence was avoided only through the intervention of some local workers. The response to the violence was overwhelmingly condemnatory, both in the press and, more immediately, in the parliamentary session of 13 February that opened a few hours after the attack.34 The government took the action of dissolving Action Française (although Blum’s attackers had in fact been members of a group recently excluded from this league),35 and also officially disbanded the Camelots du Roy and the Étudiants d’Action Française. The Popular Front’s response to the attack on the person of Léon Blum was to organise a large-scale demonstration on 16 February, which was to take the form of a deliberate occupation of the Quartier Latin, an area of Paris clearly identified in the political imagination with the right-wing leagues, and especially with the student members of Action Française. The initial point of assembly was the Panthéon, at the heart of the Quartier Latin and opposite the Law Faculty (see Figure 2.2). From this focal point, the procession of men, women and children then continued down the Rue Saint-Jacques, along the Boulevard SaintGermain, across the Pont de Sully and finally to the more familiar left-wing territory of the Place de la Bastille and the Place de la Nation.36 The deliberately provocative character of the route taken was echoed in the reactions to which the demonstration gave rise: fifty young nationalists shouted “Vive la France!” by the Théâtre de Cluny, and an estimated 250 gathered on the Boulevard SaintGermain to cry “La France aux Français!” Fascist salutes were made from upper storey windows, and diverse projectiles—from small metal objects to large


Tartakowksy, Les Manifestations, 389. M. Henri Franklin-Bouillon condemned the attack on behalf of the centre and the right. “Deuxième séance du 13 février”, Journal Officiel: débats parlementaires, Chambre des Députés, 14 February 1936. 35 Weber, Action Française, 401. 36 “P.P. 17 février 1936”, APP Ba 1862. 34

Fighting for the Streets of Paris during the Popular Front, 1934–1938


sandbags—were showered liberally upon the demonstrators from the terraced houses of the Boulevard Henri IV.37 Figure 2.2 The Popular Front procession in front of the Panthéon, 16 February 1936

The boundary crossings in such demonstrations and counter-demonstrations constituted a battle for the streets themselves, a battle for transient monopoly of the public space. They were characterised by actual, physical encounters between left and right, as one group, party or demonstration entered the public space of its adversary in deliberate provocation. But they also provide an insight into the contest to organise and control the people in the street that was becoming increasingly important in the years 1934–6, as the Popular Front and the leagues competed for public support and respectability. Responses to and representations of the attack on Léon Blum and the demonstration of 16 February 1936 played a significant role in this contest, not least because large37

“P.P. 17.2.36—Manifestation organisée par le Comité du Rassemblement Populaire en réplique à l’agression commise contre Léon Blum”, APP Ba 1862.


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scale demonstrations were, on account of the difficulty of obtaining authorisation, increasingly rare. The political tensions of February 1936 shed particular light on the changing perception of street violence that was to play such a decisive role in gathering widespread support for the Popular Front. On 6 February 1934, the violence of the protest outside the Chamber of Deputies had seemed to express the intensity of public discontent with parliamentary intrigue and scandal, and although later portrayed as a failed fascist coup, it met with considerable approval from conservative opinion, as well as on the extreme right. But by 1936, the public mood had changed. The solution to the crisis of representation lay not in a coup d’état but in a renewal of the existing republican regime, in such a way as to incorporate the people in politics, and so to renew the legitimacy of the parliamentary regime as a form of popular representation. The most successful and rapidly expanding formations in this period were, on the left, the Popular Front movement, and, on the right, the league of the Croix de Feu, which in addition to its original association of veteran soldiers decorated for their bravery in the First World War was also developing associations for women and children. The attack on Léon Blum in February 1936, however, provided an opportunity for the Popular Front to vaunt its claims as a pacific, republican movement, and to organise a demonstration in which women and children featured prominently. At the same time, and despite the sympathy offered to Blum after the attack by such right-wing leaders as Colonel de la Rocque, the leagues were discredited in public opinion by their renewed association with street violence rather than with displays of popular fervour and solidarity. Unable to deny the violence of the attack on Blum, the leagues were thus forced into a position of reaction, and attempted to undermine the image of a pacific, Popular Front crowd by mobilising fears of revolution, and by depicting the crowd as a violent horde of foreigners mingled with misguided French workers under the control of the extreme left. Colonel de la Rocque’s comment on the event was that it could not be taken as the voice of the people, for “the voice of the people does not make itself heard by singing obscene songs to the tunes of hymns, or by shouting ‘Soviets everywhere’.”38 Action Française described the composition of the crowd as largely dominated by the criminal underworld of the capital city, as well as by Jews and foreigners. The misguided French people were represented as only a small minority, to be pitied, as ever, for the “terrible errors of judgement” through which they entrusted their fate to the designs of their revolutionary leaders.39 38

“L’expression populaire ne se traduit pas par des propos obscènes chantés sur des airs de cantiques ou des cris de ‘Les Soviets partout’.” “Le mouvement des Croix de Feu”, APP Ba 1973, 218. 39 Action Française, 18 February 1936.

Fighting for the Streets of Paris during the Popular Front, 1934–1938


The Popular Front Celebration of 14 July 1936 The attack on Léon Blum and the counter-demonstration of February 1936 thus reveal a conflict between left and right to discipline the crowd and to control the representation of their supporters in the street, a conflict in which the Popular Front was by this point emerging as victorious. The success of the Popular Front as a political coalition in the elections of April–May 1936 and the formation of a government under Socialist leadership provided further opportunities for the occupation of those areas of Paris most closely associated with the right. Municipal successes for the left in the Parisian region meant an increasing number of mayors and local officials sympathetic to the use of municipal buildings for partisan events. Furthermore, the new government reinforced its control of the streets by completing the dissolution of the right-wing leagues. Even so, these moments of symbolic domination should not obscure the nature of the evolving political rivalry between the Popular Front and its right-wing adversaries. The controversy provoked by the new government’s domination of areas largely associated with the right throws light on the themes that remained uppermost in the redefinition of political culture. The ceremonies of 14 July 1936, often described as the apotheosis of the Popular Front, are a case in point. As the legitimately elected government, the Popular Front was officially present at the traditional military procession along the Champs Élysées to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe. Whereas the Socialists and Communists had previously commemorated 14 July only as the anniversary of the fall of the Bastille, and had in the 1920s and early 1930s even attempted to disrupt the military procession as an expression of their pacifism and internationalism,40 they now acclaimed the military procession and the enthusiastic crowd of 14 July 1936 as symbolising the unity of the French nation. Speaking for the Socialist Party (SFIO), Le Populaire paid due reverence to the revolutionary tradition of Paris, but also dwelt at some length on the crowds assembled along the Champs Élysées, who thus restored to the military ceremony the popular fervour that the right had supposedly dissipated through its stiffly orchestrated marches.41 With similar satisfaction, L’Humanité described the event as symbolising “the union of the French nation”, with this national solidarity exemplified by the reconciliation of the army and the people, the red flag and the tricolour, La Marseillaise and L’Internationale.42 Accounts of 14 July 1936 by contemporary supporters and later historians of the Popular Front provide the impression of an all-encompassing celebration: a 40

“Juillet 1929”, AN F7 13119. Le Populaire, 13 July 1936. 42 L’Humanité, 15 July 1936. 41


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partisan people transformed into a national people, and celebrated in festivities across the country.43 The fact that for both the conservative and the extreme right the Popular Front procession remained a partisan demonstration, and its self-conscious adoption of the military parade a highly provocative gesture, has been accorded much less attention. It is nevertheless essential to remember how problematic the association between the Popular Front and the nation remained in July 1936, not least because this tension created progressively deeper rifts between left and right, as the Popular Front came to be excoriated as a national government driven by a revolutionary minority. Claiming symbolic control over the traditional military parade was indeed a particularly audacious crossing of boundaries on the part of the Popular Front. As the conservative Le Temps recalled, this Third Republican ceremony was in origin a reverential commemoration of 14 July 1790, the “Fête de la Fédération” that represented the unity of the nation.44 The Popular Front, appearing to its critics to be more closely associated with 14 July 1789 than with 14 July 1790, could not be acknowledged as truly national in character. Moreover, its triumphant reconciliation of anti-fascist sentiment with republican and national defence, and its continuing denunciation of its adversaries as “fascists”, were seen as both misleading and divisive. “The great error of the principal organisers of the Popular Front is the misuse of words” observed Le Temps with gravity.45 Its appropriation of the Champs Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe and the concept of the Nation was the source of much angry protest in the right-wing press. Colonel de la Rocque published a reproachful letter from a Radical who had clearly felt ill at ease among his Socialist and Communist neighbours in the crowd on the Champs Élysées, and who criticised the raised fists that transformed a national occasion into a partisan one.46 Action Française particularly objected to the inclusion of the Place de la Concorde, the site of the riots of 6 February 1934, in the itinerary of 14 July. “It was there on 6 February that the people of Paris, including members of all classes and doubtless many future electors of the Popular Front, cried ‘down with the thieves!’ The Popular Front in the Place de la Concorde is the thieves’ revenge.”47


See, for example, Jackson, The Popular Front in France, 115. Le Temps, 16 July 1936. 45 “La grande faute des principaux organisateurs du Front populaire est d’avoir abusé les mots.” Le Temps, 14–15 July 1936. 46 Le Flambeau, 18 July 1936. 47 “C’est là que le six février le peuple de Paris, où se melaient toutes les classes, et sans doute beaucoup d’électeurs du Front populaire d’aujourd’hui, s’est soulevé le cri d’à bas les voleurs! Le Front populaire à la Concorde, c’est la vengeance des Voleurs.” Maurice Pujo in Action Française, 2 July 1936. 44

Fighting for the Streets of Paris during the Popular Front, 1934–1938


The presence of Popular Front supporters at a ceremony closely associated with the Paris of the right did not automatically vindicate the claims of the new government to represent the French nation as a whole. But it did serve to underline the importance of paying respect to the idea of national unity and defence in the continuing rivalry for the political middle ground. In effect, the dissolution of the leagues did not resolve the conflict between the Popular Front and the extreme right. Instead, this dissolution of 1936 provided the opportunity for the establishment of new right-wing parties. Colonel de la Rocque’s Croix de Feu, already broadening to include associations for women and young people, was transformed into a political party that combined explicit republicanism with an equally explicit social concern: the Parti Social Français. Jacques Doriot’s more extremist Parti Populaire Français, also founded in 1936, appealed to many members of the dissolved leagues who wished to continue their political activity within a wider framework. Both parties sought to counter the Popular Front on its own territory, through their structural organisation, through their imagination of the national community, and also through their direct appeals to the working people of Paris.

The Riot at Clichy, 16 March 1937 On 16 March 1937, a protest broke out in the working-class suburb of Clichy against the organisation of a meeting by the local branch of the Parti Social Français. Despite the suspicion with which this new party was viewed by the Popular Front, the government sought to respect republican liberty and legality by allowing its meetings to continue to take place. The suburb of Clichy, however, appeared to the local Popular Front committee as a particularly provocative location for such a meeting, and the rumour that La Rocque himself was to be present added fuel to their burning sense of outrage. Two days before the meeting, the local PCF deputy and Popular Front committee called upon the “working population of factories, building sites and offices … veteran soldiers, small shopkeepers, artisans, all republicans and all democrats”48 to attend a counter-demonstration in protest against the audacity of Colonel de la Rocque. On the evening of 16 March, a police force of 18,000 successfully prevented the 9,000 demonstrators from forcing entry into a cinema where only 400 PSF members were present, but the rising passions of the crowd led to an outbreak of violence and shooting, leaving 5 dead and over 400 wounded among the police and the demonstrators. 48

“La population laborieuse des usines, des chantiers, des bureaux … les anciens combattants, les petits commerçants, les artisans, tous les républicains, tous les démocrates.” “P.P. 17 mars 1937”, APP Ba 1865.


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Why was this crossing of boundaries deemed to be particularly provocative? The local Popular Front committee claimed that it was an outrage for the notorious Colonel de La Rocque to draft in members of the PSF to a meeting in the very centre of a working-class district, given that these members were bourgeois and thus, in the rhetoric of the committee, “enemies of the people”.49 It is easy to grasp the internal logic of this position. However, a closer investigation would seem to reveal that the real provocation was of a different nature. La Rocque was not in fact present at the meeting, nor had he ever intended to be, given that this was no more than an ordinary, family film evening for local members of the PSF. Who were these members? Many of them were local shopkeepers, a fact sufficiently well known to result in their shops being looted and vandalised by the demonstrators during the night.50 The film evening had also been attended by their wives and children. The provocation of this particular boundary crossing was therefore not territorial but social. Colonel de la Rocque’s real challenge to the Popular Front was not the deliberate occupation of a cinema in a working-class district by non-resident members of the Parisian bourgeoisie, but the attraction to the Parti Social Français of local shopkeepers and their families. This brought the new party into direct competition with the Popular Front. Indeed, had not the Popular Front committee of Clichy, in its fervent call for a counter-demonstration, appealed to “small shopkeepers” and “veteran soldiers” as well as to local factory workers? The violence in the streets of Clichy points to a battle between the Popular Front and the extreme right to claim the working people, and especially the petty bourgeoisie whose support was essential to the political success of both left and right in this period, in France as elsewhere in Europe. It was, indeed, with a view to such competition that the Parti Social Français had been established on the model of the SFIO; and La Rocque certainly saw his party as the direct opponent of the Socialist and Communist parties. When questioned by the press about the tragedy at Clichy, he insisted that his new Party was far from being a reconstituted league. “This is its great novelty” he declared. “Like the Communist and Socialist parties, only with greater success, the PSF attracts the masses.”51 Moreover, Jacques Doriot’s Parti Populaire Français was undoubtedly motivated by a similar objective, although membership levels always remained far lower than those of the more conservative Parti Social Français. The tragedy at Clichy was thus one example of a wider challenge to Popular Front’s domination of the banlieue rouge. 49

Affiche, “P.P. 17 mars 1937”, APP Ba 1867. “P.P. 17 mars 1937”, APP Ba 1867. 51 “C’est le grand fait nouveau. Comme le Parti Communiste et le Parti Socialiste et bien plus qu’eux, le PSF entraîne les masses.” “Communiqué à la presse, 19 mars 1937”, APP Ba 1865. 50

Fighting for the Streets of Paris during the Popular Front, 1934–1938


Conclusion In the years of the Popular Front, the streets of Paris became the theatre for both violent conflict and the imagination of a new order. Consciously treading the paths of their historical predecessors, the political groups and parties of left and right delineated their own, rival images of the city. The left reinforced its identification with the working-class east and the revolutionary legacy through demonstrations recalling the sans-culottes of the 1790s and the Communards of 1871, and the Communist and Socialist parties expanded their control of the Parisian suburbs. The leagues and parties of the extreme right continued to develop their association with the west of the capital and with the patriotic commemoration of Joan of Arc and the Unknown Soldier. Yet while these two distinct images of Paris remained powerful influences on political rhetoric and imagination, they must also be juxtaposed with the deliberate crossing of boundaries between left and right. The patriotic Paris of the right was challenged by the Popular Front’s occupation of the Champs Élysées and by their commemoration of the Unknown Soldier on such occasions as 14 July or 11 November; the working-class and popular Paris of the left was challenged by the claims of the Parti Social Français and the Parti Populaire Français to the Parisian suburbs of Clichy and Saint-Denis. Political rivalry in the streets of Paris during the French Popular Front reveals more than a series of turf wars in a European context of heightened street violence: it also points to a deep-rooted concern to redefine the politics of popular representation. In response to the crisis of representation exposed by the riot of 6 February 1934, and to the wavering faith in nineteenth-century parliamentary democracy, the new movements and parties that had emerged into the age of mass politics were concerned to develop alternative visions. As the left adopted a more patriotic rhetoric and the right sought popular support, the Popular Front and the leagues and parties of the extreme right found themselves in direct competition in their organisation and representation of the people in the street. Those who fought in the streets of Paris were thus also fighting over the future of France.


The relationship between the Front National (FN) and Paris has not as yet been the subject of extensive study by French political scientists. This is the case both for political scientists studying the Front National1 and for those working on the political role of the French capital during the second part of the twentieth century. While there are probably many reasons to explain this lack of attention from researchers, it remains a fact that Paris has never been a bastion for the FN. From the beginning of the Fifth Republic and until the second half of the nineties,2 Paris was a right-wing city.3 The issue political scientists did study, however, was how the traditional right-wing parties that had been defeated by Gaullist movements then succeeded in coming back as members of Chirac’s party or local coalitions.4 This chapter discusses why the FN and Paris as the French capital never developed a serious affinity for one another. The first part concentrates on the reasons why a significant section of Parisian public opinion would potentially have been well-disposed towards the FN. The second part examines how JeanMarie Le Pen has, for many years, attempted to cultivate a certain image of the history of Paris, so as to present the capital as favourable to the extreme right. The third part deals with the electoral results of Le Pen’s party during this 1

Many excellent studies of course exist, and will be referred to throughout this chapter. Ever since the 2001 local elections, a coalition of left-wing parties has governed Paris. The 2001 electoral victory resulted largely from divisions in the right-wing parties. 3 As will be discussed, this is one of the reasons why the FN did not gain significant influence in the city. 4 Elisabeth Dupoirier, “Une ou deux droites à Paris?” Revue Française de Science Politique 27 (1977), 848–883; Florence Haegel, Un Maire à Paris. Mise en scène d’un nouveau rôle politique (Paris: Presses de la Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, 1994). 2

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period and discusses why Le Pen’s efforts have not resulted in significant success with Parisian voters up to and including the present time.

The Front National’s Two Weapons in the Political Battle for Paris There are two cards the FN might have played to gain significant political advantage in the capital city. The first concerns the very fact that Paris, the political capital of the country, had been a sanctuary for French nationalist movements throughout the twentieth century. In the well-known work edited by Pierre Nora, Les Lieux de mémoire,5 Nora suggests that in France the notions of centralised state and nation are inextricably linked. It is because the French nation is so closely linked to the history of the centralised state that it is also so closely linked to the history of its capital. Paris is important not only in terms of collective memory but also as the most significant political centre in France, despite the development of a decentralisation process that promotes political life at sub-national levels.6 In order to survive in the French political landscape, a political movement must maintain some kind of presence in Paris. For the FN, a party claiming membership of the nationalist right, such a requirement might have been facilitated by the fact that, from the turn of the century, Paris had been the only place in France in which the two main movements of the extreme right had been active. On one hand, Action Française gave a fresh boost to the old-fashioned monarchist movements that had lost their fight against the Republic after the failure of the Dreyfus Affair: Paris became the city from which Maurras led a new ideological battle against the republican system, developing through publications and oratory a specific political doctrine for the kind of extreme right whose roots could be traced back to the eighteenth century. On the other hand, Paris was also the birthplace of a new radical right that was both populist and anti-parliamentary.7 This movement consisted of leagues: the Ligue Antisémitique, the Ligue des Patriotes, and the Ligue de la Patrie française.8 5 Pierre Nora (ed.), Les Lieux de mémoire Vol. 2, La Nation (Paris: Gallimard, Bibliothèque Illustrée des Histories, 1996). 6 The decentralisation process began—on both regional and local levels—at the beginning of the eighties (see Chapter Six). 7 René Rémond, La Droite en France (Paris: Aubier, 1963); Jean-François Sirinelli, “L’Extrême Droite vient de Loin”, Pouvoirs 87 (1998), 5–19. 8 The Ligue Antisémitique was created in 1889, but became an important political actor only in 1897, under the leadership of Jules Guérin. This was the same moment at which the Ligue des Patriotes, an anti-Dreyfusard movement, was both active and employing tactics of street violence. In addition, the Ligue de la Patrie Française was founded in


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These groups recruited their members mainly among Parisian activists. The common characteristic of these two political families was a similar devotion to the French nation, conceived as being under threat and in consequent need of salvation from decline and dissolution.9 As René Rémond observed, “In 1900, nationalism was such a characteristic element of the right that it served as a programme, a label and a flag.”10 However, the importance of Paris for nationalist parties is not limited to its role as a scene for street activism, where members of anti-parliamentary movements fight against members of left-wing parties.11 Paris is relevant also because of the numerous electoral successes that nationalist movements have achieved there since the beginning of the twentieth century. The local elections of 1900 saw the defeat of the ruling radical socialist majority. The majority in the Council of Paris was won by the conservatives, with the leadership being made up of nationalist representatives.12 This was a symbolic watershed in local politics. Throughout the twentieth century, from that moment onwards, Paris maintained a tradition of support for the nationalist right-wing movement that is often described as both long-lasting and irregular.13 Right-wing nationalist movements existed in Paris throughout the Third Republic, with electoral coalitions of parties such as the Bloc National and the Union Nationale that sometimes belonged to the local majority and sometimes to the local minority, but were always represented on the Council. After the Second World War, in reaction to the rise of the only significant left-wing party in Paris, the Parti Communiste Français, and in reaction to the decolonisation process that took place between 1956 and 1962, the nationalist movement in Paris regained force, although it was greatly weakened in comparison to its pre-war status. The second card in the FN’s hand was its leader. Although not originally from Paris, Jean-Marie Le Pen began his political life in the French capital as an activist in student unions and, later, as a Parisian MP. Le Pen’s political involvement began shortly after the Second World War, when he came to Paris to study law at the university preferred by nationalist students, the Université

1898 with the aim of bringing together all anti-Dreyfusard activists among Parisian intellectuals. 9 Raoul Girardet, Le Nationalisme français, Anthologie 1871–1914: Textes Choisis, (Paris: Le Seuil, re-edition, Collection Albin Michel Histoire, 1983); Michel Winock, Histoire de l’extrême droite en France (Paris: Seuil, 1993). 10 Rémond, La Droite en France, 160. 11 See Chapter Two, “Fighting for the Streets of Paris”. 12 Philippe Nivet and Yvan Combeau, Histoire politique de Paris au XXe siècle: une histoire locale et nationale (Paris: PUF, 2000). 13 Sirinelli, “L’Extrême Droite vient de loin”, 5–19.

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Panthéon Assas.14 In 1949, the Corporation des Étudiants en Droit (Law Students’ Union) lost their left-wing majority, and Le Pen was elected President of the Union. As head of this powerful student union, he engaged it in the fight against the decolonisation process. From the Vietnam War to the Algerian War, Le Pen argued that all international conflict was a “worldwide and generally clandestine campaign waged by international Communism against the free world”.15 It was also in Paris that Le Pen had his first experience as an elected representative in 1956. He was introduced to Pierre Poujade, founder and leader of the UDCA16 party but also a supporter of Algérie Française. As head of the UDCA list in the third electoral district of Paris, Le Pen won the election. At 27, he was the youngest member of the French Chamber of Deputies and became renowned almost immediately for his skill as an orator. Even though Le Pen soon broke with Pierre Poujade and took leave of the National Assembly to join—as an officer—a regiment fighting abroad, his initial experience as a Member of Parliament was highly significant for the future. One of the central tenets of the FN’s anti-parliamentary programme has always been the protection of the little guy as opposed to the big shot: a battle against the established political elites. Furthermore, Pierre Poujade’s crusade against the mainstream parties known as the “gang of four” had already begun during Le Pen’s first term in the National Assembly. This was to give Le Pen important experience for his time in the FN in later years.17 Le Pen’s second term as a Parisian MP was from 1958 to 1962, when he was re-elected to Parliament in the third electoral constituency of Paris. At this time, Le Pen’s involvement in the movements fighting for Algérie Française18 was seen as so radical that the Gaullist party (Union pour la Nouvelle République) considered him dangerous and did not want him as a candidate. He joined the Centre National des Indépendants, a traditionalist, extreme-right movement consisting of politicians who had had a good relationship with the Vichy government as well as with the monarchists, and who were to become what Jonathan Marcus termed the “President’s men” ten years later.19 Until the Évian 14

Alain Rollat, Les Hommes de l’extrême droite. Le Pen, Marie, Ortiz et les autres (Paris: Calman-Lévy, 1973). 15 Jonathan Marcus, The National Front and French Politics. The Resistible Rise of JeanMarie Le Pen (London: Macmillan, 1995), 30. 16 Union de Défense des Commerçants et Artisans. 17 Gilles Bresson and Christian Lionet, Le Pen: biographie (Paris: Le Seuil, Collection L’Épreuve des Faits, 1994). 18 In 1957, he founded the Front National des Combattants (FNC), the aim of which was to oppose Algerian Independence. 19 Marcus, The National Front and French Politics, 35.


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Agreement that ended the Algerian war, Le Pen’s parliamentary activism was entirely focused on the fight against the Organisation de l’Armée Secrète (OAS) to maintain French Algeria. Even though he was not involved in the military plot against de Gaulle in 1961, Le Pen’s absolute opposition to the de Gaulle referendum on the independence of Algeria cost him his parliamentary seat in the general election of 1962, when he was defeated by a Gaullist challenger. This “Algerian period” was a significant one for the future FN. In the National Assembly, Le Pen developed and improved his conception of nationhood and nationality, which would later become the FN’s political ideology. For the FN, as Peter Davies wrote, “a nation is an organic entity, a product of history, culture and civilisation,” and: “on the question of what constitutes a nation, FN thinking has placed special emphasis on shared memories, suffering and the notion of sacrifice.”20 Le Pen had to wait for twenty-four years and President Mitterrand’s decision to reintroduce a proportional voting system for the general election of 1986 before making his comeback at the National Assembly as a Parisian MP. It was then that Le Pen was elected as an FN representative. But the FN party’s electoral score was well below the mark Le Pen himself had set twenty-two years previously in his former constituency, the Quartier Latin: 11% in 1986, compared with 18.4% in the first ballot of 1958.

Le Pen as Conquering Hero: Paris and the Myth of Joan of Arc For centuries, the figure of Joan of Arc has been one of the most popular symbolic figures for writers, politicians, and, more recently, political parties, from the left to the extreme right.21

Joan of Arc as a National Myth of the Nineteenth Century After the fall of the Second Empire in 1870, the loss of two regions of eastern France,22 the Prussian army’s occupation of Paris, and the civil war between the Paris Commune and the Versaillais,23 Joan of Arc served as a useful symbol of 20

Peter Davies, The National Front in France. Ideology, Discourse and Power (London and New York: Routledge, 1999), 19. 21 Gerd Krumeich, Jeanne d’Arc à travers l’histoire (Paris: Albin Michel, Collection Histoire, 1993). 22 Alsace and Lorraine, two territories in eastern France, were annexed by Germany in 1870. 23 Versaillais was the name given to the members of the temporary French government who negotiated a peace agreement with the Emperor of Germany.

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the desire to reconcile “the Old (Monarchist) France” and “The (Republican) France of the French Revolution”.24 It is significant that until 1920, when the French Catholic Church finally succeeded in having Joan of Arc canonized, she was a secular icon. From 1870 until the Dreyfus Affair, governing Republican parties used the Joan of Arc myth to support their political message on the unity of the French nation. They ordered five Joan of Arc statues for the city of Paris alone, with each one dedicated to a specific aspect of the myth.25 The aim was to promote an image of patriotism closely linked to the republican ideal that could be shared by members of all social classes: Joan of Arc sustained the myth that revenge would one day be taken on the Germans for the annexation of Alsace and Lorraine, just as she had led the insurrection against the English centuries earlier.26 As the historian Gerd Krumeich observed, the fight between the republicans and the monarchist and Catholic right-wing movements over the Joan of Arc myth began with Maurras and Action Française and ended in 1920, when she became a Catholic saint.27 From that moment on, references to Joan of Arc completely disappeared from left-wing speeches, and she became a rightwing, nationalist icon, which Marshall Pétain later employed in founding the new order of the État Français in opposition to the former Republic.

The FN’s Annual Ritual in Honour of Joan of Arc Joan of Arc’s feast day is the only significant and regular partisan event that Le Pen decided to celebrate in Paris. It is difficult to pinpoint when this day was first celebrated as a specifically FN event. Le Pen claims that the ritual began in 1979, “when, for the first time, the FN leaders united with their friends Michel de Saint-Pierre and Jean-François Chiappe28 to pay an independent, FN-specific homage to Joan of Arc—even if, at the time, the celebration was on May 8 and


As Jules Michelet had suggested in his famous Histoire de France, published earlier in the nineteenth century. 25 The first statue unveiled was on the Place des Pyramides. Two others were unveiled the same year (1889), one in a small square on the Boulevard Saint-Marcel on the left bank of the Seine and the other in front of the Saint-Augustin Church on the right bank. The fourth and fifth statues were set up in the eighteenth arrondissement in front of the Chapelle Saint-Denis and above the main door of the Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur (at the top of the Butte Montmartre). All these statues remain in their original locations today. 26 Zeev Sternhell, Maurice Barrès et le nationalisme français (Paris: Armand Colin, Cahier de la Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, 1972). 27 Krumeich, Jeanne d’Arc à travers l’histoire. 28 Michel de Saint-Pierre and Jean-François Chiappe were two well-known personalities who supported the extreme right movement.


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not May 1.”29 But until 1987, the year before Le Pen’s first FN candidacy for the 1988 presidential election, the national newspapers—including Le Monde and Le Figaro—did not cover the FN’s Joan of Arc procession and meeting. At the time, Joan of Arc Day had been celebrated for many years by monarchist movements,30 among which activists from Action Française and Catholic fundamentalist movements like the Scouts d’Europe were the most numerous. It is highly likely that Le Pen’s top leaders and activists joined the Catholic and monarchist right after the FN’s electoral success of the middle of the eighties.31 In 1987, it was decided that the FN’s Parisian ritual in honour of Joan of Arc would contain three distinctive elements. The first was the decision to assemble around the most warlike of the statues of Joan of Arc, a statue depicting her as a warrior, seated on her horse and waving the flag of her king, ready to lead the royal army to crush the English invaders (see Figure 3.1). Since then, the annual FN procession has come to a halt in front of this statue, situated in the Place des Pyramides in front of the Louvre and the Tuileries gardens. The second part of the ritual is the image of Joan of Arc and Le Pen standing together. Le Pen stands on a platform close to the statue and waits majestically for the procession to arrive. The third element of the ritual is the significant political speech that Jean-Marie Le Pen delivers at the end of each procession. The speech is addressed not only to Paris but also to the entire nation, and its structure never varies. In the first part, the leader outlines the current status of France and announces the FN’s policy for the coming year. The second part of the speech celebrates the aspects of the myth of Joan of Arc that best highlight Le Pen’s political message. Since 1988, a new facet has been added to the ritual: the feast day is now celebrated on 1 May, which is also national Labour Day in France. Le Pen himself explained his choice: “Labour Day, on the first of May, is a day that celebrates workers, and thus celebrates the French people and the work they perform.”32


“C’est, en effet, en 1979, mais encore à l’époque le 8 mai, que, pour la première fois, les dirigeants du Front avec nos amis Michel de Saint Pierre et Jean-François Chiappe, inaugurèrent l’hommage indépendant du Front National.” Jean-Marie Le Pen speech, 1 May 2000 (All subsequent extracts from Le Pen’s speeches are taken from this site.) 30 In commemoration of the day of her death, the second Sunday in May, a march was organised from a small royal chapel set behind the churches of Saint-Augustin and La Madeleine. 31 At the 1983 local elections and the elections for the European Parliament the following year. 32 “Pour notre part, nous avons placé notre hommage, aussi par goût de l’indépendance, le jour de la fête du Travail, le premier mai, fête des travailleurs et donc du peuple de France, en ses activités laborieuses.” Le Pen, 1 May 2000.

The Front National and Paris


Figure 3.1 The Joan of Arc monument in front of which the FN’s supporters make their annual parade

The FN Procession: The Monuments and Memory of the Golden Age of the Nation Even though the Joan of Arc procession changes slightly from year to year, the 27 processions between 1979 and 200533 have nonetheless occurred within the same limited radius bordered by the Louvre and the Tuileries to the south, the Saint-Augustin Church and the Opéra Garnier to the north, the Place du Châtelet 33 In his 2000 speech, Le Pen made a point of reminding the audience that the first Joan of Arc march had taken place in 1979, 21 years previously.


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to the east, and the Joan of Arc statue in the Place des Pyramides to the west. Starting sometimes from the “royalist sanctuaries” of the Saint-Augustin or La Madeleine Churches and sometimes from the more working-class areas of the Place du Châtelet and the Rue de Rivoli, passing through the royal palace of the Louvre, all the FN processions have paused in the Place des Pyramides in front of the statue of Joan of Arc, where Jean-Marie Le Pen waits for a wreath to be laid. The procession then moves towards the Opéra Garnier or towards the Place du Palais Royal in front of the Guichets du Louvre.34 The second starting point, the nearer of the two to the statue of Joan of Arc, has usually been chosen in years when fewer activists are expected.35 It is a fact that the participation of FN activists in the procession, as can be expected with all partisan activists, has tended to decrease over time. The highest number of participants—50,000—was attained in 1988, when Joan of Arc Day occurred between the first and the second ballot of the Presidential election. This occasion was the first time that Le Pen had succeeded in being chosen as the FN candidate for the presidency.36 With the exception of that year, attendance at the Joan of Arc procession has never exceeded 10,000 people.37 Since the second ballot of the 2002 presidential election, when Le Pen was Chirac’s challenger, the trend has not been in the FN’s favour: 10,000 people attended on 1 May 2002, but there were only 4,000 in 2003 and 3,000 in 2004. In any case, even in the best years for Le Pen’s party, the crowds on the streets or avenues along which the FN proceeded (Rue de Rivoli, Avenue de l’Opéra) cannot be compared to the processions organised by Action Française, which were attended by over 100,000 people on the eve of the First World War.38 Nor can any FN procession be compared to the march that took place in on 1 May 2002 on the wide boulevards of eastern Paris (Beaumarchais, République, Richard Lenoir, etc.), celebrating Labour Day39 and protesting vehemently against Le Pen’s astonishing defeat of the Socialist Jospin and qualification for the second round of the French presidential election.


The Guichets du Louvre were the gates through which accredited people entered the royal palace before it became a museum. 35 The distance from the Joan of Arc statue to the Place de l’Opéra is less than 1.5 kilometres. 36 To be eligible for candidacy in the presidential election, one must be supported by a minimum of 500 elected representatives from at least 30 different départements. 37 These estimates come from police evaluations of the number of activists each year as reported in Le Monde. 38 Krumeich, Jeanne d’Arc à travers l’histoire, 177–244. 39 The number of attendees at these demonstrations was high, despite the current decline in membership of leftist parties and workers’ unions.

The Front National and Paris


Figure 3.2 Routes of the three processions organised on 1 May 2002

Figure 3.2 shows the routes of the three processions that were organised on 1 May 2002, before the second ballot of the presidential election in which Le Pen was running against Jacques Chirac. As usual, the FN’s procession occupied the space at the centre of the capital, on the right banks of the Seine where the greatest number of monuments reflecting the glory of the nation are to be found. But neither the length of the march from the Place du Châtelet to the Place de l’Opéra (approximately two kilometres) nor the duration of the procession (less than 2 hours) can be compared to the length of the huge anti-FN procession organised by the republican parties, trade unions and associations that filled three large boulevards on the east side of Paris, stretching from the Place de la République to the Place de la Nation and lasting more than 8 hours.40 The third procession, dedicated to the memory of the man who had been thrown into the river Seine by FN members a few years before,41 started on the right bank of the river from the Carousel bridge in front of the Louvre Palace and continued to Saint-Germain des Près on the left bank. As usual, that walk was short in length—little more than half a kilometre—but included many important 40

The demonstrations lasted from the early afternoon (3 p.m.) until well into the night (11 p.m.). 41 See below.


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individuals well known for their involvement in anti-racist movements, including Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor of Paris, who delivered a speech. As far as FN strategy is concerned, the Joan of Arc procession should appear as a nation-wide procession that brings together all French—and, more recently, European—movements fighting for a similar idea of nationhood and for the superiority of national identity. The celebration of these common ideological views justifies the choice of Paris over Orléans (Joan of Arc’s birthplace) for the organisation of Joan of Arc Day. The FN rents private buses to drive activists or members of sympathetic organisations, like the Front National de la Jeunesse (FNJ), to Paris from other regions. The organisation of the procession is always the same: at the head, a young girl dressed as a fifteenth-century warrior and seated on a horse represents Joan of Arc. Directly behind the girl walks JeanMarie Le Pen with his family.42 They are followed by the executive members of the FN, with a specific place reserved for FN mayors and other dignitaries invited to attend the procession.43 Behind these personages walk the FN activists from other districts or regions of France, mingling with members of far-right regionalist parties from Alsace or Brittany, and also with groups of sympathetic movements from other European countries. The end of the procession consists of radical skinhead groups who have an ambiguous relationship with other FN activists and are often the first groups to turn violent. This violence may be directed against FN activists themselves—the ambiguous Délégation à la Protection et à la Sécurité (DPS) or members of the FNJ— or indeed against anti-FN activists44 or ordinary passers-by. On Joan of Arc Day in 1995, this culture of violence led to the murder of a passer-by, a native of Morocco, by three skinheads from the FN procession.45 The police investigation established that the only motivation for the attack was the man’s Arab origin. The leader of the FN qualified the murder as a mere “incident” and stressed that the FN was not responsible for the death.46


In the past few years, Le Pen has not walked in the procession, purportedly for health reasons. 43 Since Bruno Mégret—former second-in-command of the FN—left to found the Mouvement National Républicain in 1999, the number of FN dignitaries has decreased. 44 The anti-FN activists typically come from antiracist associations like Ras’le Front or SOS Racisme, or from radical left-wing political movements, such the Trotskyist Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire. 45 A young man walking alone along the bank of the Seine was attacked by three skinheads. They threw him into the river, and as a result of the rapid current and extreme cold, he died before police were able to supply him with first aid. The three skinheads were arrested and tried for murder. 46 Since that year, though, the Bourama committee, in concert with anti-racist associations, has organised an annual march on the left bank of the river starting from the

The Front National and Paris


Le Pen’s Political Appropriation of the Myth of Joan of Arc Clearly Le Pen considers his Joan of Arc Day speech to be one of his most important political speeches of the year. From the many memories and ideologies symbolised by Joan of Arc, Le Pen chooses those most suited to the political issues of the moment. As Peter Davies notes, “The FN has always emphasised its desire to create a uniform and homogeneous discourse,”47 and Le Pen’s speeches serve as an opportunity for him to publicise the FN’s programme of action and to ensure that elected regional and local FN representatives produce a coherent and consistent discourse.48 Four myths recur in this discourse. The first, and the most significant of the four, is the national myth.49 As Peter Davies wrote, “The FN’s adulation of Joan of Arc can be interpreted as an attempt, albeit simplistic and problematic, to identify the nation with one person, one image, one myth.”50 But in contrast to Michelet and Malraux, whose representations bound the image of Joan of Arc to that of a warlike but open nation,51 Le Pen’s representations of Joan of Arc attempt to create the image of a nation whose unity, sovereignty and identity are under threat. Each speech therefore highlights the characteristics of a group responsible for one of those threats: “the moral and intellectual corruption of the so-called elites” (1998), “the corruption and inefficacy of the politicians” (2005) and, above all, “the European fantasy” that is remembered every year. While Malraux spoke of a “Joan of Arc who restored confidence in the Nation”,52 Le Pen evokes Joan as a “great chief of war”, crushing the English armies in France (2004). And whereas Michelet was anxious to explain that Joan could be a common symbol uniting the old monarchist and Catholic France with the new secularized and republican France, Le Pen glorifies Joan in his annual speech as a “young girl belonging to both the earth and the heavens” who fought against “materialistic triumph” and “the decrease of religious dogma” (2003) and recalls Pont du Carousel where Bourama was murdered (see Figure 3.2). The march takes place concurrently with the Le Pen procession. 47 Davies, The National Front in France, 37. 48 As observers have noted, the FN is a highly centralised unit. See Marcus, National Front and French Politics; Pascal Perrineau, “La Dynamique du vote Le Pen: le poids du gaucho-Lepénisme”, in Pascal Perrineau and Colette Ysmal, Le Vote de crise: l’élection présidentielle de 1995 (Paris: Presses de Sciences Politiques et Département d’Études Politiques du Figaro, 1995). 49 Pascal Perrineau, “L’Image de la nation chez les électeurs du Front national”, Pensée Politique 3 (1995). 50 Davies, The National Front in France, 223. 51 Janine Mossuz-Lavau, André Malraux et le Gaullisme (Paris: Presses de la Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, Collection Références, 1992), 191. 52 André Malraux, Les Oraisons funèbres (Paris: Gallimard, 1971).


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her as having “the spiritual and celestial dimension of the Saint, of the Inspired Virgin” (2000). The second myth is “le mythe du Sauveur de la patrie,” (the myth of Joan of Arc as saviour of her homeland). Just as Joan of Arc was the young girl who “was instructed by the saints to save her homeland from a foreign invasion” (1999), so too is Le Pen the man who will safeguard the independence of contemporary France against the threat of invasions—both internal and external. This explains why, in the discourse of the FN, European treaties since Maastricht have always been compared with the ignominious Treaty of Troyes of 1442 that “recognized the King of England, Henry, as the heir to the French crown” after the death of Charles VI “the Fool” (2002). As Joan gave her life to save France, so in turn does the leader of the FN dedicate his life to combating the dangers that threaten the unity and sovereignty of the French nation, while comparing the FN programme of action to a “political restoration, a crusade” (2000). The third recurrent myth in the Parisian speeches is the suffering experienced by the lower classes as a result of the arrogance and incompetence of the elites. The opposition between the interests, but also the virtues, of the little guy in comparison with those of the big shot, is one of the most fundamental concerns of the FN as a populist party.53 Le Pen stresses Joan of Arc’s humble origins and the relationship between her poverty and her desire to rebel against the English occupation of France: he describes her as “a humble, lowly-born girl from the French countryside in Lorraine” (2000). It is because she was the representative of the “French peasants during a period when people had to work hard just to stay alive” (2001) that Joan understood the true meaning of national identity. Her rebellion against the inability of the French king and his government to govern justly and wisely has therefore been harnessed by Le Pen as a symbol for his own cause. She thus becomes a symbol of the FN’s “heroic resistance” to perceived economic and demographic flaws on a European or global level. This symbolism is particularly directed towards the little guy lost in the sea of homogeneity in today’s world.

The FN’s Perennial Failure to make Paris a Political Bastion As has been emphasised, there are many reasons that might lead one to imagine Paris as a stronghold of Le Pen’s party. But despite the political past of the French capital and despite the political career of Le Pen himself, Paris has never 53

Zeev Sternhell, Maurice Barrès et le nationalisme français (Paris: Armand Colin, Cahier de la Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, 1972); and Perrineau, “La Dynamique du vote Le Pen: le poids du gaucho-Lepénisme”.

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Figure 3.3 FN scores in Paris, in the Île de France and in France as a whole, 1983– 2004 FN Paris FN IDF FN National


% FN




19 99 P 20 02 -2 R 20 04



19 97 L

19 94 E

19 92 R

19 88 L

19 86 L


19 83


been an electoral bastion for the FN. There are several explanations for this phenomenon.

The Facts: Le Pen’s Electoral Results When Le Pen decided to run for the 1974 presidential election, he had only two years previously founded the FN and fought for the leadership of this new party that brought together similar movements of the far right. These included


Chapter Three

supporters of the Vichy regime, monarchists and those involved in fighting against the French decolonisation process. Against Tixier-Vignancour’s54 electoral score in Paris after the first presidential election (1965), Le Pen’s 1974 score could be considered a significant defeat: he obtained 1% of the 1974 vote in Paris, whereas Tixier-Vignancour had received 4.8% of the vote in 1965. This was the first sign of Le Pen’s difficulties in uniting the various movements of the far right that had supported Tixier-Vigancour nine years previously.55 Nevertheless, when compared with his national average (0.8%), Le Pen’s electoral result in Paris was not too bad. In terms of support for the FN by département,56 the département of Paris ranked in the top 25%. Moreover, the problem also went beyond the difficulty of winning Paris, as it is possible that the FN candidate did not manage to capitalise fully on the nation’s rancour against De Gaulle’s opposition to Algérie Française.57 After crossing an electoral desert, the FN began its real rise to electoral power in 1983 (see figure 3.3). In terms of Parisian voters, Figure 3.3 can be divided into two different electoral periods for the FN. The first, from 1983 to 1986, includes three different elections with different issues on local, European and national levels. Despite the diversity of the issues involved in each election, Le Pen managed to win over a significant number of voters in the capital, thus regaining his position as an elected representative of Paris. The municipal elections (1983) gave him the opportunity to test the new FN strategy: the call to the traditional ideological roots of the far-right movements was abandoned in favour of a call to vote against immigration, unemployment and insecurity, three main issues that would thereafter become deeply embedded in the discourse of the FN. At that time, Paris belonged to the small number of large cities58 in which right-wing parties rejected Le Pen’s proposal to stand with them as part of a broad right-wing list. The FN presented a list of candidates in seven of the twenty arrondissements of Paris; with the slogan “Paris for Parisians,” Le Pen himself was at the top of the list in one of those seven arrondissements. In spite of his failure to win a seat on the local council, he gained 11.3% of votes cast in 54 Jean Louis Tixier-Vignancour was a famous lawyer, a former minister in the Vichy government and, in the words of Jonathan Marcus, “a longstanding far-right notable” (Marcus, The National Front and French Politics, 57). 55 Le Pen himself had been involved in the Tixier-Vignancour campaign. 56 Paris is unique among French cities in being considered both a municipality and also one of the 100 départements (administrative units) that include 96 areas in mainland France and 4 overseas. 57 The anti-Algérie Française stance was promoted by the Organisation de l’Armée Secrète, an organisation that attempted to murder De Gaulle in 1962. 58 Other than Paris, Montpellier and Nice were the only large cities in which the FN had its own lists. This was in contrast to other cities, for example the famous case of Dreux, where FN notables were present on RPR lists.

The Front National and Paris


the first round. This clearly demonstrates that the leader of the party had created what could be termed “the Le Pen effect”. The effect in Paris was still obvious the following year when the national rise in the electoral success of the FN began with the 1984 elections to the European Parliament. Le Pen’s national FN list obtained 15.3% of the votes in the capital, a score much higher than its national average (11.1%) and even higher than the result in the suburbs of the Île de France region (14.5%). Two years later, in the 1986 general election, Paris still ranked among the top 25% of départements with the highest number of FN voters, and Le Pen himself became an elected representative of Paris. He took advantage of the change in the electoral system brought about by the introduction of proportional representation, and also of his good relationship with Édouard Frédéric-Dupont, a long standing and well known right-wing candidate and former UDCA elected representative, who invited Le Pen to run as part of his list. A very insightful study of the FN’s electoral success in the capital in the 1984 and 1986 elections59 stressed that Le Pen’s party had, in the European election, obtained the support of upper-middle class voters in upmarket areas. These voters sought to protest against the Socialist government, and did not support the European coalition list that had brought together right and centrist parties led by Simone Veil, leader of one of the right-of-centre parties. The kind of voters who used to vote for the RPR or the UDF60 turned to the national right-wing coalition of several parties for the 1986 general election. This demonstrates how the FN phenomenon in Paris had changed: in the 1986 election, the highest number of FN votes was cast in the north-eastern arrondissements of Paris, formerly the capital’s communist stronghold. From that point onwards, FN voting patterns illustrated the working-class nature and protest character of FN party voters.61 The second electoral period of the FN’s Parisian history opened with the 1988 presidential election. The title of the book Le Pen had published just before his electoral campaign, La France est de retour (The Rebirth of France, 1987), gave expression to the xenophobic and anti-immigration elements of Le Pen’s message, and was an attempt to rally populist and nationalistic voters of traditional far-right movements such as La Nouvelle Droite or the Club de l’Horloge. From 1988 up to and including the 2004 regional elections, however, 59

Nonna Mayer, “De Passy à Barbès: deux visages du vote Le Pen à Paris”, Revue Française de Science Politique 37 (1987), 891–906. 60 The Rassemblement pour la République and the Union pour la Démocratie Française were, respectively, a Gaullist party of the right and a centrist Christian Democratic party. 61 Nonna Mayer stressed the strong correlations between, on the one hand, the number of votes and, on the other, the number of manual workers and the proportion of North Africans living in these north-eastern arrondissements (Mayer, “De Passy à Barbès”), 903.


Chapter Three

Paris was no longer to be an electoral bastion for the FN. As Figure 3.3 highlights, the electoral fluctuations of the FN in Paris always reflected fluctuations in national results. In each election, the Parisian results were lower than regional or national averages. Right-wing voters in the western districts of Paris did not repeat their 1984 votes in favour of the FN, and in comparison with the 1984 election there was a high rate of abstention among working-class FN voters in north-eastern arrondissements, according to the mainstream issue of each election. It is therefore possible to argue that, throughout the nineties and up until the 2001 municipal elections in which the left-wing coalition was elected to power, voters in Paris were divided along two fault-lines. The first of these, and the more traditional of the two, divided the city from east to west, placing the mainstream right-wing parties (RPR and UDF) in opposition to the mainstream left-wing parties (the PS and the Verts).62 A second fault-line split the PS and RPR strongholds in the central arrondissements (the right and left banks of the river Seine) from the arrondissements on the periphery where the FN competed for influence with the radical left-wing parties (PC, Le Mouvement des Citoyens,63 and other parties of the far left). Le Pen himself was no longer to be quite so active in the electoral area of the French capital. He made it his sole aim to win the southern region of ProvenceAlpes-Côte d’Azur, or PACA, and to become president of the region, mayor of the regional capital, Marseilles, or perhaps even the region’s representative in the French or European Parliaments. Le Pen was not, however, successful in this respect. During the 2002 presidential election, in contrast with the national trend, he actually lost Parisian voters between the two rounds.

Parisian Reluctance to embrace the Front National There are two main factors that explain why Paris has never been a stronghold for the FN: one political, the other sociological. Together, these factors have had a detrimental impact on the likelihood of Parisians voting for the FN. The sociological profile of Parisians as compared to residents in the Île de France region or even the rest of France suggests that the set of characteristics predisposing voters towards the FN does not exist in the capital. In a comparison with national and regional averages, Figure 3.4 reveals that a significant proportion of the Parisian population are highly educated and have a good position in society: 44% hold a third level diploma (28% in Île de France; 62 The Parti Socialiste and the Verts are two leftist parties; the former was founded as a socialist reform movement, and the latter is based on environmental principles. 63 The Parti Communiste was formed as a communist party that remained very close to Moscow; the Mouvement des Citoyens was a group that separated from the socialist movement.

The Front National and Paris


18% in the whole country); 35% are members of the upper class, compared with 21% of the suburban population and 12% of French people as a whole. Lastly, almost three quarters of Parisians (72.5%) pay income tax (the national average is only 58%). At the other end of the scale, unskilled or less qualified workers are underrepresented in the Parisian workforce (35%) in comparison with the suburban areas around the capital (48%) and with France as a whole (56%). On the one hand, the unemployment rate (11.4% in 2003), the proportion of people who receive the Revenu Minimum d’Insertion (2.1%) and the number of senior citizens (19.5%) are all a little higher in Paris than in the rest of the country. But on the other hand Paris has a high proportion of its population in the workforce (54.5%), and a comparatively low proportion of immigrant workers. Figure 3.4 The sociological profile of the Parisian population compared with regional and national profiles64 % Foreigners in the total population Population under 25 Population from 25 to 60 Population over 60 Population of 15 and older with a postsecondary diploma or degree RMI* Population 2002 Households paying income tax Unemployment rate 2003** Skilled or highly qualified workers in the workforce Unskilled or less qualified workers in the workforce

Paris 14.5

Île de France 23

France 12

26 54.5

32 51

32 47.5

19.5 44

16.5 28

20.5 18
















. 64

Source: INSEE general population census of 1999. RMI*: Revenu Minimum d’Insertion (a state-sponsored welfare system in which those French residents who qualify receive monetary assistance). **Unemployment rate according to the International Labour Organisation definition.


Chapter Three

Essentially, these figures suggest that the Parisian population is materially much better off than the population of the Île de France or, indeed, than the French population as a whole. A priori, this sort of population is not particularly interested in a rhetorical discourse like that of Le Pen. The Parisian population is not particularly concerned with immigration and insecurity, even if certain sections of the Parisian population might sometimes be receptive to the FN’s emphasis on the protection of the family and attachment to a national identity perceived to be under threat from European integration or internationalism. The phenomenon of gentrification has radically changed voting tendencies in Paris. As in many capital cities in western countries, housing in Paris became a major problem for manual labourers and less qualified workers in the third sector during the last two decades of the twentieth century. Many members of this class have been forced to abandon Paris for the suburbs. Meanwhile, a new middle class known as BOBOs, or “Bourgeois Bohemians”, has emerged, consisting of highly educated people under forty years old who often have a liberal interpretation of society and who work in cutting-edge sectors of new technologies and communication. The views of this class are, of course, in complete contradiction with Le Pen’s proposed vision of a traditional and closed French society. A second element may be identified in the sociological trends that have adversely affected the future of the FN in Paris: the fact that the Parisian political landscape is not currently advantageous to Le Pen’s party. From the first mayoral election in 197765 to the 1995 presidential election, Parisian rightwing parties had a “boss” who increased his local and national power in each successive election: Jacques Chirac.66 As one of the best observers of French political life wrote in an essay dedicated to Chirac’s political life: Jacques Chirac never shared François Mitterrand’s analysis that Jean-Marie Le Pen was a right-wing politician like any other, a nationalist braggart, nothing more. Of course he draws on evil strengths and encourages xenophobic sentiment, but he has nothing of a Nazi or a Fascist. Jacques Chirac, who takes the opposite point of view, did all in his power to ostracise the president of the Front National. After wavering slightly at the beginning of the 80s, he fought long and hard against anyone in his own camp who was prepared to compromise with the Front National.67

65 The first mayoral election in Paris in the twentieth century took place in 1977; hitherto Paris had not been allowed to have a mayor on account of its revolutionary past, and was instead headed by a prefect. 66 Haegel, Un Maire à Paris, Chapter Three. 67 Franz-Olivier Giesbert, La Tragédie du Président (Paris: Flammarion, 2006).

The Front National and Paris


Chirac, who was well able to fight Le Pen on his own turf, never found it necessary to negotiate with him. As president of the RPR, the biggest right-wing party in France and one that he himself had founded in 1975, the mayor of Paris formed a focus for all rightwing sympathisers in the capital. The huge municipal majority that has controlled Paris since 1983 has united centre-right parties like the UDF, some RPR-elected representatives and local councillors, and nationalist parties like those of Charles Pasqua or Philippe de Villiers. All of these movements and individuals are bound together behind their charismatic leader, Jacques Chirac.68 Figure 3.5 shows without a doubt that the “Chirac effect” offsets the “Le Pen effect,” even if the president of the FN may also be considered to be charismatic. Figure 3.5 The “Chirac effect” in Paris against Le Pen: presidential election results for Jacques Chirac and Jean-Marie Le Pen in Paris compared with their results in the Île de France region

Presidential election

1981: first round 1988: first round 1988: second round 1995: first round 1995: second round 2002: first round 2002: second round

Chirac’s score in Paris %

Chirac: Difference between Paris– Île de France

Le Pen’s score in Paris %

27.0 31.6 54.7

+ 8.4 + 11.3 + 8.0

13.4 -

Le Pen: Difference between Paris–Île de France - 2.5 -

32.2 60.0

+ 8.6 + 4.8

9.4 -

-4.7 -

24.0 90.0

+ 3.8 + 5.4

10.4 10.0

- 4.2 -4 .4

Source: CEVIPOF/Ministère de l’Intérieur The “Chirac effect” drives Le Pen’s party away from the western arrondissements and towards the north-eastern areas, which have never been right-wing strongholds.

68 Elisabeth Dupoirier, “L’Elezione del sindago a Paris: da Chirac a Delanoë (1977– 2004)”, Quaderni dell’Observatorio Elettorale 52 (2004), 29–58.


Chapter Three

Conclusion: Will the Departure of Chirac leave Space for Le Pen and the FN? The question of the post-Chirac period in Paris was first raised in 1995, following Chirac’s success in the presidential election. After a six-year period of internal RPR struggle that weakened the strength of all of the parties on the right, a left-wing coalition—“la gauche plurielle”—won the 2001 municipal elections. The new coalition, which brought together communist, socialist and ecologist councillors with members of organised civil society, elected a new socialist mayor: Bertrand Delanoë. The main issue is now to determine whether Chirac’s retirement from Parisian politics will create a new opportunity for Le Pen’s party. Today, there is no sign of such an opportunity. The results of the 2004 regional and European elections do not suggest a political revival of the FN in Paris. On the contrary, Le Pen’s party obtained the lowest two scores of its Parisian electoral history: 9% in March’s regional election and 8.2% in June’s European vote. The results of the 2005 referendum on the European constitution stressed that, unlike voters in the rest of France, the majority of Parisian voters were in favour of a European constitution. This attitude was in direct contradiction with the FN’s negative attitude vis-à-vis the political construction of Europe. The second negative sign for the future of the FN in Paris emerged during the two 2004 elections: the traditional French electoral cleavage between left and right replaced the new nationalist cleavage between an open and a closed society. If the old left-right cleavage continues to exist until the next general election in 2007, it is unlikely that the FN will increase its footing in Paris.



The bulk of research on the relationship between Charles de Gaulle and the media has traditionally focused on two areas: the opinions of French and foreign newspapers on the French leader,1 and de Gaulle’s overall communications strategy, notably the famous broadcast addresses and press conferences.2 This *

This chapter is abstracted from Jean Chalaby, The de Gaulle Presidency and the Media: Statism and Public Communications (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), and is published here in an adapted form with the kind permission of Palgrave Macmillan. 1 See André Caudron, “L’Image de Charles de Gaulle dans la presse du Nord”, Espoir 75 (1991), 12–9; Laurent Jalabert, “La Dépêche du Midi contre le Général de Gaulle: vingttrois ans d’opposition”, Espoir 75 (1991), 20–7; Yves Lavoinne, “L’Ombre du Général de Gaulle dans l’Humanité clandestine (première partie)”, Espoir 75 (1991), 28–53l; Viatcheslav S. Chilov, “L’image de De Gaulle et de la France dans la presse soviétique des années 1958–1964”, Espoir 77 (1991), 59–66; Margit Sandner, “Charles de Gaulle dans les médias autrichiens (1958–1969)”, Espoir 76 (1991), 37–46; David R. Watson, “De Gaulle vu par la presse britannique en 1958’, Espoir 76 (1991), 25–36; Liu Xiaoming, “La Presse chinoise et de Gaulle depuis 1940”, Espoir 77 (1991), 51–8; Bernard Montergnole, “De Gaulle en Isère (septembre 1948) au travers de la presse locale”, Espoir 89 (1992), 32–7; David L. Schalk, “La Politique algérienne du Général de Gaulle vue des États–Unis”, Espoir 89 (1992) 23–5; Gordon Wright, “Charles de Gaulle parmi les Américains”, Espoir 89 (1992), 13–22; Pierre Albert, “La Presse française et Charles de Gaulle avant juin 1940”, Espoir 89 (1992), 27–31; Inga Brandell, “De Gaulle et les grands moments de la Guerre d’Algérie, à travers la presse suédoise”, Espoir 89 (1992), 48–55; and Thierry Garcin, “Le Figaro et Le Monde lors du départ et de la mort du Général de Gaulle”, Espoir 91 (1993) 77–50. 2 See Danielle Bahu-Leyser, “De Gaulle et les médias, 1958–1969”, Espoir 66 (1989), 47–53; Jacqueline Baudrier, “Charles de Gaulle et la radio”, Institut Charles de Gaulle

Making Sense of de Gaulle's Broadcasting Policy


chapter analyses a facet of the relationship between de Gaulle and the media that has received less attention: the broadcasting policy that the French leader implemented during his presidency in the 1960s. The first section outlines de Gaulle’s broadcasting policy and concentrates on the two reforms instigated by the Gaullist regime in 1959 and 1964. Then, the chapter deconstructs this policy into four core elements: institutional (referring to its statist nature), political (the national broadcaster as an instrument of government), ideological (Gaullists thought that television could be used to reinforce social cohesion and national identity), and national, as the policy entrusted the state broadcaster with an official character and a mission of representation abroad. Paris, as the seat of national government and the capital of the centralised state, offered a symbolic focus for de Gaulle’s broadcasting policy: the centre from which could radiate his message of national and social cohesion.

The Broadcasting Laws under de Gaulle When the Gaullists came to power in May 1958, they inherited a state broadcaster that had not been granted a statute and was entirely subordinated to political power. The association between the Radiodiffusion-télévision française (RTF) and the government was so close that from 1948 onwards the Minister of Information and his family lived on the top floor of the building of the national broadcaster at 36, Avenue Friedland, in the eighth arrondissement of Paris. The Minister’s office and Cabinet were located on the floor below his apartment, followed by the offices of the RTF Director General and that of the Director of Information. The Minister had on his desk a keyboard wired to bells that summoned the RTF Director General and senior administrative staff.3 The new regime immediately set to task to grant a statute to the RTF. In the course of summer 1958, de Gaulle rejected a first project that would have granted some autonomy to the national broadcaster. Instead, the new statute, which was approved by the National Assembly on 4 February 1959, maintained

(ed.), De Gaulle et les médias (Paris: Plon et Fondation Charles de Gaulle, 1994), 191–6; Jean-Marie Cotteret and René Moreau, Recherches sur le vocabulaire du Général de Gaulle (Paris: Colin, 1969); Jean-Pierre Guichard, De Gaulle et les mass media: L’Image du Général (Paris: France-empire, 1985); Gilbert Pérol, “Les Conférences de presse”, De Gaulle et les médias, 271–85; Alain Peyrefitte, “De Gaulle et la communication”, De Gaulle et les médias, 101–9. 3 Alain Peyrefitte, interview, 4 May 1999.


Chapter Four

the state monopoly on broadcasting and the “authority” (Article 1) of the Ministry of Information over the RTF.4 This reform set the government on a collision course with the trade unions, civil society leaders and the opposition. Facing constant criticisms, de Gaulle’s successive ministers of information were soon forced to think of a new reform and pleaded with him to let them confer more autonomy on the RTF. Following years of pressure from Alain Peyrefitte—the Minister of Information he had appointed in June 1962—de Gaulle reluctantly acquiesced to a project of reform toward the end of February 1964. When he examined the bill on the new RTF statute, he imposed two changes. Firstly, he barred the election of the general director of the national broadcaster by a newly created board of trustees, arguing that only the cabinet should appoint the person to whom the state delegates its “authority”.5 He also rejected the proposal of attributing half of the seats of the board to RTF personnel representatives. The National Assembly approved the bill on its third reading on 27 June 1964. The government had to resort to Article 44 of the Constitution, blocking at once all the opposition’s amendments. The law’s main clauses changed the name to Office de Radiodiffusion-télévision française (ORTF); maintained the state monopoly; kept the ORTF under the “tutelage” of the Ministry of Information (previously under its “authority”) (Article 2); created a board of trustees; mandated that the general director and deputy directors of the ORTF be appointed by the cabinet; and maintained the ORTF subject to the financial control of the Ministry of Finance.6 The reform kept the concessions to liberalism to a strict minimum. Firstly, the ORTF director was still to be nominated by the cabinet, in spite of repeated calls from independent legal experts for his or her appointment by the board of trustees. The law did not specify the period of appointment, allowing the government to dismiss him or her at short notice. Secondly, half of the members of the newly created board of trustees were appointed by the cabinet as representatives of the state, and none of the other eight members could be appointed without the government’s approval. The president of the board, Wladimir d’Ormesson, had been selected by de Gaulle himself on the grounds that he was a “loyal servant of the state.”7 The reform did not affect the relationship between the broadcaster and the government. In the following years, calls for reforms multiplied from the opposition and civil liberties organisations. The ORTF personnel were also 4

Ordinance no. 59–273, Journal Officiel (J.O.) Lois et Décrets, 11 February 1959, 1859– 60. 5 Alain Peyrefitte, C’était de Gaulle, Vol. 2 (Paris: de Fallois/Fayard, 1997), 173–4. 6 J.O. Lois et Décrets, 28 June 1964, 5636–7. 7 Peyrefitte, C’était de Gaulle, Vol. 2, 175.

Making Sense of de Gaulle's Broadcasting Policy


deeply disillusioned about the statute, and their frustration with the management led to severe disruptions. Between October 1966 and March 1967, the ORTF directors received no less than 127 strike warnings.8 By 1968, the ORTF had risen to the forefront of the political scene. The opposition was revolting in Parliament against the decision of the government to introduce advertising on television. Roland Dumas, a Socialist deputy, had tabled a bill in November 1967 stipulating that the introduction of advertising on television necessitated the approval of Parliament. Following long quarrels between the Gaullist majority and the opposition, the debate on Dumas’s text finally opened on 17 April. When the Gaullists diverted the discussion, the Socialists retracted their bill and tabled a motion of censure against the government’s broadcasting policy. The debate on the motion opened on 23 April in a heated atmosphere, the Socialists accusing the government of turning the ORTF into a propaganda machine. The motion, voted the next day, missed the 244-majority by eight deputies.9 In the ensuing weeks the national broadcaster remained high on the political agenda. Several political parties put forward bills aimed at restricting advertising on television. In early May, in the space of two days no less than four special commissions on the ORTF were approved by the National Assembly: three covered advertising and a fourth the ORTF’s handling of information.10 Three major reports on the ORTF were released between April and May. The first was the work of a senatorial commission appointed in December 1967 and headed by centrist Senator André Diligent, the second was published by Télé-Liberté and the third was issued by the Conseil Économique et Social, a governmental body glossing on salient public issues.11 All were equally critical of the ORTF but only the Diligent report had a wide public echo. Released in April 1968, this report censured most clauses of the 1964 statute, pointing to the lack of accountability of the broadcaster, the impossibility for Parliament to scrutinise the activities of the ORTF and the refusal by the Minister of Information to implement any of the reforms that had been suggested to him. The report concluded its analysis of the 1964 statute with the following words:


André Astoux, Ondes de choc (Paris: Plon, 1978), 25. La Correspondance de la presse, 17–25 April 1968. 10 Ibid., 8–9 May 1968. 11 André Aumonier, “Le Problème de la télévision”, Session de 1968, Séances des 7 et 8 Mai 1968, Journal Officiel de la République Française, Avis et Rapports du Conseil Économique et Social, 13 July 1968. 9


Chapter Four We notice that the statute reflects, as a whole, an authoritarian state of mind, which explains that although it originally contained some liberal openings (…) it is interpreted and applied in an authoritarian way.12

These words reflect the resentment of the opposition towards the government’s control over the national broadcaster, which remained an object of controversy throughout the 1960s.

The Four Constituents of the Gaullist Broadcasting Policy The 1959 and 1964 broadcasting reforms show the most visible traits of the Gaullist broadcasting policy: state monopoly on broadcasting and direct governmental control over the national broadcaster. Whilst these elements are central to the policy, they do not solely account for its scope. This section argues that the Gaullist broadcasting policy is best analysed as being constituted by four interrelated, but nonetheless distinct, parts.

Television and the Process of State-Building The statist nature of the Gaullist broadcasting policy stems from two of its key features: the safeguarding of the state monopoly and the concomitant opposition to open access to commercial interests in the sector. Although the state monopoly pre-existed the de Gaulle regime, its legislative record shows that the regime was strongly committed to it. This commitment is further illustrated by the disposition of the government towards peripheral radio stations. As no commercial radio was allowed in France, a handful of stations, among them Radio-Luxembourg, Radio MonteCarlo and Europe 1, breached the monopoly by transmitting from the outskirts of the French territory. To check these stations, the French government bought into their controlling companies. In November 1959, it acquired nearly half the controlling interests of Europe-1 through a state holding called the SOFIRAD


“Nous nous apercevons que le statut reflète, dans l’ensemble, un état d’esprit autoritaire, ce qui nous expliquera que dans la mesure où il comportait…certaines virtualités libérales, il ait été ensuite interprété et appliqué dans un sens autoritaire.” André Diligent, “Rapport fait en conclusion des travaux de la Commission de Contrôle (…) chargée d’examiner les problèmes posés par l’accomplissement des missions propres à l’Office de Radiodiffusion-télévision française”, deuxième session ordinaire de 1967–1968, Séance du 2 avril 1968, Document 118, Journal Officiel Sénat (1968), 40.

Making Sense of de Gaulle's Broadcasting Policy


(Société Financière de Radiodiffusion). It also possessed minority stakes in Radio-Luxembourg and more than 80% of the shares of Radio Monte-Carlo.13 When conflicts of interest arose between the French government and these stations, it did not hesitate to deal heavy-handedly with two of the tiny states hosting these radios, Luxembourg and Monaco. It repeatedly bullied RadioLuxembourg over political reporting and appointments, interrupting the broadcast on one occasion (some cables crossed the French territory), and once threatened the Principality of Monaco to cut electricity supplies after a dispute about controlling shares of Radio Monte-Carlo.14 The issue of peripheral radio stations was raised at Cabinet level in March 1965. De Gaulle complained to the Prime Minister that these stations were in “clear breach of the monopoly purposefully instated by the legislation in France” and demanded that the breach should end as soon as possible, and thus restore Parisian predominance.15 There are several reasons that explain the commitment of the Gaullist government to the state monopoly. Firstly, it stems from the overall statist nature of de Gaulle’s political doctrine.16 Time and again, de Gaulle castigated the weaknesses and the fragility of the previous regimes and insisted that only a powerful and centralised state could govern for the general interest and face down sectarian political parties, trade unions and lobby groups.17 During his first spell in power, between 1944 and 1946, the French leader (in agreement with the rest of the political class), nationalised energy production (coal, oil, gas and electricity), the banking system, the means of transportation and the main industrial conglomerates.18 He created an array of powerful institutions, governmental agencies and regulatory bodies to give the state the means to play a central role in the social, economic and cultural life of the 13

Henri Dolbois, “Les Radios périphériques, des concurrentes stimulantes ou des victimes du pouvoir?” Institut Charles de Gaulle (ed.), De Gaulle et les médias, 202–11; Christian Brochand, Histoire générale de la radio et de la télévision française, Vol. 2, 1944–1974 (Paris: La Documentation Française, 1994), 274–336. 14 Ibid., 288–9, 329–30. 15 18 March 1965, in Charles de Gaulle, Lettres, notes et carnets, janvier 1964–juin 1966 (Paris: Plon, 1987), 140. 16 Statism is defined here as “the system of thought and the ensemble of actions and decisions that aim at reinforcing the political, legal and symbolic means placed at the disposal of the state in order to strengthen its role and influence in the social and economic life of the nation.” 17 See, for example, Charles de Gaulle, Mémoires de guerre, Vol. 1, L’Appel, 1940–1942 (Paris: Plon, 1954), 31–6, 86–7; ibid., Vol. 3, Le Salut, 1944–1946 (Paris: Plon, 1959), 14–5, 41, 53, 285–90. 18 François-Charles Bernard, “Les Nationalisations dans la pensée de Charles de Gaulle”, Espoir 103 (1995), 56–8.


Chapter Four

nation. Among these creations figure the École Nationale d’Administration (ENA), founded in 1945 to homogenise the recruitment and formation of the French political elite, and the Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité (CRS), the anti-riot police forces.19 When de Gaulle returned to power in May 1958, he governed France with a similar political mindset and created yet another institution that made the French state more powerful and centralised than ever: the presidency. In this context, to keep broadcasting under state control was a matter of balance between the private and public sector. When the state is already entrusted with energy production, banking, transport and the manufacture of a variety of products ranging from cars to aeroplanes, it is logical to confide to it the charge of broadcasting. Gaullism gave the state enough power, attributions and responsibilities for the broadcasting media to remain a state institution and the state apparatus was vast enough to incorporate a broadcasting organisation. French television was a cog in a vast and ubiquitous state apparatus that dominated the life of the nation and of all its citizens from its Parisian headquarters. De Gaulle’s statist doctrine comprised a belief in dirigism, which specifically dictated that the economy should remain under political control. It was not merely a case of keeping broadcasting in the hands of the state, but also of protecting it from the private sector and the market forces. De Gaulle was adamant: “The market is not above the nation and the state. It is the nation and the state that must dominate the market.”20 With such a concept of the relationship between the state and the market, commercial broadcasting could not prosper in France. Entrepreneurs and commercial ventures were perceived as intrinsically alien to the national interest. This left the state with the sole legitimacy to oversee broadcasting. 19

Notwithstanding the fact that in the aftermath of the Second World War there was a large consensus in the political class to give the state a central role in rebuilding the country, these measures fully reflected de Gaulle’s innermost ideological preferences. He began to justify these nationalisations during the war, notably in a lecture given at the National Defence Public Interest Committee in April 1942, and in a public address at the Royal Albert Hall, London, two months later. See Charles de Gaulle, Discours et messages, Vol. 1, Pendant la guerre, juin 1940–janvier 1946 (Paris: Plon, 1970), 176– 81, 197–204; idem, Mémoires de guerre, Vol. 3, Le Salut, 1944–1946 (Paris: Plon, 1959), 329. On the creation of state institutions, see Arnaud Teyssier, “Le Général de Gaulle et la création de l’ENA”, Espoir 103 (1995), 31–7, and also Charles de Gaulle, Mémoires de guerre, Vol. 3, Le Salut, 1944–1946 (Paris: Plon, 1959), 330, and idem, Discours et messages, Vol. 3, Avec le Renouveau, mai 1958–juillet 1962 (Paris: Plon, 1970), 145–7. 20 “Le marché n’est pas au-dessus de la nation et de l’État. C’est la nation, c’est l’État qui doivent surplomber le marché.” Peyrefitte, C’était de Gaulle, Vol. 1, 524.

Making Sense of de Gaulle's Broadcasting Policy


It was a question not merely of what the state could do for television, but of what television could do for the state. In his resolve to restore state authority, de Gaulle was determined that the state should develop its communication capabilities to the full. He once said: “This establishment [the RTF], should be the voice of the state in France.”21 He detailed his thought to his Minister of Information, Alain Peyrefitte, in 1962: Do you think that the Third Republic would have taken root if it was not forceful, if it did not take hold of primary education, secondary schools, academia, history textbooks and most newspapers? It imposed a fait accompli on a ruling class that was massively hostile to her: “La Gueuse”! The monarchists, then the majority, were divided—as the right-wing always are—between three pretenders to the throne: the Orleanist, the Legitimist and the Bonapartist. Thus Thiers concluded: “It is the Republic that is the least divisive”. For decades, they bombarded this theorem and imprinted it in the minds of the people. The left, the Freemasons, the unions and the Black Hussards [primary school teachers], obstinately inculcated the idea that there was no other possible regime, that it showed a lack of civic sentiment to imagine another one, that any adversary to the regime was not a good French citizen. Even so, they needed the Great War to provoke, facing the enemy, a union of the souls to make the Republic accepted by almost everybody! Forty-five years after its proclamation! It is only three-and-a-half years since we established the new regime. It will need much more time to become irreversible! (…) This is not the moment to make a statute for the RTF! By law, you have authority over the institution, its managers, technicians and journalists! Keep this authority! The future of the regime depends largely on the way this authority is exerted. One never knows what will happen! The time to decolonise, as you say, has not yet come!22


“…cet établissement, qui devrait être la voix de l’État en France…” Ibid., 98. “Et la Troisième République, vous croyez qu’elle se serait enracinée, si elle n’avait pas eu de la poigne, si elle n’avait pas pris en main les écoles, les lycées, l’université, les manuels d’histoire, la plupart des journaux? Elle a imposé le fait accompli à une classe dirigeante qui lui était massivement hostile: ‘la Gueuse !’ Les monarchistes étaient majoritaires mais divisés—comme toujours la droite—entre trois prétendants, l’orléaniste, le légitimiste et le bonapartiste. Thiers a conclu : ‘C’est la République qui nous divise le moins.’ Et pendant des décennies, on a matraqué ce théorème pour l’imprimer dans les cervelles. “La gauche, les francs-maçons, les syndicats, les hussards noirs ont fait pénétrer opiniâtrement l’idée qu’il n’y avait pas d’autre régime possible que la République, qu’il était incivique d’en imaginer un autre, que tout adversaire du régime était un mauvais Français. Et encore, il a fallu la guerre de 14 pour provoquer, devant l’ennemi, la fusion des volontés et faire accepter la République à peu près par tous ! Quarante-quatre ans 22


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According to de Gaulle, the Fifth Republic would crumble without the capacity to sustain the ideology necessary to gain the adhesion of the French people. Thus for de Gaulle the national broadcaster was a state institution in the full meaning of term. Broadcasting policy for de Gaulle was not merely about television, it was about the contribution television could make to the restoration of the state as a central and dominant institution in modern France. From a Weberian perspective, de Gaulle was adding a dimension to the definition of the state as exclusive holder of force.23 With the state monopoly on broadcasting, the Gaullist state did not only claim monopoly on the use of physical force (the police and the army), but also sought to monopolise the use of symbolic violence.

Television as an Instrument of Government The second dimension of the Gaullist broadcasting policy is political. As well as advocating a strong state focused on Paris, the French president wanted a strong government. A case in point was the electoral mode, tailored by de Gaulle to suit his political objectives.24 To guarantee the formation of a majority at the Assembly, a majority system was preferred to proportional representation. A second round between the two remaining candidates was also introduced in the electoral procedure in order to harm the prospects of left-wing radicals and other communists. It favoured the election of local notables, who often ran under Gaullist colours.25 après sa proclamation! Il n’y a que trois et demi que nous avons installé le nouveau régime. Il lui faudra bien plus de temps pour devenir irréversible! (…) “Ce n’est vraiment pas le moment de faire un statut pour la RTF! Vous avez de par la loi autorité sur l’établissement, sur ses cadres, sur ses techniciens, sur ses journalistes! Cette autorité, gardez-la! L’avenir du régime dépend en grande partie de la manière dont elle sera exercée. On ne sait jamais ce qui peut arriver! L’heure n’est pas venue de décoloniser, comme vous dites! ” Ibid., 497–8. 23 Max Weber, Economy and Society, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), Vol. 1, 56. 24 Charles de Gaulle, Mémoires d’espoir, Vol. 1, Le Renouveau, 1958–1962 (Paris: Plon, 1970), 38. 25 The bias of the electoral system can be illustrated by the legislative elections in November 1962. At the second round of the legislative elections, on 25 November, the Gaullist party (UNR), obtained 198 seats, and their allies, 133 seats. Under a proportional representation system, and with the same numbers of votes, the Gaullists would have got 82 seats and their allies 94. The left, including the Communists, obtained 77 seats, instead of the 221 deputies they would have obtained under proportional representation. A Gaullist candidate needed on average 19,000 votes to get elected, a candidate from a centre-right party 46,000, a centre-left candidate 76,000, a Socialist 79,000 and a

Making Sense of de Gaulle's Broadcasting Policy


The government’s broadcasting policy was drafted with similar intentions. The Gaullists did not think of the national broadcaster as a public institution, but as a governmental agency designed to help the regime govern. In the early stages of the de Gaulle presidency, the Minister of the Interior, Roger Frey, admitted that thanks to television the state “possessed” a channel of communication and that “it would be absurd for the state to surrender this means to all those who, in the press and elsewhere, attempt to vilify or destroy its action.”26 In January 1962, an RTF director expressed the same proprietorial attitude towards the national broadcaster when television journalists complained that he had censored declarations from opposition parties on the Algerian conflict. He replied that it was his role to control the contents of the news bulletins and that he would never allow the RTF—an institution servicing the nation—to relay the “propaganda” of organisations (the leftist parties) that “had excluded themselves from the nation.”27 Alain Peyrefitte had a similar concept of the national broadcaster in mind when he argued in Parliament that since the press sided with the opposition in certain regions, the government was entitled to keep television.28 De Gaulle shared this philosophy, which he expressed through a metaphor: When entrepreneurs bid to construct a building, it is the successful company that has the right to be on the building site and those who have lost have nothing to do with it. One would not accept that they incessantly visit the site and criticise the way their colleagues work.29

Once the government had been elected, de Gaulle contended, the opposition was not welcome to interfere, through the media or otherwise. These views explain why access to the national broadcaster remained restricted for the opposition and why the government never relinquished its Communist 380,000. See Pierre Viansson-Ponté, Histoire de la république gaullienne, Vol. 1, mai 1958–juillet 1962 (Paris: Fayard, 1971), 79. 26 “L’État dispose d’un moyen de communication qui est un relais entre lui-même et l’opinion publique. Il serait absurde que l’État livre ce moyen à tous ceux qui, dans la presse ou ailleurs, ne cherchent qu’à vilipender son action, à la saboter, ou à détruire, d’une façon ou d’une autre, le moyen de règlement qu’il essaye de mettre en œuvre.” Brochand, Histoire générale de la radio et de la télévision française, Vol. 2, 95. 27 Le Monde, 23 January 1962. 28 J.O. Assemblée Nationale, 30 April 1965, 1059. 29 “Mais il avait une image…que quand des entrepreneurs concurrent pour obtenir une adjudication, pour construire un immeuble, et bien c’est l’entrepreneur qui a obtenu l’adjudication qui a le droit d’être sur le chantier, mais les autres entrepreneurs qui ont été évincés n’ont rien à faire sur le chantier. Et on n’admettrait qu’ils viennent critiquer à tout instant la manière de travailler d’un collègue.” Alain Peyrefitte, interview, 4 May 1999.


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control over its own airtime.30 It was not an objective of the broadcasting policy to turn French television into a public corporation held accountable for the balance and fairness of its programming. Television was not meant to become an arena where the government would dialogue with the public, the opposition and civil society leaders, but an organisation supportive of governmental leadership.

Social Cohesion and National Identity Television and National Identity During his presidency, de Gaulle’s most oft-voiced concern was related to France’s unity and social cohesion. The divisions that arose between social classes in the late 1930s had left a deep impression on him. He recalled the “large fractions of the right” leaning towards Hitler and Mussolini and vividly remembered hearing the Commander-in-Chief of the French Army hope that the Germans would help him maintain order.31 Once at the helm of the country, he had a genuine desire to quell these divisions and make France a united nation again. One way to promote social cohesion was to bring people together around the idea of the nation, and thus de Gaulle was unceasing in his efforts to foster a French national identity. He promoted the use of national symbols and emblems and multiplied the historical and national references in his public addresses. He engaged the French people with their own history and their own nation. And as he commented to the Minister of Information in December 1963, television had an important role to play in this task. You know, television can be an awful or a wonderful thing. Ben Gurion told me that, at first, he was opposed to the arrival of television in Israel. He felt that television could distract his compatriots from the construction of their state. While they had to transform the desert into an oasis, enlist in kibbutz and in the army, television could induce them to amusement, idleness and laziness. Then, he let himself be convinced that television could be useful in giving a common language and a common culture to Jews coming from all over the world. As long as he held television in his grip, it played this role. But television increasingly slipped from the hands of the state and it started to digress, talk rubbish and criticise for the sake of doing so.32


See Chalaby, The de Gaulle Presidency and the Media, 140–8. Charles de Gaulle, Mémoires de guerre, Vol. 1, L’Appel, 1940–1942 (Paris: Plon, 1954), 37, 59, 70, 79. 32 “Vous savez, la télévision, c’est la meilleure et la pire des choses. Ben Gourion m’a dit qu’il s’était d’abord opposé à ce que la télévision s’installe en Israël. Il sentait qu’elle 31

Making Sense of de Gaulle's Broadcasting Policy


This excerpt best epitomises de Gaulle’s philosophy on television. These convictions nurtured his determination to keep control over it, influenced his concept of good television programming and his views on news in particular. This philosophy emerges from the memo below, dated 18 February 1963, in which de Gaulle disparages the broadcast news: The news attaches importance to: - the picturesque (the anecdotal is preferred to the exposition of reality) - the pessimistic (catastrophes, massacres, crimes, are preferred to what goes well) - individualism (the isolated case, in particular if it is malicious or offensive, is preferred to the general interest or the attitude of the majority) - the opposition (everything that is against the established order and the action of French public services, inside or outside the country, is preferred to that which is sanctioned, official and national).33

De Gaulle shows here his refusal to accept the inner logic of news and journalism. While conflicts, disasters, and generally unforeseen and exceptional events are always newsworthy, de Gaulle expects broadcast journalists to focus on the normal and the traditional and to show the positive in the life of the nation. The president applied the same rules to fictional material and historical documentaries. He disliked dramas and history programmes that presented France from an unorthodox point of view. During a strike of ORTF producers in

risquait de distraire ses compatriotes de la construction de leur État. Alors qu’il fallait transformer le désert en oasis, s’engager dans des kibboutz ou dans l’armée, la télévision aurait incité à l’amusement, à l’amollissement, à la paresse. Puis il a fini par se laisser convaincre qu’elle pouvait être utile pour donner une langue et une culture communes à des Juifs qui venaient de partout. Tant qu’ il a tenu la main, elle a joué ce rôle. Mais elle a échappé de plus en plus à l’État. Elle s’est mise à la galéjade, à la gaudriole, à la critique pour la critique.” Peyrefitte, C’était de Gaulle, Vol. 2, 178. 33 “L’Information est attachée : au pittoresque (l’anecdote est préférée à l’exposé de la réalité) au pessimisme (la catastrophe, le massacre, le crime sont préférés à ce qui marche bien) à l’individualisme (le cas isolé, surtout s’il est malveillant ou désobligeant, l’intérêt particulier, surtout s’il est virulent, sont préférés à l’intérêt général et à l’attitude du plus grand nombre) à l’opposition (tout ce qui est contre l’ordre établi et l’action des pouvoirs publics français, que ce soit au-dedans ou au-dehors, est préféré à ce qui est qualifié, officiel et national).” Charles de Gaulle, Lettres, notes et carnets, janvier 1961–décembre 1963 (Paris: Plon, 1986), 318.


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Paris in February 1965, de Gaulle instructed the Minister of Information to take advantage of this industrial action “to get rid of this mafia at last”:34 We should not let ourselves be impressed by their alleged talent! In reality, these people are decadent. They always present the catastrophic, pathetic and deplorable side of things. It is a tendency that has always characterised decadent people! One has to prevent them from indulgently showing the pathological rather than the healthy, the sluggish rather than the striving, failures rather than successes, the ignominies of history rather than its glories! Your men show interest only in the ugly and the shocking.35

De Gaulle used to say that “there is only one history of France and only one people of France”,36 and demanded that television programmes convey a similar vision of the nation. He was incensed when programme makers approached their subjects from an anecdotal or sensationalist angle. For instance, he reproached Stellio Lorenzi for presenting Louis XIV as if the only interesting fact about the French monarch was that he changed mistress practically every evening, “without taking into account the grandeur he gave to France, nor the influence and prestige of the nation in Europe and the world during his reign.”37 De Gaulle and his followers38 strove for a national television, capable of strengthening national identity and reinforcing the emotional and ideological foundations of the nation. One People, One Audience The need for social cohesion meant that television had to find a language and a purpose common to all. It had to communicate with everyone at the same time, the masses and the elite. The whole nation formed one indivisible audience: one state, one television, one public.


Peyrefitte, C’était de Gaulle, Vol. 2, 180. “Qu’on ne se laisse pas impressionner par leur prétendu talent! En réalité, ces gens sont des décadents. Ils présentent toujours le côté catastrophique, misérable et lamentable des choses. C’est une tendance qui a toujours caractérisé les décadents! Il faut les empêcher de montrer complaisamment ce qui est malade plutôt que ce qui est sain, la veulerie plutôt que l’effort, les échecs plutôt que les succès, les hontes de l’histoire plutôt que ses gloires! Vos types ne s’intéressent qu’à ce qui choque ou à ce qui est moche.” Ibid. 36 Alain Peyrefitte, interview, 4 May 1999. 37 Ibid. 38 For instance, Michel Debré, Prime Minister until 1962, stated that “a Radio and a Television that do not give men and women who live in democracy a sense of their responsibility towards the collective fate of France fail in their mission.” See La Nef, May–July 1966, 153. 35

Making Sense of de Gaulle's Broadcasting Policy


Television executives attempted to avoid an excessive polarisation of programmes between low-brow entertainment and esoteric cultural broadcasts. This required that large and disparate audiences be educated and entertained with good quality programmes, or at least that the most educated be entertained and the most popular be enlightened. It certainly excluded the selling of programmes to the millions by pandering to their lowest instincts. It is a policy that predated the change of government in May 1958 and was first implemented by Jean d’Arcy, Director of Programmes from 1952 to 1959.39 Albert Ollivier, the first Gaullist Director of Television (1959–1964), persevered in this direction. He promoted a popular and entertaining television with decent and good quality programmes for all. He was also a strong advocate of creative television and aimed at presenting varied topics to the viewing public.40 The policy continued to be applied when the second channel opened in 1964. Its director, Jacques Thibau, thought that there is “only one television public” and rejected the logic of two televisions: a “simple television” for “simple people” and a “subtle one” for “subtle people”.41 He fought against the polarisation between “insignificant” programmes for the masses and “esotericism” for the elite, and feared that cultural programmes would cease to entertain and that entertaining programmes would give up any ambition of educating the public.42 He rejected the rule of complementarity between the two channels that would have confined the second channel to a high-brow cultural programme.43 This concept of television was not exclusive to the Gaullists and was relatively widespread until the late 1960s. It was a period when most television controllers held the ideal that the medium could bring people together, and that the same programmes could entertain the most educated and enlighten the popular classes. Television producers of different political allegiances agreed with the principle. Stellio Lorenzi reproved “those who would like to give the name of culture to a small number of esoteric activities reserved to the happy few.”44 Claude Santelli, of communist allegiance like Lorenzi, thought that 39

Marie-Noële Sicard, “L’Invention d’une esthétique: le théâtre à la télévision”, MarieFrançoise Lévy (ed.), La Télévision dans la république: les années 50 (Paris: Complexe, 1999), 65. 40 Suzanne Worms, “M. Albert Ollivier répond aux critiques”, Les Cahiers de la télévision 2 (January 1963); Jérôme Bourdon, Histoire de la télévision sous de Gaulle (Paris: Anthropos/INA, 1990), 123–9; Brochand, Histoire générale de la radio et de la télévision française, Vol. 2, 399; Sicard, “L’Invention d’une esthétique”, 65–9. 41 Jacques Thibau, Une Télévision pour tous les Français (Paris: Seuil, 1970), 50, 201. 42 Ibid., 54–5. 43 Ibid., 50–3. 44 Stellio Lorenzi, “L’O.R.T.F., notre forum”, Après-demain 107 (1968), 16.


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high-brow cultural programmes were absurd and that they should appeal to as many as possible among the viewing public.45 There were two problems associated with the policy. There was a risk of interpreting it in a way that would impose on the popular classes the tastes of the elite. For instance, Robert Bordaz, RTF Director General from February 1962 to July 1964, thought that popular television should promote the literary avantgarde to the masses.46 Then, the policy was based on an unsustainable notion of an audience. The disparity of cultural tastes among social classes was too important for such a homogenizing approach to broadcasting to be successful.47 These may be the reasons why the policy was unevenly applied to programming, and with unequal success. It also prevented French television from responding to the demand for escapism from large sections of the viewing public. Viewers’ letters published by Télé 7 Jours regularly echoed viewers’ frustration at the lack of entertainment.48 The policy was given up altogether after May 1968, when the emphasis was placed on entertainment and escapist material.

Television as the “Voice of France” The French state broadcaster was a national institution. The programmes of the state-run television were conferred an official character. This implied that the broadcasts of the national television committed the government. It explains why the Ministry of Foreign Affairs attempted to censor programmes on several occasions for fear that they could damage France’s international relations.49 The national broadcaster was also conferred a role of representation of the nation and its people at home and abroad. This aspect of the Gaullist broadcasting policy came to be known as the “voice of France” during the Pompidou presidency. The catchphrase came to stand for the Gaullist broadcasting policy as a whole, but originally it only referred to the official character of the national broadcaster. De Gaulle first spoke of the national broadcaster as the “voice of France”, notably to his Minister of Information in 1962: “This establishment [the RTF] 45

Claude Santelli, “Éducation et télévision”, Après-demain 107 (1968), 25. Suzanne Worms, “M. R. Bordaz: la Télévision doit être populaire et audacieuse, le contraire d’un art bourgeois”, Les Cahiers de la télévision, 1 (December 1962), 2. 47 Pierre Bourdieu, La Distinction: critique sociale du jugement (Paris: Minuit, 1979). 48 A reader complained that he did not buy a TV set to get back to school, and another pleaded with television directors to make him forget his working day (Télé 7 Jours, 10 April 1965, 30 October 1965). 49 Chalaby, The de Gaulle Presidency and the Media, 128–34. 46

Making Sense of de Gaulle's Broadcasting Policy


should be the voice of the state in France and the voice of France in the world.”50 The president spelled out his thought in a speech delivered at the inauguration ceremony of the new broadcasting house on Avénue du Président Kennedy, in the sixteenth arrondissement of Paris in December 1963, reminding his audience of the responsibilities of the RTF: The French national radio and television, because it is created out of our minds, speaks our language, is made by our technology, evokes people and things from our land, assumes a unique role of representation. The idea that we and others have of France depends today, to a great degree, upon what one can see, hear and comprehend from this building, and which reaches the countless multitude within one instant. In this world, which initiates so much communication between citizens and between countries, France must appear as it is, that is, with its pains and problems, but living the century to the full, making great progress, and benevolent towards all the people of the earth.51

The statement above captures the essence of the doctrine of the “voice of France”, which confers both an official character and a mission of representation upon the national broadcaster, projecting an image of France from the centre of Paris. The idiom was coined by de Gaulle, but it only reached the public domain following a press conference by President Pompidou on 2 July 1970: To be a journalist at the ORTF is not the same as being a journalist elsewhere. The ORTF, whether this is accepted or not, is the voice of France; it is considered as such in foreign countries, and it is considered as such by the public. … Therefore, those who speak on television or on France-Inter [the state radio], speak to some extent in the name of France. I expect a certain decency from them. Those who have followed me since my arrival in government recall that I gathered journalists and ORTF representatives and told them exactly the same thing as early as 1962. I am not asking you to praise the government. I am 50

“…Cet établissement, qui devrait être la voix de l’État en France et la voix de la France dans le monde…” Peyrefitte, C’était de Gaulle, Vol. 1, 98. 51 “La Radiodiffusion-télévision française, par le fait qu’elle jaillit de notre esprit, qu’elle s’exprime en notre langue, qu’elle tient à notre technique, qu’elle évoque les gens et les choses de chez nous, assume un rôle unique de représentation. L’idée que nous nous faisons de la France et l’idée que s’en font les autres dépendent maintenant, dans une large mesure, de ce qui est, à partir d’ici, donné à voir, à entendre, à comprendre, et qui frappe au même instant une innombrable multitude. Dans cette vie de société qu’instituent entre les citoyens, ainsi qu’entre les pays, tant de communications, il s’agit que la France apparaisse telle qu’elle est, je veux dire aux prises avec ses peines et ses problèmes, mais vivant pleinement son siècle, en grand essor de progrès, bienveillante à l’égard de tous les peuples de la terre.” Charles de Gaulle, Discours et messages, Vol. 4, Pour l’Effort, août 1962–décembre 1965 (Paris: Plon, 1970), 151.


Chapter Four not asking you to give airtime to ministers all the time. I know perfectly well that nothing is more boring for viewers. I am asking you to remember that when you speak, you do not speak only in your name, but you also commit the nation. There is a certain decency—in language and in thought—which is being requested from you. I recognise that it is more difficult than elsewhere.52

Georges Pompidou made a shorter statement about the ORTF at a press conference two years later on 21 September 1972, repeating in substance the citation above.53 The second of these statements provoked a public outcry, but Pompidou was simply reminding journalists of the accountability of the state broadcaster to the nation and of its responsibilities as a national institution. He had similar expectations of the national theatre and the national opera. This completes the list of the four aspects of the Gaullist broadcasting policy. The national broadcaster was essentially a state, political, socio-ideological and national institution. It was a state institution, because it was the recipient of the broadcasting monopoly. It was a political institution, because political control made the national broadcaster function almost like a governmental agency. It was a socio-ideological institution, because the ORTF was given the duty to strengthen the national identity and preserve social cohesion. Finally, it was a national institution because it was entrusted with an official character and a mission to represent the state in France and France in the world. Its Parisian base thus symbolised its central role as representative of state, government and nation.


“Être journaliste à l’ORTF, ce n’est pas la même chose que d’être journaliste ailleurs. L’ORTF, qu’on le veuille ou non, c’est la voix de la France. Elle est considérée comme telle à l’étranger et considérée comme telle par le public … Et, par conséquent, ceux qui parlent à la télévision ou à France–Inter parlent un peu au nom de la France. Il y a une certaine hauteur de ton, qui est la chose que, pour ma part, je leur demande, et ceux qui m’ont suivi depuis que je suis au gouvernement se rappelleront que, dès 1962, je crois, j’ai réuni les journalistes et représentants de l’ORTF et que je leur ai dit exactement la même chose. Je ne vous demande pas de faire l’éloge du gouvernement. Je ne vous demande pas de faire parler à tout propos des ministres. Il n’y a d’ailleurs, je le sais bien, rien de plus ennuyeux pour les téléspectateurs. Ce que je vous demande, c’est de vous rappeler que, quand vous parlez, vous ne parlez pas qu’en votre nom, et, que vous le vouliez ou non, que vous engagez la France; et qu’il y a une certaine hauteur de ton et de pensée qui vous est réclamée. C’est très difficile, c’est plus difficile que d’être ailleurs, je le reconnais.” L’Année politique, économique, sociale et diplomatique en France 1970 (1971), 430. 53 L’Année politique, économique, sociale et diplomatique en France 1972 (1973), 406.

Making Sense of de Gaulle's Broadcasting Policy


The Gaullist Broadcasting Policy and the Opposition The opposition only contested the governmental control over the national broadcaster. Otherwise, there was a consensus among the overwhelming majority of French politicians to maintain the state monopoly.54 One of the few projects for commercial broadcasting in the 1960s, Pro-TV, received insignificant parliamentary support.55 None of the innumerable projects of reform put forward by the opposition parties, trade unions and ORTF journalists challenged the state monopoly,56 which was finally abolished by the Socialist government in 1982.57

54 See Édouard Bonnefous, “Présent et avenir de la radiotélévision française”, Revue politique et parlementaire 65 (734) (1963); Édouard Bonnefous, “Publicité télévisée: un projet qui ne satisfait personne”, Revue politique et parlementaire 70 (785) (1968); Jean Lecanuet, “Droit à l’information et défense de la presse”, Revue politique et parlementaire 66 (750) (1964); and Michel Soulié, “Le Rôle de l’information dans une démocratie”, Revue politique et parlementaire 66 (742), (1964). Centrists Jacques Duhamnek, Edgar Faure and Jean Lecanuet, Socialists François Mitterrand and Guy Mollet, and Communist Waldeck Rochet, among other opposition leaders, expressed their views on the national broadcaster in La Nef, 27 (May–July 1966), 152–61. 55 Brochand, Histoire générale de la radio et de la télévision française, Vol. 2, 129–30. 56 Chalaby, The de Gaulle Presidency and the Media, 93–122. 57 Raymond Kuhn, The Media in France (London: Routledge, 1995), 172–3.


The majority of research on the events of May 1968 has, not surprisingly, concentrated on its role as a key moment at which left-wing thought and action challenged the status quo.1 The theme of this chapter, by contrast, challenges the historian to consider the view from the other side of the barricades, by exploring the connections between May ’68 and the right. What constituted the Paris of the right and far right during the events? How did they depict the insurgents of the left, and how did they behave themselves? The flip-side to the classic question “why did the protestors fail to seize power?” is “why did the government maintain power?” How, indeed, did the Gaullist state seek to control, and ultimately succeed in controlling the Parisian streets in 1968? And what is the lasting legacy of those events, both for the supporters of that state and for their opponents on the far right of French politics? A focus on the question of public order is appropriate, because during the 1980s, interpretations of May ’68 became overly focused on symbols, playacting and the role of 1968 in allowing soft cultural change. Certainly a solid case can be made for the long-term socio-cultural impact of Arthur Marwick’s “Long Sixties” in Western society more generally,2 but the danger of such an approach is that it neglects the aspect of old-fashioned, 1848-style regime crisis, of near-revolutionary street confrontation that defines what was special about the events in France in May ’68, as opposed to the wider sequence of international protest to which they are linked. As Kristin Ross pointed out in May ’68 and its Afterlives, the oft-repeated idea that “nothing happened” or that


The literature on 1968 is vast: useful bibliographies can be found in Lawrence Wylie et al., France: the Events of May–June 1968: A Critical Bibliography (Pittsburgh: Council for European Studies, 1973) and Laurent Joffrin, Mai 68: histoire des évènements (Paris: Seuil, 1998). 2 Arthur Marwick, The Sixties: Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy and the United States, c. 1958–c.1974 (Oxford: OUP, 1999).

Controlling the Streets in May 1968


nobody was killed during the events is demonstrably untrue.3 There was real violence: at least eight people were killed as a direct consequence of the events, and 1798 people hospitalized.4 As Maurice Rajsfus observed, “under the paving stones, repression.”5 Moreover, there was in the minds of participants the possibility of much greater violence, given the genuinely revolutionary past of the city that witnessed these events. If Paris had been relatively calm during the six years immediately preceding 1968, this was something of an aberration from the historical pattern. As many commentators have observed, everyone involved in 1968 had lived through several regime crises regarding Algeria less than a decade earlier. When de Gaulle performed his disappearing act to Baden-Baden on 29 May, with whom did he choose to consult but General Massu, former commander of the paratroopers in the Battle of Algiers?6 And given that the Algerian War followed swiftly on the war in Indochina, which had broken out only shortly after the end of the Second World War, France had in fact known no prolonged period of peace between 1939 and 1962, a period itself preceded by five years of mounting political crisis and civil disturbances. The Stavisky riots of 6 February 1934 were still within living memory as the last occasion on which police had been forced into retreat by angry crowds, resulting in sixteen deaths when police opened fire on the demonstrators. Maurice Grimaud, Prefect of Police in 1968, had himself been a student demonstrator in the 1930s, and in his account of May ’68 he firmly expressed his desire to avoid comparison with Chiappe, Prefect of Police in 1934, whom he accused of being in league with the far right.7 The even bloodier events of nineteenth-century Paris were still only second-hand in the collective memory of those concerned with maintaining order. Raymond Marcellin, appointed as Interior Minister at the end of May with a brief of re-establishing order, was a keen student of earlier revolutions. His emphasis on the use of the Renseignements Généraux8 to gather intelligence 3

Kristin Ross, May ’68 and its Afterlives (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2002), 19. Marwick, The Sixties, 617. 5 Maurice Rajsfus, Mai 68: sous les pavés, la répression (mai 1968–mars 1974) (Paris: Le Cherche Midi, 1998). 6 Accounts vary as to the reasons for de Gaulle’s visit to the French army headquarters in West Germany: Massu and the then prime minister Georges Pompidou claimed that de Gaulle was on the brink of resignation but was talked out of it by Massu, while others suggested that it was a tactical ruse by de Gaulle to prepare a dramatic comeback. For a summary of the debate, see Keith Reader, The May 1968 Events in France: Reproductions and Interpretations (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1993), 15–17, and for the impact of the Algerian War on ’68 in more general terms, see Ross, May ’68, 31–64. 7 Maurice Grimaud, En Mai, fais ce qu’il te plaît: le Préfet de Police de mai 68 Parle (Paris: Stock, 1977), 25; 179–180. 8 The branch of the police concerned with surveillance of political activities. 4


Chapter Five

on gauchistes, including the setting up of files on some 3,000 revolutionary militants, was in part derived from an analysis of the intelligence failures to which he attributed the revolutions of 1789, 1830 and 1848, as well as the labour disturbances of 1906–1909.9 Marcellin argued that too many politicians lived in a recent past of relative tranquillity, where political problems could be resolved successfully by informal chats, and that, failing to learn the lessons of the more distant past, they therefore neglected the disorder, the revolutionary forces and the terrorism mounting around them: “I am opposed to all policies of weakness, for I do not want to become a Cavaignac.”10 Even the more liberal Grimaud—a career civil servant who had not really wanted to be Prefect of Police—realised that the essential strategy in policing Paris was to prevent the key institutions of the state from falling into the hands of rioters, seeming thus to heed the message of 1789, 1794, 1848, and 1870, when this prevention had not been achieved.11 Indeed, Grimaud went as far as to suggest a comparison between 1968 and the 1905 Revolution in Russia, indicating the fate of the Tsar thirteen years later as an example of what can happen when those in power fail to heed warnings.12 Even if such a drastic end was not to be the outcome, clearly the early days of May went extremely badly for the authorities. Adopting the classic technique of confrontation—disciplining Daniel Cohn-Bendit and others, sending the police into the Sorbonne—had the equally classic outcome of turning what could up until then have been dismissed as a small band of extremists into a mass movement. Ironically, it was not the Prefect of Police who took these decisions: he was sufficiently unconcerned by the rise of student unrest at Nanterre to have gone away on a skiing holiday in April, and in any case favoured a “policy of flexibility” (“une politique de souplesse”).13 Rather, it was the university authorities themselves, with the backing of a nervous Education Minister who determined that, as Laurent Joffrin puts it, “The Sorbonne will not be Nanterre.”14 On 3 May, the fateful day when the police entered the Sorbonne and rioting began, Grimaud had initially proceeded with a planned helicopter flight to be interviewed by the press about traffic problems, having expressed to


Raymond Marcellin, L’Importune Vérité. Dix ans après mai 68 un Ministre de l’Intérieur parle (Paris: Plon, 1978), 210–213. 10 “Je m’élève contre toute politique de faiblesse car je ne veux pas devenir un Cavaignac.” Marcellin, L’Importune Vérité, 40–41. General Cavaignac was the man responsible for crushing a workers’ insurrection in Paris during the “June Days” of 1848. 11 Grimaud, En Mai, 35–39. 12 Ibid., 11–12. 13 Ibid., 129. 14 “La Sorbonne ne sera pas Nanterre.” Joffrin, Mai 68, 22–23.

Controlling the Streets in May 1968


Dean Grappin of the Sorbonne his reluctance to send in the police.15 Leading officials were taken aback by the swift escalation that ensued, and uncertain how to respond to an unexpected turn of events that saw the traditional enemy, the Communist Party, being wildly outflanked on its left. Jacques Foccart, de Gaulle’s mysterious, indeed notorious, advisor sometimes known as “Monsieur Afrique”, first encountered the events when, returning home from a dinner on 7 May, he found the Boulevard Saint-Germain full of policemen arriving at speed to confront the students. Foccart confided somewhat alarmingly to his diary that: “in order to return home, I had to drive not only on the pavement but also in the prohibited direction.”16 The events, of course, were soon to provide more serious challenges to the established order than senior Gaullists taking liberties with traffic regulations. The absence of the Prime Minister Georges Pompidou on an official visit to Iran and Afghanistan created a power vacuum in day-to-day decision making. On the one hand, as Joffrin suggests, those left in charge in Pompidou’s absence had some liberal inclinations: the Minister of Justice Louis Joxe, who temporarily adopted the prime minister’s functions, was a diplomat and poetry enthusiast whose own son was out demonstrating, and who therefore wished to avoid the use of excessive force. Yet on the other hand, such men were fearful of how any weakness on their part would be perceived by de Gaulle, who was more concerned with the re-establishment of order.17 Thus while some negotiations were proceeding behind the scenes through intermediaries such as the Gaullist lawyer François Sarda, policing decisions on the ground amid the escalating student demonstrations of 3–10 May were being driven primarily by the Gaullist emphasis on the strong state. The students—and an increasingly sympathetic public opinion—were being given the impression that the government wished to talk to them only via the end of a truncheon.18 Indeed, on more than one occasion those involved had considered both the use of firearms by the police and even recourse to the army, which had only narrowly been avoided.19 In particular, the decision to storm the barricades erected in the Quartier Latin on the night of 10–11 May was a real point of no return. The ferocious fighting that ensued led an initially hostile trade union movement to call a one-day general strike in support of student victims of police brutality. By 11 May, when Pompidou returned and offered to concede to the main demands of the students—the reopening of the Sorbonne and the freeing of 15

Grimaud, En Mai, 13–19. “Pour rentrer chez moi, il faut que je fasse rouler ma voiture non seulement sur le trottoir, mais aussi en sens interdite.” Jacques Foccart, Le Général en Mai, 105. 17 Joffrin, Mai 68, 26–28. 18 Ibid., 79–112. 19 Ibid., 127. 16


Chapter Five

imprisoned students—it was already too late for the authorities to gain the upper hand against a rapidly expanding social movement.20 A common feature of accounts of the middle and latter part of May is the sense of the normal order of things being turned upside down, as evoked by Peter Lennon, the Guardian’s correspondent in Paris, in a description of a van-load of CRS riot police meekly queuing up to be directed around a roundabout by a student acting as impromptu traffic policeman.21 In the words of Maurice Grimaud, “the government of France appeared a theatre of shadows.”22 Some contemporary accounts sympathetic to the protestors appeared to suggest that somehow the authorities had simply melted away altogether. Daniel Singer, for example, cited the fact that Daniel Cohn-Bendit, despite an official ban on him re-entering France, was able to do just that on 28 May.23 But was this a case of taking desires for reality? Michael Seidman has recently challenged this thesis of a collapse in state power as part of his attempt to pour cold water on what he sees as a number of gauchiste myths.24 Although I am sceptical of Seidman’s overall downplaying of the significance of 1968, he has made a valuable point with regard to the state. In the face of the largest strike movement in French history, the state did not break down in any simple manner, despite a series of tactical retreats. As late as 20 May, Pompidou was calmly hosting a lunch for the King of Jordan as if nothing had happened.25 Clearly, beneath this facade, the state was seriously rattled, with hints of divisions emerging. For example, one group of policemen issued a leaflet disassociating themselves—the “normal” police—from the sadistic violence of the CRS.26 But the police archives on 1968 do not suggest a state on the brink of collapse. The central organs of state security continued with their normal business, including a large volume of surveillance. They were, for example,

20 David Goldey, “A Precarious Regime: The Events of May 1968”, in Philip Williams, French Politicians and Elections 1951–1969 (Cambridge: CUP, 1970), 245; Serge Berstein, The Republic of De Gaulle, 1958–1969 (Cambridge: CUP, 1993), 216. 21 Peter Lennon, Foreign Correspondent: Paris in the Sixties (London: Picador, 1995), 204. 22 Grimaud, En Mai, 19–20, cited in Marwick, Sixties, 613. 23 Daniel Singer, Prelude to Revolution: France in May 1968 (London: Cape, 1970), 193. 24 Michael Seidman, The Imaginary Revolution: Parisian Students and Workers in 1968 (New York: Berghahn, 2004), 12, 217. 25 Édouard Balladur, L’Arbre de mai: chronique alternée (Paris: Marcel Julien, 1979), 201. 26 Les flics de Paris, “N’Abusez pas du sigle CRS”, 11 June 1968, reproduced in Alain Schnapp and Pierre Vidal-Naquet, Journal de la Commune étudiante: textes et documents, novembre 1967–juin 1968 (Paris: Seuil, 1969), 441.

Controlling the Streets in May 1968


tapping the phones of the Trotskyist newspaper Révoltes,27 and the Renseignements Généraux maintained often quite detailed daily bulletins throughout the crisis. On the other hand, the RG’s intelligence, which was often quite subtle in its analysis of the strategies of established political parties,28 was frequently faulty when it came to the groupuscules. One report, for example, wrongly identified the Trotskyist Jeunesse Communiste Révolutionnaire (JCR) as an “annexe” to the Parti Socialiste Unifié.29 Like all police forces, they had a systematic tendency to exaggerate the extent to which unrest was driven by a few agitators. Foreign agitators made an especially attractive target. Lingering anti-German prejudice, and the real presence of a hard-core of activists,30 led official documents to over-emphasise the role of the German SDS in the escalation of events in Paris.31 “Manipulation” was a key word in the RG files: even Danny Cohn-Bendit was supposedly being “manipulated” by his brother Gabriel, by his SDS compatriots and by the Trotskyist leader Alain Krivine.32 This penchant for identifying foreign conspiracies was shown most entertainingly in one of the liveliest right-wing depictions of the insurgents, Les Journées de mai 68: les dessous d’une révolution, written by the far right ideologue François Duprat (considered to have been the brains behind the formation of the Front National until his assassination in a car bomb in 1978.) Duprat lived in bohemian squalor in the Quartier Latin, apparently using the rind from a slice of ham as a bookmark.33 He was widely suspected, however, of being a police informer,34 and there are some similarities between his conspiratorial portrayal of the May movement and that in Raymond Marcellin’s L’Ordre public et les groupes révolutionnaires. Both Marcellin and Duprat, and 27

Centre des Archives Contemporaines, Fontainebleau (hereafter CAC) 19910194, Article 1, Liasse 2, “Société de presse d’édition et du librairie (Journal Révoltes)”, transcript marked “source sécrète”. 28 E.g. CAC 19820599, Renseignements Généraux, “L’Attitude du PCF”, 20 May 1968. 29 CAC 19820599, Renseignements Généraux, “Le Parti Socialiste Unifié”, 11 June 1968. 30 Daniel Gordon, “‘Il est recommandé aux étrangers de ne pas participer’: les étrangers expulsés en mai–juin 1968”, Migrations Société 15 (87–88), (May–August 2003), 45–65. 31 CAC 19820599, SDS, 10 May 1968. 32 CAC 19910194, Article 1, Liasse 2, RG, “La Crise de mai”, 24 June 1968, 9. 33 Frédéric Charpier, Génération Occident (Paris: Seuil, 2005), 109. 34 Charpier, Génération Occident, 108. Police documents predicting (not always correctly) the next moves of far right student groupuscules suggest that they did have active informants in this milieu: CAC 19910194, Article 1, Liasse 2, Préfecture de Police, “Les militants du mouvement ‘Occident’ auraient l’intention de créer des troubles au Quartier latin, dans la journée du vendredi 10 mai,” 8 May 1968; ibid., “Des mouvements d’extrême droite envisageraient de perturber la cérémonie officielle qui aura lieu, ce soir, à 18h30, à l’Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile,” 8 May 1968.


Chapter Five

indeed popular rumour during the events,35 pointed to a plot consciously orchestrated by sinister revolutionary groupuscules in association with foreign powers, Duprat in particular pointing the finger of suspicion at a picturesque but unlikely combination of China, Cuba, East Germany, Israel and the United States. Depictions of East German karate training camps in which students were instructed in the correct procedure for throwing a Molotov cocktail,36 were themselves part of a thriving international genre of rightist writing on the student left as an international conspiracy.37 Since the Parisian students were in fact either incapable of or unwilling actually to seize power, the demonstrations and riots, however spectacular, remained largely confined to the Left Bank, only rarely threatening the seats of power on the Right Bank. Yet especially after demonstrators set fire to the Stock Exchange on 24 May, the authorities became increasingly worried, to the extent of moving troops closer to the capital.38 When the CGT marched from the Bastille to the Élysée on 29 May, officials went as far as to draw up contingency plans for evacuating the presidential palace by helicopter should the Communists attempt to storm it.39 It was only at the end of the month that the regime finally rallied its forces, not only by simple repression, but also by mobilising the popular support on which political legitimacy ultimately rests in a democratic age, via presidential broadcasts on the Gaullist medium of the radio, the calling of elections, and a mass counter-demonstration, all drawing on the classic themes of restoring order and defeating “totalitarian communism”. Most historians are agreed that de Gaulle’s 30 May broadcast was a political masterstroke—in contrast to his weaker effort on 24 May—and that it came close, as Keith Reader suggests, to what Brecht called dissolving the people and electing another.40 The Gaullist counter-demonstration of the same day was 35

See for example Mavis Gallant, Paris Notebooks: Essays and Reviews (London: Bloomsbury, 1988), 13. For denials of the foreign plot thesis, see Combat, 13 May 1968; Lucien Rioux and René Backman, L’Explosion de mai. 11 mai 1968. Histoire complète des “événements” (Paris: Laffont, 1969), 599–603; Reader, May 1968 Events, 21–23; and Joffrin, Mai 68, 310. 36 François Duprat, Les Journées de mai 68: les dessous d’une révolution (Paris: Nouvelles Editions Latines, 1968). 37 See for example, Ian Grieg, Today’s Revolutionaries: A Study of some Prominent Modern Revolutionary Methods and Methods of Sedition in Europe and the United States (London: Foreign Affairs Publishing Co. Ltd, 1970), whose photograph section mixed images of Danny Cohn-Bendit and Alain Krivine with Oxford students bearing such placards such as “File Down Your Proctor” and “Deans Means Files”. 38 Seidman, Imaginary Revolution, 214. 39 Quid: Dossiers de l’histoire 1 (1988), 148. 40 Reader, May 1968 Events, 18; Joffrin, Mai 68, 292–300; Berstein, Republic of de Gaulle, 221.

Controlling the Streets in May 1968


larger than any demonstration during the events, with the possible exception of 13 May. In many towns, 30 May 1968 is still used as a yardstick for measuring the size of demonstrations.41 Rich in patriotic symbolism, with tricolour flags, Crosses of Lorraine and La Marseillaise, with participation from across social classes and more than a touch of xenophobia, this was a march that presented itself as expressing a national rather than a merely partisan message.42 The re-establishment of order in June went hand in hand with a criticism of the failure to keep order during May. In particular, Raymond Marcellin, the new Interior Minister, was exasperated by “the hesitations, the procrastinations, the taking one step forward then one step back”43 of his predecessors. By contrast, his instructions from Pompidou and de Gaulle were crisply given: “To restore order, full stop. That’s all. I was given a free hand.”44 The re-establishment of order did therefore involve a showing of the iron fist, with the storming of occupied factories, resulting in three deaths; the banning of demonstrations; and the deportation of hundreds of foreign nationals. This isolated the immediate problem, although there was an element of acting in haste and repenting at leisure. The government was eventually forced to concede that many of the deported foreigners were only on the fringes of the May movement or simply caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, rather than being sinister international revolutionaries.45 And Marcellin was not as successful as he believed in crushing the far left groupuscules, since they later simply reformed under new names. But by mid-June the authorities were clearly back in control, to the extent that they had detailed attendance figures for most public meetings, and knew exactly who was entering and leaving those occupied buildings that they had not yet recaptured, and even what was happening inside them. At Censier, for example, on 24 June, their records reveal that 40 people heard Daniel Guérin talk about autogestion, whilst 60 people were watching the film Battleship Potemkin.46 The election results of 23 and 30 June underlined the extent of popular support, not only in the provinces but also in Paris itself, for the government’s crackdown on disorder. Some 58 out of 78 seats in the Paris 41

E.g. Libération, 2 May 2002. Frank Georgi, “‘Le Pouvoir est dans la rue’: 30 Mai 1968 la ‘manifestation gaulliste’ des Champs-Élysées”, Vingtième Siècle 48 (1995), 46–60. 43 “Les hésitations, les atermoiements, les pas en avant puis en arrière…” Raymond Marcellin, L’Importune vérité. Dix Ans après Mai 68 un Ministre de l’Intérieur Parle (Paris: Plon, 1978), 10. 44 “Rétablir l’ordre, un point, c’est tout. J’avais carte blanche.” Marcellin, L’Importune Vérité, 16. 45 Gordon, “‘Il est recommandé aux étrangers de ne pas participer’”, 45–65. 46 CAC 19910194, Article 1, Liasse 2, Préfecture de Police, “Physionomie du Quartier Latin au cours de la nuit de 24 au 25 juin et de la journée de 25 juin”, 25 June 1968. 42


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area went to Gaullist candidates, the largest majority being ironically in the fifth arrondissement, the location of much of the violence of May.47 How did they manage to achieve this unexpected change? Looking at the cast of personnel the Gaullist state had at its disposal, one could be forgiven for thinking that the crisis was a superb training ground for many of the “big beasts” of the late twentieth-century French right. There are, to begin with, the smooth talkers. It is well known that the negotiating team for the Grenelle agreements that attempted to bring the strikes to an end included a promising thirty-six-year-old Secretary of State for Employment called Jacques Chirac. Less commonly known is that, well before the official talks in Rue Grenelle, Chirac had been undertaking secret negotiations with the CGT from 16 May onwards. As well as coded telephone conversations, these negotiations involved rendez-vous in such unlikely locations as a car park and a seedy block of flats well into the “enemy territory” of working-class Paris around Place Pigalle. Indeed, on one occasion Chirac went with a revolver in his pocket and accompanied by armed guards, because Pompidou had warned him the CGT might attempt to take him hostage.48 The Grenelle team also included Édouard Balladur, then one of Pompidou’s chief advisers, and later to be Chirac’s finance minister, prime minister (1993–1995) and finally Chirac’s main rightwing rival in the 1995 presidential race. The experience of May clearly left a deep impression on Balladur, who went as far as writing a book-length, semifictionalised account of the events.49 And then there were the hard men. Head of the Service d’Action Civique (SAC) and in charge of setting up the new Comités pour la Défense de la République (CDR)50—both semi-official organisations charged with rallying the streets to the regime—was Charles Pasqua, later the man for whom the journalistic cliché “hard-line Interior Minister” should surely have been invented. Pasqua’s supporters credited him with achieving in 1947, at the age of twenty, the only French territorial gain of the Second World War, by organising referendum campaigns to incorporate the former Italian towns of Tende and La Brigue into the Alpes-Maritimes department.51 Although not one of the Gaullist


David Goldey, “The elections of June 1968”, in Williams, Politicians and Elections, 279. 48 Franz-Oliver Giesbert, Jacques Chirac (Paris: Seuil, 1997), 119–122. 49 Balladur, L’Arbre de mai. 50 Georgi, “30 mai 1968”, 47, shows that the decision to launch the CDR was made as early as 11 May, underlining the point made above that government supporters were by no means completely inactive during May. 51 Pierre Pellissier, Charles Pasqua (Paris: JC Lattès, 1987), 42–43.

Controlling the Streets in May 1968


inner circle, more the poor cousin from the South,52 Pasqua was ideally placed to inject some old-fashioned nationalism into proceedings. One former wartime French pilot in the British RAF even offered to drop CDR leaflets from his plane over Paris.53 Pasqua was also selected as a parliamentary candidate for a constituency in the western suburbs of Paris: Le Figaro described him as the “ace candidate for the Union des Démocrates pour la République (UDR)” (“candidat de choc de l’UDR”). Thus if one wants to find some successful muscular control of the street, one can look to June as much as to May, for during the election campaign, and on Pasqua’s home turf, his supporters were accused of shooting and wounding Communist-supporting railwaymen at Clichy-Levallois station. This incident was not an isolated one: the police archives suggest that between 17 and 29 June there was a good deal of widespread, mostly nocturnal violence between Gaullist militants and their opponents, typically involving fly-posting expeditions by rival groups, and sometimes involving the use of firearms. The most serious confrontation in the Paris region involved a group of 30 activists (some of whom, interestingly enough, were alleged to be North Africans) armed with clubs, bludgeons and a revolver, one of whom tried to strangle the eighteen-year-old daughter of a Socialist councillor in front of Bondy town hall in the Seine-Saint-Denis. Thus Gaullist supporters, especially in the banlieue, were not infrequently involved in thuggery and intimidation. Not that they had a monopoly on violent behaviour: several UDR offices in the Paris area were attacked with Molotov cocktails, presumably thrown by gauchistes.54 And from the government’s point of view, there were dangers in unleashing the vigilantism of the SAC: according to Foccart’s diaries, more than once the SAC had been ready to storm the occupied Odéon theatre, but de Gaulle had forbidden it, insisting that this was a job for policemen rather than civilians.55 Even Pasqua was somewhat embarrassed by the activities of some of the SAC’s more violent elements, his former colleagues from Marseilles who during June came up to Paris to reinforce him.56 But none of this prevented the UDR—or Pasqua—from securing a landslide victory in the elections, suggesting that assertive control of the streets was a virtue greatly appreciated by the right-wing electorate. One future prominent personality further to the right, however, did not have such a successful May–June. As Jean-Marie Le Pen’s biographers suggested, 52 Christine Clerc, Jacques, Édouard, Charles, Philippe et les autres… (Paris: Albin Michel, 1994), 41–45. 53 Pellissier, Pasqua, 115–118. 54 CAC 19910194, Article 11 (Liasse 1), “Incidents boycottages (attentats incidents postélectorales 15 juin–2 juillet)”; Goldey, “Elections of June 1968”, 271. 55 Foccart, Général en Mai, 196. 56 Pellissier, Pasqua, 121.


Chapter Five

the apocalyptic chaos that he had predicted had indeed arrived—but contrary to expectations it was his red enemies that had achieved it. During May, Le Pen was reduced to the role of spectator, strolling around the Quartier Latin at night to watch the riots and returning smelling of tear gas to his then wife, who was pregnant with their daughter Marine.57 On 19 June, the man later considered to be the greatest orator of the post-war European far right, and already a former Paris deputy, spoke at an election meeting in the fifth arrondissement to just 40 people (one of whom, presumably, was an undercover Renseignements Généraux informer with a clipboard). In contrast, the far left was able to muster 2,800 people on the same night to hear Alain Krivine, Michel Rocard and others speak at what was the largest meeting held in the Paris region during the election.58 The second largest, and the largest right-wing meeting by some margin, was a UDR meeting addressed by none other than Pierre Poujade, amongst others, held on 17 June at the Mutualité, and attended by some 1,500 people. So a rightist demagogue could be a significant public attraction in 1968, but on condition that he had rallied to the regime against the greater threat of “red fascism”.59 Le Pen himself managed to get a decent-sized audience of 400 only when he appeared on 17 June on the same platform as the liberal Gaullist Justice Minister Réné Capitant, against whom he was standing in the third electoral constituency of Paris, on the Left Bank.60 Le Pen was trounced by Capitant, receiving only 5.2% of the vote compared with 18.4% the last time he had contested the constituency, in 1962.61 A few of the more dynamic elements of the far right, however, were not so much rallying the public against disorder as fomenting disorder on the streets themselves. One of the great pleasures of being an historian of the Sixties at the present historical moment is contrasting the sober and respectable political class of contemporary Europe with images from their street-fighting youth. From images of the future British cabinet minister Peter Hain running onto a cricket pitch in 1970 to the now famous photograph of a crash-helmeted Josckha Fischer—later German Foreign Minister—beating up a policeman on a demonstration in Frankfurt in 1973, the past collides with the present in


Gilles Bresson and Christian Lionet, Le Pen: biographie (Paris: Seuil, 1994), 292. Marine Le Pen is now her father’s favoured successor as FN leader. 58 CAC 19910194, Article 11 (Liasse 1), Préfecture de Police, “Élections législatives des 23 juin et 30 juin 1968: réunions électorales du 19 Juin”, 20 June 1968. 59 CAC 19820599, “L’U.D.C.A. contre la gauche”, 28 May 1968. 60 CAC 19910194, CAC 19910194, Article 11 (Liasse 1), Préfecture de Police, “Elections législatives des 23 juin et 30 juin 1968: réunions électorales du 17 juin”, 18 June 1968. 61 Bresson and Lionet, Le Pen, 248, 294.

Controlling the Streets in May 1968


unexpected ways.62 Not least when in the run-up to the 2002 presidential election, the French media became obsessed with revelations about the Trotskyist past of Prime Minister and presidential candidate Lionel Jospin, apparently the model of a pragmatic contemporary politician but actually concealing a secret past as, in the sensationalist words of one book, Le Fils caché de Trotsky.63 But this is a challenge that can be offered to the right as well as the left. The culture of youth militancy in the late Sixties also existed on the far right, especially in a small but high-profile groupuscule named Occident, which encompassed a number of politicians now seen as respectable members of the mainstream right. One of Jospin’s fellow presidential candidates in 2002 was Alain Madelin, the former government minister best known for setting himself the unenviable task of single-handedly converting the French to neoliberal free-market economics and a pro-American foreign policy via his formation Démocratie Libérale. In January 1967, however, the young Madelin had appeared in a newspaper photograph handcuffed in the back of a police van. Similarly, and pictured alongside club-wielding comrades in a photo of an Occident raid on Nanterre University in November 1966, was Patrick Devedjian, today the mayor of the southern Paris suburb of Antony, a leading associate of Nicholas Sarkozy, and government minister from 2002 to 2005.64 The political style of Occident, vividly described in Frédéric Charpier’s recent book Génération Occident, was not so very far removed from that of the Maoist and Trotskyist groupuscules that they opposed. When the rhetoric is stripped away, it was essentially about the politics of physical and intellectual confrontation and its associated thrills. Both sides listened to the same rock or jazz music; both were mainly composed of very young intellectuals socialising in the Quartier Latin, whether lycéens or freshly arrived at university, and there were occasional excursions to more proletarian areas of Paris to seek reinforcements from a tougher blouson noir clientèle. While the leftists had the Katangais (former mercenaries or simply tough guys from Belleville or Gennevilliers, who served as security guards for the occupied Sorbonne),65 Occident included at one point a future bodyguard of Johnny Halliday from 62 On the Fischer controversy, see Kay Schiller, “Political Militancy and Generation Conflict in West Germany during the ‘Red Decade’”, Debatte, 11 (2003), 19–38. Even Tony Blair confessed incongruously in 2006 to an admiration for the three-volume biography of Trotsky by Isaac Deutcher, although one television reconstruction of Blair’s youth pictured him ignoring posters on a college notice board for an International Marxist Group talk by Tariq Ali in favour of an appeal for the lead singer of a rock group. 63 Guillaume Chérel, Le Fils caché de Trotsky (Paris: Christine Derrey, 2002). 64 Charpier, Génération Occident, photographs 16 and 17. 65 Quid: Les Dossiers de l’histoire 1 (1988), 88.


Chapter Five

Bagnolet. Somewhat surprisingly, at least some of the Occident crowd shared the sociological or ethnic marginality of some of their prominent gauchiste foes, overcompensating for a Greek, Jewish or, in Patrick Devedjian’s case, Armenian background with an aggressive ultra-nationalism of France and the West as a counterpart to the strident Third-Worldism of the left.66 However, Occident were generally more ruthless in their violence than were their leftwing opponents.67 Both Madelin and Devedjian were involved in a 1967 raid on gauchistes at the University of Rouen which left one Trotskyite in a coma, although Devedjian was himself subjected naked to water torture by fellow Occident members who accused him of shopping them to the police, after which he left the movement.68 Nevertheless, there was already a streak of pragmatic opportunism emerging: during May, with Occident sidelined by events, Alain Madelin argued that, caught as they were between the devil of Gaullism and the deep blue sea of gauchisme, the lesser evil was to collaborate with the regime to crush the gauchistes. Meetings took place with the secret services and Madelin helped a Gaullist election candidate in the election campaign. Nevertheless, the group, although profiting from the atmosphere of anti-leftist repression that reigned in the summer of 1968, was itself banned by ministerial decree that November.69 Occident’s failure demonstrated perhaps that ultimately the Paris of the right was about maintaining the status quo rather than posing a radical challenge to it. Madelin thereafter sought a more conventional political career via the Giscardian liberal right, with whom he could share certain common values of anti-communism and pro-capitalism, while Devedjian’s path led to Gaullism and the RPR. Yet this shift towards a defence of the status quo, “trading in the truncheon for the briefcase”,70 was not the only route taken by former Occident members in the aftermath of 1968. Some formed two other radical and violent new groupuscules named successively Groupe d’Union Droit and Ordre Nouveau, while others plunged as footsoldiers into various international battles of the late Cold War, ranging from the “strategy of tension” in 1970s Italy to the civil war in Lebanon.71 Ordre Nouveau’s main interest for historians, however, is likely to be its role in taking the initiative to form the Front National in 1972, 66

Charpier, Génération Occident, 91–104. They were certainly more shameless in their advocacy of violence: Raymond Marcellin once remarked that, caught with an iron bar, a far right militant would say he needed it to fight the far left, whereas a far left militant would claim he was picking it up only out of curiosity: Marcellin, L’Importune Verité, 64–5. 68 Charpier, Génération Occident, 129–141. 69 Ibid., 162–173. 70 Bresson and Lionet, Le Pen, 357. 71 Charpier, Génération Occident, 204–13. 67

Controlling the Streets in May 1968


since the extreme right drew from 1968 the conclusion that French society was so intellectually dominated by left-wing values, lacking a genuine and uncompromising party of the right, that such a party needed to be created. Ordre Nouveau was very much a creature of the student far right—in 1970 some 60% of its members were aged under 25—and so it was in part a reaction to, and in some senses a mirror image of, the activities of leftist contemporaries. Thus where the far left listened rapturously to Jean-Paul Sartre justifying the use of violence by Third World liberation movements, Ordre Nouveau openly called for Sartre to be shot.72 Nothing motivated the far left as much a confrontation with Ordre Nouveau. One of the most violent Parisian street clashes of the period of mobilisation that opened with 1968 was when crash-helmeted gauchistes, led by the service d’ordre of Alain Krivine’s Ligue Communiste, threw Molotov cocktails at the police lines guarding an Ordre Nouveau meeting held at the Mutualité in June 1973.73 The young Occident/Ordre Nouveau hotheads were at first viewed with some disdain by Jean-Marie Le Pen as “rightwing leftists” (“gauchistes de droite”), mere student revolutionaries in jeans and leather jackets. But when it came to finding an older, semi-respectable front man for the new Front National, Le Pen—who himself has something of the overgrown student politician about him, having begun his career in a Quartier Latin club for law students in the late 1940s alongside other future far right notables like the mayor of Nice, Jacques Peyrat74—eventually fitted the bill.75 Occident and its successors thereby served as a crucial link in the post-war extreme right’s journey from obscurity to eventual electoral success. It is not surprising, then, that “mai 68” has become a shorthand in the discourse of both the extreme right and a certain part of the mainstream right, invoked as an all-purpose scapegoat for the subsequent ills of society. As an early text of what might be termed “anti-68 thought” (“la pensée anti-68”),76 one might look, for example, at Charles Pasqua’s first speech in the National Assembly on 21 November 1969. Contributing to a debate that was ostensibly about the ORTF’s budget for 1970, Pasqua seized the opportunity to reassert a firm Gaullist, statist line against the more conciliatory policies of the 72 Harvey G. Simmons, The French National Front: The Extremist Challenge to Democracy (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1996) 59–62; Edward G. Declair, Politics on the Fringe: The People, Policies and Organisation of the French National Front (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999), 32–40. 73 Hervé Hamon and Pierre Rotman, Génération Vol. 2. Les années de poudre (Paris: Seuil, 1998), 493–514; Christophe Nick, Les Trotskistes (Paris: Fayard, 2002), 106–32. 74 Bresson and Lionet, Le Pen, 59–79. 75 Ibid., 357–8. 76 Cf. Luc Ferry and Alain Renaut, La Pensée 68: essai sur l’anti-humanisme contemporain (Paris: Gallimard, 1988).


Chapter Five

government of Jacques Chaban-Delmas.77 Alleging that state television was now run by gauchistes—a familiar trope in “anti-68 thought”, blaming 1968 for allowing leftists to infiltrate the citadels of cultural power—Pasqua thundered against 1968 as “subversive action taken against the state” on the grounds that “at that time, people wanted to substitute street power for legitimate power, for national representation.”78 Leftist-bashing was to become a regular theme in Pasqua’s discourse: in February 1970 for example, when there was a resurgence of student unrest at Nanterre University, Pasqua took it upon himself to write a letter to the prime minister, complaining that “Nobody understands the indulgence, the leniency that the government appears to show towards so-called students, who are inspired above all by a mania for destruction and reinforced by thugs.”79 A quarter of a century later, by which time he was Interior Minister for the second time, the 1969 speech was reproduced in a book by two Pasqua supporters, who presented his political ideas in the run-up to the 1995 presidential election, and explicitly linked Pasqua’s concern to defend the national interest against all threats to his entry into public life during May 1968.80 It was during his first tenure of the office (1986–1988) that the decisive blows were finally struck against Action Directe, the last surviving remnant of a minority fringe of violent ultra-leftism which had its ultimate origins in the radicalisation of French youth after 1968, as part of Pasqua’s muscular policy of “terrorising the terrorists.”81 Similarly, in 1994 Pasqua achieved his greatest coup yet with the arrest of Carlos “the Jackal”.82 As the world’s most notorious terrorist, a spoilt playboy drawn into ultra-leftist violence on behalf of Third World causes before starting a private war against the French security services, Carlos—however extreme and untypical—was a walking caricature of all that a populist right-winger like Pasqua detested about the 1968 generation. And finally, when Pasqua created his own party in the late 1990s, the Rassemblement pour la France, it is noteworthy that two of his allies in this 77

For a definition of statism, see Chapter Four, note 16. “Une action subversive menée contre l’État … À cette époque, on voulait substituer le pouvoir de la rue au pouvoir légitime, à la représentation nationale.” Jean-Charles Brisard and Gérard Durand, Charles Pasqua: une force peu tranquille (Paris: Jacques Granacher, 1994), 95. 79 “Personne ne comprend l’indulgence et la mansuétude dont le gouvernement paraît faire preuve à l’égard de prétendus étudiants qui sont surtout animés de la folie de détruire et renforcés par des voyous.” Le Figaro, 27 February 1970. 80 Brisard and Durand, Pasqua, 21. 81 John Tuppen, Chirac’s France, 1986–88 (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1991), 74–77; Michael Dartnell, Action Directe: Ultra-Left Terrorism in France, 1979–1987 (London: Frank Cass, 1995). 82 Brisard and Durand, Pasqua, 13; John Follain, Jackal: the Secret Wars of Carlos the Jackal (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1998). 78

Controlling the Streets in May 1968


venture, William Abitbol (elected an MEP for the party in 1999) and Alain Robert (once a key figure in Ordre Nouveau), were former Occident activists.83 If the muscular wing of the mainstream right still becomes incensed about 1968, then this is yet more true for the extreme right. When, for a 1979 book, a series of figures associated with the far right were asked for an outline of their political beliefs, several independently mentioned May ’68 in a negative sense as an important historical phenomenon against which they were reacting.84 According to Jean-Marie Le Pen, “1968 is nausea” (“1968, c’est la nausée”), symptomatic of a decadent country in decline and despair.85 This view is, not surprisingly, shared by that generation of FN activists who came through Occident and Ordre Nouveau. One current member of the Front National’s political bureau dates his conversion to the politics of the extreme right from his period as a first year student at, of all places, Nanterre University, during the crucial academic year 1967–1968, when the political initiative on campus was famously seized by Danny Cohn-Bendit and the Mouvement du 22 mars.86 Another member of the political bureau, interviewed for Edward Declair’s book Politics on the Fringe, asserted his view that as a result of 1968 “for over 30 years everything that touches the mind … all of that was given up to the left.”87 The blaming of 1968 for subsequent moral weakness, evident for example in a 2001 affair in which Cohn-Bendit was accused of justifying paedophilia,88 is cultivated with some care by the far right. In 2005, a summer school held by the Mouvement National Républicain, the breakaway party formed by Le Pen’s former lieutenant Bruno Mégret, devoted one session to a lengthy diatribe against 1968. The speaker attributed to 1968 such contemporary phenomena as “hatred of the white man” (“la haine du Blanc”), AIDS, drug use, Jacques Chirac’s apology for the repression of an insurgency in Madagascar in 1947, and even the deaths of thousands of elderly people during the heat wave of 2004.89

83 Charpier, Génération Occident, 338; L’Humanité, 22 November 1999 and 30 November 2000; , website set up in memory of Occident by “Les anciens d’Occident”. 84 Jean-Pierre Apparu, La Droite aujourd’hui (Paris: Albin Michel, 1979), 49, 111–112, 150–1, 190, 192–3, 204. 85 Jean-Marie Le Pen, Les Français d’abord (Paris: Carrère-Lafon, 1984) cited in Bresson and Lionet, Le Pen, 294. 86 Declair, Politics on the Fringe, 29–30. 87 Ibid., 33–34. 88 Libération, 1 March 2001. 89 Véronique Pean, “Tourner la page de mai 68”, 27 August 2005, reproduced on the MNR’s website, .


Chapter Five

By contrast, Chirac takes a more sanguine, even relaxed, view of the historical significance of 1968, in keeping with his role as the man of negotiation and compromise during the events. (Indeed, whereas Pasqua’s 1969 speech attacked the role of PSU leader Michel Rocard during the events in insulting terms—“M. Rocard’s intellectuals taught a new humanism using Molotov cocktails”—one evening during May Chirac had actually had dinner with Rocard, a contemporary from Sciences-Po).90 Four years later, Chirac was taken to task by some of his own supporters for comments describing May ’68 as a “positive event”. In a book published in 1978, Chirac suggested that those who found it shocking for youth to be dismissive of such values as the nation, the army, duty, work, etc, were overreacting. Young people at the time of surrealism in the 1920s were if anything more anarchical, disrespectful, antimilitarist and internationalist. Indeed, he noted, the old had been shocked by the behaviour of youth as long ago as Ancient Babylon and Ancient Egypt.91 The hard form of “anti-68 thought” is not therefore not shared by all on the French right.92 From this attempt to define and describe the relationship between the right and May ’68, it may be concluded that those events were a key moment for the right in contemporary France just as much as they were for the left. In particular, if the Paris of the right is essentially about order and street control, then June, as opposed to May, 1968 must stand as one of its moments of triumph, following so swiftly from a moment of near-collapse. Putting together the flexible negotiators of Gaullism (Chirac, Balladur) with the authoritarian populists (Pasqua, Le Pen), and with the youthful extremists who moved towards the mainstream (Devedjian, Madelin), it could be argued that there are few prominent politicians on the right for whom 1968 was not a formative moment of one kind or another. Indeed, even at the time of writing this chapter, the perennial relevance of May ’68 was being underscored by a large student-worker movement against the proposed removal of protection against dismissal for young workers. Whenever there is an upheaval in France, watching out for the first person to exclaim, ‘‘It’s just like 1968 all over again’’ is rather like waiting for someone to spot the first cuckoo of spring.93 Right on cue, the anti-Contrat Première 90

“Les intellectuels de M. Rocard enseignaient un nouvel humanisme à coups de cocktails Molotov.” Brisard and Durand, Pasqua, 95; Giesbert, Chirac, 119. 91 Jacques Chirac, La Lueur de l’espérance (Paris: La Table Ronde, 1978), cited in Giesbert, Chirac, 133–134. 92 It does, however, echo similar positions held on the Anglo-American radical right about the legacy of the 1960s: see Marwick, Sixties, 4. 93 The ’68 comparison was also made about the student movement of 1986, repressed by Interior Minister Pasqua, but conceded to by Prime Minister Chirac, the strikes of

Controlling the Streets in May 1968


Embauche movement of March–April 2006 provoked comparisons with the events of thirty-eight springs before,94 with the Sorbonne occupied, the streets of the Quartier Latin once again filled with tear gas, and riot police forced into retreat. There were even club attacks on leftist protesters by an Occident-style far right groupuscule going by the name of Bloc Identitaire.95 Commentators, even if hostile and even if stressing the differences rather than the similarities, were swift to use 1968 as a reference point, variously referring to the events as “a remixed May ’68”, “May ’68 with blogs?”, “May ’68 again?”, “May ’68 upside down”, “Towards a new May ’68?” and “the grandchildren of May ’68”.96 And when the movement seemed unstoppable, who should explicitly propose a new “Grenelle” to draw it to a close, but the one-time Grenelle negotiator Chirac, now a President in decline?97 The subsequent withdrawal of the CPE indicated once again how the French right, haunted by the spectre of 1968, measures its successes or failures by how well or badly it controls the streets.

November–December 1995, the protests of the unemployed in the late Nineties, the antiLe Pen demonstrations between the two rounds of the 2002 presidential election, the mobilisation for a “No” vote in the 2005 referendum on the EU constitution, and the banlieue riots of November 2005. 94 La Presse, 13 March 2006; Le Monde, 21 March 2006; L’Express, 24 March 2006; Guardian, 15 March 2006; Independent, 13, 20 and 21 March, 5 April 2006; Daily Telegraph, 20 and 31 March 2006; and Corriere Della Sera, 17 March 2006. Le Nouvel Observateur’s website kept its readers updated with anniversaries of key events in 1968. 95 Le Monde, 16 March 2006. 96 “Un mai 68 remixé”, “Mai 68 avec blogs?”, “Mai 68 bis?”, “Mai 68 à l’envers”, “Vers un nouveau mai 68?” and “Les petits-enfants de mai 68”. Eric Zemmour in Le Figaro, 25 March 2006; Pierre de la Coste on the website Club de l’Hyper-République, , 4 April 2006; Le Monde website special on ‘La Bataille du CPE’, , 4 April 2006; website of Jérôme Rivière, UMP deputy for Nice, , 20 March 2006; UMP Paris councillor Christophe Lekieffre on his website: and the historian Robi Morder, interviewed by Stéphane Alliès, Le Figaro, 17 March 2006. 97 Libération, 31 March 2006.


There is no doubt today that Jacques Chirac’s time as Mayor of Paris between 1977 and 1995 played a crucial role in the political career of the head of state. His election as head of the capital in 1977 marked the acceleration of his political career, leading to his accession to the presidency of the Republic in 1995, a position to which he was re-elected in 2002. The same municipal elections of 1977 constituted a turning point in the life of the capital city, returning to the control of the town the election of its mayor. Indeed, the status of Paris compared with other French towns had until then been very unusual, not only because of its role as capital, but also because of the protective supervision traditionally exercised by the state over its local affairs.1 Thus the law of 31 December 1975 ended several centuries of state supervision, conferring upon a mayor elected by the Council of Paris the responsibilities and scope of activities granted to mayors of autonomous towns, with the exception of powers over policing.2 1

Since acquiring the status of capital in the eleventh century, Paris had been administered—with a few temporary exceptions—by a representative of the state. Episodes such as the Revolution of 1789 or the Commune of 1871 had reinforced the determination of the state to maintain strict control over the administration of Parisian affairs. It was for this reason that, despite the activism of Parisian councillors in favour of political and administrative autonomy for the capital, Paris was not included in the great municipal law of 1884, and indeed maintained its exceptional status for almost another century. 2 Powers over policing remain the prerogative of the Prefect of Police, a matter that continues to provoke controversy, and that forms the subject of reforms proposed by local councillors to the government.

Municipal Reform and Political Enterprise in the 1980s


On account of the reform, the municipal elections of 1977 became the focus of a new political investment, as important as the political prize which now depended on the vote. For Jacques Chirac, who had recently established the RPR (Rassemblement pour la République), these elections provided a unique opportunity to test the solidity of the foundations of the new Gaullist party, especially against the Républicains Indépendants united under the aegis of Valéry Giscaird d’Estaing, then President of the Republic. This was a successful experiment in that the Gaullist lists of candidates largely dominated those headed by the Giscardian candidate, Michel Ornano. Assuming control of a town that had not known an elected mayor since the end of the eighteenth century,3 Jacques Chirac soon asserted his leadership, transforming the office of Mayor of Paris4 into a base camp from which to draw the necessary resources for his political plans. His position as Mayor of Paris gained him an unequalled prominence, with official protocol often securing him first place in welcoming international figures during their French visits. Such a position also placed him at the head of a powerful administration, offering him the means to influence the future of the town and to prove his capability as governor and administrator. Finally, it allowed him to manipulate a wide range of elected positions and municipal offices in order to consolidate his partisan enterprise.5


The election of Chirac in 1977 made him the twelfth mayor of Paris since the emergence of the capital, but he was only the fifth mayor to be elected, succeeding JeanNicolas Pache, who had been mayor almost two centuries previously (14 February 1793– 10 May 1794). 4 On Jacques Chirac’s election as mayor, and on the manner in which he assumed and moulded the office of Mayor of Paris, see the remarkable book by Florence Haegel, Un Maire à Paris: Mise en scène d’un nouveau rôle politique (Paris: Presses de la Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, 1994). 5 Without opening the question of fictitious offices—later the subject of litigation—it is important to mention some of the changes in personnel and appearances of new channels of recruitment that accompanied the arrival of Jacques Chirac as Mayor of Paris. Florence Haegel demonstrates the existence of a “Corrèzian recruitment network” integral to Chirac’s cabinet. She also notes a “phenomenon of translation from Matignon to the Town Hall”, a phenomenon which appears even more clearly in 1986 in the constitution of government apparatus, with principal private secretary Robert Pandraud, general secretary Camille Cabana, and adjunct mayors Alain Juppé and Alain Devaquet, all granted ministerial posts at this time. Conversely, after the defeat of 1988, a certain number of members of government were regraded within the municipal apparatus. The cabinet of the Mayor of Paris became in consequence “one stage among others in the ‘ministerial careers’ of high-ranking civil servants” (Haegel, Un Maire à Paris, 11). For further details, see Haegel’s genealogy of Chirac’s municipal administration, especially her analysis of the cabinet and the role of the general secretary of the Town Hall (108– 118).


Chapter Six

In time, a clear link appeared between the arrival of Jacques Chirac as leader of the capital and the expansion of his political enterprise, namely the development of the RPR and the construction of his image and identity as a potential presidential candidate. Control of municipal, administrative and political structures and the assertion of Chirac’s leadership of the RPR were so close as to be almost identical. It is this dynamic that we aim to emphasise through a study of a reform that followed not long after that of 1975: the Law of 31 December 1982 concerning the administrative organisation of Paris, Marseilles and Lyons, commonly termed the “PML Law”. Less spectacular than that of 1975, this law endowed the arrondissements of the three largest cities in France with district councils and mayors elected by the citizens of the arrondissement. It was not, however, a step towards decentralisation: the district councils and mayors received essentially consultative powers, in addition to limited competence in the administration of local amenities. The power of decision-making, together with the control of material resources (budget) and human resources (municipal services) remained the prerogative of the central executive. Often presented as a minor law, the PML Law nonetheless created a new stratum of political representation at the infra-municipal level, contributing in these three cities to the institutionalisation of the arrondissement at the centre of municipal government.6 How did the Mayor of Paris react to a reform that concerned him so closely and that, unlike the law of 1975, resulted from the initiative of the Socialist government, an initiative very unfavourably received by the national opposition? In this chapter we will see how, from the battle against the proposed law to the institution of the first district mayors, Jacques Chirac succeeding in benefiting from a measure that was in fact intended to undermine the RPR’s domination of the capital city.


This is the argument defended in my thesis on the application of the PML Law in Paris, Marseilles and Lyons from 1983 onwards. The current chapter is based on data and analysis derived from this project. Melody Houk, L’Institution de la proximité. Les arrondissements dans le gouvernement municipal de Paris, Marseille et Lyon depuis 1983 (Doctoral thesis, Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris, 2005, supervised by Olivier Borraz).

Municipal Reform and Political Enterprise in the 1980s


The New “Battle of Paris”: An Opportunity for Jacques Chirac A Minor Reform for a Major Political Stake At the close of a Cabinet meeting on 30 June 1982, Pierre Mauroy announced on behalf of the government a projected reform of the status of Paris: the transformation of the capital into an assembly of twenty autonomous districts. This would entail the transformation of existing arrondissements into municipalities, with councils elected by universal suffrage. These councils would then nominate their representatives for the Council of Paris, which would in turn elect the Mayor of Paris. This mayor, while retaining his title, would be granted powers similar to those of the president of an urban community. The government’s announcement provoked an outcry from the national opposition, and in particular from the Parisian councillors who supported Jacques Chirac. The opposition condemned the politicking character of a plan ultimately intended to hinder the rise of the RPR and its leader. In the eyes of François Mitterrand and the government majority, Paris was undeniably a key focus of concern: the capital already appeared not only as Chirac’s stronghold, but also as the main base for the RPR. Caught in the blast of a violent campaign of condemnation, widely broadcast by the media, the government began to retreat: on 8 July 1982, it declared that it had no intention of threatening the unity of the capital and that it would not divide the town into twenty autonomous districts. This retreat did not attenuate the vigour of the campaign waged by Jacques Chirac and his troops, who demanded that the government organise a democratic consultation on the question of the reform of the status of Paris. As Mayor of Paris he constantly criticised the government’s attack and its politicking manoeuvres, the principal aim of which was to conquer by legislation a stronghold inaccessible to them through the ballot box. Why Paris and not Marseilles, where the Minister of the Interior and of Decentralisation was also the mayor? The question was immediately raised by the opposition and, under such pressure, the response was not slow in coming. On 13 July 1982, Gaston Defferre proposed to include Marseilles in the consideration of the reform of Parisian institutions, emphasising that the government had no intention of undermining the unity of the capital. In the eyes of the opposition, this new retreat on the part of the government seemed like a significant victory: not only did the government reconsider its project of fragmenting the capital into twenty areas (communes),


Chapter Six

but it also turned its attention to a plan for French cities generally, with Paris and Marseilles in the first rank.7 After the summer of 1982—marked by a wave of terrorist attacks in the capital—the battle continued even more fiercely in early September, when the government included Lyons in the institutional system that it proposed to establish. The mayor of Lyons, Francisque Collomb, supported by Raymond Barre, joined Chirac’s media campaign. United in adversity, the two mayors took the opportunity of a press conference to condemn once again the scheming designs and attitude of the Socialist government. Their condemnation was all the more forceful because the government proposed to couple the institutional reform with a modification of the electoral system of the three towns, with a significant impact on the electoral map. Although the project did not concern Lyons and scarcely affected Paris, it completely remodelled the electoral geography of Marseilles by regrouping certain arrondissements of the town as sectors (in Paris and Lyons, the delineation of electoral constituencies respected the existing boundaries of the arrondissements.) The specific treatment reserved for Marseilles was grist to the mill of the opposition who, via the national and local press, criticised the “gerrymandering” activity of the services of the Minister of the Interior, and the “made-to-measure constituencies”, designed considerably to facilitate the re-election of the mayor of Marseilles.8 Nonetheless, buttressed by its strong majority, the government did not retreat on this aspect of the projected reform and, anxious to vote on the proposal before the municipal elections of 1983, brought the bill before parliament in October 1982. In the end, it was a “bill relating to the administrative organisation of Paris, Marseilles and Lyons” that was submitted to parliament, and not a plan to reform the status of the capital or even of the largest French cities. Far removed from the aims first flaunted by the government, it proposed to endow the inframunicipal stratum with an elected council and mayor whose roles would be, essentially, those of a consultative authority linked to the town council. In this 7

On 16 July 1982, Le Monde reported the existence of two projects under consideration: one relating to Paris and Marseilles, and the second directed more generally towards the administrative organisation of other cities. The journalist concluded: “If the government retracts all the original—even revolutionary—elements of its initial project, the remaining solution would deserve to be called the ‘Chirac Law’ rather than the ‘Defferre Law’.” 8 In fact, the relevance and the objectivity of the regroupings effected could easily be called into question, bearing in mind the notable differences in terms of population, and the strange patterns resulting from the geographical divisions. It should be noted that the right operated in the same manner after taking power in 1986, entrusting Charles Pasqua with the task of redrawing the electoral map of Marseilles to favour the local right.

Municipal Reform and Political Enterprise in the 1980s


manner, the bill did not affect the competence or prerogatives of the central Town Hall, which retained the power of decision-making in municipal affairs, and remained in control of the entire municipal budget and services. The text, adopted without major alteration, thus created a hybrid system that was quite exceptional in the political and institutional landscape of France: district mayors and district councils were conceived as a new level of political representation, endowed with democratic legitimacy but without being officially entitled to act in the area in which they had been elected.

An Opportunity for the Leader of the Municipal Majority The mobilisation of the opposition, while not securing a full withdrawal of the government’s proposal, nonetheless allowed Jacques Chirac to base his leadership on the capital, and it was largely from this perspective that he engaged in this new “Battle of Paris”. In 1981, Chirac had already made the capital a privileged stage for his confrontation with the majority. Indeed, during the process of decentralisation initiated by the new Socialist government, and the transfer of state competence to towns and departments, the question of the specific treatment of the capital was inevitably raised. Unable to accept any reinforcement of the Gaullist leader’s scope of activity, the government decided to exclude Paris from consideration, postponing the examination of the question to an unspecified date. In so doing, they unleashed the wrath of the Mayor of Paris who leapt to its defence, condemning the injustice thus inflicted on the capital. In 1982, Chirac again led the mobilisation against the plans of the Socialist government. On the morning following the announcement of 30 June, he organised a press conference in the chambers of the Town Hall, during which he railed against a plan that was, in his view, underpinned by ulterior motives and that would make the Parisians its first victims. There was a general outbreak of hostility, with the entire opposition throwing its weight behind Jacques Chirac, including Valéry Giscaird d’Estaing. The Mayor of Paris then issued an “Appeal to Parisians”. On tracts, posters, and Decaux billboards requisitioned for the purpose, citizens could read that “the town of Paris, capital of France, [was] threatened with disintegration and dismemberment”, that “the socialistcommunist power” intended to undertake “that which no other government since the beginning of time, whether monarchical, imperial or republican, has dared to do”, and this in order to “assuage popular condemnation”. Calling upon the Parisians to “mobilise to save the unity of the town”, the text, co-signed by Jacques Chirac and “Save Paris” (a committee composed of Parisian and provincial councillors), charged the inhabitants to write to the Town Hall to demand that the government organise a democratic consultation.


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It must be said that the stakes were doubly high for Jacques Chirac as Mayor of Paris and leader of the RPR, for the proposal implicated both his mayoral powers and competences and also, on a more symbolic level, his political stature. Whether it was a question of establishing autonomous districts in place of arrondissements, transforming Paris into a sort of urban community or, less radically, of introducing an elected local assembly endowed with certain prerogatives, this would impinge on the central power and alter the roles of the Council and Mayor of Paris. Such an alteration would be experienced as a weakening in a context in which, by means of decentralisation, the government in fact intended to establish local collective entities as models of autonomous and responsible government. Quite apart from the content of the proposal, the government’s announcement, which triggered the battle, happened to fall at a very important time in Jacques Chirac’s career, characterised firstly by the failure of the right in the presidential elections of 1981,9 and secondly by his investment in a new political role moulded to his own image, that of Mayor of Paris. This second aspect is crucial to understanding the events of summer 1982. The attack launched against Paris and threatening its communal liberties actually served as an opportunity for the highest public officer of the town to style himself as the defender of a noble cause: the unity, integrity, and indeed the very survival of Paris. In this respect, as Florence Haegel emphasises, the episode was extremely important in the construction of Jacques Chirac’s political identity and role as Mayor. Referring to the press conference of 1 July already mentioned, she describes in detail Jacques Chirac’s Gaullist stance: The mayor, draped in this particular instance in his tricolour scarf, stood in front of a tapestry on which the Parisian motto was embroidered: Fluctuat nec mergitur [tossed by the waves, she does not sink], between two tricolour flags. His appeal combined elements of Gaullist and Parisian mythology, and he also underlined certain characteristics: the global radiance of eternal Paris; the celebration of Paris by artists; Paris crucible of liberties yet also defiant towards state power; and he finished with a new version of Paris sera toujours Paris (…) Only the rebellious sentiment driving this declaration and the reference to the Paris Commune introduced a new dimension hitherto eschewed by the mayor. The reference to Gaullism, however, ran through the entire speech: the very form of an “appeal” (…), the emotional register adopted in which the lyrical historical


The importance of this point is debateable, as the result of the presidential elections of 1981 did not have the same destabilising effect on Chirac as those of 1988. See Annie Collovald, “Jacques Chirac: un leader sans ressources”, Revue Française de Science Politique 40 (1990), 880–901.

Municipal Reform and Political Enterprise in the 1980s


fresco and the dramatic tone reinforced one another, not to mention the explicit references to the Liberation.10

The Municipal Elections of 1983: Jacques Chirac Profits from the PML Law and Reinforces his Political Foundations The PML Law and the Municipal Elections: A New Order It was with the municipal elections of 1983 that the PML Law came into effect in the three largest cities in France. In terms of the form of election, it brought only limited change. In Paris, the electoral system had already been organised in sectors since 1947, with the Paris council elected on the basis of lists compiled in each sector. In 1982, the legislative powers slightly modified the electoral map, modelling the division of the town on that of the twenty arrondissements.11 In terms of the local political system and the political personnel likely to become involved in it, the PML Law nevertheless introduced a new order, based essentially on two measures. On one hand it considerably increased the number of seats to be filled, both at the level of the Paris Council and above all at the infra-municipal level, through the creation of district councils. Before the PML Law there were 109 Paris councillors; afterwards there were 517 councillors in Paris, comprising 163 Paris and 354 district (arrondissement) councillors. On the other hand, the municipal electoral system now determined not only the election of the Parisian executive, but also the election of twenty district councils, each one called to elect a local mayor who would then surround himself with a team of adjuncts. The PML Law was thus also accompanied by a new level of institutionalised representation specific to the arrondissement. Until 1983, the Paris councillors, once elected in an arrondissement, mostly found themselves “submerged” in the midst of the Paris Council.12 From 1983 onwards the candidates were likely, at the close of the ballot, to shoulder


Florence Haegel, Un Maire à Paris, 190. The law of 31 December 1975, apart from the arrangements concerning the Mayor of Paris, had already introduced a new division of electoral sectors in the capital, increasing the number of sectors from fourteen to eighteen: the first and fourth arrondissements constituted the first sector; the second and third arrondissements made up the second sector, while the remaining sixteen arrondissements corresponded to sixteen sectors. In 1982, each arrondissement became a constituency. 12 With the exception of those councillors receiving the mandate of adjunct to the Mayor of Paris or, from 1977 onwards, those chosen to represent him at the head of local commissions. 11


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political responsibility in the arrondissement in which they were elected, notably the office of district mayor.13 With the multiplication of offices and the creation of mandates of district mayor, Jacques Chirac had greater scope for manoeuvre during preparations for the municipal elections of 1983. Whether in negotiations with the Union pour la Démocratie Française (UDF) to compile joint electoral lists, or in managing political personnel within the RPR, the leader of the municipal majority profited from the new configuration to bring success to his enterprise of consolidating the RPR and exercising his leadership on the scene of local politics.

Right-Wing Preparations for the Municipal Elections: The Affirmation of the RPR’s Domination and Chirac’s Uncontested Leadership of the Parisian Majority The right’s preparation for the municipal election campaign was marked by the determining role of Jacques Chirac and the predominance of the RPR on the local political scene. These characteristics were particularly clear during the compilation of joint electoral lists by the RPR and UDF, which resulted in a close negotiation between the two main elements of the national opposition. If Chirac was clearly the “natural candidate” of the right in Paris, the application of the PML Law led to a negotiation between the RPR and UDF that no longer concerned only distributing the central positions of adjunct and managing the lists in the arrondissements, but also the offices of district mayor. The proposition of an equally-matched contest first demanded by the Parisian UDF could not withstand the determination of Chirac and the increasing pressure of the Gaullist party. An agreement was finally concluded after several months of negotiation on the basis of a 2:1 split, which granted the UDF a third of the positions of central adjunct, six places as chief candidate, and six as district mayor. As well as the predominance of the RPR during the previous elections in Paris, the absence of cohesion within the Parisian UDF was also a determining factor in the negotiations. Preparation for the municipal elections of 1983 came at a time when, following the failure in the presidential elections of 1981, the two non-RPR groups of the presidential majority resolved to function within the framework of a combined UDF group, established in 1978 within the Paris Council. Jacques Chirac could hardly view such a development favourably, given that it introduced a rival structure to the Gaullist movement within the 13

The law also created positions of district adjunct, but these were far from holding the political potential of the office of district mayor, especially in the early period of the law’s application.

Municipal Reform and Political Enterprise in the 1980s


municipal majority. Internal tensions were still running high in 1982, especially between the president of the UDF federation in Paris, Roger Chinaud, who had recently lost his mandate as deputy, and Jacques Dominati, who had just regained his. The case of Chinaud was moreover a major stumbling block in negotiations between the two components of the majority. In the eighteenth arrondissement, the two principal constituents of the Parisian right were both determined to choose the chief candidate for the joint list. In this arrondissement, gained by the Socialists in the municipal elections of 1977,14 the UDF claimed first place for Roger Chinaud. He had lost his seat as deputy in the eighteenth arrondissement to the Socialist Claude Estier, and the municipal elections of 1983 thus offered an opportunity for his return. But the Mayor of Paris had very different plans, intending to plant his right-hand man, Alain Juppé, in this arrondissement. Juppé, then Director of Finances and Economic Affairs for Paris and adviser to Chirac on economic questions within the RPR, began announcing his candidacy in the arrondissement in October 1982: “This arrondissement can and must be gained by the current municipal majority so that we can draw a line under the divisions of the past.”15 The Mayor of Paris finally succeeded in imposing his will, on the basis of an agreement which consisted in not confusing the chief candidate with the future mayor of the arrondissement. Thus while Alain Juppé headed the joint list in the eighteenth arrondissement, it was Roger Chinaud who would be elected district mayor. This strategy was employed by the right to quell the personal rivalries then complicating the discussions about the distribution of chief candidates. At the heart of the RPR, the local political and partisan configuration meant that the scope for negotiation on the compilation of the lists was relatively narrow: Jacques Chirac, on the strength of his role as Mayor of Paris and president of the RPR, was unquestionably the master of the game of Parisian politics. The construction of his newly-established role as Mayor of Paris cannot be considered in isolation from his position as leader of the RPR, a phenomenon which became particularly striking in processes such as the compilation of the lists for municipal elections. Christian de la Malène, Paris councillor and reporter for the town’s budget between 1965 and 1977, acknowledged Chirac’s


During the municipal elections of 1977, the left won all nine positions of municipal councillor in the eighteenth arrondissement, with five Communist Party councillors and four Socialist ones, including Bertrand Delanoë and Lionel Jospin. Thus the eighteenth arrondissement was, together with the third, eleventh, thirteenth, nineteenth and twentieth arrondissements, one of the main targets for the Parisian battle of 1983. 15 Alain Juppé, Le Monde, 28 October 1982.


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dominant role in the compilation of the municipal lists, underlining the change that had taken place since the latter’s arrival at the Town Hall:16 Then it was a question of making lists. Obviously, having been the political leader of a majority, he [the reporter for the budget] had his word to say in the compilation of the lists. But, and I am well placed to know this, if he had some bearing on the choices, the political parties and the men were there (…). Now, it’s the mayor who makes the lists; it’s the mayor’s list.17

In the fourteen arrondissements reserved for the RPR, the assignment of chief candidates was governed by a dual rationale for the management of political personnel: capitalisation on past success, and implantation of party members at the beginning of a Parisian career. In the majority of arrondissements, Jacques Chirac chose to entrust his lists to figures already well established in their sectors and with national profiles:18 eleven out of the fourteen chief candidates from the RPR were members of parliament19 (ten held the mandate of deputy and councillor of Paris concurrently; one was a senator.) For the leader of the RPR it was a question of relying on the political forces most deeply rooted in each sector so as to attract the maximum number of votes in the relevant sectors. Even though the voter was more motivated by the fact that it was Jacques Chirac’s list for the 16 This represented a significant alteration in the political scene in Paris in comparison to the situation preceding the law of 1975, when local parliamentary officers and especially deputies exercised a powerful influence on the process. 17 Christian de la Malène, quoted in Haegel, Un Maire à Paris, 105. 18 For further bibliographic information on the chief candidates of the right-wing lists and on the district mayors elected in 1983, see Houk, L’Institution de la proximité. 19 The broad picture of right-wing chief candidates in the municipal elections of 1983 includes a striking number of members of parliament: almost three quarters of the candidates were drawn from the Parisian sections of the National Assembly or the Senate. A significant proportion of these councillors had also exercised ministerial offices: Jacques Chirac in first place, since his governmental career began in 1967 as State Secretary for Social Affairs and reached the position of Prime Minister between 1974 and 1976. But there were also Édouard Frédéric-Dupont, Maurice Couve de Murville (who had notably held the position of Prime Minister in 1968–9), Christian de la Malène, Jacques Dominati, Bernard Pons and Gabriel Kaspereit, who had been State Secretaries. The profile of the candidates heading the right-wing lists in the Parisian arrondissements in 1983 reflects a major characteristic of the contemporary Parisian political scene: its closeness, even confusion, with the national political scene. This was a characteristic that had long earned it the label of the “Little Parliament”, and which even today strikes those present at meetings of the Council of Paris. In 1983, this Council included twenty-five deputies and four senators, two former Prime Ministers, nine former ministers and three current ministers.

Municipal Reform and Political Enterprise in the 1980s


arrondissement, the chief candidate nonetheless played a significant role in the municipal campaign: spokesman for the candidate at the Town Hall at grassroots level, the chief candidate was also likely to relay local demands to the Mayor so as to mould the municipal programme in which he was to become engaged. Furthermore, there were certain candidates deemed “inescapable” on account of their political stature and the solidity of their electoral base. This was particularly true for a certain number of “historic Gaullists” to whom Chirac entrusted the management of the lists of the majority, and who had been Paris councillors since at least 1968 as well as Parisian members of parliament: Pierre Bas in the sixth arrondissement, Maurice Couve de Murville in the eighth, Gabriel Kaspereit in the ninth, Claude-Gérard Marcus in the tenth, Christian de la Malène in the fourteenth, and Nicole de Hautecloque in the fifteenth. Furthermore, by placing these high-ranking figures as chief candidates the leader of the RPR demonstrated to them his confidence and esteem, while simultaneously allowing them to cultivate their personal political base during the electoral campaign. Not all, however, would hold the office of district mayor.20 The “great elect” such as Maurice Couve de Murville, Christian de la Malène and Nicole de Hautecloque were not candidates for the position of district mayor, but were accorded the roles of adjuncts to the Mayor of Paris. It is interesting to note the lack of connection between heading a list and subsequently holding the office of mayor, the two having been traditionally linked. In Paris, this lack of connection—which provided the leader of the majority with additional resources in negotiation—clearly expressed the fact that the campaign organised at the level of the arrondissement was not directed towards the mandate of district mayor. Taking account of the quality of the political personnel, mostly members of parliament and former ministers, and of the weakness of the powers of district mayor, it is clear that the chief candidates were hardly motivated by a political position as local as that then taking shape at the level of the arrondissement. Conversely, leading an electoral campaign allowed a member of parliament to strengthen his territorial roots, or to rediscover them. Meanwhile, there were arrondissements in which the nomination of a chief candidate was determined by a second rationale, which could be termed a “logic of implantation” for a councillor or a party members at the outset of a Parisian career. Thus Bernard Pons, whose political career had begun in the Lot department in the middle of the 1960s, came closer to the capital at the end of the 1970s by becoming deputy for the Essonne and regional councillor for the 20

In half of the arrondissements reserved for the UDF, the joint lists were headed by UDF councillors who had lost their seats as deputies in the legislative elections of 1981: Jacques Dominati, Jean Féron and Didier Bariani (candidates of the third, nineteenth and twentieth arrondissements). All three, once elected, held the office of district mayor.


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Île de France. In 1981, he was elected deputy in the twenty-second constituency of Paris (seventeenth arrondissement), before being nominated chief candidate for the RPR–UDF list in the seventeenth arrondissement in the municipal elections of 1983. Jacques Toubon, who headed the list for the thirteenth arrondissement in 1983 (confronting Paul Quilès, left-wing candidate at the Paris Town Hall), began his career in the legislative elections of 1981, becoming RPR deputy for the nineteenth constituency (thirteenth arrondissement). Finally Alain Juppé, who was chief candidate for the right in the eighteenth arrondissement, had not until then held any elected position: official representative in the cabinet of the then Prime Minister Jacques Chirac in 1976, he followed Chirac to the Town Hall as a technical adviser, and was then Director of Finances and Economic Affairs for Paris from 1980 to 1983. While Jacques Toubon actually became mayor of the thirteenth arrondissement, Bernard Pons and Alain Juppé nevertheless exercised their particular responsibilities as elected members (among other responsibilities), at municipal and partisan levels. Juppé thus became second adjunct, responsible for budget and financial affairs for Jacques Chirac. Heading an arrondissement list was for these individuals a privileged means of developing a personal electoral base, since it was the municipal elections that attracted the greatest attention from citizens. In this case again, the real focus was not the infra-municipal level but the access of Chirac’s “new guard” to the central Town Hall.21 The distribution of chief candidates for the RPR in 1983 thus reflected a strategy to renew the political personnel of Chirac’s party via the Council of Paris and its executive.22 If the introduction of district mayors and councils represented a resource for the leader of the municipal majority in electoral preparation, it also required a certain degree of vigilance on his part. For the Mayor of Paris, it was important to limit—as much as facilitate—the emergence of the arrondissement as a new factor in the system of Parisian government. In order to achieve this, he needed in particular to devote special attention to the new district mayors, potentially useful as intermediaries, but also a source of uncertainty in terms of the manner in which they might develop the new mandate. Indeed, Jacques Chirac established a system of positioning the new mayors which, in conjunction with the elected majority and the profile of the mayors in question, limited their

21 According to the system of election, the chief candidates were assured of obtaining seats as Paris councillors, regardless of the outcome of the ballot. 22 In this respect, the fact that certain “historic Gaullists” occupied positions as district mayors following the election could be interpreted as a means of distancing them from the central decision-making power. By granting them offices as district mayors, Chirac limited their scope of action to that of territorial intermediaries in particular areas, rather than allowing them responsibility at a municipal level.

Municipal Reform and Political Enterprise in the 1980s


potential for self-assertion at the expense of the leader of the municipal executive.

The District Mayors in the Service of Chirac’s Political Enterprise A Dual Political Framework Despite the renewal of his mandate, and victories in all twenty arrondissements,23 the Mayor of Paris did not underestimate the fragility of the results in certain sectors, and fully intended to buttress his Parisian power base. In this respect, the elected local councillors could play the role of intermediaries, relaying his policies and statements to the local neighbourhoods. Equally, however, Chirac did not underestimate the political risk of the other possibility, namely the emergence of an entirely new level of political representation that could assert itself by being deliberately distinct from the central Town Hall and its leader. In order to profit from the opportunities for developing political strategy that the new law brought, it was necessary to play the game at least minimally: to allow some political scope for the district mayors while averting the risk of these local councillors’ gaining too great a degree of assertion, or even of political independence. As well as his intervention in the choice of chief candidates and future district mayors, the leader of the municipal majority, conscious of this risk, established a system of political positioning. The fact that the municipal majority had been victorious in all twenty arrondissements minimised the potential risk of emancipating the inframunicipal stratum, yet it remained the case that the district mayors were not all long-term accomplices and allies of Jacques Chirac. Particularly on the UDF side, councillors such as Jacques Dominati, Roger Chinaud, Georges Mesmin and Didier Bariani had in the past already been looked on as political enemies of the RPR leader. It was for this reason that, immediately after the municipal elections of 1983, the district mayors found themselves systematically managed by RPR–UDF partnerships, since Jacques Chirac had required that the position of first adjunct should revert to an RPR councillor in arrondissements “reserved” for the UDF. In the twentieth arrondissement, the first adjunct to 23 The results of the lists supporting Jacques Chirac were all the more remarkable—and remarked upon—because the right had not won the majority of votes in all sectors in the municipal elections of 1977. The “grand slam” of 1983, repeated in 1989, appeared as the revenge of the Mayor of Paris, the irrevocable attainment of a high score despite the government’s attempt to challenge his electoral base.


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Didier Bariani was Michel Violet, responsible for Youth and Sport, who was an RPR regional councillor and an adjunct to the Mayor of Paris responsible for the same department at central level. In the sixteenth arrondissement it was Gérard Leban, an RPR municipal councillor, who supervised the actions of the UDF mayor, Georges Mesmin; while the mayor of the eighteenth arrondissement, Roger Chinaud, had to contend with the presence and competences of Alain Juppé, an RPR municipal councillor and the adjunct responsible for the town’s finances. This configuration led to a certain neutralisation24 of any emancipatory aspirations held by the new district mayors. The strategic parachuting-in of RPR members as special envoys in the case of arrondissements with “advanced liberal” tendencies (non-RPR mayors) was meant to contain any attempted initiatives at devolution distinct from the normal practice of the “mayor’s party”. The lists for the municipal elections of 1983 were so conceived that it was rare for the local leadership of a “liberal” or “centrist” not to be counterbalanced by one or two RPR deputies.25

A form of political conflict thus developed at the level of the arrondissements regarding the “paternity” of actions taken by the municipality, hindering the emergence of a single, strong, legitimate political authority at local level in the person of the district mayor. A second aspect of the political positioning of the new district mayors by the Parisian leader was their integration into the municipal team through the distribution of adjunct positions at central level. These positions, increased in number by the PML Law, were divided in a “traditional” manner between the different components of the majority—RPR, UDF and CNI (Centre National des Indépendants)—as well being distributed systematically to district mayors. In granting each of these twenty mayors the status of adjunct (together with its attendant material benefits), Jacques Chirac sought to create a form of allegiance, a feudal link binding the district mayors to his own person, and limiting their tendencies towards self-assertion and political independence. 24

This form of neutralisation is often found in the political organisation of municipalities elected on the basis of joint lists. In his study of five left-wing communes in the Parisian suburbs, Stéphane Dion emphasises the “principal methods by which the mayor and his group of councillors succeed in marginalising their rival partner”. One of these methods consists precisely in assigning councillors of the majority to supervise elected representatives of the minority. As well as the distribution of roles between the elected representatives of the Communist and Socialist Parties, it was also a question of neutralising the minority component with elements from the municipal majority. Stéphane Dion, La Politisation des mairies (Paris: Economica, 1986), 78. 25 Karim Habbab, “L’Application de la loi PML à Paris ou le centralisme à l’échelon de l’arrondissement”, Annuaire des Collectivités Locales (Paris: Éditions CNRS, 1988), 79.

Municipal Reform and Political Enterprise in the 1980s


It should be noted that for the twenty district mayors the status of adjunct was generally not accompanied by a sector-based commission, with two exceptions: Jacques Dominati and Jean Tibéri. In the case of Dominati, the UDF district mayor of the third arrondissement who became the adjunct responsible for international relations, the commission appeared more symbolic than effective, for the relevant department was directly attached to the cabinet of the Mayor of Paris. In the case of Jean Tibéri, mayor of the fifth arrondissement, first adjunct to Jacques Chirac and responsible for the coordination of municipal activities, the commission was on the contrary intended as a strong political act, clearly making the RPR councillor first among equals.26 Apart from these two instances, the other councillors occupied the roles of territorial adjuncts. For the leader of the municipal majority, such an organisation held the possibility of being a double-edged sword, potentially leading to an exacerbation of territorial demands from district mayors. However, the fact that all twenty mayors were also adjuncts of the Mayor of Paris did not create dynamics likely to benefit the nascent role of district mayor. The reason for this was essentially the nature of the system of municipal government instigated by Jacques Chirac. The major characteristics of this system were, at least as far as this chapter is concerned, an intense centralisation of power and a strong central administration. At the moment, the town of Paris is governed by a small group that includes Jean Tibéri, Roger Romani, Alain Juppé, Robert Pandraud, head of the cabinet, and Camille Cabana, director of administration.27

Indeed, it appears that the government of the capital, as constructed by Jacques Chirac after his accession to the position of first magistrate in 1977, relied more strongly on municipal administration than on the councillors. With the return of a mayor elected to the leadership of the capital, invested with essential mayoral powers as defined by the law of the communes, the creation of a balance of power between the elected executive and the administration that he inherited was of pivotal importance. As Florence Haegel points out in her study of Jacques Chirac’s arrival as Mayor of Paris, “In theory, the guiding principle of the reform—and even its raison d’être—was the transfer of power from the administrative (prefectoral) domain to the elective (mayoral) domain.” However, she clearly demonstrates that “in reality, the translation of the new 26

In the view of Andrew Knapp, these two exceptions obeyed two different rationales: “a slight opening towards the UDF, and the rejuvenating (and “Chiracisation”) of the RPR group”. Andrew Knapp, “Le système politico-administratif local parisien: 1977–1987”, Annuaire du GRALE des Collectivités locales (1987), 74. 27 Claude-Gérard Marcus, mayor of the tenth arrondissement, quoted in Habbab, “L’Application de la loi PML”, 73.


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status into practice brought an increased subordination of the councillors to the administration, to such a point that today (1994), a considerable number of them seem to regret the loss of their former status.”28 This is a revealing characteristic of the system of government that the new Mayor of Paris had progressively introduced: the status of the Parisian adjunct.29 In 1977 (and this organisation was retained in 1983), the majority of those directing central administration—against only three of the deputies30—received authority to sign on behalf of the mayor, exactly as specified in the Law of 31 December 1975 in a special dispensation from common law. Florence Haegel emphasises that: This rule did not signify a change of status (…) In effect, it is customary in all communes for the adjuncts to be authorised to sign on behalf of the mayor; and granting this authority to municipal officers is envisaged only if the adjunct is prevented from exercising it. At the centre of the Parisian municipality, only the heads of administration, under the authority of the general secretary, were entrusted with a degree of executive power. An adjunct, in his sphere of authority, cannot put a decision into effect without its being targeted by the administration; following the same logic, he exercises no official authority over the administrative officers (…) Today, this rule has not been altered, and in general the authority of the Parisian deputies is different from that held by their provincial colleagues.31

It is difficult to know whether Chirac’s priority was to rally to his cause an omnipotent and authority-wielding administration or to curtail the resources of potential political rivals. It remains the case that such a structuring of municipal power sharply limited the deputies’ margin for manoeuvre and scope of action. 28

Haegel, Un Maire à Paris, 98. Before 1977 there were no adjuncts, only presidents of sector-based, municipal commissions who could, during the annual meeting of the Council of Paris (which then met for one month each year), challenge the management of the Prefect of Paris and the directors of prefectoral administration. The PML Law limited the maximum number of adjuncts to the Mayor of Paris to 49. In March 1983, 28 sector-based adjuncts were nominated, to whom the twenty district mayors were added one month later as territorial adjuncts. It should also be mentioned that there were about thirty delegated councillors, with three associated with the Mayor of Paris and the remainder linked to sector-based adjuncts. 30 These were Christian de la Malène, first adjunct responsible for finances; Jean Tibéri, second adjunct responsible for general administration and for personnel; and Jean Chérioux, adjunct responsible for social affairs, and who received the authority to sign on behalf of the mayor only to deal with the affairs of the Office of Social Assistance, of which he was the vice-president. 31 Haegel, Un Maire à Paris, 99–100. 29

Municipal Reform and Political Enterprise in the 1980s


Beside this serried guard of a number of councillors, the cabinet of the Mayor and the general secretary appeared as two influential forces on the process of municipal decision-making. From the very beginning, Chirac’s cabinet allied itself with a rapidly-expanding ministerial cabinet,32 which increased from six members in 1978 to fifteen in 1982, and numbered more than twenty-five by the middle of the 1990s. It was composed of technical councillors responsible for specific domains such as urbanism, parks and gardens, traffic control, sport, and so on. In addition to organising the Mayor’s timetable, the cabinet also played a significant role in exercising authority and managing political liaison between the RPR, the departments directly associated with the mayor (general inspection, international affairs, Parisian security, news and exterior relations), and the district mayors, whose every petition, complaint and intervention had to pass by the cabinet.33 The role of general secretary— entrusted to Camille Cabana, director of the prefect Taulelle’s cabinet until the change in status in 1977—was the other essential component in municipal government, as all correspondence and dossiers passed by this officer, who transmitted them from the councillors to the directors and vice versa, and who acted as arbiter when necessary, according to the wishes of the mayor. In the light of this organisation, the status of adjunct accorded to the twenty district mayors seemed, apart from the material benefits entailed, more a political recompense likely to create a feudal link than a resource that could be mobilised by the councillors to foster political autonomy. Furthermore, Karim Habbab notes the “neutralising action of the centralising councillors” that also weighed on the positioning of district mayors. The deputies in charge of “strategic” sectors of municipal administration are either from the inner circle (Juppé, Tibéri, Galland…), or, if from an older generation (Rocher for urbanism, Romani for administration and finance…), then they are the product of a Gaullist spirit strongly emphasising centralising charismatic authority (…) More generally, the politicians at the head of key sectors (Finances, Financial Administration, Urbanism, Housing…) act as a brake on the “localist” demands that filter through the representation of territorial adjuncts, and are judged prejudicial to the general interests of the Parisians.34

32 It is significant that the first cabinet of the Mayor of Paris “was essentially constituted by translation from Matignon to the Town Hall, since all the members of this first cabinet—with the exception of Maurice Doublet, director of the cabinet—came directly from Matignon.” (Haegel, Un Maire à Paris, 109–110). 33 For a study of the role of the Mayor’s cabinet, see Knapp, “Le système politicoadministratif”. 34 Habbab, “L’Application de la loi PML”, 78.


Chapter Six

Finally, the three councillors at the core of the system of centralised power with authorisation to sign on Chirac’s behalf were also necessary points of reference for the district mayors in their relations with the central Town Hall: the adjunct for financial administration was responsible for the formal and procedural relations between the Paris Council and the district town halls; the adjunct financial officer targeted, among others, those dossiers submitted for advice to the district councils before their submission to the municipal council; lastly, the deputy responsible for municipal coordination was specifically charged with the application of the PML Law. The district mayors were thus faced with a political and administrative system that channelled their activities, rather than being themselves integral parts of a new system of municipal government. The first district mayors, despite their status as adjuncts, thus progressed within a power structure favouring not the affirmation of their new office, but rather the personalisation of a decision-making system based on the capacity for individual influence. This functioning was reinforced, as well as partially created, by the political configuration resulting from the municipal elections of 1983 in Paris. The configuration was characterised on the one hand by the electoral success and the political solidarity binding the different members of the municipal team more or less strongly together; and on the other hand, by the profile of the councillors holding the role of district mayors at the time. These two elements contributed to making the district mayor into an intermediary of centralised power, rather than allowing the mayor a full role as a new actor in the system of municipal government.

The Importance of the Elected Majority The elections of 1983 resulted in a significant majority for the right-wing lists, both at the level of the Council of Paris, with 141 seats out of 163, and also at the infra-municipal level, where the right was victorious in every arrondissement. Not only did the RPR–UDF lists win a majority of votes in all twenty arrondissements, but the opposition also had limited local success, with no representative in the eighth arrondissement and only a single councillor in seven other arrondissements. This configuration played a determining role in the application of the PML Law in Paris, particularly with regard to the behaviour of district mayors, and to their management by the leader of the municipal executive. The elected majority was in effect to play on the nature and form of relations developing from 1983 onwards between district mayors and the central political and administrative system. Partisan allegiance and the feudal links forged at the centre of the municipal team, in addition to the bonds of friendship already existing between its members, produced forms of solidarity that were more or less durable, more or less self-seeking, but that contributed to the

Municipal Reform and Political Enterprise in the 1980s


cohesion of the municipal executive and allowed Jacques Chirac to minimise the impact of the reform. The new mayors generally recognised the primacy of the Mayor of Paris over the affairs of the arrondissement, for the sake of municipal unity as much as out of political loyalty. Some clearly adopted the position of political intermediaries, as Jacques Chirac’s “lieutenants”. One example was Didier Bariani, the radical mayor of the twentieth arrondissement, who said: “the fortress commander is at the Town Hall. As for me, here in the twentieth arrondissement, I see myself of the colonel of the eastern fort.” Likewise Jacques Toubon, who presided over the first council of the thirteenth arrondissement, observed: “We are not here to administer the thirteenth arrondissement. We are to have only three roles: to be a point of contact between the municipality and the residents, to act as a catalyst for local initiatives, and to echo the aspirations of the population.”35 This role of outpost or intermediary, of representing local interests, was grasped and put into practice in different ways by the district mayors, with varying degrees of strictness, and varying degrees of conflict with the central powers. But because of the political coherence and the networks of solidarity emanating from the centre, expressions of discord—and possible conflicts over direction, priorities or projects—were largely attenuated, at least for external observers. I do not intend to suggest that the elected majority eradicated all disagreement over particular cases or over the expression of a political line different from that of the Mayor of Paris. Indeed, from 1983 onwards, differences broke out openly between certain district mayors and the central Town Hall regarding local plans, differences that were expressed in measures rejected by district councils, or in a refusal to register the plan to be discussed in the agenda for a meeting. Such expressions of conflict were often relayed in the press. Andrew Knapp, in his analysis of the political and administrative system in Paris between 1977 and 1987, mentions this phenomenon: Two months after the vote, the councils of four arrondissements (the sixth, thirteenth, eighteenth and twentieth, of which the mayors were Bas, Toubon, Rémond and Bariani) voted against certain plans for the town. The last case, in which the council of the twentieth arrondissement judged the concentration of social housing in three construction programmes to be too dense, is the most important, and was won by Bariani and his colleagues.36

In this instance, and similarly in the thirteenth and twentieth arrondissements in which the mayors played the role of intermediaries for Jacques Chirac, the 35

Marc Ambroise-Rendu, Paris–Chirac. Prestige d’une ville, ambition d’un homme (Paris: Plon, 1987), 260–2. 36 Knapp, “Le système politico-admistratif ”, 76.


Chapter Six

adoption of office by the new district mayors was not untroubled. Nonetheless, the mayors only rarely resorted to the powers of objection conferred on them by the legislation. The number of negative votes diminished rapidly, and local demands took the form of aspirations formulated by the council. Belonging to the majority, the councillors were able to rely on the likelihood of more or less direct access to the municipal executive, and developed a scheme of action that played more on political influence than on a power relationship. A subtle game began between the Mayor of Paris and the district mayors, based on the common concern that it was in the interests of both parties to avoid explicit conflict. Chirac sought the support of the local councillors, and endeavoured to restrict the emergence of district mayors as counter-powers. For him, this meant providing neither the reason nor the opportunity for such a development. The district mayors, on the other hand, knew that their unofficial scope for activity and intervention in local affairs was dependent largely on their access to the Mayor of Paris, or at least to the nerve-centre of decision-making. To achieve this access, it did not seem wise to adopt the strategy of a relationship based on power. It was thus in the domain of potential conflicts and their management that the elected majority came into play. In fact, rather than bringing these into the public domain, the main actors sought to prevent their emergence and to consult the district mayors at the inception of the decisionmaking process, before the plan could be included on the voting agenda of the district council. And when a consensus was not reached in this manner and a dissenting district mayor decided not to include a plan for discussion on the agenda of his council, the elected majority came into play. For while the Council of Paris could deliberate without the vote of the district council, the central Town Hall preferred not to play the card of institutional strength, and the vote of the Council of Paris capable of overriding a negative or non-existent vote from a district council “was never translated into practice: the plans to which the mayor opposed this ‘pocket veto’ (which existed only by consent of the Council of Paris), most frequently concerning subsidies to associations considered doubtful or not very commendable, passed away silently.”37 We should note that it was difficult in any case for the mayors to be in complete conflict with the Mayor of Paris, and that the latter was also obliged to compromise because he expected them to relay his action in their localities. The two parties were thus bound by a certain convergence of interests.


Ibid., 75–6.

Municipal Reform and Political Enterprise in the 1980s


A Determining Profile Finally, one last factor exercised a significant influence on the way in which the councillors adopted the mandate of district mayor, and minimised the impact of the reform on the system of government instigated by the Mayor of Paris: the profile of the mayors who had largely been “chosen” by Jacques Chirac. This factor has already been mentioned. Among the first district mayors were numerous members of parliament; councillors who already possessed about fifteen years’ familiarity with the political scene in Paris, some of whom had been adjuncts to Jacques Chirac between 1977 and 1983; “historic Gaullists”; as well as councillors of more recent local implantation but who were very close to the Mayor of Paris. These different characteristics were to influence the undertaking and development of the office of district mayor in Paris, as well as the system of relations established between the local councillors and the central Town Hall. During the first mandate, there were various types of behaviour. There were mayors like Kaspereit who attempted, despite the elected majority, to appropriate what was conferred by the law, especially in terms of funds, and mayors like Féron who found it normal not to apply the law because the unity of Paris should take priority. Féron said: “it’s normal that the central Town Hall should monopolise everything, in so far as it consults me beforehand.”38

The fact that this was not a matter of second-rank councillors might lead one to think that the district mayors intended to assert themselves at the centre of municipal government. [These mayors] are on average 54 years old, do not include any women, have clear local roots, good municipal experience, and strong political commitment; they combine their municipal mandate with another local mandate on a regional council, and especially with a national mandate of parliamentary deputy or senator. (…) The district mayors have characters that do not lead them to limit themselves to a secondary role of infra-communal councillor, as granted them by the law, but rather suggest that these are local councillors with all the sociological attributes necessary to play the full role of mayor. The district mayors of Paris have not escaped this tendency and have shown themselves since the beginning to be jealous of a title that they have immediately employed, confirming the familiar phenomenon of the attachment of councillors to the


Direction Jeunesses et Sports, local section, fifteenth arrondissement (ex-general secretary of the district), quoted in Houk, L’Institution de la proximité, 108.


Chapter Six mandate that best translates their local and territorial roots, the tangible source of the elected representative’s legitimacy.39

This observation nonetheless requires some modification, and we would support the hypothesis that the profile of the councillors of 1983 determined their investment in the new mandate and thus shaped its characteristics. In effect, the political existence of this first generation of district mayors relied on other resources than those—in any case limited—attached to the mandate itself. Because of their political trajectories the majority already possessed a personal political base, a network that could be mobilised at the core of the central administration40 and the power structure instituted by Chirac, and even within political arenas of their activity, such as parliament. This fact led them not to abandon their mandates as district mayors, but rather to invest essentially in one facet of the mandate: that of the symbolic representation likely to secure local prominence and to reinforce their electoral base. Encouraged by local residents, who turned increasingly towards the district town hall, they fulfilled the role of representing the centre at local level, maintaining and developing in so doing not only the image of the Mayor of Paris but also their own political foundations. The residents see their town councillors as mediators, as free consultants, almost as confessors. They assail them with demands for audiences and for correspondence. The mayors preside in turn over the council, the social services office and the administrative council for school finances. Some check the quality of the soup in the canteens. No-one has ever seen anything like it. (…) Most are concerned to liven up their arrondissement. Concerts, exhibitions, and sporting challenges have increased. In 1987 we were even able to watch the first interarrondissement games, during which, under the watchful eye of Guy Lux, the lads of the fourteenth arrondissement beat their neighbours of the thirteenth, even though the latter were managed by the hot-headed Jacques Toubon. (…) In any case, we could see the captains of Chirac’s party developing.41

The primacy accorded to the political dimension of the mandate also led the district mayors not to invest their energies in the activities that the law proposed to transfer elsewhere. In this respect, there was a convergence between the 39

Marie-Françoise Souchon-Zahn, “L’Administration de la Ville de Paris depuis 1983”, Revue Française d’Administration Publique 40 (1986), 115. 40 Half of the Parisian mayors were outgoing councillors, signifying that they were part of the district commissions created by the law of 1975. On account of this they were in a position to build relationships with local figures, especially from associations, and with municipal services in the context of their consultative relationship with the Council of Paris. 41 Ambroise-Rendu, Paris–Chirac, 262.

Municipal Reform and Political Enterprise in the 1980s


concerns of the new mayors and those of the Mayor of Paris. The example of housing is one of the most revealing. On this subject, article 14 of the PML Law anticipated that in effect “Housing whose assignment is the responsibility of the mayor of the commune, and that is situated in the arrondissement, is to be attributed half by the district mayor and half by the mayor of the commune.” In reality, the district mayors were not attached to this prerogative, giving free rein to the central Town Hall and fully aware of the disparity between the limited housing available to them and the increasing number of demands. In certain arrondissements with no building programmes, the councillors had no housing to assign. This situation is aptly illustrated by the reaction of one councillor of the twelfth arrondissement: “If there’s one flat and one thousand requests, we make 999 enemies!”42 Because of the political configuration resulting from the municipal elections of 1983, local councillors made the choice not to burden themselves with activities that risked damaging their local political base. It was in an unofficial manner, on the basis of their network of relationships at the core of the central decision-making system, even within a network of different sponsors, that these councillors endeavoured to exercise their influence on certain dossiers. In this case, they intervened not in the capacity of district mayors and according to the authority granted them by law, but as councillors possessing personal resources of influence. The political framework established by Jacques Chirac, the elected majority, and the profile of district mayors thus appear as elements contributing to limit the rise of the figure of district mayor. They created the bases for the significance of the role and office which prevailed in the municipal system of Paris during the first two terms of the law’s application. The district mayors were above all mediators of the central power and of its leader, Jacques Chirac.

Conclusion After having strongly opposed the reform bill and committed himself to repealing the legislation as soon as possible,43 Jacques Chirac ultimately succeeded in benefiting from the system instituted by the PML Law. Studying the impact of decentralisation on the functioning of the RPR, Andrew Knapp and Patrick Le Galès have noted that: 42 Bastien François, Éléments pour une analyse des politiques municipales: l’exemple du logement social à Paris (DEA thesis, Université de Paris-I, 1985), 82. 43 It should be noted that the PML Law was never the subject of a proposed repeal, despite the right’s coming to power in 1986. It is certainly not easy for a government to suppress a level of political representation once this has been created, as the manylayered structure of local government in France suggests. But this fact demonstrates the importance that the system finally held for the leader of the RPR.


Chapter Six Even the most vociferously denounced reform of all, the 1982 law giving elected mayors to each of the twenty arrondissements of Paris (and their equivalents to Lyons and Marseilles), was judged three years later to have positive elements by a number of Chirac’s Paris colleagues. Reforms met by the Gaullists with sullen resistance have been better for them—at least in the short term—than those they themselves conceive”.44

The case of the PML Law reveals the manner in which Jacques Chirac relied on the capital to consolidate the foundations of the RPR, to establish his own leadership of the party and simultaneously to prepare the way for his candidacy as President. The system of government instituted by the Mayor of Paris from 1977 onwards was determined by this political enterprise. The municipal elections of 1983—and especially those of 1989—testify to the efficacy of this system, with Chirac’s lists victorious in every arrondissement in the capital. At the end of the 1980s, the vast majority of RPR leaders were already being drawn from the Parisian inner circle. The system began to falter with the Jacques Chirac’s election as President of the Republic in 1995. After the municipal elections of the same year, the municipal majority was briefly united behind Jean Tibéri but lost six arrondissements. The man chosen by the outgoing mayor as his successor was not successful in maintaining control over a system which had, to a certain degree, lost its raison d’être with the achievement of Jacques Chirac’s political ambitions as Mayor of Paris. Chirac’s departure prompted the reawakening of local aspirations that had previously been contained, dividing the municipal majority and contributing, among other factors, to the right’s defeat in the municipal elections of 2001.


Andrew Knapp and Patrick La Galès, “Top down to bottom up? Centre–periphery relations and power structures in France’s Gaullist party”, West European Politics 16 (1993), 280.



Charles Maurras (1868–1952) was, without a doubt, the most important rightwing thinker and writer in France in his century: both in the richness of his published work, which encompassed almost the complete spectrum of literary genres, and in the extent of his ideological influence, well beyond the circles of the extreme right. From 1886 to 1940 he lived exclusively in Paris, apart from a few weeks spent each year in his native Martigues. His relationship with Paris was thus self-evident and yet ambivalent. He arrived there a man of the provinces, with little money and few social connections; a faithful partisan of the Félibriges movement;1 a man whose works constantly extolled the beauties of his native South and of the Mediterranean. Furthermore, in 1892 he adopted a federalist position, and throughout his career he was obliged to defend himself against the suspicions aroused by his contradictory stance: on the one hand he was an uncompromising nationalist, and on the other a resolute opponent of Parisian centralisation. What could Paris offer to a man isolated by deafness from the society of others, leading only a nocturnal life between the printing works of his newspaper, Action Française, and the few salons and cafés that he patronised? What could the city hold for a bohemian living in modest apartments overflowing with books, wholly devoted to the repetitious affirmation of archaic slogans about a Restoration that would be monarchical, Catholic and social, and who remained apparently uninfluenced by the evolution


I would like to thank Jessica Wardhaugh for kindly translating this chapter. The Félibriges literary movement was founded by Frédéric Mistral to defend the language and civilisation of Provence. 1

“Entre le Louvre et la Bastille”


of the modern capital?2 It is my aim to demonstrate that this apparently ambiguous position reveals a constant tension and distance between Maurras and Paris. Moreover, the very city lent itself to strategies of ambiguity, tension and distancing. Paris is first and foremost a very real topography. The actions and practices of Maurras in his roles of writer and journalist may be inscribed within this topography, which also measured out the map of the Republic of Letters in which Maurras sought membership, despite his extreme ideological position. In their commonplace nature and even their triviality, Maurras’ activities were neither arbitrary nor innocent of meaning, but were rather intended to signify this membership, essential if he was to secure legitimacy and to gain acceptance for his ideological position outside the narrow circles of the extreme right. Furthermore, Paris was not a neutral territory in which ambitions and careers could be given free rein. The streets and the people of Paris were not only the targets for Maurras’ political activity; they also provided sociological models for his theories as an ideologist. When the people make an appearance in Maurras’ works, they reflect the social realities of the small provençal port of his childhood as well as the Parisian people, gathered together by monarchist ceremonies and demonstrations organised in the capital. Paris is, finally, a central symbol in the history of France, an essential element in the great national narrative and, as such, a coveted prize in the battle between the different ideologies competing to tell this story. Against the narrative of the left—which glorified Paris as the universal capital of the Revolution and of the Rights of Man—was pitted the royal epic, also claiming universality, which described the gradual construction, through successive generations, of a kingdom constantly threatened by foreign empires. Maurras pictured this contest in the title of one of his own books: Entre le Louvre et la Bastille [Between the Louvre and the Bastille].3

Paris: A Place of Intellectual and Literary Legitimacy Paris was thus primarily a unique environment for acquiring intellectual and literary legitimacy. The geography of Paris was patterned by sharp contrasts: between the Right and Left Banks, between faubourgs4 and outer suburbs, between the working-class east and the elite west. And yet, despite these contrasts, the Republic of Letters could be very precisely located. From 2

For biographical details of Maurras’ life, see Bruno Goyet, Charles Maurras (Paris: Presses de la Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, 2000). 3 Charles Maurras, Entre le Louvre et la Bastille (Paris: Éditions du Cadran, 1931). 4 Faubourg (in this context): an aristocratic quarter in the centre of Paris.


Chapter Seven

bohemian youth to consecration by the Académie Française, a writer could find in this Republic the necessary environments for initial recognition, and for the development of his career and fame.5 This “geography of legitimacy” was all the more important when a man of letters was governed by divergent rationales, particularly those arising from political circles or public opinion, which obliged the writer to take sides and to engage in non-literary battles. This was an urgent concern for a writer as politically engaged as Charles Maurras, and he was especially anxious to combat political interference in his literary work during and after the Dreyfus Affair, as this threatened his specifically literary recognition. Political activity was of course legitimate in its own right, but violent and resolute political outbursts were not acceptable as literary or artistic works.6 Maurras fitted neatly into the clearly defined, classic geography of the Republic of Letters. His first apartment was in the fifth arrondissement of Paris,7 in the very heart of the Quartier Latin; he then moved to the sixth arrondissement in about 1890;8 from there to the seventh; first to the edge of the sixth, and finally to the centre of the aristocratic quarter.9 This was a drift west, but always on the Left Bank and in intellectual Paris. It was not a particularly original trajectory, and indeed closely resembled that of Paul Bourget, another great writer of the nationalist right: although since his final home was in the seventh arrondissement Maurras did not follow this journey to its natural conclusion in the sixteenth, which was in the 1930s the favoured residence of successful writers.10 A similar evolution can be traced for the headquarters of Action Française, where Maurras received visitors far more frequently than he did at his home. Located in the sixth arrondissement while still a review,11 the newspaper then migrated to the hub of journalistic activity on the borders of the


Christophe Charle, Paris fin de siècle. Culture et politique (Paris: Seuil, 1998), 62, 72– 3. 6 On this question, see Philippe Olivera, La Politique des lettrées en France. Les essais politiques 1919–1932 (Unpublished thesis, University of Paris-I, 2001). 7 He lived first on the Rue des Fossés Saint-Jacques, and then on the Rue Cujas. 8 First on the Rue Guénégaud, then the Rue du Dragon, and finally on the Boulevard Saint-Germain. 9 First on the Rue de Verneuil, then the Rue de Bourgogne. 10 According to his correspondence, more than a quarter of Maurras’ favoured literary colleagues lived in the sixteenth arrondissement; one fifth lived in the seventh arrondissement and only 14% in the sixth. The other arrondissements represented were the fourteenth (9.5%) and the eighth (8%). Letter of 22 June 1937 from the Flammarion publishing house, Paris, Archives Nationales (hereafter AN), Maurras papers: 576 Archives Privés (hereafter AP), Carton 37. 11 The Rue du Bac.

“Entre le Louvre et la Bastille”


ninth and second arrondissements,12 and afterwards to the Rue de Rome (eighth), opposite Saint-Lazare station: a bustling, working-class area. Its final destination was the Rue du Boccador (eighth arrondissement, close to the sixteenth) in a peaceful and opulent quarter, far removed from the rest of the Parisian press.13 Maurras thus moved from the world of the café to that of the salon, leaving the publishers’ districts for those of the embassies and ministries. But just as in the offices of Action Française, so too did Maurras both work and receive visitors in the printing works, maintaining a traditional style of work out of step with the changing working practices of the twentieth-century journalist, who was increasingly a unionised employee, distanced from the world of the typesetters.14 The printing works remained at the heart of the Parisian press district: located first on the Rue du Croissant (second arrondissement) and later on the Rue du Jour (first arrondissement). Like Maurras’ career, his favourite haunts reflected the divergence between the progress that impelled him towards the respectable quarters of the west, and the defence of an avant-garde identity that was the legacy of his bohemian youth, and that anchored him firmly in the central districts. Paris allowed such a divergence, essential if Maurras was to retain the minimum of respect in literary circles that his extreme political positions and his involvement in daily debate tended to threaten. Paris offered this “Carte du Tendre” of politics, invaluable to any man wishing to make his name. To share in the same areas frequented by the literary world, however, was also to participate in particularly dense networks of communication, essential to men of letters. The intensity of these social exchanges was conditioned by the times and frequency of postal collections and deliveries. The postal service fostered a sense of proximity that the very size of Paris might seem to render impossible. One of the most time-consuming tasks for Maurras—as for his fellow writers—was that of reading and responding to this copious correspondence, for which he relied on the help of two secretaries.15 During the first half of the twentieth century, there were ten postal collections in Paris every day of the week, two of them during the night.16 The daytime collections 12

First the Rue de la Chaussée d’Antin, and the Rue Caumartin. Charle, Paris fin de siècle, 67–69. 14 Christian Delporte, Les Journalistes en France, 1880–1950. Naissance et construction d’une profession (Paris: Seuil, 1998). 15 Léon Daudet, Maurras’ great companion at Action Française, evoked the hundreds of letters that Maurras received every day in his Souvenirs littéraires (Paris: Grasset, 1968), 242. There was constant communication with publishers concerning contracts, corrections, accounts, postal services, and so on. 16 All the data concerning the organisation of the postal service in Paris may be found in L’Indicateur: annuaire de l’administration des postes, and in Jacques Morel, Les 13


Chapter Seven

were delivered to their Parisian destinations only two hours later. Adding to this the even more rapid delivery of petits bleus [notes sent by pneumatic dispatch], with a transmission time of about twenty minutes from one post office to another, we have a measure of the intensity of epistolary communication in Paris, which largely compensated for the lack of adequate telephone provision in the capital. As a general rule, all social and literary life was structured by the use of the postal service, even, paradoxically, the leaving of visiting cards, which signified deference on the part of the visitor, who appeared in person rather than relying on the post.17 Thus the distribution of post offices reflected the epistolary practices they structured, and Maurras’ correspondents conformed to the same geography, with a marked dominance by the central districts on the Right Bank—the world of business and journalism—and by the intellectual districts on the Left Bank, a relatively important status for the faubourgs of the aristocracy and high society, and with vast deserts in the peripheral workingclass areas.18 Table 7.1: Origin by arrondissement of Maurras’ correspondents in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries19 The press district: second arrondissement, and parts of the third, eighth and ninth arrondissements The Quartier Latin: publishing houses and cafés, fifth, sixth and part of the fourteenth arrondissements The Faubourg Saint-Germain: seventh arrondissement, and part of the fifteenth The Faubourg Saint-Honoré: parts of the first, eighth, sixteenth and seventeenth arrondissements Upper-class suburbs: parts of the sixteenth arrondissement, Neuilly, SaintCloud and Versailles Central working-class districts: parts of the third, fourth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth arrondissements Proletarian areas in the north of Paris: parts of the tenth, seventeenth and eighteenth arrondissements

27.3% 20% 9.4% 17% 10% 6% 6%

Établissements postaux parisiens de 1863 à 1985 (Paris: Direction des Postes de Paris, 1986). Daytime collections took place at 7.15, 9.15, 11.00, 13.45, 15.45, 17.45 and 19.15. 17 Before 1914, the sending of a visitor’s card cost between 2 and 5 centimes (according to whether or not it was enveloped), whereas the cost of a simple letter was 10 centimes and that of a telegram, 30 centimes. 18 Here we see the privileged geography of the Republic of Letters, and in particular the domination of the eighth and ninth arrondissements. Charle, Paris fin de siècle, 59. 19 Based on Maurras’ correspondence between 1895 and 1902 (more than 450 letters of Parisian origin), now conserved in the Archives Nationales, 576 AP, Cartons 1–3.

“Entre le Louvre et la Bastille” Proletarian areas in the east of Paris: parts of the eleventh and twelfth, nineteenth and twentieth arrondissements Working-class areas of the south of Paris: parts of the twelfth, fourteenth and fifteenth arrondissements

153 2% 2.3%

The intensity of these encounters of all kinds, from the most formal to the most informal, created a genuine intellectual and literary space, and added to formally published writings works of correspondence as well as l’œuvre de conversation [works of conversation].20 In addition to his participation in these networks of communication and topography, Maurras also respected the prescribed etiquette of the Republic of Letters. Life in literary Paris demanded that one play a well-defined role. Artists, according to Marcel Proust’s caricature, “sleep all day, walk at night, and work nobody knows when”.21 Maurras began his day at about noon by reading the daily papers in a restaurant; then in the late afternoon he would wend his way to his office at the headquarters of Action Française, there to peruse his correspondence and receive visitors. Dealing with his innumerable would-be visitors was a time-consuming task. He received visitors at the newspaper headquarters or at the printing works, having neither a “respectable” residence, nor a home in which to hold a salon. Maurice Barrès’ description of one of his apartments is revealing: “The place was littered with reviews, pamphlets, newspapers; sometimes one might wallow in these piles up to one’s waist; and they were always at least ankle-deep.”22 The evenings gave Maurras the opportunity to be received at salon gatherings, at the houses of friends or acquaintances, and to participate in public meetings. Then, at around midnight, he would return once again to his newspaper, this time to the printing works, devoting considerable time to writing his article and supervising the printing of the day’s edition. Having replied to his letters, he would return home only at daybreak, reciting poetry to himself even in the midst of the most impassioned current events. It was a nocturnal way of life, distanced from the things of this world, and which corresponded to the topos of literary existence, “the unending lesson of one’s own life” according to the description of Pierre Varillon, one of


This was the expression employed by René Brécy in Charles Maurras, 1868–1952 (Paris: Plon, 1953), 31. 21 “(Les artistes) dorment le jour, se promènent la nuit, travaillent on ne sait quand.” Marcel Proust, “Mondanité et mélomanie de Bouvard et Pécuchet” in Les Plaisirs et les jours (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1896; Paris: Gallimard-Folio, 1993), 110. 22 “Il s’y trouve une litière de revues, de brochures, journaux, où l’on s’enfonce parfois jusqu’au ventre, mais qui monte toujours un peu au-dessus de la cheville.” Cited by Yves Chiron in La Vie de Maurras (Paris: Perrin, 1991), 207.


Chapter Seven

Maurras’ most faithful disciples and friends.23 His deafness, and the modesty of his attire, as of his way of life, made him an icon of timeless sanctity: he was one of the least well-paid editorial writers of the Parisian press, and refused any increase in salary.24 The literary world was built on an economy of symbolic wealth, which was even more important when Maurras disregarded the expected precautions of a scholar on another level, that of involvement in the battles of the City. It was thus that Maurras was able to find acceptance in intellectual circles often far removed from his own ideological stance. As he himself commented: “I consoled myself with the thought that literature is a haven in which intelligent men of the most contradictory sympathies may still fraternise”.25 And he succeeded in safeguarding this literary fraternity with his mentor, Anatole France, with whom he shared the same literary tastes and, in this case, dislikes, even though France’s socialist and Dreyfusard convictions divided the two men politically. France congratulated Maurras in 1902 for his article on the death of Zola, their inveterate literary enemy: “I shake your hand across the barricade”.26 At Maurras’ death, Jean Paulhan, director of the Nouvelle Revue Française and founder of the Comité National des Écrivains [National Committee of Writers] in the Resistance, referred “to the extreme nobility and purity of his life, to his virtue, in the strongest sense of the term. There are few men today of whom one can say that they and their thought are one.”27 Maurras was indeed respected by his peers as an important figure in intellectual Paris, despite his extremist sympathies. If one adds that he was courted assiduously by the publishers Gaston Gallimard, Bernard Grasset and others, and that he was elected to the Académie Française in 1938 (where he joined his literary brother Jacques Bainville, while Léon Daudet, his companion in battle, occupied an eminent place in the Académie Goncourt) one may justifiably argue that Maurras was


“L’innombrable enseignement de sa propre vie.” Letter of 1927, AN 576 AP 34. He earned 5,000 francs p.a. in the interwar years, a mediocre salary compared with the average revenue of contemporary Parisian journalists. See Delporte, Les Journalistes en France, 257; Christophe Charle, Le Siècle de la presse (1830–1939) (Paris: Seuil, 2004), 272. 25 “Je me berçais de cette pensée que les Lettres sont un refuge où peuvent fraterniser encore les intelligences les plus contraires.” Letter of 30 November 1898 to the publisher Félix Alcan, AN 576 AP 34. 26 Quelques Lettres inédites d’Anatole France et de Mme Arman de Caillavet à Charles Maurras (Paris: Le Lys Rouge, Société Anatole France, 1972), Fo. 8. 27 “(Il fait allusion) à l’extrême noblesse et à la pureté de sa vie: à sa vertu dans le sens le plus fort du terme. Il existe peu d’hommes dont on puisse dire aujourd’hui qu’ils ne se distinguent pas de leur pensée.” Jean Paulhan, Letter on the occasion of the death of Charles Maurras, Aspects de France, January 1953. 24

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not so much normalised as consecrated in the Parisian literary world of the interwar years.

The People of Paris Paris provided Maurras not only with a basis for literary recognition and legitimacy, but also with a social environment in which to seek a sociological model. It was the people of the districts of Paris that was to serve as a reference point when he introduced “the people” in his ideology. On his arrival in the capital in 1886, his only experience of the world had been within the boundaries of a small fishing port on the Mediterranean coast. One might have expected his move to Paris to overturn his social vision, yet in reality he transposed into the Parisian context the same archaic and provincial social concepts that he had nurtured among the fishermen of Martigues. The social understanding that underpinned Maurras’ analyses is vividly illustrated in an article written for Action Française in January 1913 on “the electric carriage”. His subject was the new tramways in which class distinctions were “more ideal than real”: a classic right-wing dream in which a communitarian Gemeinschaft was contrasted with the cold, rational Gesellschaft of modern times. The different social bodies may thus observe concretely, and without the least claim to equality, that they all belong to the same family of animals, with two legs and no feathers.28

Marcel Proust responded to this in a famous passage of À la Recherche du temps perdu, in which he evoked the doormat in the Guermantes’ apartment, located in the town house in which his own parents rented a flat. Proust, who was working on the passage at the time, evidently made corrections after reading Maurras’ article, and wrote of the matting as a social boundary that was “very real, even though ideal”.29 Despite their opposition, these two contemporary writers, who


“Les différents corps de l’État peuvent donc constater matériellement que, sans prétendre le moins du monde à l’égalité, ils appartiennent tous à la même famille d’animaux à deux pieds sans plumes.” An article reprinted in L’Étang du Berre (Paris: Honoré Champion, 1915), 31. 29 “Bien réelle, encore qu’idéale” Marcel Proust, À la Recherche du temps perdu (Paris: Gallimard, La Pléiade, 1988), Vol. 2, “Le côté de Guérmantes”, 330 (for this passage), 1065 (for the note that gives the original version of the text and that dates the revision to spring 1913). Jean-Yves Tadié, in Marcel Proust, biographie (Paris: Gallimard, Folio, 1996), describes La Recherche as an “enormous system of references”.


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were well acquainted through their participation in the same salons and obsessed by the same world and its mythology, analysed society in identical terms.30 To analyse the significance of the “people” for Maurras, and what he meant by “the different social bodies”, we can avail ourselves of a valuable source: the lists of those who took part in the principal monarchist rituals and ceremonies that revealed royalist loyalties in Paris. These include lists published by Action Française of those attending masses in memory of Louis XVI, celebrated every year on 21 January at Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois. They also include books of “visits” to the royal pretender at his mansion on the Rue de Miromesnil, visits that were purely a matter of form since the pretender lived in exile, and that involved leaving one’s card or signing the visitor’s book as a mark of respect for the prince. In addition, there are lists of those who attended the funeral of the Duke of Orléans at Notre-Dame de Paris in 1926.31


Until the Dreyfus Affair, everything would appear to have united the two men. They both frequented the salon of Madame Arman de Caillavet, were protégés of Anatole France, and shared in his defence of classicism against realists and symbolists. It was through his intervention that they both began to publish with Calmann-Lévy, with a success not limited to a narrow readership. Maurras published Le Chemin de paradis in 1895; Proust published Les Plaisirs et les jours in 1896. Their friendship was then clear, for the only favourable and detailed review received by Proust for this book was that published by Maurras in La Revue encyclopédique on 22 August 1896. For these details, see Tadié, Marcel Proust, especially Vol. 1, 437, 448 and 474. 31 These visitors’ books are preserved at the Archives Nationales under Maison de France, 300 AP, Cartons 937–942, and the records of the funeral service of the Duke of Orléans may be found in Cartons 921–922. These lists are analysed in my thesis, Un Rôle en politique: Henri d’Orléans, Comte de Paris 1908–1940 (Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, January 1996, supervised by Serge Berstein), 133–229, “Sociabilité potentielle”, and in my Henri d’Orléans, Comte de Paris 1908–1999. Le Prince Impossible (Paris: Odile Jacob, 2001), 90–146, “Points de vue et image du monde”. The word “people” is here used to designate all of those who were not listed in any of the Who’s Who directories and who were thus furthest removed from high society’s reverence for the princes. “Monde” designates all those mentioned in these directories, and “Faubourg” those who were mentioned as members of a society club, who lived in aristocratic areas and owned a mansion that served as the setting for their receptions.

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Table 7.2: The social composition of participants in the three monarchist rituals of 1926 %

Overall Attendance

Funeral Visits 21 January

4151 1513 621

Very high society [Faubourgs] 12.7 32.2 11.8

High society [Monde] 22.0 40.4 35.3

Working classes [Peuple] 46.3 18.0 41.4



12.6 8.6 3.0

6.4 0.8 8.5

In this year, the funeral of the royal pretender was attended by more than 4,000, 80% of whom were Parisian. This led to an unprecedented increase in visitors to the princes’ mansion to a total of more than 1,500, in contrast to the habitual 400–600. Attendance at the mass of 21 January remained at a low ebb, with only 600 supporters, although this number was to increase the following year and to double in 1928. The presence of supporters from the provinces is very low in these lists, which present a clear picture of monarchist and neomonarchist loyalty in the Parisian region. Comparing the social composition of the lists allows us to understand to what extent the militancy of the neo-royalist Action Française, represented by the masses of 21 January, renewed the traditional, aristocratic respect for the princes of Orléans. This deference was tightly interwoven with the social networks of the Parisian elite, and its translation into political terms is problematic. What “people” was in fact attracted to these ceremonies that were both social and political? The first observation is self-evident: the monarchist militancy of 21 January and the homage paid to the late pretender attracted a much more working-class population (41.4% and 46.3%) than the aristocratic practice of the “visit” (18%). Our aim is, however, to define this monarchist people of Paris—not in sociological terms, since the lists provide scant information on professional background, but in geographical terms: to which Parisian districts can this “people” be traced?32 Table 7.3: Origin by arrondissement of those attending the rituals of 1926 1st- 6th 7th 8th 9th 5th Visits 2.1 2.1 26.0 24.0 0.9 Funeral 5.8 7.4 18.0 11.0 1.7 %

16th & 17th Neuilly 24.6 4.2 14.7 4.3

10th15th 2 9.3

18th- Suburbs Address 20th unknown 0.4 4.1 9.6 2.9 10.7 14.2

32 The lists of those attending the masses of 21 January do not give the addresses of the signatories, and so, unlike the other two lists, cannot be analysed by arrondissement.


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Indeed, 18% of those in the visitors’ books were working-class, but only 2.4% came from the working-class districts in the south and east of Paris; similarly, 46% of those attending the funeral of the Duke were working-class, and only 12% came from these working-class districts. The majority of those attending were thus people from the faubourgs of the seventh, eighth and sixteenth arrondissements, and from the traditional quarters of the centre, in which different social classes inhabited different horizontal strata within buildings. People from the east and south of Paris, where the classes were separated horizontally rather than vertically and there were no resident elites, were not well represented. Modelled on the salon in contrast to the egalitarian club, visits to the prince were often made by the residents of a particular mansion, including noble and fashionable residents as well as others of more modest background. There was thus an effect of social attraction, a “snob effect”, which could not be found in the peripheral areas of the east and the south, where traditional social elites were almost non-existent.33 Hence the relative importance of the central quarters and the seventeenth arrondissement, where it was possible to find this type of vertical sociability outside the faubourgs in the strict sense of the term. These districts also benefited from their geographical proximity to the faubourgs, and indeed the other notable characteristic of these lists is that they demonstrate the importance of geographical proximity to the areas in which the ceremonies of monarchist loyalty were held. If the central quarters were relatively well-represented at the funeral of the royal pretender, then this was because the ceremony was held at the neighbouring cathedral of Notre-Dame. If the Faubourg Saint-Honoré (eighth arrondissement) trumps the Faubourg SaintGermain (seventh) in the list of visitors, then this is undoubtedly because the princes’ mansion was situated on the Rue de Miromesnil, in the heart of the eighth arrondissement. There was thus a genuinely territorial character to political commitment, as to intellectual life. The influence of these patterns of attraction on the levels of attendance can be discerned, if only faintly, even in proletarian areas. This was the case for the eighteenth arrondissement in the north-east of Paris, an area not renowned for its monarchist sympathies. The eighteenth arrondissement makes a striking appearance in the lists of attendance, even if this is relatively weak when compared with the numerical importance of the central quarters: in January 1927, for instance, 11 out of 27 visitors from working-class areas came from this district alone, and arrived together. Explaining this phenomenon by 33 A similar model of social attraction may be found in the subscription lists of Action Française. A certain Roger de Bures, for example, who attended the ceremony of 21 January, brought to the newspaper 13 subscriptions from the workers on his estates (caretakers, farmers, railwaymen…). Action Française, 14 January 1926, forty-second list of subscribers “for national action”.

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referring to the activism of the local section of Action Française only sidesteps the question.34 And yet while the eighteenth arrondissement was far removed from traditional and aristocratic Paris, and while social elites were almost absent from the area, it was nevertheless not strictly speaking proletarian, characterised more by the traditional, popular sociability structured around caretakers, cafés and workshops: the petit peuple who were still characteristically the people at the centre of right-wing social thought.35 It is not therefore surprising that it was the militants of this district who took part in the annual commemoration of Joan of Arc at the Porte de la Chapelle: a venerated place in the cult of the saint, as it was there that she was believed to have prayed during the siege of Paris, but a peripheral one in relation to the Paris of the classic demonstrations of the right, which took place along the axis running between the Champs Élysées and the Place des Pyramides.36 Monarchism brought substantial reinforcements to the traditional aristocratic respect for the princes, whether this was the neo-monarchism represented at the masses of 21 January or the traditional royalist loyalty of the ceremony at NotreDame. In both cases, the working-class battalions came from areas characterised by a strong noble presence. This permits a better understanding of the social concepts of Charles Maurras, as of those propounded by the classic right. In their social thought, the “people” was far removed from the modern proletariat and belonged more to the social structures of the Ancien Régime: to corporatism, and to the alliance between Church and Château that existed in the countryside. There was a genuine social affinity between Maurras and those attending monarchist rituals. The cafés of his literary and political début37 were succeeded by the aristocratic salons of the Faubourg Saint-Germain.38 It was the 34

The report of 25 November 1930 emphasises the importance of the section of the eighteenth arrondissement. “Notes sur les activités des sections de l’Action Française de la Seine”, AN, Ministry of the Interior, F7 13199. 35 Antoine Prost, “Les peuples du XVIIIième arrondissement en 1936” in Jean-Louis Robert and Danielle Tartakowsky (eds.), Paris le peuple, XVIIIe–XXe siècle (Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1999), 59–76. 36 Danielle Tartakowsky, “Révéler la mémoire des rues” in Christophe Charle and Daniel Roche (eds.), Capitales culturelles, capitales symboliques. Paris et les expériences européennes (Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 2002), 92. 37 These cafés were Le Soleil d’or (Place Saint-Michel), Le Procope (Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie), Le Voltaire (Place de l’Odéon), and above all Le Flore (Boulevard SaintGermain). Maurras’ Au Signe de Flore (Paris: Les Œuvres Représentatives, 1931, and Grasset, 1933) associated memories of his political début in Paris with this café. 38 These were the salons of Madame Arman de Caillavet (eighth arrondissement), Madame Arthème Fayard (sixteenth), Princess Murat, the Countess of Luynes, the Countess of Rohan-Chabot (all in the seventh arrondissement), the Countess of Courville (sixth), and Queen Amelia of Portugal (near Versailles).


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same quarters that had witnessed the development of his literary and ideological career that provided the great battalions of loyal monarchists. The reference to the people—and to a monarchist people—was important in Maurras’ thought, and indeed reflected the same concern that we have seen in his personal geography: to maintain an attachment to the lower classes and not confine himself to social elites and their privileged milieu. He spoke of the dramatic division of Paris: on one side, a modern Paris “torn from the framework of its past” and on the other, a Paris “disguised as a museum caretaker.”39 Both the reality and the mythology of Maurras’ Paris were situated between the Louvre and the Bastille. For Paris was not only a topographical and social reality, but also a discursive one.

Paris as a Character in the Grand Narrative of France The development of Maurras’ ideology, as of his critical thought, was more dependent on narrative than on logical exposition. It was indeed as a narrative that this ideology was presented to—and sought to convince—its public. This is what I propose to term the “grand narrative of France”: the narrative that was defended by all nationalist thought and that legitimised such thought in public opinion, as in intellectual and political circles. This narrative appeared as frequently in Maurras’ works of fiction as in his purely political or polemical writings; indeed, it was often the domain in which the contradiction between one’s literary and political career could be resolved. Even Maurras’ great Dictionnaire politique et critique was, behind the apparent neutrality of alphabetical order, structured by this narrative of France, by its great figures and important locations. Apart from Rome, Paris was the only town to be the subject of an entire article, to which one might add the short article entitled “Bastille”.40 But the four-page article on Paris hardly compares with the 100-page one on “Provence”. Similarly, only a few of his many books were specifically devoted to Paris—Entre le Louvre et la Bastille41 and Au Signe de Flore: Souvenirs de la vie politique42—whereas Athens and Provence were frequently honoured: Anthinéa, d’Athènes à Florence;43 L’Étang de Berre;44 39

“Séparé de la trame de son passé”; “déguisé en gardien de musée,” Dictionnaire politique et critique, Vol. 2 (Paris: La Cité des Livres, 1932), 97. The article comes from Action Française, 21 May 1908. 40 Ibid., Vol. 3, 1933, 333–335. “Versailles (traité de)” and “Verdun” must be placed in a different category, as the articles referred only to the events that took place there. 41 (Paris: Le Cadran, 1931). 42 (Paris: Les Œuvres représentatives, 1931). 43 (Paris: Félix Juven, 1901). 44 (Paris: Champion, 1915).

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Athènes Antique;45 Rome, Naples et Florence;46 Premiers Pas sur l’Acropole;47 Sur les Étangs de Marthe. Entre Berre et Caronte;48 Le Voyage d’Athènes49… This provides a useful gauge of the importance of Paris in the works of Maurras. He himself was very conscious of the extent to which his position in Paris rested on a certain ambiguity: My mother maintained, to tease me, that I had learned to speak Provençal in Paris. Pleasantries aside, it was really Paris that filled me with such great love for the language of our people.50

In literary as well as political terms, Paris played a vital role in Maurras’ narrative. Paris was one of the great myth-symbols contested between left and right, a discursive battleground; and this explains why Maurras’ prose was characterised in this area by evident tensions, and had to sustain a divergence between very different positions.51 The mythical Paris appears three-faced: a threatening town, a town under threat, and a new Athens. Of the three extracts that constitute the article on Paris in the Dictionnaire politique et critique, two concern the relationships between Paris and the small towns of the French provinces, “guardians of rural life”. Paris is “one of those towns like grasping hydras that devour men, crush races, and fuel cosmopolitanism; where all the characteristics of families and countries are drawn together, consumed, and reduced to ashes.”52 This is a classic image of the city as a cauldron of all the perversions of modernity. But the critic cannot overstep the mark, and Maurras devoted all his rhetorical skill to reconciling the contradiction between the defence of national grandeur and the defence of small provincial homes [patries]. When we talk of our villages and our provinces, we must be careful to believe that this involves no opposition to Paris. … The more we are determined to 45

(Paris: Nouvelle Librairie Nationale, 1918). (Paris: Champion, 1919). 47 (Paris: Champion, 1924). 48 (Paris: Horizons de France, 1927). 49 (Paris: Léon Pichon, 1928). 50 “Ma mère assurait, pour me taquiner, que j’avais appris le provençal à Paris. Plaisanterie mise à part, c’était bien Paris qui m’avait rempli de cet amour pour la langue de notre peuple.” Au Signe de Flore, 32. 51 Évelyne Cohen offers a glimpse of the contradictions surrounding the symbolism of Paris in Paris dans l’imaginaire national de l’entre-deux-guerres (Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1999). 52 “(Paris est une de) ces villes tentaculaires, mangeuses d’hommes, broyeuses de races, creusets du cosmopolitanisme, où tous les caractères des familles et des pays sont attirés, dévorés, réduits en cendres.” From an article in Action Française, 23 February 1929. 46

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reduce the excessive pressure of centralisation on French life, the more it is necessary to recognise that the capital is nonetheless important, and that it has never deserved to be stripped of its regulating powers.53

The diversity of Paris allows this contradiction to be resolved, and the image of Paris that Maurras evokes in the rare poems devoted to the city is eminently peaceful and provincial. From Saint-Louis en L’Île The dawn bell’s sound Rises to peaceful sky Whose laughter echoes around. And the sweet fiery light Of the sunset hours Gilds Notre Dame Both steeple and towers. …54

This image of the bell tower inspired a dedication by Maurice Barrès, his companion and master in nationalism, evoking their editorials during the Great War: “Each morning, without having tuned to the note of the bell, we still rang out an angelus that was always in harmony and that never lacked hope.”55 In order to exalt Paris while at the same time posing as the ardent defender of the French provinces, Maurras chose to see only the most traditional aspects of the city. Paris was portrayed as first among French villages. Paris was also a town under the shadow of the dual threat of foreign invasion and internal subversion, and these two images of the town are fundamental to Maurras’ thought. 53

“Lorsque nous parlons de nos villages et de nos provinces, gardons de rêver qu’il s’agisse de rien opposer à Paris. … Plus nous serons d’avis de diminuer les pressions exagérées du centre sur la vie française, plus il faudra savoir que néanmoins ce centre importe et qu’il n’a jamais mérité d’être dépouillé de la charge régulatrice.” Action Française, 29 January 1910, “La féodalité administrative”, reprinted in L’Allée des philosophes (Paris: Société Littéraire de la France, 1923), and in La Dentelle du rempart. Choix de pages civiques en prose et en vers (1886–1936) (Paris: Grasset, 1937), 23. 54 “De Saint-Louis en l’Île/Le clocher du jour/Monte au ciel tranquille/Qui rit à l’entour./ Et la douce flamme/D’une fin de jour/Peint de Notre-Dame/La flèche et les tours./…” Charles Maurras, La Musique intérieure (Paris: Grasset, 1937), 282. The same poem appears in extended and slightly modified form in Inscriptions et sentences (Paris: Librairie de France, 1921). 55 “Sans avoir pris le la, chaque matin, dans notre clocher, nous sonnions des angélus qui toujours s’accordaient et qui jamais ne manquaient d’espérance.” Handwritten dedication from Barrès to Maurras in Chroniques de la grande guerre, now in the Chemin de Paradis Library in Martigues.

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I was equally struck by the perishable quality of these (Parisian) treasures, by the constant risks that they face, whether this is the wear and tear of time, or the fury of the elements, or especially the murderous or fiery madness of men; I was struck by the thought of even the least blow that could be dealt to a gallery in the Louvre or a salon in the Arsenal or the Mazarine library by an enemy bullet as in 1870, or by a dousing of petrol as in 1871.56

On the one hand was his obsession with invasion, the legacy of his earliest memories of the war of 1870 and of the desecration of national territory by Prussian Uhlans: “Those who love Paris would have loved her doubly during the attacks of the Gothas and the Big Berthas.”57 On the other hand was the image of a town similarly threatened by internal danger, the theatre of every revolution; and once again 1870 came forcefully to mind, with the scenes of the Commune that were still echoed in contemporary Paris by the blackened walls of the Tuileries Palace. “It was only a short time since the charred walls of the Tuileries had ceased to bear witness to the sacrilegious flames, … to the scar of a deep historical wound.”58 It was essential to challenge the revolutionaries’ claims to Paris, a task facilitated by the contemporary revision of great revolutionary myths, particularly of the fall of the Bastille: The legend of the taking of the Bastille by the Parisian people has been abandoned. … What is still nurtured is the poetic and judicial value of the legend. … The great Bastille, symbolised by its high walls and by its tall, forbidding towers, has been succeeded by a countless number of little Bastilles, almost invisible, and stretched open like traps in the basements of the Courts of Justice and in municipal prison cells.59


“J’étais également saisi de la qualité périssable de ces trésors (parisiens), du risque dont ils sont grevés à toute minute, soit l’usure du temps, soit la rage des éléments, soit surtout la folie assassine et incendiaire des hommes, et la pensée du moindre coup que porterait, par exemple, à une Galerie du Louvre, à un salon de l’Arsenal ou de la Mazarine, un boulet ennemi comme en 1870, ou le jet de pétrole comme en 1871.” Au Signe de Flore, 31. 57 “Ceux qui aiment Paris l’auront aimé deux fois pendant les assauts de Gothas et de grosses Berthas.” On the German bombardment of Paris, see the preface to Les Nuits d’épreuve et la mémoire de l’État. Chronique du bombardement de Paris (Paris: Nouvelle Librairie Nationale, 1923). 58 Au Signe de Flore, 31. 59 “La légende de la prise de la Bastille prise d’assaut par le peuple parisien est abandonnée. … Ce qu’on maintient, c’est la valeur poétique et juridique de la légende. … À la grande Bastille, désignée par ses murailles, ses hautes tours rébarbatives, succéda une infinité de petites bastilles à peu près invisibles et tendues comme des souricières, aux sous-sols des Palais de Justice et des violons municipaux.” Entre le Louvre et la Bastille, 64 and 71. This text dates from July 1907 and July 1911.


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If he regretted the revolutionary stigmata that Paris still bore, he nonetheless venerated the traces of bombardment as glorious relics of the city’s resistance to enemy attacks.60 On the other hand, there was the image of a city invaded by foreigners: the first image that the young Maurras received of a Paris covered in foreign signs. “I had been struck, moved, almost hurt by the physical spectacle of these beautiful streets and great boulevards covered from the ground floor to the rooftops by a multitude of foreign signs” he wrote, “laden with these names beginning with K, W and Z, which our workers wittily referred to as Jewish letters.”61 What bizarre appendages, these heterogeneous endings, sometimes in -tsch, sometimes in -wg, sometimes in -ky or in -uhl! The Berg, Man, Brau, Baüm, Stone, Sohn, Yer, Ahn and Asch came to adopt, in comparison, an attractive little air of genuine belonging, seeming inoffensive and indigenous.62

This was a pessimistic description of the reality of immigration and cultural cosmopolitanism in Paris: in 1931, almost 10% of the Parisian population were of foreign origin, including considerable numbers of Poles and Russians.63 These figures reinforced the common themes in right-wing thought, just as, conversely, the left asserted that Paris should live up to its reputation as capital of liberty by attracting writers from all over the world and by being the global centre for literature.64 The Dreyfus Affair revived this obsession with an internal conspiracy against the city: “Paris considered herself: her masters were Jewish salons, and the newspapers she opened were Jewish newspapers.”65 Finally, Paris appeared as the new Athens in the classic rhetoric of nationalism, and this was how the contradiction suggested by the cult of the Graeco–Roman world was resolved. “It was from this new Pantheon [the


See the letter of 27 January 1918 in AN 576 AP 6. “J’avais été frappé, ému, presque blessé du spectacle matériel de ces belles rues et de ces grands boulevards que pavoisait du rez-de-chaussée jusqu’au faîte, une multitude d’enseignes étrangères, chargés de ces noms en K, en W, en Z que nos ouvriers appellent spirituellement les lettres juives.”Au Signe de Flore, 31. 62 “Quels bizarres accolements de finales hétéroclytes [sic], tantôt en TSCH, tantôt en WG, tantôt en KY ou en UHL ! Les Berg, les Man, les Brau, les Baüm, les Stone, les Sohn, les Yer, les Ahn, les Asch en venaient à revêtir, par comparaison, un joli petit air d’honnête autochtonie, d’indigénat inoffensif.” Action Française, 21 May 1908. 63 Cohen, Paris dans l’imaginaire national, 100. 64 Paschale Casanova, “Paris, méridien de Greenwich de la littérature” in Charle (ed.), Capitales culturelles, 289–96. 65 “Paris se regardait: les salons juifs étaient ses maîtres, les journaux qu’il ouvrait étaient des journaux juifs.” Au Signe de Flore, 54. 61

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Louvre] that, later, the definitive understanding would emerge of a methodical yet violent struggle against the forces of destruction.”66 When Maurras pictured Paris in one of his letters to Frédéric Mistral, the great poet who restored the Provençal language, he described the city as “the town of Julian, the Graeco– Latin Lutetia.”67 Maurras underlined this classical inheritance in his earliest works, as in Anthinéa, brought back from his journey to Athens after the 1896 Olympic Games, which the editor of the Gazette de France had sent him to cover.68 An Antinea, flower of the world, springtime of thought and art, must develop and point us to places other than Athens and Florence. It makes me think first of all of writing a treaty on how Valois and Parisis correspond to the purest form of Attica.69

On this level, the question of myth was not a stumbling block between French right and left but rather a battle between French nationalists and their English, and above all German, counterparts. Each was then claiming this classical inheritance, whether through the philological and archaeological research in which they sought a deeper knowledge of Antiquity,70 or through their way of life, particularly their development of sport (the re-establishment of the Olympic Games by Pierre de Coubertin echoed this claim to the legacy of Antiquity), or through their obsession with Empire, the dream of the East, and the myth of Alexander the Great. Paris was the capital of classicism, reason and civilisation: The Louvre … the point of the world at which the spirit of tradition showed them its decisive advantage … the magnificent masterpiece of the last Valois and

66 “C’est de ce nouveau Panthéon [le Louvre] que, plus tard, s’élança l’idée définitive d’un effort méthodique, mais violent, contre les forces de destruction.” Entre le Louvre et la Bastille, 10. 67 Letter no.11, 18 July 1891, Musée Mistral (Maillane, Bouches-du-Rhône), Correspondance Frédéric Mistral, Dossier 148. 68 Maurras’ Lettres des jeux olympiques have recently been republished in paperback (Paris: GF Flammarion, 2004). 69 “Une Anthinéa, fleur du monde, printemps des pensées et des arts, s’élargit nécessairement et nous désigne d’autres lieux qu’Athènes et que Florence. Elle me fit songer tout d’abord à écrire un traité de la conformité du Valois et du Parisis avec l’Attique la plus pure.” Charles Maurras, Anthinéa. D’Athènes à Florence (Paris: Juven, 1901; Paris: Nouvelle Librairie Nationale, 1912), Preface, 2. 70 Greek archaeology was one of Maurras’ great passions, particularly the archaeology of the small town of Martigues and the banks of the lake at Berre, where he saw the real origins of Phocaea [Marseille].


Chapter Seven the first Bourbon kings exemplifies the philosophy that draws me to defending the capital of the civilised against the attack of self-conscious barbarity.71

This emphasis on the Graeco-Latin legacy was all the more important in that it favoured a reassertion of the pre-eminence of the classical French civilisation that had dominated Europe in the eighteenth century, and against which other nations had forged their national identities through indigenous myths and epics.72 Maurras’ rejection of romanticism was not only a question of literary taste, but also the affirmation of his stance in the identity wars of European nationalism. As for the Germans, they were relegated to barbarism, in other words to their inability to understand Greek civilisation, despite all their good intentions. Hence Maurras’ description of the German architects who constructed the modern town of Athens under King Otto: “Those worthy barbarians have imitated the art of antiquity with such patience! They speak of it with such sincere respect, with such lively zeal! This doesn’t mean that they have understood it properly.”73 He continued with the English, denouncing “Elginism” and pitying the white marbles of Antiquity that now found themselves in the humid climate of London. The contrast between foggy London and gentle Île de France was one of the most common themes. The art historian André Turquet, while staying in London for his university studies, wrote to Maurras that reading his articles “in the midst of the mists and smoke of London” had brought to him “the scent of his native land, of sweet France and of the Attic banks of our river Seine.”74 This claim to the legacy of Greek Antiquity was more than a scholar’s anxiety: it was at the very root of Maurras’ nationalism, which, unlike German nationalism, defined France by language and not by race. Furthermore, this legacy allowed him to claim universality for his nationalism, for he refused to leave the domain of universal values to the left. Like Athens, “In that beautiful moment when she was but herself, [Paris] was the whole of humanity.”75 71

“Le Louvre … point du monde où l’esprit de la tradition leur a manifesté son avantage décisif … le magnifique chef-d’œuvre des derniers Valois et des premiers Bourbons dessine la pensée qui m’intéresse à la défense du capital des civilisés contre l’assaut des sauvageries conscientes.” Entre le Louvre et la Bastille, 8. 72 Anne-Marie Thiesse, La Création des identités nationales. Europe, XVIIIe–XXe siècle (Paris: Seuil, 1999), 23–66. 73 “Ces bons barbares ont si patiemment suivi l’art antique! Ils en parlent avec un respect si sincère, un zèle si vif! Ce n’est pas qu’ils l’aient bien compris.” Anthinéa, 287. 74 “…au milieu des brouillards et des fumées de Londres … le parfum de la terre maternelle, de la douce France et des bords attiques de notre Seine.” Letter of 6 June 1895, AN 576 AP 2. 75 “Au bel instant où elle n’a été qu’elle-même, [Paris] fut le genre humain.” Anthinéa, 56

“Entre le Louvre et la Bastille”


In January 1945, Charles Maurras was tried for intelligence with the enemy. His trial took place in Lyons, where he had been arrested, and not in Paris, the scene of his entire political and literary career. The two towns had battled over the location of the trial, and the victory of Lyons was a failure for Maurras. A sense of ostracism accompanied this failure to be tried in Paris, where, according to Maurras, he would have found “an atmosphere probably more favourable than in Lyons”, “a wider latent sympathy … around the new power itself.”76 General de Gaulle’s actions suggest that Maurras was right, for de Gaulle wanted Maurras to be judged by the Supreme Court in Paris, despite the likely indulgence of this institution: It would be important for him not to be tried in some corner of France: the country would not understand it. … We are talking about the man who promoted the National Revolution…Lyons doesn’t exist! He would not be able to explain himself in Lyons. He must explain himself.77

During the trial, Maurras “spent seven hours reading out a long study of more than 180 pages which dealt with everything, from the treaty of Corbie to Joan of Arc, encompassing his own childhood and André Chenier. This speech, which he read with a blocked nose, was not clearly heard and led to a deep boredom.”78 This signified the end of the magic of Maurras’ word. In Lyons, as he had predicted, Maurras found no-one to listen with sympathy to his narrative of France, and he definitively lost the battle of myth, just as he had been ostracised from the intellectual and literary Paris that was now being rebuilt without him. He never returned to Paris, and died in Tours, where he lived under surveillance, in 1952. This 1945 debate provides a dramatic illustration of the importance of Paris in the life and work of Maurras and above all of the ambiguous nature of their relationship. And, through this example, it reveals the 76

“Une atmosphère probablement plus favorable qu’à Lyon”, “des sympathies secrètes plus étendues … autour du nouveau pouvoir lui-même.” “Incompétence du tribunal militaire de Lyon”, a request made by Charles Maurras and Maurice Pujo to the Court of Appeal, AN 576 AP, Carton 178, Lot 128. 77 “Il importerait qu’il ne fût pas jugé dans un coin: le Pays ne le comprendrait pas … Il s’agit du promoteur de la Révolution Nationale… Lyon n’existe pas! À Lyon, il ne pourrait pas s’expliquer… Il faut qu’il s’explique.” From a telephone conversation with François de Menthon, Minister for Justice. Claude Mauriac, Le Temps immobile. Un autre de Gaulle. Journal 1944–54 (Paris: Hachette, 1970), 51. 78 “(Maurras) a lu pendant sept heures un long mémoire de plus de 180 pages où il était question de tout, depuis le traité de Corbie jusqu’à Jeanne d’Arc, en passant par son enfance et par André Chénier. Ce discours, lu d’une voix enchifrenée, n’était pas clairement perçu et a provoqué un ennui profond.” “Lyon, personnel: rapport de l’Inspection générale des services no. 246, 17 février 1945” AN Ministère de la Justice: BB 30, Carton 1747.


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important and ambiguous relationship between Paris and the intellectual and literary right, of which Maurras was one of the major figures in France between the Dreyfus Affair and the Liberation.


Robert Brasillach (1909–1945) maintained a special relationship with Paris throughout his short life. This chapter presents four stages in that relationship. The first stage consists of his student days, beginning in 1925 and ending in 1932. The second period includes the representation of Paris in his fiction throughout the 1930s. Thirdly, there is his activity as a political journalist, at approximately the same time. This is followed by, fourthly, the Occupation during which he was one of the most enthusiastic and articulate of collaborationists from 1940–1944. The chapter will examine and analyse his view of the capital and the way in which it “translates” into the different literary genres that he practised. It will demonstrate that his portrayal of Paris is generally impressionistic, and that his fiction in particular presents the community in a perspective that can best be described as “mystic realism” or “poetic realism”. Brasillach’s fiction will be the principal site of investigation since a “fictional truth” emerges from his novels which contain perspicacious and premonitory visions of Paris present and future. At the heart of his fictional representation of Paris is the enigmatic novel Le Marchand d’oiseaux (the bird seller) (1936) that will be analysed in some depth for two reasons: firstly, because it illustrates many of the author’s ideas and ideals of community; and, secondly, because it marks the end of his “Edenic” view of the capital. Paris was already changing in the late 1930s. The outbreak of the Second World War and the Occupation ensured that it changed for good in the early 1940s. As Luc Rasson has shown, Brasillach tended to depict social and political phenomena through a kind of poetic haze or impressionistic filter, which, Rasson maintains, distorts and even negates reality.1 This is why one cannot 1

Luc Rasson, Littérature et fascisme: Les romans de Robert Brasillach (Paris: Minard, 1991), 236–38. Rasson writes of Brasillach’s tendency to poeticise, to romanticise, and to operate a “transfiguration” of reality.


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always be sure whether Brasillach’s writings are presenting a real Paris or an imaginary, idealised Paris. Born in 1909 in Perpignan in the south of France, a city which is incidentally situated close to the same line of longitude as Paris, the “Meridian Line” (of the importance of which, more later), Robert Brasillach knew little about the city until he arrived there as a student at the age of sixteen.

Student Days (1925–1932) Our primary source for this period in Brasillach’s career is his memoirs of the inter-war era, entitled Notre avant-guerre (1941). He wrote this in reflective mood while on the Maginot Line between September 1939 and May 1940, just before the German Blitzkrieg which left France defeated, disorientated and occupied. It is a poignant portrait of a vanished or vanishing world, centred on Paris. In this book, which might be described as a kind of “collective autobiography”, he describes in detail how he began life as a Parisian in 1925 when he arrived, a fresh and “green” provincial in the capital. At the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, he made friends with many who were on the right politically, among whom were Parisians like Thierry Maulnier and José Lupin. Compared to Robert Brasillach, both were, according to Pierre-Marie Dioudonnat, “better informed and already militant” (“plus renseignés et déjà militants”).2 Like most students, Brasillach came to know Paris by walking around in its streets, discovering its canals, and visiting its restaurants (only the cheapest). He and his friends wandered in the labyrinthine streets of Montrouge and Montmartre. For longer trips, Brasillach would take a bus occasionally, to visit the provincial church and cemetery of Saint-Germain-de-Charonne, for example. The almost chaotic variety of the “villages”, as he calls them, of the city inspired him to write of “Paris’s spell” (“l’envoûtement de Paris”) which he and his friends experienced as students walking around the capital.3 He is more ambivalent about the Jewish quarter, which he describes as “black”, “hideous”, and “leprous”. It contained the dirtiest and narrowest streets in Paris, according to Brasillach:


Pierre-Marie Dioudonnat, Je suis partout (1930–1944): Les Maurrassiens devant la tentation fasciste (Paris: La Table Ronde, 1973), 116. 3 Robert Brasillach, Notre avant-guerre, in Œuvres complètes de Robert Brasillach (Paris: Club de l’Honnête Homme, 1964), Vol. 6, 91. The Œuvres complètes de Robert Brasillach will henceforth be abbreviated in the footnotes to OCRB.

Robert Brasillach and Paris: Paradise Lost


Indeed, those years were the last in which one could walk in the Jewish quarter, Rue Brise-Miche, Rue du Roi-de-Sicile, Rue de Venise, the dirtiest and narrowest streets of Paris, now destroyed.4

Yet in as much as they remind him of medieval Paris and the remains of a quarter that is on the verge of vanishing for ever, these houses and streets elicit a relatively indulgent, aesthetic appreciation from the memorialist who was clearly keen to record all aspects of the capital city before they disappeared. The impressionistic “grille” that Brasillach imposes on the different quarters of the city creates an aura of fantasy, of fairy-tale, even of a “sanitised” Paradise. He describes it with particular reference to the novels of Balzac and the films of René Clair, of which he was particularly fond. He waxes lyrical over “its mysteries and its beauties” (“ses mystères et ses beautés”).5 In particular, he refers proprietorially to Paris’s Quartier Latin as “our homeland” (“notre patrie”): But our homeland always remained the Quartier Latin, our garden the Jardin du Luxembourg, our cafés the narrow rooms on the Boulevard Saint-Michel; and we used to go to the little cinemas on Avenue des Gobelins and pay our three francs to watch once again the old Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd films of which we were so fond.6

Justifying the possessive adjective (“notre”) in the title of his memoirs, it is as though Brasillach appropriates this part of Paris, designating it as student territory. But he also discerns in it a community that has disappeared by the time that he is writing about it. The Paris of the past, of the inter-war era, is evoked and recorded in the nostalgic reminder, for example, of the steam train that used to bring vegetables from the market-gardens outside the capital to the famous market of Les Halles in central Paris: “The train from Arpajon, indelibly associated with the Quartier Latin at midnight in those days, today no longer runs.”7 This “territory”, the Quartier Latin, was “marked” at its north end by the large statue of the archangel Saint Michael, which is presented by Brasillach as 4

“Enfin, ces années-là furent les dernières où l’on put se promener au quartier juif, rue Brise-Miche, rue du Roi-de-Sicile, rue de Venise, les plus sales et les plus étroites rues de Paris, aujourd’hui détruites.” Ibid., 91. 5 Ibid., 90. 6 “Mais notre patrie restait toujours le Quartier Latin, notre jardin le Luxembourg, nos cafés les étroites salles du boulevard Saint-Michel, et nous allions dans les petits cinémas à trois francs de l’avenue des Gobelins revoir les vieux Buster Keaton, les vieux Harold Lloyd, dont nous étions friands.” Ibid., 90. 7 “Le train d’Arpajon, inséparable du Quartier Latin de minuit, en ce temps-là, ne passe plus aujourd’hui.” Ibid., 92.


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standing guard at the entrance to a kind of “student Eden”, next to the Pont Saint-Michel on the Seine: “The great, ridiculous archangel of the Saint-Michel fountain, who guards the entrance to the (Latin) quarter just as at the time when Adam was driven from it.”8 Figure 8.1 The angel in the Parc Montsouris


“Le grand archange ridicule de la fontaine Saint-Michel, qui garde l’entrée du quartier comme au temps où Adam en fut chassé.” Robert Brasillach, Le Marchand d’oiseaux (Paris: Plon, 1936), 63.

Robert Brasillach and Paris: Paradise Lost


This particular description is offered through the eyes of Laurent Willecome, a fictitious student in Le Marchand d’oiseaux, a novel by Brasillach that is set in Paris, but it clearly applies to the author’s own general perception of the statue and the quarter. A similar guardian angel stands at the southern entrance to this area, which happens to be located at the northern end of the Parc Montsouris (Figure 8.1) Significantly, both statues are situated on the “ligne de mire de l’Observatoire”, or old “Meridian Line”9 (Figure 8.2). The narrator of Le Marchand d’oiseaux defines it as “…the ideal line, the aerial line, which has the Observatory as its point of departure: it is the former Meridian Line of Paris.”10 Figure 8.2 The Meridian Line in the Parc Montsouris


The Meridian Line in Paris was the line of longitude from which other lines of longitude were calculated. In 1914, it became obsolete when the Greenwich meridian was adopted as the international line of longitude. 10 “… ligne idéale, ligne aérienne, qui part de l’Observatoire: c’est l’ancien méridien de Paris.” Brasillach, Le Marchand d’oiseaux, 51.


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The Quartier Latin was also traditionally the “territory” of the Camelots du Roy, Charles Maurras’s bodyguard, who roamed the streets, picking fights with left-wing opponents. There is a probable association in the mind of Brasillach, the novelist, who was an enthusiastic supporter and friend of Charles Maurras, between violent youth and “possession” of this “territory”. In his memoirs, Notre avant-guerre, he describes this socio-political phenomenon that flourished in 1925 in the Quartier Latin and recalls the curved walking sticks that the Camelots used in scuffles against their political opponents.11 Notre avant-guerre describes at least three Parises: the capital of the rich, the Paris of the working-classes, artisans, and the “people of modest means” (“petites gens”), and the students’ Paris. The centre of the students’ Paris is the Quartier Latin, but it spread further, “annexing” areas like Montmartre, the Cité Universitaire, and others. The rich Parisians seem to have remained an unknown species to Brasillach. They had fast cars, lots of money, and drank cocktails; the students watched them from behind the metaphorical “bars” of the École Normale Supérieure like prisoners and observed Parisian fashions. This was an “Eden” to which they did not have access. Brasillach writes of aspects of fashionable Paris: They played no part in our lives, no more than luxury, bars, or travel; we who were poor, sober and prisoners, but they were the spectacles that we contemplated from afar, from behind our bars.12

The rich were profligate, often influential and often corrupt. They enjoyed the material benefits of the capital as it developed after the Great War. As for the working class, Brasillach’s attitude towards those he often called “les petites gens” is ambivalent. We shall see in our examination of Le Marchand d’oiseaux that he affected a liking for the artisans and shopkeepers of Paris, but that his affection appears quite problematic and selective. The best evidence for this can be found in his fictitious creations of such people in his novels, together with his descriptions of them in his memoirs. Within the École Normale Supérieure, Brasillach and his friends enjoyed the privileges of a prestigious and elitist educational establishment which allowed them a great deal of personal freedom in their study habits. Brasillach recalls how they approached the College library with the same nonchalant attitude of


Brasillach, Notre avant-guerre, 34. See also Jean-François Sirinelli, Génération intellectuelle: khâgneux et normaliens dans l’entre-deux-guerres (Paris: PUF, 1994), 237–41. 12 “Ils n’ont pas fait partie de notre vie, pas plus que le luxe, les bars, les voyages, nous qui étions pauvres, sobres et prisonniers, mais ils étaient les spectacles que nous contemplions de loin, à travers nos barreaux.” Brasillach, Notre avant-guerre, 48.

Robert Brasillach and Paris: Paradise Lost


“sauntering” (“flânerie”) as they adopted outside in the streets of the city. He himself admitted to browsing enormously, eclectically and voraciously.13 Outside, the gardens and parks of the capital seem to have interested Brasillach, if we can judge from the extent to which they often featured in his fiction. Even inside the premises of the École Normale Supérieure, the little garden cultivated by the scientists and dubbed “la Nature” is described at some length by him.14 No doubt to his delight, he discovered that the Jardin du Luxembourg, “notre jardin” as he proprietorially describes it, contains statues of the past queens of France. His monarchist mentor, Charles Maurras, would certainly have approved of Brasillach’s “adoption” of these royalist icons. As for the Parc Montsouris, we shall look more closely at its portraiture and analyse its function in connection with Le Marchand d’oiseaux. Robert Brasillach spent some time as a young child in Morocco where his father was serving in the French colonial army. As a result, he was influenced in early life by Arabic and Muslim culture. His work offers much evidence of this influence. One example is the recurring image of the garden, park or even cemetery. Since the etymological derivation of the word “garden” (“jardin” in French) can be found in the Persian and Arabic words for “Paradise”, the frequent association in Brasillach’s work of garden (or park or even cemetery) with the ideal of Paradise is highly significant.15 The various communities that feature in Brasillach’s writing could be described as circles within circles and circles juxtaposing circles (Figure 8.3). As we have observed, Paris is frequently represented as a collection of “villages”; old-fashioned, and with a medieval air about them. An example of this would be the quarter most familiar to the students, the “village de la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève”, where they walked among the market-stalls of the Rue Mouffetard, buying a packet of chips for 20 sous.16 Then came Vaugirard where Brasillach, his sister Suzanne, and his friend Maurice Bardèche lived after his student days, from 1933. The area around the Rue Lecourbe where they lived was also depicted as a “village” by Brasillach. Thirdly, in Le Marchand d’oiseaux, one of the principal quarters involved is situated next to the Parc Montsouris, where the lonely Madame Marie Lepetitcorps has her grocer’s shop, with “its eternally rustic appearance”.17 A fourth example is the Cité Universitaire (a “city” within a city), or a circle 13

Ibid., 93. Ibid., 64. 15 The Koran depicts Paradise as a garden. (Koran, 2.111.) The Persian word for Paradise, which passed into the Greek language, derives from the notion of a “walled garden”. 16 Brasillach, Notre avant-guerre, 90. 17 “son aspect éternellement villageois”, Brasillach, Le Marchand d’oiseaux, 121. 14


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within a circle, and a “charmed’ one at that in the writer’s descriptions of it. It seemed to him like an eternal student paradise and it was one of which Brasillach was very fond. Figure 8.3 The “quartiers” of Paris in Le Marchand d’oiseaux (1936)

From these examples, we can infer that he clearly favoured a relatively narrow conception of territory, and an almost tribal sense of belonging to a small, circumscribed community. Sectarian and even “communautaire”, this concern for a clearly-defined identity contrasted with the Republican “universalist” ideal of more “open” communities, as preferred by most left-wing writers. An example of this kind of cosmopolitan eclecticism was the much-publicised Exposition coloniale held in Vincennes in the summer of 1931 (Figure 8.4),

Robert Brasillach and Paris: Paradise Lost


which admittedly exalted the French Empire, but also made it available to all Parisians and many foreign visitors. Brasillach’s initial hesitation and suspicion of the exhibition is perhaps surprising since he clearly had confidence in Marshal Lyautey’s organisational abilities (Lyautey organised the Exhibition). But he seems to have considered it too bourgeois and probably too populist.18 On the other hand, his ironical article in La Revue Française entitled “Un monsieur qui n’est pas allé à l’Exposition coloniale” was something of a “pose” since, like everyone else, he was attracted to some aspects of the exhibition, in particular its fantastic charm (he describes it as “féerique”, using one of his favourite adjectives): They were the very settings for adventure, and a whole escapist literature ended there, within reach of the lower middle class, between the bear and the seal of the Zoo and the great red mass of the temple of Angkor.19 Figure 8.4 The Zoo at Vincennes


Robert Brasillach, “Un Monsieur qui n’est pas allé à l’Exposition coloniale” (La Revue Française, 5 July 1931 in OCRB, Vol. 11, 79–82). 19 “C’étaient les décors mêmes de l’aventure, et toute une littérature d’évasion finissait là, à la portée du petit bourgeois, entre l’ours et le phoque du Zoo et la grande masse rouge du temple d’Angkor.” Brasillach, Notre avant-guerre, 103.


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One nevertheless gains the impression that Brasillach appreciated the esotericism of the world’s communities “in their proper place” rather than seeing them exhibited in Paris in a kind of easily accessible “global zoo”. Robert Brasillach was loath to end his period as a student. Officially, he finished at the École Normale Supérieure in June 1932. But the idea of beginning a responsible, adult life repelled him. When he eventually moved into the flat at number 228, Rue Lecourbe in Vaugirard, along with his sister Suzanne and his friend Maurice Bardèche, Brasillach seems to have accepted this finally and reluctantly as a sign of the end of his student days and of his youth. Vaugirard was another corner of Paris which he appropriated, adopted, and with which he became familiar, observing the inhabitants of this “quartier assez populaire” yet again as though they were “villagers” and mentally collecting a gallery of people on whom he could base his fictitious characters in one of his first novels, L’Enfant de la nuit (1934), and in subsequent novels.20

Fiction (1932–1944) In Brasillach’s fiction, as one might expect, the imagined Paris comes into its own. His first novel, Le Voleur d’étincelles (1932), is Barrésien. Paradoxically for the novelist who generally seems to have loved the capital, Paris appears here as a place to leave, in order to find one’s ancestors, roots, origins, in the provinces. A beautifully evocative description of Paris which opens the novel gives the reader to understand that what Lazare Mir, the main character, is really seeking, behind or beyond Paris, is Paris the village, “Paris la province, … Paris le village”.21 Ghostly figures (“fantômes” which Brasillach often describes as haunting the capital) and “shadows of young girls” (“ombres de jeunes filles”) beckon him to seek and find once again his origins in the provinces. A unique blend of Proust, Colette and Barrès is here filtered by the novelist to produce something quite different from all three of these writers who influenced him strongly. After a voyage of discovery (of himself and his roots in the Midi), including a kind of initiation into the family mysteries by his sorceress aunt Serafina, Lazare visits the local cemetery in which his ancestors are presumably buried. It is one of many cemeteries that feature in Brasillach’s novels. At the close of the novel, Lazare is, as his name suggests, reborn through his contact with his ancestors. The conclusion is therefore recognisably Barrésien.


Brasillach describes his new flat as being situated in “un quartier assez populaire” in a letter to his mother dated 21 October 1933. OCRB, Vol. 10, 498. 21 Robert Brasillach, Le Voleur d’étincelles in OCRB, Vol. 1, 15.

Robert Brasillach and Paris: Paradise Lost


According to Marcel Aymé, who prefaces Brasillach’s novels in the Œuvres complètes de Robert Brasillach, it was Balzac who taught Brasillach that “Paris has a soul” (“Paris a une âme”). It is this “soul”, this essence of the Vaugirard quarter where Brasillach lived, that he foregrounds in his second novel, L’Enfant de la nuit (1934). But, as Aymé points out, this is a very personal and restricted view of Vaugirard, and it is more imaginary than real: “This is because his poetry has no need of the picturesque”.22 The narrator in L’Enfant de la nuit is identified as “Robert B., interior designer” (“ensemblier”). He lives in a community full of idiosyncratic artisan characters with Dickensian names like Juste Contremoulin, the cobbler, Mme Pluche, the medium, and Mme Mabille, the narrator’s housekeeper.23 As in the case of Lazare in Le Voleur d’étincelles, those sixteen-year-old girls of Robert B.’s provincial past rise up in his imagination to lure him away from Paris. But in this novel, the principal character stays on in the capital: after all, his work and livelihood are there. The plot centres on a poor young girl, Anne, who has to be saved from herself, from a brutal boyfriend, and finally from an attempted suicide in the Seine. A rather “rough magic” operates, via the medium, to save her. The final sentence of the novel is the memorable statement: “There are no ordinary beings.”24 For Brasillach, Paris was always full of unusual, “extraordinary” people. But the reader is left wondering just how true-to-life is this slightly anachronistic, somewhat idealised portrait of the capital.25 One of Brasillach’s most intriguing novels is Le Marchand d’oiseaux (1936), whose alternative title is Le Méridien de Paris. It has several topographical focal points: the Parc Montsouris, the Quartier Latin, the Cité Universitaire, and others of less significance. The Parc Montsouris stands on the “Méridien de l’Observatoire”. In this novel, which boasts a large number of characters, a young student, Laurent Willecome, acts as “chorus”, commenting on the action and foretelling his own premature death. In this, he resembles the author, Robert Brasillach, who, according to the critic Bernard George, “had less a biography than a destiny.”26 A bird-seller who rarely sells his birds functions as a kind of agent of fate, and meets the Kid (a young boy named after the character in the Charlie Chaplin film of the same name). For a joke, the Kid 22

“C’est que sa poésie n’a pas besoin de pittoresque.” Marcel Aymé, OCRB, Vol. 1, 153. Robert Brasillach, L’Enfant de la nuit, ibid., 160. 24 “Il n’y a pas d’êtres ordinaires.” Ibid., 310. 25 Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Le fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain (2001) is, in some ways, a modern-day filmic equivalent of Robert Brasillach’s novels of Paris, particularly with regard to their “sanitised” portraits of the capital. 26 “… eut moins de biographie qu’un destin.” Bernard George, Brasillach (Paris: Éditions Universitaires, 1968), 5. 23


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advises two young boys to try the hospitality of a local shopkeeper, Marie Lepetitcorps, well-known for her grumpiness. Surprisingly, she welcomes them, albeit a little grudgingly, and becomes their surrogate mother, paying off their real mother who, in any case, seems uninterested in them. She is helped by three sympathetic students. The boys stay with her for a while, until they murder an old lady for her money. They are caught and locked up in prison. At the end of the novel, Marie Lepetitcorps, who failed, according to one of the students, because she lacked “grâce”, continues to eke out her charmless, childless existence. It is worth considering one or two aspects of this novel which touch on Brasillach’s possible, though rather sketchy, “blueprint” for an ideal society. Territoriality is a major theme. When the two boys “trespass” on to the Kid’s “territory”, they appear, as the phrase has it, to be “humiliated as is only right” (“humiliés comme il se doit”): “The Kid approached them with ease, for he sensed that they were not from the district, and that they were humiliated by this, as is only right.”27 This gloss contributes to indicating Brasillach’s narrow sense of territorialism or social relativism. A long-standing admirer of Rudyard Kipling’s work, he tends to describe his characters as though they were in a state close to the animal kingdom and operating in a tribal community.28 As Marcel Aymé has shown in his introduction to Le Voleur d’étincelles, the influence of Maurice Barrès initially and, even more, of Colette operated on Brasillach at an early stage in his career.29 Nature, red in tooth and claw, is ever-present in the novel. At one point, after a beautiful description of a June day in the idyllic Parc Montsouris, comes a jarring warning from the unidentified narrator:

27 “Le Chevreau s’approcha d’eux avec aisance, car il sentait qu’ils n’étaient pas du quartier, et qu’ils en étaient humiliés, comme il se doit.” Brasillach, Le Marchand d’oiseaux, 84. 28 See Robert Brasillach, Portraits (Paris: Plon, 1935), 14. Brasillach finds strong similarities between Colette’s vision of the animal kingdom and that of Rudyard Kipling, in particular with regard to the theme of the family and its members. “La voix du sang” is their unified, vocal expression, as produced by “les bêtes de la famille”. Brasillach finds in both Kipling and Colette the representation of the family as a basic, primitive and instinctive need to enjoy a sense of collective identity as members of a tribe. 29 See Marcel Aymé’s preface to Le Voleur d’étincelles, 5–7.

Robert Brasillach and Paris: Paradise Lost


What would be born from such pure days, promised to physical pleasures and natural exuberance? It is for such summers, no doubt, that destinies take their revenge by making wars germinate within them.30

The charitable organisations that are identified as being characteristic of the bourgeoisie are shown to fail to solve the problem created for the community as a whole by Madame Lepetitcorps’s unofficial and surrogate maternity. Like the League of Nations (La Société des Nations), of which Brasillach disapproved, they apply an ineffective “universalism”.31 This is why Brasillach has one of his student characters memorably class this kind of charity as a form of “sadism”. The implication is that communities operate (or should operate) “naturally”, like tribes in the jungle. There should be no “universalist” body to legislate and control. As Laurent Willecome, the author’s student-spokesman, affirms, a uniting faith (“une société chrétienne”, “toute société mue par la même foi”), as in the Middle Ages, is lacking in modern society. This is why it was dangerous for Marie Lepetitcorps to take in the stray children.32 For her unofficial adoption of the children to succeed and for it to be acceptable to the community, “un monde … uni” is needed, and yet it is precisely this kind of world that no longer exists: “Charity is impossible in a world that is not united: it is better to do without it.”33 Laurent Willecome may have his own sagacious observations to make on the “adoption” and the events that resulted from it, but, like everyone else, he can offer no practical solution to such problems. He is nevertheless left at the end of the novel, with the community apparently “in his hands”. We last catch sight of this Proustian character/commentator sitting on a park chair, musing by the lake in the Parc Montsouris: “He had a sense of holding in his hands, by this mediocre expanse of water, an entire landscape both charming and serious, a sentimental geography of Paris.”34 So, it seems that the last word is given to the poet, to the artist, to Brasillach himself, who, like Laurent, has “embraced” this community which he holds possessively “in his hands”. In one perspective, the novel could be seen as a battleground between an Augustinian view and a Thomist view of the “city”. According to Roger 30 “Que naîtrait-il de journées aussi pures, promises aux joies des corps, à l’allégresse naturelle? C’est de pareils étés, sans doute, que les destins se vengent en y faisant germer les guerres.” Brasillach, Le Marchand d’oiseaux, 186. 31 See Robert Brasillach’s caustic comments on the League of Nations in his memoirs of the inter-war years, Notre avant-guerre. 32 Brasillach, Le Marchand d’oiseaux, 242. 33 “La charité est impossible dans un monde qui n’est pas uni: il vaut mieux s’en passer.” Ibid., 243. 34 “Il lui semblait tenir dans ses mains, dans ce médiocre espace d’eau, tout un paysage charmant et grave, une géographie sentimentale de Paris.” Ibid., 249.


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Vailland’s curiously Calvinistic view of “grâce”, which he passed on to his classmates, including an appreciative Robert Brasillach, at Louis-le-Grand, there are those who are endowed with “grâce” and those who are not. In Le Marchand d’oiseaux, Marie Lepetitcorps is not endowed with “grâce”; therefore, she was predestined not to succeed in her role as surrogate mother. But Brasillach’s characters, in particular Isabelle and the “Marchand d’oiseaux”, seem to be more gentle and more indulgent towards her and, indeed, towards people in general. It is therefore unclear which philosophico-theological view the author is adopting. In Notre avant-guerre, Brasillach expresses an interest in the Summa of Thomas Aquinas, at least some of which he read at the École Normale Supérieure. Like Aquinas, he has some regard for the humbler members of society (“les petites gens”), displaying, like the medieval theologian, “a strong sympathy with the average man”, as G. K. Chesterton puts it.35 Aquinas’s preference, echoed by Chesterton, for the communities of the Middle Ages is also Brasillach’s, particularly when he writes of the unity of purpose and faith that allows such communities a greater feeling of solidarity and social bonding. It was no coincidence that one of the consequences of the close friendship that developed between the older writer, Henri Massis, and the young Brasillach in the early 1930s was that the influence of G. K. Chesterton’s thoughts on urban communities began to permeate the narrative layers of Brasillach’s fiction, for Massis was Chesterton’s “most devoted disciple” in France.36 In no other novel by Brasillach is the influence of Chesterton more clearly illustrated than in Le Marchand d’oiseaux. This may also derive partly from the fact that Chesterton’s popularity in France reached its peak in 1936, the year that Brasillach completed the novel.37 Furthermore, Le Marchand d’oiseaux is, in some respects, also a place where two sociological trends conflict: these are best epitomised by Ferdinand Tönnies’ Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. The German sociologist’s classic distinction between two types of society serves to illustrate Brasillach’s ideal medieval “village”, based on a unity of faith, as represented in the novel (Gemeinschaft), and the modern capital of France with its loss of faith, its brash cynicism, its individualism, its ruthless capitalism, and its lack of humanity and intimacy (Gesellschaft). As Tönnies describes them, the Gemeinschaft community generally finds its inspiration in instinct and intuition, while the Gesellschaft community founds its principles on reason. The former type suits


G. K. Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1952), 28. Christiane d’Haussy, “Chesterton in France”, in G. K. Chesterton: A Centenary Appraisal, ed. John Sullivan (London: Paul Elek, 1974), 216. 37 Ibid., 212. 36

Robert Brasillach and Paris: Paradise Lost


Robert Brasillach’s personal ideology very well.38 Tönnies produced two works in 1931, which is, incidentally, the probable date of the action of Le Marchand d’oiseaux. The first is an article reproduced in Community and Association (Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft) and the second is his Introduction à la Sociologie. Paris also provides an important backdrop for a later novel, Comme le temps passe … (1937). It features as the cultural capital where the young hero, René, gets involved in the beginning of the cinema industry and in the world of theatre at the turn of the century and in the years leading to the Great War. Brought up on the island of Majorca with his cousin Florence, René goes to Paris to make his fortune. There, he is guided and, possibly, controlled to some extent, by “la Figure” (a sort of lofty wizard character, who is the official guardian of the young couple.) The couple are married a few months after René’s military service. The relevance of this novel in this context is its presentation of Majorca as an island paradise for the two young children, René and Florence, and their loss of the paradise which coincides with René’s departure for Paris and marks his passage from childhood to manhood. It is true that he adopts Paris’s Quartier Latin in much the same way as Brasillach did and as an “Edenic” replacement for his Mediterranean island. But the loss is clearly represented in the novel in terms of the Biblical fall from grace of Adam and Eve. This “fall” includes René’s awakening to adolescence and sexuality. Nothing, it seems, will ever redeem the loss of those childhood years in ideal surroundings. As a metaphorical “fall from grace”, the transition from childhood to puberty and adolescence clearly stands as a subtext to much of what Brasillach wrote about Paris. At the end of the novel, the capital is instrumental in reuniting René and Florence many years later, after the Great War. René had left Florence owing to a suspected infidelity on her part with a mutual friend while they were living in the provinces. He was mistaken in believing his wife to be unfaithful, but, in any case, he decided to go to fight at the front in 1914, the first year of the First World War. The couple were once again separated, therefore, this time by the war. In the meantime, their son, Jacques, grows to maturity; he becomes a student and frequents the Quartier Latin like his parents before him. Engaged to marry Geneviève, another student, their lives come to resemble that of the author, Robert Brasillach, watched over by the sixty busts of the École Normale Supérieure. Other tutelary figures include some “recycled” characters (artisans, 38

William Tucker identified Brasillach’s concept of the ideal society as being very close to that described by Tönnies as “Gemeinschaft”. See William Tucker, The Fascist Ego: a Political Biography of Robert Brasillach (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975), 144–146.


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fortune-tellers, maids, and so on) from previous novels by Brasillach, very much in the spirit of Balzac’s La Comédie Humaine. Moreover, these “petites gens” appear to have a hand in the mysteriously fortuitous reconciliation of Florence and René, although their role in this respect is unclear. At all events, René eventually returns to the capital some fifteen years after he had left his wife so dramatically, with the result that he and Florence are finally reunited at the close of the story. It seems that René and Florence had to atone in some way for their loss of innocence and their departure from the island paradise. The suffering that they experience through their separation is redeemed by the new generation, represented by Jacques and Geneviève. Hope and salvation are to be found, therefore, in childhood and youth. Significantly, this early period of life feeds on illusion, fantasy, and magic, described by the narrator of Comme le temps passe … as “this world of illusion and disguise”.39 Childhood and youth take priority once again in Brasillach’s last novel before the outbreak of the Second World War. Les Sept Couleurs (1939) relates the story of another couple, Patrice and Catherine, who live in Paris as students and are separated by circumstances. As in Comme le temps passe …, a third party becomes involved with the couple. Catherine, who remains in Paris, eventually marries François. Patrice has in any case left her to travel to Germany, attracted by the National Socialist stage-setting in Nuremberg. Lured away from Catherine and Paris, Patrice loses sight of them both. Later, François leaves for Spain to fight for the Republicans. The conclusion of the novel sees Catherine travelling to Spain to rejoin François. The novel opens with a scene featuring Patrice and Catherine in the Bois de Boulogne. They are rowing on the lake, in which the image of the island as a halt, a refuge, an instant of happiness, in the flow of time provides them with an ideal respite from their studies and other cares. A more extensive and significant scene in the cemetery of Saint-Germain-de-Charonne, “le Charonne villageois”, juxtaposes children and death in a typically Brasillachian way. The “village” community atmosphere that prevailed throughout Le Marchand d’oiseaux finds an echo here with the visit of Patrice and Catherine to the cemetery at SaintGermain-de-Charonne, described as an unspoiled, idyllic and almost countrified area outside the capital’s urban nexus. Two children, who act as unofficial guardians of the cemetery, turn out to have the same Christian names as Patrice and Catherine. Their meeting evokes in the adult couple a certain nostalgia for childhood and lost innocence. More paradoxically, death is not considered threatening, especially by the children who live in close proximity to the 39 “ce monde de l’illusion et du déguisement”. Robert Brasillach, Comme le temps passe … (Paris: Plon, 1937), 265.

Robert Brasillach and Paris: Paradise Lost


cemetery and claim: “A cemetery is like a garden.” (“Un cimetière, c’est comme un jardin.”)40 In addition to the children, “les petites gens” and other strange fictitious characters like Monsieur Pentecôte, dowser (“sourcier”/“sorcier”) and Monsieur Sénèque, watchmaker, once again make their appearance, as figures of fate and spiritual “escorts” for the principal young characters of the novel. A “rough magic” operates here, as it did in L’Enfant de la nuit, in a brief episode when the dowser attempts to reveal to an amused assembled group below what the two young lovers are up to in the room above. If, however, such brief episodes are set in Paris, the real substance of the novel takes place elsewhere—at the Nuremberg Rally, for example, or in Spain. Young people like Patrice are evidently finding excitement elsewhere and, specifically, in those countries in which fascism is developing. The real action is clearly no longer in the French capital, Paris. Nevertheless, the notion of a paradise lost, whether it be in terms of a cemetery or the lake in the Bois de Boulogne, lingers throughout the novel. It is partly for this reason that the narrative of Les Sept Couleurs returns quite frequently to Paris. As a Frenchman observing National Socialist Germany, Patrice remarks somewhat pessimistically in his diary: “I do not believe that different peoples can understand one another.”41 At this point in his career, Brasillach was still essentially a Maurrassian. This implies that his nationalism was as narrow-minded, parochial and protectionist as that of Charles Maurras, on the eve of war with Germany in 1939 when he wrote Les Sept Couleurs. However, Patrice’s desire to “learn” from National Socialist Germany in Les Sept Couleurs confirms that, already in 1937 at the time of his visit to Nuremberg, Brasillach’s attitude had changed, as he began to move away from Charles Maurras’s Germanophobic nationalism. Ultimately, it was the Blitzkrieg, the defeat of France, and the Occupation that definitively changed Brasillach’s mind. He had travelled extensively in Europe in the late 1930s, and witnessed the flowering of fascism in many countries. He already dreamed of applying similar ideals to his country, France. In ideological terms, then, Brasillach was increasingly attracted to fascism as a force that would provide that sense of unity, the lost ideal, to an ailing society. From 1940 onwards, his political perspective took on European (and, in particular, Franco–German) dimensions. His last (unfinished) novel, Les Captifs, was begun in the summer of 1940 and mainly written in captivity in 1941. The narrator is a French prisoner of war in Germany who looks back at the pre-war era as a “lost cause”. Rehearsing the reasons for this view, the 40

Les Sept Couleurs (Paris: Plon, 1985), 39. Robert Brasillach is buried in the cemetery of Saint-Germain-de-Charonne. 41 “Je ne crois pas que les peuples puissent se comprendre.” Ibid., 109.


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novelist foregrounds his principal character, the journalist Gilbert Caillé, who joins in the instinctive, spontaneous revolt of the people of Paris against the corrupt government on the evening of 6 February 1934. Ironically, Brasillach himself was attending the theatre that evening, and only saw a bus set on fire at the roundabout of the Champs-Élysées. But, for him, 1934 marked the start of a new political possibility: a Fascist France. The fact that this hope was shortcircuited explains to a large extent why Brasillach never completed Les Captifs. His ideal was overtaken by events, particularly by the course taken by the Second World War during the Occupation, when he subsequently had the chance to review and complete the novel. As we have seen throughout his novels, Brasillach’s portrait of the people of Paris, the “petit peuple” or “petites gens”, remains ambivalent. It is at once sympathetic and distanced. There is evidence of a real sensitivity to, and an understanding of, the artisans, the shopkeepers, the jobless and the homeless, even the criminals. Ever present, however, is the tendency to view this community through the eyes of a somewhat élitist, even “patrician” Normalien who shows a rather Romantic affection for its members that is rather disconnected from the reality of their daily lives. Thus, the portraits of Parisians resemble those of Jean Giraudoux or of René Clair, the film-maker. The people are often represented as though they are animals, usually docile but sometimes ferocious, uncontrolled, and, then, they need to have a strong authority to restrain them, or to channel their natural, revolutionary energy, as on 6 February 1934. In Brasillach’s novels, they tend to be somewhat irresponsible, like children. For him, the Popular Front, elected in 1936, pandered to this tendency by “infantilising” the people. The children of Le Marchand d’oiseaux, who are taken in by Marie Lepetitcorps and murder an old lady for her money, exhibit natural violence which to Brasillach seems almost normal, or at least predictable, given the society in which they live. The fatalistic reaction of the students to the murder seems to confirm this view. There is a tension here between a kind of anarchy and a desire for order. fascism seemed to Brasillach a way of providing the authority and control necessary to keep the people in order. Recognising people’s penchant for anarchism by comparing it with his own, he also recognises, as a good Maurrassian, that order is needed to counter anarchism. This notion, illustrated elsewhere in Brasillach’s work, may have its source in the concept of original sin, the idea that man is naturally wicked, and needs some outside force to keep his natural instincts in check. At any rate, this notion is more in evidence in his fiction than in his journalism.

Robert Brasillach and Paris: Paradise Lost


Political Journalism (1934–1944) Robert Brasillach had begun his journalistic career early, when he was published in Le Coq catalan in his native Perpignan in 1924 at the age of fifteen. From the late 1920s, he was regularly engaged in writing for a number of newspapers in Paris. In particular, he contributed from 1929 onwards to L’Intransigeant.42 Then, from 1930 he wrote for L’Étudiant Français and Action Française. His contributions consisted mainly of literary reviews.43 His “Causerie littéraire” column in L’Action Française, for which he was responsible from 1930 to 1939, became well-known and a reference point for high-quality literary criticism. As we have seen, one of the most crucial turning-points in Brasillach’s career was marked by the riots of 6 February 1934. He saw this as the “dawn of fascism in France”. It was marked by “sacrifices” of those who were killed in the demonstrations and whose memory subsequently became something of a cult for him. The spontaneous revolt of the Parisians (and others) was for him both a protest against Republican mismanagement and a manifestation of revolt that pointed the way to a new society. His journalism also took him to Europe where he observed new experiments in government, usually Fascist experiments (Mussolini’s Italy, Hitler’s Germany, Léon Degrelle’s Belgium, and so on). As other nations embarked on these exciting socio-political ventures, France, particularly as represented by Paris, seemed to him to continue on its reckless pursuit of what he regarded as a misguided ideal of democratic happiness (“bonheur”). To take just one example of what appeared to him as exotic fascism which might be imitated in adapted form in France, Brasillach’s admiration for the Belgian Fascist leader of “Rex”, Léon Degrelle, revolved around his perception of the need to channel and control the natural energies of young males, some of whom resembled the Parisian vagrants of Le Marchand d’oiseaux. It is precisely in this spirit that Brasillach, as a reporter and journalist, welcomed Degrelle’s Rexism as “a youngsters’ movement” (“un mouvement de gamins”) on his visit to Belgium in 1936.44 He warmed not only to Degrelle’s “rex-appeal”, but to his boyish and “animal” nature. The Catholic Degrelle explained to him how an important part of his political programme was geared to the re-creation of what he called “the social community, the community of a people” (“la communauté sociale, la communauté d’un peuple”), the kind of “olde-world’ village


Robert Brasillach, OCRB, Vol. 1, 8. Robert Brasillach, Notre avant-guerre, 96. 44 Robert Brasillach, Léon Degrelle et l’avenir de “Rex” in Histoire de la guerre d’Espagne (Paris: Plon, 1969), 513. 43


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community in which he had grown up.45 In Léon Degrelle et l’avenir de “Rex”, Brasillach stressed his attraction for Rex’s socio-political policies that brought a breath of fresh air, youthfulness and even iconoclasm to the otherwise rather staid and boring Belgian political scene. From his report, Rexism emerged as being a novel experiment in controlled right-wing anarchism. Brasillach, who seemed to have struck up an intimate friendship with Degrelle, recorded the latter’s ironic reflection that, if he were to die and go to heaven, he would not have any rest even then since he would start to try to convert all the saints to Rexism and found a newspaper…. The French reporter suggests jokingly a title for the paper: “Le Paradis réel?”46 Clearly, the two men were on the same ideological wave-length, imagining an ideal, but probably utopian society. Nonetheless, Degrelle states that his system is not utopian; it is already in operation: “The young Rexist girls take working-class children into their homes.47 Evidently, where Brasillach’s fictional Madame Lepetitcorps failed, Rexism was succeeding. Returning from a trip to Morocco in 1936, Brasillach reports in his memoirs that he, his sister and friends found the same old bourgeois Paris, “… its pleasures and its vain, bourgeois bustle.”48 This was the Paris of the Popular Front, with which Brasillach had very little sympathy. By 1936, therefore, he had almost certainly lost the “Paradise” that Paris had once been for him as a student. The Popular Front “experiment” constituted a kind of “original sin” for him which he probably believed would have to be paid for sooner or later. So, when the war came, he tended to see it, like some of the members of the Vichy government, as a punishment for the “frivolous”, “pleasure-seeking” and “decadent” inter-war era. France’s unpreparedness for what befell it in 1940 could be seen as an illustration of La Fontaine’s famous fable of “La Cigale et la fourmi” (“The Grasshopper and the Ant”). But Brasillach’s “Puritanism” was apparently subtle and quite complex, since he had been as much a “cigale”, enjoying life in an arguably improvident fashion, as any Parisian—or Frenchman—during these years. He had certainly enjoyed the capital’s rich cultural life, its variety of cinemas and theatres. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, he had clearly felt that he was where the action occurred, at the centre of the country. But as the 1930s went on, Paris seemed to him to be more and more out of touch with current trends, which in his view meant essentially European fascism. Paris and France appeared increasingly to be behind the times. 45

Ibid., 479. Ibid., 524. The title of Léon Degrelle’s Rexist newspaper was Le Pays Réel. 47 “Les jeunes filles rexistes prennent chez elles des petits enfants du peuple.” Ibid., 518. 48 “(…) ses plaisirs, son agitation bourgeoise et vaine.” Brasillach, Notre avant-guerre, 162. 46

Robert Brasillach and Paris: Paradise Lost


In March 1939, Brasillach reviewed a book by Alexandre Arnoux in Action Française, entitled Paris-sur-Seine, in which he took the author to task for presenting a capital city with a focus on its “féerie”, its ghosts, and its dreams. The reviewer, who himself had already produced several novels with similar characteristics and a similar perspective on the capital, seems to have decided that this Paris, with its unusual trades, its eccentric residents, its out-of-the-way quarters, and its Russian émigrés, was now “démodé” and destined to disappear.49 He was right. The Second World War changed all that.

Collaboration (1941–1945) For Robert Brasillach, the Occupation that followed the humiliating defeat of the French in June 1940 was in a sense “pay-back time” for the French. France was to atone for its irresponsible hedonism of the inter-war era, represented in particular by the capital city of Paris. The “punishment” for this transgression took the form of the invasion of France by Hitler’s German armies, resulting in a divided nation (an occupied northern zone and a so-called free zone controlled by the Vichy government in the south), subjugated and occupied in the north by the victorious German forces during an Occupation that lasted from 1940 to 1944. From September 1939 onwards, when he was called up with the majority of able-bodied Frenchmen to the army in the East of France, the expulsion from an earlier “Eden” rankled in Brasillach’s mind, as is borne out by his lament at the tragic defeat of France in May–June 1940: Everything was lost, everything was obliterated, the youthful dreams of our twenties as much as the student Paris whose paths we knew so well, and which, tomorrow, would perhaps be destroyed ….50

He blamed this state of affairs on the actions of the politicians of the Third Republic and the left-wing intellectuals of the inter-war period. The collapse of France led to imprisonment for large numbers of French soldiers in Germany. Brasillach spent nine months there in a prisoner-of-war camp. When he returned to Paris on 31 March 1941, it was a much-changed capital city that provided the environment for his journalism and, in particular, for his collaborationism, which both he and Vichy tended to regard as a kind of 49

OCRB, Vol. 12, 267–68. “Tout était perdu, tout était anéanti, aussi bien les songes juvéniles de nos vingt ans que le Paris d’étudiants que nous avions tant couru et qui demain serait peut-être détruit ….” Robert Brasillach, Journal d’un homme occupé, OCRB, Vol. 6, 353. 50


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national penance. However, his journalistic polemic in Je suis partout and Révolution Nationale argued strongly for greater collaboration than Marshal Pétain, head of the new État français, based in Vichy, was prepared to allow. As far as his fictional creations were concerned, Brasillach produced two novels during the Occupation. Only one of them need concern us here, the novel entitled Six heures à perdre (1944), since it describes Paris in detail during the Occupation. It features a French prisoner of war, who resembles the author, except for the fact that he returns to his home in France several years after Brasillach’s own return. Between a change of trains, he spends six hours in the capital, during which time he learns a great deal about the “new Paris”. The story was partly inspired by Georges Simenon’s stories of contraband, gunrunning, and the criminal world, which Brasillach much appreciated. For the French prisoners of war who came back from Germany, it was often a shock to find how Paris and France had changed in the short time that they had been absent. Paris had become a long-desired and much-cherished icon for them in captivity. The novel is in part an attempt to reassure them that all was not as black as it first appeared to them on their return to the capital. The forces of history clearly disagreed with almost everything Robert Brasillach stood for at this time. And so, when the Allies landed on the Norman beaches and pushed their way through to Paris to liberate the capital, his collaborationist cause was evidently doomed. His ultimate personal penance took the form of his self-denunciation to the Paris police in September 1944. Echoing his hero Lazare’s sentiments as he left the capital—in happier times— in search of his ancestors at the start of Le Voleur d’étincelles, Brasillach recorded in memorable words his regret at being obliged to give himself up to the police and leave such a lively, attractive city that had meant so much to him personally: “Paris is beautiful, when one is about to leave it.”51 This time, he was leaving it for good. After a brief period of imprisonment, he was tried for treason in January 1945 and executed at the Fort de Montrouge (coincidentally situated very close to the Meridian Line) on 6 February 1945. In many respects, his had been a remarkably “circular” career or “destin”.

Conclusion As we have seen, in reality Brasillach appears to have lost his “Parisian Paradise” around the year 1935. From 1936 onwards, the Popular Front reigned. For him, this was not a régime that was endowed with “grâce”. France and Paris were changing, and not for the better, as far as he was concerned. This loss


“Paris est beau, quand on va le quitter.” Ibid., 560.

Robert Brasillach and Paris: Paradise Lost


followed hard on the heels of the end of his student days, of that period of “irresponsible lightness of being”, and of youth. It could be argued that he had made the wrong choice politically, thereby excluding himself from the capital of the future. Perhaps, like his fictional character Marie Lepetitcorps, he was not endowed with “grâce” sufficient to remain in the charmed circle of the city. However, it is more likely that he was never really in the Parisian Paradise that he so poignantly describes in his writing. It was largely a literary construct, a utopian ideal, a product of the fusion of the reality of the capital and his fertile imagination. Robert Brasillach is therefore a good example of what Dominique Maingueneau calls a “paratopic” writer, living on the margins between different social groupings.52 Luc Rasson designates him as “un intellectuel en marge”, but he significantly does not (or cannot) define that “margin” (or those “margins”). Moreover, Rasson simplifies erroneously when he concludes that Brasillach was an “intellectuel solitaire”.53 For Brasillach was following the ideas of Charles Maurras (and other idealists), particularly in terms of Maurras’s “uchronie”, and an idealised medieval community.54 To characterise Robert Brasillach as “solitaire” is to ignore a whole important social (and sociable) aspect of this writer. Undoubtedly “en marge” in the sense that he is a writer, he finds his true, natural “space” of operations in his writing. As Dominique Maingueneau explains: “the artist is that eternal wanderer who camps on the borders of the city.” 55 Ideologically, Brasillach probably never held an orthodox Fascist view of the ideal organisation of an urban community. His concept of the polis was not totalitarian. Still less did he entertain a Gaullist model of a united France. Yet he appears to have been seeking in his work some form of social unity, one that was no doubt anachronistic in that it resembled the Chestertonian “village spirit” based on the Christian faith. Paradoxically, the circles and quarters that are represented in Le Marchand d’oiseaux create a distinct impression of sectarianism and, even, of social divisiveness. This ideological trait constitutes one of the many puzzling tensions and ambiguities in Brasillach’s work. As 52

Dominique Maingueneau, Le Discours littéraire: paratopie et scène d’énonciation (Paris: Armand Colin, 2004), 74–79. 53 Rasson, Litérature et fascisme, 241. 54 It was André Chamson who wrote a substantial critique of what he called Charles Maurras’s “uchronie” and his tendency to idealise a historical era such as the reign of Louis XIV. See André Chamson, “L’Homme contre l’histoire: essai sur la puissance de l’uchronie” in Écrits par André Chanson (sic), André Malraux, Jean Grenier, Henri Petit, suivis de trois poèmes par J.-P. Jouve (Paris: Grasset, Les Cahiers Verts, 1927). 55 “Car l’artiste est ce perpétuel errant qui campe aux marges de la cité.” Maingueneau, Le Discours littéraire, 76.


Chapter Eight

William Tucker has judiciously observed, the writer made little or no attempt to resolve these tensions.56 Perhaps his approach can best be described as a kind of territorial “social relativism”. It is certainly utopian in the sense that Brasillach’s work engages in an imaginary “empire-building” by which, just as Balzac did in his fiction, he appropriates areas of Paris, together with the characters that inhabit them. His impressionistic, poetic, and mystical realism, however, necessarily confines his social models to the pages of his novels, thereby underlining the impossibility of their functioning as templates for real social and political change, contrary to what he actively sought to achieve in his essays and his journalism.


Tucker, The Fascist Ego, 146–47.


This chapter takes up Simone de Beauvoir’s intervention in the post-war literary purges and explores her action on this issue as an intellectual and as a writer. As author of “Œil pour œil” on the subject of collaborationism, Beauvoir was eyewitness to the trial of the extreme-right journalist Robert Brasillach in Paris. Beauvoir and Brasillach were sharply opposed in ideological terms, but the question of engagement sees them occupy similar ground in terms of the role of the intellectual and the responsibility of the writer. Unlike the writings of JeanPaul Sartre, which appear to discuss collaboration in more distanced and detached terms, Beauvoir’s essay is remarkable for its passion, commitment and force. This chapter therefore makes a close examination of Beauvoir’s writing on the Brasillach case through an analysis of her narrative strategies and the rhetorical techniques that she used to present and justify her position. Questions relating to the genre of essay-writing, and its suitability in terms of convincing and persuading its readers while also allowing a reflective meditative approach, are also considered.1 Paris has for centuries been witness to insurrection, rebellion and revolution. Since the Revolution of 1789 that founded the Republic, the capital city and its streets have provided the backdrop for political ferment and upheaval, manifestations of dissent and dissatisfaction. Collective protest, direct action and decision-making have all formed an integral part of Paris’s fundamental identity. Yet under the Occupation this identity central to France and the Republic was called into question, revealing a hiatus in the dominance of Paris as the epicentre of French political life that prompted many to re-evaluate its very status as the capital of France. Indeed Jean-Paul Sartre in his article “Paris sous l’Occupation” proclaimed the death of the French capital: 1

I am extremely grateful to Margaret Atack, Cecile Brich, Russell Goulbourne and Andrea Mammone for their comments and suggestions on this chapter.


Chapter Nine At every moment we felt that a link with the past had been broken. Traditions were broken, as well as habits. And we could not fully grasp the meaning of this change, which the military defeat itself did not entirely explain. Today, I see what it was: Paris was dead.2

The main division of France into the German-occupied and Vichy zones left Paris in a strangely unreal state. 3 The city, stripped of many of its former powers—real and symbolic—supported a daily life that appeared in many ways superficially unchanged. This was a time of upheaval and intellectual activity within and between the polar ideologies of left and right. For the Existentialists in particular, the Second World War saw the development and implementation of the theory of littérature engagée. The Existentialist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir chose to remain in Paris during the Occupation and continued to live there for the duration of the war.4 This shared wartime experience of living in Paris through the Occupation and witnessing both collaboration and resistance gave Beauvoir cause to write several articles that were later published in Les Temps modernes. Comparatively neglected within Beauvoir’s œuvre, these articles dealt with the very sort of ethical, moral and philosophical issues engendered by the Second World War, littérature engagée and l’épuration (the post-war purges), issues that Beauvoir encountered first-hand in Paris and was affected by personally and philosophically. Paris, as part of the occupied zone, had de facto become the focus for the collaborationists and was where the hard-line elements of the French extreme right congregated; 5 for them, the Vichy government and its “National Revolution” were too moderate in their adoption and implementation of Nazi 2

“À chaque instant nous sentions qu’un lien avec le passé s’était cassé. Les traditions étaient rompues, les habitudes aussi. Et nous saisissions mal le sens de ce changement, que la défaite elle-même n’expliquait pas entièrement. Aujourd’hui je vois ce que c’était: Paris était mort.” Jean-Paul Sartre, “Paris sous l’Occupation”, idem, Situations III (Paris: Gallimard, 1949), 24 (first published in France Libre, 1945). 3 The fate of wartime France was a complex one. Various zones in the North were annexed, including Alsace-Lorraine, and a small portion of Southern France was jointly administered by the Italians. According to Daniel Carpi, “a small area on the Mediterranean Coast, around the township of Menton, remained in the hands of the Italians, their army having physically occupied it during the few days that preceded the surrender of France.” Between Mussolini and Hitler: The Jews and the Italian Authorities in France (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1994), 4. 4 Beauvoir left Paris briefly on 9 or 10 June 1940 but returned on 28 June to stay in the Hôtel du Danemark, and would remain in Paris, residing in various hotels, throughout the war. See Barbara Klaw, Le Paris de Beauvoir (Paris: Syllepse, 1999). 5 Julian Jackson terms Paris “the home of the ‘collaborationists’” in “Vichy and France”: Edward J. Arnold (ed.), The Development of the Radical Right in France (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2000), 155.

L’Épuration: The Intervention of Simone de Beauvoir


policy. The extreme right was not by any means a homogenous group, and positions ranged from Maurrassian royalism, “left-wing” and “right-wing” fascism 6 through to the “Paris Nazis”. This chapter employs the terms “collaborators” and “collaborationists”, and these can be differentiated in terms of ideology: “collaborators” were the self-styled cooperative “pragmatists” who were not necessarily firm adherents of pro-Nazism, and “collaborationists” were the ardent extollers of Nazi beliefs. This brings us to the subject of this chapter, which, set against a Parisian background, examines Simone de Beauvoir’s position on collaboration, resistance and the right in general via a selection of her essays, including her 1945 essays “Œil pour œil” and “Idéalisme moral et réalisme politique” as well as the 1955 “La Pensée de droite aujourd’hui”.7 “Œil pour œil” deals with the moral predicament caused by the épuration or purging of wartime writers who had collaborated with the occupying forces in France. Post-Liberation Paris was the setting for the trials of the épuration which began to take place in the autumn of 1944 and Robert Brasillach, a product of the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, faced the courts in February 1945 on the charge of treason. As the home of both Beauvoir and Brasillach 8 and as the location of the épuration, it can thus be seen that the French capital was inextricably bound up with the issue of the post-war purges. The épuration arose at the end of the war out of a desire to rid France of all traitors who had engaged in collaboration in its various guises. Politicians were an obvious starting point and indeed some high-profile figures—such as the former Vichy premier Laval—were executed, yet the purging of writers, journalists and broadcasters was an even more contentious affair. Following the publication in 1944 of wartime lists drawn up by the Comité National des Écrivains (CNE), the literary purges resulted in the prosecution of forty-six writers, nine of whom were condemned to death and two ultimately executed, Georges Suarez9 and Robert Brasillach.10


Terms used by Jeannine Verdès-Leroux in “The Intellectual Extreme Right in the Thirties”, Arnold, The Development of the Radical Right. “Left-wing” fascism is here used with caution to refer to the “social” or “anti-capitalist” features of fascism, 119. 7 Simone de Beauvoir, “Œil pour œil”, L’Existentialisme et la sagesse des nations (Paris: Nagel, 1948), 107–140 (first published in Les Temps modernes 1, Feb. 1946, 813–830); “L’Idéalisme moral et réalisme politique”, L’Existentialisme et la sagesse des nations, 47–85 (first published in Les Temps modernes 1, Nov. 1945); “La Pensée de droite aujourd’hui”, reprinted in Privilèges (Paris: Gallimard, 1955, 1979) (first published in Les Temps modernes 112–3, April–May 1954 and 114–5 June–July 1954). 8 Brasillach lived in the fifth arrondissement of Paris from 1936 onwards. See Peter Tame’s translation of Brasillach’s memoirs, Notre avant-guerre (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 2002), 5. 9 Editor of the pro-German weekly Aujourd’hui.


Chapter Nine

Brasillach had been editor of the fascist-leaning newspaper Je suis partout from 1937—when he replaced Pierre Gaxotte—until 1943, when he left following an editorial dispute to found his own Chronique de Paris and to contribute to Lucien Combelle’s Révolution Nationale. Je suis partout was one of the most widely read of all newspapers in occupied France, with an average readership of 300,000. 11 From early positions of ambivalence towards the German National Socialists, preferring instead a more patriotic French brand of fascism, the stance of the editorial team, headed by Brasillach, came to embrace and participate fully in Nazi operations. Despite his brother-in-law Maurice Bardèche’s claims that he was the mildest of the editorial team, 12 Brasillach wrote and published denunciations of Jews, as well as articles demanding the implementation of Nazi-style legislation relating to the status of Jews in the Vichy south. One of Brasillach’s most damning articles included an exhortation for children to be included in the round-up of Jews for deportation to the concentration camps. It is imperative, Brasillach wrote, to separate the Jews en bloc and not keep any children. 13 It was testimony replete with citations of written work espousing such sentiments that was to prove instrumental to the reaching of the death-penalty verdict at the trial. Susan Suleiman expands on the reason for Brasillach’s trial: Contrary to myth, the formal accusation against Brasillach at his trial was not that he had bad ideas (they were not punishable by death), but that his


For further details on the writers cited by the CNE, see the list provided in Gisèle Sapiro, “La Collaboration littéraire”, Albrecht Betz and Stefan Martens (eds.), Les Intellectuels et l’Occupation 1940–1944 (Paris: Autrement, 2004), 63. 11 Michel Winock, Le Siècle des intellectuels (Paris: Seuil, 1997), 354. See also Alice Kaplan, The Collaborator: The Trial and Execution of Robert Brasillach (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2000), 50. 12 “Il était, en ce temps-là, le moins violent de l’équipe: Gaxotte, Pierre-Antoine Cousteau, Rebatet étaient bien plus féroces. Chez lui, il y’avait de l’allégresse, de la gaieté, de l’amusement, cela excluait la haine.” Quoted in Peter Tame, La Mystique du fascisme dans l’œuvre de Robert Brasillach (Paris: Nouvelles Editions Latines, 1986), preface, 11. Bardèche’s impartiality is rendered evident through his assertion: “Je n’éprouve pas le besoin de défendre Robert Brasillach parce que, véritablement, je ne trouve rien d’aberrant ni même d’étonnant dans sa conduite” in “6 Février 1945, l’assassinat d’un poète: une autre image de Brasillach”, Cahier des amis de Robert Brasillach 31 (1986), 78. 13 “Car il faut se séparer des Juifs en bloc et ne pas garder les petits. L’humanité commande la sagesse”, Je suis partout (25 September 1942). Quoted in Michel Winock, “Fallait-il fusiller Brasillach?”, L’Histoire 179 (1994), 66.

L’Épuration: The Intervention of Simone de Beauvoir


denunciatory writings in Je suis partout and other collaborationist papers aided the Germans and sent French men and women to their deaths.14

Beauvoir, along with Sartre, famously refused to sign the petition seeking leniency in the case of Brasillach; the moral issues that the Brasillach case raised provoked a range of reactions from many French intellectuals and writers. Among the fifty-six signatories of the petition in favour of clemency were a broad church that included a reluctant Albert Camus, who found the death penalty abhorrent, along with François Mauriac, who endorsed Christian doctrines of forgiveness, as well as others such as Paulhan, Valéry, Claudel, Cocteau and Colette. An erstwhile friend of Brasillach, Claude Roy initially signed the petition for clemency yet later revoked his support.15 The momentum behind the clemency campaign was largely maintained by politicians and intellectuals such as Mauriac, despite their having previously received negative attention from Brasillach16 and other collaborationists, and despite Brasillach’s support for the pursuit of Resistance writers. The Brasillach trial has laid the foundations for a modern quasi-mythological legacy. 17 Suleiman paints a picture of notoriety and, for some, martyrdom: “[Brasillach] immediately became a poster boy for the extreme right in France and continues to be one to this day: the assassinated poet, killed for his ideas, in a country where poetry and ideas still enjoy huge prestige.”18 The execution of the man of letters resonates even louder because France is precisely the country where ideas and intellectuals are regarded so highly. To cite an example of this: de Gaulle famously remarked in 1972 “One does not arrest Voltaire” (“on 14 Susan Suleiman, “On the trail of Robert Brasillach, Parisian Intellectual and Fascist Pamphleteer”, , (accessed March 2006). 15 Pierre Assouline, L’Épuration des intellectuels (Brussels: Complexe, 1985), 118: “Journaliste communiste Claude Roy qui refuse de signer la pétition pour Brasillach malgré ses rapports d’amitié et de reconnaissance avec plusieurs membres de la rédaction de Je suis partout à laquelle il appartenait avant-guerre.” 16 Winock, “Fallait-il fusiller Brasillach?”, 64: “Il a été l’objet des critiques le plus vives de la part des journaux collaborationnistes.” 17 Brasillach’s literary talents are the subject of much debate amongst critics. As a cinema critic, journalist and novelist, has the trial detracted from his literary import or conversely amplified it beyond its real value? Critics remain divided on this issue, as Richard Golsan summarizes: “serious efforts to gauge his literary worth have more often than not been overshadowed by the attempts of his apologists to inflate his talent as novelist and critic and by those of his detractors to dismiss him as a third-rate hack who is only remembered because of his unsavoury politics and the dramatic nature of his death.” Richard J. Golsan, “Review Article: Alice Kaplan: The Trial and Execution of Robert Brasillach”, Substance 29 (2000), 142. 18 Suleiman, “On the trail”.


Chapter Nine

n’arrête pas Voltaire”) in reference to Sartre’s distribution of the banned Maoist newspaper, La Cause du peuple, to which he had lent his name as editor.19Although clearly different from the Brasillach case, de Gaulle rejected the petition for clemency, invoking the notion that to write with talent confers a certain inescapable responsibility, a responsibility that must not be abused: “in literature as in everything, talent confers responsibility.”20 What exactly should the role of the writer be in all this, and how much importance can and should be attached to the power of the written word? This is something that Beauvoir writes about in her essayistic works. The very fact that writers have been imprisoned, and in Brasillach’s case executed, only serves to underline the significance accorded to the place of the intellectual in French culture. At the trial itself the prosecutor Marcel Reboul pinpointed Brasillach’s betrayal as constituting the ultimate betrayal: “above all the treason of an intellectual.” 21 The case epitomized a monumental clash of intellectuals in a manner reflecting the tradition of the Dreyfus Affair. Opinions were polarized and did not necessarily reflect simply the divisions of right and left. Brasillach, somewhat hyperbolically, alluded to the interventions made by the French intelligentsia: I thank the French intellectuals, writers, artists, musicians, and academics who have graciously desired to formulate an appeal in my favour … Their list includes the greatest minds of our race, towards whom my debt is immense.22

It can here be seen that Brasillach draws on discourses of fascism by adopting a nationalistic approach to the intellectuals whom he praises in terms of race (“de notre race”) and continues: “above and beyond every difference of opinion and all the battles that oppose us, French intellectuals have done me the greatest


For more on this see “Entretiens avec Jean-Paul Sartre, août–septembre 1974”, La Cérémonie des adieux suivi d’ entretiens avec Jean-Paul Sartre (Paris: Gallimard, 1981), 470–2. 20 “Dans les lettres comme dans tout, le talent est un titre de responsabilité.” Quoted in Winock, “Fallait-il fusiller Brasillach?”, 62. 21 “Avant tout une trahison d’intellectuel.” Quoted in Assouline, L’Épuration des intellectuels, 53. 22 “Je remercie les intellectuels français, écrivains, artistes, musiciens, universitaires, qui ont bien voulu formuler un recours en ma faveur … Leur liste comporte les plus hauts génies de notre race, à l’égard desquels ma dette est immense.” Letter written by Robert Brasillach, dated 2 February 1945, reproduced in Shlomo Sand, “A Flirt or a Love Affair? French Intellectuals between Fascism and Nazism”, in Arnold, The Development of the Radical Right, 83.

L’Épuration: The Intervention of Simone de Beauvoir


honour imaginable.” 23 Brasillach here recognizes the cultural capital and political weight associated with intellectuals, some of whom he had once described in disparaging terms: “the intellectuals began to yield … it was the Ethiopian War that made them come out, like weasels from their holes.”24And of course, irrespective of political creed, the actors on this stage all confirm their role as intellectual through their writings. For Géraldi Leroy, Brasillach qualifies as intellectual in the sense that was defined at the time of the Dreyfus Affair.25 Similarly, by writing these essays, Beauvoir is fulfilling one of the intellectual’s prime functions: to influence the thought of others. Régis Debray goes as far as to attest that is the role of the intellectual, the one that ensures his or her continuing status as intellectual: “it is not the level of education that makes the intellectual, but rather the goal of ‘influencing people’.”26 Beauvoir does not remain a writer detached from worldly events, content with producing art for art’s sake. She sees the writer’s role as necessitating an entrance into public debate to effect change and to denounce wrongs as she sees them. The intellectual’s role is thus to make a call in political events on the national stage, even when to do so is difficult and may bring grave consequences. Indeed, Beauvoir argues in “L’Idéalisme moral et réalisme politique” that such choices cannot be avoided and must be assumed, “that is to say that politics cannot avoid decisions and choice.”27 In this group of essays Beauvoir emphasizes the link between philosophy and the contemporary French political situation. The philosophical implications of the Second World War and the Occupation provide much of the impetus for this collection of writings, and through Beauvoir’s anecdotal personal experience and the use of concrete details in her exempla, these works are shown to be very much a product of the immediate post-war period. The essays 23

“Au-delà de toutes les divergences et de toutes les barricades, les intellectuels français ont fait à mon égard le geste qui pouvait le plus m’honorer.” The full text of the letter can be found in Assouline, L’Épuration des intellectuels, 160. 24 “Les intellectuels commençaient à donner … c’est la guerre éthiopienne qui commença de les faire sortir comme des belettes de leurs trous.” Tame, Notre avant-guerre, quoted in Régis Debray, Le Scribe: genèse du politique (Paris: Grasset, 1982), 229. 25 “Objectivement, Robert Brasillach entre dans les catégories qui définissent l’intellectuel au sens où nous l’entendons depuis l’Affaire Dreyfus.” Géraldi Leroy, “Robert Brasillach contre les intellectuels”, Daniele Bonnard-Lamotte and Jean-Luc Rispail (eds.), Intellectuel(s) des années trente: entre le rêve et l’action (Paris: Éditions du CNRS, 1989), 251–7. 26 “Ce n’est pas le niveau d’instruction qui fait l’intellectuel mais le projet ‘d’influencer les gens’.” Régis Debray, Le Pouvoir intellectuel en France (Paris: Ramsay, 1979), 95. 27 “C’est dire que le politique ne peut éviter de décider, de choisir.” Simone de Beauvoir, “L’Idéalisme moral et réalisme politique”, 77.


Chapter Nine

are thematically united by Beauvoir’s insistence, further explored in her Pour une Morale de l’ambiguïté,28 on the necessity of making decisions in the Second World War and in the post-war world, when to do so meant confronting difficult ethical choices. “Œil pour œil” constitutes a very personal viewpoint on an emotionally charged issue and allows the possibility of exploring an instance of a real-life implementation of Beauvoir’s Existentialist philosophy. Indeed key Existentialist vocabulary is integral to the essay as Beauvoir proceeds to tackle a complex and emotive issue while disentangling the concepts of justice from revenge.29 Beauvoir condemns Brasillach’s actions primarily for the constraints that they impose on man’s freedom: “an object for others, every man is a subject for himself … The affirmation of the reciprocity of human relationships is the metaphysical foundation of the concept of justice.” 30 For Beauvoir, the key factor that makes the death sentence passed on Brasillach necessary is the fact that through his denunciations of Jews he treated men as things: “the degradation of man into a thing”. 31 Beauvoir recognizes the validity of the theoretical concept of charity as advocated by Mauriac and other advocates of clemency. According to Beauvoir, in principle there is much to be said for following this schema, for making allowances for inexplicable anomalies of human behaviour. Individual aberrations seem to point to a need for common sense in applying basic laws of charity. In this, then, she would initially seem to be in agreement with Mauriac and others: Nobody, except in blind hatred, would seek to deny that there is much truth in this attitude of charity. Very often, men act without knowing what they are doing; one could even say that they never exactly know. Thus we do not judge the act without judging the man: the one has reality only through the other.32

Yet for Beauvoir this argument is clearly not applicable in the Brasillach case. By definition, exponents of the philosophy of Existentialism, as atheists, do not accept the existence of God and so cannot leave justice and retribution to be 28

Simone de Beauvoir, Pour une Morale de l’ambiguïté (Paris: Gallimard, 1947). This is common to many of Beauvoir’s essays, especially those of L’Existentialisme et la sagesse des nations. 30 “Objet pour autrui, chaque homme est sujet pour soi … l’affirmation de la réciprocité des rapports interhumains, c’est la base métaphysique de l’idée de justice.” Simone de Beauvoir, “Œil pour œil”, 116. 31 “La dégradation de l’homme en chose.” Ibid., 114. 32 “Qu’il y ait beaucoup de vérité dans ce point de vue de la charité, personne, sauf dans de la haine aveugle, ne peut songer à le nier. Très souvent les hommes agissent sans savoir ce qu’ils font, on peut même dire que jamais ils ne savent exactement … Aussi ne juge-t-on pas l’acte sans juger l’homme, l’un n’a de réalité que par l’autre.” Ibid., 135. 29

L’Épuration: The Intervention of Simone de Beauvoir


decided by a divine power (Beauvoir argues on this point that justice must be decided on earth). Explicating her position generally on humanistic bases of charity, she intimates that for her, Brasillach’s actions did not amount to an isolated instance in an otherwise morally acceptable lifetime of behaviour. She asserts that whatever the human condition and experiences of life, humans remain free and with freedom comes responsibility, a responsibility that must be assumed whether for good or evil: There are cases in which no redemption appears possible, because the evil that one confronts is an absolute evil, and it is in such cases that we refuse the attitude of charity; we think that such an evil exists. One can excuse all misdemeanours and even all crimes by which individuals assert themselves against society; but when a man applies himself deliberately to reduce man to an object, he provokes on earth a scandal for which nothing can compensate.33

Beauvoir distances herself from the clemency campaign by disagreeing with this key tenet: the right to err. In “La Pensée de droite aujourd’hui”, there are moral and philosophical themes discussed which connect and correspond to those considered in “Œil pour œil” as she discusses argumentation propounded in favour of “the right to be wrong” (“le droit d’avoir tort”) which corroborates her earlier discussion of the merits of the Brasillach trial. Beauvoir considers Thierry Maulnier, the right-wing writer, and his belief in the right to err,34 and concludes that ultimately it is a false and dangerous line of reasoning: The right to be wrong implies therefore that morality is not located in this empirical world, but in a transcendental world … The most troubling aspect of this affair is that the errors defended by Maulnier are very concrete in nature: they are political faults that have placed human lives at risk.35


“Il y a des cas où aucun rachat n’apparaît comme possible, parce que le mal auquel on se heurte est un mal absolu; et c’est ici que nous refusons le point de vue de la charité; nous pensons qu’un tel mal existe. On peut excuser tous les délits et même tous les crimes par lesquels les individus s’affirment contre la société; mais quand délibérément, un homme s’applique à dégrader l’homme en chose, il fait éclater sur terre un scandale que rien ne peut compenser.” Ibid., 135. 34 A point of view more famously held by François Mauriac: “il faut reconnaître à tout homme le droit à l’erreur”, quoted in Assouline, L’Épuration des intellectuels, 28. 35 “Le droit d’avoir tort implique donc que la morale ne se situe pas en ce monde empirique; mais sur un monde transcendant … Le plus gênant dans cette affaire, c’est que les ‘erreurs’ défendues par Maulnier sont d’une nature très concrète: ce sont des fautes politiques qui ont mis en jeu des vies humaines.” Simone de Beauvoir, “La Pensée de droite aujourd’hui”, 179.


Chapter Nine

It is perhaps surprising for some that Beauvoir, as an ardent intellectual of the left, should have refused to sign the appeal for clemency, especially when the purges were shown to be problematic, with ironies including the holding of trials in the same location in which resistance defendants had been tried, often with the same legal team conducting the proceedings. 36 Despite the diametrically opposed positions which had earlier characterized the Mauriac– Camus polemic on the subject of the necessity of the épuration, Camus, for one, later came to find the trials unsatisfactory and the purges’ failings too costly in terms of their effectiveness: Now it is too late (…) But we do not say that without bitterness and sorrow. A country that does not succeed in its purge is on the way towards failing in its renovation. Nations have the face of their justice. Ours should have something else to show the world than this look of confusion. But clarity, severe and human rectitude, cannot be learned. Without them, we are going to have mock consolations. One sees clearly that M. Mauriac is right. We are going to need charity.37

The purges—and the philosophical framework that underpins Beauvoir’s thinking in relation to the trials—can be found in her ethics Pour une Morale de l’ambiguïté and her wartime philosophical work Pyrrhus et Cinéas. For example, the reasoning that gave rise to Beauvoir’s defence of the justness of the death sentence of Robert Brasillach is shown through her assertion that: “moreover, man is not free to treat fellow men as objects at will.”38 Beauvoir, along with Sartre, was unequivocal in her refusal to lend support to the movement for clemency for Brasillach. To their names could be added influential writers and intellectuals such as Gide and the author of La Trahison des clercs, Julien Benda. Benda expressed his reasoning in similar terms to those used by Beauvoir: “No alienation of individual liberty is to be tolerated; the clerical ideal remains ‘disinterested thought’ and any intellectual who abandons that ideal must face the consequences.”39 Benda thus concurred with


“Seventy-five percent of the judges who had presided over this exercise had held office under Vichy, the very institutional marsh they were supposed to be draining.” Tony Judt, Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals, 1944–56 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 72. 37 Combat (5 January 1945), quoted in James D. Wilkinson, The Intellectual Resistance in Europe (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981), 69. See also Albert Camus, Essais (Paris: Gallimard, 1965). 38 “D’ailleurs, l’homme n’est pas libre de traiter à son gré en choses d’autres hommes.” Simone de Beauvoir, Pyrrhus et Cinéas (Paris: Gallimard, 1944, 2003), 297. 39 Quoted in David L. Schalk, The Spectrum of Political Engagement (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979), 45.

L’Épuration: The Intervention of Simone de Beauvoir


Beauvoir and the other non-signatories of the Brasillach petition in the necessity of the execution: “Simone de Beauvoir, justifying her refusal to sign in favour of Robert Brasillach, also considers that the responsibility of the writer is full and complete.”40 Jean-Paul Sartre insists on language’s prime function in his Qu’est-ce que la Littérature? and emphasises its communicative power and the potential influence commanded by the writer: “the goal of language is communication … in speaking, I reveal the situation by my very plan to change it; I reveal it to myself and to others in order to change it.”41 It would therefore seem to be the power of the written word to reach out and influence that meant the courts of the épuration would inevitably focus their attention on the activities of writers and journalists. Writers were perhaps selected precisely because of their symbolic status, and certainly the Occupation and the war were highly important to the development of the theory of littérature engagée. This focus on writers therefore meant a certain level of inconsistency in the treatment of collaborators, with those implicated in economic collaboration, as in the construction of the Atlantic Wall, seeming to elude the severest of penalties in a war-ravaged France in need of material renewal. The role played by the publishing houses during the Occupation is another grey area; many large publishers who gave a public platform to collaborationist voices were therefore also implicated.42 Beauvoir notes this ambiguity in La Force des choses before concluding that the writers supportive of the German occupation laid themselves open to their subsequent punishments: The purges have been blamed for having meted out harsher treatments to those who spoke favourably of the Atlantic Wall than to those who constructed it. I find it utterly unjust that people have excused economic collaboration, although not that they have dealt severely with Hitler’s propagandists. By profession and

40 “Simone de Beauvoir, justifiant son refus de signer en faveur de Robert Brasillach, estime également que la responsabilité de l’écrivain est pleine et entière.” Quoted in Ariane Chebel d’Appollonia, Histoire politique des intellectuels en France 1944–1954 (Brussels: Complexe, 1991), 75. 41 “La fin du langage est de communiquer … en parlant je dévoile la situation par mon projet même de la changer, je la dévoile à moi-même et aux autres pour la changer.” Quoted in Robert Champigny, Pour une Esthétique de l’essai (Paris: Minard, 1967), 37. 42 See Jean-Yves Mollier, “Les Intellectuels et le système éditorial français pendant la Seconde Guerre Mondiale” in Betz and Martens, Les Intellectuels et L’Occupation, 200– 217.


Chapter Nine by vocation, I attribute enormous importance to words. … There are words as murderous as gas chambers.43

The power of writing is incontestable therefore for Beauvoir, and it is through their words that intellectuals assume and expound their views. Identities are created through the written word and collaborationists and their opponents are constructed through their writing. For Beauvoir, questions pertaining to identity (both of the self and others) in the era of Occupation are reflected in “Œil pour œil”. In this essay in particular, she engages in the polemic that had divided the French intellectual scene as she adopts and unequivocally defends her beliefs: For man’s life to have meaning, it is necessary that he be held responsible for evil as well as for good, and by definition evil is what one refuses in the name of good, without any possible compromise. It is for these reasons that I personally did not sign the petition in favour of Robert Brasillach.44

Yet the initial certainty is qualified by the range of mixed emotions that a complex case such as this can encapsulate: “and I know that on coming out of the court of assizes I did not wish for his death, for throughout this long and sinister ceremony, he had deserved respect and not hatred.”45 “Œil pour œil” evaluates the ethical debate surrounding l’épuration of intellectuals while another of her essays, “L’Idéalisme moral et réalisme politique”, examines the premise tendered by French collaborators, that collaboration amounted to realism and was the only practicable option open to them. In “L’Idéalisme moral et réalisme politique” Beauvoir asserts that there are in fact two types of realism: “conservative realism” and “revolutionary realism” (“réalisme conservateur” and “réalisme révolutionnaire”), and she discusses the relationship between means and ends. In his “Qu’est-ce qu’un Collaborateur?” Sartre stressed the importance of realism as a defence for collaboration: “the preferred argument of the collaborator—as of the fascist—is 43

“On a reproché à l’épuration d’avoir plus durement frappé ceux qui parlaient avec approbation de Mur de l’Atlantique que ceux qui le construisaient. Je trouve parfaitement injuste qu’on ait excusé la collaboration économique mais non qu’on ait sévi contre les propagandistes d’Hitler. Par métier, par vocation, j’accorde une énorme importance aux paroles. … Il y des mots aussi meurtriers que des chambres à gaz.” Simone de Beauvoir, La Force des choses (Paris : Gallimard, 1963), 33. 44 “Pour que la vie de l’homme ait un sens, il faut qu’il soit tenu pour responsable du mal comme du bien et par définition, le mal c’est ce qu’au nom du bien on refuse sans compromission possible. C’est pour ces raisons que je n’ai pas, quant à moi, signé la pétition en faveur du Robert Brasillach.” Beauvoir, “Œil pour œil”, 136. 45 “Et je sais qu’au sortir de la salle des Assises, je ne souhaitais pas sa mort, car pendant cette longue et sinistre cérémonie, il avait mérité l’estime et non la haine.” Ibid., 137.

L’Épuration: The Intervention of Simone de Beauvoir


realism”46 and Beauvoir states: “it is in the name of realism that certain French people accepted collaboration with Germany in 1940.”47 However she goes on to highlight the problematic nature of this reasoning: “Certainly, the Occupation was a reality, but it was equally real that the French remained free to ascribe their chosen meaning to this event.” 48 In this debate of means and ends, Beauvoir deals with similar themes to those discussed in “Œil pour œil”. Beauvoir refers to collaborationist activity in this essay, and it is interesting to note that if the fundamental principles are the same in both essays, namely the condemnation of collaborationism (whether passive or active) in philosophical terms, the rhetorical techniques in “L’Idéalisme moral et réalisme politique” reveal a less personalized brand of language. In “Œil pour œil”, the specificity of the Brasillach trial is key to the essay’s more reflective nature, whereas in “L’Idéalisme moral et réalisme politique”, the collaborationist is condemned in general and concrete terms: “They plead that they believed the defeat of Germany to be impossible: this means that they were consenting to its victory.” 49 For Beauvoir in “L’Idéalisme moral et réalisme politique” the decision is self-evident. There are no shades of ambiguity in this choice; the possible options are two abstract binary poles, unlike “Œil pour œil”, which examines the complicated reality of a specific instance as in the Brasillach trial, with its very real human and personal dimension. It is revealing to examine “Œil pour œil” from the perspective of the essay genre, as this highly emotive and personal piece is quite different from some of Beauvoir’s contemporary wartime writing. In this essay, Beauvoir seems to adhere more closely to Montaigne’s adage whereby he asserts “I am myself the material for my book.” (“Je suis moy-mesmes la matière de mon livre.”)50 She uses the essay form not only to write about the self, exploring the emotions engendered by the question of meting out justice and retribution to collaborationists, but also to examine societal structures and the human application of morality and ethics. As a writer, Beauvoir pays great attention to the prosody and rhythm of discourse that she uses to reinforce her line of 46

“La thèse favorite du collaborateur—ainsi bien que du fasciste—c’est le réalisme.” Jean-Paul Sartre, “Qu’est-ce qu’un Collaborateur?” (August 1945) in Situations III (Paris: Gallimard, 1949), 60. (Original emphasis). 47 “C’est au nom du réalisme que certains Français ont accepté, en 1940, la collaboration avec l’Allemagne.” Beauvoir, “L’Idéalisme moral”, 60. 48 “Certes, l’occupation était une réalité, mais il était réel aussi que les Français demeuraient libres de donner à l’événement le sens qu’ils choisissaient.” Ibid., 61. 49 “Ils plaident qu’ils croyaient la défaite de l’Allemagne impossible: cela signifie qu’ils consentaient à sa victoire.” Ibid., 60. 50 Michel de Montaigne, Essais. Livre 1, chronology and introduction by Alexandre Micha (Paris : Flammarion, 1969), 35.


Chapter Nine

reasoning. This is particularly noticeable in essays where a greater emphasis is placed on meditative reflection, as in “Œil pour œil”. An awareness of the mellifluous qualities of prose can be seen in the rhetorical style using repetitions for stylistic effect, for example Beauvoir states: “Because we have desired this victory, because we have demanded these sanctions, it is in our name that judgement is made and punishment meted out.”51 Beauvoir, in the tradition of public oratory, uses the rhetoric of enumeration, repetition and lists to make her case and convince her readers. Indeed, Walter Nash deems reiteration to be “a front-line weapon in rhetoric.”52 Beauvoir’s skill as rhetorician is deployed to convince the readers of her views on collaboration, and the use of pronouns in her narrative is instrumental in conveying her stance. Beauvoir uses a complex pronoun network which reveals the shifting relationships between the author, subject and audience. This interchange of pronouns helps construct a sense of identity as envisioned by Beauvoir. Through the manner in which she relays the events of the trial she universalizes the experience, transcending the specificity of the Brasillach case in order to explore Existentialist concerns such as life, liberty, and freedom. In discussing a contemporary issue such as the post-war trials of the épuration in “Œil pour œil”, Beauvoir writes largely using the first person plural “nous” and rarely using the general or neutrality of the “on” form, possibly suggesting an increased sense of togetherness. This unitary voice evokes a sense of collectivity and solidarity that was felt by many intellectuals, especially those actively involved in the Resistance press such as Camus and Sartre. In her autobiography La Force des choses, she spoke of her loyalty to those who had risked their lives in the Resistance: “I made common cause with my dead and dying friends; if I had raised a finger in favour of Brasillach, I would have deserved their spitting in my face.”53 Indeed, Beauvoir underscores the importance of the strength of solidarity in determining the outcome of events such as Brasillach’s trial by referring to it using the “nous” pronoun: “we are public opinion.” (“nous sommes l’opinion publique.”)54 This use of “we” seems to imply a unity and togetherness of a collective “we” rather than the formal, magisterial “we” often used in French academic discourse. Moreover, in this instance the “nous” could refer to the intellectual milieu, as “We are public opinion” is followed by “that 51

“Puisque nous avons désiré cette victoire, puisque nous avons réclamé ces sanctions, c’est en notre nom qu’on juge, qu’on punit.” Beauvoir, “Œil pour œil”, 108 (emphasis added). 52 Walter Nash, Rhetoric: The Wit of Persuasion (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989, 1992), 116. 53 “C’est de ces amis morts ou moribonds que j’étais solidaire; si j’avais levé le doigt en faveur de Brasillach, j’aurais mérité qu’ils me crachent au visage.” Beauvoir, La Force des choses, 32. 54 Beauvoir, “Œil pour œil”, 109.

L’Épuration: The Intervention of Simone de Beauvoir


is expressed through newspapers, posters and meetings, and whose expectations specialist bodies are intended to meet.” 55 Yet she later speaks of society as representative of all humans and emphasises the individual’s belonging to societal frameworks: “this society is ours; we experience our solidarity with it, we are party to its decisions.”56 This implies that she speaks in more general terms, including the whole of society in her address and affirming the sharing of responsibility in assuming its decisions. The shift between the differing pronouns is an intricate interplay of multiple perspectives: Beauvoir as a member of society is conjoined with Beauvoir speaking independently in her own right. At a conference in 1965, Beauvoir alluded to the separation of the individual who writes using “je” while also communicating with others through the act of reading: “The fact of the singularity of our situation is unavoidable. But at the same time there is communication in this very separation. I mean that I am a subject that says ‘I’, I am for me the only subject who says ‘I’, and it is the same for each of you.” 57 Likewise, “there is no literature if there is not one voice, that is a language bearing the mark of an individual.”58 As an eye-witness to the proceedings in Paris of the Brasillach trial, Beauvoir reaffirms the common bond shared by members of the court, jury and public: “all people engaged, as I was, in living a mediocre and humdrum moment of their lives.” 59 The act of speaking or writing in the first person singular can also suggest the presence of others or an other, of a “you”. As Toril Moi notes: “every act of enunciation necessarily embodies a rhetorical strategy directed towards the ‘you’ implied by the speaking ‘I’.”60 Tellingly however, Beauvoir recounts the account of the trial of Robert Brasillach in both the “nous” form: “We wished for the death of the editor of Je suis partout, not for


“Nous sommes l’opinion publique … qui s’exprime à travers des journaux, des affiches, des meetings et que des organismes spécialisés sont destinés à satisfaire.” Ibid, 109. 56 “Cette société est nôtre; nous éprouvons notre solidarité avec elle, nous sommes complices de sa décision.” Ibid, 109. 57 “Il y a de l’irréductibilité dans le fait de la singularité de notre situation. Mais en même temps il y a une communication dans cette séparation même. Je veux dire que je suis un sujet qui dis ‘je’, je suis le seul sujet pour moi qui dis ‘je’, et c’est la même chose pour chacun de vous.” In Yves Buin (ed.), Que peut la Littérature? (Paris: Union générale d’éditions, 1965), 78. 58 “Il n’y a pas de littérature s’il n’y a pas une voix, donc un langage qui porte la marque de quelqu’un.” Ibid., 79. 59 “Tous gens occupés comme moi-même à vivre un moment quotidien et médiocre de leur vie.” Beauvoir, “Œil pour œil”, 127. 60 Toril Moi, What is a Woman? And other Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, 2001), 471.


Chapter Nine

the death of this man determined to die well”61 and also uses “je”: “I know how much I was moved on entering the great room in which Brasillach’s trial was taking place.”62 The fact that the desire for Brasillach’s death is relayed in the “nous” is significant. Beauvoir hereby emphasises a sense of universality despite the very divisive effect of the trial on the French populace. Furthermore, the trial was one which bore the most serious of consequences: life and death. Although Beauvoir justifies and defends her actions in ethical and philosophical terms, the implications of such a trial are bloody indeed. In her Simone de Beauvoir: Encounters with Death, Elaine Marks criticises Beauvoir’s essayistic account for failing to acknowledge the implications of her stance: “the reality of death is constantly evaded. … Only … when she speaks of Robert Brasillach, whom she saw in person when she attended his trial, does she come close to a sense of human reality … the sense of common humanity only seldom touches Simone de Beauvoir.”63 Anne Whitmarsh goes further by contending that: “Beauvoir discusses the question of punishment, and in particular the death penalty in purely metaphysical terms.” 64 However, as Toril Moi indicates, although Beauvoir was at this time in favour of the death penalty, she does not view the execution merely as an abstract concept detached from corporeal reality. Moi highlights the problematic nature of justice and the trial: “One problem, Beauvoir says, is that collaborators are brought to justice in a political situation radically different from that in which they committed their crimes.”65 Indeed Beauvoir is only too aware of the human ramifications that will ensue from this quandary and speaks not without feeling of Brasillach’s dignified comportment at the trial, underscoring emphatically the difficult nature of the épuration: In the dock, alone, isolated from everyone, there was a man brought by circumstances to his very highest point: this man placed in the presence of his death, and thus in the presence of his entire life, for which it was necessary to take responsibility in the face of death; whatever this life might have been, whatever might have been the reasons for his death, his dignified behaviour in

61 “Nous désirions la mort du rédacteur de Je suis partout, non celle de cet homme tout appliqué à bien mourir.” Beauvoir, “Œil pour œil”, 127. 62 “Je sais combien j’ai été saisie en entrant dans la grande salle où se déroulait le procès Brasillach.” Ibid., 126. 63 Elaine Marks, Simone de Beauvoir: Encounters with Death (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers, 1973), 69. 64 Anne Whitmarsh, Simone de Beauvoir and the Limits of Commitment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 69. 65 Toril Moi, Simone de Beauvoir and the Intellectual Woman (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994), 88.

L’Épuration: The Intervention of Simone de Beauvoir


this extreme situation demanded our respect at the time when we would most have wished to despise him.66

Philip Watts has remarked on Beauvoir’s “praise” for Brasillach’s “almost heroic attitude”.67 Although Beauvoir did refuse to sign the petition, a number of ambiguities are revealed throughout the essay as she affirms: “But it is the verdict that counts more than the execution, it is the will to kill the guilty that matters, more than his death itself.”68 Throughout the essay Beauvoir engages with the issue of death as punishment in cases like this and admits that “the death of a man is also a thing without meaning”69 and wonders whether life imprisonment might be the most satisfactory method of resolving this difficult dilemma. Beauvoir criticises the purges for their selective, unreal and artificial qualities which diminish the sense of reality at the trials: The more the trial took on the character of a ceremonial, the more scandalous it seemed that it could lead to an actual shedding of blood. That also struck me during Brasillach’s trial: the lawyers, the judges, even the public were playing a role; the cross-examinations, the speeches for the defence unfolded with the pomp of a dramatic comedy, only the accused belonged to this world of flesh and blood in which bullets can kill.70

And she once again criticizes the mechanics of the purge trials for “the hypocritical pomp that creates a gulf between principles and reality.”71


“Dans son box, seul, coupé de tous, il y avait un homme que les circonstances portaient au plus haut de lui-même: cet homme mis en présence de sa mort et, par là, de toute sa vie qu’il fallait assumer devant la mort; quelle que fût cette vie, quelles que fussent les raisons de sa mort, la dignité avec laquelle il se comportait en cette situation extrême exigeait notre respect dans le moment où nous aurions le plus souhaité le mépriser.” Beauvoir, “Œil pour œil”, 127. 67 Philip Watts, Allegories of the Purge: How Literature Responded to the Post-War Trials of Writers and Intellectuals in France (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), 68. 68 “Mais c’est le verdict qui compte plus que l’exécution, c’est la volonté de tuer le coupable qui importe, plus que sa mort même.” Beauvoir, “Œil pour œil”, 124. 69 “La mort d’un homme est aussi chose dépourvue de sens.” Ibid., 138. 70 “Plus le procès revêt l’aspect d’un cérémonial, plus il semble scandaleux qu’il puisse aboutir à une véritable effusion de sang. Cela aussi m’a frappé pendant le procès Brasillach: les avocats, les juges, le public même jouaient un rôle; les interrogatoires, les plaidoiries se déroulaient avec l’apparat d’une comédie dramatique; l’accusé seul appartenait à ce monde de chair où les balles tuent.” Ibid., 129. 71 “La pompe hypocrite qui creuse un abîme entre les principes et la réalité.” Ibid., 138.


Chapter Nine

Beauvoir explains and justifies her political actions in Existentialist terms but is always conscious of the very real human consequences of the ambiguities of the épuration. Beauvoir wrestles with a very difficult moral case rendered doubly difficult because of the timing of the trial in the immediate aftermath of the Liberation. As an intellectual, she joins the polemic consuming French intellectuals by articulating an Existentialist position in a country in which the role of the intellectual’s ideas and words holds enormous sway. The rationale that forms her defence of her actions in “Œil pour œil” is reflected in her works on ethics Pour une Morale de l’ambiguïté and Pyrrhus et Cinéas. Although Beauvoir is fully aware of the spectrum of opinions on Brasillach, through her use of pronouns and the description of her experiences as a witness to the trial in the “nous” form, she appears to be speaking for the French public generally, and perhaps more specifically, the Parisian public. Life in Paris through the dark, uncertain days of the Occupation, when to many a German victory seemed inevitable, meant that the landscape altered irrevocably in terms of literary commitment and responsibility. Writers like Sartre and Beauvoir recognized the power of the written word and this is apparent through Beauvoir’s views on the role of literature and Sartre’s Qu’est-ce que la Littérature? Although always aware of the difficulties and inconsistencies associated with the purges, these texts, together with the aforementioned works of ethical philosophy, provide the reasoning behind Beauvoir’s uncompromising stance on Brasillach. Ultimately, as an exponent of littérature engagée, Beauvoir adheres to the Resistance principle, namely that to speak is to act, or perhaps more accurately in this case, to write is to act. These essays by Simone de Beauvoir highlight the complexities of the ethical and moral issues engendered by the purges in a postLiberation Paris. The trial appears staged with its participants resembling actors and is therefore reminiscent of the theatrical locale of the stage and of the comédie dramatique. In the épuration, justice is not decided in the streets, in the fray, but indoors in the courtroom. The tradition of public oratory, epitomized by Babeuf and the Revolution, gives way to the judicial rhetoric of lawyers, judge and jury. The centrality of the Parisian courtroom in the Brasillach case in the épuration underlined the strong sense of political symbolism and theatre of that moment, actions that impacted on and helped shape the ethical and moral reconstruction of post-Liberation Paris.


Transversals In his contribution to Pierre Nora’s Les Lieux de mémoire, Maurice Agulhon notes that, whilst “there are a hundred different ways to apply symbolic analysis to urban history,”1 in the case of Paris, “by exploring the east-west contrast in the city, one can recover the historical dimension of collective memory.”2 In particular, each of the contrasting poles of this east–west transversal is imbued with political connotations: Until quite recently, everyone knew that when “the left” took to the streets in Paris, it was to march “from the [Place de la] Bastille to the [Place de la] République”. When, far less frequently, “the right” felt the need to demonstrate, it did so several miles to the West. For example, on 30 May 1968, there was a march from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe in support of General de Gaulle’s tottering government. These venues seemed somehow “natural”, but exactly what “nature” was responsible for this perception? When we look more closely, we see a series of overlapping political, sociological, and symbolic contrasts between eastern and western Paris.3

Clearly, one major component of these symbolic contrasts is the cultural geography of Paris by which, as with public demonstrations of political allegiance, politically significant cultural activity may be identified with particular areas of the capital. At the same time, these contrasts are not merely 1

Maurice Agulhon, “Paris: A Transversal From East to West” in Pierre Nora (ed.), Realms of Memory. The Construction of the French Past, Vol. 3, Symbols (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), 523. 2 Ibid., 524. 3 Ibid., 525.


Chapter Ten

between spaces in which to function and operate, but also between powerful inducements to the imagination: the origins of a left-wing and a right-wing imaginary located in certain privileged quartiers. In this context, to the east– west transversal should be added two further contrasting poles, of considerable significance from the early nineteenth century onwards, those of the Left and Right Banks. This significance increases in the twentieth century and particularly after the Liberation, when the Left Bank becomes synonymous with left-wing intellectual and artistic activity and the Right Bank with conservatism. Such a categorisation is obviously over-simplistic and fails to take into account the highly variegated intellectual and artistic population of the Left Bank in the inter-war years and the immediate post-Liberation period. Whilst the high public profile of Existentialism dominated perceptions of SaintGermain-des-Près, reflecting its status as a quasi-official philosophy emanating from the Resistance, the Left Bank also played host to representatives of the old and new right. Roger Nimier (1925–1962) and Antoine Blondin (1922–1991) drank in the Rhumerie Martiniquaise on the Boulevard Saint-Germain, whilst their fellow Hussard Jacques Laurent patronised the Brasserie Lipp opposite the Existentialists’ headquarters in the Flore and the Deux Magots. Nor, in the immediate post-war period was the Quartier Latin any more the exclusive preserve of the left than it had been in the inter-war years: in Paris–Montpellier, Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie recalls weekly pitched battles between the Communist students at the École Normale Supérieure and Jean-Marie Le Pen’s Royalists from the Law Faculty in the Rue d’Assas.4 If there was some considerable overlap between right-wing and left-wing militants and cultural producers, brought together in particular by the concentration of publishing houses of all political persuasions on the Left Bank, there is nevertheless a definable distinction between left-wing and right-wing cultural imaginaires (imaginaries): Sartre’s L’Âge de raison begins in the Rue Vercingétorix, in the fourteenth arrondissement, and never leaves the Left Bank, whilst the analysis of the evolution of a young Fascist in “L’Enfance d’un chef”, apart from Lucien Fleurier’s lycée in the Quartier Latin, takes place on the Right Bank, specifically in and around the Quartier de l’Opéra. Both works present and make use of a politically-loaded Parisian topography in which the Left Bank is predominantly the haunt of the political left, however ineffectual and uncommitted some of them, like Mathieu Delarue, might be, whilst the Right Bank is the home of the salauds, about to show their true political colours in an open support of French fascism. In the same way, to greater or lesser degrees, the young right-wing writers who came to be collectively known as the Hussards and whose one 4 See Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Paris–Montpellier. PCF-PSU, 1946–1963 (Paris: Gallimard, 1982).

“Du Côté de chez Blondin”: The Imaginary Paris of the Hussards


unifying trait was their detestation of Sartre and of the unnatural post-war dominance of Existentialism, deploy their own imaginary topography of Paris in order to demarcate their own creative autonomy.

The Tradition of the Inter-war Years This imaginary Paris of the post-war right was largely constructed on the foundations of the literary right of the inter-war years, composed of three major elements and separate locations. The most prominent of these was what may be termed the “mondain” right, which lived and congregated in the eighth arrondissment, firmly in Agulhon’s western district, and which was centred on Cocteau’s night-club, Le Boeuf sur le Toit, in the Rue Boissy-d’Anglas. Here, in addition to Cocteau himself and Raymond Radiguet, were to be found some of the most important figures of the inter-war literary right, including Paul Morand, Drieu la Rochelle and François Mauriac, who had not yet undergone the conversion to liberalism which began with the Spanish Civil War, in addition to left-wing socialites such as Louis Aragon and Nancy Cunard.5 Unsurprisingly, these writers overwhelmingly chose as their imaginary terrain the bourgeois habitat of the area around the Champs-Élysées, the Parc Monceau and the Boulevard Haussmann, redolent of a certain decay, unexpressed nostalgia and emptiness, as exemplified by the Parisian scenes in Mauriac’s Le Désert de l’amour, for example, or Drieu’s Rêveuse bourgeoisie. It was this territory which was inherited by Roger Nimier, although, as we shall see, not always successfully. More ambiguous was the bohemian right located in Montmartre, an ambiguity reinforced by its idealised status as a village on the outskirts of, and looking down on, Paris, and by its position on the frontier between western and eastern Paris, between the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois enclave of Batignolles and the ninth arrondissement and the working-class districts of La Chapelle, Ménilmontant and Belleville. In the nineteenth century, Montmartre had been a centre, not only of artistic bohemianism, but also of political non-conformism, culminating in the Commune and the anarchist wave of the 1890s. In the interwar years, that anarchist non-conformism became more associated with the radical right in its distrust of the Republic and its institutions and its adoption of a powerful xenophobia. It is perhaps because of its reactionary rejection of the modernity and cosmopolitanism of twentieth-century Paris that Montmartre 5

Nicholas Hewitt, “Mauriac dans le contexte culturel des années vingt: la tentation de la littérature mondaine”, Nouveaux Cahiers François Mauriac 1 (1993), 61–76.


Chapter Ten

literature in the inter-war years develops a series of imaginative devices which enables it to escape, or transcend, the contemporary urban world: the imaginary of Montmartre becomes a powerful weapon against the implacably real life of the capital. Thus, Pierre Mac Orlan, in Le Quai des brumes (1927), following on from Max Jacob’s half-jocular entry into the “Livre de Bord” of the tavern Le Lapin Agile, transforms the pre-First World War Butte de Montmartre into an imaginary sea-port, with its violence, its prostitution and its unnerving temptation of departure. Similarly, Céline, in Voyage au bout de la nuit, borrows from Adolphe Willette’s massive painting Parce Domine to depict Montmartre as a place of ghosts, and contrives to lure the reader into a fictional labyrinth in which some of the key topographical indicators, like street-names, are continually reshuffled. Céline—whose second novel, Mort à crédit, opens with a hallucinatory evocation of the riots of 6 February 1934, which, beginning with a right-wing demonstration down the Champs-Élysées, is yet another example of Agulhon’s east–west hypothesis—returned to Montmartre in the two post-war volumes of Féerie pour une autre fois, in which the inter-war Butte and its imagined destruction in 1944 are evoked through echoes of La Bohème and Don Giovanni. Finally, Marcel Aymé, who exerted considerable personal influence on the Hussards, particularly Blondin, produced a remarkably tight body of fiction located in Montmartre which coincides with the period of the Occupation and the Liberation.6 For Aymé, the Occupation could best be dealt with through the microcosm of the Montmartre “village”, and, in spite of the stark realism of the footnotes in Le Chemin des écoliers, could be evaded and transcended through the fantasy of the short stories in Le Vin de Paris and Le Passe-muraille. The role of fantasy and obscurity is crucial to the production of the Montmartre writers and presents a strong contrast with the striving for intellectual lucidity associated with the Left Bank. Yet, as we have seen, from the beginning of the twentieth century the right, no less than the left, had found its natural intellectual home on the Left Bank. Even before the First World War, Action Française was a powerful force amongst university students, particularly in the Law Faculty, and it wielded literal political muscle on the streets of the Quartier Latin through the Camelots du Roy. In the inter-war years it remained equally powerful and it was largely Action Française students accompanying the funeral cortège of the historian Jacques Bainville who seriously assaulted Léon Blum on the Boulevard SaintGermain in 1936. If the later pages of Sartre’s “L’Enfance d’un chef”, constitute a serious reminder of extreme right-wing opinion amongst lycée and university students in the University quarter, Jacques Laurent, in his autobiography 6 See Nicholas Hewitt, “Il y avait à Montmartre… Aymé, La Bohème et l’Occupation” in Alain Cresciucci (ed.), Marcel Aymé (Paris: Klincksieck, 1998), 15–29.

“Du Côté de chez Blondin”: The Imaginary Paris of the Hussards


Histoire égoïste, provides an important account of right-wing intellectual and polemical activity on the Left Bank in the 1930s, through publications such as L’Étudiant Français; Esprit, which had not yet adopted its Christian Socialist position; and, most important, Combat, whose editorial team congregated in the Brasserie Lipp.7 The Mutualité may have played host, as Herbert Lottman points out,8 to some of the great set-pieces of the Parisian left, but the right often ruled the streets.

The Liberation This powerful, and highly visible, right-wing presence on the Left Bank was briefly overshadowed at the Liberation by what appeared to be an unassailable ascendancy of those intellectual groupings emanating from the Resistance, and in particular from the PCF: Sartrean Existentialists, orthodox Communists and more independent ones, such as the “Groupe de la Rue Saint-Benoît”, including Edgar Morin and Marguerite Duras. This left-wing ascendancy was accompanied inevitably by the eclipse of the leaders of the inter-war intellectual and literary right: Brasillach and Suarez were executed; Drieu committed suicide; Maurras was in prison; and their work was in purgatory. Yet the left’s cultural and intellectual domination was in reality short-lived and never hegemonic. In fact, the cultural right of the inter-war years, and, indeed, the Occupation, proved to be remarkably resilient. Céline may have been in exile in Denmark in fear of his life (though even he underwent a dramatic rehabilitation in the late 1950s, largely due to the efforts of Roger Nimier), but the careers of major figures such as Cocteau or Aymé continued unabated. The Académie Française, which, as Gisèle Sapiro demonstrates, had unexpectedly moved to the left during the Occupation, under the influence of its Permanent Secretary Georges Duhamel, lurched back to the right in the years following the Liberation, most dramatically with the election in 1953 of Pierre Gaxotte, formerly secretary to Maurras and editor, until the defeat of 1940, of Je suis partout.9 Further elections followed throughout the 1950s of figures associated with the right, including those of Cocteau in 1955 and Montherlant in 1960. The most glaring case was that of Paul Morand, who had served as ambassador for the Vichy regime in Romania and Switzerland and who narrowly failed to be elected in 1958, though more because of the scandal surrounding his most recent novel than for political reasons. This was only a temporary setback, however, 7

Jacques Laurent, Histoire égoïste (Paris: Gallimard, Collection Folio, 1978), 218–9. Herbert R. Lottman, Left Bank. Writers, Artists and Politics from the Popular Front to the Cold War (London: Heinemann, 1982). 9 Gisèle Sapiro, La Guerre des écrivains, 1940–1953 (Paris: Fayard, 1999), 644–5. 8


Chapter Ten

and Morand was elected in 1968, eight years after Henri Massis and five years after Thierry Maulnier. At the same time, and most visibly in the years immediately following the Liberation, there was the growth of an extreme right-wing “Resistance” to the new political, intellectual and cultural orthodoxy which accompanied the new regime, a movement which became loosely known as the “Opposition Nationale” and which, from humble and semi-clandestine origins in obscure journals like La Dernière Lanterne, edited by the Maurrasian Pierre Boutang and by Antoine Blondin, moved to considerable prominence with the weekly newspaper Rivarol, again with the participation of Blondin, along with most of the former Je suis partout team. Whilst the “Opposition Nationale” undoubtedly succeeded in mobilising a new generation of writers, including the Hussards, it also brought them into contact with other “non-conformist” figures, not specifically associated with the right, but who came from a quasi-anarchist position. It was no coincidence that Boris Vian, whose satire of the exaggerated fame and prestige of Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir in L’Écume des jours betrayed more than a little exasperation, should become a regular contributor to Jacques Laurent’s Arts in the 1950s. Nor that Blondin should recall rubbing shoulders in the Bar-Bac on the Rue du Bac with “the real prematurely old men, their foreheads furrowed by genius: Wols, Audiberti, Adamov, Giacometti…”10

The Hussards Within this highly complex and overlapping cultural community in postLiberation Paris, the Hussards may be seen to constitute a definable grouping in the young right, even though, like the Existentialists, they were identified and branded as much by journalistic happenstance as by adherence to a genuine community: in this case, their label was drawn from Nimier’s novel of 1950 Le Hussard Bleu and coined by Bernard Franck, who later became close to the group, in an article for Les Temps modernes in December 1952, “Grognards et Hussards”.11 Effectively, the Hussards numbered three core figures: Roger Nimier himself, Jacques Laurent, and Antoine Blondin, all of whom were associated with Charles Frémanger’s Éditions Jean Froissart, established in 1948 at 79, Avenue des Champs-Élysées. As Pierre Monnier recalls:


“Les véritables vieillards précoces aux fronts ravagés par le génie: Wols, Audiberti, Adamov, Giacometti…” Antoine Blondin, Monsieur Jadis, ou l’école du soir (Paris: La Table Ronde, 1970), 79. 11 Bernard Franck, “Grognards et Hussards”, Les Temps modernes 86 (1952), 1005– 1018.

“Du Côté de chez Blondin”: The Imaginary Paris of the Hussards


Frémanger had an office on the Champs-Élysées for which he paid an excessively high rent…The atmosphere there was young, pleasant, fun. There I used to meet Jacques Laurent, whom I had known since 1938, and Antoine Blondin, whose first book, L’Europe buissonnière, Frémanger was just about to publish, but who was for the time being acting as messenger and packer. André Fraigneau put in a few appearances. His books were being published by Jean Froissart. I also used to meet a Breton-speaking Breton there whom I liked and got on well with, Julien Guernec.12

Of Frémanger, Monnier commented: “He was courageous at the point when nobody else was. And in my view he also retains the merit of having published Antoine Blondin and Jacques Laurent at a time when they were unknown … and poor.”13 To this core, with Nimier, who went on to forge a close relationship with Laurent, and particularly Blondin, can be added a more disparate “nébuleuse”, including Michel Déon, the lawyer and writer Stephen Hecquet, Kléber Haedens, and, ultimately, Franck himself.14 These writers, to a greater or lesser degree, adopted a literary tradition from the inter-war years which was in deliberate contrast to the prevailing masters of the post-war left. Their models were to be found in the work of André Fraigneau; Jacques Chardonne, the former owner of Éditions Stock and in eclipse due to his perceived collaboration during the Occupation; Paul Morand; Drieu la Rochelle; with echoes of Marcel Aymé and Louis-Ferdinand Céline. From this tradition, they derived a conscious literary non-conformism, which translated itself into a deliberate tone which set them apart from the orthodox culture of the Liberation and post-Liberation period: an apparent lack of concern with immediate political and social preoccupations, which, at its most extreme, took the form of Nimier’s famous “insolence”. This characteristic and particular tone was also accompanied by a consistent and noticeable use of Parisian location which they also owed largely to their inter-war antecedents.


“Frémanger avait un bureau sur les Champs-Élysées où il payait un loyer beaucoup trop élevé… L’atmosphère y était jeune, sympathique, rigolarde. J’y rencontrais Jacques Laurent, que je connaissais depuis 1938, et Antoine Blondin, dont Frémanger allait publier le premier livre, L’Europe buissonnière, mais qui pour l’heure faisait le grouillot et l’emballeur. André Fraigneau faisait quelques apparitions. Jean Froissart l’éditait. J’y rencontrais aussi un Breton bretonnant avec qui je sympathisais et qui me plaisait bien, Julien Guernec.” Pierre Monnier, Ferdinand furieux (Lausanne: L’Âge d’Homme, 1979), 23. 13 “Il a été courageux au moment où personne ne l’était. Et il garde aussi à mes yeux le mérite d’avoir édité Antoine Blondin et Jacques Laurent à une époque où ils étaient inconnus … et pauvres.” Ibid., 72. 14 Nicholas Hewitt, Literature and the Right in Postwar France. The Story of the “Hussards” (Oxford and Washington DC: Berg, 1996).


Chapter Ten

The three major protagonists of the Hussards, Nimier, Laurent and Blondin, share two important characteristics: class and geographical origin. All three came from solid bourgeois backgrounds. Nimier’s father was an engineer, who worked for the Ateliers Brillié in Levallois-Peret,15 raised his family in an apartment on the Boulevard Pereire in the seventeenth arrondissement, and enrolled his son in the Lycée Pasteur in Neuilly. Laurent’s father was a lawyer, and the family lived in the quarter of La Trinité, in the ninth arrondissement, where Laurent himself attended the Lycée Condorcet, one of the power-houses of the French avant-garde in the last years of the nineteenth century. In spite of his subsequent mythologizing of the family home on the Quai Voltaire, Blondin was brought up, like Laurent, in the ninth arrondissement, in the Rue de Chantilly.16 His father, like his son of a pronounced bohemianism, worked in journalism, whilst his mother, Germaine, was a niece of the former President of the Republic, Casimir-Perier, and a friend of Colette, of whom she was a cousin by marriage. Although Blondin was at pains later to emphasise the bohemian credentials of his parents, especially his mother, his origins were as bourgeois as those of his fellow Hussards. At the same time, the principal Hussards were profoundly Parisian and there is little provincial hinterland to them: no equivalent of Mauriac’s allegiance to Bordeaux and the Landes, or that of Chardonne to the Charentes or of Aymé to the Jura. Nimier was certainly conscious of his vaguely aristocratic Breton origins and was, indeed, to be buried in Saint Brieuc, but their importance was negligible in his work and his cultural vision. It may have served Blondin’s more fantaisiste purposes to draw attention to his father’s peasant origins in the Allier, where his ancestors were allegedly shepherds, known as “fair-haired (Blondin) of love and of the lily for the kindness with which they lead the flocks from the Berry to the Cantal,”17 but, like Nimier and Laurent, he was essentially a “Parisien de Paris”, with a frame of imaginative topography which did not extend beyond the capital. It is this inherent Parisianness which enables them to develop an imaginary of the capital which is so essential to their works.

Imagination and the Metro It is an imaginary which operates, literally, on two levels, the subterranean and the surface. Both Blondin and Laurent make use of a similar device to evoke an imaginary surface world from the names and signs of the subterranean world of 15

Marc Dambre, Roger Nimier. Hussard du demi-siècle (Paris: Flammarion, 1989), 36. Alain Cresciucci, Antoine Blondin (Paris: Gallimard, 2004), 34. 17 “Blondin d’amour et Blondin du lys pour la gentillesse avec laquelle ils conduisent les troupeaux du Berry au Cantal.” Antoine Blondin, Premières et dernières nouvelles, ed. Alain Cresciucci (Paris: La Table Ronde, 2004), 113. 16

“Du Côté de chez Blondin”: The Imaginary Paris of the Hussards


the metro, a device which, incidentally, allows them to indulge in an essentially knowing Parisian humour at the expense of the provincial outsider. In L’Humeur vagabonde (1955), Blondin’s narrator, the significantly-named Benoît, brought up in the Charentes, recalls: My mother brought me up to worship Paris, where I had been born without being aware of it, and she instructed me with postcards, almanacs, and plans of the metro.18

When he finally arrives in Paris, Benoît notes: In the metro I was on home territory; I could easily find my way around. This nervous system was familiar to me from my study of it in the garden, by lamplight, behind my desks at school. Rendered abstract, the symbols of Étoile or Madeleine, the intimate connections between Villiers and Havre-Caumartin, organised themselves with algebraic rigour. When this agglomeration becomes unrecognisable or destroyed, it is under the ground that its legendary topography will be rebuilt. The archaeologists will enjoy themselves …19

In the same way, Jacques Laurent introduces his novel of 1958, Les Corps tranquilles, with the reflections of his hero, Anne Coquet, who must count among his ancestors the Count Anne d’Orgel from Radiguet’s novel, on the strangely evocative quality of the names of metro stations, a reflection which needs to be quoted in full: Underground, Châtelet is a metro station. Underground, familiar names adopt a different resonance: it is the call of the prisoners. … We do not know the Châtelet prison any better, but we do know the electric corridors, the stairs, the sound of an accordion. A meeting in the fourth dimension: Réaumur is unshakeably associated with Sébastopol, Richelieu with Druout, Censier with Daubenton. That title escaped from the subconscious of a detractor of girls’ schools: Sèvres-Babylone. With a view to a poem: Havre-Caumartin. Those names that no longer name, those emptied abstractions that are no more than a landmark in blue and white porcelain: Concorde, Mutualité, Nation, BonneNouvelle. For we can change at Concorde, follow this labyrinth in which ten 18

“Ma mère m’avait élevé dans le culte de Paris, où j’étais né sans m’en apercevoir, et qu’elle m’apprenait à travers des cartes postales, des almanachs, des plans de métro.” Antoine Blondin, L’Humeur vagabonde (Paris: Gallimard, Collection Folio, 1979), 15. 19 “Dans le métro, j’étais sauvé; je me dirigeais facilement. Ce système nerveux m’était familier pour l’avoir étudié au jardin, sous la lampe, derrière mes pupitres d’écolier. Rendus à l’abstraction, les symboles Étoile ou Madeleine, les correspondances intimes entre Villiers et Havre-Caumartin, s’ordonnaient avec la rigueur de l’algèbre. Quand cette agglomération sera méconnaissable, ou détruit, c’est sous terre qu’il faudra relever sa topographie légendaire. Les archéologues se régaleront….” Ibid., 33.


Chapter Ten souls do not have the right to one square metre, without a moment’s thought for the immense brown square where the French towns are displayed, where Santerre beat the drum—or refrained from beating it—to quieten the cries of the people or the cries of the King, eyes resting on that façade behind which, today, disillusioned sailors write or dream with eyes the colour of Waterman ink. The other day, above ground, in the bus, a lady from the provinces asked her guide “Why is this called Place du Palais-Royal?” The other replied, “Because of the metro station.” Also in a bus, a young girl cries “Trocadéro! It’s strange to see it from above!” Last year, that was where I changed trains. Obviously, as the crow flies, the landscape is different. It is even curious that the subterranean town, the town of dirty enamel and electric lights, where every step brings up a public notice, maintains through its names a rigorous connection with the open-air town, just as the geometry of Riemann maintains its coincidences with that of Euclid. Otherwise, the metropolitan “Carte du Tendre” would be free to illustrate the Porte des Lilas, the Porte Dorée, Belleville, Couronnes, Danube, Sentier, the Place des Fêtes. Otherwise, the traveller coming from Trocadéro would be in complete turmoil when he emerged in this dazzling Passy which, bordered by trees, has as much the character of the small country station as that of the aerodrome, mimics the winter sports’ station with one side half-covered with riverside façades, becomes in the end a fortified port when, promoted to the skies, the metro flies in the sunset above the waves, the ships and the islands, rivalling the flies in speed, the same metro that has been overhung for kilometres by rats clinging to the sides of the tunnel.20


“Sous terre, Châtelet est une station de métro. Sous terre, les noms familiers prennent une autre résonance: c’est l’appel des détenus en prison. …. Nous ne connaissons pas plus la prison du Châtelet, mais des couloirs électriques, des escaliers, le son d’un accordéon. Rendez-vous de la quatrième dimension: Réaumur s’associe indéfectiblement à Sébastopol, Richelieu à Druout, Censier à Daubenton. Ce titre échappé au subconscient d’un détracteur des lycées de filles: Sèvres-Babylone. En vue d’un poème: HavreCaumartin. Ces appels qui n’appellent plus, ces abstractions vidées qui ne sont plus qu’un point de repère en porcelaine bleue et blanche: Concorde, Mutualité, Nation, Bonne-Nouvelle. Car nous pouvons changer à Concorde, suivre ce labyrinthe où dix âmes n’ont pas le droit à un mètre carré, sans songer une seconde à l’immense place brune où sont exposées les villes françaises, où Santerre fit ou non battre le tambour pour faire taire les cris du peuple ou pour faire taire ceux du Roi, le regard posé sur cette façade derrière laquelle écrivent aujourd’hui, ou rêvent, des marins désabusés aux yeux couleur d’encre Waterman. L’autre jour, sur terre, dans l’autobus, une provinciale demandait à qui la guidait: “Pourquoi est-ce que ça s’appelle la place du Palais-Royal?” L’autre répondit: “A cause de la station de métro”. Également dans un autobus, une jeune fille s’écrie: “Trocadéro! C’est drôle de le voir par en-dessus!” L’année dernière, c’était ma correspondance. Évidemment, à vol d’oiseau, le paysage diffère. C’est même curieux que la ville-boyau, la ville d’émail sale et d’ampoules électriques, où chaque pas fait automatiquement surgir une affiche, conserve par ses noms une correspondance rigoureuse avec la ville à ciel ouvert, tout comme la géométrie de Riemann conserve ses

“Du Côté de chez Blondin”: The Imaginary Paris of the Hussards


Whilst both Blondin and Laurent recognise that there is a necessary mathematical correspondence between the properties of the metro map and the characteristics of the urban surface above, they both delight in a ludic evocation of the city through its names and its subterranean plan which gives full, if ultimately limited, power to the imagination: in both cases, the “noms de pays: le nom” are far more powerful than the “pays” itself, and Paris appears as a territory to be decoded initially through its signage. Eventually, Blondin’s hero, in desperation to find somewhere to stay, lights upon what he thinks is a hotel, but which proves to be a brothel. Yet his belief in the imaginary is such that he never understands the reality, in much the same way that Queneau’s Valentin Brû, in Le Dimanche de la vie, never allows reality to intrude upon his inner imagined worlds. In the same way, but in reverse, the heroine of Zazie dans le métro is denied the deeper “archaeology” of the Parisian imagination which she craves and remains on the superficial, but no less artistic, level of the Paris of her uncle Gabriel. We are a long way from the realist topography of Les Chemins de la liberté, and closer, but in a different sense, to Céline’s “métro émotif” in Entretiens avec le Professeur Y, of 1955. In other words, the rightwing imaginary of the post-war years delves literally beneath the surface of the capital in order to secure a more autonomous literary space, in an enterprise which moves into the same territory as that occupied by the Pataphysicians and Oulipo.21 At the same time, the experimentation with this territory on the part of the Hussards is by no means uniform, and Nimier, Laurent and Blondin venture into it with differing degrees of commitment and success.

Du Côté de chez Roger Of all the Hussards, it was Nimier who throughout his career remained closest to the cultural mainstream of the post-war period, in spite of his deliberate

coïncidences avec celle d’Euclide. Sinon, la carte du Tendre métropolitaine aurait quartier libre pour illustrer la Porte des Lilas, la Porte Dorée, Belleville, Couronnes, Danube, Sentier, la place des Fêtes. Sinon, le trouble serait entier pour le voyageur issu de Trocadéro lorsqu’il débouche dans ce Passy éblouissant qui, bordé d’arbres, tient autant de la petite gare campagnarde que de l’aérodrome, singe la station de sports d’hiver plantée à mi-flanc des façades riveraines, devient enfin un port fortifié quand, promu aérien, le métro vole dans le soleil couchant au-dessus des vagues, des navires et des îles et lutte de vitesse avec les mouettes, lui que, durant des kilomètres, les rats accrochés aux parois du tunnel ont surplombé.” Jacques Laurent, Les Corps tranquilles (Paris: La Table Ronde, 1958), 1–2. 21 Pataphysics was invented by Alfred Jarry as the “science of imaginary solutions”. The “Collège de Pataphysique” was founded in 1948 by, amongst others, Raymond Queneau, Boris Vian, Jacques Prévert and Eugene Ionesco.


Chapter Ten

challenges to the prevailing orthodoxy. This was due in no small part to his close relationship with the Maison Gallimard, which published most of his work, and for which he worked as an editor from the mid-1950s until his death in 1962. Moreover, whilst Laurent was openly hostile to the dominance of Sartre, particularly in his polemical essay Paul et Jean-Paul (1951), and whilst Blondin was more obliquely disrespectful, Nimier remained more even-handed, not to say circumspect, contributing to Opéra a highly favourable review of Le Diable et le bon Dieu, which he characterised as “une belle machine à penser”.22 In fact, Nimier became highly useful to Gaston Gallimard in his campaign to resuscitate the more overtly right-wing members of his stable, notably, as we have seen, Céline, with the public relations offensive he launched for D’un Château l’autre in 1957. At the same time, and by no means coincidentally, Nimier’s Parisian imaginary is by far the least adventurous of the Hussards’, in particular because it remains resolutely on the surface of the city, without exploring the subterranean world explored by Laurent and, especially, by Blondin. Indeed, Nimier’s most successful novels, Les Épées, of 1948, and Le Hussard bleu, two years later, owe their success largely to the fact that they are not grounded in any particular Parisian topography, with his second, and most famous, novel set in the Alsace campaign and the army of Occupation in the Black Forest. Subsequently, however, Nimier’s fictional imagination remained increasingly confined to his experience as a lycéen in Neuilly, from which he appeared unable to escape, and his “mondain” existence on the Right Bank. In this respect, his later fictional work concentrates on an exaggerated image present to a greater or lesser degree in Laurent and Blondin, which regresses towards a childhood and adolescence which he is unable to escape. The theme and metaphor of childhood run throughout the early writings of the Hussards, exemplified by the titles of their works: Laurent’s Le petit Canard, and Blondin’s Les Enfants du bon Dieu, but Nimier finds it difficult to move on from a Peter Pan-like nostalgia for an earlier and simpler life and its inability to adapt to an adult world which it challenges but is not able to replace. And this, to a large extent, is the central significance of Les Enfants tristes (1951): as the right-wing militant and writer for Combat, Hossenor, reflects on the novel’s hero, Olivier Malentraide, “he found him childish, excessively secretive”;23 and the socialite Tessa comments: “Dear Olivier…you are always that little boy with


Roger Nimier, “Roger Nimier a vu avant vous: Le Diable et le bon Dieu”, Opéra, 13 June 1951, 5. 23 “Il le trouvait enfantin, mystérieux à l’excés.” Roger Nimier, Les Enfants tristes (Paris: Gallimard, Collection Folio, 1983), 174.

“Du Côté de chez Blondin”: The Imaginary Paris of the Hussards


the clear and despairing expression…”24 Similarly, the comic novel Perfide (1950), which owes huge debts to Gide’s Les Faux-Monnayeurs, Radiguet’s Le Diable au corps, and Jean Vigo’s Zéro de conduite, provides a satire of Fourth Republic politics from the perspective of the lycée, with the protagonist Perfide not yet fourteen and parliamentary sessions described in terms of the classroom: “At half past four, the class begins again.”25 The novel ends with only a mockironic peroration from Perfide on adults: They are our slaves, you know. They spend their lives working, scouring the saucepans and selling oil, while we amuse ourselves with the history of France, geography, Latin grammar …26

The final words: “We will do great things”27 has a characteristically empty ring about it found in all the Hussards’ writing, such as the coda to Blondin’s L’Humeur vagabonde: “One day we will take the trains that leave.”28 The problem for Nimier is that, whereas Laurent, and even Blondin, were able to move on and develop a more complex set of themes, Nimier all too often remains set in the same trope. This imaginative fixity is even more accentuated in Nimier’s topography of Paris. The chronology becomes compressed into the 1920s and the imaginative space into the high-bourgeois world of the eighth arrondissement. In one sense, this was part of a serious intellectual and cultural project: the resurrection of a “mode 1925”, in which Nimier was a major instrument, which translated the malaise of the new generation following the Liberation into a reprise of the “nouveau mal du siècle” following the First World War. Not only was Nimier conscious of a close parallel between the “années folles” and the period of the Fourth Republic, he was also acutely aware that his generation of writers did not always possess the scope and talent of the habitués of Le Boeuf sur le Toit: hence an accentuated sense of impotence and frustration at being unable to renew himself aesthetically after the success of his first two novels. As we have seen, it is noteworthy that the two novels for which Nimier is best-known, Les Épées and Le Hussard bleu, are largely set outside of Paris. With Les Enfants tristes, however, Nimier begins his fictional colonisation of 24

“Cher Olivier … vous êtes toujours ce petit garçon au regard clair et désespéré …” Ibid., 174. 25 “À seize heures trente, la classe reprit.” Roger Nimier, Perfide (Paris: Gallimard, 1950), 164. 26 “Ce sont nos esclaves, tu sais. Elles passent leur vie à travailler, à récurer les casseroles et à vendre du pétrole, pendant que nous nous amusons à l’histoire de France, à la géographie, à la grammaire latine…” Ibid., 220–1. 27 “Nous ferons de grandes choses.” Ibid., 221. 28 “Un jour nous prendrons des trains qui partent.” Blondin, L’Humeur vagabonde, 187.


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the eighth arrondissement, which he will find increasingly difficult to escape: the Le Barsac family live on the Avenue Percier, whilst the De Vincays’ apartment is on the Rue d’Anjou. Moreover, the geography of the novel often becomes little more than conventional décor: Odette has an assignation with Daverny “in the bar Georges V,”29 whilst, even after the Liberation, the social world continues unchanged: “Juliette de Saint-Romain was coming out of chez Dior,”30 whilst Dominique, on a visit to New York, bombards her friends with requests for lace from Hermès. This is almost what became known as product placement, and it is true that Nimier was not unaware of his vulnerability on this score. As he writes of his semi-autobiographical hero Olivier Malentraide, If Malentraide had had the good fortune to enjoy success for a novel and two rather anodyne plays, the kind of success that one can enjoy only at his age, he had paid for it with the worst possible reputation in moral terms. He was accused of being unpleasant for pleasure and of spending his time in the sixteenth arrondissement, which is always seen in a bad light.31

Yet the reputation proved difficult to shake off, and Nimier’s next novel, Histoire d’un amour (1953), which regresses in its entirety to the 1920s, merely continues to exploit the same décor. His heroine, Michèle Vilmain, is a clothes designer, “the very mention of [whose] name prompted a murmur among the dowagers of the sixteenth arrondissement…”32 Even though her lover, the painter Philip Walden, lives in Montparnasse, Michèle is a creature of the same clichéd décor as that of Les Enfants tristes: she dines with her friends at Maxim’s,33 buys a gold bracelet at Cartier’s,34 and, predictably, visits Le Boeuf sur le Toit.35 Not only does this imprison Nimier’s characters in a wholly artificial world, it also relies heavily upon a powerful element of snobbishness which it never effectively challenges. An article in La Revue du Racing in 1960 refers disparagingly to one of Nimier’s many journalistic ventures as “that vast


Nimier, Les Enfants tristes, 133. Ibid., 175. 31 “Si Malentraide avait eu de la chance, pour un roman et deux pièces assez banales, d’avoir du succès, ce succès dont on ne jouit qu’à son âge, il avait payé ce succès de la plus mauvaise réputation, sur le plan moral. On l’accusait d’être méchant pour le plaisir et de passer son temps dans le XVIe arrondissement, ce qui est toujours mal considéré.” Nimier, Les Enfants tristes, 334. 32 “le seul énoncé de son nom faisait courir un murmure sur les lèvres des douairières du XVIe arrondissement…” Roger Nimier, Histoire d’un amour (Paris: Gallimard, 1953), 25. 33 Ibid., 80. 34 Ibid., 95. 35 Ibid., 111. 30

“Du Côté de chez Blondin”: The Imaginary Paris of the Hussards


snobbish enterprise that was the late Nouveau Fémina,”36 and a more favourable notice in Preuves in 1955 nevertheless comments: “full of talent, that boy, but how much time he wastes in his quarrels with Marie-Chantal!”37 In fact, the only remotely original use of Parisian topography in Nimier’s work is to be found, significantly enough, in Perfide, where he moves out from the eighth and sixteenth arrondissements to locate his hero’s secret apartment in the eminently Célinian Rue Lepic in Montmartre.38 At the same time, in his account of how the apartment is reached, Nimier indulges in a unique dislocation of Parisian topography, reminiscent of Céline’s Voyage au bout de la nuit, which takes the reader from Avenue Mac-Mahon to the Rue Lepic via the Boulevard de la Chapelle, the Rue de Rivoli and the Place de la Bastille.39 Following on from Les Épées and Le Hussard bleu, this novel, however, is the last example of a genuinely playful and liberating fictional technique in Nimier’s work until the late pastiche of Dumas in D’Artagnan amoureux, of 1962. In between, the fictional stasis is reflected in the chronological and topographical constraints.

Du Côté de chez Blondin In the semi-autobiographical Monsieur Jadis, ou l’école du soir (1970), Blondin comments: “Roger Nimier lived on the other side of Marigny Square,”40 effectively in another world, separated not merely by the Seine but by an entire life-style. If Laurent marks the continuity between the pre-war militant intellectual right and its post-war successors, and if Nimier was the descendant of the “mondain” Parisian right of the 1920s, Blondin is the most authentic postwar exponent of its bohemian counterpart, and he is the only right-wing creator of an imaginary Paris able to rival Marcel Aymé’s “inspired village” on the Butte de Montmartre.41 In this project, Blondin benefited from an intense curiosity about the geography of Paris, which emerges at its most superficial in a lavish coffee-table book of photographs by Patrice Molinard, Paris que j’aime, of 1956, with the texts provided by Marcel Aymé, Jean-Paul Clébert and Blondin himself. Whilst Aymé provided the preface and Clébert the main text, Blondin provided detailed 36

“Cette vaste entreprise de snobisme que fut le défunt Nouveau Fémina” (La Revue du Racing, June 1960). 37 “Plein de talent, ce garçon, mais quel temps ne perd-il pas à se quereller avec MarieChantal!” Preuves, November 1955. 38 Nimier, Perfide, 176. 39 Ibid., 175. 40 Blondin, Monsieur Jadis, 48. 41 See Jean Vertex, Le Village inspiré. Chronique de la Bohème à Montmartre 19201950 (Paris: l’auteur, 1950).


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and whimsical captions to photographs covering the length and breadth of the city, from Notre-Dame to Montmartre and from the Champs-Élysées to the Luxembourg, with a knowing nod to Parisian “villages” like Bercy, Charonne, the epicentre of Brasillach’s Les Sept Couleurs, and Vaugirard. More seriously, Blondin remained until late in his career an assiduous explorer of the hidden corners of the capital. A late short story, “Que l’Eau est douce-amère” recounts a journey along the Canal Saint-Martin, when the narrator is forty: It was then that I longed suddenly for intimate places whose horizons I discerned, and where I was rejoined by memories. The perfect model of this mobility in immobility, if one can call happiness the long sleep of a heart quietened in the comfortable regularity of a full timetable, may be sought in the canal, the reflections on the water, the echo of its locks, the constantly repeated promise of its hump-backed footbridges. Gradually I ended up taking the riverside path that extends from the Arsenal basin, lying in the ditches of the Bastille, right up to the ornamental lake of La Villette. Very soon I used to adopt the attitude of apparently unconcerned waiting of the nocturnal tramps, those fellows who see night in a false light. Before rejoining the Ourcq Canal, the Canal Saint-Martin, created under the Restoration and then completed by the Second Empire, has been brought under the cover of a vault for a distance of 18 metres, in particular for the length of Boulevard Richard-Lenoir. Hurling headlong up above into the rush of everyday life, do we really know that a fleet navigates beneath our feet? After recovering on the banks of the quays of Valmy and Jemmapes, the double towpath of my existence with their victorious names, one of the real secrets of my days, it remained for me to rediscover Paris in this series of blue-green waterways and warehouses, these cargo-boats confined under their bare minimum, this thicket of masts, cranes, hoists, bristling up towards a smoky sky, to the rusty roar of the dredgers.42


“C’est alors que j’aspire soudain à des endroits intimes dont je puisse cerner les horizons et où des souvenirs me rejoignent. Cette mobilité dans l’immobilité, si on appelle bonheur le long sommeil d’un coeur apaisé dans la régularité confortable d’un plein emploi du temps, on en peut chercher le canon dans le canal, les reflets de son eau, les échos de ses vannes, la promesse toujours répétée de ses passerelles en dos d’âne. Petit à petit je finis par emprunter le chemin fluvial qui s’étire du basin de l’Arsenal, allongé dans les fossés de la Bastille, jusqu’au pochoir de la Villette. Très vite j’adoptais l’attitude de l’attente apparemment blasée des clochards nocturnes, ces oiseaux qui voient la nuit sous un faux jour. “Avant de rejoindre le canal de l’Ourcq, le canal Saint-Martin, créé par la Restauration puis scellé par le Second Empire, a été amené à se couvrir d’une voûte durant dix-huit cents mètres, en particulier le long du boulevard Richard-Lenoir. Précipitant au sommet la vitesse de la vie quotidienne, savons-nous vraiment qu’une

“Du Côté de chez Blondin”: The Imaginary Paris of the Hussards


The passage is highly significant for a number of reasons. Quite clearly, the description of the Canal Saint-Martin is not décor. Rather, it is the locus for a voyage of discovery and rediscovery undertaken by a “saunterer” (“flâneur”) with the visionary gifts of a “tramp” (“clochard”). In the course of this voyage, Blondin, like Mac Orlan before him in Le Quai des brumes, discovers Paris as a sea-port, a magical Paris accessible through its names: the Quai de Valmy and the Quai de Jemmapes, which constitutes one of the “real secrets of my days.” Moreover, Blondin, like his narrator in L’Humeur vagabonde and Anne Coquet in Laurent’s Les Corps tranquilles, is highly conscious of the productive collision between the “rush of everyday life” and the subterranean world of the imagination where “a fleet navigates beneath our feet”. Reinforced by this acute sense of Parisian topography and its significance, Blondin’s fiction is played out in a well-defined imaginative space, and which essentially has two poles, both on the Left Bank: firstly the Invalides and the École Militaire, and later the Quai Voltaire and its immediate hinterland. However, whereas the eighth and sixteenth arrondissements serve merely as a conventional décor for Nimier’s fiction, in Blondin’s work these two quartiers are essential elements in the fictional process. His first novel, L’Europe buissonnière, published by Frémanger, is a burlesque epic of the Second World War, which owes much to Céline’s Voyage au bout de la nuit, moving through the defeat and exode of 1940, via the provincial Resistance to the Service du Travail Obligatoire in a factory in Austria. It is highly fitting, therefore, that Blondin’s picaresque hero, Muguet, should live in the Avenue de Ségur. As Blondin opens his novel: “After eight in the evening, the heroes of the novel do not run around the quarter of Les Invalides.”43 The quartier des Invalides, with its military hospital, its headquarters of the Military Governor of Paris and the tomb of Napoleon, constitutes the epicentre of French military memories and aspirations, gently derided and subverted through Blondin’s hero. At the same time, the novel asserts its imaginative credentials by playing with Parisian topography and by invoking the metro, the underground, as the fount of knowledge: Muguet’s lycée companion, the Eastern aristocratic “voïvode”, is reported as having just exited flotte navigue sous nos pieds? Après avoir récupéré sur les rives du quai de Valmy et du quai de Jemmapes, double halage de mon existence aux noms victorieux, l’un des véritables secrets de mes jours, il me restait encore à retrouver Paris dans cette enfilade de plans d’eau glauques et d’entrepôts, ces cargos confinés sous leur minimum, ce taillis de mâts, de grues, de palans, hérissé vers un ciel fumeux, dans le fracas rouillé des dragues.” Blondin, Premières et dernières nouvelles, 112–3. 43 “Passé huit heures du soir, les héros du roman ne courent pas les rues dans le quartier des Invalides.” Antoine Blondin, L’Europe buissonnière (Paris: Livre de Poche, 1961), 11.


Chapter Ten

from the non-existent metro-station “Marcadet-Balagny”, where “he had rethought the technique of the coup d’état, if not the problem of class struggle…” with the explanation: “As paradoxical as it may seem, it is in the depths that one has supreme moments of enlightenment.”44 The novel’s explicit anti-historicism, designed as a deliberate affront to the prevailing discourse of the PCF and the Existentialists, operates through its geography and is continued in Les Enfants du bon Dieu (1952). Blondin’s hero, Sébastien Perrin, like Muguet a veteran of the STO, is now living a life of tranquillity and boredom near the École Militaire: There, where we live, the avenues are deep and calm like the paths of a cemetery. The paths leading from the École Militaire to Les Invalides seem to open onto national funerals. One pavement in the shade, the other in the sun, they stretch into the distance under their petrified plane trees, in front of two series of continuous façades, without a shop, without a cry. But the air is alive with a quivering anxiety; it is the apprehension of the sound of the bells. The sky lies low over my prematurely old quarter. And I am but thirty years old, and young-blooded.45

Blondin’s location here serves a dual purpose. As in the opening of L’Europe buissonnière, Perrin’s quartier is the epicentre of history in its military dimension. At the same time, it is as far removed as is possible from the mainstream of Parisian popular and youth culture: a quartier that is, to all intents and purposes, dead. Sébastien’s revolt against both connotations results in a double failure: his affair with the German princess Albertina, begun during the STO, is abandoned and he returns to his wife. A more significant rebellion seems to promise more, however. As a history teacher, Sébastien is constrained by a strict national syllabus and calendar which maps European history on to the changes of the seasons. In an attempt to break out once and for all, Sébastien decides to subvert the very course (in both senses) of history itself, by inventing a fictional narrative which aborts the Treaty of Westphalia and prolongs the


“Il avait repensé la technique du coup d’état, sinon le problème de la lutte des classes …” “Pour paradoxal que ça puisse paraître, c’est dans les basses-fosses qu’on fait les souverains éclairs.” Ibid., 19. 45 “Là, où nous habitons, les avenues sont profondes et calmes comme des allées de cimetière. Les chemins qui conduisent de l’École Militaire aux Invalides semblent s’ouvrir sur des funérailles nationales. Un trottoir à l’ombre, l’autre au soleil, ils s’en vont entre leurs platanes pétrifiés, devant deux rangées de façades continues, sans une boutique, sans un cri. Mais une anxiété frémissante peuple l’air: c’est l’appréhension du son des cloches. Le ciel vole bas sur mon quartier prématurément vieilli. Et je n’ai que trente ans et le sang jeune.” Antoine Blondin, Les Enfants du bon Dieu (Paris: Gallimard, Collection Folio, 1973), 13.

“Du Côté de chez Blondin”: The Imaginary Paris of the Hussards


Thirty Years War indefinitely.46 This attempt at liberation through fiction, as promising as it seems, however, is ultimately no more successful than his attempted escape to Albertina, and Sébastien remains in his prison: the novel closes with a reprise of its opening: “There where we live, the avenues are calm and deep like the paths of a cemetery. My house has grown old gracefully and modestly …”47 A coda which translates all of the pent-up nostalgia for action found at the end of L’Humeur vagabonde: “One day we will take the trains that leave.” If the Invalides and the École Militaire constitute the negative pole of Blondin’s fictional geography, however, its positive equivalent is to be found close by, on the Quai Voltaire. As Alain Cresciucci notes, Blondin’s parents, by this time leading virtually separate lives, moved into an apartment at 33 Quai Voltaire in 1934, an address which became “one of the essential elements in the Blondin legend, a ‘supreme point’, to borrow an expression of André Breton.”48 As a biographer, Cresciucci is careful to distinguish between the legend and the facts, but the legend itself is crucial to Blondin’s creation of a Parisian topographical imaginary. In “Que L’Eau est douce-amère”, Blondin’s autobiographical narrator recalls: I was living at the time in the ruins of a palace on Quai Voltaire in Paris, where I had spent rich hours in my youth. Some bother with a bailiff had led to the closing of the rooms looking onto the Seine, leaving me to a room cluttered with books and papers and where the dust accumulated without my doing much to shake it away.49

The aim is clearly to accentuate the bohemian side to Blondin’s persona, an aim fulfilled in Monsieur Jadis, ou l’école du soir, of 1970, a loosely-connected collection of short stories vaguely indebted to Joyce’s Dubliners,50 all of which culminate in the eponymous narrator spending the night in prison. As in the later “Que l’Eau est douce-amère”, Blondin is careful to position himself both chronologically and geographically, but with a different emphasis: 46

Ibid., 58–9. “Là où nous habitons, les avenues sont profondes et calmes comme des allées de cimetière. Ma maison achève de vieillir avec élégance et modestie …”. Ibid., 212. 48 “Un des éléments essentiels de la légende blondonienne, un ‘point suprême’ pour reprendre une expression d’André Breton.” Cresciucci, Antoine Blondin, 52. 49 “J’habitais à l’époque les ruines d’un palais sur le quai Voltaire à Paris, où j’avais connu des heures opulentes dans ma jeunesse. Des tracas d’huissier avaient condamné les pièces ouvertes sur la Seine, me reléguant dans une chambre encombrée de livres et de papiers où la poussière s’accumulait sans que je fisse beaucoup pour la secouer.” Blondin, Premières et dernières nouvelles, 111. 50 Blondin, Monsieur Jadis, 23. 47


Chapter Ten Nearly fifty years old, I do not wear a tie. I have remained slim, as my work has done. I contemplate the Right Bank in the distance. I never cross Boulevard Saint-Germain, except to go to Tokyo. My universe is limited to two hundred metres of asphalt, a cluster of cafés-tabacs. I still live in the ruins of a palace on Quai Voltaire where I once enjoyed a strange happiness between my parents and my friends.51

In addition to the highly idealised reminiscences of childhood found in the later version, the introduction to Monsieur Jadis is important for its careful demarcation of imaginative territory: the positioning of the Right Bank “in the distance”, the exaggeratedly rigid frontier of the Boulevard Saint-Germain, and the creation of a fictional village, the “cluster of cafés-tabacs”, bounded essentially by the Quai Voltaire, the Rue du Bac, the Rue de l’Université and the Rue de Beaune. This decidedly unfashionable quartier, peopled mainly by antique dealers, is close to, but separate from, the main stream of intellectual and artistic Paris, with La Table Ronde on the Rue du Bac, Gallimard and the Hôtel du Pont Royal of the Rue Sébastien-Bottin, and Seuil in the Rue Jacob: it is frontier territory, an enclave of provincialism and bohemianism on the borders of the cultural establishment. As such, it serves its purpose as a fitting base for Monsier Jadis himself, who spends his nights in the same hotel room on the Quai Voltaire occupied by Wagner,52 and whose bohemian, and chaotic, existence constitutes a constant challenge to intellectual orthodoxy.

The End of Right-Wing Paris What is interesting, however, is that, by 1970, it is by no means clear that this challenge any longer has clear political connotations. Monsieur Jadis begins with the arrest of the narrator in 1968 along with a young student: indeed, he gives the name “Jadis” merely to confuse the police. At the end of the volume, however, “Jadis” is released, whereas he learns that the young man arrested with him has died in police custody. It is, of course, possible that Blondin’s antiGaullism, like that of Laurent, would lead him into strange alliances, but a natural anarchist anti-authoritarianism seems to be at play here, the same antiauthoritarianism which led him and the other Hussards to denounce the postLiberation orthodoxies which emanated from the Resistance. Yet that very 51 “Aux approches de la cinquantaine, je ne porte pas de cravate. Je suis resté mince, mon œuvre aussi. J’envisage la rive droite de loin. Je ne traverse jamais le boulevard SaintGermain, sauf pour me rendre à Tokyo. Mon univers se borne à deux cents mètres carrés de bitume, une plantation de cafés-tabacs. Je continue d’habiter les ruines d’un palais sur le quai Voltaire où j’ai connu autrefois un bonheur baroque entre mes parents et mes amis.” Blondin, Monsieur Jadis, 12–13. 52 Ibid., 63.

“Du Côté de chez Blondin”: The Imaginary Paris of the Hussards


denunciation was itself always ambiguous, with the extreme right in the 1940s proposing the same “peace of the courageous” (“paix des braves”) as De Gaulle was to suggest to the Algerian FLN between both sets of foot-soldiers in the “Franco–French War” (“Guerre Franco–française”). As early as 1955, not long after Blondin’s fiery career as an extreme right-wing journalist at Rivarol, he describes the Père-Lachaise cemetery in L’Humeur vagabonde: It is the militant area of the cemetery, where the old companions of the barricades and their fraternal adversaries are buried, lying in the same sleep without the frowns of rebels. Without turning one’s head, one can measure the space between Vaillant-Couturier and Robert Brasillach, who marched on the other side.53

Nearly thirty years later, in Ma Vie entre les lignes, and just after the election of François Mitterrand to the Presidency of the Republic, he commented: I feel on the extreme right (a sort of winger) through a conviction that comes to me instinctively, as if from the soles of my feet; my stomach, which would be more to the centre, cries famine to certain newspapers that one might presume to have the attention of the current majority… my heart and my mind favour François Mitterrand, for whom I feel a sense of personal sympathy…54

In other words, the personal divisions between intellectuals and writers of different political persuasions may not have been so clear-cut as often believed, nor their occupation of space within the capital, and certainly not in the 1980s: “Monsieur Jadis” is, after all, a man of the past. Herbert Lottman concluded his study of the Left Bank with the suggestion that the intellectual topography of Paris changed in the 1960s due to the proliferation of the telephone, which rendered specific meeting places amongst intellectuals of the same interests or political persuasions redundant. It is a plausible hypothesis, reinforced since the 1990s by the domination of the internet and e-mail, and, since the 1980s, by transformations in the Parisian property market. In spite of Agulhon’s analysis, it is certainly more difficult now to draw a cultural map of Paris based on political persuasion than it was in 53

“C’est la partie militante du cimetière, où reposent de vieux compagnons des barricades et leurs adversaires fraternels, couchés dans le même sommeil sans faux plis des insurgés. On y peut mesurer sans tourner la tête l’espace entre Vaillant-Couturier et Robert Brasillach, qui marchait à l’autre aile.” Blondin, L’Humeur vagabonde, 94. 54 “Je me sens d’extrême droite (une sorte d’ailier) par une conviction qui me vient de la plante des pieds; l’estomac, qui serait plutôt au centre, crie famine du côté de quelques journaux dont on peut présumer qu’ils ont l’oreille de la majorité actuelle… le cœur et le cerveau vont à François Mitterrand, pour qui j’éprouve de la sympathie personnelle…” Antoine Blondin, Ma Vie entre les lignes (Paris: Gallimard, Collection Folio, 1982), 297.


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the 1940s and 1950s. Yet, for that period, and in some cases for longer, there was a right-wing cultural geography of Paris which was distinct from its leftwing counterpart, in spite of tantalising overlaps, and one of the surest guides to that geography is the work of the Hussards, who, in Blondin and Laurent, discovered that the cultural geography of Paris is not merely two-dimensional, be it east to west or left to right, but also predicated upon a highly imaginative and liberating interaction between the surface and the hidden depths.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Archival and Press Paris: Archives Nationales (AN) 231 Mi, Marchand papers. 99 Archives Privés, Baratier papers, 2. 300 Archives Privés, 937–942. 576 Archives Privés 2. 576 Archives Privés 34. 576 Archives Privés, 37. 576 Archives Privés, 178. Legion of Honour records LH/1729/36. Ministry of the Interior, F/7/13199. F/7/13134. F/7/13305. F/7/15981/1. Ministère de la Justice: BB 30, Carton 1747. Paris: Archives de la Préfecture de Police (APP) Ba 1861. Ba 1865. Ba 1867. Ba 1893. Ba 1901. Ba 1907. Ba 1939. Ba 1973. Bois D’Arcy: Centre National de la Cinématographie La Fête de Jeanne d’Arc, 1935. Aix-en-Provence: Centre des Archives d’Outre-Mer (CAOM) Missions, box 42.



Fontainebleau: Centre des Archives Contemporaines (CAC) 19820599, Renseignements Généraux, “L’Attitude du PCF”, 20 May 1968. 19910194, Article 1, Liasse 2, “Société de presse d’édition et du librairie (Journal Révoltes)”, transcript marked “source sécrète”. 19910194, Article 1, Liasse 2, Renseignements Généraux, “La Crise de mai”, 24 June 1968, 9. Maillane, Bouches-du-Rhône: Musée Mistral Correspondance F. Mistral, Dossier 148. Press (French) Action Française. Bulletin de la Société de Géographie de Paris. L’Ami du Peuple. L’Aurore. Le Courrier d’Alsace. L’Émancipation Nationale. L’Ère Nouvelle. L’Express. Le Figaro. L’Humanité. L’Intransigeant. Journal Officiel: débats parlementaires, Chambre des Députés. La Lanterne. Libération. La Libre Parole. La Lumière. Le Monde. Le Nouvel Observateur. L’Œuvre. Le Petit Journal. Le Petit Parisien. Le Populaire. La Presse. La République. Le Siècle. Le Temps. Les Temps modernes.

Paris and the Right in the Twentieth Century


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Dr Jean Chalaby is a lecturer at the University of Geneva and at the City University in London. He has published three books (The Invention of Journalism, 1998, The Media During the De Gaulle presidency, 2002, and Transnational Television Worldwide, 2004) and numerous articles in European and American journals. His research interests include the history of the media and journalism in France and England, and the globalisation of the media.

Dr Elisabeth Dupoirier is a Research Director at the Centre de Recherches Politiques de Sciences-Politiques (CEVIPOF). Her work focuses principally on electoral sociology and on the study of the decentralisation process in France from a comparative European perspective. During 1992–2002 she was the director of the Observatoire Intterégional du Politique (OIP), a research centre dedicated to the study of political phenomena resulting from the French decentralisation process.

Dr Daniel Gordon is Lecturer in European History at Edge Hill University. His two main research interests are the history of “les années 68” and the history of immigration in twentieth-century France. Recent publications include: “The Back Door of the Nation State: expulsions of foreigners and continuity in twentieth-century France”. Past and Present 168 (February 2005).

Dr Bruno Goyet is an agrégé and teaches at the Académie d’Aix-Marseille. He has published two books: Charles Maurras (2000) and Henri d’Orléans, comte de Paris (1908–1999). Le Prince impossible (2001); as well as a number of articles on the work of Charles Maurras, the reception of fascism in France, and the question of pacifist commitment between 1919 and 1939.

Professor Nicholas Hewitt is Head of the Department of Critical Theory and Cultural Studies at Nottingham University. His chief research interest is in twentieth-century literature and cultural history, especially during the Third and Fourth Republics and the Occupation. His publications include Henri Troyat



(1984), The Golden Ages of Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1987,) Les Maladies du Siècle: The Image of Malaise in French Fiction and Thought in the Inter-War Years (1988), Literature and the Right in Postwar France (1996), The Life of Céline (1999), and The Cambridge Companion to Modern French Culture (2003).

Dr Melody Houk’s research has focused on the importance of political representation at the level of the arrondissement. She has recently completed her thesis on L’Institution de la proximité. Les arrondissements dans le gouvernement municipal de Paris, Marseille et Lyon depuis 1983 at the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris (2005), and has published articles on municipal government in English and French.

Miss Imogen Long is currently finishing her doctorate at the University of Leeds under the supervision of Professor Margaret Atack. The focus of her thesis is the polemical and creative writing of women intellectuals and its impact in France during the 1970s and 1980s. Her research interests include women’s writing, feminism and philosophy.

Mr Berny Sèbe (FRGS) is currently completing his doctoral thesis at Keble College, Oxford, on “The Making of British and French Colonial Heroes who acted in Africa, 1870-1930”. His research interests include European imperialisms (especially the comparative study of the French, British and Spanish Empires); colonial and post-colonial photography; and the history of the Sahara desert. He has published with his father several photographic books on North Africa, including Sahara. The Atlantic to the Nile (2003).

Dr Peter Tame works on the development and decline of political ideologies in the context of twentieth-century French literature. His publications include La Mystique du fascisme dans l’œuvre de Robert Brasillach (1986) and The Ideological Hero in the Novels of Robert Brasillach, Roger Vailland, and André Malraux (1998). He has also published translations of Brasillach’s memoirs, and is currently working on a full-length critical biography of André Chamson.

Paris and the Right in the Twentieth Century


Dr Jessica Wardhaugh (née Irons) is a Junior Research Fellow in Modern History at Christ Church, Oxford. She has published articles on street politics and theatre in the 1930s, including “Staging reconciliation: popular theatre and political utopia in France in 1937”. Contemporary European History 14.3 (2005), 279–294. She is currently working on the concepts of people and nation in France between 1934 and 1939, and on the history of popular theatre during the Third Republic.

INDEX 1 May, 50, 70, 72–3 Académie Française, 13, 31, 150, 154, 215 Action Française, Action Française, 11, 15, 45, 47, 49–50, 54, 56, 58, 60, 65, 69–70, 72, 148, 150–1, 153, 155–62, 164, 187, 189, 214, 234, 247 Agulhon, Maurice, 2, 211, 213–14, 231, 235 Algeria/Algérie Française, 67, 78, 105 Alliance Française, 24 Alsace-Lorraine, 194 Anti-Dreyfusard, 6, 20, 25, 29–31, 33– 5, 42, 65 Anti-Semitism, 11, 34–5, 37 Aragon, Louis, 213 Arc de Triomphe, 47, 52, 59–60, 109, 211 Arsenal library, 163 Aymé, Marcel, 179–80, 214–15, 217– 18, 225, 241 Bainville, Jacques, 56, 154, 214 Balladur, Édouard, 9, 108, 112, 120, 235 Bar Georges V, 224 Bardèche, Maurice, 175, 178, 196 Bariani, Didier, 133, 135, 141 Barrès, Maurice, 4, 69, 76, 153, 162, 178, 180, 246 Batignolles, 213 Belleville, 115, 213, 220–1 Benda, Julien, 202 Bercy, 15, 226 Berstein, Serge, 108, 110, 156, 236, 240 Blondin, Antoine, 11, 13–15, 212, 214, 216–19, 221–3, 225, 227–32, 236, 238

Blum, Léon, 7, 45, 51–9, 214 Bois de Boulogne, 184–5 Bonaparte, Napoleon, 18, 227, 238 Bonapartism, 35, 39, 93 Bondy, 113 Boulanger, General Georges, 4, 6, 25, 30, 33–4, 37, 42, 46, 235 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 1, 7, 13–14, 33, 49, 56, 107, 150, 159, 212, 214, 230 Boulevard Saint-Michel, 33, 49, 171 Boutang, Pierre, 216 Brasillach, Robert, 1, 11–13, 15, 169– 75, 177–93, 195–210, 215, 226, 231, 237, 240, 242, 245–7, 250 Breton, André, 229 Burrin, Philippe, 4, 46, 237 Butte Montmartre, 69 Cabana, Camille, 123, 137, 139 Café, 212 Camelots du Roy, 50, 56, 174, 214 Camus, Albert, 12, 197, 202, 206, 237 Canal Saint-Martin, 226–7 Capitant, René, 114 Carnot, Sadi, 26 Catholicism/Catholic Church, 69–70, 75, 148, 187 Céline, Louis-Ferdinand, 214–15, 217, 221–2, 225, 227, 250 Centre National des Indépendants, 67, 136 Cercle Militaire, 33, 34–5, 42 Chamber of Deputies, 22, 47, 58, 67 Chardonne, Jacques, 217–18 Châtelet, 72, 219–20 Chénier, André, 167 Chesterton, G. K., 182, 238, 241 Chiappe, Jean, 69–70, 105 Chinaud, Roger, 131, 135

Paris and the Right in the Twentieth Century Chirac, Jacques, 1, 7–10, 14, 64, 72–3, 82–4, 112, 118–46, 238–40, 247 Cité Universitaire, 174–5, 179 Clair, René, 171, 186 Claudel, Paul, 12, 197 Clichy, 7, 45, 52, 55, 61–3 Club de l’Horloge, Le, 80 Cocteau, Jean, 12, 197, 213, 215 Cohn-Bendit, Daniel, 106, 108–10, 119 Colette, Sidonie Gabrielle, 75, 178, 180, 197, 218, 244 Collaboration, 5, 189, 196, 241 Collaborationism, 12, 189–90, 193, 197, 203, 205 Collomb, Francisque, 126 Colonel de la Rocque, François, 7, 49, 51, 54, 58, 60–2 Combelle, Lucien, 196 Combes, Émile, 38 Comité National des Écrivains, 154, 195–6 Comités pour la Défense de la République, 112 Commune (1871), 7, 11, 43–4, 47, 50, 53–4, 68, 108, 122, 128, 163, 213, 246 Communism, 7, 43–4, 47, 49–51, 53–4, 60, 62–3, 95, 103, 107, 110, 131, 136, 212 Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité, 92, 108 Confédération Générale du Travail, 110, 112 Conservatism, 66, 212 Contrat première embauche, 121 Coppée, François, 31, 35, 37 Corporatism, 159 Cosmopolitanism, 161, 164, 213 Coubertin, Pierre de, 165 Cousteau, Pierre-Antoine, 196 Couve de Murville, Maurice, 132–3 Croix de Feu, 5, 43, 47, 49–50, 53, 58, 61 Cunard, Nancy, 213 Daudet, Léon, 16, 151, 154, 238


de Beauvoir, Simone, 12, 193–5, 199– 204, 208, 210, 216, 236, 242–3, 247 Déat, Marcel, 4, 237 Debray, Régis, 199, 238 Debré, Michel, 98 Decentralisation, 65, 124, 127–8, 145, 249 Degrelle, Léon, 187–8 Delanoë, Bertrand, 74, 83–4, 131, 239 Délégation à la Protection et à la Sécurité, 74 Democracy, 63, 98 Déon, Michel, 217 Déroulède, Paul, 30–1, 35–6, 40, 42 Devedjian, Patrick, 115–16, 120 Dominati, Jacques, 131–3, 135, 137 Doriot, Jacques, 3–4, 53–4, 61–2, 237 Doumer, Paul, 22, 25, 40 Dreyfus, Captain Alfred, 6, 20, 29–31, 35, 37, 42, 65, 69, 150, 156, 164, 168, 198–9 Drieu la Rochelle, Pierre, 13, 213, 217 Drumont, Édouard, 35–7 Duhamel, Georges, 215 Duprat, François, 109–10, 239 Duras, Marguerite, 215 École Militaire, 14, 227–9 École Nationale d’Administration, 92, 247 École Normale Supérieure, 12, 174–5, 178, 182–3, 195, 212 Élysée Palace, 30, 33, 35 Empire, French, 68, 177, 226 Estier, Claude, 131 Europe, 8, 25, 28, 44, 62, 70, 79–80, 84, 90, 98, 110, 114, 166, 185, 187, 202, 217, 227–8, 236, 240, 245, 247 Existentialism, 1, 13–14, 194, 200, 206, 210, 212–13, 215–16, 228 Family, 15, 62, 82, 155, 180, 218 Fascism, 4, 45, 49–50, 52–4, 58, 114, 185–8, 195–6, 198, 204, 212, 249 Fashoda, 18–20, 25–26, 28, 30, 37, 39, 41–2, 246, 248 Faure, Félix, 30–1, 103 Ferrandi, Jean, 47

254 Film, 43, 46, 62, 111, 179 First World War, 19, 93, 162, 174, 183 Foccart, Jacques, 107, 113 Fraigneau, André, 217 Francistes, 50 Franck, Bernard, 216–7, 239 Frédéric-Dupont, Édouard, 79, 132 Freemasons, 38 Front National, 6, 7, 64–80, 82–4, 109, 114, 116, 119, 239 Front National de la Jeunesse, 74 Front National des Combattants, 67 Gallimard, Gaston, 154, 222 Gaulle, Charles de, 8–9, 68, 86–8, 90– 101, 103, 105, 107, 110–11, 113, 167, 197, 211, 235–9, 241–5, 247–8 Gaullism, 8–10, 14, 64, 67, 79, 87, 89– 92, 94, 99–100, 102–4, 107, 110, 112, 114, 116–17, 120, 123, 127–8, 130, 139, 146, 191, 242 Gaxotte, Pierre, 13, 196, 215 Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft, 155, 182–3, 247 Geography of Paris Suburbs, 3, 7, 51, 157, 239, 247 Surface–hidden depths, 13–14, 232 Working-class areas, 33, 53, 72, 151–2, 158 Gide, André, 202, 223 Giscaird d’Estaing, Valéry, 123, 127 Grasset, Bernard, 28, 151, 154, 159, 162, 191, 199, 236, 238, 243 Grimaud, Maurice, 105–8, 240 Groupe d’Union Droit, 116 Guérin, Daniel, 111 Guérin, Jules, 35, 65 Habert, Marcel, 31 Haedens, Kléber, 217 Halliday, Johnny, 115 Haussmann, Baron, 2, 43, 213 Hautecloque, Nicole de, 133 Hecquet, Stephen, 217 Hitler, Adolf, 96, 187, 189, 194, 203–4, 237 Hôtel de Ville, 10, 31, 123, 127, 132–5, 139–43, 145

Index Hussards, 13–15, 93, 211–12, 214, 216–18, 221–3, 225, 230, 232, 238– 9, 241 Île de France, 79–83, 134, 166 Intellectuals, 198, 202, 209, 242, 247 Invalides, Les, 14, 33, 227–9 Jackson, Julian, 46, 60, 194, 241 Jardin du Luxembourg, 12, 171, 175 Jaurès, Jean, 54 Je suis partout, 170, 190, 196–7, 207– 8, 215–16, 239 Jeunesse Communiste Révolutionnaire, 109 Jews, 11–12, 30, 58, 96, 116, 164, 170– 1, 194, 196, 200, 237 Jewish quarter, 12, 170–1 Joan of Arc, 6–7, 33, 43, 47, 52, 54, 63, 68–72, 74–76, 159, 167, 233, 242 Jospin, Lionel, 72, 115, 131 Juppé, Alain, 123, 131, 134, 136–7, 139 La Libre Parole, 35, 37, 234 Lapin Agile, Le, 214 Laurent, Jacques, 11, 13, 15, 212, 214– 19, 221–3, 225, 227, 230, 232, 241 Laval, Pierre, 195 Le Figaro, 31, 34, 39, 70, 86, 113, 118, 121, 234, 239 Le Journal des Débats, 23, 29 Le Pen, Jean-Marie, 1, 4, 6–7, 9, 13– 15, 46, 64, 66–80, 82–4, 113–14, 116–17, 119–20, 212, 235, 237, 242–5 Le Petit Journal, 24, 29, 31, 34, 37, 234 Le Petit Parisien, 29, 234 Le Populaire, 49, 51–2, 59, 234 Le Temps, 29, 60, 167, 234, 243 Lemaître, Jules, 31, 39 Liberalism, 5, 244 Liberation (of Paris), 1, 129, 168, 210, 212, 214–17, 223–4 Ligue Antisémitique, 35, 65 Ligue de la Patrie Française, 65 Ligue des Patriotes, 30–1, 35, 65 Liotard, Victor, 26–7

Paris and the Right in the Twentieth Century Louvre, 70–3, 148–9, 160, 163, 165–6, 243 Lyautey, Hubert, 21, 177 Lycée Condorcet, 218 Lyons, 5, 31, 124, 126, 146, 167 Mac Orlan, Pierre, 214, 227 Madelin, Alain, 115–6, 120 Malène, Christian de la, 131–3, 138 Malraux, André, 75, 191, 242, 244, 250 Marcellin, Raymond, 26–7, 105–6, 109, 111, 116, 242 Marchand, Jean-Baptiste, 2, 6–7, 12, 14, 18–42, 233, 236, 238, 242–3, 246 Marseillaise, La, 43, 59, 111 Marseilles, 5, 31, 80, 113, 124–6, 146 Massis, Henri, 182, 216 Massu, Général Jacques, 105 Matignon, 123, 139 Maulnier, Thierry, 13, 170, 201, 216 Mauriac, François, 12, 167, 197, 200– 2, 213, 218, 241, 243 Mauroy, Pierre, 125 May 1968, 9, 89, 100, 104–5, 108–11, 114, 118, 211, 234–5, 240, 245–6 Mayor of Paris, 10, 122–5, 127–9, 131, 133–9, 141–6 Mégret, Bruno, 74, 119 Ménilmontant, 43, 213 Metro, 218–21 Michelet, Jules, 69, 75 Middle classes/bourgeoisie, 51, 62, 181, 213 Millevoye, Lucien, 31, 37 Mitterrand, François, 10, 68, 82, 103, 125, 231 Monarchist/Monarchism, 11, 40, 65, 69–70, 75, 149, 156–60, 175 Montherlant, Henry de, 215 Montmartre, 14, 36, 170, 174, 213, 214, 225–6, 241, 247 Montparnasse, 224 Montrouge, 170, 190 Morand, Paul, 213, 215, 217 Morin, Edgar, 215


Mouvement National Républicain, 74, 119, 244 Mussolini, Benito, 96, 187, 194, 237 Nanterre, 52, 106, 115, 118–19 National Assembly, 8, 33, 67–8, 87–9, 117, 132 National Revolution, 167, 194 Nationalism, 3, 6–7, 12, 18, 20, 22, 25, 29, 30–1, 33–9, 41–2, 47, 65–6, 69, 82–4, 113, 148, 150, 160, 162, 164, 166, 185 Nazi Germany/Nazis, 12, 53, 82, 194, 196, 198 Neuilly, 152, 157, 218, 222 Nimier, Roger, 11, 13, 212–13, 215– 18, 224–5, 227, 238, 244 Notre-Dame, 156, 158–9, 162, 226 Nouvelle Droite, La, 79 Nouvelle Revue Française, 154 Occident, 9, 14, 109, 115–16, 119, 237 Occupation, 1, 12, 169, 185, 189–90, 193–4, 196, 199, 203–5, 210, 214– 15, 217, 222, 236, 241, 243, 249 Office de Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française, 88–9, 97, 101–3, 117 Opéra, 14, 33, 35, 42, 49, 71–3, 212, 222, 244 Ordre Nouveau, 116, 119 Organisation de l’Armée Secrète, 68, 78 Orléans, Prince Henri d’, 31, 38, 156, 240, 249 Pache, Jean-Nicolas, 123 Pacifism, 59, 249 Pandraud, Robert, 123, 137 Parc Monceau, 213 Parc Montsouris, 12, 172–3, 175, 179– 81 Parti Communiste Français, 44, 51, 54, 61, 66, 109, 215, 228, 234 Parti Populaire Français, 3, 5, 53, 61–3 Parti Radical, 50, 54 Parti Social Français, 5, 46, 61–3 Parti Socialiste, 41, 62, 80, 109 Parti Socialiste Unifié, 109, 120

256 Pasqua, Charles, 9, 83, 112–13, 117– 18, 120, 126, 237, 244 Père-Lachaise cemetery, 7, 43, 50, 54, 231 Perrineau, Pascal, 75–6, 244 Pétain, Philippe, 69, 190 Peyrat, Jacques, 117 Peyrefitte, Alain, 87–8, 92–3, 95, 97–8, 101, 245 Place de la Bastille, 50, 56, 225 Place de la Concorde, 2–3, 14, 44, 47, 49, 60, 211 Place de la Nation, 43, 56, 73 Place de la République, 53, 73 Place des Pyramides, 7, 33, 43, 47, 54, 69, 70, 72, 159 Place du Châtelet, 71, 73 PML Law (Paris–Marseilles–Lyons Law), 10, 124, 129–30, 136–40, 145–6, 240 Pompidou, Georges, 100–2, 105, 107– 8, 111–12 Pons, Bernard, 132–3 Popular Front (movement, government), 1, 6, 43–51, 53–63, 186, 188, 190, 215, 235, 241–2 Populism, 65, 76, 79, 118, 177 Porte de la Chapelle, 159 Poujade, Pierre, 67, 114 Prévert, Jacques, 221 Proust, Marcel, 153, 155–6, 178, 245 Provinces, 5, 8, 41–2, 111, 148, 157, 161–2, 178, 183, 220 Purges, 12, 193–5, 202–3, 209–10 Quai Voltaire, 14, 218, 227, 229–30 Quartier Latin, 1, 9, 11, 13–15, 49, 54, 56, 68, 107, 109, 111, 114–15, 117, 121, 150, 152, 171, 174, 179, 183, 212, 214 Queneau, Raymond, 221 Radio, 8, 86, 90–1, 95, 99, 101, 103, 110, 236–7 Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française, 87–8, 93–5, 100, 239

Index Rassemblement pour la République, 10, 78–80, 83–4, 116, 123–5, 128, 130–7, 139, 145–6 Rebatet, Lucien, 196 Regionalism, 74 Rémond, René, 3–4, 65–6, 141, 245 Renaud, Jean, 53 Resistance, 154, 197, 202, 206, 210, 212, 215–16, 227, 230, 247 Rex movement, 187–8 Riot of 6 February 1934, 4, 44, 47, 49, 55, 58, 60, 63, 105, 186–7, 190, 214 Rivarol, 216, 231 Robert, Alain, 119 Rocard, Michel, 114, 120 Rochefort, Henri, 29, 38–9, 41 Roy, Claude, 197 Royalism, 72, 156, 159, 175, 195 Rue d’Assas, 212 Rue de Miromesnil, 156, 158 Rue de Rivoli, 43, 72, 225 Rue du Bac, 150, 216, 230 Sabiani, Simon, 5, 241 Sacré-Cœur, Basilique du, 69 Saint-Augustin, Église de, 35, 69–71 Saint-Cloud, 152 Saint-Cyr Military School, 21 Saint-Denis, 3, 36, 42, 52–3, 63, 69, 237, 247 Saint-Germain-de-Charonne, 170, 184– 5 Saint-Germain-des-Près, 212 Saint-Ouen, 36, 42 Sarkozy, Nicolas, 115 Sartre, Jean-Paul, 117, 193–4, 197–8, 202, 204–5, 206, 210, 212, 214, 216, 222, 245 Section Française de l’Internationale Ouvrière, 45, 51, 59, 62 Service du Travail Obligatoire, 227–8 Simenon, Georges, 190 Socialism, 38–9, 41, 53, 66, 80, 84, 154 Société de Géographie de Paris, 23, 31, 234 Solidarité Française, 47, 53

Paris and the Right in the Twentieth Century Sorbonne, 3, 46, 106–7, 115, 121, 159, 161, 237–8, 247 Spanish Civil War, 213 Stavisky, Alexandre, 46, 105 Sternhell, Zeev, 4, 69, 76, 246 Students, 3, 16, 38, 66, 107, 110, 117– 18, 170, 174–5, 180, 184, 186, 212, 214 Suarez, Georges, 13, 195, 215 Tartakowksy, Danielle, 3, 56 Television, 8, 14, 87, 89, 92–101, 115, 118 Theatre, 1, 8, 44, 47, 63, 102, 108, 113, 163, 183, 186, 210, 241, 251 Thiébaud, Georges, 30, 35–6, 40 Thiers, Adolphe, 93 Thorez, Maurice, 3, 51, 239 Tibéri, Jean, 137–9, 146 Tixier-Vignancour, Jean-Louis, 78 Tönnies, Ferdinand, 182–3, 247 Toubon, Jacques, 134, 141, 144 Trocadéro, 38, 220 Trotskyists, 9, 74, 109, 115 Tuileries (Palace/Garden), 11, 33, 70– 1, 163 Unemployment, 78, 81 Union de Défense des Commerçants et Artisans, 67, 79


Union des Démocrates pour la République, 113–14 Union pour la Démocratie Française, 10, 79–80, 83, 130–1, 133, 135–7 Union pour la Majorité Présidentielle, 121 Unknown Soldier, 47, 54, 59, 63 Vaugirard, 15, 175, 178–9, 226 Versailles, 50, 54, 152, 159–60 Veteran (soldiers), 43, 55, 58, 61–2 Vian, Boris, 95, 216, 221, 247 Vichy government, 67, 78, 188–9, 194–6, 202, 215 Vigo, Jean, 223 “Villages” in Paris, 15, 175, 184, 213– 14, 225, 226, 230 Villette, La, 226 Villiers, Philippe de, 83, 219 Waldeck-Rousseau, Pierre, 24, 34 Winock, Michel, 4, 66, 196–8, 247 Women, 43, 56, 58, 61, 98, 143, 197, 250 Workers, 1, 3, 30, 54, 56, 58, 62, 70, 72, 79, 81–2, 106, 120, 158, 164 Youth / youth movements/ militancy, 11–12, 15, 114–15, 118, 120, 150– 1, 174, 178, 184, 191, 228–9