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From Revolutionary Theater to Reactionary Litanies

Gustave Hervé (1871–1944) at the Extremes of the French Third Republic


Michael B. Loughlin

Gustave Hervé (1871–1944) seemed to have traditional Breton roots and a typical republican education. As a young socialist journalist and professor, he gained notoriety following a 1901 article which appeared to plant the tricolor in a dung pile. When French socialists unified in 1905, the Hervéistes were an influential minority. The antimilitarist movement called Hervéism gradually emerged as a quixotic crusade to unite revolutionaries against war and for socialism. Hervé soon founded a weekly newspaper, La Guerre Sociale. Over the next six years, press campaigns, trials, prison, demonstrations, strikes, and conspiratorial organizations maintained Hervé’s profile and sold newspapers. Ironically, Hervé advertised conspiracies, which suggests revolutionary theater more than practical politics. Among Hervé’s rivals, such theatrics often generated resentment. While Hervé’s movement succeeded as a media experience, his leftist competitors became jealous and skeptical. As revolutionary theater Hervéism might have been entertaining, but the actors and some of the audience often confused revolutionary art with political reality. By 1911 the ingenuous Hervé felt betrayed. His failure to unite revolutionaries began an evolution toward the nation and its traditional Catholic faith. Besides the international situation, one crucial determinant in Hervé’s evolution toward French national socialism sympathetic to fascism involved ongoing rivalries within the French Left. Hervé’s marginal interwar national socialist parties sought to employ patriotism and religion to solve French problems. By 1935 he attempted to draft Pétain to lead an authoritarian republic. Gradually losing hope in Pétain after the fall of France, the aging Hervé put his faith in Christian socialism.
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This book would not have been possible without the support, encouragement, and toleration of countless people. Among the archivists, librarians, and their assistants who have labored, however unknowingly, in making this research possible, I would like to single out those at Indiana University, in both Bloomington and South Bend, as well as the staff at Heterick Memorial Library at Ohio Northern University in Ada who have enabled me to acquire books and articles over the years. Archival research in Paris at various French archives and libraries would not have been possible without the advice and assistance of the many staff and fellow researchers who worked and guided my intermittent forays over the course of decades at the following institutions: the Archives Nationales (CARAN), Archives de la Préfecture de Police (A.P.P.), Institut Français D’Histoire Sociale, Musée Social, the old (B.N.) Bibliothèque Nationale on the Rue de Richelieu, the new (Bnf) Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Bibliothèque de Documentation Internationale Contemporaine, Le Centre de Recherches d’Histoire des Mouvements Sociaux et du Syndicalisme, Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, Bibliothèque de Saint Geneviève, and the Bibliothèque de l’Université de Paris-II. I would also like to thank the courtesy and help given to me from 1995 to 1997 when I received visiting scholar status by the Department of History at The University of California at Berkeley. Insights into the question of anti-Semitism were enhanced ← xv | xvi → by a 2004 term as a Research Associate...

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