Gustave Hervé (1871–1944) at the Extremes of the French Third Republic
Chapter 6 Journalists and Prisoners: Hervé and the Staff at La Guerre Sociale
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To account for the success of La Guerre Sociale, many observers noted that it was better written than most other feuilles de militants or journaux de combat. Even the French police thought that La Guerre Sociale became a rapid success. Five years after its beginnings police authorities concluded that “the fashion in which its articles were drafted, the resounding trials before the Assizes, and finally just the name Hervé [had brought] numerous readers to the newspaper.”1 One explanation for the paper’s success was its staff, who were generally professional journalists as well as revolutionary activists. Skilled journalists could appeal more easily to popular interests, especially since they also tried to avoid sterile doctrinal disputes. Initially, this may have helped attract diverse revolutionary elements, even if it was unsuccessful in the long run.2
Hervé’s contemporaries did not fail to note the talent and verve found on the pages of La Guerre Sociale. For Jean Grave, “the tone that it used and especially the orders that it distributed made many activists consider it ‘the paper of their dreams.’”3 Even his enemies found things to admire about Hervé’s journalism. A harsh critic like Péguy recognized that he was a great journalist.4 L.-O. Frossard profoundly disagreed with him through all his changes, but he acknowledged Hervé’s ability to create a ruckus in La Guerre Sociale after the turn of the century.
“This weekly, a bit like cheap wine, which respects nothing...