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From Revolutionary Theater to Reactionary Litanies

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

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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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Chapter 8 The Draveil-Villeneuve-Saint-Georges Strike and Demonstrations

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“We were living under the first Pro-Consulate of Clemenceau, and this champion of individual freedom, this paladin of free thinking was filling the prisons with journalists.” That was how Victor Méric recalled his first incarceration at La Santé at the end of 1908.1 Draveil and Villeneuve-Saint-Georges have come to be associated with Georges Clemenceau whose good intentions toward social reform gave way to an “end justifies the means” use of agents provocateurs in order to destroy what he assumed were lawless enemies of a Republic whose barricades Clemenceau, the former acolyte of Auguste Blanqui, now manned on the side of “law and order”, if not justice. On the other side of the barricades were former Dreyfusards like Hervé and Jean Jaurès, along with other socialists, syndicalists of the C.G.T., and a variety of anarchists, not to mention all the possible reactionary and anti-Republican forces including royalists, lingering Bonapartists, and certain anti-Dreyfusard Catholics. Even though Clemenceau created the new Ministry of Labor when he first became the Président du Conseil and appointed the Independent Socialist René Viviani to the post, the working class offensive starting around 1906, replete as it was with major strikes, led Clemenceau to become a man of order.2

The critical events in the working class movement which occurred in the summer of 1908 began with strikes in May in the construction industry in the areas just southeast of Paris. Because the strikes involved the important question ← 287 | 288 → of...

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