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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 21 Financial and Circulation Problems at La Victoire

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Part of Hervé’s effort to win over the French Left made it mandatory that La Victoire become a newspaper for a mass readership in order to be a viable alternative to L’Humanité. For that reason La Victoire included regular serial articles as well as weekly features on medicine, music, and literature. It created special sections for students as well as younger children, and it began a sports section, which often became a full page, in order to rival features found in L’Humanité. Hervé claimed to not care for sensational and scandalous stories, but he realized it would be journalistic suicide not to print them.1 During the era from 1932 to 1933 when Marcel Bucard was the Editor-in-Chief, La Victoire included a regular feature by Bucard for anciens combattants. Such features illustrate Hervé’s desire to create “a paper as complete as the great journaux d’information yet remaining an organe de propagande et de bataille.”2 Partly for financial reasons, Hervé’s efforts to make La Victoire a great daily mass newspaper failed. La Victoire had no correspondents and most of its news was Parisian. Investigative journalism was not the forte of writers at La Victoire.3

Yet the main reason for the poor circulation and incessant financial predicaments of La Victoire was the nature of its message. La Victoire was a political newspaper that believed politics to be a sign of corruption. It called for an elite to save France from decay, division, and disorder,...

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