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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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Chapter 25 Interwar Foreign Policy: The Increasingly Turbulent Eye Between Two Storms


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Hervé’s foreign policy positions, which were continually being developed and promoted in La Victoire during the interwar period, not only illustrate the limits of Hervé’s idealism, they also underlined his anti-Marxism. His domestic policy was connected to his foreign policy because his ideals of order and harmony entailed European peace. To create order and harmony, domestic and foreign affairs were both judged on the basis of the needs of France. Because France had been victorious in World War I, peace would guarantee not only international order, it would promote the position of France. In the course of the interwar period, Hervé, often simultaneously, supported what Arnold Wolfers described many years ago as three virtually mutually exclusive foreign policy positions. (1) He favored “the unquestioned preponderance of power on the side of the defenders of the established order.” (2) He also called for “a removal of the causes of revolt in order to eliminate the chances of an explosion.” (3) He sometimes even admitted the benefits of Wilsonian international panaceas and collective security in his quest for order and peace though his early illusions soon faded.1

Gilles Heuré argued that the foreign policy of the P.S.N. was generally quite sound. An “approval of the League of Nations, an entente cordiale with England, and pacifism were its main lines.” His version of “national socialism, similar to the ideas of rootedness and cultural heritage dear to the nationalism of Barrès, ← 737 | 738 → had no imperialist...

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