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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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List of Illustrations

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Fig. 1. Gustave Hervé (1871–1944) and La Guerre Sociale. Look & Learn.

Fig. 2. The Port of Brest at the Penfeld River with the medieval Tour Tanguy to the left, Recouvrance behind it, and the Château de Brest to the right. (Library of Congress, Free Access)

Fig. 3. Sens, Yonne and the new bridge in 1900. (© CAP/Roger-Viollet/The Image Works)

Fig. 4. Auxerre, Yonne 1890—The bridge on the Yonne and Churches. (© LL/Roger-Viollet/The Image Works)

Fig. 5. Caroline Rémy de Guebhard (1855–1929) was a French anarchist, journalist, and feminist best known under the pen name Séverine. She was especially active during the fin-de-siècle. (© Roger-Viollet/The Image Works)

Fig. 6. Georges Yvetot (1868–1942), Co-Secretary of the A.I.A. in 1904 and 1905 and Secretary-General of the Fédération des Bourses de Travail and Deputy Secretary-General of the Confédération Générale du Travail in the period until 1918. (© Henri Martini/Roger-Viollet/The Image Works) ← ix | x →

Fig. 7. Victor Méric (1876–1933). Columnist and critic at La Guerre Sociale as well as the creator of Les Hommes du Jour and La Barricade. This photo was taken after World War I at a Communist Congress in Marseilles. Bnf.

Fig. 8. Eugène Merle (1884–1938) was one of the original staff of La Guerre Sociale as an administrator and writer. For a time he followed Almereyda to Le Courrier...

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