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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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Notes

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Introduction

1. James Olney, Metaphors of Self: The Meaning of Autobiography, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972), 36.

2. Roger Shattuck, The Banquet Years—The Origins of the Avant Garde in France—1885 to World War I, (New York: Vintage Books, 1968 [1955]).

3. Stephane Gerson, Review of Julian Wright, “The Regionalist Movement in France, 1890–1914: Jean Charles-Brun and French Regional Thought,” Journal of Modern History, Vol. 77, No. 3, September 2005, 815.

4. Jonathan Almosnino, Miguel Almereyda (1883–1917) : De l’Anarchisme à l’Union Sacrée, (Saarbrücken, Germany: Éditions universitaires européennes, 2012), 4. Almosnino cited François Dosse, Le Pari biographique: écrire une vie, Paris : Édition la découverte, 2005.

5. Roger Eatwell, “Towards a New Model of Fascism,” Journal of Theoretical Politics 4(2): 165–166, 161–194 (1992). Roger Eatwell stressed how “some fascist leaders were converts from the left, who believed that” World War I had verified that nationalism and not the proletarian revolution “was the great mobilizing myth.” Fascism also “borrowed from left-wing group activity, believing that its message could only be popularized if it moved away from the cadre-elite form of party organization which had characterized most earlier right-wing parties.”

6. Tony Judt, with Timothy Snyder, Thinking the Twentieth Century, (New York: Penguin, 2013 [2012]), 243–244, 343–345, 383–384.

7. Judt, op.cit., 160–178. Judt used Sternhell’s phrase “Neither Left nor Right” and argued that...

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