The Révolution nationale (French pronunciation: [ʁevɔlysjɔ̃ nɑsjɔnal], National Revolution) was the official ideological program promoted by the Vichy regime (the “French State”) which had been established in July 1940 and led by Marshal Philippe Pétain. Pétain's regime was characterized by anti-parliamentarism, personality cultism, xenophobia, state-sponsored anti-Semitism, promotion of traditional values, rejection of the constitutional separation of powers, modernity, and corporatism, as well as opposition to the theory of class conflict. Despite its name, the ideological policies were reactionary rather than revolutionary as the program opposed almost every change introduced to French society by the French Revolution.[1]

Emblem of Philippe Pétain, chief of state of the French State, featuring the motto Travail, Famille, Patrie (Work, Family, Fatherland). The Francisque was only Pétain's personal emblem but was also gradually used as the regime's informal emblem on official documents.

As soon as it was established, Pétain's government took measures against the “undesirables”, namely Jews, métèques (foreigners), Freemasons, and Communists. The persecution of these four groups was inspired by Charles Maurras’ concept of the "Anti-France", or "internal foreigners", which he defined as the "four confederate states of Protestants, Jews, Freemasons and foreigners".[citation needed] The regime also persecuted Romani people, homosexuals, and left-wing activists in general. Vichy imitated the racial policies of the Third Reich and also engaged in natalist policies aimed at reviving the "French race" (including a sports policy), although these policies never went as far as Nazi eugenics.

Ideology edit

Révolution nationale propaganda poster promoting the personality cult of Philippe Pétain, 1942
Vichy poster comparing the security of a house built on the principles of the National Revolution with the insecurity of one based on "laziness", "demagogy" and "internationalism"

The ideology of the French State (Vichy France) was an adaptation of the ideas of the French far-right (including monarchism and Charles Maurrasintegralism) by a crisis government that was a client state, born out of the defeat of France against Nazi Germany. It included:

None of these changes were forced on France by Germany. The Vichy government instituted them voluntarily as part of the National Revolution,[6] while Germany interfered little in internal French affairs for the first two years after the armistice as long as public order was maintained. It was suspicious of the aspects of the National Revolution that encouraged French patriotism, and banned Vichy veteran and youth groups from the Occupied Zone.[7]

Support edit

"I have never known what the National Revolution was, it was never defined and it was an expression that personally I never used [...] Everyone put his own desire, ideal and the regime that he saw into these words, but the National Revolution was never defined in any form at any time."

Pierre Laval, speaking during his trial in 1945.[8]

The Révolution nationale was never fully defined by the Vichy regime although it was frequently invoked by its most enthusiastic supporters. Philippe Pétain himself was rumoured to dislike the term and only used it four times in his wartime speeches.[8] As a result, different factions formed different views of what it meant which conformed with their own ideological views about the regime and the postwar future.[8]

The Pétainistes gathered those who supported the personal figure of Marshal Pétain, considered at that time a war hero of the Battle of Verdun. The Collaborateurs include those who collaborated with Nazi Germany or advocated collaboration, but who are considered more moderate, or more opportunistic, than the Collaborationistes, advocates of a French fascism.

Supporters of collaboration were not necessarily supporters of the National Revolution, and vice versa. Pierre Laval was a collaborationist but was dubious about the National Revolution, while others like Maxime Weygand opposed collaboration but supported the National Revolution because they believed that reforming France would help it avenge its defeat.[7]

Those who supported the ideology of the National Revolution rather than the person of Pétain himself could be divided, in general, into three groups: the counter-revolutionary reactionaries; the supporters of a French fascism; and the reformers who saw in the new regime in opportunity to modernize the state apparatus. The last current would include opportunists such as the journalist Jean Luchaire who saw in the new regime career opportunities.

  • The “Reactionaries”, in the strict sense of the word: all those who dreamt of a return to "before", either:
  1. before 1936 and the Popular Front
  2. before 1870 and the Third Republic or
  3. before 1789 and the French Revolution.

These were part of the counter-revolutionary branch of the French far right, the oldest one being composed of Legitimists, monarchist members of the Action française (AF), etc. But the Vichy regime also received support from large sectors of the liberal Orleanists, in particular from its mouthpiece, Le Temps newspaper.[9]

The supporters were, however, in the minority. Although the Vichy government initially had substantial support from those who were glad that the war was over and expected that Britain would soon surrender, and Pétain remained personally popular during the war, by late autumn 1940 most French hoped for a British victory and opposed collaboration with Germany.[6]

Evolution of the regime edit

From July 1940 to 1942, the Révolution nationale was strongly promoted by the traditionalist and technocratic Vichy government. When in May 1942 Pierre Laval (a former socialist and republican) returned as the head of government, the Révolution nationale was no longer promoted but fell into oblivion and collaboration was emphasized.[citation needed]

Eugenics edit

In 1941, Nobel Prize winner Alexis Carrel, who had been an early proponent of eugenics and euthanasia and was a member of Jacques Doriot's French Popular Party (PPF), went on to advocate the creation of the French Foundation for the Study of Human Problems (Fondation Française pour l’Etude des Problèmes Humains), using connections to the Pétain cabinet (specifically, French industrial physicians André Gros and Jacques Ménétrier). Charged with the "study, under all of its aspects, of measures aimed at safeguarding, improving and developing the French population in all of its activities," the Foundation was created by decree of the Vichy regime in 1941, and Carrel appointed as “regent”.[10]

Sport policy edit

Vichy's policy concerning sports found its origins in the conception of Georges Hébert (1875–1957), who denounced professional and spectacular competition, and like Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the Olympic Games was a supporter of amateurism. Vichy's sport policy followed the moral aim of "rebuilding the nation", was opposed to Léo Lagrange’s sport policy during the Popular Front, and was specifically opposed to professional sport imported from the United Kingdom. They also were used to engrain the youth in various associations and federations, as done by the Hitler Youth or Mussolini's Balilla.

On 7 August 1940, a Commissariat Général à l’Education Générale et Sportive (General Commissioner to General and Sport Education) was created. Three men in particular headed this policy:

  • Jean Ybarnegaray, president and founder of the French and International Federations of Basque pelota, deputy and member of François de la Rocque’s Parti Social Français (PSF). Ybarnegaray was first nominated State minister in May 1940, then State secretary from June to September 1940.
  • Jean Borotra, former international tennis player (member of “The Four Musketeers”) and also a PSF member, the first General Commissioner to Sports from August 1940 to April 1942.
  • Colonel Joseph Pascot, former rugby champion, director of sports under Borotra and then second General Commissioner to Sports from April 1942 to July 1944.

In October 1940, the two General Commissioners prohibited professionalism in two federations (tennis and wrestling), while permitting a three-year delay for four other federations (football, cycling, boxing and Basque pelota). They prohibited competitions for women in cycling or association football. Furthermore, they prohibited, or spoiled by seizing the assets of, at least four uni-sport federations (rugby league, table tennis, Jeu de paume and badminton) and one multi-sport federation (the FSGT). In April 1942, they additionally prohibited the activities of the UFOLEP and USEP multi-sport federations, also seizing their goods which were to be transferred to the “National Council of Sports”.

Quotes edit

  • “Sport well directed is morality in action” (“Le sport bien dirigé, c’est de la morale en action”), Report of E. Loisel to Jean Borotra, 15 October 1940
  • “I pledge on my honour to practice sports with selflessness, discipline and loyalty to improve myself and serve better my fatherland” (Sportsman's pledge — « Je promets sur l’honneur de pratiquer le sport avec désintéressement, discipline et loyauté pour devenir meilleur et mieux servir ma patrie »)
  • “to be strong to serve better” (IO 1941)
  • “Our principle is to seize the individual everywhere. At primary school, we have him. Later on he tends to escape us. We strive to catch up with him at every turn. I have arranged for this discipline of EG (General Education) to be imposed on students (...) We allow for sanctions in case of desertion.” (« Notre principe est de saisir l’individu partout. Au primaire, nous le tenons. Plus haut il tend à s’échapper. Nous nous efforçons de le rattraper à tous les tournants. J’ai obtenu que cette discipline de l’EG soit imposée aux étudiants (…). Nous prévoyons des sanctions en cas de désertion »), Colonel Joseph Pascot, speech on 27 June 1942

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ René Rémond, Les droites en France, Aubier, 1982
  2. ^ Actes constitutionnels du Gouvernement de Vichy, 1940-1944, France, MJP, université de Perpignan
  3. ^ Olivier Wieviorka, “La République recommencée”, in S. Berstein (dir.), La République (in French)
  4. ^ Le Moigne, Frédéric (2003). "1944-1951: Les deux corps de Notre-Dame de Paris". Vingtième Siècle. Revue d'histoire (78): 75–88. doi:10.2307/3772572. ISSN 0294-1759.
  5. ^ Robert Paxton, La France de Vichy, Points-Seuil, 1974
  6. ^ a b Christofferson, Thomas R.; Christofferson, Michael S. (2006). France during World War II: From Defeat to Liberation. Fordham University Press. pp. 34, 37–40. ISBN 0-8232-2562-3.
  7. ^ a b c Jackson, Julian (2001). France: The Dark Years, 1940-1944. Oxford University Press. pp. 139–141. ISBN 0-19-820706-9.
  8. ^ a b c Vinen 2006, p. 76.
  9. ^ Alain-Gérard Slama, "Maurras (1858-1952): le mythe d'une droite révolutionnaire Archived 2007-09-26 at the Wayback Machine" (pp.10-11); article published in L'Histoire in 1992 (in French)
  10. ^ See Reggiani, Alexis Carrel, the Unknown: Eugenics and Population Research under Vichy, French Historical Studies, 2002; 25: 331-356

References edit

  • Vinen, Richard (2006). The Unfree French: Life under the Occupation. London: Allen Lane. ISBN 978-0-713-99496-4.

External links edit