How do nationalist-minded fascists think transnationally?
Unknown photographer: Rioters attacking mounted police with projectiles outside the Place de la Concorde during the 6 February 1934 crisis (CC)
Dissatisfied with Édouard Daladier’s coalition of the socialist-republican French left, tens of thousands right-wing activists gathered at the Place de la Concorde on 6 February 1934. As the night fell, the crowd turned violent. The protesters burned buses, looted kiosks, and tried to breach the barricades erected around the Palais Bourbon, where the parliament was in active session. Many right-wing leaders such as Charles Maurras, the leading ideologue of the right-wing political movement Action française (AF), were hesitant to back the activists, as most of them opposed the use of violence to overthrow the Third Republic. Without the active involvement of AF’s leaders in particular—being the most established and largest organization on France’s heavily splintered ultra-right—the demonstration was highly disorganized and became increasingly violent. As the activists were about to break the barricades, the Parisian police officers fired into the crowd. At the end of the night, 1,400 activists were injured, and fifteen died.
Many—especially young—members of AF denounced their movement for its inaction in moments of crisis. Lucien Rebatet, an editor of the weekly right-wing and French-nationalist journal Je suis partout (JSP), depicted his movement’s leaders as ‘old writers, impotent without their pens, jealously guarding their words against any who might try to put them into action’. Disappointed, many members of AF turned their back to this movement and its ideology, which was predominantly monarchist, antisemitic, anti-parliamentarian, French-nationalist, and anti-German. At Rebatet’s journal JSP, various editors openly denounced Maurras’s doctrine and, instead, became particularly fascinated by foreign fascist leaders, such as Léon Degrelle, Benito Mussolini, and Adolf Hitler, whom they praised and with whose parties they sought rapprochement.
Although these editors at JSP publicly engaged in collaboration with foreign fascist movements from mid-1936 onward, they never renounced their commitment to French nationalism. This, then, raises a thought-provoking question that transcends the particularities of these French fascists and their unique contexts: how do nationalist-minded fascists think transnationally?