THE FASCIST TRADITION IN FRANCE AND BELGIUM
by Edward Spalton
Dateline 7th July 2004
INTRODUCTION: This website has concentrated, some might say too much, on the re-creation in the European Union of that combination of European Fascism and German Imperialism which democrats had thought they had defeated in 1945. Although that reconstruction has undoubtedly been driven by the German political class and it is Germany which daily profits from the EU's regime to expand into Eastern Europe and indeed globally, we must not forget that the French (and Belgian - see below) political tradition is shot through with European fascism and imperialism. Napoleon's imperial vainglory and the Napoleonic code which characterises both French bureaucratic centralism and the institutions of the European Union cannot be ignored. We can see this attitude in the arrogant dismissal of the new East European member States by President Chirac when they vote against France -"they missed the opportunity to remain silent" (!).
Nor can we forget the historical anti-semitic nature of French society and the willing collaboration of the fascist/militaristic Vichy regime with the Nazis from 1940. The racist nature of French politics even at the highest level could be seen in the recent attack on a British businessman who tried to close a factory in France. Chirac called him "an anglo-saxon thug". In this excellent analysis Edward Spalton, drawing on French, Belgian and American publications, makes the case for a long history of fascist thought in those two most faithful companions of German Europe both today and in the 1940s - Belgium and France.
France had a long tradition of fascistic thought, going back to the
1890s. It arose principally, though not exclusively, from the socialist
part of the political spectrum. Its leaders rebelled against the tyranny
of materialism, as they saw it, both in the "bourgeois" state
and in the Marxist analysis. Their aim was revolution - by the whole
nation, not just by the
Sometimes called "social-nationalists", they did not advocate the abolition of private property but that its use should be regulated and directed through guilds and similar organisations, approved or created by the state. They had a hatred and impatience of the traditional forms of morality, constitutionality and democracy, sometimes insisting that their movement went "beyond politics" and would create a completely different kind of reality and a different kind of consciousness to appreciate it. They were strong on the ideas of modernism, speed, the power of the will and tended to be in favour of mass calisthenics. The cult of youth and its vigour loomed large and was contrasted with a flabby "bourgeois" existence.
Whilst there was always a substantial minority of parties and movements aligned around these ideas, they did not attain sufficient power to form a government in France between the wars. They were, however, ready and waiting to take the levers of power when the Third Republic fell to German invasion in May 1940. The near total initial support for the Vichy government could only occur because this idea of a "New Order" was well-established in French intellectual life.
Many, faced with the reality of the Nazi regime and its Vichy puppet, later revolted and joined the Resistance, taking their ideas into the politics of post war France and the EU project - an anti democratic, authoritarian organism par excellence , created by an act of will in the grand fascist tradition, though minus the drums and trumpets. It should be said that there was little philosophical difference between people of this sort who stayed loyal to the Vichy regime and those who left it, either for reasons of patriotism or of simply backing the winning side. After the immediate blood-letting of the Liberation, they were able to resume political life, adapting their theories to changed circumstances.
One Vichyite, awarded the highest decoration by Marshal Petain, was Francois Mitterand. In 1943, realising that he was on the losing side, he took "French leave" of the Marshal and joined De Gaulle. His later service as President of France and one of the progenitors of the Maastricht Treaty was entirely congruent with his service to the Vichy regime. As Marshal Petain had said "France has not lost a war. She has joined a united Europe". I like to think that it was for similar phrases that the young Mitterand got his gong. He was then what would now be called a "spin doctor".
In Belgium, a party wedded to this fascist tradition did come to government before the second World War. Its chief theorist, Henri De Man, was very influential in French political thought. His greatest ally was one Paul Henri Spaak, subsequently one of the EU's founding fathers and Secretary-General of NATO (as well as prime minister and foreign minister of Belgium). Having stood on a leftist ticket ("Down with the government of the bankers! Power to the working class!"), Spaak joined the Belgian national government as Foreign Minister in 1936. One of his notable acts was to refuse assistance to the legal Spanish republican government, then locked in civil war with Franco's fascists. He told parliament "I have totally forgotten my ideological preferences". - a piece of pragmatism of a type familiar to students of New Labour.
In 1938, Spaak said "Some people wish to lead us into a policy of solidarity with the democracies against the fascist states. I refuse to stick to such a policy" . He concluded " If Great Britain and France want to help Czechoslovakia by invading Germany through Belgium, they will be treated as invaders".
In the years 1935-39, Spaak and Henri De Man were an inseparable duo. In May 1939 De Man was elected as President of the party with Spaak's support. Together they defended their programme of "national socialism" which proclaimed that "Socialism inspires only the Good Society and the National Interest" and that "It places all the productive classes on the same footing". In 1939 De Man said "Spaak and I demanded an authoritarian democracy (compare this with the description of Germany's future roll in Europe by the German "Liberal" Party's political foundation the Naumann Stiftung - "a benign hegemony" - ed). We declared that it was wrong to consider fascist movements as reactionary because, in reality, they play a revolutionary role". (to see other examples of the Left's addiction to fascism see also on this site "Who are the Real Fascists in Europe?" www.news-2003-01-01.html )
When Hitler invaded Belgium, Henri De Man as President of the Socialist
Party published a manifesto in the party's name. "Here is what
I ask you to do. Do not believe that it is necessary to
On 23 August 1940, under Nazi occupation, Achille Van Acker, the future prime minister of a democratic government, signed the De Man Manifesto and pronounced himself "in favour of the New Order".
Whilst the planning of the EU project at its highest level was carried
on by leaders who were not Nazi or fascist, it could not have gone beyond
a paper plan without a political class which had already rejected democracy
as a vital principle. The fascists, in their post war democratic incarnation,
believed just as firmly as they did in 1940 that "decadent"
nation states deserved destruction. Whilst this was not the only stream
of thought flowing in support of the European Project, it was a mighty
and probably decisive part of it. The very name, "European Economic
Community" was a straight lift from the propagandistic Nazi creation
with which all the
In bureaucratic form, the European Commission with its permanent power
of initiative was nothing less than the re-embodiment and consecration
of the "Fuehrerprinzip" at the heart of post war Europe. This
principle, first enunciated by the Nazis was frequently used - in slightly
different words - by Helmut Kohl as he led Germans, without a single
referendum, to the
"Neither Right Nor Left - Fascist Ideology in France"
by Zeev Sternhell, Princeton Paperbacks 0-691-00629-6