The following essay by Julius Evola was published as “La disfatta e il futuro dell Francia secondo l’Action Française” in La Vita Italiana, in April 1942. Due to its length, it will be posted in two installments.
This essay may be of historical interest to some, since, given that history is written by the victors, it offers a rare glimpse into the thinking of the losing sides in World War II. Evola is reviewing a book by Maurras that deals with the quick and humiliating defeat of France by the Germans.
There are recurring themes that repeat today. First of all, Maurras distinguishes between the real and the legal countries; the first is organic, consisting of those elements who embody the soul of France and the latter a strictly legal entity comprised of all those inhabiting a geographic area. Although Gornahoor is often criticized by Catholic elements, Maurras derives this conception from Medieval social theory. In fact, Maurras derives many of his concepts from similar sources. If contemporary Catholic are embarrassed by this, it is only because they are preaching a different religion.
Maurras points to partisan interests and party politics as a cause of weakness. We will simply point out, as does Maurras, that Right without the force to back it up is worthless. There are advantages to winning and consequences to losing. In the second part of this essay, Evola will develop his own critique of Maurras.
In a recently published book that quickly reached its 29th edition, Charles Maurras sought to penetrate the meaning and the causes of the tragic destiny that weighed on his country if only to indicate the ways along which France will be able in the future to bring itself back and restore itself, drawing solutions from the hard trial. [La seule France, Chronique des jours d’épreuve, France alone, Chronicle of the days of trial, 1941] We believe it is not lacking interest, for our readers, to reproduce the principle theses of this book, given the personality of its author.
First of all, about the causes of the disaster. There are internal and external causes. Regarding the internal causes, Maurras flatly opposes the thesis of those who speak of a morally degraded France, physically degenerated, and decayed military virtues. The country of Joan of Arc, who already overcame the trial of 1914, should have been able to demonstrate, not less than any other nation, Germany included, the possibilities of a national exaltation of a heroic impulse. About this last point, in a special chapter, Maurras remembers, on the contrary, a series of cases of warrior and heroic virtues of the French army, recognized, in this war, by the enemy himself, but demonstrated sporadically and in disparate circumstances, through the lack of all the conditions of a not unequal battle.
After making the distinction between the real country and the legal country, Maurras instead believes that he indicates the principle internal cause of the French defeat in the split and, then, the division and denationalization between these two countries. The natural resources of France will be divided through the split nature of its own government. While in Germany, a political factor that united and multiplied every force had the upper hand, in France an similar factor served only to break it up: power was in the hand of politicians dedicated to parliamentary discussions and chaotic successions: fifty ministers in twenty years and one hundred ten in seventy years. Moreover, this government was something superimposed on the real country, having in view mostly the interests of the part and the party—apart from the influences of international powers—than those of the nation. So while in Germany there was an intensive culture of patriotism, in France it was always more neglected and rhetorical. While in Germany there was an improvement and a concentration of all the forces of the State, in France there was deliquescence and dislocation.
Maurras was opposed to the idea that authoritarianism would be something German:
In the country of Louis XIV and Richelieu the concentration of the State would have been equally conceived and pursued according to a model of the most straightforward and most original French method.
The principle internal cause of the French disaster would therefore be in that. But, to tell the truth, Maurras forgot that the French recovery of 1914 happened even without such conditions, having instead democratic and parliamentary France as its antecedents. Therefore other causes are also looked for: that Maurras forebodes when he speaks of the “constructed” character of the French war and indirect powers that determined it, by means of a type of hypnosis exercised on public opinion, after all those national elements that would have been able to oppose the manoeuvre were paralyzed. According to Maurras, it would have been up to the French nationalists to prevent the war in 1935, during the period of sanctions, then in 1936-1937 on the occasion of Spain and in September 1938, on the occasion of the Czechoslovakian crisis. But in August 1939 all the measures were taken to prevent public opinion from being influenced in a direction contrary to what was wanted: seven or eight days before the declaration of war a decree was issued that “blocked” the press and authorized the immediate suppression of all these newspapers that intended to oppose the warmongering tendencies. “What is visible in this war,” Maurras writes:
… is the constant progress of a plan, the development of a patiently hatched plot, to attract a herd of idiots in the trap constructed by the wicked… the declaration of war of September 3 was obtained on the basis of everything there is in the demos that is soft, vain, empty, absent, and nonexistent; it had to cross—and it crossed—the empty spaces of hesitation, imbecility, incoherence, and a more than animal stupidity: mineral—that of the billiard ball and whatever other heavy body provided with any mobility.
If the origin of such a declaration of war
was covered by vapours so sooty, it is fated that it was so rapidly dissipated.
Then, the lack of reaction of the national French soul after the first moment and, especially, after the first period of the listless and only nominal war on the Maginot line. If we could oppose to that, that the awakening would nevertheless have had to be manifested once that, France being at this point at war, its national territory was directly threatened, Maurras indicates, here, the other technical and external causes relative to the French military unpreparedness and English treachery.
For example, he points out a typical case of deceit to the country. In the Chamber, with respect to aerial armaments, an engineer made a display showing that against 4000 German aeroplanes, the French could oppose only 800 and almost all of them fighters. The Head of the Government and the Minister of Air rushed to deny this assertion, demonstrating that the French air potential was instead about 2300 aircraft—making use however of inexact data, and referring simply to “naked” aeroplanes, far from being functional. Moreover, it counted on the help of the “English aviation power”. This is one of the many cases of the blindness and irresponsibility that, from the technical side, had a great weight in the French catastrophe, so that Maurras speaks of a true betrayal of the leaders vis-a-vis the French nation, except the remaining military honor.
Maurras held the idea that the only path that an intelligent and national government in France should have taken, especially after the events of 1938, was that of Rome. He accused France of not having followed the real national interests, but of being left to take part in a mere ideological war. It should have been clear that France was not able to do anything at all for Poland. Also suddenly initiating a serious war on the Maginot line, that would have been, says Maurras, to try to break through a wall with one’s head to help someone who was being assassinated outside of it. Other accusations were made in regard to the advance in Belgium, something that again would have obeyed suggestions of the English, concerned to maintain the coasts of the English Channel, more than the true strategic reasons for the French defense.
On all these points we cannot therefore be fully in agreement with Maurras. The way toward Rome, for France, would have been possible only in the supposition of a preliminary upheavel in the national sense, at least to not reduce the whole to a simple compromise with its precise mental reservations. But in spite the efforts of Action Française and similar organizations, in France there was not ever a trace of such an upheaval, the predominant mentality being in fact far from the ideas of Fascist renewal. So as things stand, one cannot dispute that those who wanted to give to the war an essentially ideological character are not right—from their point of view, naturally. It is useless to hide it: sooner or later, with the front line of the democracies, plutocracies, and Bolshevism, it should have come to daggers. A new Monaco in 1939 would have only meant a new respite. Given the direction of the dynamism of the “fascist” nations, we believe it is difficult that it would have been able to reach a true and durable pattern of balance without a violent solution and to give Europe a new shape.
The intervention of France, therefore, in my opinion, returns perfectly to the logic of those who were leading it, at least as to the legal country, if not the real country. From such a point of view, a Frenchman should instead have accused the indefensible and incomprehensible blunders that the democratic front committed, beginning with Versailles, in the sense of not taking all the measures to thereby prevent the enemies from being revived. Instead of taking it, for ideological reasons and essentially for masonic and anti-traditional hatred against the Hapsburg Empire, it should have sought to dismember Germany and, at the time of the occupation of the Ruhr, to act without hesitation. Step by step, the demo-masonic front instead allowed the enemy to gather strength. Therefore, the only reasonable accusation to make, instead, would be that which, after arriving at 1939 and having “swallowed” the annexation of Austria, the division of Czechoslovakia, the weakening of the Little Entente, and the definitive strengthening of the Axis Powers, it was by that time too late to do anything with the assurance of success: it was rather, especially for France, heading for suicide, because of the instinctive reaction awakened by an anxiety complex.
Part II ⇒