Evola "The Defeat and the Future of France"

““La disfatta e il futuro dell Francia secondo l’Action Française”, La Vita Italiana, April 1942

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.

However, that does not prevent what Maurras documents and says about English politics, which had not the least regard for French interests, from being completely fair. Maurras takes a truncated position against De Gaulle. He, on the contrary, dedicates a chapter to demonstrate that England, basically, continued to be even in more recent times, in spite of appearances, the enemy of France, jealous of its colonial empire: it has always done everything to impede them from taking the rank that was due to them. Maurras fears that England seeks to exploit the French disaster to realize definitively their hidden ambitions, indeed making use from De Gaulle for this end, and stoking the internal French schism by every means.

For this reason, Maurras exhorts his compatriots convince themselves of the absolute necessity of an internal concentration on the government of Marshall Petain as conditions for any recovery of France, after such a hard and tragic experience. So he devotes the second part of his book to highlighting and developing everything that the new Government tried to do. Maurras, although a realist, is pro Petain, because he eventually moved to establish a personal, national, authoritarian government, saved from parliamentary bedlam. France must, in that way, rediscover the true idea of the State: the State connected to the real country, freed from international influences, strong and disciplined, but against every leveling centralization.

Having such a State in mind, Petain had already begun to act to return France to the French: and here Maurras illustrated the new laws intended to build a dam against the influx of foreigners, metics, and immigrants that previously had found in France a type of promised land. Laws against Jews and Masons followed. Regarding the Jews, Maurras made the French point of view clear: they do not originate from an anti-semitic hatred, but from the fact that a Jew can only be considered to be an alien, who as such cannot be equated to the citizens of a country and moreover must accept the conditions that are imposed on whoever desires to be a guest. Maurras however correctly observes that French legislation on the Jews conveys mainly a juridical point of view, inspired by effects more that by causes: Maurras’ central point is to understand that a style and a hereditary mentality, a tradition and indelible custom will always make the Jewish substance something inassimilable and corrosive. Maurras recalls that France seized a large number of significant Jewish refugees, starting with the five Rothschilds. It advanced a sensible proposition: to appropriate such fortunes for the restructuring of rural debt, i.e., of those contracted or to contract for the acquisition and cultivation of land. That would mean to strengthen the class which more must be counted on for the reconstruction of a nation. As to the anti-masonic battle, Maurras brings to light the danger inherent in proceeding, in this regard, with a direct and practical action, extremely difficult where it is about a secret association. They can have effective results when they have complete possession of the State. As Mussolini did, only then will it be able to little by little paralyze the Masonic influence. The first step, i.e., the formal prohibition of Masonry, was already accomplished by France. What followed is:

to promote a moral publicity without rest and carry everywhere the tip of its fire.

Maurras then alludes to social reforms: the question naturally arises the reconciliation of classes and social justice. But, in this regard, Maurras also makes a rather appropriate point:

If the protection of the poor is the natural duty of the State—when is not exercised spontaneously by some powers worthy of their strength—it must however also defend isolated, but just, powers against certain coalitions of “the poor” who gain an enormous voice, capable of crushing everything under the darkest and most brutal tyranny.

And France, which first had the Revolution (revolution, says Maurras correctly—is still so stupid to be called French, being instead the most cosmopolitan of all of them), has from historical experience everything that it needs in order to understand, better than any other nation, the timeliness of a similar warning.

After some other specific points, Maurras addresses the reform of education in France, indicating what was already done and what still is to be done. The fundamental need is that the State in France is made truly father of its schools by proceeding systematically in the formation of a new mentality in the next generations. In our opinion, this is really the crucial point, on which almost everything else depends. The French mentality still needs to be detoxified from the deleterious effects of ideology, which in that country has existed for a while and had a characteristic diffusion, in width as in depth. And that, in good measure, must happen through the schools.

Maurras indicates here correctly a point that, in the current state of reform, was not sufficiently considered; i.e., that which is not limited to a more or less autonomous moral teaching, but at whose center the principle of a spiritual and traditional authority is returned, the only one that can make well understood all the errors and deviations in which France has incurred: the return to the classical spirit, the battle against romanticism and humanitarianism, the decisive antithesis to the Revolution and all the phenomena of degeneration, decadence, and anarchy that were its consequences.

In one point of his book Maurras develops some rather important considerations in connection to the idea that the French disaster of 1940 seems to be the ultimate effect of a chain of causes that go back far in time and of that only some are of general rule.

The mass that constitutes an avalanche is formed of sand and stone coming from the most various rocks, something that however does not prevent the observer from understanding the small movement or the smallest human push that detached the first lump of snow—thus, before the evidence of any accusing traces (an impression of human finger), before the still visible trajectory of any suspicious footprint (explicitly oriented, clearly directed), the watchful eye discovers in the right point the impulse and the form of a criminal act—that waits only to be identified with the name of its author.

This is an observation which demonstrates, in Maurras, the right orientation to truly deepen the secret history of his country and therefore even to identify the premises of a true reconstruction. Here we are in the area of what we call the “science of subversion”: in regard to which perhaps no country in the world offers such precious research material, as does France.

If we have to indicate any defect in Maurras’ book, it is that it does not touch at all the problem of the new European order and the corresponding supernational arrangement. We can well understand, in Maurras, the need connected to the formula: France alone first—he himself indicates as much its provisional nature, when he says that, if there is going to be a European “concert”, it is first necessary to make France able to play its part in it. But this image makes clear exactly the gap noted: a single part can be played correctly only by taking the movements from the central motif of an entire symphony. We therefore propose to French nationalism the further task of also taking this point into account and proceeding to an action of mental formation in the sense, as soon as the more immediate needs of reconstruction and internal recovery are realized.