From Insurrectional Socialism to French National Socialism

Gustave Hervé and the Great War

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques
Restricted access

In 1901 Gustave Hervé’s image of the tricolore planted in a dung pile made him notorious. His career became etched into French consciousness when he subsequently shifted from antimilitarism to chauvinism and, between 1914 and 1918, promoted “war to the bitter end” to create a democratic, federated Europe. Because depopulation, alcoholism, and materialism were perceived as threats before 1914, his national socialism shared values with his idealistic prewar socialism. Though Hervé remained a religious skeptic until 1935, the image of an expiatory war was telling. He assailed anyone refusing to support deliverance from Prussian militarism. Hervé’s wartime rhetoric soon included references to a new Bonaparte, a resurrected Committee of Public Safety, or a military dictatorship to save la patrie en danger, presaging his later authoritarian or dictatorial programs. Though he stressed legality and deplored both violence and anti-Semitism, much in Hervé’s interwar positions could be described as republican fascism.