Refuting claims made by several historians that the Croix de Feu/Parti social français were non-exclusionary, this article demonstrates the prevalence of anti-Semitism and xenophobia throughout the league's metropolitan and Algerian sections. CDF/PSF leadership and rank-and-file alike prioritized the notion of the enemy, and their plans for les exclus augured similar developments under the Vichy regime. Although less rabidly xenophobic than his colleagues, whose opinions variously promoted denaturalization and outright elimination, group leader Colonel Françaois de la Rocque was nonetheless prone to racist and exclusionary doctrine, arguing that foreign Jews and immigrants were the enemies of la patrie, and should necessarily be expunged from the new nation. The article describes the wide range of xenophobia present in group actions and discourse, while positioning the CDF/PSF within the broader context of French and Algerian society.
The Croix de Feu/Parti Social Français Confronts French Jewry, 1931-1939
Colonial Law Enforcement and the Search for Racial-Territorial Hegemony
Commenting on the colonial setting in its twilight during the Algerian War of Independence, Frantz Fanon famously observed: “Le travail du colon est de rendre impossible jusqu'aux rêves de liberté du colonisé. Le travail du colonisé est d'imaginer toutes les combinaisons éventuelles pour anéantir le colon (the task of the colonizer is to make impossible even the dreams of liberty of the colonized. The task of the colonized is to conceive of every possible strategy to wipe out the colonizer).”
Few scholars today question the binary relationship between imperialism and violence, and French historians are no exception. In recent years, a multitude of studies have appeared concerning the violence inherent in the conquest of the nineteenth-century Gallic empire, the maintenance and defense of the colonial system, and the decolonization process—massacres and torture during the Algerian War, for example. Such works often reflect Etienne Balibar’s definition of “structural violence”: an essential component of a repressive system, maintaining unequal social relations while defending “the interests, power positions, and forms of social domination.”1 This hegemony took various guises at different times throughout the history of French imperialism, operating in tandem with assaults on the indigènes (the term adopted by the authorities for natives). It could involve surveillance and intelligence gathering, security forces, and judicial-penal institutions employed to harass and control the colonized. Yet it also resulted from the forced pacification of native peoples (Alice Conklin refers to this policy as an “act of state-sanctioned violence”) and the imposition of the indigénat—the loose collection of rules that granted extraordinary police and disciplinary powers to the colonial administration, along with the imposition of forced labor and taxation.2 The ultimate defense of this system, and indeed its brutal apogee, emerged during the wars of decolonization, in which tens of thousands of the colonized were killed in Algeria and Indochina, while countless others were subjected to torture and incarceration.