Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 25

FASCISM AND INDIVIDUALISM: THE POLITICAL

THOUGHT OF PIERRE DRIEU LA ROCHELLE

Lamar

WILLIAM R. Tu c KER
State College of Technology

N FRANCE THERE HAS rarely been a dearth of intellectuals who


wrote brilliantly on any subject touching politics. While fascism
has not come to power in that country, she has produced writers
who chose the fascist solution to France's difficulties during the inter
war period and who, in some cases, were active in the Collaboration
movement during the German occupation. In their search for new
values for man in the twentieth century, they participated in what
now seems to have been a strange adventure ending abruptly with
the military defeat of the fascist powers. While the passing of time
has made of the Hitlers and the Doriots historical figures without
the slightest positive accomplishment to their credit, fascist writers
like Robert Brasillach and Pierre Drieu la Rochelle have survived
the collapse of European fascism through their works. Partly as a
result of scholarly inquiries, partly because of the revival of the
Extreme Right in France and its self-interest in maintaining the
intellectual tradition associated with it, these writers and others who
participated in the same adventure are being rediscovered.1 The
revival of interest in their works is worth noting, for they managed
to state, in a way the political leaders of their cause were incapable
of doing, the moods and attitudes of some of those who were intel
lectual followers.
Since Drieu was the best known and, perhaps, the most distin
guished personality among the French literary fascists during the
crucial years of the Nazi regime, the attitudes behind his attraction
to Nazi Germany as well as his disappointment with his own coun-

*I am grateful to the Lamar Research Center for the grant which made the
research for this study possible.
1Brasillach's name is kept alive by a cult devoted to his memory, !'Associa
tion des Amis de Robert Brasillach, with headquarters in Lausanne.

An at

tempt was made in 1960 by claude Elsen, Dr. Jean-Paul Bonnafous, and
Jean Bernier to found a similar organization on behalf of Drieu, but the op
position of the family to such an enterprise could not be overcome (com
munication from Claude Elsen, January 10, 1962).

[ 153]

154

THE JOURNAL OF POLITICS

[Vol. 27

try are bound to assume major importance in any evaluation. His


writings, however, transcend the circumstances of his own time, for
what they seem to suggest is that the impulse behind fascism is not
necessarily conformist and totalitarian, that it can stem from an
individualist orientation with overtones of anarchism. That these
implications were obscured by the propaganda and the performance
of fascist regimes is evident; but that does not make them irrelevant.
For despite the totalitarian reality of fascist systems, there were,
no doubt, indeterminate numbers of men who were drawn to a fascist
commitment by something like Drieu's heroic vision of the individ
ual creating a new world.2
This probability is suggested by Drieu's attempts to explain
fascism not from the point of view of the high priests of these sys
tems but from the standpoint of the convert. It is this very capacity
to view the fascist from the inside, to display his preoccupations and
his purposes, that accounts for Drieu Ia Rochelle's relevance to po
litical science. While literature is no substitute for scientific analysis,
it can supplement the findings of science through insights that can
only be gained subjectively.a
Born in Paris in January, 1893, to a family from Normandy, he
passed from a childhood afflicted by parental conflict to the train
ing ground for the French diplomatic service, the Ecole des Sciences
Politiques. In spite of his briiiiant promise he failed the final exami
nations because, he thought, of his non-conformist views. A seven
year period in military uniform followed. He fought in the Great
War, participating in the campaigns of Charleroi, Champagne, the
Dardanelles, and Verdun, and was wounded three times. In 1922,
his reputation was established with his first major work, Mesure de
la France. In his subsequent output of political essays, newspaper
articles, and novels., he was always conscious of being a spokesman
for the wartime generation and was invariably identified as such.
Indeed, he re-entered civilian life with an intense expectation of see
ing far-reaching changes in his own country and throughout the rest
of Europe. The experiences in the trenches would be translated into
see Philippe Meynier, Essai sur l'Idealisme moderne (Paris-Limoges: Im
primerie Guillemot et Lamothe, 195 7 ) , pp. 90-92.
"Drieu himself commented, in an interview with Michel Dard ( "Visites:
M. Drieu Ia Rochelle," Action Frant;aise, December 6, 1 928, p. 5 ) , "From
every living work [of literature] a lesson in politics can be derived. I was
going to say a pamphlet."

1965]

PoLITICAL THOUGHT oF LA RocHELLE

155

the new golden age publicized by the political leaders during the
war.4 In his search for evidence of the new spirit in the civilian
world he was drawn successively to the Dadaists and the Surrealists.
Still dissatisfied, and increasingly disenchanted, Drieu attempted to
found a young conservative movement-and produced only a mani
festo.:; Collaborating with E mmanuel Berl on the newspaper Les
Derniers lours in 1927, he placed his hopes in a militant, reformist
capitalism; but then he turned to the "Young Turks" of Radicalism,
Gaston Bergery, Pierre Dominique, and Bertrand de Jouvenel, see
ing in these figures potential innovators in French politics. His dis
covery that action could not be expected from that quarter led him
to an interest in socialism which endured; still, he was unable to see
any hope in the parliamentary socialists. In 1934, when his pessi
mism had become oppressive, he declared himself a fascist and pub
lished a major political work, Socialisme Jasciste. As a Parisian col
laborator during the Occupation, Drieu accepted the responsibility
of serving as editor of the distinguished Nouvelle Revue Fra11faise
in December, 1940. Aware of the approaching defeat of the Axis, he
closed down the NRF in 1943, while continuing to publish in the
newspaper Revolution Nationale In a state of uncontrollable despair
and after two unsuccessful suicide attempts, Drieu succumbed to the
third on March 15, 1945.6
'See Maurice Martin du Gard, Les Memorables (1924-1930), II, (Paris:
Flammarion, 1 960) , p. 316.
The manifesto was also published in Roger Giron and Robert de Saint
Jean, La Jeunesse litteraire devant la politique (Paris: Editions des Cahiers
Libres, 1928), pp. 12-16. In it the "Young Rig'ht" was described as being
( 1 ) against dictatorship, (2) opposed to war, (3) anti-clerical, and (4) bour
geois.
"The major works on Drieu are: Pierre Andreu, Drieu: temoin et vision
naire (P
' aris: Bernard Grasset, 1 952) ; Pol Vandromme, Drieu la Rochelle
(Paris: Editions Universitaires, 1 958) ; Frederic J. Grover, Drieu la Rochelle
and the Fiction of Testimony (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of Cali
fornia Press, 1958) , published in France as Drieu la Rochelle (Paris: Gal
limard, 1962) ; and Jean Mabire, Drieu parmi nous (Paris: Editions de la
Table Ronde, 1963) . Recent books relevant to the subject are: Michele Cotta,
La Collaboration 1940-1944 (Paris: Armand Colin, 1964); Jean Plumy/me
and Raymond Lasierra, Les Fascismes franais, 1923-1963 (Paris: Editions
du Seuil, 1963 ) ; and Maurice-Yvan Sicard (Saint-Paulien, pseud.) , Histoire
de c o llabo ration (Paris: L'Esprit Nouveau, 1964). Pierre-Henri Simon's Pr oc es
du heros: M ontherlant, Drieu la Rochelle, Jean Prevost (Paris: Editions du
Seuil, 1950) is valuable. Among the older studies mention should be made of
Beatrice Corrigan's "Drieu La Rochelle: Study of a Collaborator," University
of Toronto Quarterly, XIV (January, 1945), pp. 199-205, and two essays, one

THE JouRNAL OF PoLITICS

156

[Vol.

27

DRmu AND THE CouNTER-REVOLUTION

Some of the French fascists passed directly from the Action


franc;aise movement of Charles Maurras to Hitlerism, but such was
not the case with Drieu. Toward the end of his life he held that he
had been a fascist since his demobilization, implying that he had
emerged a fascist from the trenches. If that was the case, his fas
cism, born of his wartime emotions, was as subjective as it was
utopian. It eventually was formulated in terms of
ropeanism and a spiritualized socialism. 7

an

idealized Eu

Combining a passionate

interest in politics with an artistic vision of a new age, he remained


suspended between the two poles of attraction, never capable of
identifying for long with anything that reminded him of the known
and the stable but never able to satisfy his taste for radical innova
tion. His subjective search for values that transcended practical pol
itics lifted him, to his mind at least, above classification in any
traditional way.

Even Franc;;ois Mauriac, after describing Drieu

as a Rightist, felt compelled to add, "I know that the expression is


not exact."

"Drieu,'' he suggested, "was rather to the center, not

to the political center, but in the nervous center, in the magnetic


center of the attractions and the temptations of a generation."8
Still, he had points of contact with political moods and ideas
as well as personalities, and the major influences on his thought are
discernible in spite of his claims to independence. His family back
ground was frankly bourgeois. But, as he explained, he was from
a segment of the bourgeoisie recently transplanted from the provinces
to the Parisian environment., with hardly any political experience and
by Paul Chauveau in his Caracteres (Paris: Editions des Cahiers Libres, 1933),
the other by Raymond Aron in L'Homme contre les tyrans (Paris: Gallimard,
1946). Drieu is frequently memorialized in the press of the Extreme Right in
France, as in the special issue devoted entirely to him, of Defense de !'Occident,
Nos. 50-51, February-March, 1958; Maurice Martin du Gard, "Drieu et ses
suicides," Ecrits de Paris, No. 86, December, 1951, pp. 56-70; Alfred Fabre
Luce, "Le tombeau de Drieu," ibid., No. 98, December, 1952 pp. 23-31; and
Claude Elsen, "Drieu Ia Rochelle, temoin de notre temps," Rivarol, No. 411,
November 27, 1958, pp. 8-9. Aspects of his political thought are dealt with by
Paul Serant, Le Romantisme fasciste (Paris: Fasquelle, 1959), passim., and by
Raoul Girardet, "Notes sur !'esprit d'un fascisme franais, 1934-1939," Revue
Franr;aise de Science Politique, V. (July-September, 1955), pp. 529-546.

7ln 1943 Drieu emphasized the continuity of his thought since 1917 in his
preface to Chronique politique 1934-1942 (Paris:

Gallimard, 1943), p. 9.

""Prisence de Drieu Ia Rochelle," Defense de l'Occident, No. 50-51, Febru


ary-March, 1958, p. 20.

1965]

PoLITICAL THOUGHT o:r LA RocHELLE

157

addicted to vague and extremist opinions. In short, his immediate


environment was that of the provincial "uprooted" described by
Maurice Barres. Its spirit was that of latter-day Boulangism. Over
come by a vague feeling of malaise and unable to cope with the
urban environment, this "world," by Drieu's admission, was domi
nated by the idea of decadence.9 There can be little doubt that
Drieu's almost obsessive preoccupation with cultural decay was a
projection of the existential anxieties of this milieu. His distaste for
Parisian life, even while he tasted its pleasures, and the preference
for the supposedly healthy mores of the countryside and the village
were the attitudes of Barres.
There were still other affinities with Barres both as a thinker and
as a personality. Drieu shared his pessimism bordering on nihilism.10
Indeed, the conclusion that life is meaningless, that it becomes each
day more absurd, could have come as readily from the pen of Drieu
as from the great conservative writer from Lorraine. True enough,
he wanted to believe, with Nietzsche, that life ought to be what each
man wills it; but even this weak reed was eventually as unhelpful to
Drieu, with his suicide, as it had been to the German master who,
in the end, was confined to a lunatic asylum. Pessimism could not
be overcome by either Drieu or Barres, although both approached
politics as much for obsessional relief as for any other reason.11
Nor were they ever capable of seeing themselves as anything but
members of the bourgeoisie. This unshakable attachment to class
origins was sufficient, in itself, to prevent a meaningful commitment
to the Left.l2
""L'Idee de decadence" in Genve ou Moscou (Paris: Gallimard, 1928) ,
p. 225.
10See Henri Massis, Mau"as et notre temps: entretiens et souvenirs (Paris:
Pion, 1961 ) , pp. 188-189.
111n 1927 Andre Gide commented on Drieu in his diary: "Met on the
boulevard Drieu La Rochelle. . . . All these young men are frightfully con
cerned with themselves. They never know how to get away from themselves.
Barres was their very bad master; his teaching leads to despair, to boredom.
It is to get away from this that many among them hurl themselves headlong
into Catholicism, as he threw himself into politics. All this will be very severely
judged twenty years from now." The Journals of Andre! Gide, trans. Justin
O'Brien, II (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1951 ) , pp. 408-409.
"Drieu wrote in Socialisme jasciste (Paris: Gallimard, 1934) , pp. 108-109:
. I am a petit-bourgeois and believe only in the petits-bourgeois. The kind
of petit-bourgeois descended from the minor nobility, the bourgeois of the
free professions, the peasant, the artisan. But who likes neither the state em"

158

THE JOURNAL OF POLITICS

[Vol. 27

Indeed., Drieu's concern with his class led him to the conclusion
that the proletariat as such had no real existence and no possibility
whatever of independent action. Only insofar as the proletariat
accepted bourgeois leadership could it make its mark in history. If
will and energy could somehow be found, they would come from the
bourgeoisie alone; and Drieu's career suggests that his political
thought was one long effort to discover the means of energizing the
individual members of his own class.
It was this quest for a revival of moral energy that placed him
in the tradition of Sorel. As with the exponent of Syndicalism,
Drieu's goal was a renewal of individual creativity and virile inde
pendence. Nothing short of a "new man" was needed for the regen
eration of a decaying civilization. While Drieu's preference was for
the unlimited autonomous will rather than Sorel's general strike,
he was nevertheless placing his faith too in a myth. Sorel's myth
was essentially a means of lifting the proletariat above the morass
of politics and opening up new vistas of creativity; but Drieu's was
a rope offered to the bourgeoisie to help it climb out of the dark pit
of political strife and put the course of history once more on its
side. Since each vision was beyond precise definition and, more im
portant, beyond politics as it is normally practiced, both writers were
"outsiders," each in his own fashion.
Drieu's anti-democratic views bore a resemblance to those of
the reactionary, monarchist leader Maurras. In at least one other
respect Drieu shared a common concern with Maurras: an essentially
aesthetic orientation. While Drieu did not write lyrical tributes to
the statues of young men in museums, as Maurras did,IB he still
could indulge himself in a relentless pursuit of physical beauty in
his personal life and be driven to the brink of despair over the un
aesthetic appearance of his fellow countrymen. His pleasure in al
most anything could be ruined by the perception of the slightest
blemish.14 Nor was his vision of "young, conquering athletes buildployee nor the salaried worker, nor the factory worker when they have for
gotten their concrete origins. Nothing has ever been accomplished without us."
On Barres see Michael

Curtis, Three Against the Republic: Sorel, Barres,


and Maurras (Princeton: Princeton Univers.ity Press, 1959), p. 267.

''l()n Maurras's aestheticism see Edward R. Tannenbaum, The Action


Frant;aise: Die-Hard Reactionaries in Twentieth Century France (New York:
John Wiley and Sons, 1962), pp. 50-51.
"Martin du Gard, Les Memorables, I, p. 176.

1965]

PoLITICAL THOUGHT oF

LA

RocHELLE

159

ing a new world,"ll5 anything more than a conception of the future


in aesthetic terms.
Drieu was close to Maurras's thinking when he commented that
"The West is artistic and political-they are identical."16 An
artistic imagination can lay the groundwork for an intensely personal
approach to politics, especially if no attempt is made to deal with
ethical problems. And ethics was considered unimportant by both
Drieu and Maurras, insofar as the philosophical tradition is con
cerned. Indeed, their neglect of ethics was as monumental as their
lack of concern for economics. Thus, Drieu could no more admit the
right of society to judge his personal positions or his actions than
Maurras could accept his being tried on charges of intelligence with
the enemy in 1945. Since the intellectual can be judged only by his
tory, each remained convinced of the nobility of his motives. "I have
got my feet dirty," Drieu wrote, "but my hands are clean.''l7 He
saw himself even in the Collaboration movement as "one of those
happy few . . . who were not there to collaborate, but in order not
to be elsewher, among the herd sweating with fear and hatred."lS
In his refusal to be judged he eventually asserted that it is the duty
of the individual in the modern world to be anywhere but with the
crowd. While this posture would place him not too far from the
ideas of John Stuart Mill, it also revealed an inflexibility of mind and
a disregard for social responsibility fashioned from the same cloth
as Maurras's attitude of superiority.
Still, there were significant departures from these three dominant
figures of the counter-revolution. While Drieu was closest in temper
ament, perhaps, to Barres, he could not accept the nationalism that
was as much a part of his thought as conservatism. Drieu was un
able to provide a psychological substructure for his thought as Sorel
did, nor did he share the Syndicalist theorist's interest in history,
besides having no faith in the proletariat.l9 But his differences with
15Andreu, Drieu, p. 139.
16Drieu, Journal (19<4-1945) (Paris: Gallimard, 1951), p. 51. To Maurras,
"Order in the state was akin to beauty in the arts," Curtis, Three Against the
Republic, p. 121.
17"Exorde" in Journal, p. 99. On the similar attitude disp!ayed by Maurras
and his followers, see Tannenbaum, Action Fran{aise, pp. 250-251, 275.
'"Journal, p. 83.
100n these aspects of Sorel's thought see Irving Louis Horwitz, Radicalism
and the Revolt Against Reason (New York: The Humanities Press, 1961),

pp. 90-163.

160

THE JOURNAL OF POLITICS

[Vol.

27

Maurras were especially striking, for he could never come to terms


with Maurras's reactionary, royalist conservatism or with his integral
nationalism.
DRmu

AND

THE PARLIAMENTARY PARTms

As

a would-be revolutionary, Drieu had the deepest contempt for


the bourgeois parties. The classical Right in France-the Moderates
and other parliamentary groups advocating a free market economy
was to him the very symbol of decadent conservatism at its worst.
The whole rationale of the republican Right, he thought, was the
conservation of acquired economic privileges, and its concerns were
exclusively materialistic. Indeed, French capitalism, under its direc
tion, was as spiritually impoverished as its American counterpart.2
And, in his view, the free enterprise parties, cynically devoted to the
self-interest of their clients, had long since arrived at an under
standing with the parliamentary Left for the division of the spoils
offered by the political and economic system. As the system norm
ally operated, the Moderates and their allies specialized in protecting
fiscal fraud., while their opposite numbers were the perennial de
fenders of useless or lazy state employees.21 Thus, the classical
Right emerged with no more credit in his eyes than the Left. True
enough, he thought for a brief period in 1940, after the launching
of the "National Revolution" under Petain, that at least the younger
members of the traditional capitalist groups were now ready to par
ticipate in the building of a new order based on a rejection of mate
rialism. But his hopes for the Vichy regime were quickly deflated,
and his temporary benevolence toward the republican conservatives
disappeared.22
The Radical Socialist Party was the oldest of the French parties
and, from its center position, was prone constantly to oscillate be
tween Left and Right, between conservatism and socialism. Drieu
had no illusions about it; its only vocation, he thought, was the
game of politics. Once the defenders of the petite bourgeoisie, it

Geneve ou Moscou, p. 174.


11Chronique politique, p. 18. The article was originally published in La
Lutte des Jeunes, April 22, 1934.
""Ne plus attendre (Paris: Bernard Grasset, 1941) , pp. 61, 86-89.

1965]

PoLITICAL THOUGHT OF LA RocHELLE

161

had long since become the party of total futility.2a Indeed, Radical
spokesmen were too busy perorating on the gratuitous theme of
France's mission in the world to approach the problem of rejuvenat
ing France. As the traditional ballast in French governments, he
held Radicalism responsible for the country's depopulation and for
its being invaded by millions of foreigners, Jews, Arabs, negroes
and Annamites.24 As early as 1926 he predicted the decline and
eclipse of the Radical Party, comparable to that of the English Lib
erals and the German Centrists. Since self-styled center parties were
destined to disappear, the Radical Party should frankly admit its
secret affinity for the Moderates and openly join them in the defense
of privilege.25
Too bourgeois to join the revolutionary Left, not believing in the
reactionary Right's capacity for acting, and alienated from the
status quo defended by the bourgeois parties., Drieu could only place
his hope in a deliverer from within or without. It is true, of course,
that he could have become apolitical, but this way out of the dilem
ma was not yet the fashion. The apolitical intellectual, in France at
least, had to wait for the more complete and more pervasive disen
chantment with politics that appeared after World War II. Before
this solution was quite possible Drieu and other intellectuals were
to succumb to the fascist pretension of using violence to lift man
above politics. It is no wonder that a student of the French Right
has commented that "One has to be the victim of simplifications
suggested by a [too] systematic mind to be able to confuse fascism
and the Right."26 Drieu's intellectual battle was not, from his point
of view at least, of the Right against the Left or of the Left against
the Right, but one against senility, avarice, and hypocrisy wherever
he found it.27
""If Drieu saved his most violent language for the Radical Socialists it was
perhaps because of his thesis that the party no longer had the will to repre
sent the petit-bourgeois point of view. His vitriolic description of Herriot
(through the fictional character Chanteau in his novel Gilles [Paris: Gallimard,
complete version, 1942]), is suggestive of this .
.. Ibid., p. 394.
""Geneve ou Moscou, pp. 249, 252.
""Rene Remond, "Droites c!assiques et droite romantique," Terre Humaine,

No. 6 (April, 1951) , p. 67.


27Drieu, La Comedie de Charleroi (Pari: Gallimard, '1934 ) , p. 97; Gilles,
p. 3 90.

162

THE JOURNAL OF POLITICS

[Vol. 27

NATIONALISM AND EUROPEANISM


Drieu's repudiation of the system included a flanking attack on
the Action franse, for, to him, the reactionary movement was as
much a part of the existing political pattern as were the parliamen
tary parties. Indeed, the Republic was indispensable to Maurras, for
without it he would have no raison d' etre . Still, Drieu's differences
with Maurras centered around specific problems concerning France's
past, the dilemmas over foreign policy, and her future place in Eu
rope.
When Drieu began his own career as a writer Maurras's prestige
was at its height. Indeed, his influence was so marked that the
younger man felt the need to define his own thought with respect
to that of the older. Drieu readily acknowledged both his admiration
for the spirit of comradeship that characterized the Action franc;aise
and his awareness of the influence that Maurras had on his essay
Mesure de la France.2s But he could go no further. Drieu accepted
the results of the French Revolution,, if not its liberal principles, and
found the republic to be the form of state best suited to France. To
be a monarchist was to be merely a reactionary hoping for the res
toration of a dead past.2o Having no admiration for the France of
Louis XIV, considered by Maurras to be that country's golden age,
Drieu preferred the adventurous spirit of the Middle Ages to the
classicism of the seventeenth century. For the real French tradition
was not classicism, with its emphasis on form and proportion, in
any case. It was, rather, the mystical spirit of the Crusades, in
which France had furnished more participants than all the other
European nations. And he could cite not only the Jacobins, precur
sors of fascism to Drieu,so but Calvin and Napoleon as well. They
were all among the greatest extremists in modern history, he thought.
"There has been no great madness in human history in which the
French have not voluptuously played their part and more than their
part."31 On these issues Drieu was at odds with the official doctrine
of the Action franc;aise. But there was, above all, the practical con""Andreu, Drieu, p. 140.
""Pierre Varillon and Henri Rambaud, Enquete sur les maitres de la jeune
litterature (Paris: Librairie Bloud et Gay, 1923), pp. 69- 70.
""In 'Emancipation Nationale (July 18, 1936), p. 5; Chronique politique,
p. 66.
81Drieu, "Mesure et demesure de l'esprit franl;3is," Combat, July, 1937, n.p.

PoLITICAL THOUGHT OF LA RocHELLE

1965]

163

sideration that Maurras had more talent for editorializing than for
action.
Until Drieu's public articulation of these differences, he was
courted by the Action fran;aise. Formal adherence in such cases
was not necessarily required; a prominent young intellectual's
nominal acknowledgement of Maurras as the master political thinker
of the day, combined with not too independent a course, was often
considered sufficient. His refusal led, not unexpectedly, to the fami
liar hostility with which the movement's spokesmen viewed such
recalcitrance.a2
The fundamental differences centered, however, around foreign
policy, an area in which Maurras considered himself particularly
infallible. To him., the national interest and the balance of power
were the only conceivable cornerstones of French foreign policy.
But what Drieu proposed was nothing less than the bypassing of
nationalism and the creation of a European federation. On foreign
policy Drieu and Maurras differed on method as well as substance.
They were both critics of the Quai d'Orsay; but Maurras's "organi
zing empiricism," with its array of supporting evidence from the
history of France, was rejected by Drieu in favor of demographic
analysis and a belief in the need to overcome cultural decadence on
a European scale. In brief, whatever the degree of attraction Drieu
felt for integral nationalism during his youth, it was soon enough
overcome for him to remain unaffiliated with the movement, its lead
er, and the bulk of its doctrine.-sa
see, for example, Brasillach's "Drieu La Rochelle ou le feu de paille," in
(Paris: Pion, 1935), pp. 227-238.

his collection of critical essays, Portraits

Such young disciples of Maurras as Lucien Rebatet, Jean Azema, Dominique


Sordet-and Brasillach-took a frankly fascist position in the late 1930's.

But

the "loyalist" wing of the Action frant;aise never forgave Drieu for his inde
pendence.

Note Maurras's comment:

"I saw Drieu la Rochelle only once

. . . . But we got nowhere. I read his book Mesure de la France

. and I

found in it a taste for paradox more than talent." Maurras to Henri Massis,
June, 195 1, in Maurras, Lettres de prison (Paris: 1Flammarion, 1958), p. 370.
See also Massis's evaluation of Drieu in his Maurras, pp. 184-191.
""In Drieu's opinion, Maurras's movement had been well on the way before

1914 toward working out a new and significant synthesis of capitalism and
syndicalism.

But it had long since moved away from the spirit of the Cercle

Proudhon and had become, after the first World War, nothing more than a
refuge for all kinds of social debris in search of protection against the Red
peril. Geneve ou Moscou, pp. 25-26. On the Cercle Proudhon see Pierre
Andreu, "Fascisme 1913," Combat, February, 1936, n.p.; Tannenbaum, Action
Fraw;aise, pp. 191-193 ; Eugen Weber, Action Frant;aise: Royalism and Reac-

164

THE JoURNAL oF PoLITics

[Vol.

27

Even in the immediate post-war period, Drieu lashed out at the


general euphoria that had settled over French opinion. To a coun
try which appeared to be the dominant military and political force
in Europe, he submitted unmistakable evidence of decline. France,
he argued, with a population of thirty eight million, came fourth in
Europe, after Germany, England, and Italy, whereas only a century
before, the French had been the most numerous people in Europe.
In the twentieth century, then, the "crime of France" (the title that
he had wanted to give to Mesure de la France) was her failure to
maintain her birth rate. Because of this failure, overpopulated Ger
many had succumbed in 1914 to what amounted to a Fre nch invita
tion to occupy French provinces that were being emptied of inhabi
tants. It was understandable., then, that underpopulated France
could not stand up to the Central Powers unaided. But the inter
vention of non-European powers in the war had marked the begin
ning of a new era ; for France, and the rest of Europe as well, was
now squeezed between the two Anglo-Saxon empires and a Russian
empire. Since the British Empire was already doomed to dissolution,
the end result could only be increasing pressures on Europe from the
United States and Russia.
That his analysis was not in the popular vein of the post-war
years is apparent. And it was precisely during these years that
French nationalists were urging a policy of strength, including the
dismemberment of Germany and disregard of English, American, or
Russian attitudes. To Maurras's "la France seule," Drieu retorted
that no European nation alone, including France, could henceforth
be strong enough to save itself from the expansionist drives of the
new empires. Without European federation the continent would
either devour itself in another war or be devoured. In any event,
only the non-European empires would benefit.
Nationalism, to his mind, was an uncontrollable force driving
Europe to war on the scale of 1914. Thus, he could argue in
Geneve ou Moscou (1928) that a European Zollverein within ten
years was a matter of life or death for Europe. Amidst the general
state of disorganization of the continent a portion of Europe's
tion in Twentieth-Century France ( Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1962),

pp. 7 5-76. It has been observed in this connection that fascism dreams of
overthrow but that the Right in France wants only reassurance and stability.
Rene Remond, La Droite en France de 1815 a nos jours ( Paris: Aubier, 1954),
p. 209.

1965]

POLITICAL THOUGHT OF LA ROCHELLE

165

strength was not being utilized. In the long run she would be forced
to compensate for the loss of her colonies and the decline of her
overseas markets by the rational arrangement of her interior mar
ket. "The Zollverein accomplished . . . , the European world consti
tuting an economic unit, American products will be thrown into the
sea . . . , as a sign of rebellion against American economic imperi
alism."34 Furthermore, the threat of Russian imperialism would
disappear if the European ruling classes would abandon their alle
giance to the national state. He urged them to admit that the only
alternative to domination by America-or by Russia-was an eco
nomic union guaranteed by political union.
But he was eventually driven to the conclusion that the European
bourgeoisie could never bring themselves voluntarily to give up their
national loyalties. By November, 1939, he believed that union could
only be imposed "by others than those associated with Geneva, in
another spirit, and by other means,"-a thinly veiled allusion to
Nazi Germany.a:s Then, with the German occupation a reality, he
argued that in the light of so many missed opportunities between the
wars there could be no federation without the hegemony of one na
tion.36 The real meaning of the succession of German military vic
tories, he hoped, was the expansion of National Socialism to the
scope of a continental autarky.a7 Only Germany had been far-sight
ed enough actively to pursue the goal of European unification ; it
was evident that German domination of France and other coun
tries was the price which had to be paid for the organization of the
continent. In any event, there was no question now, nor had there
been since the Great War, of France's following Maurras, with his
hopes for a new age of French predominance in Europe.as She
could no longer freely choose her role, given the aspirations of the
Great Powers-Germany, the United States, and Russia-toward
domination on a continental scale. Thus, Drieu's assessment of
France's position in 1940 was not far different from his views in
1922. The only new factor was his attitude toward Germany's un
expected bid for domination.
Geneve ou Moscou, p. 120; Martin du Gard, Les Memorables, II, p. 374.
860riginally in the NouveUe Revue Franfaise, November, 1939; republished
in Ne plus attendre, p. 17.
""Ibid., p. 44.
chronique politique, p. 371.
"""Maurras ou Geneve," La NouveUe Revue Franfaise, LIV (February,
1940), pp. 243-246. See also his "Exorde," loc. cit., pp. 93-94.

166

THE JOURNAL OF PoLITICS

[Vol. 27

FASCIST SOCIALISM

Drieu's analysis of France's power position was one long com


mentary on her external weakness. He was not even allowed the
consolation of the argument that her superior civilization would
triumph over mere numbers. For, to Drieu, French civilization was
already in its death-throes. There existed, he believed, a crisis of
the spirit caused by the onset of a generalized fatigue; and the
consequence of fatigue was decadence. A civilization which fails to
renew itself both physically and spiritually, which is not sufficiently
virile and energetic, is already plunged into decadence. He was un
able to accept Maurras's distinction between the pays legal and the
pays reel, for it meant that the rottenness of the regime should be
considered apart from the society under it. Drieu's conviction was
that no such separation existed since the corrupt political system was
of a piece with an utterly decadent society.
To the Marxist view of an inexorable conflict between a dying
capitalism and a rejuvenating socialism, ending in the inevitable
victory of the proletariat, Drieu opposed the thesis that capitalism
and Marxist socialism were not antithetical at all. There was, in
reality, no need to choose between them, since they were both in
volved in the degradation of modern man. Indeed, they were the
two faces of one phenomenon-modern materialism. The whole
world, before the appearance of Hitler at least, seemed to Drieu to
be under the influence of Marx. Whether man lived under the pri
vate capitalism of the United States or the state capitalism of Russia
-the two pacesetters of the twentieth century and, potentially, the
two great protagonists in the capitalist-socialist conflict-his goal
was the same: production for the sake of production. Lenin's Russia
had at the outset been activated by a utopian dream, but Russia had
plunged into the same collectivist, machine-oriented pattern as the
United States. Similarly, capitalist societies were moving toward
communism (i.e., toward a materialistic collectivism) in practice.
In either case, social values were directed toward common rather
than individual goals.a9 And, Drieu observed, it mattered little
whether the goals were determined by Lenin, Hugo Stinnes, or Henry
Ford. For the result was that man, under these developments, was
""Drieu, "La metamorphose du Capitalisme," La Revue Europeene (1928),
p. 109.

1965]

PoLITICAL THouGHT OF LA RocHELLE

167

increasingly lost among the intolerable mass-oriented abstractions of


modern life and was well on the way toward losing his self-iden
tity.40
In fact, all the activities through which the individual had for
merly been able to maintain a sense of harmony and well-being with
in himself threatened to disappear from the earth. Even the most
elementary function of man, reproduction, was being sapped by
promiscuity.u Urbanization and machine civilization were corrupt
ing morals and destroying the soul as well, he thought. Paris was
inhabited by the exhausted and the degenerate, craze-ridden and
vice-ridden; and the level of morality steadily declined. 42 To the
extent that the French had deserted their villages for cities they had
become depersonalized, the rootless and empty survivors of a once
vigorous race.
The most appalling symptom of the slow agony of the individ
ual in the modern world was the decay of aesthetics. The steady at
trition of man's creative capabilities was culminating in the religion
of science. "Modern man is a frightful decadent," he wrote. "He
has become scientific because he could no longer be an artist."48
Science is made for weaklings, and the results of science can only be
commensurate with the capabilities of the originators. All that men
are now capable of producing is ugly. Man as artist created beauty
out of stone, but no splendor comes from cement. "For many years
now," he concluded, "a beautiful building has not been constructed
on the whole face of the earth."44 Even the physical appearance of
his fellow countrymen gave evidence of decay: "these bent backs,
these drooping shoulders, these bloated stomachs., these thin thighs,
these feeble faces."4 Beards, paunches, the anxious waiting for the
aperitif, all symbolized the physical debility of a nation that was
becoming little more than a vast assembly of weaklings and old
men.46 For the first decade and a half after the armistice Drieu
could see nothing but a void extending on into the future. "I believe
onrieu, Avec Doriot (IParis: Gallimard, 1937), p. 115.
Geneve ou Moscou, p. 209. Drieu maintained that man's main difficulties
in the modem world are of a sexual rather than a social nature. Andreu,
Drieu, p. 119 .
uvarillon and Rambaud, Enquete, p . 65; Gilles, p . 262.
Ibid., p. 74 .
.. Quoted by Simon, Proces, pp. 13 1 -132 .
...Socialisme jasciste, p. 111.
18Chronique politique, p. 53; Gilles, pp. 402-403.

168

THE JoURNAL OF PoLITics

[Vol. 27

in the decadence of the West," he wrote in 1927, "in the decadence


of the planet."47
It was the rioting in Paris on February 6, 1934., interpreted by
some at the time as being in the spirit of the Nazi revolution, that
turned Drieu toward fascism as a political solution. He had seen
Frenchmen in action and had been reminded of the heroism of the
assaults on enemy positions during the war. Now he was certain that
the downfall of the regime was only a matter of time. In 1936 Drieu
saw in Jacques Doriot, renegade Communist turned fascist militant, a
continuator of the spirit of February 6, and a leader who could re
store the national energy. Drieu's thought now took on religious
overtones. Fascism offered to a society that was already spiritually
dead the possibility of a rebirth. The faith and the commitment
could only come from individuals, but eventually a whole nation,
even a continent, could be born again. Doriot was a leader, he sug
gested, at opposite poles from the corpulent intellectuals and com
placent Radicals of the parliamentary regime. He was, rather, "an
athlete who embraces this debilitated body [of France] and who
breathes into it his own bursting health."4 S The Parti populaire
franc;;ais, to Drieu's mind, was beckoning all the "spiritually dis
inherited" to make a total commitment in order to achieve salva
tion for themselves as individuals as well as for the future of the
West. "Doriot," he wrote, "is going to reassure them with a single
blow about the destiny of France, now slowly renewing herself, but
who suddenly, purged of her dead weight and recharged, is going to
erupt."49
But France did not choose to be embraced by Doriot and no
eruption took place. Beset by growing doubts about French "pseudo
fascism," Drieu left the movement in November, 1938. And he was
eventually driven to the conclusion that even Doriot had been noth
ing more than a Radical politician in disguise.:>o Despite appear
ances, Drieu's allegiance to Doriot's cause had been more sympto
matic of desperation than of commitment. He apparently would
have been willing to follow anyone who gave evidence of wanting
to act.
'"Geneve ou Moscou, p. 30.
'"Chronique politique, p. 54.

A vee Doriot, p. 90.

"""Exorde," loc. cit., p. 92; Andreu, Drieu, p. 2 77.

1965)

POLITICAL THOUGHT OP LA ROCHELLE

169

Much the same can be said about his collaborationist activities


in support of Hitler. He saw in Hitler little more than an apostle
of European unification and a reformer of the spirit through a new
form of "socialism." As an intellectual fascist, Drieu had at best
only a casual concern for the degree to which the realities of fascist
regimes matched his own speculations. Indeed, he gave every indi
cation of believing that they could not, in fact, do so.:5 Still, given
his training in political science and his admiration for extremist prac
titioners of the political art, he should have given the closest scrutiny
to the policies pursued by such leaders as Hitler. Even the term
National Socialism should have given him pause ; for Drieu was
hardly a nationalist, certainly not a German nationalist ; and while
from 1934 on he openly advocated fascist "socialism," he appears not
to have drawn any significant conclusions from Mussolini's career or
from the fact that Hitler in that very year had turned on the left
wing elements in his own party and had only too obviously made his
peace with German capitalism. Hitler's totalitarian national capi
talism was not precisely the incarnation of Drieu's European and
socialist fascism. But what Drieu was concerned with was a vision,
subjective like all visions. Only in this light is his characterization
of the corpulent Doriot as a "good athlete" comprehensible. Only
through the smokescreen of his own intellectual construction could
Drieu have seen socialism present in foreign fascist movements
which, once in power, demonstrated a notable capacity for political
opportunism by coming to terms with the very conservative and re
actionary elements that he despised in his own country. Still, he had
little interest in the socioeconomic substructure of politics. In this
way he could still regard the new socialism as a spirit of revolt
against the materialist world.
His argument was that under fascist socialism man would be left
with his machines and his cities, but idealism would finally triumph
over materialism. It would be a socialism in the spirit of Saint
Simon, Fourier, Cabet, and Proudhon. Marxism., he argued, had
obscured these earlier socialist traditions, but they had undergone
a brief revival before the first World War in the thought of Sorel
and Pelloutier. The war had cut short the revival, but the earlier
51He wrote in 1934, "But am I finally committed [to fascism], I the intel
lectual? Indeed. Fascism as an inclination is one thing; but the particular
and inevitably trite forms that fascism takes here and there, that is some
thing else again." Socialisme jasciste, p. 235 .

170

THE

JOURNAL OF POLITICS

[ Vol.27

utopian traditions were still at hand for all those who were attempt
ing to escape from the fate that Marx had prescribed for them.:s2
The essence of this socialism lay not in the abstract rationalism of
thought that had produced both Marxism and economic liberalism,
but in the liberation of the creative will from all servitude. It was
at the same time bourgeois and anti-capitalist. Drieu argued that
" ...the bourgeois should not believe that capitalism provides them
with their raison d'etre. Lift capitalism from bourgeois shoulders
on which it weighs as heavily as on the shoulders of workers or
peasants-and there remains men ....
":sa

Through utopian so

cialism man's oppressive subservience to machines would be abolish


ed and he could rediscover the countryside, the earth tilled by the
peasantry, and fresh air. His spirit renewed, he could then consult
his creative instincts in all their forms, including the cultivation of
the arts.
64

Thus, an aesthetically-oriented socialism would bring

an end to man's alienation from the source of his inspiration and


from the natural world. In practical terms, socialism so conceived
meant the liberation of the petite bourgeoisie from its exclusively

rentier mentality and its obsession with financial security.


He did not see the state as having any important role to play
once socialism had been established.Just

as

he believed that nation

alism was only an incidental aspect of fascism, 55 to be used as a step


ping stone to Europeanism, he assumed that under fascist socialism
the state would gradually weaken, becoming flexible and truly serv
iceable--a living thing rather than a corpse, in his phraseology.:s6
He gave no serious consideration to the possibility that the fascist
""Ne plus attendre, p. 73; Drieu, "Journal 1945," in Defense de l'Ocddent,
Nos. S0-51, February-March, 958, p. '149.
Avec Doriot, pp. 179-180.
Notes pour comprendre, pp. 82-84.
""Ckronique politique, pp. 317-321; Notes pour comprendre, pp. 163-164.
Drieu became aware of the nationalist content of fascism only toward the end.
The fatal outcome, he believed, was the result of the nationalist wars under
taken by the fascist powers, wars which had interrupted their social develop
ment. Capitalist cadres, thought to be indispensable for the war effort, were
retained, as were the military circles linked with the capitalist system. Fascism
had allowed its enemies to survive during the war and was then killed off
by them. Instead of suppressing them in blood, fascism had died from its own
timidity. Hitler, he now realized, had never been able to see beyond the
national concerns of Germany. "Notes sur I'Allemagne," Defense de l'Occident,
Nos. S0-51, February-March, 1958, p. 1 50.
socialisme fasciste, p. 106.

196 5 ]

PoLITICAL THOUGHT OF L A RocHELLE

17 1

leader and his middle class coalition of artisans, small businessmen,


peasants, and intellectuals, once in control of the state., might con
tinue to find any number of reasons for maintaining or extending its
power. In his thought, fascist socialism was to be the seedbed of
"true, male liberalism,"li 7 with all the latitude for individualism
that this term implies. "Kill off statism by making use of the state"
was his prescription.lis While Marx and Engels could explain in
dialectical terms the causes of the withering away of their proletar
ian state, Drieu could only suggest that once the individual had
been restored to virile, joyful manhood, he would live on a plane
of spiritual exaltation that would make the material cares that the
state concerns itself with pale into insignificance. Since he believed
that one of the major trends of the twentieth century was the abate
ment of the struggle of classes and interest groups, he seems to have
assumed that fascist man would find in force and mysticism ade
quate tools for refashioning his world.lio Thus, to all appearances,
the reign of Drieu's heroic individualists was little more than a
reflection of the coming of Nietzsche's supermen.6 0
Drieu's concept of socialism was unsatisfactory as political theory
not because it was utopian, but because he could never explain what
ethical values would or ought to prevail. But this was inconsequen
tial from his point of view; for he believed that if the nineteenth
century was an age of doctrines, the twentieth was exclusively an
age of methods. The discovery of the most effective method for
bringing about a complete reorientation of society was all that mat
tered. The fascist, to him, was by definition "a man who believes
neither in ideas nor, by the same token, in doctrines."61 Guided
only by his subjective will, he could rise above his material environ
ment. He was thereby able to lift himself above all fatality and
subservience to supposedly inevitable historical processes. 62 The
will, implemented in terms of virility, courage, athletics, and action,
could restore a sense of direction and self-mastery to the individual.
Still, to say that the new man would recapture the enthusiasm of
67Chronique politique, p. 38.
58Socialisme fasciste, p. 106 .
""Notes pour comprendre, pp. 149-151.

60See Henry S. Kariel, "Nietzsche's Preface to Constitutionalism," The


Journal of Politics, XXV (May, 1963 ) , p. 221.
"'Notes pour comprendre, pp. 159-160.
""Ne plus attendre, p. 73.

172

THE JOURNAL OF POLITICS

[Vol. 27

such diverse types as the crusader, the buccaneer, and the American
sportsman or gangster, gave some indication at least of what his
behavioral pattern would be. 63
The first requirement for passing into the new age, then, was
the restoration of the body. "There exists before and apart from
the economic problem a physical problem for man," he wrote. 64
There were signs of change in this direction, he believed, as with
those elements of French youth who were aware of the decadence of
their environment and were taking to fresh air and sports in order
to save themselves. The increasing popularity of athletics was, he
thought, one of the main currents of the twentieth century and the
fundamental fact separating the forces of rejuvenation from the
forces of decadence. 63 In short, Drieu had taken a tortuous intel
lectual journey only to reveal that athletics build character, lifting
the practitioner out of the morass of apathy and sterile intellec
tualism. For once the body is reconditioned the soul can live once
more. Thus, with body and soul reunited, action and thought are
restored to a proper relationship. Man revitalized could aspire to
be savior, artist, poet, musician, or hero and would reach the sum
mit of his possibilities.
CONCLUSION

Pol Vandromme has remarked that Drieu's thought commenced


with facts but strayed off into a dream.6 o That there was a dualism
in his thought between reality and mysticism is clear. Given his
artistic temperament, it was inevitable, perhaps, that the military
defeat of Nazism, instead of confronting him with the physical and
moral consequences of the regime and forcing him to make the
realistic judgments that he bad earlier been capable of, would only
accentuate his search for the metaphysical ideal. Convinced that no
hope was left for the West after the collapse of Nazism, he turned
to Oriental philosophy, speculating on the soul in terms of Hindu
mysticism.
Still, before reaching the stage of complete spirituality, he had
not only marshaled statistics to buttress his arguments ; be had
88/bid., pp. 158-160.
"'Chronique politique, p. 53.
""Notes pour comprendre, pp. 171-186.
""Drieu, p. 1 1 2 .

1965 ]

PoLITICAL THoUGHT oF LA RocHELLE

173

speculated about problems that were of considerable social and po


litical consequence. In particular, he gave voice to the fears of the
independent "little man" who could see the shape of a future that
he did not like looming on the horizon. Drieu was aware of the
unsettling effect that the growth of bigness had on such individuals,
just as he was aware of the important role that the petite bourgeoisie
played in the rise of fascism in Germany and Italy. 67 And it is pos
sible that he expected some such overt class support for a fascist
revolution in France. And yet in his writings Drieu gave not the
slightest indication of having any capacity for sustained sociological
analysis. While he used such terms as "elite" and "aristocracy," he
seems not to have given the least attention to the writings of Pareto,
Mosca, or Michels. Indeed, his speculations concerning the rebirth
of European man were almost a model of the "soul-stuff" that
Bentley disparaged.
In view of Drieu's bias against the world as it was, he would
have allowed little in his utopia for sociologists-or economists
to analyze. The familiar scene of pressure groups, classes, parties,
and even states, would have been, in his imagination, metamorpho
sized through fascism into a generalized anarchy in which the indi
vidual would have consulted only his own body and his own con
science. Despite his acute perception of the malaise that was stirring
in the petite bourgeoisie, his conscious efforts, at least, seem to have
been directed not so much toward the writing of a class doctrine
as toward the simpler task of finding a method whereby the indi
vidual could leave the world while remaining in it. Thus, his interest
in the petite bourgeoisie stemmed, apparently, only from his belief
that this class had more individuals, like himself, who were uncon
taminated by the capitalist-Marxist spirit of the age than did any
other class. This assumption was never subjected to any systematic
investigation. Nor did his dream of athletes and poets bear any
discernible relationship to French grocers, wine merchants, or
artisans.
There was implicit in his vision of the new type of man some
thing like Stirner's egoist who would assert his "right"; but in
Drieu's aesthetic imagination, the physical hero would also serve as
an inspiration to the artists inhabiting his utopia. "Each hero
nourishes ten great artists," he wrote. He never made clear the
m Notes sur l'Allemagne," loc. cit., p. 142.

174

[Vol. 27

THE JOURNAL OF POLITICS

meaning of the relationship between heroes and artists apart from


the union of action and thought, but merely suggested toward the
6s
end that the hero would inspire the artist with his beauty.
Such heroic and soulful figures might pursue their private ends
under the inspiration of a visionary leader suggestive of Doriot or
Hitler, and the state might continue a merely formal existence for a
time ; but as long as it did exist it would be a shell without any
intervening social or economic layers separating the inner core, the
savior and leader, from the people. Materialism would be eradicated,
conflicts would be eliminated, leaving only the mystical interplay
between the genius of the leader and the individuals under him.
Both the leader and the led would allow no limits to their urge to
self-fulfillment since, in Drieu's phrase., " Gods, like poets, need to
69
live the blood of sacrifices.
"
Nevertheless, Drieu did not believe in the permanence of this
relationship between the man of genius and the creative follower.
Taking himself as a model of the latter, he could write in

1934 :

I shall work perhaps, no doubt I have always been working, for


the establishment of a fascist regime in !France, but I shall remain as
unencumbered by it tomorrow as I was yesterday. Fate, having in
volved me as an intellectual with its conception, will separate me from
it from the moment of its birth, from the first steps of the new regime
in the world. 70

And this independence was reaffirmed in


might have come from Alain :

"I

1942

in a statement that

am not in power,

am never in

power, my origins are not among those who are ever in power. I
always arrange things so as to be on bad terms with those who are
in power, even if they are on my side.
"
71
Drieu's temperament was that of the individualist who would
have treasured his independence under any regime.
72

It

is doubt

ful that he could be identified as a totalitarian, as the term is ordi


narily used in political discourse. He was far from accepting the

fuehrerprinzip in all of its implications ; his sense of nationalism was


lukewarm at best ; war was considered to be no longer defensible
as an outlet for heroism ; and even anti-semitism was, for him, not
so much a racial bias as a dislike for Jews as the "representatives
""See Grover, Drieu, p. 227.
89Quoted in ibid., p. 228.
70Socialisme fasciste, p. 235.
71La fin des haricots," La NouveUe ReTJUe Fraltfaise, LVII ( December,
1942), p. 748.

1965]

POLITICAL THOUGHT OF L A ROCHELLE

175

o f the modern world."7a That politics, to him, was more a tempta


tion than an object of serious study was underlined by his admission
that political involvement was usually his antidote for seizures of
depression. u It has been suggested, in this context, that in Drieu's
subjective drama he approached politics as a means of overcoming
a part of himself that he disliked.75 But whatever the cause, his
political involvement and his thought suggest more than anything
else a nihilist's desire to destroy a world that he disliked. Thus his
mania for predicting disasters to come.
His real talent was the use of devastating satire in his novels
to depict the social and political life of what appeared to be a nar
row, cramped society living on borrowed time. Even his vision of
purity, insofar as it took on any tangible outline, was directed to
ward the opposite pole from the bourgeois France that he could
not accept. Every authentically conservative sentiment of the day
was made a target by the themes of his work, from his advocacy of
socialism to his appeals to revolutionary violence and the abandon
ment of bourgeois goals. But, especially, a society dedicated in
those years to inaction was urged to break with its main character
istic. That there was an air of unreality in his thought is undeni
able ; but paradoxes and contradictions can abound when the ob
ject is to shock the bourgeoisie. Drieu's work shows the spirit of
adolescent rebellion against the comfortable mediocrity of the mate
rialistic view of life,, the politicians who articulate its values, and
the myths associated with it.7 6 His views went beyond the spirit
of incivisme, which permeates all classes in France. Indeed, it ap
pears that his flight was not so much toward totalitarian political
systems as it was away from any conceivable regime in France. To
remain at least a nominal collaborationist to the end was to give
proof of one's nonconformity and spirit of total opposition to the
majority, even if that majority consisted of one's own countrymen
undergoing the rigors of the Occupation.
'"In July, 1 944, an article that Drieu had written for Revolution Nationale
was refused by the German censors because he clearly foresaw the total defeat
of Germany. See serant, Roman#sme jasciste, p. 233.

18Gilles, p. 9 9.
"Vandromme, Drieu, p. 1 10.
'"Jean-Paul Sartre, "Drieu Ia Rochelle, ou Ia haine de soi," Les Lettres
Franfaises, No. 6, April, 1 943 , pp. 3 -4.
'"In Massis's opinion, Drieu all his life kept the countenance and the
demeanor of the adolescent ; he sugegsts that Drieu never left the stage of
adolescence. Mau"as, p. 187.

176

THE JOURNAL O F POLITICS

[Vol. 27

While the term "reactionary" was distrusted by Drieu himself,


he nevertheless belonged to a French intellectual family of reac
tionaries. They recognize each other but they tend to stand either
alone, Cassandras like Drieu ; or above, like the autocratic Maur
ras ; or beside, like the anarcho-fascist Cleline. If they organize in
small cliques and groups even these eventually fall prey to dissen
sion and independent posturing.7 7 If today they seem to have a uni
form nostalgia for the Vichy regime it is only because the National
Revolution offered something to everybody of the reactionary per
suasion as it passed through its various phases. While the differ
ences between Drieu and Maurras were real at the time, their quar
rels have been minimized or forgotten by the post-war reactionaries.
It is evident that it was Maurras who, stubbornly holding to his
nineteenth-century positions, was responsible for much of the inter
factional war of pens that beset the French reaction while it still
had strength.78 With Maurras's disappearance, integral nationalism
has been laid to rest by the reactionary group, to be taken up again
by the leader of the Resistance. Today spokesmen for the Extreme
Right can articulate the names of their mentors, paying homage
equally to Drieu, celine, Brasillach, Maurras, and even Bernanos
and Saint Exupery. And the continuity of the reactionary position
is underlined by Jean Devyver's comment that "The aristocracy of
the mind is not dead. We must contribute to its strength by cul
tivating the true riches, which are not those of the bank account
nor those of the facile and weak way of life."7'9
But despite the continued presence in the post-war period of
77The numerous schisms that befell the Action franc;aise are a case in
point. Eugen Weber has given a full description in his Action Fran,aise,
passim. 'But even the hard core of young fascists centered around the news
paper Je Suis Partout broke apart in 1943 when JJrasillach wanted to soften
the paper's belligerently pro- German tone. The dissensions that persisted
among the remaining members who :!led to Germany in 1944 were described
by Jean Herold-Paquis in Des IUusions
DesiUusions (Paris : Bourgoin,
1948) pp. 91-97.
'
78See Maurice Bardeche, "Reponse sur le fascisme," Defense de l'Occident,
New Series, No. 22 (May, 1
' 962), p. 34. Pierre Dominique has argued that it
was Maurras, subordinating everything to the return of the monarchy, who
kept French fascism from realizing its fullest potential even though the Action
franc;aise proclaimed principles that were in reality fascist. "Analyse et critique
du Six Fevrier," Ecrits de Paris, No. 88 (February, 195 2), p. 36.
rn the "Bulletin de !'Association des Amis de Robert Brasillach," (mimeo
graphed) , No. 2 5, n.d., p. 6. Devyver is the head of the Belgian contingent of
the Association.
.

1965 ]

PoLITICAL THOUGHT OF LA RocHELLE

177

these reactionary currents, i t is possible that i f Drieu had lived he


would have abandoned politics altogether. That he would always
have been a critical nonconformist is certain ; but his rejection of
the post-war order of things might have found purely literary
expression apart from all participation in political affairs,, as with
the writers of the contemporary "Young Right" in France with
their theme of non-engagement. so
In any event, Drieu's itinerary and his thought stand as remind
ers to the present generation in France and elsewhere that a furi
ous involvement with politics, intuitively conceived in terms of indi
vidualism, can lead to results that are more destructive than they
are heroic. Such purity can be found through art or athletics or
through metaphysics alone, but it cannot be found in contemporary
politics.

""On the "Young Right" see Raoul Girardet, "L'Heritage de !'Action Fran
aise," Revue Fraru;aise de Science Politique, VII (October-December, 195 7 ) , pp.
7 73 - 7 7 5 ; Giano Accame, "Contradictions d'un . romantisme de droite, Defense
de l'Occident, New Series, No. 23 (June, 1 962) , pp. 3 5-50 and No. 24 (July
August, 1 962) , pp. 27-40.