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    Reino Virtanen, Nietzsche and the Action Française: Nietzsche's Significance for French Rightist Thought

    Johnathan R. Razorback
    Johnathan R. Razorback

    Messages : 11472
    Date d'inscription : 12/08/2013
    Localisation : France

    Reino Virtanen, Nietzsche and the Action Française: Nietzsche's Significance for French Rightist Thought  Empty Reino Virtanen, Nietzsche and the Action Française: Nietzsche's Significance for French Rightist Thought

    Message par Johnathan R. Razorback Mer 23 Mai - 11:20


    "Because this movement was opposed to both democracy and Romanticism, it provides a focus for these two aspects of Nietzsche's influence. The differences that will appear between Nietzsche and the Action cannot but be profound. The French group seem to have their eyes fixed on a static image of a past society, while Nietzsche would relinquish neither feudal nor industrial society.
    The story of the Action Française is to a great extent the story of one man, Charles Maurras, who molded its doctrines and led its activities
    ." (p.192)

    "In terms of political institutions, "Integral Nationalism", as Maurras labelled his doctrine, meant restoration, decentralization, a state church, and a corporatism which influenced Italian Fascism. Socially and economically, such a return to the ancien régime would probably have been more consonant with a basically agricultural than with an industrial economy. Maurras' defense of the government of Pétain would tend to support this inference. Philosophically, the movement was an entente cordiale between Comtists like Maurras and Catholics like Louis Dimier. In political ethics, Integral Nationalims was a glorification of the raison d'état, and its strategy and tactics were pointed toward the overturn of the Republic by means of a coup de force." (p.193)

    "The name of Nietzsche occurs frequently in the literary polls of Jacques Morland in 1902 and Le Cardonnel and Vellay in 1905. These interviews, devoted to literacy trends and influences of the time, reveal interesting data of the complexity of the response to Nietzsche. Henri Ghéon's reply is suggestive:

    Il y a, voyez-vous, chez Nietzsche, le pôle anarchie et le pôle classicisme. Son ambiguïté correspond bien à notre état intellectuel. C'est son classicisme que nous avons particulièrement subi, nous Français. [Georges le Cardonnel and Charles Vellay, La Littérature contemporaine (1905) (Paris, 1906), 97].

    Jules de Gaultier's answer is similar. There are, he says, two elements in Nietzsche which exert their influence separately: nihilism and authority. The first tendancy he links with Rémy de Gourmont, the second with the traditionalism of Barrès. Jacques Bainville heartily endorses Nietzsche's assaults on democracy and humanitarianism:

    Je retiens les bons coups qu'il a portés à la détestable espèce de moralistes, à l'église humanitaire et à la gnose démocratique: ils ont fait réfléchir un certain nombre de Français, car c'est en France qu'ils se trouvaient le mieux à s'appliquer. [Jacques Morland, "Enquête sur l'influence allemande", Mercure de France, XI (1902), 302] " (p.194)

    "[Léon] Daudet, like Bainville, finds his attacks on humanitarianism all to the good:

    Ce qu'il y a en lui de solide, ce qui a trait à la psychopathologie de la force, n'a pas été sans nous rendre des services. Il a désengourdi un certain nombre de néo-bouddhistes, je veux dire de tolstoïsants et d'ibséniens. Il les a détournés de la non-résistance et de leur nombril. [L'Entre-Deux-Guerres (Grasset, 1932), 165-166]

    Already in 1895, André Hallays observed that Nietzsche found disciples "dans une jeunesse écoeurée de démocratie à qui il prêchait l'orgueil et le paganisme".

    Such a disciple as Hallays described was Huges Rebell. Among the first Frenchmen to study Nietzsche in the German with a view to translating his work, he wrote this glowing tribute in 1895:

    ...je m'occupe depuis trois ans d'une traduction de Nietzsche (Zarathustra). Ma rencontre avec ce grand esprit marque une époque de mon existence. Dans cette douloureuse solitude que le monde moderne ménage à ceux qui ont le culte de la pensée, j'ai trouvé Nietzsche, comme... l'ami longtemps cherché. Je lui ai donné mon affection. ["Sur une traduction collective des œuvres de Nietzsche", Mercure de France 13 (Jan. 1895), 101]

    For him, Nietzsche belongs with Taine and Renan among "the most formidable adversaries of this base socialism that threatens to ruin all we cherish". [...]

    Le Slave et le Germain qui persistent en lui nous choquent souvent, mais helléniste excellent, esprit nourri de la philosophie française du XVIIIe siècle, Nietzsche n'en est pas moins, au contraire de Tolstoï et d'Ibsen, un écrivain qu'il importe de révéler à la France. [ibid, p.100]" (p.195)

    "A decade after his eulogy, he has renounced his master. In terms made familiar by the cohorts of the Action Française, he tries to gloss over his earlier enthusiasm:

    Nietzsche a été pour moi un auxiliaire de circonstance... je ne l'ai jamais pris pour maître ; j'aurais préféré les siens... Montaigne, Voltaire, Renan, des guides plus sûrs... Nietzsche a fait presque autant de mal que Tolstoï, bien que son action ait été toute différente. [Le Cardonnel and Vellay, op. cit., 109]

    The statement bears the mark of a campaign that had been carried on by Maurras almost since 1891, when he published a conte philosophique called "les Serviteurs". Like Maurice Barrès he took pains to repeat that his own development owed nothing to the "German barbarian"." (p.196)

    "But if the essential element of Becoming could, by abstraction, be removed from Nietzsche's thought, there would remain a body of ideas similar in many respects to the Maurrassian philosophy. Admiration for the Latin genius of order and clarity, advocacy of a hierarchic society, opposition to evangelical Christianity, disdain for humanitarianism -these are the points in common between the two. They are the significant features of "les Serviteurs". [...] He was no doubt encouraged in his independant develoment, and he was delighted (in 1895) that the liberal Germanophiles who had promoted Nietzsche's Parisian vogue were now thrown into confusion by his anti-Romantic and authoritarian utterances.
    In one place Maurras comes close to admitting that Nietzsche was more than a co-student with him under French and ancient masters:

    C'est à peine si j'ai feuilleté ce qu'on nous a donné de Nietsche [sic]. Il me souvient cependant d'avoir note dans son Cas Wagner, ... traduit chez nous seulement en 1893, de curieuses rencontres sur la philosophie de l'art avec les thèses esthétiques qu'il m'est arrivé à moi-même de soutenir en 1891 au moment de la fondation de l'Ecole romane...

    There is a close resemblance between their conceptions of artistic decadence. Maurras seems to echo the jibes in Der Fall Wagner against the feminizing of culture." (p.196-197)

    "If Jules de Gaultier had been a more active figure in the political movement led by Maurras, he would merit more attention than it is possible to give here [...] Common hostility to Kant, and especially to his ethics of the categorical imperative, unites Gaultier with Maurras and Barrès.." (p.198-199)

    "It is interesting to note how these admirers of the German writer served as channels for his ideas into the vortex of ideological polemic that was the Dreyfus Case. Barrès drew encouragement for his stand from a letter written to him by Gaultier against those "who believe in rational substances, Justice in Itself, Truth in Itself, before which they prostrate themselves... not knowing that they are the fictions by means of which strong psychiological realities force themselves on weak ones" [Barrès, Mes Cahiers, II, 151]." (p.199)

    "When he comes to write his Nietzsche, during his stay in Germany, some features of the first book will have vanished, others will have been heightened and sharpened. No more preoccupation with divine Grace, no more stereotyped boutades at deterministic science. [...] Lasserre goes on to say: "Nietzsche nous a surtout aidé ainsi que maint autre de notre génération à rentrer en jouissance de certaines vérités naturelles". And these truths, he tells us, are "classical, positive, traditional". With a sense for French classicism rare among Germans, Nietzsche is an astute critic also of German culture. Nietzsche is a conservative who talks like a rebel." (p.201)

    "He finds support for his interpretation in Jules de Gaultier's study, "Le sens de la hiérarchie"." (p.202)

    "Two decades later, he was to reaffirm [...] the importance of Nietzsche in his intellectual development." (p.203)

    "His Morale de Nietzsche was published as a sort of anti-Dreyfusard manifesto in November 1899. In a review of Anthinéa in 1902, Lasserre points out that the movement led by Maurras owed much to the German writer. He notes: "Maurras qui ne peut que sympathiser avec ce grand allié ne le trouve pas très sûr". In explanation of Maurras"s reserve and his own enthusiasm, he writes:

    Ceux-là seuls seront équitables envers Nietzsche et connaîtront sa valeur, dont il a, sans les faire solidaires de ses propres entraînements, aidé l'intelligence à se purifier. Ce que Maurras combat du grand jour avec les dons simples de la raison, Nietzsche le décompose parmi les minuties et les odeurs du laboratoire.
    Vous n'avez pas eu besoin de Nietzsche, ô fils de Provence... Vous n'avez pas subi les ténébreux événements des épuisants scrupules de la vie chrétienne... vous étidez d'instinct polythéiste ; votre pensée ne s'est jamais égarée dans le désert du monothéisme juif, ni du mono-panthéisme allemand. [Mercure de France 42 (June, 1902), 611-621.]" (p.205)

    "The fear of Maurras [...] that Nietzsche's name might frighten away Catholics interested in the movement he led." (p.206)

    "As Lasserre himself recalls, even Jean Moréas, associate of Maurras in the École romane, found in Nietzsche a master of humanism, and often borrowed from him in the expression of his own ideas. Whoever has read Moréas's pages on "Nietzsche et la poésie" remembers his admiration for the defense of French classicism developed in the aphorism on "Revolution in Poetry"." (p.210)

    "Sorel is at the point of intersection of Marxian and Nietzschean influence. [...] His disciple Georges Valois is a prototype of such figures as Mussolini who shifted from the socialist or syndicalist Left to the extreme Right of fascism. The story of Valois' transformation from a vagabond intellectual and self-styled Nietzschean to a militant of the Action Française affords an interesting sidelight on the movement. As one living among anarchists, he was influenced more by Sorel than Nietzsche:

    C'est lui qui nous a arrachés définitivement à la démocratie... Les raisons aristocratiques que nous fournissait à cette époque Nietzsche, qui devenait un grand homme de l'anarchie, nous séduisaient, mais nous repoussaient aussi. Les raisons prolétaires... de Sorel eurent au contraire prise sur notre esprit et sur nos sentiments. [Valois, D'un Siècle à l'autre (Nouvelle Librairie Nationale, 1924), 134]

    But he returned from his military service more egoist than anarchist:

    Je rentrai à Paris, à l'automne de 1901, avec le dégoût de la politique et disposé à l'individualisme le plus franc. Puisque rien n'est vrai... un homme qui a quelque énergie doit suivre sa propre loi. Nietzsche a raison: cherchons le surhumain. [ibid, p.150]

    It was not until 1906 that he joined Maurras's group. Explaining that a strong contempt for parliamentary democracy was a point in common between anarchists and integral nationalists, he tells of other one-time anarchists who became sympathetic to the Action Française. One of these was Lucien Jean, who himself had once fallen under the Nietzschean spell." (p.212)

    "When the contours of the doctrine had been neatly delineated, integral nationalism made no further call upon Nietzsche. The traces of this influence had, in Pierre Hepp's phrase, been "assimilated", before the pre-war offensive of Catholics like the Abbé pierre and Abbé Laberthonnière took up the name of Nietzsche as a peg on which to hang their charges of immoralism, anti-Christianity and atheism." (p.213)

    "Whatever Nietzsche meant for others, there were many writers in the 1890's, and after, who his influence encouraged in their reaction against democracy and in their campaign against Romanticism. This influence came to a focus in certain leading adherents of the Action Française and others associated with it. Maurras found it necessary to combat the idea that he had exerted any effect. Maurras's denial must be weighed against such facts as the importance of la Morale de Nietzsche and le Romantisme français, and of Gaultier's writing, for Action Française ideology."

    "Nietzsche would certainly have rejected the abstract rationalism and counter-revolutionary utopianism of the Action Française." (p.214)
    -Reino Virtanen, "Nietzsche and the Action Française: Nietzsche's Significance for French Rightist Thought", Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Apr., 1950), pp. 191-214.

    « La question n’est pas de constater que les gens vivent plus ou moins pauvrement, mais toujours d’une manière qui leur échappe. » -Guy Debord, Critique de la séparation (1961).

    « Rien de grand ne s’est jamais accompli dans le monde sans passion. » -Hegel, La Raison dans l'Histoire.

    « Mais parfois le plus clair regard aime aussi l’ombre. » -Friedrich Hölderlin, "Pain et Vin".

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