Integral Nationalism: Life and ‘Action Francaise’ of Charles Maurras

by editor

Integral Nationalism is derived from the concept of “Nationalisme Integrale” formulated by Charles Maurras. According to Integral Nationalism, “a nationalist places his country above everything” and should strive to work in society that is an organic unit, with preset social hierarchy and co-operation between different social classes. Integral Nationalism often overlaps fascism, perennialism, post modernism and blood and soil conservatism. But above all, Integral Nationalism is an offshoot of Action Francaise, a movement started by French poet and political activist, Charles  Marie Photius Maurras.

Charles Maurras’ life: Maurras’ life had nothing glamorous or unique about it. Born in April 20th, 1868, he was brought up by his mother and grandmother in an overtly monarchist and Catholic environment. A member of the French Provencal family, Maurras had experienced monarchy from childhood and was affected by the defeat of the French-Prussian war in 1870. When he studied at the College de Sacre-Coeur in Aix-en-Provence in 1880, he contracted an acute illness which left him deaf for life. Though this had a temporary setback on his social and political life, he did not give in to the illness and continued pursuing his political goals.

A writer and critic of a supreme class, Charles Maurras felt it necessary to oppose the Symbolists of his time. Along with Jean Moreas, he founded l’ecole romane, a group of young poets in 1891. Though an agnostic, Maurras’ associations were basically Catholic and Orleanist. He started writing about literary criticism in the ‘Observateur’ where he opposed with intellectual vehemence the doctrines of Symbolists’ poetry. His other writings include, ‘Poesie et Veritie’ on Romanticism, ‘Les Amants de Venise’ (1902), ‘Le Voyage d’Athenes’ (1901), a monarchist view of life in ‘Enquete sur la monarchie’ and ‘L’Avenir de L’intelligence’ (1905).

Action Francaise and Integral Nationalism: Action Francaise had life as a review journal, before it grew up to become a movement. Charles Maurras co-founded the review ‘L’Action Francaise’ with Leon Daudet in 1899. The journal gained enormous popularity and support and became a daily newspaper in a span of ten years. It soon became the organ of the Royalist Party, thanks to Maurras’ monarchism and nationalistic ideals.

Action Francaise as a movement was greatly influenced by Charles Maurras than by any other. His ‘integral nationalism’ gathered support for restoration of monarchy in France. This does not mean that Charles Maurras was a Royalist who followed the path of monarchist tradition. Never. He sought the glory of monarchy that was federal and at the same time, equal in its treatment of the society. In his political thought, a federal monarchy would restore the grandeur France had during its kingly reign and which was smashed by the revolution of 1789. In order to make France reclaim its past glory as a province of the Roman Empire where art, culture and religion flourished, it has to be cleared of several “Anti-France” elements or the “four confederate states of Protestants, Jews, Freemasons and foreigners”.

French Monarchy and the Action Francaise:
The French Monarchy, though enjoyed support from Maurras’ political ideologies, did not engage in the ideal of federal monarchy. The Monarchy, actually retreated from political action in the name of Catholicism and indifference to the modern world that is against the principles of conservatism. But Charles Maurras was different. His integral nationalism made him the flying Icarus who sought the Sun of freedom and ancient glory of France. He engaged in both orthodox and unorthodox political action which gained him a lot of followers among French nationalists, monarchists, Catholic priests etc.

Religion and Maurras: Charles Maurras was an agnostic throughout his life. Though he did not harbor any religious sentiments, he supported the restoration of Roman Catholicism as the state religion after the 1905 law that separated the State and Church legally. Maurras strongly opposed ‘Les Quatre Etats Confederates’ or “internal foreigners” (Jews, Protestants, Freemasons and Meteques) which were part of ‘Anti-France’ elements that need to be curbed out of France. As an agnostic, Maurras viewed Catholicism as a driving factor of social cohesion and stability, ignoring its religious or sacred virtues. This utilitarian view of Catholicism did not find support from most Catholics, which led Pope Pius XI to condemn Action Francaise.  In 1927, members of Action Francaise were prohibited from receiving sacraments. However, after the Spanish Civil War and revival of anti-communism movement in the Church, the Pope withdrew the condemnation on Action Francaise.

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