French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, 12 July 1965. Dutch National Archives

The saying that France has "the stupidest right in the world" was demonstrated again by the Algiers coup of April 1961. What the quartet of generals hoped to achieve that might or could have been durable is difficult to imagine. The French right is still nourished largely on the philosophy of Charles Maurras and the Action Française; and in recent years it has moved progressively toward fascism, a political development closely linked to phenomena of decay and obsolescence inherent in the social structure of France. This was expressed in laconic fashion by the former Catholic premier, Georges Bidault, when he said, "Tout se dégrade; je me sens devenir fasciste"- "Everything is debased; I feel myself becoming a fascist."

As some elements of the center parties and the army have joined the right, elements of the non-Communist left have been moving from an independent position promised under the leadership of Mendès-France in 1954 into closer ideological alignment with the Soviet bloc. Ignoring the lessons of past history in general and of Soviet history in particular, the left, too, clings to outdated concepts of imperialism and nourishes illusions about social evils in the West.

For the time being it is clear that the rightist threat to democracy in France is still acute. To assess the French scene only in these terms, however, would be shortsighted. For it is equally clear that the success of a fascist coup, or even prolonged disorder, civil strife and general political instability, would in the long run exclusively benefit the Communists.

Now that the right-wing Algerian extremists appear to a large extent out- man?uvred and disarmed by the de Gaulle government, attention has been turning to the ultras of the left, a small but highly articulate group of intellectuals, writers, artists, students and professional people, many of whom adhere to the intricate left-of-Communist thinking of Jean-Paul Sartre. Calling itself the New Left, this group gained momentum, in particular among students, as the war in Algeria

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