The Day After Russia Attacks
What War in Ukraine Would Look Like—and How America Should Respond
ANOTHER Fourteenth of July has gone by. Great military parade in the Champs Elysées in the morning, and a Front Populaire procession between the Bastille and the Place de la Nation in the afternoon. Half a million or more came to see the one; and only very few came to see the other. The Front Populaire procession had lost much of its past vitality and of its popular appeal. Large banners were put up in the Place de la Nation displaying the "Front Populaire oath" of July 14, 1935 -- the oath to "defend the Republic, to give bread to the workers, and peace to humanity." The words now had a hollow sound, especially when one remembered the circumstances in which they originally were displayed. On that day in 1935 the Front Populaire procession must have brought 600,000 people together. It represented the immense protest movement then sweeping over France -- a reaction of the people of France against the "Sixth of February" and all that this had meant. One could scarcely move from the Bastille to the Place de la Nation, so dense were the crowds. For, apart from the procession itself, the sidewalks were packed with enthusiastic spectators -- all the little shopkeepers and artisans of the Faubourg Saint Antoine had crowded into the street to associate themselves with the Front Populaire. In good 1848 style, Cot, Guernut and other Radicals, perched on a taxicab, were waving tricolor flags. And I remember how Daladier made a triumphal reëntry into public life (following his misfortunes of February 1934) by having his photograph taken in the Place de la Bastille, right in front of the large white panel inscribed with the Front Populaire oath.
But on July 14, 1938, there was no Daladier in the Place de la Bastille; and there was even no Léon Blum. At least I did not see him; nor was there anything in the Socialist Populaire on the following day to suggest that he had been there. Instead, there was a photograph of some Jeunesses Socialistes, and another of a Catalan orchestra that was collecting money for Spanish relief. But no symbolic pictures of Thorez, Blum and Daladier walking arm-in-arm at the head of the procession -- the sort of thing we used to see on the great day of promise in July 1935, or during the Front Populaire apotheosis in the Place de la Nation on July 14, 1936. And in the same Place de la Nation this time the platform was crowded with people -- mostly Communist deputies and senators, and representatives of the CGT, and a few unimportant Socialists and Radicals -- but it was a dumb show. With their tricolor ribbons across their chests, they looked on rather dismally as the unimpressive procession moved past; and no one said a word. For on the previous day the Committee of the Front Populaire had met; and after a heated discussion it was decided that the Radicals, Socialists and Communists no longer had a common language, and that it would be better for their representatives during the July 14 celebrations to be united in silence, since they could not be united in words. For if they had spoken, the Socialists would have attacked Daladier, and the Communists would have made a retrospective attack on Blum -- on his "pause," on his financial policy, and on non-intervention for which they hold him chiefly responsible. And they would have demanded an "extension" of the Front Populaire program -- a proposal to which the Radicals would have objected on the ground that it was little use extending the Front Populaire program when even the present program had not yet been fully applied, and, in fact, would not be.
The truth is that, whatever the errors made by Blum and Vincent Auriol and the rest of the Socialists who governed France until June 1937, the fundamental tragedy of the Front Populaire was France's inability to carry out the large social program advocated by the Front Populaire in a time of intensive rearmament. Such a feat may be possible in the United States; but France's reserves of wealth and credit are limited. Since 1931, France had lived from hand to mouth, borrowing here, there and everywhere. When the period of intensive rearmament arrived in 1934-35 the sources of credit had already been severely tapped; and the difficulty of finding the necessary billions increased year after year.
There might have been a way out of the difficulty: the bold adoption of exchange control, and of other methods of totalitarian coercion. Many Socialists felt from the outset that exchange control could alone preserve the Front Populaire. But Blum would not have it. Mainly because London and Washington would not have it. And already in September 1936 he sacrificed the Front Populaire program to the Tripartite Agreement; and this sacrifice became more and more explicit as the months went on. Proclamation of the "pause" in February 1937; the further "surrender" to orthodox finance in March 1937; and, three months later, the resignation of the Blum government after the Senate had denied it plenary powers. In fact, Blum was then riding for a fall; and would probably have been enormously embarrassed if the Senate had granted him the plenary powers. For although he had half-promised the Senate not to resort to exchange control, the pressure from the Trade Unions demanding exchange control would have been great had he obtained the plenary powers; and, for international reasons, he would even then have been reluctant to abandon the Tripartite Agreement. He would have been between the devil and the deep sea.
It was also with an eye on the international situation that Blum persuaded the National Council of the Socialist Party to allow him and the other Socialists to enter the Chautemps cabinet of June 1937-January 1938. With Bonnet as Finance Minister, this government was scarcely Front Populaire; but Blum nevertheless desired to maintain the illusion that the Front Populaire still existed as a parliamentary coalition; and the Communists assented. But this close, even if deceptive, association with the Socialists and Communists suited neither Chautemps nor (still less) Bonnet. And although the financial reforms that were carried out by this Chautemps government with the consent of the Socialists clearly marked a reaction against the "purchasing power" policy of 1936 (all that the Socialists secured in return was a semi-nationalization of the railways), Bonnet and Chautemps waited vigilantly for the time when the Front Populaire could be disrupted even in a parliamentary sense. In October 1937, at the Radical Congress at Lille, Bonnet's manœuvre with that in view failed; but Chautemps succeeded when, in the following January, he deliberately broke up his own government by publicly telling the Communists that he did not want their votes -- a phrase which obliged the Socialists, "in the name of the Front Populaire," to quit his government.
Events now moved at a faster rhythm. Blum failed in the course of this January crisis to widen the basis of the Front Populaire by forming a "National Government" of "all true Republicans" stretching "from Thorez to Reynaud" -- a proposal which was regarded by the Right as an attempt to save the Front Populaire at any price, or at least to maintain the center of gravity in Parliament on the Left (while "normally" this center of gravity had, in the past, invariably shifted to the Right whenever the question arose of forming a National Government). M. Chautemps returned to office at the head of a purely Radical cabinet. If, in overthrowing his own last government a week earlier, he was extremely offensive to the Left, he was now all honey to them; and the paradoxical situation arose in which this new government, with the weakest possible basis in Parliament, secured, on the day of its ministerial declaration, the largest vote of confidence on record -- 501 votes to 1. The "one" was the irrepressible Gaston Bergery who seems to have arrived at the philosophical deduction that whoever was Premier would, sooner or later, inevitably prove to be a knave, or a fool, or both.
In announcing the formation of his new government M. Chautemps said that it was "a solid tool." Less than two months later it just went to pieces, without even striking against anything. It happened three days before Hitler's march into Austria; and the reason Chautemps gave for resigning was that he had suggested asking Parliament for plenary powers, but that the Socialists and Communists had received his suggestion badly. Was that the real reason for his resignation? Or was he reluctant (as was unkindly suggested) to face the music of Goering's airplanes droning over Vienna? In any case, when Hitler marched into Austria, France was without a government.
Then came another attempt by Blum to form a National Government -- this time one including everybody from the extreme Right to the Communists. Unimpressed by the gravity of the international situation, and saying that Blum was merely trying to save his own prestige -- this time as a "National Premier" -- they refused to listen to his appeal. Only Paul Reynaud and Kerillis and a few others, deeply concerned over Hitler's "next" move, were ready to follow Blum. But not the others. The opposition between Right and Left was too strong, and the Right felt that the Left were losing ground; so why lend Blum what they regarded as a helping hand even in the name of those higher considerations that had prompted him to appeal to them? And though Kerillis thought it would be useful to have Communists in the Government ("for we must not have the Paris working class, particularly the munitions workers, against us"), Flandin swore that the friendship of Chamberlain's England would be irretrievably lost if a single Communist were admitted.
So Blum's attempt to build up a National Government, which in one of the most critical moments of Europe's history would have "impressed the world" and greatly heightened France's international prestige (which at the time of the Anschluss had fallen lower than it had ever been before), failed completely. He thereupon -- heaven knows why -- formed a Front Populaire government under Socialist guidance which was almost the very image of his government of June 1936. It was an anachronism, and Blum himself felt it keenly. But he exposed himself to much jeering by admitting it openly -- and by saying that this was not the government France was needing "in the present circumstances," and that it would gladly give way to a National Government as soon as the Opposition were prepared to enter one. But the Opposition, clearly realizing that Blum was doomed, merely jeered -- and waited for his inevitable downfall.
It so happened that a wave of strikes -- the most serious since 1936 -- swept over France during the short existence of this Blum Government. The metallurgical industry came to a standstill, and for over a fortnight not a single airplane was produced in France. Stay-in strikes reappeared on a large scale. Evidently many of the workers were taking advantage of Blum's presence at the head of the government -- for clearly Blum was less likely than most other Premiers to use an iron hand with stay-in strikers. On the other hand, the employers, with an eye on the government situation, were as unhelpful and as uncompromising as they could possibly be. It was a tragic time; and one can only be grateful that Germany, finding her new Province rather a handful, did not feel able to take advantage of the mess in France by immediately following up her attack on Austria with one on Czechoslovakia.
Failing resignation, which his followers would have condemned, Blum could do nothing except ask for plenary powers. His plan of financial and economic reconstruction was in itself an important piece of work; even the London Times thought it the first constructive program that any government had produced in France since Poincaré. It proposed, among other things, a capital levy, a more or less camouflaged form of exchange control and an extensive easy credit policy. Blum knew, of course, that it would not be accepted by the Senate and he was not even sure whether the Chamber would agree to it; but he thought that France needed to be taught a lesson. She must be told that she had lived far too long from hand to mouth; that "confidence" could, even in the best circumstances, provide, in the long run, only a small proportion of the Treasury's borrowing needs; and that a point had been reached where she could continue only on a "semi-war basis." It was no use building up France's economy on the expectation that the expatriated capital (of some 80 billion francs) would return "some time." More drastic measures must be taken to put the country on its feet. If these measures were coercive, rather than liberal, it could not be helped. The Tripartite Agreement might have to be sacrificed. Although Blum did not say so, he almost certainly meant it; for it is hard to see how the Tripartite Agreement could have coexisted, at least in France, with the great inflation of credit Blum was contemplating.
Looking back on it, the scheme is chiefly of academic interest. Blum naturally knew that the Senate would not pass it. Was it necessary to waste a fortnight for the sake of preaching a financial sermon to France? One wonders. In fact, Blum himself wondered. He also wondered whether it was really a suitable time for starting a feud with the Senate. For the truth is that, at least in April 1938, there was no popular feeling in the country against the Senate; none whatsoever, except among some of the Socialists, who, by the way, were furious with the Communists for their failure to join in the Populaire's campaign against the Senate. And later, in a speech in June, Blum himself admitted that after the very frigid reception his plenary powers bill had been given by the Chamber (where half the Radicals deserted the government majority and so reduced it to 111 votes from the usual 200 or so), he wished to resign, and not go through the agony of facing the Senate at all; but that his Socialist colleagues, wrongly believing in an anti-Senate sentiment in the country, had almost forced him to get himself overthrown by the Senate. The greater part of public opinion, worried by the Anschluss and the French strikes, did not care what the Senate did.
What happened after the fall of Blum is common knowledge. M. Daladier, who had on so many sides been acclaimed as the "savior" -- it was funny to think of le fusilleur in the rôle of Doumergue! -- formed the new government. It was mostly a Radical government, with a few center men like Mandel and Reynaud added. Higher production and national defense were its two slogans. It did not claim to be a Front Populaire Government, though it was polite about the Front Populaire in its Ministerial declaration, and about its past services in "saving democracy." This government also asked for powers to legislate by decree within a given time, and it received them with the greatest ease from the Chamber (where the Socialists alone grumbled -- which was only natural after their recent humiliations), and from the Senate, which was almost enthusiastic. For clearly the new government marked the end of the Front Populaire, except in a very limited sense -- a point with which I shall deal below. There were two other reasons why the Daladier Government was well received, not only by the Senate, but among wide sections of the population. With its promise of more settled conditions in France (which, for three months, it should be remembered, had suffered from acute governmental instability), it was bound to increase France's international weight. Further, almost as soon as it came into office it succeeded in settling the big strikes.
For a short time, about the middle of April, there was a boom on the Bourse. But it did not last long; and, largely under the impression that the Daladier Government was not making the best use of its special powers, confidence in the franc was again severely shaken. The third devaluation in less than two years was hastily decided upon on the fourth of May, less than a month after the cabinet had come into office. M. Daladier explained on the radio that "now at last" France would have a solid monetary basis; and it is true that during the weeks that followed something like a hundred or a hundred and fifty million dollars were repatriated. But was this repatriation caused by a real revival of confidence, or merely by a desire to take profits?
The scope of this article does not permit a discussion of the results of Daladier's financial and economic policy; it is still too early, too, to judge them. He has tried not to take extreme decisions which would produce sharp reactions either on the Left or on the Right. In his decrees under the Special Powers there is no trace of anything like Blum's capital levy proposal; on the other hand, though he has tried to modify the application of the forty-hour-week law he has not acceded to the wishes of the Right to alter the text. His whole policy is largely built on the expectation of a trade revival, and of an increasing return of confidence -- a "basis" which Blum condemned as unsound and insufficient. In short, a continuation of the old hand-to-mouth policy consisting of a little inflation here and a little borrowing there in order to cover the Treasury deficit. This policy, with the immense expenditure on rearmament, would justify itself only if there were a genuine trade revival and no sharp rise in the cost of living. In August 1938 the symptoms of such a revival were still insufficient; on the other hand, nothing was stopping a rise in the cost of living. No doubt the tourist trade benefited from the low rate of the franc, and Paris shops and hotels were doing good business, especially at the time of the British royal visit; but the general index of production in June of 84 (1929 = 100) was lower than the 1937 average. This unsatisfactory position had a variety of causes -- among them the high cost of living (especially for those large sections of French people, e.g. the fonctionnaires, with more or less fixed incomes, who had become seriously impoverished as a result of the three successive devaluations), high interest rates, and, above all, perhaps, the constant fear of war, war, war. Take the building trade, the most depressed of the French trades. How many people, in spite of the tax facilities granted to building by the Daladier Government, are going to put money into a long-term investment like houses in the present state of international and financial uncertainty?
Early in June, M. Daladier sent Parliament on holiday until October or November. His principal reason for doing so was to avoid much unpleasantness. The Socialists and Communists were demanding the adoption of old age pensions (a reform firmly promised in March by the Chautemps Government) and an increase in the fonctionnaires' pay, which (except for minor allowances) had not been raised since 1936, despite a 50 percent rise in the cost of living. The government, Daladier said, could afford none of this, so long as economic conditions had not improved. Further, the Communists were demanding a discussion on Spain which M. Daladier did not desire either.
And so we have a curious situation in republican France in which the government rules more and more by decree, and in which Parliament had little say in the conduct of foreign policy. It is significant that in spite of the hostility shown in the 1936 election by all the Front Populaire parties towards legislation by decree -- a form of legislation associated in their minds with the names of Doumergue and Laval -- every single government since 1936 should sooner or later have asked Parliament for plenary powers. And it is also significant that in the last eighteen months there has been only one proper foreign debate at the Chamber -- on February 25 and 26, 1938, after the fall of Mr. Eden. There has been none since -- not even after the Anschluss. This is in curious contrast with England, where foreign affairs are discussed (even if only briefly) almost every time the House of Commons meets. Whatever the exact significance of this, parliamentary government in France has certainly undergone an evolution in the last two years. A cynically-minded observer explained this by saying that only at this price could the semblance of the Front Populaire be preserved!
It may be said that, in a parliamentary sense, the Front Populaire -- that is, the support nominally given to the Daladier Government by the Socialists and Communists -- now exists only as a brake that prevents the center of gravity in Parliament from slipping still farther to the Right than it has already done. As an economic, social and financial movement of reform it has broken down completely; for the Radicals, Socialists and Communists are in disagreement on almost everything. But we can say this: as a great anti-Fascist coalition and popular movement the Front Populaire has served its purpose. If it has not killed "plutocracy" in France, it has killed militant Fascism as it was known in 1934 and 1935. And as an anti-Fascist force, in this limited sense, it remains in reserve. The Fascist elements know this. They know that another Sixth of February is impossible.
Apart from this fact -- clearly by no means unimportant -- the Front Populaire is dead, and everybody knows it. And this knowledge inevitably gave impetus, within the Socialist Party itself, and also outside it, to a return to pure revolutionary doctrines. The most important development in this respect is the split in the Socialist Party, as a result of which its Revolutionary Left-wing under Marceau Pivert founded the new "Socialist Party of Workers and Peasants." Led by a fanatical schoolmaster, the "Pivertists" are apostles of the class war. They denounce Stalin and the "neo-patriotism" and opportunism of the Communists; they support and foment strikes -- even crazy and mischievous strikes -- whenever possible; and they demand unilateral disarmament -- for instance the reduction of the term of army service from two years to one. Like the Catalan anarchists, they hold that "anti-Fascism is neither a program nor a doctrine." The weakness of their appeal to the masses lies in their foreign policy. The French workers find it difficult to accept unilateral disarmament as a practical policy, or to believe that if the French working class show a good example the German and Italian workers will also rebel against their oppressors. May, but not necessarily will. The risk is therefore too great. And now, without the weighty label of the Socialist Party attached to them, one doubts whether the Pivertists, left entirely to themselves, can make much headway.
France is perhaps most sharply divided today on foreign policy. Not that France would not be united on the day of mobilization; it is certain that she would be. But, roughly speaking, there are two schools of thought in France today -- what one might call the Daladier school and the Flandin school. In addition, there are various subdivisions of opinion, especially on the issue of Spain -- an issue on which Daladier is charged with weakness, and Bonnet even more so.
Now, M. Flandin is a man whom it is difficult to take seriously. He lacks one of the most essential qualities of a successful politician -- personality. He is conscious of this defect. But being a vain and ambitious man he seems determined to be "talked about" at almost any price. And especially since February, when he anticipated a revolutionary change in British foreign policy as a result of Mr. Eden's resignation (which he saw coming), he has been advocating a policy of what may roughly be called "retrenchment." Advocating -- the verb is perhaps too definite. Now and then he comes out with some bold statement, which creates an uproar; for instance, his recent statement that France would fight only if she were directly attacked, a phrase meaning that she would fight for neither Czechoslovakia, nor Poland, nor even for England and Belgium. But at the end of a few days (during which M. Flandin was discussed at great length in the press) he decided that he had gone too far, and said that he had been misunderstood, and that he never desired France to tear up her treaty with Czechoslovakia.
The whole impression created by M. Flandin's outbursts, followed sooner or later by stories that he has been misunderstood, is one of extraordinary frivolity. The man lacks not only the courage of his convictions; he lacks even the convictions. Doubtless his speeches are calculated to create the legend of an "alternative policy" to the "traditional policy" of France, and to turn M. Flandin into a symbol of certain feelings of resignation and peace-at-any-price that vaguely exist among the most different elements in France -- not only among certain elements on the Right (where they are allied with worship of Franco and Mussolini and even Hitler) but even among the more parochially-minded elements of rural Socialism and Radicalism. But in actual practice M. Flandin's attempt to attract all the peace-at-any-price elements in France amounts to nothing; that is, it will mean nothing on the day of Mobilization. And it will not even help M. Flandin to become leader of the Opposition in Parliament, which seems to be another of his ambitions; for in Parliament even the Right is by no means unanimous in its approval of M. Flandin. There are strong anti-German traditions among the French Right. And in the past month or two, especially since Mussolini's Genoa speech, many of these people have lost their long-cherished illusions even in the possibility of a New Stresa front -- as if the old Stresa front had ever been anything except an Italian 'manœuvre calculated to bamboozle England and France!
No doubt, there is still a certain bien-pensant public in France which, blinded by class sentiment, will never learn anything. These people find their inspiration in the Action Française, the Jour, and in weeklies like Candide and Gringoire. They pray for a Franco victory, regard Mussolini as the greatest man in the world, and consider M. Jouhaux as the devil incarnate. "Rather Hitler than the Front Populaire" is an extreme but not fictitious expression of their sentiment.
In speaking of this pro-Fascist and anti-National spirit of the French bien-pensants, I can do no better than discuss two significant attacks that have been made on them. Both attacks came not from Socialists or Communists but from Catholics -- Catholics who, like Cardinal Verdier, the Archbishop of Paris, represent a profoundly vital reaction against the pro-Fascist Catholicism of certain other but, in the main, probably less important elements of the French clergy, and, above all, against the anti-nationalism of certain people who claim to be the only true nationalists in France.
One of the Catholics of whom I speak is M. Georges Bernanos, whose newly-published "Les Grands Cimetières sous la Lune" is one of the greatest pieces of polemical writing to come out of France in the present century. The other is M. Mauriac, who recently wrote an article in the Figaro which created a profound stir on the Right.
Bernanos, as already said, is not a man of the Left. He is not even a "democrat" in any real sense; he is a Catholic with something of a reactionary background. He still calls himself a disciple of Drumont, the author of the anti-Semitic "France Juive." He is a royalist and a "traditionalist" -- but not a royalist of the Maurras school, even though, in his youth, he belonged to it. His book is the cry of an injured conscience, the cry of French sensibility against the insensitive blindness and the cowardice of the people who claim to represent the French "national" tradition. He denies them that right. Although he avoids the use of words like Fascism, his conclusion is, in fact, that French Fascism is not national, but anti-national.
His starting point is Spain, and his own experiences during his stay in Majorca in the first eight months of the Spanish civil war. He was not prejudiced against the Spanish Right, far from it; his friends were mostly Phalangists, and he even learned of the arrival of the first Italian airplane in Majorca "without displeasure." Then he began to hear of things which, both as a sensitive human being and as a Catholic, opened his eyes. Mass executions -- 3,000 in a few months -- in a small island, with a peaceful agricultural population who had never had much to do with politics. "Suspects" -- however faintly suspect -- dragged out of their houses at night and massacred in batches of a dozen. And he comes to the conclusion: "'Purges' are the real objective of this war. The slogan 'Put an end to it,' which vile impostors interpret as meaning 'Deliver the tomb of Christ,' has never signified anything except the systematic extermination of suspect elements." He tells the horrifying story of the mass massacre of prisoners, in the presence of priests -- a massacre in which Guy de Traversay, the correspondent of the Intransigeant, was one of the victims.[i] The worst period of the terror began with the arrival of an Italian Blackshirt who styled himself General Count Rossi, a giant brute, who "was neither General, nor Count, nor Rossi." And while the executions went on daily, appearances were being saved; the relatives of the victims were not allowed to wear mourning; and no shop was allowed to close.
What most revolted Bernanos's Catholic conscience was the attitude of the Spanish clergy. He speaks with passionate anger of the Archbishop of Palma, whom he saw blessing, with his old hands, the Italian machine guns. The Archbishop would dispatch his priests to attend the mass executions; but never once did he raise the slightest protest against what was happening. He accepted it as a good thing; and when somebody asked him about it, he replied that the Majorcans were difficult people; only 15 percent of them had gone to Easter Mass last year. And Bernanos puts this question to the Spanish bishops: "You say the people of Spain have lost God. But have you ever given them God to keep?"
Pity and honor -- these are the two Christian virtues that in Bernanos's view Fascism lacks. He flings in the faces of the French "nationalists" their loss of these virtues and of any feeling for national dignity. To them, he says, members of a French trade union have become what the "Boches" used to be before. The genuine loyalty and pity felt by the French workers for their Spanish comrades are to the French "nationalists" so many objects of derision. But Franco -- he is a great man, for he is "anti-Red." Nor will they allow themselves to be impressed by strategic considerations, by the danger to France coming from an Italian or German occupation of Spain. "If Hitler or Mussolini is not exactly 'one of ours,' don't stress the point; the admission will give the Front Populaire too much pleasure" -- a recipe that could well be identified as that of Gringoire or Candide.
Bernanos's book is extremely significant of a growing rebellion among French Catholics against the international policies of Fascism, against its social theories and against the attempts of the Fascist dictators to make the Church their tool. In the main, the French Catholic Church, and not least Cardinal Verdier, is liberal and tolerant. It endeavors by every means to avoid identifying itself with political reaction. The development of the Catholic Trade Unions and of the Christian Workers' Youth Movement (the J.O.C.) is significant in this respect.
This contrast is one theme of the sensational article published in the Figaro by M. Mauriac, to which I have already referred.
M. Mauriac is a very well-known Catholic writer, who, like other Catholics such as M. Maritain and M. Bernanos, was violently attacked by a member of Franco's government, and also by the German radio. At first, he says, he reacted sharply against the mob rule prevailing in Barcelona in August 1936. "But as time went on," he writes, "French Catholics were faced with a grave personal problem, both religious and national: and this was the massive intervention of Italy and Germany, the horrible methods of totalitarian war, which were applied by the military leaders to their own people; and the sufferings of the Basques, guilty of nothing more than non-rebellion. . . . But what disturbed us Catholics even more was the pretension of the Spanish Generals to be conducting a holy war, a crusade, and to be the Soldiers of Christ. The crimes committed by a mob after the repression of a military rebellion are certainly horrible; but . . . what the so-called Soldiers of Christ have done is a different kind of horror. For the terrible thing, from a Catholic point of view, which Franco has done, is that in the eyes of millions of Spaniards Fascism and Christianity have become identical, and in hating one they must automatically hate the other."
If I have concluded this article -- a little irrelevantly, some readers may think -- with what are in fact a book review and a long quotation from a newspaper article, it is partly because Bernanos and Mauriac represent an extremely vital and comparatively new development on the French Right; and partly also because they are typical of that live human spirit which exists in France today as much as it ever did.
People will tell you that France is divided into two watertight compartments called the Left and the Right. This may have been true two years ago, when the Front Populaire was a big scare to the bourgeois. It is true no longer. In this country, in spite of party labels, a man is still a man, and not an automaton without brain or sensibility. We still find some rustics who vote Red, listening with secret approval to the defeatism of M. Flandin; and we also find M. Mauriac of the Figaro and of the French Academy, and M. Bernanos, a disciple of Drumont, making the most devastating attacks ever made on the French bien pensants. How significant is this? Very significant, I should think. For it points to a rebellion against the standardized thinking and standardized feeling which were beginning to develop to an alarming extent even in France between 1934 and the end of 1936.
I cannot help disagreeing with Bernanos on at least one point -- that France is divided definitely into two "Fronts" -- the Front Populaire and the Front Bien Pensant, or Front National. If the Front Populaire program is not the catechism of the one, neither is Gringoire the catechism of the other. My amusing old concierge, M. Thibaud, used to say even during the 1936 election: "Monsieur, je ne suis ni pour la gauche, ni pour la droite; je suis pour la justice." There are millions of Frenchmen like him. And those who will discuss France in terms of political clichés and party labels only, without any reference to men's individual minds and souls, will never understand what it is all about.
[i] The circumstances of his death were never revealed by his own paper.