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homelycooking
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« on: November 09, 2011, 12:17:15 pm »
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I wrote this paper for a French history class, and since I know there are numerous French citizens and Francophiles here, I'd like to know what you think of my arguments and whether you think this is at all compatible with your own understanding of French history.

My sources were: the journals of the Goncourt brothers, a collection of documents from the Dreyfus affair, Bloch's memoirs of war, Poincaré's war message and a collection of war journalism and correspondence by female writers.

Vers la revanche: Political Culture and the National Struggle

   As news of the surrender of French armies reached Paris on October 31 1870 and mobs appeared to tear down the nation’s republican government in favor of a radical socialist alternative, the brothers Edmond and Jules de Goncourt wondered at the apocalypse that was unfolding before their eyes. “Civil war, with starvation and bombardment, is that what tomorrow holds in store for us?” (Goncourt 178), the brothers wrote. On that same day, they wrote of two horrifying words, symbolizing the lasting trauma with which war and internal division had burdened the national consciousness: Finis Franciae; the end of France. As France turned upon internal enemies for compromising the integrity of the nation and turned away from the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity which had been foundational to the French identity, it pursued atonement for its humiliation through revenge. The period of French history between the Franco-Prussian War and the end of World War I was not marked by open warfare between Germany and France, however, but by a struggle for lost national glory incompatible with right or reason.  

   While news of France’s military defeat at Sedan and surrender to Prussia at Metz certainly dispirited the French people, the siege of Paris and foreign occupation of French land amounted to a profound national humiliation. No Parisian, poor or wealthy, could escape the scarcity, anxiety and moral outrage that the events of 1870 and 1871 inspired in the besieged – all suffered the same indignities together, as Frenchmen. “Shells are exploding every few minutes along the railway line and people cross our boulevard on their hands and feet” (Goncourt 183), the Goncourt brothers reported on January 26, 1871. The great cultural treasures of France were pulled from the walls of the Louvre, rolled up and shipped out of the city in a “humiliating spectacle” (Goncourt 168). The memory of a prosperous people reduced to the abjection of carving up for food even the exotic animals that had entertained the masses at the zoo and felling for firewood the trees that had once shaded their cosmopolitan boulevards could not easily be forgotten or forgiven. It was enough to make the Goncourt brothers lament, “God loves the Prussians” (Goncourt 174).

   But why, to use the Goncourts’ language, did God love the Prussians and withdraw his favor from the French?  In attempting to explain how France had descended from prosperity to starvation in a matter of months, one of the Goncourts’ colleagues declares over dinner, “Yes, gentlemen, the Germans are a superior race!” (Goncourt 170), incomparable to the French in their ability to make war with the deadly precision of modern technology. Another proposes that “Catholicism cretinizes the individual…whereas Protestantism develops the mental faculties” (Goncourt 171). Perhaps the Protestant ethic of proving one’s virtue through achievement had produced a more industrious nation, home to “the toughest of soldiers, the wiliest of diplomats, the craftiest of bankers” (Goncourt 179). Or perhaps France’s defeat could not be explained by the supposed merits of a servile, brutish people, as a third colleague, du Meslin, claimed. The implication of difference across the nations, regardless of the truth, was that France “must be on [its] guard against that race, which arouses in us the idea of childlike innocence” (Goncourt 179) and against any internal forces which might seek to aid that nation.

   But the cause of France’s national decline was seen to be not entirely external. The civil war that erupted in late March of 1871 exposed a fundamental conflict over the national destiny and forced Frenchmen to decide which of the two were more worthy of exaltation: a pride in one’s national identity that might run contrary to the dictates of reason, or a devotion to liberty and equality that might not be constrained by the borders of nations. The Goncourt brothers, for instance, referred to the establishment of the Paris Commune as if it were motivated by a malicious, international design for revolution and complete social change. “What is happening is nothing less than the conquest of France by the worker and the reduction to slavery under his rule of the noble, the bourgeois and the peasant” (Goncourt 185), they wrote. In their eyes, the resistance to the forces of the Thiers government among the masses appeared to be more staunch and passionate than had been the resistance to the Prussian siege. “The idea of the motherland is dying” (Goncourt 185), they lamented. “The International’s doctrines of indifference to nationality have penetrated the masses” (Goncourt 185), and if permitted to succeed, the proletarians of Paris might cease to think of themselves foremost as French; but rather as members of a worldwide class locked in a struggle with their bourgeois oppressors.  If the nation could not resolve its internal crisis of identity in favor of nationalism, the Goncourts feared, it would lead to government by the indoctrinated mob, by “those who have no interest whatever in [society’s] order, stability or preservation” (Goncourt 185).

   But as influential as revolutionary socialism was to millions of Frenchmen, still more so was hatred of “la Boche” and of the nation that had so painfully violated France’s national integrity. Indeed, the degradation and imprisonment on Devil’s Island of Alfred Dreyfus represented the apparent partial achievement of la revanche: by virtue of a public triumph over supposed internal enemies, France seemingly rendered itself united as a nation. Léon Daudet, depicting  in 1895 the symbolic military ritual through which France proposed to atone for its defeat and division, wrote: “A single faith remains genuine and sincere: that which safeguards our race, our language, the blood of our blood, and which brings us together in solidarity…The wretch was not French. He plotted our disaster, but his crime has exalted us” (Burns 53).  The fact that the case against Dreyfus was entirely fabricated and motivated by a hatred for Jews was entirely irrelevant.  Nationalism did not seek to justify itself through appeals to reason and universal truth; in Daudet’s words, “the idea of the fatherland is so deep-seated and so proud that it can be strengthened by its antithesis, by the assaults directed against it” (Burns 53), even if those assaults are mere illusions conjured up to inflame passions and inspire hatred.

   To defend itself against enemies of the nation, external and internal, France placed its trust in the military. But the military proved itself insular and reactionary in the Dreyfus affair, coming to an unjust verdict on Dreyfus alleged crime due to the supremacy of discipline and obedience within that institution. “It is a crime to worship the sabre as a modern god”, to give unconditional deference to military authority under the pretext of patriotism, “when all of human science is laboring to hasten the triumph of truth and justice”, contended Emile Zola. (Burns 100) His great rhetorical broadside of 1898, “J’Accuse!”, laid out the irrational methods and aims of the nationalist and anti-Semitic crowd in these sentences choked with rage: “What an accumulation of madness, stupidity, unbridled imagination, low police tactics, inquisitorial and tyrannical methods this handful of officers have got away with! They have crushed the nation under their boots, stuffing its calls for truth and justice down its throat on the fallacious and sacrilegious pretext that they are acting for the good of the country!” (Burns 100). If Dreyfus’ degradation and conviction symbolized “the public spirit freed from anarchist servitude” (Burns 123), in the words of Charles Maurras, and had placed its trust not in revolutionary mobs but in an institution devoted to the unconditional protection of France and the French, it had accordingly abandoned, through the pursuit of vengeance, the respect for human rights and justice that had been the glory of the nation.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2011, 12:19:56 pm by De lelijke keuken »Logged
homelycooking
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« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2011, 12:17:46 pm »
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       The First World War posed an opportunity for France to finally complete the national project of revenge. But though President Raymond Poincaré declared in his War Message to Parliament that “for more than forty years the French, in sincere love of peace, have buried at the bottom of their heart the desire for legitimate reparation”, that desire was the foundational motive to fight. “Our fine and courageous army”, Poincaré declared, “has risen eager to defend the honour of the flag and the soil of the country”. Moreover, the same army which had carried out one of the most notorious affronts to justice now paradoxically “stands before the universe for Liberty, Justice and Reason” in representing the French nation on the battlefield.

   But even though political and military leaders portrayed the war as the noble defense of a civilized and enlightened society from the aggression of a barbaric one, the motivations of the individuals at the front line fighting and dying for France were quite different. Marc Bloch writes of tedium and fatigue during the 1914 Marne campaign, noting that “one man found a German helmet, and we all tried it on in turn to relieve our boredom” (Bloch 88). That these soldiers would don indifferently the notorious helmet of the Boche, which had been used to denote during the years of the Dreyfus Affair the most scurrilous of traitors, indicates that for many the decades-old crises of German invasion and internal turmoil were no longer relevant. Though he notes one of his comrades’ “calm in moments of danger and burning with an unquenchable hatred of Germans” (Bloch 164), he observes that “few soldiers…think of their country when conducting themselves bravely; they are much more often guided by a sense of personal honor” (Bloch 166). In the trenches and on the battlefield, survival and personal conduct were more important than country, and many saw desertion or disobedience to be more effective at striving toward these goals. If “when it’s all over, the profits will be in the hands of the capitalists…the career soldiers will have the stripes and promotions they’ve won, but not us, we won’t have anything to show for it, we won’t have won anything” (Higonnet 327), as Émilie Carles’ brother confides to his sister, what is so sacred about the “Sacred Union” invoked by Poincaré? The same lines of thought that inspired the Paris Commune refused to die even in wartime. If the aim of society is universal human liberty and equality, doesn’t it stand to reason that the concept of the nation is irrational?
        
        What did France gain from revenge on Germany in World War I? Granted, the territories of Alsace and Lorraine which had been seized by Prussia almost fifty years prior were returned under the Treaty of Versailles, and Germany was required to pay reparations. But the spoils of war hardly compensated France for the millions of lives, for the once-prosperous towns and fertile farmland, for the principles of reason and right consumed in the war’s conflagration. France had realized la revanche at the expense of both Germany and itself. The war failed even to cleanse the two nations of the mutual enmities which drove Josephine Barthélemy to infanticide, to plead before a judge that “I didn’t want the child of a Boche” (Higonnet 270). The ability of the French national struggle to bring about only more injustice and more carnage than had existed before is ultimately indicative of the power of nationalism to deprive people of the reason which makes them human and of humanity itself.
Christopher J. Kempf
« Last Edit: November 09, 2011, 12:25:05 pm by De lelijke keuken »Logged
Antonio V
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« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2011, 05:33:37 am »
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You clearly made thorough researchs on your topics and know this topic very well. I fully agree with your conclusion, but also learnt a lot about the mindset of the times with the quotes you provided.

Another interesting thing to note about french nationalism (but maybe it was slightly off-topic), is its gradual drift from the left to the right. From the French Revolution to the end of XIXth Century, "patriotism" was the core value of republicans and bonapartists, as opposed to the foreign-backed monarchists. With the Boulangist crisis (how comes you didn't talk about it, BTW ?), and later the Dreyfus affair, nationalism became a sign of opposition to republican parliamentarism, accused of being too "soft" and "corrupt", as well as of a rejection of rationalist values. This 180° shift is quite fascinating.
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« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2011, 09:49:03 am »
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Another interesting thing to note about french nationalism (but maybe it was slightly off-topic), is its gradual drift from the left to the right. From the French Revolution to the end of XIXth Century, "patriotism" was the core value of republicans and bonapartists, as opposed to the foreign-backed monarchists. With the Boulangist crisis (how comes you didn't talk about it, BTW ?), and later the Dreyfus affair, nationalism became a sign of opposition to republican parliamentarism, accused of being too "soft" and "corrupt", as well as of a rejection of rationalist values. This 180° shift is quite fascinating.

The essay question asked was looking for an analysis of the experience of war with Germany, but nonetheless I wish I had addressed the left-to-right shift in more depth. Alas, you can only do so much in five pages, double-spaced. And about Boulanger. We weren't permitted to do outside research and were limited only to the documents provided to us by the professor, and Boulanger wasn't mentioned in any of them. When you're reviewing 300 years of French history in fourteen weeks, there are certain events and topics that don't get discussed.

The sort of "rationalist values" you mentioned - liberty, reason, equality, fraternity, etc. - may have been rejected by the nationalist right in the time of Dreyfus and of WWI, but to be sure, the rhetoric of revolutionary struggle against injustice remained. It seems very much to me that those national glories of France get exploited for all purposes, whether they further the goals of revolution or reject them entirely.

Thanks for your time and commentary, Antonio, I appreciate it very much. Smiley
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« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2011, 10:05:59 am »
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I wrote this paper for a French history class, and since I know there are numerous French citizens and Francophiles here, I'd like to know what you think of my arguments and whether you think this is at all compatible with your own understanding of French history.

My sources were: the journals of the Goncourt brothers, a collection of documents from the Dreyfus affair, Bloch's memoirs of war, Poincaré's war message and a collection of war journalism and correspondence by female writers.

Vers la revanche: Political Culture and the National Struggle

   As news of the surrender of French armies reached Paris on October 31 1870 and mobs appeared to tear down the nation’s republican government in favor of a radical socialist alternative, the brothers Edmond and Jules de Goncourt wondered at the apocalypse that was unfolding before their eyes. “Civil war, with starvation and bombardment, is that what tomorrow holds in store for us?” (Goncourt 178), the brothers wrote. On that same day, they wrote of two horrifying words, symbolizing the lasting trauma with which war and internal division had burdened the national consciousness: Finis Franciae; the end of France. As France turned upon internal enemies for compromising the integrity of the nation and turned away from the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity which had been foundational to the French identity, it pursued atonement for its humiliation through revenge. The period of French history between the Franco-Prussian War and the end of World War I was not marked by open warfare between Germany and France, however, but by a struggle for lost national glory incompatible with right or reason.  

   While news of France’s military defeat at Sedan and surrender to Prussia at Metz certainly dispirited the French people, the siege of Paris and foreign occupation of French land amounted to a profound national humiliation. No Parisian, poor or wealthy, could escape the scarcity, anxiety and moral outrage that the events of 1870 and 1871 inspired in the besieged – all suffered the same indignities together, as Frenchmen. “Shells are exploding every few minutes along the railway line and people cross our boulevard on their hands and feet” (Goncourt 183), the Goncourt brothers reported on January 26, 1871. The great cultural treasures of France were pulled from the walls of the Louvre, rolled up and shipped out of the city in a “humiliating spectacle” (Goncourt 168). The memory of a prosperous people reduced to the abjection of carving up for food even the exotic animals that had entertained the masses at the zoo and felling for firewood the trees that had once shaded their cosmopolitan boulevards could not easily be forgotten or forgiven. It was enough to make the Goncourt brothers lament, “God loves the Prussians” (Goncourt 174).

   But why, to use the Goncourts’ language, did God love the Prussians and withdraw his favor from the French?  In attempting to explain how France had descended from prosperity to starvation in a matter of months, one of the Goncourts’ colleagues declares over dinner, “Yes, gentlemen, the Germans are a superior race!” (Goncourt 170), incomparable to the French in their ability to make war with the deadly precision of modern technology. Another proposes that “Catholicism cretinizes the individual…whereas Protestantism develops the mental faculties” (Goncourt 171). Perhaps the Protestant ethic of proving one’s virtue through achievement had produced a more industrious nation, home to “the toughest of soldiers, the wiliest of diplomats, the craftiest of bankers” (Goncourt 179). Or perhaps France’s defeat could not be explained by the supposed merits of a servile, brutish people, as a third colleague, du Meslin, claimed. The implication of difference across the nations, regardless of the truth, was that France “must be on [its] guard against that race, which arouses in us the idea of childlike innocence” (Goncourt 179) and against any internal forces which might seek to aid that nation.

   But the cause of France’s national decline was seen to be not entirely external. The civil war that erupted in PARIS: beware, there wasn't a civil war in the entire France, far from it: the rural country was very, very conservative and afraid late March of 1871 exposed a fundamental conflict over the national destiny and forced Frenchmen to decide which of the two were more worthy of exaltation: a pride in one’s national identity that might run contrary to the dictates of reason, or a devotion to liberty and equality that might not be constrained by the borders of nations. The Goncourt brothers, for instance, referred to the establishment of the Paris Commune as if it were motivated by a malicious, international design for revolution and complete social change. “What is happening is nothing less than the conquest of France by the worker and the reduction to slavery under his rule of the noble, the bourgeois and the peasant” (Goncourt 185), they wrote. In their eyes, the resistance to the forces of the Thiers government among the masses appeared to be more staunch and passionate than had been the resistance to the Prussian siege. “The idea of the motherland is dying” (Goncourt 185), they lamented. “The International’s doctrines of indifference to nationality have penetrated the masses” (Goncourt 185), and if permitted to succeed, the proletarians of Paris might cease to think of themselves foremost as French; but rather as members of a worldwide class locked in a struggle with their bourgeois oppressors.  If the nation could not resolve its internal crisis of identity in favor of nationalism, the Goncourts feared, it would lead to government by the indoctrinated mob, by “those who have no interest whatever in [society’s] order, stability or preservation” (Goncourt 185).

   But as influential as revolutionary socialism was to millions not at all, socialism was very marginal, even in the field of ideas or political culture; there was a nascent worker movement, sure, but not a widespread "revolutionary socialism" of Frenchmen, still more so was hatred of “la LE: la is for a she Boche” and of the nation that had so painfully violated France’s national integrity. Indeed, the degradation and imprisonment on Devil’s Island of Alfred Dreyfus represented the apparent partial achievement of la revanche: by virtue of a public triumph over supposed internal enemies, France seemingly rendered itself united as a nation. Léon Daudet, depicting  in 1895 the symbolic military ritual through which France proposed to atone for its defeat and division, wrote: “A single faith remains genuine and sincere: that which safeguards our race, our language, the blood of our blood, and which brings us together in solidarity…The wretch was not French. He plotted our disaster, but his crime has exalted us” (Burns 53).  The fact that the case against Dreyfus was entirely fabricated and motivated by a hatred for Jews was entirely irrelevant.  Nationalism did not seek to justify itself through appeals to reason and universal truth; in Daudet’s words, “the idea of the fatherland is so deep-seated and so proud that it can be strengthened by its antithesis, by the assaults directed against it” (Burns 53), even if those assaults are mere illusions conjured up to inflame passions and inspire hatred.

   To defend itself against enemies of the nation, external and internal, France placed its trust in the military. But the military proved itself insular and reactionary in the Dreyfus affair, coming to an unjust verdict on Dreyfus alleged crime due to the supremacy of discipline and obedience within that institution. “It is a crime to worship the sabre as a modern god”, to give unconditional deference to military authority under the pretext of patriotism, “when all of human science is laboring to hasten the triumph of truth and justice”, contended Emile Zola. (Burns 100) His great rhetorical broadside of 1898, “J’Accuse!”, laid out the irrational methods and aims of the nationalist and anti-Semitic crowd in these sentences choked with rage: “What an accumulation of madness, stupidity, unbridled imagination, low police tactics, inquisitorial and tyrannical methods this handful of officers have got away with! They have crushed the nation under their boots, stuffing its calls for truth and justice down its throat on the fallacious and sacrilegious pretext that they are acting for the good of the country!” (Burns 100). If Dreyfus’ degradation and conviction symbolized “the public spirit freed from anarchist servitude” (Burns 123), in the words of Charles Maurras, and had placed its trust not in revolutionary mobs but in an institution devoted to the unconditional protection of France and the French, it had accordingly abandoned, through the pursuit of vengeance, the respect for human rights and justice that had been the glory of the nation.
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« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2011, 10:11:45 am »
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      The First World War posed an opportunity for France to finally complete the national project of revenge. But though President Raymond Poincaré declared in his War Message to Parliament that “for more than forty years the French, in sincere love of peace, have buried at the bottom of their heart the desire for legitimate reparation”, that desire was the foundational motive to fight. “Our fine and courageous army”, Poincaré declared, “has risen eager to defend the honour of the flag and the soil of the country”. Moreover, the same army which had carried out one of the most notorious affronts to justice now paradoxically this paradox is only apparent for very external eyes; maybe you shouldn't use it or you should say that it's only apparent; I'll explain it in my next post “stands before the universe for Liberty, Justice and Reason” in representing the French nation on the battlefield.

   But even though political and military leaders portrayed the war as the noble defense of a civilized and enlightened society from the aggression of a barbaric one, the motivations of the individuals at the front line fighting and dying for France were quite different. Marc Bloch writes of tedium and fatigue during the 1914 Marne campaign, noting that “one man found a German helmet, and we all tried it on in turn to relieve our boredom” (Bloch 88). That these soldiers would don indifferently the notorious helmet of the Boche, which had been used to denote during the years of the Dreyfus Affair the most scurrilous of traitors, indicates that for many the decades-old crises of German invasion and internal turmoil were no longer relevant. Though he notes one of his comrades’ “calm in moments of danger and burning with an unquenchable hatred of Germans” (Bloch 164), he observes that “few soldiers…think of their country when conducting themselves bravely; they are much more often guided by a sense of personal honor” (Bloch 166). In the trenches and on the battlefield, survival and personal conduct were more important than country, and many saw desertion or disobedience to be more effective at striving toward these goals. If “when it’s all over, the profits will be in the hands of the capitalists…the career soldiers will have the stripes and promotions they’ve won, but not us, we won’t have anything to show for it, we won’t have won anything” (Higonnet 327), as Émilie Carles’ brother confides to his sister, what is so sacred about the “Sacred Union” invoked by Poincaré? The same lines of thought that inspired the Paris Commune refused to die even in wartime. If the aim of society is universal human liberty and equality, doesn’t it stand to reason that the concept of the nation is irrational?
        
        What did France gain from revenge on Germany in World War I? Granted, the territories of Alsace and Lorraine which had been seized by Prussia almost fifty years prior were returned under the Treaty of Versailles, and Germany was required to pay reparations. But the spoils of war hardly compensated France for the millions of lives, for the once-prosperous towns and fertile farmland, for the principles of reason and right consumed in the war’s conflagration. France had realized la revanche at the expense of both Germany and itself. The war failed even to cleanse the two nations of the mutual enmities which drove Josephine Barthélemy to infanticide, to plead before a judge that “I didn’t want the child of a Boche” (Higonnet 270). The ability of the French national struggle to bring about only more injustice and more carnage than had existed before is ultimately indicative of the power of nationalism to deprive people of the reason which makes them human and of humanity itself.
Christopher J. Kempf

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« Reply #6 on: November 10, 2011, 10:16:13 am »
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It's a very fine text and the conclusion is excellent (maybe you can only add that "revanchisme" led to humiliation of Germany in 1919, which largely causes the next WW...).

Of course, there are some names which don't appear, but I've understood you must only use the documents provided to the class.

(to be continued: must leave right now)
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« Reply #7 on: November 10, 2011, 12:04:19 pm »
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It's a very fine text and the conclusion is excellent (maybe you can only add that "revanchisme" led to humiliation of Germany in 1919, which largely causes the next WW...).

Of course, there are some names which don't appear, but I've understood you must only use the documents provided to the class.

No reference in your documents about Jules Ferry and "the blue line of the Vosges" ?
Another big fact about Ferry was the free and public education for all young French: it was the completion of a centralized and jacobinist country, because, at last, French language became the almost unique one and history was taught in a unified way. So, the Republic and the Nation were deeply intricated in the late 19th century.
The "blue line" was taught to French pupils at school and songs about Alsace and Lorraine were learnt and repeated each day.

And Ferry was also "le Tonkinois", because he overviewed colonization in Indochina. Colonization was another form of French nationalism and, at the time, as Antonio rightly said, nationalism was a leftist affair (the French right was very, very distrustful towards colonization, because they thought it would weaken France and weaken it on the European front, precisely "against" Germany; the French "left" or Republicans were deeply convinced of the "civilizing" role of France in the poor countries of the South - you would be very surprised about a sort of racist tone or what we'd called a racist tone TODAY, including in Ferry's speeches...)
In a way, "revanchisme" and Dreyfus affair were the end of this old trend of nationalism as a leftist theme.

And no reference to the monuments of the dead soldiers in absolutely EVERY town in France ? A great poilitical and cultural symbol of WW1, that deeply influenced minds afterwards (but it'd be useful onyl in your conclusion Tongue)

As for ideas, just some remarks:

1. In 1870-71, the war was a trauma for France, because it was BOTH a military defeat and a political defeat: first, the 2nd Empire sunk in a military defeat and Napoleon III himself was a prisoner. At the same time, it was the birth (or the achievement) of the German Empire, just thanks to the French defeat.
So, the French patriotism was almost automatically nationalist and "revanchard", all the more that the French territory was cut.
It was almost the survival (Tongue) of the nation which was at stake.
In this view, the Commune was widely perceived, in the deep France, the rural and conservative France, as a betrayal and a big danger.

2. During this 1871-1914 era, there were 2 nationalisms in the field of ideas:
Maurice Barrès with a sort of nationalism of the soil, of the land, which merged sometimes with the old anti-Revolutionary trend, but which was mostly conservative and exclusive. The Nation predates the individuals who don't choose it; the Nation exists before and besides individuals, per se.
Ernest Renan was the nationalism of the Reason, of choice. The nation doesn't exist without the will of each individual.

In a way, with colonial and commercial intrests, with conservative reactions towards social instability (remember that unions were deeply divided in France and didn't intervene in the political debate: there wasn't any social-democracy in France, no Bismarck-type compromise, no Labour experiment; so, for the right, social troubles and workers' fights were frightening because they weren't ruled, well-managed), with the international environment (antisemitism was so widespread in these days throughout Europe... and, of course, there was the game of alliances, the arms race, the colonial disputes, etc.), with the inability of the French socialists to unite and make progress, with the quick transformations of Radicals in a party of barons, bigwigs and conservative people,
the Barrès nationalism prevailed over the Renana nationalism.
Poincaré's speech tried to merge the 2, in the extract you quote. Very interesting.

3. As for the mind of soldiers in 1914-18, let's be very careful.
There wasn't any revolutionary trend. Drawing a link with the Commune is very... surprising !
In 1914, there was really a "Union Sacrée", even among some anarchists and of course among many socialists. Many French men left to the front with "la fleur au fusil" (a flower at the barrel of a gun).
Of course, they very quickly became disillusioned about the fact that the war wouldn't be short (that was the only reason why they left "happily" their homes).
Of course, there were mutinies in 1917.
But not so many. And throughout the war, the hate for the Boche remained. Hence the fact that humiliation of Germany was well received in 1919.
What emerged during the "Grande Guerre" was a hate for war itself, but no regret about "revanchisme".

To cover all the period, think about Clemenceau: almost revolutionary at the beginning of the 3rd Republic; a rather reformist ministry at the turn of the 2 centuries; a harsh warlord during WW1 and a man who really crushed Germany at Versailles in 1919.

4. As for Dreyfus affair, it emerged because of deep nationalism, pushed to its extreme: rejection of "aliens" of all sorts, a quest of purity to reinforce the Nation against a more and more powerful Germany (France wasn't so bright economically at the time, still deeply rural).
So being nationalist and using the Army meant condemning Dreyfus AND fighting for Liberty and Justice in 1914. There was no paradox at the time when you were French, at least a conservative one.

BTW, the Drefyus affair was mostly a personal affair of jealousy inside the high staff... It hadn't much an antisemitic side at its very early stage. It was just the political use of it (from both sides) that made it a symbol...

I hope I've been quite clear and not too incoherent.

Do not hesitate to keep on discussing, based on your documents, so that we can see if you've missed some ideas that would appear, even not very clearly, in these papers.
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« Reply #8 on: November 10, 2011, 02:33:21 pm »
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An honor to have my paper so thoroughly reviewed!

No reference in your documents about Jules Ferry and "the blue line of the Vosges" ?

Sorry, not at all. It would have been so helpful though...

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In a way, "revanchisme" and Dreyfus affair were the end of this old trend of nationalism as a leftist theme.

Right, because it laid bare the conflicts. One of the points that I tried to make was of the importance of the army's "patriotic legitimacy", that internal military procedures (so often based on hierarchical structures of command and obedience) are beyond reproach because of their use in defending the nation, in realigning patriotism with more reactionary elements of society.

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And no reference to the monuments of the dead soldiers in absolutely EVERY town in France ? A great poilitical and cultural symbol of WW1, that deeply influenced minds afterwards (but it'd be useful onyl in your conclusion Tongue)

I needed to economize with my words in the conclusion.

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In this view, the Commune was widely perceived, in the deep France, the rural and conservative France, as a betrayal and a big danger.

That's a major deficiency in my paper. My writing tends to treat Paris as if it were France itself, partially due to the fact that much of the documentation and narrative the class deals with is very Paris-centric.

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Ernest Renan was the nationalism of the Reason, of choice. The nation doesn't exist without the will of each individual.

This would have been very useful to know in the process of writing.

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Poincaré's speech tried to merge the 2, in the extract you quote. Very interesting.

I tried to approach nationalism as a singular idea because I didn't know of the various strains you mentioned. Still, I think the "Renana nationalism" you cite, since it is founded on ideas of reason and liberty treasured by the French tries to view national pride as a devotion in turn to regimes of natural law and human emancipation. That is why I saw it as a separate ideological current.

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3. As for the mind of soldiers in 1914-18, let's be very careful.
There wasn't any revolutionary trend. Drawing a link with the Commune is very... surprising !
In 1914, there was really a "Union Sacrée", even among some anarchists and of course among many socialists. Many French men left to the front with "la fleur au fusil" (a flower at the barrel of a gun).
Of course, they very quickly became disillusioned about the fact that the war wouldn't be short (that was the only reason why they left "happily" their homes).
Of course, there were mutinies in 1917.
But not so many. And throughout the war, the hate for the Boche remained. Hence the fact that humiliation of Germany was well received in 1919.
What emerged during the "Grande Guerre" was a hate for war itself, but no regret about "revanchisme".

I had a feeling I was making some wrong assumptions here. It's hard to estimate the feelings of soldiers as a mass from the account of one (Marc Bloch), who is not outwardly motivated by anger or revenge, and from a few women writers (selected by my professor). It was just an attempt on her part to introduce us to wartime motivation and thought in the abstract, I think.

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To cover all the period, think about Clemenceau: almost revolutionary at the beginning of the 3rd Republic; a rather reformist ministry at the turn of the 2 centuries; a harsh warlord during WW1 and a man who really crushed Germany at Versailles in 1919.

Clemenceau is unfortunately glossed over by the course.

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So being nationalist and using the Army meant condemning Dreyfus AND fighting for Liberty and Justice in 1914.

But in the abstract, no? Surely justice sided with Dreyfus, and the military's pursuit of the case was not just. It is one thing to worship liberty and another to bow before its allegorical representation.

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BTW, the Drefyus affair was mostly a personal affair of jealousy inside the high staff... It hadn't much an antisemitic side at its very early stage. It was just the political use of it (from both sides) that made it a symbol...

Undoubtedly, but wasn't antisemitism one of the motivations of that jealousy? It's hard to tease out the exact factors and motivations, I think, but I think the personal vendettas of the army staff and the political climate reinforced one another.

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(maybe you can only add that "revanchisme" led to humiliation of Germany in 1919, which largely causes the next WW...).

Damn it Fab, I wish I had thought of that myself.
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« Reply #9 on: November 11, 2011, 09:33:25 am »
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I think jealousy was more a cause of antisemitism than a consequence... But that's an overall statement and I must acknowledge it's difficult to say in the case of the Dreyfus affair.

You're right about Army and Liberty, about Army and Dreyfus. Sadly, it's the usual reaction of self-defense, self-protection against any external critic... Just a common case of sociology of institutions...

Anyway, that's a very fine paper, really, very well written and I enjoyed reading it Wink.

Do not hesitate if you have any other "production" on French politics and history: it's always good to try to use one's knowledge or analysis (though I'm not really the right guy before 1789 or even before 1852).
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