Politics, Society and Christianity in Vichy France

By W. D. Halls | Go to book overview

Appendix I
Before the War: L'Aube and the
Catholic Intellectual Press

In 1924 Francisque Gay founded the weekly La Vie catholique. This left- wing Christian, who before the First World War had been linked to Marc Sangier's Sillon movement, sought to unite all shades of Catholic opinion, but encountered resistance from right-wing Catholics sympathetic to Action Française and General Castelnau's FNC. He decided therefore in 1932 to publish a political daily, L'Aube, and invited Georges Bidault to direct it. Until it closed down after the defeat of 1940, the number of subscribers hardly exceeded 10,000, yet through the movement that grew up around it, the Nouvelles Equipes Françaises (NEF), which lasted barely a year, it exerted a disproportionate influence on public life. This new grouping sought complete independence for the press, the defence of the family and other Christian values--hence in particular an abhorrence of totalitarian extremes--a reform of the parliamentary system, and a rejection by politicians of the Munich mentality. A note of defiance, of Resistance 'avant la lettre', characterised it. Study groups were set up in the provinces. In Rennes under Henri Fréville, as well as in Paris, they were particularly active. Lectures were given by men later active in the Resistance inside and outside France, such as Bidault, Charles d'Aragon and Maurice Schumann (who wrote under the name of André Sidobre). Edmond Michelet, who has some claim to be the first Resister of all, ran the group at Brive. 1

In the same year as L'Aube Mounier began publishing Esprit, which, though it professed not to be a Catholic review, was undoubtedly largely the fief of Catholic intellectuals, whilst welcoming outside contributors.

Mounier's Utopian vision is summed up in his 'adaptation' of Maurras's '3 Rs': Renaissance, to be conceived of as the assault upon individualism; Reformation, to be effected from within a Church thrown open to the world; and Revolution, envisaged as an attack on a capitalist system dating back to the Renaissance. 2 Asserting the 'primacy of the

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