The rise of the Nazis to power in Germany in 1933 was greeted in Britain by a range of opinions that might be difficult to imagine today. While many viewed Adolf Hitler's rise with concern and even trepidation, others greeted it with enthusiasm and became supporters of his regime. Richard Griffiths book provides readers with a study of this latter group, one that looks at their motivations, activities, and goals in supporting the Nazi regime in the years leading up to the outbreak of war in 1939.
Part of the challenge that Griffiths faces in this respect is assessing the disparate motives of people with a common agenda. He finds among them a shared admiration for Hitler, coupled with a fear for Communist expansion in Europe and a desire to see Germany developed as a bastion against it. These efforts were encouraged by the Nazis, who provided support for their activities. Though advocacy for the Third Reich during this period stretched across the social spectrum, Griffiths concentrates his study on the leaders of the groups, which included men from politics, the military and members of the aristocracy. This support grew as the decade wore on, and declined only when Germany's occupation of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 dispelled any illusions about Hitler's intentions, leaving behind only a fanatical core that was interned after the war broke out a few months later.
Griffiths's book is a welcome examination of a group of people too often on the fringes of most historical accounts. His dispassionate and respectful assessment of their views and actions helps readers better understand why they adopted the positions they did and why they maintained them even after Hitler's ambitions and the Nazis's anti-Semitic brutality became increasingly evident. Anyone seeking to understand better why so many people came to support such a regime would do well to turn to this work, which answers these questions and more with a combination of both clarity and insight.
Carroll argues that French fascism's foundations were laid before the Great War by nationalist writers who denounced the politics of the Third Republic and called for an “aestheticization” of politics.
French fascism is therefore of internal origin and not due to Italian or German influence. He views fascism as growing from fin-de-siecle nationalism taking a form that was primarily literary and characterized by an anti-semitism that was aesthetic and cultural rather than racial or biological, belief in a unified "National Will" that was organic to France, and a desire to apply literary aesthetics to politics.
Maurice Barrès became a Figure with the publication of his 1888 Cult of the Self (Le Culte Du Moi) and quickly parlayed his new popularity into an election to the Chamber of Deputies in 1889 as a Boulangist (making, I feel, Carroll's characterization of him as an intellectual a trifle disingenuous). He became Barrès close to Charles Maurras, founder of Action Française, who dreamed of rebuilding a Royalist France with strong cultural connections to classical Greece, which for him represented ideals of order and beauty. He viewed German and Jewish ideas as threats and rejected democracy on the grounds that it was disordered and without beauty. "France should be defended because France is beautiful," Maurras argued.
Barrès likewise saw his nation as unique, defined by culture while others, in his view, were defined by race. French culture was rooted in "land and the dead" and constituted a national self that must be always on guard against contamination by foreign influences.
Carroll's third figure, Charles Péguy, was on the contrary a passionate supporter of the republic -- or at least of an idealized republic that would exist once the "Republican race" had, again, gotten rid of those foreign contaminations. Then politics could be remade in the image of art. For Peguy race was derivative of culture, shared experience, and religion. Republican mysticism was incompatible with "Oriental Judaism." Despite being a prominent Dreyfusard, Peguy believed that the Jewish population would always remain separate from the body of France.
These three figures advocated totalizing, if not totalitarian, politics, and produced texts which created intellectual foundations for political and literary fascism. Unfortunately, Carroll never explains more precisely or pragmatically what sort of fascism he has in mind or how these ideas may have later been actualized.