Action Française, Gauche Prolétarienne, Jean-Philippe Chauvin, Mao, Maurras, Nouvelle Action Française
In 1975, somewhere in Paris, a rather unusual political event took place that would leave its mark on the minds of some of its participants: a public meeting favorable to the national independence of countries regrouping left wing Gaullists, neo-Maurrasian royalists of Nouvelle Action Française, and … Maoists! This meeting wasn’t repeated, but it also gave rise to reunions between militants of NAF and some ex-monarchists who had gone over to the “Chinese,” as they sometimes called the “Maoists”: thus the director of the paper “Lys Rouge” in the years 1970-71, Christian M, who had ended up in proletarian revolution and the cult of president Mao from popular monarchy and royalist revolution, was once again reunited, a bit confusedly, with his old “Fleur de Lys” comrades …
Today, apart from Alain Badiou, the Maoists have disappeared, at least politically, but their personal journeys continue to inspire seekers and the curious in politics. Such is the theme of the very interesting little book written by Jean Birnbaum entitled “les Maoccidents”: it is even more interesting as it mentions the royalists and above all the major figure of l’Action Française, Charles Maurras, many times! Elsewhere Gérard Leclerc had already devoted two articles in “Royaliste”, the bi-monthly of Nouvelle Action Royaliste, critical heir of Nouvelle Action Française. And of course we must note that the real title could have been “Towards Israel and Maurras, the road to Paradise of the French Maoists”
The journey of Benny Levy, charismatic director of the Gauche Prolétarienne (“the” Maoist intellectual movement of the 1970s), is well known: after having been the secretary of Sartre, he would soon become one of the greatest contemporary thinkers (if not the greatest) of Judaism. The rediscovery of his Jewish heritage, its wealth, its depth, marked a rupture with this pro-Palestinian Maoism starting from his shock from the tragedy of the Olympic games in Munich in 1972, which lead to the deaths of many Israeli athletes. It marked a return to Tradition and the roots of his people, both religious and historical in nature: was it not, all things being equal, a journey that Maurras undertook, like a number of his disciples, to the point that André Malraux wrote : “To go from anarchy to ‘Action française’ is not contradictory, but constructive.”
“Mao or Maurras?”: this question, or maybe we could say this dilemma, gave rise to a debate/ book between the Maoist Philippe Hamel and the royalist Patrice Sicard at the start of the 1970s, and so we can state that, beyond the visible oppositions and the brawls in the street (or rather campus) between the students of AF and the young Maoists, debate was actually possible and some similarities between the diagnoses and hopes of both were emerging. Elsewhere, there was, at the same time, passages from one camp to the other, and a few years later, “returns” to “mother’s house” for those who had once preferred reading “The Little Red Book” to “Inquiry on Monarchy”: Jean Birnbaum, in his book “Les Maoccidents,” mentions the case of Guy Lardreau, who in 1961 asked his high-school comrades to sport a black ribbon on the anniversary of Louis XVI’s death before becoming one of the most virulent militants of “ Gauche Prolétarienne.”
At the start of the 1970s, the encounter with the philosopher Maurice Clavel, a fervent Catholic and according to Birnbaum, “former Maurrasian and henceforth guardian angel of the Maoists”, seems determinant enough to explain the evolution or return (for Lardreau, for example) towards Maurras and “Counter-Revolution”: “Believing that both bore the same spirit, he presented the castaways of the Gauche prolétarienne, who he qualified as ‘Chouans,’ to a few young royalists who appeared as “leftists of the right” Truly the refusal of consumer society and individualism could bring together the partisans of Mao and those of royalism, still very strongly marked by the instructive figure of Maurras, the same person who had furnished the monarchists of the 20th century with a genuine doctrine founded on a school of thought that claimed to be the critical and modern heir of Joseph de Maistre and Louis de Bonald.
Maurice Clavel, celebrated for his famous cry “Messieurs Censors, good night!” one night in a televised debate, started a promising debate with Pierre Boutang, “spiritual son” (but “dissident” or “prodigal”, according to interpretation) of Maurras during the 1960s, a debate that would follow with the young “post-Maurrasian” monarchists of Nouvelle Action Française in the 70s. This was the same Clavel who asked the Maoists not to neglect the work of Maurras and recommended they meet with Boutang!
The advice of Clavel doubtlessly permitted the establishment of bridges between Mao and Maurras, to the point that some old Maoists regretted giving such a small place to the latter in contemporary thought: such as Christian Jambet, today a recognized specialist of Islam, and the philosopher Jean-Claude Milner… Doubtlessly it is the fact that Maurras challenged the same fundamentals of the society that came from the Revolution of 1789, its “human rightism” that negates provincial and communal diversity, the “death of the Father” that it caused (politically solidified by the execution of the king in January 1793), etc. that attracted the Maoists who only espoused the Maoist cause through the will to break with a society shaped by consumerist individualism, forgetful of the history of those who had preceded them, and this merchant world where thought became a nearly superfluous “detail,” this “non-revolutionary” world that apes revolution in order to sterilize it.
Pierre Chaunu said that Maurras ended, thought his doctrine and the practice of his polemic, the “salamalecs” (Translator’s notes: exaggerated and hypocritical politeness) in regards to “1789” and the “policy of the blank slate,” and that he broke with the same fundamentals of the “great disestablishment”: it’s doubtlessly this rupture that could attract Maoists themselves desirous of breaking with “The Enlightenment West”:
“The ultimate target calls itself the Modern West. This West, coming from the Enlightenment, which pretends to free the individual from the constraints of tradition, is in opposition to another, respectful of its heritage, and which affirms the primacy of the cultural community. To be Western here, is not to belong to the same ethnicity, even less the same ‘race’, it is to share in the symbols, embodied in a language, to recognize the spiritual events that this civilization is built from: Greeks miracles, Roman law, Biblical ethics, the Christian revolution, even liberal thought…
So admit that we cannot escape its heritage, accept the all mightiness of the origin, the absolute supremacy of birth: ‘Our native society is imposed on us … We only have the ability to accept it, revolt against it, maybe even flee it without being able to essentially bypass it’, wrote Maurras. ‘You could very well become a sociologist, a revolutionary, a reform Jew, you will change nothing about this innate fact, fundamental, initially and finally, from the beginning to the end: you were born.’ warned Benny Levy from his side, whose texts are now read with a benevolent attention by certain heirs of Action française, and in particular the students of Pierre Boutang.”