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Marshal Pétain
Henri Philippe Benoni Omer Joseph Pétain (24 April 1856 – 23 July
1951), mostly known as Maréchal Pétain was a French general who,
because of his outstanding military leadership in World War I was viewed
as a national hero in France. In June 1940, as the French army was
collapsing under the German Nazi onslaught, Pétain was appointed Prime
Minister by President Lebrun, becoming (at 84) France’s oldest-ever
premier. He signed an armistice with Germany, which let the Germans
occupy the north of France, keeping a “free zone” in the centre and south.
The French government moved to the spa town of Vichy and
declared the end of the Third Republic, replacing it with the authoritarian
“French State”. This new state produced a new ideology – “national
regeneration” – which reversed the democratic regime which was held
responsible for the defeat in the war. The new regime brought the
economy under state control, made trades unions subject to the
government, limited civil rights for women, curtailed political activity and
introduced controls over the media.
Humiliated by defeat in the war, and also convinced that liberal
democracy was to blame, initially much of French society supported this
new regime. In November 1942, however, the “free zone” was occupied
by the Germans, placing the new “French State” under direct German
After the end of the war, Pétain was sentenced to death for treason,
but this was later commuted to a prison sentence. He died in prison in
We include here his speech, announcing the “new order” in France,
because in many ways it is the blueprint for Europe’s authoritarian
theorists and politicians of the first decade and a half of the 21st century.
To a greater or lesser extent, all modern authoritarians share the
Marshal’s view that democracy produces weak, uncompetitive states, that
individuals must serve the community (rather than having rights and
freedoms), and that the state should oversee all aspects of life if “national
regeneration” is to be achieved.
Today’s authoritarians, as Pétain in 1940, feel that their countries
have somehow been defeated or degraded; and that recovery is possible
only at the cost of renouncing democracy and liberty in favour of
authoritarian leadership and state control.
The following extracts are from Pétain’s keynote address to the
French people in the autumn of 1940, announcing the basic principles of
the new, non-democratic France: Maréchal Pétain. Message aux
français. L’ordre nouveau. In: André Versaille(ed.). Les 100 discours
qui ont marqué le XXe siècle
Democracy responsible for the defeat
Four months ago France suffered one of the greatest defeats in its
This defeat has many causes, but not all are technical. The disaster
was but a reflection, at the military level, of the weaknesses and
shortcomings of the previous political regime.
Many among us loved that regime.
By voting every four years, you gave yourself the impression of
being free citizens in a free state. And so I would astonish you by saying
that never in the history of France has the state been more in thrall than
over the past twenty years.
The state was subservient… to coalitions, to economic interests and
political teams and to trades unions which pretended, dishonestly, to
represent the working class…
… this kind of subservience marked profoundly the very manners of
the nation, with everyone clearly seeing the powerlessness of a regime
that could address crises only by renouncing itself… And so, step by big
step, the state got to the state of a political revolution that the war and
the defeat only hastened.
On the new order in France
Finding itself prisoner to such internal politics, that regime could
not… practice the foreign policy that France deserved…
It is from ruins that we today must reconstruct France.
The new order cannot, in whatever shape or form, imply a return to
the errors which cost us so much… The new order cannot be a servile
imitation of foreign experiences; some such experiences have their sense
and their beauty, but every nation must conceive a regime that is adapted
to its climate and its own genius. The new order is a French necessity …
The new regime would defend, above all, national unity, meaning
the union between the French hinterland and the France overseas. It
would preserve the heritage of its Greek and Latin culture and their
spread around the world. It would revive in honour true nationalism, that
which, by renouncing concentration on itself, would transcend itself in
order to attain international collaboration…
Without doubt, Germany could, on the morrow of her victory, have
faced the choice between imposing a traditional peace of oppression and a
new kind of peace of collaboration. As against the trouble, the miseries,
the repressions and, without doubt, the conflicts that would have been
provoked by a “traditional” kind of peace, Germany chose to prefer a
peace that generates the happiness of all…
On hierarchy, inequality and hard work
The new regime would be a social hierarchy. It would no longer rest
on the false idea of the natural equality among men, but on the necessary
idea of “equality of opportunity” that would provide all Frenchmen with the
opportunity to prove their aptitude to “serve”.
Only hard work and talent would form the basis of the French
hierarchy. No prejudice would attach to anyone on the basis of social
origin, as long as that person integrates himself in the new France… Thus
would be reborn the true elites, which the old regime spent years
destroying; and which elites constitute the necessary framework for the
development, happiness and dignity of all.
On authority as the true freedom
Some fear that this new hierarchy would destroy freedom… Fear not.
Authority is necessary in order to safeguard the liberty of the state, to
guarantee individuals freedoms in the face of coalitions of vested
interests. A nation is not free… from the moment when its freely chosen
government becomes prisoner of these coalitions. What value did freedom
– abstract freedom – have, in 1940, for the unemployed worker or for a
ruined small business, if not the freedom to suffer without recourse, in the
midst of a vanquished nation?
On duty and organisation
The character of the hierarchy of the new regime is inseparable from
its social character… All Frenchmen, workers, farmers, functionaries,
technicians, businessmen would, above all, have the duty to work. Those
who avoid this duty will no longer preserve their status as citizens… in
order to ensure the exercise of this duty, profound changes must be made
in our old economic apparatus.
…we would, in an organized economy, create centres of activity,
where everyone would find their place and the salaries that their aptitudes
All professions would be organized and that organization would be
imposed on everyone… These organizations would ensure, under the
authority of the state, the drawing up and the implementation of rules of
work… They would, finally, avoid conflict by an absolute ban on lockouts
and strikes, substituting obligatory arbitration by work tribunals…
On the controlled economy
Free competition was, at the same time, the resource and the
regulator of the liberal regime. The day that the coalitions and the cartels
smashed this essential mechanism, production and prices were delivered
to greed and speculation… And so began the world crisis.
Faced with the failure of liberal economy, almost all nations became
engaged in the search for new economic roads. We now must also enter
into this effort and, with all our energy and all our faith, make up for lost
time. Two principles must guide us: the economy must be organized and
controlled. State coordination of private activity will smash the power of
the cartels and their power to corrupt… the economy will be freed of its
current chains and will be subordinated to the national interests…
On reconstructing a true national fraternity
It is time to reconstruct. I want to undertake this reconstruction with
all of you.
I now ask you to come together, to unite around me… to carry on
this revolution to its end, by encouraging the hesitant, by smashing the
hostile forces and the coalitions, by making supreme, in our new France, a
true national fraternity.
Ivan Ilyin
Ivan Alexandrovich Ilyin (1883-1954) was one of the leading
thinkers of the “Eurasian” school of Russian ideology. This was an ideology
produced by Russian émigrés in the West as a tool against the Bolshevik
regime which ran Soviet Russia between 1917 and 1991. “Eurasianism”
rejected both the Western emphasis on the individual and the Bolshevik
emphasis on the class war. For thinkers like Ilyin, Russia was neither
European, nor Asian. It was a unique historical and cultural construct, in
which individual submission (to the collective, to the state, to the Church),
rather than individual rights and freedoms, formed the basis of politics
and government.
As opposed to the egalitarianism, “division” and “narrow rationality”
of the West, the Eurasians posited Russia’s wholeness, indivisibility and
“culture” (much as, around the same time, pre-Nazi German thinkers
opposed the wholesomeness of “culture” to the cold artifice of
“civilization”). In place of reason and plurality, Eurasians proposed faith
and oneness.
In this picture, the West is cast as the enemy, bent on dividing and
rationalizing Russia in order to pursue the goals of expansion, cultural
hegemony (note Dugin’s later use of “epistemological occupation”) and
We also see the beginning of several themes that were to become
major planks in Soviet and, later, Russian anti-Western propaganda: that
the West is doomed because of its lack of spirituality and overwhelming
greed; that the West is degenerate because of its degenerate culture and
materialistic outlook; that the degeneration of the West presents a
problem for the entire world, and only Russia can save that world from the
disasters brought on by the West’s impending collapse.
In this respect, all protestations to the contrary notwithstanding,
Eurasianism is a repetition of both classic totalitarian political ideologies
(with their requirement of submission to the Party) and the newer
religious political doctrines (such as militant Islam), which demand
submission to the will of God and His servants in this world. The
Eurasians’ hatred of Western-style liberal democracy is quite on par with
that of fascists, communists, Nazis and, today – fundamentalists and
terrorists of different types.
It is easy to see why, by 2010, Russian President Vladimir Putin
opted to abandon the rather complicated ideological constructs of thinkers
such as Vladislav Surkov in favour of the more traditional – and much
easier to understand – “Eurasian” ideology, which requires, quite simply,
The first extract comes from Ilyin’s last major work, Our Tasks,
written in the beginning of the 1950s. In it we see the Eurasians’ decisive
rejection of democracy and of its foundation – political freedom:
On democracy and freedom
If after the end of communism something would be capable of
landing new, very heavy blows on Russia, that would be the relentless
attempts to introduce, after the totalitarian tyranny, a “democratic order”.
Because political freedom by itself does not ennoble man, but only lets
him loose, lets him out into the world as he is, with all his interests,
passions and sins.
The next abstracts are from three key speeches on the past and
future of Russia, delivered by Ilyin between 1926 and 1933. The concepts
in these speeches have become commonplace in current Russian thinking,
almost a century later. It is worth noting that the foundation of Ilyin’s
ideology is closely aligned to what we see in Field Marshall Petain’s
concept of a new, non-democratic and better organized France arising out
of the ashes of defeat: И. А. Ильин. «О России. Три речи. 1926-1933».
София, изд. «За Россию», 1934
On Russia’s spiritual purification in defeat
In our time, the time of the visible defeat of Russia, but in reality –
the time of her purification through suffering, her historical justification
and spiritual rebirth… it is in times like these, I believe, that we should
look at Russia in her historic wholeness… and grasp the foundations of her
culture, from which follows everything else and to which everything else is
The characteristic of the Russian spirit is a spiritual freedom, an
inner vastness, the expectation of unknown, unimaginable opportunities.
We carry this… in our nature, as well as all its gifts and dangers: the gifts
– the capacity to create from the depths, to love unconditionally and to
burn in prayer; and the dangers – the urge to anarchy, lawlessness,
arbitrariness and confusion…
Russian man does not appreciate his gifts… Seeks the easy way and
hates effort: gets distracted and forgets; ploughs his plot and then
abandons it; to cut down one tree will destroy five more. For him, the land
is “God’s” and the forest is “God’s”; and “God’s” means – nobody’s; which
is why Russian man feels right to take another’s property.
Let us, then, develop our gifts and overcome our temptations…
On Russian culture against Western rationality
There are things that the West can learn from the Russian East.
There is eternal wisdom and nobility in our history. Our spiritual culture is
not reducible to a culture of rationality; on the contrary, narrow and
arrogant rationality rots and destroys true culture. Because there is also
the culture of heart, conscience and emotion, there is also the culture of
contemplation and vision; there is the culture of service, self-abnegation
and self-sacrifice; there is the culture of faith and prayer; there is the
culture of bravery and opposition to evil.
This is the kind of culture that made Russia possible and durable.
And when she, later than other nations, began to formulate, in a rational
and scientific manner, the spiritual treasures that she had accumulated –
she had those treasures; and the uniqueness of her creation made her
famous all over the world… These treasures cannot be replaced by reason
or “mind”. Indeed” without our spiritual treasures, the very reason
becomes foolish.
On Russian cultural uniqueness
No nation in the world has ever had the suffering and the tasks that
the Russian nation has passed through. And no nation has ever extracted,
from such trials and tribulations, such power, such uniqueness, such
spiritual depth. The cross we carry is a heavy one…
Russia is not an accidental grouping of territories and tribes… but a
living, historically arisen and culturally justified organism, which is not
amenable to arbitrary divisions. The division of any organism into its
component parts has never resulted in, and never will result in health,
creative balance or peace. On the contrary, such division has always been
and will always be a painful degeneration, a process of corruption,
quarrels, rot and total sickness…
On devil worship and the degenerate West
The era of European “Enlightenment”… has eroded people’s belief in
the reality of the personal devil… Luther still believed in him, but later
everyone threw out the devil and he gradually “disappeared”, went out as
a “superstition”… But at that precise moment art and philosophy took
interest in the devil. The enlightened Europeans started draping
themselves in the cloak of the devil. They burned with the desire to know
more of the devil, to have a look at his “real face”, to understand his
thoughts and his desires, to become him or, at the very least, pose in
front of others in his image.
This is the moment when the idea of justice was replaced by the
idea of equality: here it is, the French revolution, demanding the
destruction of all churches as an affront to equality; here it is, the ironical
formulation of the German poet: cut down those on high, so that everyone
becomes a pauper… A doctrine hostile, at the same time, to God, to
nature and to justice.
This is also the moment of maturation of the mendacious idea of unspiritual freedom: not the freedom of faith and meditation in God, but a
freedom without God; not the freedom of conscience, but a freedom from
conscience, from spirit, from taste, from justice… We see a growth in the
thirst for entertainment, and with it – for riches and power. Restraints
weaken, wise measure is lost, sin is no longer repulsive; modern man
believes in his ultimate death and does not believe in eternal life; and
youth itself seems to him a short and fragile gift. This is why he is always
in a hurry – he has no time…
On the West’s hostility to Russia
We are aware that the Western nations do not understand and to
not accept Russia’s uniqueness. They grasp the unitary Russian state as a
barrier to the spread of their trade, language and conquest. They are
preparing for the division of the united Russian edifice into small bits and
pieces, in order to break them one by one and use them as fuel to stoke
the dying fire of their own civilization. They must carve up Russia, in order
to drag her through Western egalitarianism and corruption, and thereby to
kill her: a plan of hate and love of power…
On national dictatorship as the salvation of Russia
And so it will be that, after the fall of the Bolsheviks, the world’s
propaganda will throw into Russia’s chaos the slogan “Nations of the
former Russia, divide up!”; and then two possibilities will be present:
*inside Russia, a national dictatorship will appear, governing with an
iron hand; which will oppose this slogan and will lead Russia to unity,
eradicating all separatist movements
*or, inside Russia no such dictatorship will appear, and the country
will become the arena for chaotic movements, revenge, pogroms,
destruction of transport, of hunger, cold and anarchy…
It is, for us, not an accident that European politicians have started
talking, in the same breath, of European unification and Russia’s
On politics as the task of the competent minority
People, as such, do not exist in order to waste their time with
politics, but rather – to create culture… The construction of politics has
always been, and will always be, the work of the competent minority…
This is why the state will always be constructed along the lines of a single
institution… unitary power and discipline…
On the organic state
There are two different concepts of state: mechanical and organic.
The mechanical concept upholds the instinctive individuality of the human
being, his private interests; this state measures life quantitatively and
formally. The organic concept of the state is based on the human spirit
and aims at national unity and the general interest; it is qualitative and
seeks spiritual roots and spiritual solutions… The life of the state is not a
sum of parts, but – organic. People in this kind of state are not abstract
citizens, carrying with themselves empty voting ballots, but live persons,
corporeal-spiritual organisms. Anyone can place a ballot into a box; but to
responsibly carry out the burden of state thinking and acting – that not
many people can do. A person takes part in the life of his state as a living
organism, which itself comes alive as an organ of the state organism…
This organic-spiritual unity of government and nation, of nation and
government, must permeate the entire electoral system, from its very
bottom, so as to create the required order.
(Because) the state, by its nature, is not an organization un …
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