A History of Fascism in France

A History of Fascism in France

The study of fascism reveals a complicated tapestry woven with components from the First World War. The interwar years, and the Vichy administration in the turbulent annals of French history. Extreme right-wing movements like Action Français and the Organization armed secret were included in this political phenomenon. It displayed ardent support, an exclusive identity, and anti-immigrant rhetoric. The advent of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front was a turning point in the history of French fascism.

 They influenced later movements like Nouvelle Droite and Club de l’Horloge from the Dreyfus affair to the Algerian War. This complex journey is explored in detail in Chris Millington’s painstaking research, “A History of Fascism in France,” which sheds insight on the development of European fascism within colonial settings and its effects on nationalism and anti-Semitism in France.

The Seeds of French Fascism

We must examine the late 19th and early 20th century historical environment in order to comprehend the origins of French fascism. After the Franco-Prussian War, the Third Republic was created, although it encountered many difficulties, including the Boulangism problem and the infamous Dreyfus case. These incidents exposed significant social gaps in French society and paved the way for the emergence of extreme right movements.

Anti-Semitism and nationalism in France merged to form a powerful force. Charles Maurras’ Action française promoted a form of right-wing nationalism that aimed to reinstate the monarchy and expel Jews from French society. The militant arm of Maurras, the Camelots du Roi, was involved in rioting and political unrest.

The Interwar Years and the Emergence of Fascism

The interwar period in France was a favourable environment for the rise of fascism. The magnetism of European fascism, as represented by Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany, was strong. Certain sectors of the French people have found resonance in the fervent support for authoritarianism and anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Former communist turned major fascist leader Jacques Doriot was one of the notable individuals at this time. His Parti Populaire Français promoted cooperation with Nazi Germany and a strong, authoritarian regime. Far-right leagues and organisations, such as the Fédération d’action nationalist et européenne (FANE), which aimed to advance a nationalist and exclusive identity. It also began to emerge in the 1930s.

Vichy Regime and Collaborationism

The Vichy era marked the deadliest stage in French fascism. The administration of Marshal Philippe Petain worked with the Nazis during the German occupation. The anti-Semitic tactics of the Vichy dictatorship resulted in the deportation of thousands of Jews to detention camps. The unpleasant memories of this era of partnership persist in French history.

The Algerian War and Neo-Nazi Groups

France had to deal with the difficulties of decolonization after World War II, particularly during the Algerian War. Danish native Mark Frederiksen, who joined the Algerian native Liberation Front, symbolises an unexpected turn in French fascism’s history. His participation brought attention to the hazy boundaries between European fascist and anti-colonial groups.

Neo-Nazi organisations began to form in France during the post-war period. These extremist groups actively supported terrorism and were passionately opposed to Algerian independence, such as the Organization army secrete (OAS) . Although they were on the periphery of French society, these organisations had a significant impact.

The Rise of the National Front

With the development of the French National Front, formed by Jean-Marie Le Pen, the 1970s saw a sea change. Le Pen’s party benefited electorally from populist anti-immigrant sentiment and economic concerns. Success for the National Front showed that some French voters still had a soft spot for fascism.

Neo-Fascism in Contemporary France

As we approach the present day, we encounter the phenomenon of neo-fascism in France. Groups like Nouvelle Droite and Club de l’Horloge have sought to rebrand fascist ideas in more intellectual and palatable forms. They advocate for a return to a strong, authoritarian state and challenge the liberal democratic values that underpin the European Union.


Extreme nationalism, anti-Semitism, collaborationism, and identities that exclude people are all woven into the intricate tapestry that is France’s history of fascist. This political phenomena has left a lasting impression on French society. It influenced everything from the unrest of the interwar years to the establishment of the National Front and the emergence of neo-fascist organisations. It serves as a harsh reminder of the persistence of authoritarian ideology and the value of preserving democratic and inclusive values.



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