For the first time in decades there is visible on the French political landscape politics rooted in France’s historical Catholicism. From the point of view and in the parlance of secular liberal globalists that makes the politics “far right,” “extreme right” or even “fascist”.
Given France’s position as one of the world’s leading nations, its role as a main actor in history and the lamentable fact that in 1789 it became the first country in Christendom to experience the overthrow of Christian government, the emergence of the new politics inspired by traditional Church teaching is of considerable significance.
It excites fear and loathing in some. One such is Mark Lilla, author of an article about the movement recently published by the New York Review of Books, that flag-bearer journal of the political left in the U.S. He fears that it can serve, at least in its “aggressive form,” as a “powerful tool for building a pan-European reactionary Christian nationalism.”
Bear in mind as we discuss it here that France is officially secular to the degree that the very buildings in which Catholics worship — their churches — are property of the state. It should not surprise us, therefore, that the young men and women expounding the new politics do not foresee their ideas prevailing soon. On the contrary, we should take them all the more seriously for that reason.
As Lilla noted in his article about them, Antonio Gramsci is frequently cited in their journals and magazines. Gramsci was an Italian Communist theoretician imprisoned by Mussolini in the 1930s who saw and taught that the Marxist subversion of Europe and the rest of the West required intellectual transformation — a “long march,” as he put it, through educational and cultural institutions in order to weaken age-old attachments to family, community and religion. The social turbulence of the 1960s and general collapse of Christian standards of behavior, exemplified by the sexual revolution of that decade, showed that the long march had begun to pay off. Finally it arrived at today’s secular liberal globalism which is culturally Marxist if it is anything, this even if many globalists identify themselves as being on the political right. Their true essential character is revealed by their economic vision of history and the life of society. If we assume they are familiar at all with the sayings of Our Lord, they have forgotten that man does not live by bread alone.
The young thinkers of the new Catholic right understand that nothing will roll back cultural Marxism except a long march in the opposite direction leading to the restoration of tradition. To speak of this restoration is to speak of peoples of former Christendom, in this case the French, embracing their Christian history and thereby revitalizing family, community and religion, institutions in which humanity flourishes and which, when they are strong, also insulate men from the power of the modern state that seeks for that very reason to weaken them. It aims to take their place and in many respects has.
We ought to note here that the last rightwing political movement of Catholic coloration to exercise serious influence in France was Action Française. Its sway was the widest in the period between the First and Second World Wars. Its leading intellectual light was thinker, writer and member of the French Academy, Charles Maurras.
If we allude here to Action Française it is for two reasons: 1) Ideas set forth by Maurras can be seen to figure in the thinking of the young men and women of the emerging politics. To be sure, they are adapted to today’s circumstances. 2) Apart from its monarchism, the most notable feature of Action Française was that it was anti-statist.
What are the exact, concrete positions staked out by adherents of the new politics? They reject the European Union, same-sex marriage and mass immigration. They also reject unregulated global financial markets, genetically-modified foodstuffs, consumerism and daily life dominated by what they refer to as AGFAM (Apple-Google-Facebook-Amazon-Microsoft). In Lilla’s words, they see “the fundamental task of society is to transmit knowledge, morality, and culture to future generations.”
Lilla goes on to explain that they oppose the E.U. “because it rejects the culture-religion foundation of Europe and tries to found it instead on the economic self-interest of individuals. Unlike their American counterparts…the young French conservatives argue that the economy must be subordinate to social needs.”
Of course from the Catholic point of view they are correct to do so. Having a sound economy depends on having right politics, the means by which the life of society is governed, but such politics cannot exist except on the basis of right morality, and that is impossible if society is divorced from God, restricting religion to purely private practice.
Another big difference between the young French conservatives and their American counterparts is that the French are strong environmentalists, whereas the Americans by-and-large have never understood that conservatism should conserve.
In the next installment of this article we’ll identify some of the leading figures among the young French Catholic conservatives, take a closer look at what they espouse, including some differences between them, and see how all this fits, if it does, in the context of the “yellow-vest” uprising that has rocked France since November.
Meantime, my attention has been drawn to a Spanish poll that shows that the Vox Party, whose meteoric rise I recently wrote about, now enjoys nearly twelve percent support among voters nationally after their stunning victory in Andalusia ended 36 years of Socialist rule in that region.
About twelve percent support was what the AfD Party had when it won its first seats in Germany’s federal parliament, where it is now the main opposition to lame-duck Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU-Socialist-CSU coalition government. It also now has seats in the legislatures of all sixteen German states.