Charles Maurras (1868-1952

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Charles Maurras was born in France and his ideas were influenced by  France losing the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, and the Paris Commune of 1871. Maurras was an advocate of integral nationalism, a form of right-wing nationalism that influenced the ideas of fascism.

A French writer, journalist and leading figure within the political movement Action Française, Maurras was a key exponent of right-wing nationalism and an influence on fascism. His idea of ‘integral nationalism’ emphasised the organic unity of the nation, fusing a clearly illiberal rejection of individualism and democracy with a stress on hierarchy and traditional institutions (in his case, the French monarchy and the Roman Catholic Church). Maurras had a mystical belief in  ‘goddess France’ as having achieved the highest form of civilisation, Maurras. He nevertheless warned that France needed to be protected from its enemies within and without, including Protestants, Jews, Freemasons and foreigners. Maurras’ nationalism resembled fascism most clearly in its emphasis on militarism. In his view, the mission of the nation was intrinsically linked to expansionism and war, grounded in the belief that, while some nations are destined for conquest and glory, others are weak and subordinate

Maurras called intense patriotism ‘integral nationalism’. Such militant nationalism is often accompanied by militarism. Military glory and conquest are the ultimate evidence of national greatness and have been capable of generating intense feelings of nationalist commitment. The civilian population is, in effect, militarised: it is infected by the martial values of absolute loyalty, complete dedication and willing self-sacrifice. When the honour or integrity of the nation is in question, the lives of ordinary citizens become unimportant. 

Charles Maurras firmly believed in the virtues of firm government and social order. As such, he was an ardent supporter of the monarchy and the Catholic Church within French society. His style of nationalism entailed a rejection of those liberal-democratic principles which he believed were contrary to natural inequality within society. According to him, the whole Enlightenment project had led to individuals placing a higher value upon themselves than the nation as a whole. Despite what its supporters claim, democracy and liberalism have a negative impact upon both the individual and wider society. After the destruction and chaos of the French revolution, society should thereby return to a hereditary monarchy. Charles Maurras therefore offered a counter-argument to the ideas first put forward by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and those revolutionaries who sought to implement those ideas. 

·        Integral nationalism: Maurras' political ideas were based on integral nationalism, and some of its qualities include anti-individualism and aggressive expansionism. Integral nationalist states were usually totalitarian, where the state dominates all aspects of society. Mussolini's Italy was the first example of such a society; Japan in the 1940s would be another, as it often overlaps with fascism. A major tenet of integral nationalism is the total immersion of the individual in the interests of the nation.

·      Individualism: Maurras rejected individualism as it led to individuals thinking only of their best interests, rather than the nation and their place in it. He believed that the French Revolution had contributed to this malaise.

·      Militarism: Integral nationalism often results after a nation has achieved independence and established a state. Often these countries had a strong military ethos, which became entrenched through the struggle for independence. Sometimes the success of the struggle for liberation resulted in feelings of national superiority that led to extreme nationalism.