The Quintessence of Fascism, part 3: Charles Maurras on Monarchy, Nationalism and anti-democracy

“For monarchy to work, one man must be wise. For democracy to work, a majority of the people must be wise. Which is more likely?”

― Charles Maurras

Charles Maurras (1868-1952) was a French philosopher who was highly influential in early 20th century fascist circles, being an influence upon René Guénon, Julius Evola and being a contemporary of Joseph de Maistre. In the 1930s, Maurras was arrested in 1944 by the axis powers who had invaded France for “Compliciting with enemy” for writing French nationalist magazines that undermined Nazi rule. He died after eight years in prison.

Maurras was a Roman Catholic who strongly supported the reinstatement of the French monarchy and a more absolutist stance to be taken on the role of nationalism within Catholicism. He also opposed the Enlightenment philosophers and styled himself as a member of the school of “Counter Enlightenment”. 

His “integral nationalism” rejected all democratic principles which he judged contrary to “natural inequality”, criticizing all evolution since the 1789 French Revolution, and advocated the return to a hereditary monarchy.

Like many people in Europe at the time, he was haunted by the idea of “decadence”, partly inspired by his reading of the publications of Hippolyte Taine and Ernest Renan, and admired classicism. He felt that France had lost its grandeur during the Revolution of 1789, a grandeur inherited from its origins as a province of the Roman Empire and forged by, as he put it, “forty kings who in a thousand years made France.” The French Revolution, he wrote in the Observateur Français, was negative and destructive.

Maurras further blamed France’s decline on “Anti-France”, which he defined as the “four confederate states of Protestants, Jews, Freemasons and foreigners” (his actual word for the latter being the term métèques). Indeed, to him the first three were all “internal foreigners.”

Antisemitism and anti-Protestantism were common themes in his writings. He believed that the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the eventual outcome of the French Revolution had all contributed to individuals valuing themselves more than the nation, with consequent negative effects on the latter, and that democracy and liberalism were only making matters worse.

Although Maurras advocated the revival of monarchy, in many ways Maurras did not typify the French monarchist tradition. His endorsement of the monarchy and for Catholicism was explicitly pragmatic, as he alleged that a state religion was the only way of maintaining public order. Maurras claimed to base his opinions on reason rather than on sentiment, loyalty and faith.

Maurras’ legacy contemporarily exists only in certain strands of Neofascism, though was once more prevalent in Conservatism on the whole. Maurras is a unique and interesting thinker worthy of being rewritten into the canon of history.

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