Mathias Bernard

The War Within the Right Wing Publication date : August 23, 2007

Relations between the right and the far right have become a major issue of French political life, as a result of the rise and entrenched presence of the National Front. During each electoral campaign, the strategy that the right should adopt in relation to the National Front is a hotly debated topic, provoking dissension on the right and suspicion on the left.

The debate is not unique to France, as the recent examples of Italy and Austria have shown. Neither is it unprecedented in France itself. The author argues that the history of the twentieth century was marked by turbulent relations between two political forces that came into being during the Dreyfus Affair: a parliamentary right which aspires to govern and is respectful of the Republic and of State institutions, and a nationalistic authoritarian right which is primarily concerned with expressing protest.

By recounting the major stages of the war within the right wing, this book seeks to reveal some constants and to cast light on the current political debate.

From the Dreyfus Affair to the 1930s, from the Vichy Government to the Algerian War, from the initial surge of the National Front to the Presidential elections of 2002, it would seem that the multiplicity of right-wing parties and the quarrels between them are one of the structuring factors of French politics.

The opposition between various right-wing currents (Legitimacy, Orleanism and Bonapartism) has been traditionally regarded as the key to understanding the French right — a thesis that was first described by the historian René Rémond in the 1950s. But present-day developments and debates urge us to re-examine the events of the past century.

This book aims to help readers understand current confrontations by studying past discords.

Mathias Bernard teaches contemporary history at the University of Clermond-Ferrand. A graduate of the Ecole Normale Supérieure, he holds an agrégation in history and is the author of Introduction au XXe siècle (2003 and 2004) and Le Front populaire (2006).