Special Report: Conservative MovementsBy Kevin Passmore
Historians have often explained the absence of a broad right wing party in early twentieth century France as the result of its failure to confront the challenges of ‘modernity’. Similarly, they have interpreted the many attempts to re-organise it as failed attempts to modernise it. Rather than use an ahistorical concept of modernity, this article focuses on the multiple and contested meanings of modernity that the right-wing groups used in struggles among themselves and against the left. It shows that right-wing politicians belonging to different tendiencies drew upon similar ideas, notably crowd psychology, updated with the latest management and work science and the techniques of ‘modern advertising’, but put them to very different uses. The article uses three case studies : the Centre de propagande des républicains nationaux, the Alliance démocratique, and the Croix de feu and Parti social français. It shows that the Alliance, usually dismissed as an anachronistic party of ‘notables’, made the most effective use of the methods in question.