In the late 1960s, however, a new generation of French historians, forced to come to terms with the postwar national myths of its parents, began questioning the orthodoxy of a French national "allergy" to movements of the extreme right.(5) Intense public interest in their debates resulted in a virtual media industry devoted to French fascism in which abstruse historical points of contention were fought out in the popular press.(6) As John Sweets observed, the challenge to the allergy, notion brought with it a steady accumulation of historical evidence that France had indeed had its share of fascists.
to the dominance of Remond's interpretation has brought new life and interest to the issues surrounding interwar fascism. Sternhell has established a compelling case for a variant of fascism native to France - indeed, a fascism more virulent and "purer", in its ideology than its more successful relations in Italy and Germany.
Fascism in France attracted more intellectuals, writers, and theorists than in any other country, leaving the history of French fascist ideology especially rich in source materials.(12) In one sense, of course, this is fortunate.
In a pace-setting book, Philippe Burrin has shown that many who "drifted to fascism" from various points on the - in French political spectrum were largely preoccupied with international politics particular, through fear of the threat to postwar European stability posed by the rise of National Socialism in Germany.
All of them shared a common hatred of money, speculation and bourgeois values in general and all of them condemned the exclusion of the working class from intellectual and cultural life.(24) "Antimaterialism" is one of Sternhell's links between fascism and the left - a link that connects Barres's aesthetics with Doriot's angry brawling, and Sorel's Reflections on Violence with Celines florid, ecstatic antisemitism.
his definition of fascism is necessarily a broad one, uprooted from the limited historical conditions peculiar to it; and many of the men he labels fascist because they had Fascist ideas, even though they "never donned brown shirts,"(28) would fall outside the borders of a stricter definition.
This line of analysis adds power to Gottfried's masterly discussion of the death of "totalitarianism" as an explanatory concept that included Soviet tyranny alongside Nazism and fascism. Yes, the USSR was a single-party system with a dictator at the point of the pyramid, but its rituals were not exciting.
That quibble aside, Paul Gottfried's is far and away the best book on fascism I've read in many years.
Avant-Garde Fascism is thus also a study of the catholicity of these fascist movements themselves.
Whereas earlier studies of the French right wing focus on figures whose relationship to fascism constituted a fatal, rightward march (Drieu la Rochelle, Celine, Brasillach, Rebatet) or, at the very least, a shameful moment of past involvement (de Man, Blanchot) Avant-Garde Fascism discusses figures whose involvement with fascist movements was determined largely through aesthetics, such as Le Corbusier, Germaine Krull, Aristide Maillol, and others.
A richly documented work of intellectual historiography, Avant-Garde Fascism is essential reading for scholars and students of twentieth-century France, and of modernist art and literature more broadly.