Sunday, February 13, 2005

Why France?

Apart from the question of "why fascism?" there is also the question of "why France?" And the answer cannot be simply because I know France, and French. This project is also in part an attempt--pointless to deny it--to offer the French experience of citizenship and nationalism as a model for the world. The tension in French citizenship between the national and the universal, which stems from the Revolution and the resulting habit of thinking of France as the cradle of democracy, obviously has its problems. It excuses a certain amount of belligerence, especially when it comes to the colonies and even ex-colonies. It causes a bit of self-righteousness, as with de Gaulle and Chirac, for example. But it is, I think, the best model we have for a national identity that has the necessary flexibility to survive globalization.

And French Fascism has this tension too. It was not simply nationalist, it was universal too. The problem was to create a French version of an incredibly popular international movement--because from their perspective (and they weren't far wrong) Fascism was a wave sweeping over Europe. So this was one step in the development of the French nationality.