Vichy France 2

Vichy France Part II


France now enters the new Hitlerian order: the “French Republic” gives rise to the “French State” and a whole xenophobic, racial, anti-democratic and anti-militant legislation is enacted; but this new order appears as if it has been filtered through an old patina of ancien régime and of traditionalism of Action française. The Pétain-Count of Paris collusion (a mysterious conversation took place between the two in Vichy in August 1942) was almost certainly a pious fantasy of the Keeper Alibert, and the new Constitution never saw the light; however, various measures of constitutional structure – such as reducing France to only 20 provinces subject to a governor – tried to model the free zone within an archaic outline. The same can be said on the political level: here the Nazification was much more rapid, but no less gradual. The racist and totalitarian Rassemblement national populaire, created in Paris on 1 February 1941 by M. Déat and J. Fontenoy, was banned in the free zone and suffered competition from the Legion, created on 29 August 1940 by Xavier Vallat as an instrument of personal exaltation of Pétain, and from the Rassemblement pour la révolution nationale, which, thanks above all to Tixier-Vignancourt and H. Du Moulin de Labarthète, married the pluralist myth of social conservation to the anti-parliamentarism of a France Larocque. On the level of government action, even after 10 July 1940, not a few parliamentarians are in power (P. Laval, A. Marquet, France Pietri, etc.); it then gradually passes to a regime of notables, which is represented in the government by P.-E. Flandin (December 13, 1940 – February 10, 1941) and, outside, by the creation of a Conseil national (January 5, 1941), soon split into various commissions without ties; finally, with the advent of Darlan, to the regime of the chancellor of the old monarchy.

According to programingplease, the armistice produced not so much political evolutions as a bifurcation and a-juxtaposition of theses, which are commonly referred to as collaboration with Germany and “wait-and-see”, but which would be more exact – since collaboration was an unavoidable element of the armistice – indicate as the alternative between the rapid normalization of relations with the Axis and more or less extensive collaboration, taking care, however, to leave these relations still fluid. Outlining excessively, and not taking into account momentary fluctuations, it could be said that for the first horn of the dilemma he inclined the whole group of ultra-collaborators, which in the government had above all J. Benoist-Mechin and P. Marion as spokespersons, and for the second P. Baudouin, PE Flandin and perhaps Pétain himself. Laval, too much master of the game, he mixed the two trajectories at first, fundamentally interested in the triumph of the first; Darlan mixed the same, convinced at least at the beginning of the accuracy of the second.

The first weeks of the Vichy government, to which the British fleet gave Mers-el-Kebir a stern warning (3 July 1940), are in a sense a setback: its foreign policy continues to be – behind Baudouin – in the hands of a skilled diplomat, France Charles-Roux and stops at the exact observance of the armistice convention (so it is possible not to accept the German request of July 16 for the use of the ports of the free zone, of the Casablanca railway- Tunis and the sale of African bases). It is rather dominated by the Indochinese tension, which leads to an agreement signed on August 30 in Tōkyō, and which recognizes the privileged importance of Japanese interests, followed by the more binding agreement of September 22: it is the first act of a series of French capitulations which will lead to the sale of 69,000 sq km. of Cambodia and Laos to Thailand (9 May 1941) and to the total entry of Indochina into the Japanese orbit (29 July 1941).

The Anglo-degollist defeat of Dakar (September 23, 1940) strengthened the collaborationist thesis and on October 22 P. Laval, who in those weeks led a very ambiguous and personal game with O. Abetz, German ambassador to Paris from August 5, s ‘meets with Hitler and prepares the next meeting with Pétain. Collaboration emerged from this conversation, which took place on the 24th in Montoire (Touraine): certainly economic collaboration, probably also military, under the pretense of a police raid against degollist Chad, since – in the absence of a text – it is necessary to place the conference within the then ongoing negotiations between the Axis and Spain for an action against Gibraltar and Africa. However, on November 2nd,

But, once the African project is abrogated or postponed, Montoire also loses its extreme point and a pause of waiting is imposed: on December 13 a palace conspiracy overturns Laval and we return to the other pole of the pendulum, the preservation of fluctuating relationships, which always implies some contact with the allied camp: favored, among other things, by being Vichy seat of many diplomatic representations.

Vichy France 2