"Monarchy will save the world"
French writer and thinker Charles Maurras was a controversial figure. Born on April 20, 1868, in Martigues (Bouches-du-Rhône), in 1908 he became leader of the right-extremist monarchist magazine L’Action Française (The French Action). The periodical was established in 1899 during the Dreyfus Affair, a blatant case of anti-Semitism which caused Émile Zola to write his denunciation J'accuse!.
Maurras turned L’Action Française into a daily paper, containing all thinkable right-wing subjects: nationalism, monarchism, and all things that Charles Maurras thought would increase law and order. This even meant that he supported the Roman Catholic Church even though he himself was a manifest atheist.
A brilliant writer, Maurras used his prose to affront Jews, Protestants, Christian Democrats, pacifists, and furthermore anyone with the slightest progressive ideas. Apart from the magazine and some very talented co-workers, Maurras also used mobs (mostly students) to exercise punitive expeditions against Marxists and communists.
Especially those violent activities against the leftwing gained opposition amid Catholics, especially French priests. Despite the large number of believers that favoured Maurras, the Vatican decided to put the Frenchman’s works and the magazine on the infamous Index in December 1926. Pope Pius XI now used against this movement every weapon in his power: index, excommunication, and the dismissal of a Cardinal from the Sacred College.
Italian fascists acquired many of their ideas from Maurras’ opinions. His atheism and his wish to use the Catholic Church purely as a means to maintain law and order were copied by the fascists in Italy, who were then also condemned by the Vatican. Interestingly enough, Charles Maurras and his co-leader Léon Daudet sent a humble letter of regret, disavowed all error and gave guarantees of respect for the Catholic religion in the future. In the end, Maurras died a fervent Catholic.
Recently, French right-wing extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen has been compared to Charles Maurras. Already in 1985, Daniel Cohen noticed the similarities in an article in The Atlantic:
Le Pen, although he doesn't advocate overthrow of French political institutions, has denounced French leaders of the past thirty years (especially De Gaulle, for granting Algerian independence) as cowardly, corrupt, and weak, and he has complained of their "using the votes of the right to carry out the politics of the left." Like Charles Maurras, a turn-of-the-century anti-Semitic theoretician who argued against purely racial hatred of Jews but insisted that they were a threat to French political and economic independence, Le Pen often raises the specter of "powerful foreign minorities." In this case, however, he means Arabs, who, he warns, could act as a seditious force if aroused by a Khomeini or a Qaddafi.