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Marcel Déat

Marcel Déat (March 7 1894, GuérignyJanuary 5 1955, near Turin, Italy) was a French Socialist until 1933, when he initiated a spin-off from the SFIO along with other Neosocialists. He then founded the Collaborationist Rassemblement national populaire (RNP, National Popular Rally) during the Vichy regime. In 1944, he became "Minister of Labor and National Solidarity" in Pierre Laval's government, before escaping to Sigmaringen along with Vichy officials after the Allied landings in Normandy. Condemned in absentia for collaborationism, he died while still in hiding in Italy.

Early life and politics

Marcel Déat was raised in a modest environment, which shared Republican and patriotic values. After brilliant studies, he entered in 1914 the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) after having been the student of Alain, a philosopher who participated to the Radical-Socialist Party and who would write a deeply anti-militarist book after World War I. The same year, Déat joined the SFIO (French Section of the Second International).

While he attended the ENS and worked to get a philosophy degree, World War I broke out. He joined the French Army as a private and saw active duty, winning the Légion d'Honneur and five bravery citations. By the war’s end, Déat had achieved the rank of captain. Under the pseudonym of Taëd, he then published Cadavres et maximes, philosophie d’un revenant (approximatively translated by "Corpses and Maxims, Philosophy of a Ghost"), in which he expressed his horror of trenches, strong pacifist views, as well as his fascination for collective discipline and war camaraderie. When the war ended in 1918, he finished his studies at the École Normale and passed his agrégation of philosophy, and oriented himself towards sociology under the direction of Célestin Bouglié, a friend of Alain and also member of the Radical Party. In the meanwhile, Déat taught philosophy in Reims.

During the 1920 Tours Congress in which a majority of the SFIO decided to spin-off to found the SFIC (French Section of the Communist International), Marcel Déat positioned himself at the right-wing of the SFIO, taking part to the groupe de la Vie socialiste current, alongside Pierre Renaudel.

Déat was elected municipal counsellor of Reims in 1925, and then deputy for the Marne during a partial election in 1926. However, he lost his seat after the 1928 elections. In these times, Léon Blum, the leader of the SFIO, tried to favorize youths in the party, and decided to name Déat secretary of the SFIO parliamentary group. After having been put in charge of the documentary center of the ENS by Célestin Bouglié, Déat now founded a documentary center for the SFIO deputies.

Neo-Socialist period

Marcel Déat published in 1930 Perspectives socialistes (Socialist Perspectives), a revisionist work closely influenced by Henri de Man's planisme. Along with over a hundred articles written in La Vie Socialiste, the review of the SFIO's right-wing, Perspective socialistes marked the shift of Déat from classical Socialism to Neo-Socialism. Déat replaced class struggle by collaboration of classes and national solidarity, advocated corporatism as a social organization model, replaced the notion of "Socialism" by "anti-Capitalism" and supported an authoritarian state which would plan the economy and from which parliamentarism would be repealed .

During the 1932 elections, he was elected deputy of the 20th arrondissement of Paris, beating the Communist Jacques Duclos — who himself had gained the upper hand against Léon Blum in 1928 in the same electoral district. Déat and other Neo-Socialists were expelled from the SFIO at the 5 November, 1933 Congress, for their revisionist views and disagreements with Léon Blum’s policies toward Prime Minister Édouard Herriot, leader of the second Cartel des gauches (Left-Wing Coalition). The official position of the SFIO was then to support the Cartel without participating to the government, considered as "bourgeois." The same year, Déat joined the Parti socialiste de France-Union Jean Jaurès (Socialist Party of France - Jean Jaurès Union, PSdF) created the same year by Planist and Neo-Socialist elements expelled by the SFIO during the 1933 Congress. The new party's slogan was "Order, Authority and Nation".

The expelled faction was minoritary in the SFIO, but represented the majority of the SFIO parliamentary group. They were opposed both by the left-wing of the SFIO, represented by Marceau Pivert, and by the SFIO's center, headed by Blum. The Neo-Socialists wanted to "reinforce the state against the economic crisis," open themselves to the middle classes and participate to non-Socialist governments.

Without the support of the Socialists, Déat lost his seat in the Chamber. Two years later, he joined the Union Socialiste et Republicaine. He became Minister of Air in the "bourgeois" government of Albert Sarraut (Radical) but he quickly resigned his post over disputes with the Prime Minister. With the increasing threats represented by Nazi Germany, Déat wanted to maintain peace at any cost.

He returned to the Chamber of Deputies in 1936 as a delegate from Angoulême, and at first supported the Popular Front led by Blum before denouncing "Communist infiltration" of it. After Blum's replacement by Edouard Daladier in 1938, which marked the end of the Popular Front, Déat participated to the "Anti-Communist Rally." The same year, he explicited his support of the Munich Agreement in an article titled Why Die for Danzig? and published in the newspaper L'Oeuvre. There, he argued that France should avoid war with Germany if the latter seized Poland - the publication caused a widespread controversy, and propelled Déat to national fame. Déat would collaborate with L'Œuvre during the entire period of Vichy France.

Collaborationism

A strong supporter of Germany’s occupation of northern France in 1940, Déat took up residence in Vichy France, and was initially a supporter of Philippe Pétain. He attempted to create a single party in order to fully realize the aims of the "Révolution nationale", the official, reactionary ideology of Vichy. Thereafter, he founded in February 1941 the Rassemblement national populaire (National Popular Rally, RNP) which advocated Collaboration with Nazi Germany and anti-Semitism.

When Vichy, then headed by Pétain, did not become the Fascist state Déat had in mind, he moved to occupied Paris and was funded by the Germans. The Nazis forced Déat at first to merge his new party (RNP) with Eugène Deloncle's MSR (Social Revolutionary Movement), a far-right party inheritor of the Cagoule terrorist group. The merger was a failure and Déat later expelled MSR elements from his party, before trying to form a unified front of Collaborationist parties.

Déat also founded, along with fellow Collaborationists Jacques Doriot and Marcel Bucard, the Légion des Volontaires Français (LVF), a French unit of the Wehrmacht (later affiliated with the Waffen-SS).

While reviewing troops from the LVF with Vichy figure Pierre Laval in Versailles on August 27, 1941, Déat was wounded in an assassination attempt - carried out by French Resistance member Paul Collette. After recovering, he became a supporter of Pierre Laval, who supported more reactionary policies than Pétain and had become Prime Minister of the Vichy regime in 1942. Under the suggestion of the Germans, Marcel Déat became on 16 March, 1944, "Minister of Labor and National Solidarity" in Laval's cabinet.

Exile

After the Allied landings at Normandy and the fall of the Vichy government, Déat fled to Germany and became an official of the Vichy government in exile at Sigmaringen. With the fall of Germany in 1945, Déat fled to Italy in April and assumed a new name, temporarily teaching in Milan and Turin. He was later taken in and hidden by a religious order in the convent of San Vito, near Turin, where he wrote his memoirs and lived undiscovered until his death in 1955. After the war, he had been convicted of treason and sentenced to death in absentia by a French court.

References

Works

  • Marcel Déat, Perspectives socialistes (Paris, Valois, 1930)
  • Max Bonnafous - Marcel Déat - Adrien Marquet - Barthélémy Montagnon, Néo-socialisme ? Ordre, autorité, nation, Paris, Grasset, 140 pages, 1933. Speech pronounced at the SFIO Congress of July 1933.
  • Le Plan français : doctrine et plan d'action, Comité du Plan, Paris, Fasquelle, 199 pages, 1936. Preface by Marcel Déat.
  • Marcel Déat, De la fausse collaboration à la vraie révolution, décembre 1941-janvier 1942, Paris, Rassemblement national populaire, 47 pages, 1942. Various articles extracted from L'Œuvre (30 December 1941 - 13 January 1942) and a conference pronounced at Radio-Paris (5 January1942).
  • Marcel Déat, Le Parti unique, Paris, Aux Armes de France, 183 pages, 1943. Articles published in L'Œuvre (18 July-4 September1942).
  • Dominique Sordet (ed.), Le Coup du 13 décembre, Paris, impr. de Guillemot et de Lamothe, 47 pages, 1943. Article by Marcel Déat : "Il faut les chasser".
  • Marcel Déat, Mémoires politiques, Paris, Denoël, 990 pages, 1989. Introduction & notes by Laurent Theis ; epilogue by Hélène Déat.
  • Marcel Déat, Discours, articles et témoignages, Coulommiers, Éd. Déterna, « Documents pour l'histoire », 149 pages, 1999.

Further reading

  • Reinhold Brender, Kollaboration in Frankreich im Zweiten Weltkrieg. Marcel Déat und das Rassemblement National Populaire, (Studien zur Zeitgeschichte, vol. 38), Munich, R. Oldenbourg Verlag, 338 pages, 1992.
  • Philippe Burrin, La Dérive fasciste. Doriot, Déat, Bergery 1933-1944, Paris, Editions du Seuil, 530p, 1986 (Pocket edition with an inedit preface, 2003).
  • Jean-Paul Cointet, Marcel Déat : du socialisme au national-socialisme, Paris, Perrin, 418 pages, 1998.

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