Charles Maurras and National Anarchy
by Ean Frick
Charles Maurras, French poet, critic of liberal democracy and founder of Action Française, was a staunch nationalist and monarchist. Despite the fact that much his philosophy was authoritarian, there is also much that can be learned from and attributed to the ideas of National Anarchy.
Being alive during the fin de siecle, he saw the encroaching tide of modernity and wished to return to a France prior to the Revolution, when the spirit of the nation was represented by a sovereign individual instead of a constitutional assembly. But his monarchism wasn’t based on any silly notions of sentimentality, but rather on reason, seeing that the liberal state wasn’t adequate at maintaining its citizens liberties. In ‘Dictator and King’ Maurras writes: “There is no interference, legal or illegal, which the French administration does not consider itself entitled to inflict upon the taxpayer and those whom it administers. There is no limit to the insolence that officials dare to use in their dealings with the citizen. An anonymous and impersonal Caesar, all-powerful, but irresponsible and unaware of the effect of his actions, applies himself diligently to the task of molesting the Frenchman from the cradle to the grave. Whether he wishes to live alone or to associate, the French citizen is certain to encounter at every step the Caesar-state, the Caesar-office ready to impose its directives (with prohibitions) or its wares (with subsidies).” He continues by calling for the autonomy of the citizen: “Those aspects of public affairs that the citizen knows are under the supervision of, or at the convenience of, the state. Without the state, a parent, town council, a board of directors, or even a simple village fete committee can decide practically nothing in matters that are of the closest and most direct concern to themselves. Voluntary associations, like political or intellectual societies, or natural associations like the family, town, or province- all gatherings of citizens are either overcome with inertia thanks to the laws of the state or else banned at the whim of those who happen at that moment to be masters of the state. Thus, thanks to the state, the civic function of the citizen falls into disuse and atrophies. The citizen becomes ignorant, lazy and cowardly. He loses civic sense and civic spirit.
Treated as a minor, he becomes fit only to follow docilely his guardians. He neither responds to nor cares about the basic interests of his community.”
Along with being a harsh critic of the state, Maurras was also a decentralist. Action Française favored a federal monarchy and wished to restore autonomy to the
various provinces of France, in contrast with the departmental system imposed after the
The excerpts from ‘Dictator and King’ came from The French Right: From de Maistre to Maurras by J. S. McClelland(editor) which is an excellent book on French
anti-liberal and anti-democratic thought from the end of the Revolution to the 20th century and
also features work from revolutionary syndicalist Georges Sorel and Maurice Barres.