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Title: The parliamentary Right in France, 1905-1919
Author: Anderson, Malcolm
ISNI:       0000 0001 3422 1790
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1961
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This thesis is a study of the organisations, behaviour and attitudes of a group of parliamentarians, conventionally described as the "Right", between 1905 and 1919. The Right is defined as comprising those deputies and senators who belonged to parliamentary groups which were almost united in opposing the law of Separation of the Churches and the State. It is pointed out in the Introduction that categories, suggested by writers such as Goguel, Rémond and Thibaudet, which attempt to describe more meaningfully the divisions in French politics are not particularly useful for the purposes of this study. Members of the Right were, before the passing of the law of Separation, in varying degrees conservative on the religious issue. They were united in opposition to the ministries of the years 1899 to 1906. They shared the same antipathies but lacked a positive aim. The Right could be described as a coalition as long as a bond of mutual sympathy lasted. After 1905 it rapidly disappeared. Section I contains a description of the electoral and parliamentary organisations of the Right and the effects upon them of four general elections. Those groups, which had no representatives in parliament, the most celebrated being the Ligue de l'Action Française, are outside the scope of this study. The parliamentary and electoral organisations were weak, divided and undemocratic. In 1905 most of them were of recent formation. They were formed during a period when there was a sharp division in French politics. The blurring of this division and successive electoral defeats took much of the life out of them. Only the electoral organisations had formal constitutions and these provide useful illustrations of the nature of the organisations. They were oligarchic and their importance depended on the stature of their leaders. At elections they approved rather than sponsored candidates. The parliamentary groups met infrequently and had no control over their members. But group membership is a useful guide to the political tendencies of deputés. The Senate groups became, after 1906, more eclectic and therefore a less useful guide to the opinions of their members. The major national issue of the election campaign of 1906 - the religious question - separated the Right from all other political tendencies. In 1910 the three main issues - the question scolaire, income tax and proportional representation - were confused and submerged by discussions about Briand and his policy of apaisement. On the main issues in 1914 - the Three Years Law and proportional representation (the question scolaire and income tax were of lesser importance) - the attitudes of the Right were shared by men of other political tendencies. The major issue of 1919, anti-socialism, provided common ground for all members of the Right and the Centre. Thus between 1905 and 1919 the Right became progressively less isolated in election campaigns. In Section II those issues on which the Right is usually thought to have distinctive views are examined. The most obvious of these is the clerical question. The difference of opinion within the Right on this question and the decline in its parliamentary importance are described. The formation of the bloc national marks the symbolic end to the isolation of the Right on the religious issue. It lived on as a divisive factor in politics but it no longer had the same primary importance that it possessed in 1905. On the constitutional question the Right was divided within itself as well as from its opponents. Republican, plebiscitary, corporative, bonapartist and monarchist ideas were defended by different sections. Since neither monarchist restoration nor major constitutional revision was a serious possibility curing this period, constitutional discussion was academic. But the ideas of members of the Right usefully illustrate the way they approached basic political problems. Under the heading "External Affairs" the views of the Right on colonial and foreign affairs are considered. Apart from a certain amount of polemical extremism and hints of racialism, the views of the Right varied in degree and not in kind from those of the Centre. The nationalists, who were noisy patriots, were more concerned about the enemy within than the enemy without. Few paid much attention to the practical difficulties which occured in the daily conduct of affairs. In Section III a diversity of subjects are treated under the general heading of "Interest". No group had a monopoly of deputies engaged in a particular activity. General patterns of personal interests emerge but they give no precise indication of individual political views and behaviour. The behaviour of the groups of the Right towards the ministries is described as this forms a background to (although it was not directly related to) discussions on social and financial measures. It also illustrates the evolution of the parliamentary tactics of the Right from disapproval of all anticlerical ministries to obvious preference for some ministries and eventually during the First World War, to support for governments. Some deputies and senators of the Right expressed views on the way in which society should be organised and on possible methods of resolving social discord. These are examined as an introduction to the reactions of the Right to trade unions and strikes. The attitude of the Right on the social question became progressively more negative. The preservation of the status quo became the primary consideration. The social and financial reforms, proposed by the Left to redistribute power and wealth within the community, were opposed by the Right. But there were divisions within the Right on the lengths to which opposition should be carried. Moreover the Right was never isolated in its opposition to these measures. The reason why the bills nationalising the Western railway, introducing old age pensions and income tax were delayed for so long was opposition in the Centre rather than on the Right of the Chamber and Senate. The passing of these bills and their acceptance by public opinion had a somewhat similar effect to the passing of the law of Separation. It removed them from public discussion and they lost their political importance. The thread running through the period 1905 to 1919 is the growing realisation by most of the Right that they had much in common with the Centre. There was something of a realignment in parliament and the country, with socialism replacing clericalism as the great divisive force. This realignment should not be overstressed. In parliament the most significant feature about the Right as a whole was not their shared beliefs and common tactics (which were minimal) but the fact that they were all in some way left out of the regime. Even in the Chambre bleu horizon there was a minority on the Right of the Chamber, as large as the opposition of the Right at the end of 1906, which was hardly represented in the cabinets of 1919 to 1924. More space is given to describing opinions rather than activities because the important initiatives taken by members of the Right were very few in number and present no difficulties. For most of the period the Right was a relatively passive opposition. External circumstances moulded attitudes and organisations. These circumstances are mentioned only briefly.
Supervisor: Williams, P. M. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Conservatism ; History ; Right and left (Political science) ; Politics and government ; France ; 20th century