Ordre Nouveau (1940s)

The Révolution nationale (French pronunciation: ​[ʁevɔlysjɔ̃ nasjɔnal], National Revolution) was the official ideological name under which the Vichy regime ("the French state") established by Marshal Philippe Pétain in July 1940 presented its program. Pétain's regime was characterized by its anti-parliamentarism and rejection of the constitutional separation of powers, personality cult, xenophobia and state anti-Semitism, promotion of traditional values and rejection of modernity, and finally corporatism and opposition to class conflict. Despite its name, the regime was more reactionary than revolutionary, opposing most changes since the 1789 French Revolution.[1]

As soon as it had been established, Pétain's government took measures against the "undesirables": Jews, métèques (immigrants), Freemasons, Communists—inspired by Charles Maurras' conception of the "Anti-France", or "internal foreigners", which Maurras defined as the "four confederate states of Protestants, Jews, Freemasons and foreigners" — but also Gypsies, homosexuals, and, in a general way, any left-wing activist. Vichy imitated the racial policies of the Third Reich and also engaged in natalist policies aimed at reviving the "French race" (including a sport policy), although these policies never went as far as the eugenics program implemented by the Nazis.


The ideology of the "French state" (Vichy France) was an adaptation of the ideas of the French far-right (monarchism, Charles Maurras' integralism, etc.) to and by a "crisis" government, born out of the defeat of France against Nazi Germany. It included:

Germany forced none of these changes on France. The Vichy government instituted them voluntarily as part of the National Revolution,[5] while Germany interfered little in internal French affairs for the first two years after the armistice as long as public order was maintained. It was suspicious of the aspects of the National Revolution that encouraged French patriotism, and banned Vichy veteran and youth groups from the Occupied Zone.[6]


The Révolution nationale particularly attracted three groups of persons. The Pétainistes gathered those who supported the personal figure of Marshall Pétain, considered at that time a war hero of the Battle of Verdun. The Collaborateurs include those who collaborated with Nazi Germany or advocated collaboration, but who are considered more moderate, or more opportunistic, than the Collaborationistes, advocates of a French fascism.

Supports of collaboration were not necessarily supporters of the National Revolution, and vice versa. Laval was a collaborationist but was dubious about the National Revolution, while others like Maxime Weygand opposed collaboration but supported the National Revolution because they believed that reforming France would help it avenge its defeat.[6]

Those who supported the ideology of the National Revolution rather than the person of Pétain himself could be divided, in general, in three groups, composed of the counter-revolutionary reactionaries, the supporters of a French fascism and the reformers who saw in the new regime in opportunity to modernize the state apparatus. The last current would include opportunists such as the journalist Jean Luchaire who saw in the new regime career opportunities.

The supporters were, however, in the minority. Although the Vichy government initially had substantial support from those who were glad that the war was over and expected that Britain would soon surrender, and Pétain remained personally popular during the war, by late autumn 1940 most French hoped for a British victory and opposed collaboration with Germany.[5]

Evolution of the regime

From July 1940 to 1942, the Révolution nationale was strongly promoted by the traditionalist and technocratic Vichy government. When in May 1942 Pierre Laval (a former socialist and republican) returned as the head of government, the Révolution nationale was no longer promoted but fell into oblivion and collaboration was emphasized.


In 1941, Nobel Prize winner Alexis Carrel, who had been an early proponent of eugenics and euthanasia and was a member of Jacques Doriot's French Popular Party (PPF), went on to advocate for the creation of the Fondation Française pour l’Etude des Problèmes Humains (French Foundation for the Study of Human Problems), using connections to the Pétain cabinet (specifically, French industrial physicians André Gros and Jacques Ménétrier). Charged of the "study, under all of its aspects, of measures aimed at safeguarding, improving and developing the French population in all of its activities," the Foundation was created by decree of the Vichy regime in 1941, and Carrel appointed as 'regent'.[8]

Sport policy

Vichy's policy concerning sports found its origins in Georges Hébert's (1875–1957) conception, who denounced professional and spectacular competition, and like Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the Olympic Games was a supporter of amateurism. Vichy's sport policy followed the moral aim of "rebuilding the nation", was opposed to Léo Lagrange's sport policy during the Popular Front, and was specifically opposed to professional sport imported from the United Kingdom. They also were used to engrain the youth in various associations and federations, as done by the Hitler Youth or Mussolini's Balilla.

On 7 August 1940 a Commissariat Général à l’Education Générale et Sportive (General Commissionneer to General and Sport Education) was created. Three men in particular headed this policy:

  • Jean Ybarnegaray, president and founder of the French and International Federations of Basque pelota, deputy and member of François de la Rocque's Parti Social Français (PSF). Ybarnegaray was first nominated State minister in May 1940, then State secretary from June to September 1940.
  • Jean Borotra, former international tennis player (member of "The Four Musketeers") and also a PSF member, 1st General Commissioner to Sports from August 1940 to April 1942.
  • Colonel Joseph Pascot, former rugby champion, director of sports under Borotra and then second General Commissioner to Sports from April 1942 to July 1944.

In October 1940, the two General Commissioners prohibited professionalism in two federations (tennis and wrestling), while permitting a three year delay for four others federations (Football, Cycling, Boxing and Basque Pelota). They prohibited competitions for women in cycling or Football. Furthermore, they prohibited or spoiled by seizing the assets of at least four uni-sport federations, Rugby League, Table Tennis, Jeu de paume, Badminton and from one multi-sport federation (the FSGT). In April 1942, they also prohibited the activities of the UFOLEP and USEP multisports' federation, also seizing their goods which were to be transferred to the "National Council of Sports."


  • "Sport well directed is moral in action" ("Le sport bien dirigé, c’est de la morale en action"), Report of E. Loisel to Jean Borotra, 15 October 1940
  • "I pledge on my honour to practice sports with selflessness, discipline and loyalty to improve myself and serve better my fatherland" (Sportsman's pledge — « Je promets sur l’honneur de pratiquer le sport avec désintéressement, discipline et loyauté pour devenir meilleur et mieux servir ma patrie »)
  • "to be strong to serve better" (IO 1941)
  • "Our principle is to seize the individual everywhere. At primary school, we have him. Later on he tends to escape us. We strive to catch up with him at every turn. I have arranged for this discipline of EG (General Education) to be imposed on students (...) We allow for sanctions in case of desertion." (« Notre principe est de saisir l’individu partout. Au primaire, nous le tenons. Plus haut il tend à s’échapper. Nous nous efforçons de le rattraper à tous les tournants. J’ai obtenu que cette discipline de l’EG soit imposée aux étudiants (…). Nous prévoyons des sanctions en cas de désertion »), Colonel Joseph Pascot, speech on 27 June 1942

See also


External links

  • Loi et décret 1940-42
  • Sports et Politique
  • Politique sportive du gouvernement de Vichy: discours et réalité
  • Sport et Français pendant l'occupation
  • JP Azéma: Président commission "Politique du sport et éducation physique en France pendant l'occupation."
  • Exemples: Badminton, Tennis de table, Jeu de paume Interdits
  • Vichy et le football
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