Republican Federation

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Republican Federation
Fédération républicaine
PresidentPhilippe Henriot (last)
FounderJules Méline
Founded1 November 1903; 119 years ago (1903-11-01)
Dissolved1945; 78 years ago (1945)
Merger ofNational Republican Association
Liberal Republican Union
Succeeded byRepublican Party of Liberty (not legal successor)
Membership (1926)30,000
Liberal conservatism
Classical liberalism
National conservatism
Conservative liberalism
Political positionCentre-right to right-wing
National affiliationNational Bloc
Freedom Front
Colours  Blue

The Republican Federation (French: Fédération républicaine, FR) was the largest conservative party during the French Third Republic, gathering together the progressive Orléanists rallied to the Republic.

Founded in November 1903, the party competed with the more secular and centrist Alliance démocratique (Democratic Alliance). Later, most deputies of the Fédération républicaine and of Action libérale (which included Catholics rallied to the Republic) joined the Entente républicaine démocratique right-wing parliamentary group.[1]

From 1903 to World War I[edit]

The Republican Federation was founded in November 1903 to gather the right-wing of the Moderate Republicans (also known as Opportunists) who opposed both Pierre Waldeck Rousseau's Bloc des gauches (Left-wing Block), his alliance with the Radical-Socialist Party and for some of them the defense of the Jewish officer Alfred Dreyfus. These conservative Republicans were ideologically indebted to Jules Méline, Alexandre Ribot, Jean Casimir-Perier or Charles Dupuy. They represented the Republican bourgeoisie, closely connected to business circles and opposed to social reform. Furthermore, they were fond of a relative decentralisation, thus enrolling themselves in the legacy of the Girondins of the French Revolution. Just as the Democratic Republican Alliance, it was a party composed of notables, which rested upon local electoral committee, which merged in the National Assembly in one or several parliamentary groups. It never had many members (30,000 in 1926 and 18,000 in 1939).

Interwar period[edit]

After World War I, the Republican Federation participated during the 1919 legislative election within the Bloc national (National Block)'s electoral lists. The same year, the Action libérale populaire (Popular Liberal Action), an alliance of Catholics who had accepted the legality of the Republican regime, entered the Republican Federation by sitting within parliamentary grouping of the Entente républicaine démocratique (Arago group).

The Republican Federation shifted more and more to the right during the interwar period and it is important to note that it cannot be simply labelled a Christian-democratic party (a label that is more rightly applied to the very small Popular Democratic Party). Its religious-right and ultranationalist wing were strengthened by the election victory of the centre-left in 1924 and the subsequent rise of the anti-parliamentary and nationalist leagues as well as by a generational shift in its leadership. At the same time, the party's smaller Christian-democratic and social Catholic left-wing received a boost from the arrival of the parliamentary Catholics of the Popular Liberal Action. However, the rift in political ethos was shown by the fact that these preferred to sit in a separate parliamentary grouping from the main party (such as the Popular Democratic group, the Alsatian Popular Action group, or Pernot's Social Action group).

These changes were reflected in the handover of power from the Belle Époque industrialist and conservative leader Auguste Isaac to the younger militant and academic Louis Marin in 1925. Under Marin's leadership, the Republican Federation slowly transitioned from a confederation of local political bosses into a more streamlined political party on the model created by the Republican Left at the turn of the century, becoming more hierarchisesd with the creation of youth sections while ordinary members were given more weight.

Although several members participated to the Doumergue, Flandin and Laval governments of 1934–1935, most of the party opposed itself to this cooperation with the republican centre, which seemed to vindicate the "rallying of the center" (concentration républicaine) strategy advocated by the centre-right Democratic Republican Alliance. Following the experience of the Bloc National first and then of the Cartel des gauches (Left-Wing Cartel) in 1924, many voices inside the party argued in favor of a strategy enforcing the unity of the right-wings instead of a centrist strategy. After the 6 February 1934 riots which toppled the second Cartel des gauches, the majority of the party chose this right-wing strategy, taking the side of the opponents to the Republic accused of being anti-patriotic.

The Republican Federation thus formed in 1937 during the Popular Front a Front de la liberté (Freedom Front) along with Jacques Doriot's fascist Parti populaire français (French Popular Party) and the small Parti républicain national et social and French Agrarian and Peasant Party (Fleurant Agricola). Although this Freedom Front was theorized by Louis Marin and the other leaders of the party as a tactic against the growing influence of Colonel François de La Rocque's French Social Party—one of the first right-wing French mass party—this union also corresponded with the ideology of the leading classes outside Paris (such as Victor Perret in the Rhône region) and of the activists opposed both to the lefts and to the centre-right parties such as the Democratic Alliance or the Popular Democrats.

This shift to the right of the party during the 1930s explain how several important pre-war figures of the party (such as Laurent Bonnevay) left it. The Republican Federation acted as the nexus between parliamentary conservatives and the anti-Republican nationalist right organized in the various far-right paramilitaries and in the ultramonarchist Action française. Party members such as Philippe Henriot or Xavier Vallat (both future collaborationists) thus served as intermediaries between the leaders of the Republican Federation and the extra-parliamentary right.

After 1940[edit]

Although few important members of the Republican Federation actively engaged in collaborationism during the Vichy regime, their conservative allegiance (traditional Catholicism, anti-communism and conservative nationalism) induced most of them to accept the new regime of the Révolution nationale. However, the Republican Federation was part of one of the six member parties of the Conseil national de la Résistance (National Council of Resistance) represented by Jacques Debû-Bridel. Alongside Louis Marin, the latter tried without success to recreate the Republican Federation at the Liberation, but the party remained discredited by the passive attitude of most of its members. After 1949, the National Center of the Independents was the main political structure pursuing the Republican Federation's legacy after the failure of several structures, including the Republican Party of Liberty.

In Parliament[edit]

In the Chamber of Deputies[edit]

The Republican Federation deputies sat in the following parliamentary groups in the Chamber of Deputies:

Furthermore, the Republican Independents group of Georges Mandel was also close to the Republican Federation.

In the Senate[edit]

The Republican Federation senators sieged in the ANRS group (Action nationale républicaine et sociale, National Republican and Social Action) at least until 1936.

List of presidents[edit]

  • Eugène Motte (1903–1906)
  • Joseph Thierry (1906–1911)
  • Charles Prévet (1911–1914)
  • Charles Benoist (1914–1919)
  • Victor Milliard (1919–1921)
  • Auguste Isaac (1921–1925)
  • Louis Marin (1925–1946)

Electoral results[edit]

Chamber of Deputies
Election year No. of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
No. of
overall seats won
+/– Leader
1906 1,864,557 (2nd) 21.16
78 / 585
1910 1,565,698 (2nd) 19.08
119 / 595
Increase 41
1914 397,547 (5th) 4.72
37 / 601
Decrease 82
1919 1,819,691 (1st) 22.23
183 / 613
Increase 146
1924 3,190,831 (1st) 35.35
102 / 581
Decrease 81
1928 2,082,041 (2nd) 21.99
102 / 604
1932 1,233,360 (4th) 12.88
59 / 607
Decrease 43
1936 1,666,004 (3rd) 16.92
60 / 610
Increase 1

Notable members[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • William D. Irvine, French conservatism in the crisis : The Republican Federation of France in the 1930s, Bâton Rouge, 256p, 1975.
  • Jean Vavasseur-Desperriers, Culture, structures, stratégie d'une organisation de la droite parlementaire entre les deux guerre : la Fédération Républicaine de 1919 à 1940, University Lille 3, state thesis under the dir. of Yves-Marie Hilaire, 914p, 1999.
  • Jean Vavasseur-Desperriers, « Mise en sommeil et disparition : la Fédération républicaine de 1940 à 1946 », in Gilles Richard & Jacqueline Saincliver (dir.), La recomposition des droites à la Libération 1944-1948, 2004.
  • Laurent Bigorgne, « Le parcours d'une génération de ‘modérés’ : les jeunes de la Fédération Républicaine », in François Roth (dir.), Les modérés dans la vie politique française (1880-1965), 2000.
  • Jean Vavasseur-Desperriers, « La Fédération républicaine, Louis Marin et l'idée de paix pendant l'entre-deux-guerres », in Robert Vandenbussche a Michel (dir.), L’idée de paix en France et ses représentations au XXe siècle, 2001.
  • Jean Vavasseur-Desperriers, « De la présence à la distance: les milieux d'affaires et la Fédération républicaine », in Hervé Joly (dir.), Patronat, bourgeoisie, catholicisme et libéralisme. Autour du Journal d'Auguste Isaac, Larhra, 2004
  • Mathias Bernard, La dérive des modérés. La Fédération Républicaine du Rhône sous la Troisième République, Editions l'Harmattan, 432p, 1998.
  • Malcolm Anderson, Conservative politics in France, Allen and Unwen, 1974.
  • Jean-Noël Jeanneney, « La Fédération Républicaine », in Rémond & Bourdin (dir), La France et les francais 1938-1939, 1979.
  • Philippe Machefer, « L’union des droites, le PSF et le Front de la liberté, 1936–1937, RHMC, 1970.
  • Kevin Passmore, The Right in France from the Third Republic to Vichy., Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • René RémondJanine Bourdin, « Les forces adverses », in Renovin & Rémond (dir.), Léon Blum, chef de gouvernement 1936-1937, 1981.
  • René Rémond, Les droites en France, Aubier, 544p, 1982 (réed. De 1954).
  • Jean Vavasseur-Desperriers, « Les tentatives de regroupement des droites dans les années trente », Annales de Bretagne et des pays de l'ouest, 2002.
  • Bruno Béguet, Comportements politiques et structures sociales : le Parti Social Français et la Fédération Républicaine à Lyon (1936–1939), Université Lyon 2, mémoire de maîtrise sous la direction de Yves Lequin, 2 volumes, 252p, 1982.
  • Kevin Passmore, From liberalism to fascism. The Right in a French Province, 1928-1939, (study on the Rhône department) Cambridge university press, 333p, 1997.

External links[edit]