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Regards croisés sur la Démocratie chrétienne

From Christian Social Order to Humane Democracy Three Itineraries Leading to the MRP 1936-1948

Arthur Plaza
p. 73-96

Résumés

L’itinéraire de trois responsables du MRP montre leur enracinement dans l’action sociale, à partir de leur formation dans les mouvements de jeunesse catholique. C’est pendant la guerre qu’ils se convertissent à l’action politique, convaincus que c’est un moyen de favoriser un ordre social plus juste. Mais ils sont assez vite réticents devant le fonctionnement des partis et les nécessités de la vie politique, préférant un mouvement de masse capable de transformer la société.

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Notes de la rédaction

Cet article aborde le problème de l’évolution du catholicisme social au milieu du XXe siècle en fonction de l’itinéraire suivi par trois dirigeants de l’Action catholique qui se sont lancés en politique avec le Mouvement Républicain Populaire.
L’historiographie classique du MRP, le présente comme un parti démocrate chrétien. Or, l’absence de la « Démocratie chrétienne » dans son titre suggère un malaise identitaire. Sous-jacente est la question de savoir dans quelle mesure le Mouvement a continué l’esprit du catholicisme social compte tenu de la formation que les militants avaient reçue dans l’Action catholique. Dans cet article nous développons trois étapes dans la transformation d’une mentalité catholique chez des militants qui sont passés de l’action sociale à l’action politique. D’abord, nous examinons la formation offerte par les mouvements de jeunesse catholiques et leurs projets pour fonder un ordre social chrétien. Ensuite, nous étudions l’expérience de la deuxième guerre mondiale pendant laquelle l’action sociale, la résistance spirituelle contre nazisme et les réseaux clandestins ont facilité la politisation des militants dans une mouvance démocratique et d’inspiration chrétienne. Troisièmement, la Libération et la IVe République ont vu la naissance du Mouvement Républicain qui a permis l’intégration des catholiques et des projets, discours et valeurs du catholicisme social dans un programme politique réalisé par le MRP. L’itinéraire de ces trois dirigeants politiques montre l’élaboration d’une démocratie humaine qui s’inspirait des principes chrétiens, et qui, conformément à la laïcité, respectait le pluralisme politique et spirituel de la France moderne.

Notes de l’auteur

L’auteur tient à remercier très sincèrement le soutien de l’Amicale du MRP dans ses recherches et surtout Mme Marguerite Colin pour avoir rendu possible la consultation des archives de son époux.

Texte intégral

  • 1 François Bazin, Les députés MRP élus en 1945-1946 : Itinéraire politique d’une génération catholiqu (...)

1Decades of social activism against the dechristianization of French society culminated in a triumphant celebration in 1936 when Christian militants assembled to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Association catholique de la jeunesse française. In the middle of the Depression, amidst the pressures of anti-parliamentary leagues and in the face of the Popular Front, fifty thousand young Catholics gathered to affirm their mission to restore a Christian social order to France. The anniversary jubilee was followed by the apogee of a triumphant phase for Catholic Action when the Jeunesse ouvrière chrétienne, a working class movement federated under the ACJF, rallied close to 80 000 working class Christians in Paris’Parc des Princes in 1937. The élan that mobilized these masses grew out of social Catholicism articulated in the papal encyclical Rerum novarum (1891) and disseminated by French clergy and lay associations. At the Liberation, many of these same militants rose to politically prominent positions as members of the Mouvement Républicain Populaire completing a transition from social Catholic activists to democrats of Christian inspiration1. Given the preponderance of Christian militants who made the transition from social to political action, it is necessary to ask what type of formation they received in these networks that propelled them into the corridors of political power during the Fourth Republic and, subsequently, what elements of this social Catholicism they carried into their political action.

  • 2 Émile Poulat, Église contre bourgeoisie, Tournai, Casterman, 1977.
  • 3 Jean-Marie Mayeur, Des partis catholiques à la Démocratie chrétienne, Paris, Colin, 1980 and Du cat (...)
  • 4 Pierre Letamendia, Le MRP : Histoire d’un grand parti, Paris, Beauchesne, 1995 ; Emile-François Cal (...)
  • 5 Bruno Béthouart, Des syndicalistes chrétiens en politique, 1944-1962, Lille, Septentrion, 1997 ; Ju (...)

2Although scholarly consensus acknowledges the social Catholic origins of MRP founders, a question persists regarding the precise nature of the MRP. One interpretation suggested it was the heir of counterrevolutionary intransigeantisme embracing democracy for the sole purpose of restoring a Christian democracy2. Classic approaches have classified the MRP as the French case of a European-wide phenomenon known as « Christian democracy »3 or as a center-right, crypto-gaullist party yoked to the General because of his esteem among Catholic voters on the right4. Recent biographical studies of individual MRP members have illuminated the impact of their faith and religious formation on their political action5. This paper will retrace the itinerary of three social Catholics, André Colin, Fernand Bouxom and Albert Gortais, who embodied the transformation from Catholic social action to the MRP. Resisting the nomenclature of « Christian democracy » they created a Movement dedicated to constructing a « démocratie humaine » in which a Catholic religious agenda was converted into a broader program adapted to the Resistance and the obstacles of postwar politics.

Constructing a Christian Social Order (1936-1939)

  • 6 Yves-Marie Hilaire, « L’Association Catholique de la Jeunesse Française les étapes d’une histoire ( (...)

3Founded by Albert de Mun, the ACJF took on a new face in 1926 as it specialized its apostolates within different social milieus beginning with the Jeunesse ouvrière chrétienne, developed to « inculturate the Gospel in milieus deemed part of social reality. »6 It is toward this reorganized ACJF, federating its branches (JOC, Jeunesse étudiante chrétienne, Jeunesse agricole catholique, Jeunesse maritime chrétienne, Jeunesse indépendante chrétienne) and three of its leaders that we turn our attention. Born in 1909, in a suburb of Lille to working-class parents, Fernand Bouxom founded the first section of the JOC in the Nord in 1926 after being inspired by the movement’s Belgian founder, l’abbé Cardijn, whom he heard speak :

  • 7 Fernand Bouxom, Des faubourgs de Lille au Palais Bourbon, Editions ETC, 1982, p. 29.

« … les petits, les méprisés sont fils de Dieu… Vous devez être les sauveurs de la classe ouvrière, vous seuls et personne d’autre pouvez la libérer, lui donner la fierté, la dignité auxquelles elle a droit. Sois fier, ouvrier! 7 ».

  • 8 Dictionnaire du monde religieux dans la France contemporaine. Bretagne, Paris, Beauchesne, 1990, p. (...)
  • 9 Mme Jeanine Gortais, cited in Le MRP vous parle!, n°104 – mars 2005, p. 11.

4The JOC inspired Bouxom to rescue the working-classes from their misery by bringing them a sense of self-worth and dignity from their status as children of God. Reknown for his fiery bravado and quick wit retorting to anti-clerical attacks in the sectarian North, Bouxom became federal director in the Nord, then Secretary General from 1934 to 1938. In 1934, he joined André Colin in the federal organ of the ACJF. The son of a Breton attorney, Colin was born in 1910. He participated in multiple Catholic associations in Brest before coming to Paris as a law student, then becoming the Secretary General of the ACJF in 1933, and its National President from 1936 to 19388. The third member of this circle, Albert Gortais, also Breton, was born in St. Brieuc in 1914. He rose to national responsibility in the ACJF from 1936 to 1939 as a law student and later while studying at HEC9. Looking beyond their social differences, Bouxom, Colin and Gortais embarked on a common mission erecting a Christian social order to remedy what they considered the political disorder and social injustice of the chaotic 1930s. The ACJF became a laboratory for the elaboration of a new Christian social order concentrated on evangelization through formation, apolitical civisme, social collaboration, and the renewal of the family.

Evangelization through Formation

  • 10 Albert Gortais, « La prière de nos chefs », Cinquantenaire,organe du Congrès jubilaire de l’ACJF, n (...)
  • 11 Fernand Bouxom, « Construisons un monde nouveau ! » Cinquantenaire, n°1 – novembre 1935.

5The primary objective assigned to the ACJF and its branches by the French episcopate in 1931 when they received a « mandate » recognizing them as official lay associations of the Catholic Church, was the mission of spreading the Gospel of Christ to their respective milieus. Over one million issues of the pre-Congress bulletin Cinquantenaire were diffused throughout the country to create a swell of popular fervor for a movement on the march. Gortais wrote that the ACJF was essentially an apostolic movement urging its members to « conquer souls to Christ10 ». The Church was sought to reverse the secularization of the working classes growing since the 19th century. The JOC had an urgent mission to fulfill as Bouxom, announced, « C’est ensemble [avec l’ACJF] que nous sauverons la Classe ouvrière et la Société »11. Despite such lofty rhetoric, there is no evidence that these movements made inroads among non-believers. Rather, the groups primarily mobilized youths from Christian families under the guidance of chaplains.

  • 12 Joseph Debès et Émile Poulat, L’appel de la JOC (1926-1928), Paris, Cerf, 1986, p. 166-167.
  • 13 Album souvenir du Congrès du 10e anniversaire de la Jeunesse ouvrière chrétienne, 1937.

6Entrusted with evangelization, the movements dedicated their energies into forming a young elite capable of exercising leadership in the hundreds of local sections of the JOC, JAC, JEC, JIC, and JMC. The sections offered spiritual formation and studied the problems of their milieu in Catholic social networks intended to strengthen their Christian identity. Bouxom frequently wrote in the JOC’s national newspaper, Jeunesse ouvrière, urging young workers to identify with Christ the worker12. He vividly evoked the image of Christ as worker and source of strength during his speech at the 10th anniversary of the JOC in July 1937 : « nous avons ce Menuisier de Nazareth, sa main calleuse soutiendra la nôtre, c’est pourquoi nous serons des victorieux !13 » In their attempts to address the problems of unemployment, class conflict and the poor working conditions, they applied a method encapsulated in the maxim, « Voir – juger – agir. » Bouxom, Gortais and Colin developed critical skills through their public speaking, organization of mass meetings, and debates with socialists and royalists. Refusing a Catholic ghetto, Colin exhorted the ACJF to extract itself from a defensive posture :

  • 14 André Colin, « Pour une cité meilleure », Annales de la Jeunesse catholique, n°43 – janvier 1936, p (...)

« Plutôt que de dresser les murailles d’une forteresse où se retireraient les bons pour se défendre contre les méchants qui l’assiègent, ils ont résolu de porter le débat devant les masses14. »

7Boldly confronting socialist contradictors in public meetings, Bouxom proudly asserted his Christian faith and demanded the respect of workers’human dignity.

Non-partisan civic formation and engagement

  • 15 Georges Bidault, « L’ACJF et les mouvements politiques de jeunesse », rapport au Conseil fédéral du (...)
  • 16 Georges Bidault, ibidem, p. 16-18.

8During the decade spanning from 1926 to 1936 the ACJF clearly delineated its separation of the temporal and spiritual spheres. Political action had to be avoided given the condemnations of the Sillon (1910) and Action Française (1927). Georges Bidault, vice-president general, warned members of the leagues and parties that recruited youths in a spirit of political revolution in 192615. Targeting the royalist movement of Charles Maurras, Bidault denounced the political messianism of Maurras and his campaign calling for politique d’abord by arguing that, « Christ did not need his reign to be restored by Caesar16 ». The line between social action and political action was clearly drawn as politics represented a divisive, partisan domain, whereas social action united Catholics on the common ground of faith. Bidault did clarify that members were free to take on political engagements only after leaving the Catholic Action movements. A few former leaders, including Bidault and François de Menthon joined the Parti Démocrate Populaire, founded with the collaboration of Charles Flory in 1924.

  • 17 Fernand Bouxom, Des faubourgs de Lille, p. 63, 51.
  • 18 Jean-Pierre Coco et Joseph Debès, 1937, L’élan jociste, le dixième anniversaire de la JOC, Paris – (...)
  • 19 André Colin, « Lettre aux secrétaires généraux et dirigeants », Les annales de la Jeunesse Catholiq (...)
  • 20 Archives départementales de Nanterre, Fonds de la JOC : 44J399. Courrier de la JOC à la Direction d (...)

9The Popular Front strikes and factory occupations of May and June 1936 pushed political and class divisions to a head, yet Fernand Bouxom did not take part in the mass demonstrations that mobilized millions of workers17. The JOC recommended its militants refrain from participating in the actions, deeming them illegitimate and perceiving them to be orchestrated by the CGT at the behest of the Communist Party18. Bouxom suspected that Communist youth organizations intended to infiltrate the JOC. Writing in the aftermath of June, Colin regretted the revolutionary violence of the strikes and cited the non-application of the Church’s social teaching as the root of the crisis. His practical instructions called on Catholic militants to carry out an « institutional apostolate » by joining the Confédération française des travailleurs chrétiens and hastening the constitution of its sections19. The CFTC, founded by social Catholics in 1919, represented a fraction of the workers (150 000) organized by the CGT (1 000 000) before June 1936. The JOC’s national headquarters pointed out to the newspaper, L’aube, that forty-five of its former militants had assumed positions in the leadership structures of the CFTC in the following year20.

10Christian militants faced criticism for their political abstention. National President Colin expressed the association’s conception of public life :

  • 21 « Délégués reçus par le président du Conseil Municipal de Paris », Programme du Cinquantenaire de l (...)

« en s’abstenant étroitement de toute politique, elle désire amener des hommes mûrement formés et capables de remplir pour le mieux de leur pays les mandats qui leur auront été confiés par leurs concitoyens et les responsabilités qu’ils auront acceptés21 ».

  • 22 « Humanisme intégral », Annales de la Jeunesse Catholique, n°52 – décembre 1936, p. 432.
  • 23 René Rémond, Les droites en France, Paris, Aubier, 1982, p. 179 ; Etienne Fouilloux, Les chrétiens (...)

11The ACJF assured the civic formation of young men who would eventually be called by their fellow citizens to fulfill public mandates. Jacques Maritain’s Humanisme intégral (1936) proved to be an influential work to young militants by defining Catholic Action as a precursor to political action through its religious and apostolic education. Education was privileged over political objectives because Maritain argued that Catholics could take a number of different political positions equally inspired by Christianity22. Historians have argued that Catholics rallied to the Republic after the papal condemnation of Action Française in 192723. This analysis is confirmed by Colin’s call to civic action respectful of the Republican regime :

  • 24 André Colin, « Pour une cité meilleure », Annales de la Jeunesse Catholique, n°43 – janvier 1936, p (...)

« Gardant l’idéal d’une nouvelle chrétienté l’ACJF entend, dans le cadre et le respect du régime politique établi, travailler par l’action de ses mouvements et le témoignage qu’elle porte à poser les bases d’une civilisation nouvelle24. »

ACJF – Model for social collaboration and action

  • 25 Pierre-Henri Simon, « Le christianisme n’est pas une méthode pour résoudre les difficultés temporel (...)
  • 26 « Compte rendu du 39e Conseil Fédéral de l’ACJF », Les annales de la Jeunesse Catholique, février 1 (...)
  • 27 André Colin, « Pour une cité meilleure », Les Annales de la Jeunesse Catholique, n°43, janvier 1936 (...)
  • 28 Jacques Maritain, Esprit, octobre 1935, dans Les Annales de la Jeunesse Catholique, n°43 – janvier (...)
  • 29 Jean-Pierre Coco et Joseph Debès, 1937, L’élan jociste, op. cit., p. 72.

12The ideological and civil unrest between Fascists and Communists persuaded Colin, Gortais and Bouxom that only social action could correct the malaise plaguing France’s democracy and economic system. The Christian social order they proposed blended elements of corporatist philosophy with personalism in a simultaneously conservative and innovative reformist movement. National leaders understood that Christian social doctrine did not possess all the solutions to economic and political crises25. Their focus was on the restoration of what they considered the fundamental units of society – the family, the professions, and the commune26. This social renovation signaled a rupture with theories of the social contract solely engaging individuals because it demanded respect for the « natural » social corps that encompassed the human person whose respect was the cornerstone of any veritable reconstruction27. In addition to Maritain and Simon, Christian militants were influenced by the personalist philosophy of intellectuals such as Paul Archambault and Emmanuel Mounier, who provided the philosophical underpinnings of the Christian social order. They saw liberal individualism as a failure to ensure the well-being of the humblest members of society because it neglected the interests of social institutions such as the family and the community, both threatened by economic pressures during the Depression. Digressing from Marxist analyses, Colin concurred with Maritain that the growth of class consciousness among laboring classes sprung from the recognition of the dignity of the human person within the worker28. Asserting that man was neither a blind instrument nor a machine, Bouxom argued that he was called to realize God’s kingdom of justice and fraternity. Since their milieu exerted a strong force on workers, young jocistes demanded that the workplace not be a source of demoralization, but rather a zone that was humane and just29.

13Militants implored members to promote social collaboration of classes through their representation in novel institutions such as the ACJF. Bouxom, Colin and Gortais believed that the ACJF represented a new model of social relations capable of reconciling conflicts between classes by breaking with hierarchical order. Emphasizing the equality of all French classes, Bouxom declared,

  • 30 Fernand Bouxom, « Le sens du Congrès », Conseil fédéral, janvier 1936, Les annales de la Jeunesse C (...)

« Cette représentation au congrès des différents milieux sera le reflet de la vie réelle, chaque mouvement représentant son milieu, sa classe, représentera également les problèmes qui s’y posent. (…) Des représentants de tous les milieux, sur ce pied d’égalité que confère la reconnaissance de la dignité de chacun, affirmeront en pleine liberté, leurs droits et leurs devoirs en faces des jeunes des autres classes »30.

  • 31 Fernand Bouxom, Des faubourgs de Lille, op. cit., p. 35.

14The JOC’s duty, then, was to conduct surveys of social, material and moral conditions in working class milieus and report them to the ACJF31. Each constituent branch would contribute its perspective on social questions at the national and diocesan levels to foster dialogue. Consequently, these reports were a means of social collaboration and inter-class negotiation intended produce compromise and to stimulate reforms. Their methods were not without flaws as specialized branches focused on their own milieu to the neglect of federal collaboration. Despite the difficulties in overcoming their class differences and competition between groups trying to recruit members, the ACJF survived until 1956. One product of this collaboration was the 1938 collective report on family allocations. Were these militants naïvely imitating corporatist structures developed by La Tour du Pin at the end of the 19th century and given new legitimacy by Pius XI in the encyclical Quadragesimo anno ?

  • 32 André Colin, « Discours de clôture », Programme du Cinquantenaire, p. 55-6.
  • 33 Albert Gortais, « Le 8e Congrès des Secrétariats sociaux des 16-17 mai », Albert Gortais, dans La C (...)
  • 34 Albert Gortais, « Corporatisme ? (I) », Les annales de la Jeunesse Catholique, n°68 – septembre-oct (...)
  • 35 Albert Gortais, « Corporatisme ? (II) », Les annales de la Jeunesse Catholique, n°70 – décembre 193 (...)

15Rejecting a traditionalist social order for its paternalistic treatment of workers and peasants, Colin and Gortais argued that the ACJF offered an alternative where different classes could cooperate as equal partners by examining social problems by the light of Catholic social doctrine32. Replying to CFTC President Zirnheld, Colin argued that the ACJF was striving to improve relations between youth from the working class and the patronat without alienating workers from their social milieu33. The widespread popularity of corporatist ideology in 1938 compelled Albert Gortais to evaluate corporatism as a potential solution to social conflict. Quadragesimo anno had proposed the professional organization of different branches of social activity into corporations without distinguishing between laborers and capitalists. Gortais criticized corporate systems in Italy and Portugal where only dictatorships made them possible. He questioned the threat to the liberty of trade unions, the suppression of the right to strike and the risk of an inequality between salaried labor and those who dominated economic power34. In the wake of strikes provoked by the repeal of the 40 hour work week, Gortais reminded his readers that corporatism was associated with the Middles Ages and workers had a right to strike in defense of their interests. He argued that it was insufficient to deny the existence of classes by pretending that they were merely the fruit of Communist propaganda35.

  • 36 Album souvenir du Congrès du 10e anniversaire de la JOC, juillet 1937.
  • 37 Quadragesimo anno, n°71 – « Retour de la mère au foyer ».
  • 38 Jean-Pierre Coco et Joseph Debès, L’élan jociste, op. cit., 1937, p. 65.
  • 39 Les annales de la Jeunesse Catholique, n°66 – mai-juin 1938, p. 136-138.

16Creating a center for egalitarian social cooperation out of the ruins of antiquated corporatism proved to be a challenge for these militants. They turned their activity toward the family as an institution to be strengthened through state intervention because it was the basic cell of society. Delegates at the JOC’s 1937 Congress pledged to reconstruct families to restore peace to French society36. The ACJF published a special issue of its journal dedicated to family allocations mandated by the legislation of April 1, 1937. In order to develop strong families, the association advocated extending family allocations to agriculture. The purpose of family allocations was to aid families by improving their cramped unsanitary housing so they could develop « the virtues that make families strong ». The ideal family had clearly defined gender roles with allocations permitting mothers to stay home and watch over the household, thus affirming the Church’s teaching37. The JOC, its feminine branch (the JOCF), and its family movement (the Ligue ouvrière chrétienne), conducted surveys to measured the brutality of an economic system that forced mothers to abandon the home in exchange for a meager salary and unsanitary workplace conditions that endangered young girls’health38. If the workplace dehumanized working men, then it was all the more pernicious to women because of its pervasive promiscuity39. Speaking to a group of young workers in Roubaix in July 1937, Bouxom saluted the jeune ouvrière,

  • 40 Archives de l’Evêché de Lille : JOC 1929-1937, Fédération de Roubaix. « Discours de Fernand Bouxom, (...)

« with all the more respect because she is obliged to earn her bread by the sweat of her brow so as to chase misery from her home, whereas her destiny is to stay there40 ».

17Militants from the ACJF and JOC adopted a bourgeois ideal of motherhood and a gendered division of the workplace. Their innovation was to form the LOC, which Bouxom joined in 1938, to create a movement that could advocate for the representation of working class families before the state.

  • 41 Philip Nord, « Vu du XXème siècle », dans Claire Andrieu, Gilles Le Béguec, et Danielle Tartakowsky (...)

18Catholic Action movements were contributing to a foundation for democracy through their civic formation of leaders who sought to represent the interests of young workers, farmers, students, and families in civil society41. However, the boundaries between social and political action had been blurred since Bidault’s 1926 report. Catholic associations were neither parties, nor interest groups. Rather, they acted as advocacy groups intervening in policy debates concerning the family or working-class conditions. Catholic Action movements prepared youth to take on civic responsibility and themselves intervened in political debates when social questions were concerned. Nonetheless, these movements lacked the organization and the will to engage in partisan politics to obtain their demands. Asked to run in the general elections of 1936 for the PDP, Bouxom declined. Social action was deemed a more effective way if influencing public opinion and implementing change, while electoral action was considered a diversion. If social action had put these militants on a track for political action, they still lacked a locomotive to take them to their destination.

During the war (1940-1944)

  • 42 « Victoire de l’Empire Français », Radio address, 22 juin 1940 broadcast on Radio-Beyrouth, publish (...)

19Mobilized for war, Gortais, Bouxom and Colin experienced the rapid defeat, armistice and collapse of the Third Republic that cast France into disarray. They drew on their Christian values to grapple with the new reality of a defeated France in stages through their social action, clandestine activity and eventual political leap. Following the armistice and unaware of de Gaulle’s appeal from London, André Colin in Beirut with the French navy took to the radio waves. He made the case to continue the fight against Hitler’s ideology of National-Socialism, which negated the dignity of the human person, and to regroup the forces of the French Empire to win the war42. Demobilized and repatriated in October 1940, he assumed the clandestine organization of the ACJF in the occupied zone, whereas Albert Gortais took over the direction of the ACJF in the non-occupied zone in Lyon. Bouxom returned from the Belgian front to resume his responsibilities in the LOC.

  • 43 Étienne Fouilloux, Les chrétiens français entre crise et libération, 1937-1947, p. 195-196.
  • 44 Alain-René Michel, La JEC face au nazisme et à Vichy, 1938-1944, Presses universitaires de Lille, 1 (...)

20Historians have explained the initial participation of Catholics in Pétain’s National Revolution from 1940 to 1941 by noting their gratification that the regime had recognized the pertinence of the Church’s position on the family and symbolically promoted Church institutions as part of the national renovation43. Vichy also legislated a family policy closely inspired by social Catholicism through family allocations and maternity subsidies44. How can we understand the attitude of Colin, Gortais and Bouxom during this period of occupation and propaganda aligning the regime with Catholic ideals of social renovation ? Two principles explain their positions during the war – fidelity to Christian social action and spiritual resistance to Nazism.

The Vichy Card

  • 45 Archives jésuites, 1Pa505/2. Albert Gortais, « Les jeunes au service de la Communauté française », (...)

21The ACJF never applied for authorization in the occupied zone, refusing to submit itself to Nazi authority. However, the association’s position in the south was nuanced vis-à-vis Pétain’s régime because the Minister of Youth sought to consult leaders of the JOC and JAC in developing public policies. According to Secretary General Gortais, in January 1941, the movements suggested reforms because of their experience studying the issues concerning their milieu and now the state was consulting them before drafting legislation45. Their contacts with the Vichy state could enable the movements to transform institutions according to Catholic social doctrine at a time when defeat had wrought chaos. Michel aptly characterized the stance of the JEC, consistent with the ACJF, which intended to play the card of the National Revolution so long as it allowed for the realization of Christian doctrine.

  • 46 Archives de la Préfecture de Police de Paris : GA B3, Renseignements généraux, novembre 1958 – n°17 (...)
  • 47 Fernand Bouxom, Des faubourgs de Lille, op. cit., p. 91.
  • 48 Archives de la Préfecture de Police de Paris, GA B3, RG, 13 janvier 1943.

22Resuming his activities in the working families’movement, Bouxom considered the work immense given the human suffering resulting from the war and separations endured by the families. The LOC transformed itself into the Mouvement Populaire des Familles numbering 60 000 members in 1942 in a representative body joining Christians with non-believers. As Secretary General, Bouxom was a member of the Comité Consultatif de la Famille Française in 1941-194246 where he came into conflict with the head of the Fédération des Familles Françaises because the MPF organized working families separately47. Furthermore, Bouxom disagreed with Vichy’s natalist policy because the MPF considered housing, food rations, and the evacuation of children to rural regions a greater priority48. Social Catholic movements acted as representative institutions before the Vichy state consistent with their purpose of formulating responses to social dilemmas.

Spiritual and clandestine activity

  • 49 Renée Bédarida, Les catholiques dans la guerre, 1939-1945, Paris, Hachette, 1998, p. 74.
  • 50 Maurice-René Simonnet, Sept ans au service de la jeunesse, 1939-1945, Epi, 1946, p. 15 ; Albert Gor (...)
  • 51 Réédité in Maurice-René Simonnet, Sept ans, op. cit., p. 28-29.

23Beginning in June 1941, the ACJF in the occupied zone took an increasingly hostile attitude toward Vichy due to its authoritarian measures. On July 24, 1941, the bishops of the occupied zone refused the state’s plan for the Jeunesse Unique because the ACJF had refused to participate in a state-controlled body49. A month earlier, Gortais had addressed Vichy’s youth policy in a report rejecting any state monopoly of France’s youth50. Gortais clandestinely founded the Conseil Privé des Mouvements to study political questions with the collaboration of Communist, Protestant and Jewish groups. In May 1942, when the Nazis required Jews to wear a yellow star in the occupied zone, Gortais circulated a note to the heads of the specialized movements of the ACJF warning them that a « neo-pagan » civilization was attempting to impose its will on Europe. He cited the papal encyclical, Mit Brennender Sorge (1937) as a Christian basis for opposition to Nazism51.

  • 52 Maurice-René Simonnet, Sept ans, op. cit., p. 196. Bernard Comte, L’honneur et la conscience, catho (...)
  • 53 Cahiers de Notre Jeunesse, n°1 – juin 1941, p. 2, 4-5.
  • 54 Cahiers de Notre Jeunesse, n°4 – novembre 1941, p. 38, 47-48 ; Le Monde ouvrier, journal du MPF, 8 (...)
  • 55 Fernand Bouxom, Des faubourgs de Lille, p. 92 ; Renée Bédarida, Les armes de l’esprit, Témoignage c (...)

24Disgusted by the hypocritical moral order of the National Revolution that was indentured to the Nazi regime, Gortais founded the Cahiers de Notre Jeunesse in June of 1941 to unite students critical of Vichy’s authoritarian impetus and to awaken the Christian conscience against pervasive Nazi ideology52. In the very first issue of the Cahiers de notre jeunesse, Gortais stated that the journal aimed to help readers understand the true collective conscience of the French people and the rules of conduct it imposed on them53. Exhorting his readers to obey the loi morale, Gortais insisted, « Mieux vaut souffrir que trahir ». In October, Gortais challenged Vichy’s plan for the organization of labor in the Labor Charter, subsequently reprinting Paul Bacon’s article from Le Monde Ouvrier to undermine support for the proposal to eliminate the right to free labor organization by workers54. The Cahiers assembled opponents of Vichy culminating in its condemnation in June 1943, when the journal called on students to refuse the STO. MPF leaders also participated in networks to undermine Nazism. Bouxom undertook clandestine activity in the summer of 1942 as a disseminator of Témoignage Chrétien, a resistance journal arming a spiritual resistance since 194155. The movements of Catholic Action and the Family Association provided a cover for militants as they pursued social action on behalf of destitute families in France’s cities while sensitizing French militants to the moral bankruptcy of Vichy.

The Political Leap

  • 56 François Bazin, Les députés MRP, op. cit., p. 174-178.
  • 57 Archives Nationales, 350 AP 73, Dossier Gortais.
  • 58 Archives Nationales, 350 AP 12. Congrès constitutif, « Principes d’action du MRP », 2e séance du 26 (...)
  • 59 Letter from Albert Gortais to André Diligent, 30 juillet 1977.
  • 60 Fernand Bouxom, Des faubourgs de Lille, p. 93.
  • 61 Archives Historiques de l’Archevêché de Paris, 2K1 7 2 LOC-MPF. Circulaire du 4 juillet 1944 accomp (...)
  • 62 Bruno Béthouart, Des syndicalistes chrétiens en politique, 1944-1962, Lille, Septentrion, 1999, p. (...)
  • 63 Letter from André Colin to Georges Bidault, 18 juillet 1944.

25What propelled social Catholics to make a political leap in 1943 ? Their sense of social mission, combined with clandestine resistance networks, thrust them upon the wave of political action prevalent at the Liberation. In February 1943, the ACJF adapted its structures to the complete German occupation of France and the entry of many French youths into the maquis as a result of the STO. André Colin and Albert Gortais formed a liaison between the ACJF and Georges Bidault, president of the Conseil National de la Résistance56. The occupation signaled the death knell of the Vichy state and militants saw a new political order on the horizon. Bidault’s moral authority and support opened the path to politics for social Catholics who had been planning social reforms long before the war. Joining the FFI in the Côtes du Nord, Gortais welcomed Allied forces in 1944 and fought to liberate Lorient from the Germans57. Citing the decision to engage in Resistance activity, Colin argued that this was a first political choice which convinced youths that politics commanded the future of the Nation. By joining the Movement they could continue this engagement58. Gortais confirmed the continuity of their inspiration : « Pour moi, l’ACJF, la Résistance, le MRP, l’action sociale… tout cela engage les mêmes valeurs59 ». MPF leaders Bouxom and Bacon entered the nucleus of Christian Democrats assembled around Francisque Gay and Bidault. Contact with the Christian Democrat résistants, from the PDP and the CFTC politicized the social Catholics, persuading them that social change was possible through democratic renovation. Bouxom advocated a familial program in his meetings with Christian Democrats assembled by Charles Flory in a group working under the orders of François de Menthon in London60. Bouxom diffused an MPF bulletin advocating amendments to the Loi Gounot61 that Robert Prigent would democratize in 1945 as minister of population and health62. In the spring of 1944, Colin co-authored the Movement’s first public manifesto, defining the group’s fidelity to the « essential principles of a Christian civilization » establishing a lineage with Catholic Action. He traveled throughout the provinces in the first half of 1944 to launch the local bases of the Movement by exploiting the existing networks of Catholic Action before replacing Bidault in the CNR63.

The Movement to building a Humane Democracy 1944-1948.

  • 64 Letter from André Colin to Eugène Duthoit, 1942, cited in « La Bretagne », Dictionnaire du monde re (...)
  • 65 Letter from André Colin to Francisque Gay, 30 mai 1944, regarding discussions with Paul Bacon to fo (...)
  • 66 Letter from André Colin to Georges Bidault, 28 octobre 1944.

26Colin, Gortais and Bouxom adapted the ACJF’s methods and the doctrine of social Catholicism by infusing them into the Movement’s architecture and signaling a departure from the Third Republic. As early as 1942, Colin had written to Eugène Duthoit that he wished to adapt « les modes d’action catholique aux structures nouvelles et aux courants d’idées nouveaux64 ». He used his contacts as delegate general to realize a break with the Third Republic and the PDP. By addressing the aspirations of the popular classes, the Movement would integrate them into the politics of the Fourth Republic65. Colin explained why he had organized workers’teams directed by Bacon, a women’s commission, led by Simone Rollin, and appointed Bouxom to direct propaganda and the commission on family : « [pour] maintenir dans le Mouvement une large influence populaire, car c’est essentiel. Sans cela nous échouons dans notre vaste entreprise66 ». Albert Gortais had impressed upon Colin the urgency of organizing a large formation capable of conquering opinion in a revolutionary perspective. Referring to contacts he had made during the Resistance, Gortais related a revolutionary idiom common during the Resistance :

  • 67 Letter from Albert Gortais to André Colin, 4 août 1944.

« nos camarades … ne conçoivent la politique de demain que sous la forme d’une rupture brutale… [avec le] matérialisme, capitalisme, profit, république des camarades. Ils se disent à cause de cela "révolutionnaires"67 ».

27The rupture they desired would avoid the political quagmire of the interwar years and prove that political action could be an effective extension of social action. The Third Republic had failed to quell unrest because it was at the mercy of capitalists and industrialists. By nationalizing key industries, providing national social security, family welfare subsidies, and ensuring workers’participation in management, a stable democracy would be founded on social justice.

  • 68 Lignes d’action pour la Libération, Mouvement Républicain de Libération, Centre National, Paris, ao (...)
  • 69 Archives Nationales, 350 AP 12. Congrès constitutif, « Principes d’action du MRP », 2e séance du 26 (...)

28The militants needed to determine a method to conduct revolutionary reforms emanating from their social Catholicism while respecting liberty and avoiding a confessional ghetto. The Republic and democracy provided the logical means. The founding manifesto explicitly proclaimed : « Nous sommes pour la République parce qu’elle remet aux hommes, dont elle reconnaît ainsi l’égale dignité, la responsabilité de se diriger eux-mêmes68 »… The Mouvement Républicain Populaire was officially born at its congress in Paris November 25 and 26. Colin and Bouxom claimed the Movement charted a new direction to the Christian Democratic tradition. « Certes nous sommes un mouvement d’inspiration chrétienne, » confessed Bouxom, « mais nous nous refusons à n’être qu’une association de bien-pensants et de pratiquants. Le peuple doit être chez lui auprès de nous et notre mouvement doit être son mouvement ». Recalling 15 years of Catholic Action, Colin proudly stated : « Nous sommes des démocrates d’inspiration chrétienne et révolutionnaire et nous voulons atteindre la masse des Français sans rien abdiquer de notre ideal69 ».

  • 70 AN, 350 AP 45. Commission exécutive, 23 août 1945.
  • 71 Forces nouvelles, n°1 – 10 février 1945.
  • 72 Fernand Bouxom, Des faubourgs de Lille, op. cit., p. 110.
  • 73 AN, 350 AP 45. Commission exécutive, 9 août 1945.
  • 74 AN, 350 AP 56. André Colin, « Rapport de politique générale au Conseil National », 26 août 1945.

29These architects of the MRP intended that the Movement would constitute a representative institution linking the people to the democratic government. On the eve of cantonal elections in August 1945, Colin exhorted federal officers on the MRP’s departmental level not to dissociate their electoral action from the important work of constructing the Movement70. Seamlessly fusing social Catholic concerns with the Republic, he explained the need for a Republican Movement because : « la République est le régime de liberté et fait le plus de part à la personne humaine71 ». As propaganda director Bouxom oversaw the design of the election poster, Bâtir la France avec le peuple, depicting Marianne being built by a manual laborer to buttress the Movement’s popular image72. He argued before the Executive Commission that they must portray the MRP as the party of the Fourth Republic73. Confirming Jean-Marie Mayeur’s analysis that social Catholics embraced liberal democracy is André Colin’s argument for turning the page from the Provisional Government to the Fourth Republic : « Aussi convient-il de rappeler le grand principe avant les consultations électorales, c’est le principe démocratique essential, le principe de la souveraineté populaire ». In the reconstruction of the Republic, the only democratic sovereign is the people74.

  • 75 Le Pro, mensuel des dirigeants, n°6 – novembre 1944. « Bacon et Bouxom organisent une équipe ouvriè (...)
  • 76 François Bazin, Les députés MRP, op. cit., p. 69.

30The MRP’s internal structures were fleshed out by Gortais, Secretary General Adjoint, and Bouxom in a spirit consistent with their work in the ACJF and JOC. Departing from interwar parties the Movement would address the social problems reported by militants and provide political solutions consistent with social progress. Bouxom aided Paul Bacon as the two held meetings to launch workers’teams on the local level intended to serve as a channel for expressing working-class concerns to the MRP and explain the legislative action of the parliamentary group. They both belonged to the National Workers’Team that served as a liaison to the working-class militants in the MRP, generally coming from the CFTC and occasionally from the JOC and MPF75. The teams’purpose was to keep the Movement in constant contact with the social groups that composed French society much the same way that the ACJF was to federate the collaboration of its branches. The Movement’s statutes were revised in December 1945 to mandate the creation of workers’teams, youth teams, women’s teams, rural teams, family teams on the departmental level replicating the social collaboration on the national level. On the local level, the teams struggled to take-off, while they functioned as pressure groups on the national level. Nevertheless, the local workers’teams displayed diligent activity and the rural teams would be rejuvenated in 1955. The workers’teams received a boost when the MRP saw 60 of the 204 deputies elected in 1945 and 1946 coming from the CFTC76.

Formation of a civic conscience

  • 77 Albert Gortais, « Le Mouvement, rapport au Congrès National », 13-16 décembre 1945, p. 6-7 ; Pierre (...)

31Albert Gortais assumed responsibility for the political formation of militants. His doctrinal contribution to the Movement articulated the need to awaken the militants’civic conscience. The foot soldiers of the MRP’s mission would be an army of militants to be formed from among its 125,000 adherents in 1945-194677. Their battle was to liberate man from injustice, hatred, dictatorship and money. Gortais developed a doctrine to encourage militants to construct a humane democracy through their ongoing studies of social problems, and to pursue the « conquest » of fellow citizens in order to persuade them of the need for change. The interwar mission had been to bring people back to Christ by emphasizing that He shared their human condition and noting humanity’s divine ancestry. Yet, this desacralization of Christ, or elevation of the human person, made social action in the interest of humanity the equivalent of action in the service of God. Gortais argued that politics and the State were necessarily inspired by a conception of man in the world. In December 1945, Gortais specified what kind of democracy the MRP intended to build :

  • 78 Albert Gortais, « Rapport sur Le Mouvement », Congrès national du MRP, 13-16 décembre 1945.

« La démocratie que nous voulons bâtir est un régime fondé sur le respect total et inconditionnel de la personne humaine, un régime qui organise l’exploitation des richesses de la nature et qui aménage l’effort des travailleurs de manière à assurer, … l’épanouissement matériel et spirituel de l’homme libre et responsable au sein de la société78 ».

32The need to awaken the civic conscience of citizens was paramount to these leaders, accustomed to motivating Christian militants to transform the temporal world.

L’ordre social humain

  • 79 Albert Gortais, Démocratie et libération, rapport sur la doctrine du Congrès national du 13 mars 19 (...)

33Gortais masterfully infused social Catholicism into the Movement’s doctrine by defining the Movement’s mission as struggle against liberal, individualist, egotistical, capitalist oppression of man and the inhumane, collectivist, communist ideology that subjugated human liberty to economic determinism79. He invoked the papal encyclicals which brought hope to the world of labor by calling upon Christian principles to bring about a profound transformation of the social and economic regime, a century after the Revolution of 1789 had failed to sufficiently ensure the rights it proclaimed. Defining the Movement’s doctrinal conception of a « spiritualist » man, Gortais exhorted the militants to diffuse a humanist conception of society. The answer to this new social order was Christian in its inspiration, but pragmatically consisted in the elaboration of political and social democracy. Politically, the Movement advocated tolerant ideals such as the pluralism of social groups in unions, businesses, family associations, and communes as a guarantee to the exercise of liberty. Likewise, the liberty of thought was guaranteed by political parties, trade unions, religious groups and schools. The State should respect these institutions while remaining neutral in the religious domain to preserve civil peace. Economic democracy was characterized by the effective participation of all citizens in the direction of economic questions and a greater equality in the distribution of revenues, proportional to the labor that workers contributed and the expenses they bore in the interest of the national collectivity.

34Social Catholics in the MRP continued their opposition to the abandonment the human person to the forces of market economics, but departed from the strategy of re-Christianizing society to one of awakening civic conscience and social responsibility. Since confessional isolation had not yielded change, militants adopted a more pragmatic and tolerant approach to humane democracy that embraced cooperation with non-believers to facilitate reforms that required political coalitions. Modern liberty required the democratic defense of a pluralist society. Colin summarized their objective :

  • 80 André Colin, « Le courage au service de l’espérance française », Congrès national de Toulouse, 8 ma (...)

« il faut répondre à l’espérance des masses françaises en un avenir où l’ordre sera confondu avec la justice [dans] une mission de liberté et justice sociale… Le Mouvement veut créer une forme neuve de démocratie à la fois personnelle et sociale, c’est-à-dire pleinement humaine80 ».

  • 81 André Colin to Albert Gortais, « Note sur la situation politique », 25 mars 1946.

35The MRP’s leaders were convinced that the reason for the crisis of the Third Republic was its failure to protect citizens from the powerful capitalist interests. Social Catholic ideology inspired the reorganization of the economy to serve human interests and the family. The MRP contributed to the elaboration of the welfare state in its policies devoted to making social democracy a reality. Colin supported the nationalization of key industries while respecting private property81. Bouxom heralded the work of Robert Prigent to institutionalize the Union Nationale des Associations Familiales as a guarantee for the representation of family interests to the state. A stauch defender of family allocations throughout his parliamentary career, Bouxom deposed scores of commission reports and legislative proposals to increase and extend aid to the family.

Defending the Republic

  • 82 AN, 350 AP 15. Congress of 1948, National Workers’Team assessed Bouxom’s work as reporter for the F (...)
  • 83 AN, 350 AP 45. Albert Gortais, « Note pour la Commission exécutive » ; Compte rendu de la Commissio (...)
  • 84 AN, 350 AP 46. Commission exécutive, 12 février 1948.

36In 1947, the Republic found itself threatened by governmental instability and attacks from the left and right exploiting economic inflation. The Communists left the government in May, politicizing large strikes that crippled the nation in June and November. On the right, General de Gaulle founded the RPF in April and called for the dissolution of the National Assembly after the October municipal elections. The MRP successfully defended the Fourth Republic in the Third Force coalition with the SFIO and Radicals excluding the extremes on its left and right. Defending the alliance with the socialists, Colin stated that the MRP participated in the Third Force in fidelity to its doctrine in order to defend social programs. The workers’teams hailed Bouxom’s actions in the National Assembly to extend family allocations82. In the face of political and social turmoil, the MRP redoubled its efforts to engage its militants. Gortais developed a new structure, the Section d’Études to link deputies with militants in policy specific areas so that citizens would feel that they could influence legislation83. The most effective section was led by the working class deputies Paul Bacon, Fernand Bouxom, and Francine Lefebvre. Bouxom proposed that citizens be engaged in the battle to improve their standard of living. With inflation the most pressing problem facing the government and the nation, his ideas were integrated into the « Lutte contre la vie chère ». It organized militants into consumers’unions which surveyed the prices of foodstuffs and disseminated the information in L’aube to give ordinary citizens a sense of participating in the war on inflation84.

  • 85 Le Monde, 8 mai 1948.
  • 86 Albert Gortais, « L’homme nouveau sera-t-il marxiste ou spiritualiste ? » Reproduction des Conféren (...)

37The opposition to the Communist and the Gaullist challenge found its rationale in the civic conscience that the MRP needed to awaken within its militants and throughout society. General De Gaulle’s attacks on the parties were rebuffed with arguments that likened him to Charles Maurras85. Gortais instructed militants at the Sorbonne that Communism found its strength by exploiting the misery of the working masses and social injustice. The only solution to the communist threat was to reduce social misery and engage citizens in democratic affairs in order to persuade them that democratic government was the sole regime to ensure liberty and social justice. Criticizing the civic abstention of those obedient to a culte du chef, Gortais proposed the Republic could be saved by enlightened citizens who took their civic responsibility86.

Movement or Party ?

  • 87 AN, 350 AP 47. Commission exécutive, débats des 14 et 28 décembre 1948.

38Despite the brief success of the Third Force in withstanding the destabilizing strikes of 1947, its demise led to a center-right government formed by Henri Queuille in September 1948. Concerned by the Radicals’economic liberalism, the Movement’s executive commission gathered in December 1948 to debate the evolution of the MRP since 194587. The key question that divided members was the identity of the MRP as a political party or a mass movement of ideas and action for change.

  • 88 AN, Fonds Georges Bidault, 457 AP 166. Dossier « Rencontres Internationales des NEI, mars – septemb (...)
  • 89 Jacques Fauvet, « Les Républicains populaires perdent en sa personne l’un de leurs animateurs natio (...)

39Regretting the Movement’s deviation, Assistant Secretary General Gortais proposed the most radical revisions to the MRP. He was frustrated by spending 90% of his time in defense of the government coalition with Radicals, to the detriment of outreach to other associations. He proposed the MRP distance itself from the government while drawing nearer to its militants, Christian trade unions and youth associations by increasing the Movement’s autonomy from the party or even by separating the MRP from the Movement. Gortais argued that the MRP should be more responsive to its militants and create coalitions with other associations to form a mass movement transcending the party. If the Movement failed to regain momentum, then it would lose militants. The executive commission did not heed Gortais’appeal for greater autonomy for the Movement, preferring instead to renew contacts with external organizations while maintaining strict party control over its own militants. Undeterred, Gortais reiterated his call for the autonomy of the Movement on the European level as well during meetings organized by the Nouvelles Equipes Internationales. In discussions with European leaders of Christian Democratic parties in 1949, he refused the construction of a Congress of Christian Democratic parties. The MRP needed to conserve its autonomy as a movement, so that it could realize alliances with socialists domestically88. In September 1949, Gortais left the Secretariat General of the MRP to assume the direction of a family firm in Brittany leading Jacques Fauvet to comment that his departure caused a loss to the MRP89.

  • 90 AN, 350 AP 47, Commission exécutive, 14 décembre 1948, 28 décembre 1948 et 31 mars 1949.

40Elected deputy of Paris’6th secteur in 1945 and vice-president of the National Assembly from 1946 to 1948, Bouxom also lamented the MRP’s deviation from mass mobilization and formation of militants toward electoral recruitment. He situated the MRP’s mission in an historical current flowing toward social justice and « la libération ouvrière ». He urged the executive commission to clearly adopt a political orientation vis-à-vis other parties that would situate it on the left and reach out to groups such as the MPF and others in the popular classes who were disillusioned by the socialists90. The party should serve the Movement’s mission 

« Il faut que l’objectif du Mouvement soit l’essentiel et que l’action gouvernementale et parlementaire soit considérée comme une incidence maintenant les buts du Mouvement au dessus des tactiques parlementaires et gouvernementales ».

  • 91 Dictionnaire des parlementaires français, 1940-1958, tome 2, La Documentation française, 1992.

41Closely aligned with the trade unionists and the workers’teams in the Movement, Bouxom took it upon himself as deputy from 1945 to 1958 to realize the Movement’s mission in his parliamentary work on the Commissions of the Family and Labor presenting over 100 reports and legislative proposals addressing family and social questions91. He went so far as to provoke the resignation of Antoine Pinay’s government in 1952 through his stalwart defense of family allocations.

  • 92 AN, 350 AP 47, Commission exécutive, 28 décembre 1948. Colin was a government minister several time (...)
  • 93 Colin was deputy of Finistère until 1958, before becoming senator from 1959 to 1978.

42Although Colin also regretted the Movement’s mutation from its original design, he was pragmatic regarding the pressures of the French political context. Secretary General (1945-1955), deputy for the duration of the Fourth Republic and several times minister, he was in tune with the demands of effective government. He recalled the Movement’s original objective as a moral, spiritual and intellectual instrument capable of revolutionizing politics by inserting its members in various parties. The project of launching a movement of civic and political education had failed to spur a mass movement92. Instead, the pressure to form governments and to win elections had produced a political party neglecting social outreach. He concurred with national leaders Pierre-Henri Teitgen and Maurice Schumann that any split between the Movement and the party would cripple the MRP. Seeking to rejuvenate the MRP through contacts with the CFTC and Catholic Action, he remained skeptical given each movement’s jealous protection of its autonomy, thus ending any hope of unifying the forces of social Catholicism into a mass movement. Although a realist, he never abandoned his commitment to renewing the Movement by reaching out to social Catholic movements, but he believed its priority was to participate in government in order to implement political reforms through a parliamentary regime as his long career of public service demonstrated93.

Conclusion

  • 94 Pierre Letamendia, Le MRP, op. cit., p. 197, 152.

43After defining the Movement’s identity as congruent to the party in 1948, the MRP maintained a solid core of 20 to 30 000 militants dedicated to a vision of a humane democracy and consistently obtained two million votes, approximately 11% of the electorate, throughout the 1950s94. Social Catholics had been its principal architects at the Liberation building on the practical networks that Catholic Action movements provided and injecting social Catholicism into secular action. Political pressures transformed the MRP from their original designs of a mass movement into a political party functioning according to the pragmatic rules of a parliamentary regime, thus causing its founders to question what provoked the deviation in their Movement. The three trajectories we have followed illustrate the creative capabilities of the social Catholic inventors of the Movement and the problems they encountered in realizing their vision. Explaining the impetus of religious values Gortais said,

  • 95 Letter from Albert Gortais to André Diligent, 30 juillet 1977.

« S’il est clair que nos convictions de chrétiens, … sont la motivation profonde de ce qu’est ou de ce que fut notre engagement politique, j’ai toujours été de ceux qui récusent non seulement le vocable mais la notion de Démocratie chrétienne génératrice de redoutables et inévitables confusionnismes95 ».

44The solution to this ambiguity was not the elaboration of la Démocratie chrétienne, but the construction of la démocratie humaine.

Haut de page

Notes

1 François Bazin, Les députés MRP élus en 1945-1946 : Itinéraire politique d’une génération catholique, thèse sous la direction de Jean-Marie Mayeur, Paris, IEP, 1981, p. 38-40. Bazin noted that 105 of 204 deputés has participated in the ACJF before World War II.

2 Émile Poulat, Église contre bourgeoisie, Tournai, Casterman, 1977.

3 Jean-Marie Mayeur, Des partis catholiques à la Démocratie chrétienne, Paris, Colin, 1980 and Du catholicisme social à la Démocratie chrétienne, Paris, Cerf, 1986 ; Robert Bichet, La Démocratie chrétienne en France, Le MRP, Besançon, 1980. Jean-Dominique Durand, L’Europe de la Démocratie chrétienne, Bruxelles, Editions Complexe, 1995.

4 Pierre Letamendia, Le MRP : Histoire d’un grand parti, Paris, Beauchesne, 1995 ; Emile-François Callot, Le MRP, Paris, Marcel Rivière, 1978.

5 Bruno Béthouart, Des syndicalistes chrétiens en politique, 1944-1962, Lille, Septentrion, 1997 ; Jules Catoire, 1999 ; Laurent Ducerf, « François de Menthon : un catholique au service de la République », thèse sous la direction de Jean-Dominique Durand, Lyon III, 2000.

6 Yves-Marie Hilaire, « L’Association Catholique de la Jeunesse Française les étapes d’une histoire (1886-1956) » Revue du Nord, avril-septembre 1984, p. 903-16 ; René Rémond, « L’ACJF de 1927-1957 » in L’ACJF : une création originale, colloque du Centre Sèvres, Mediasèvres, 1988.

7 Fernand Bouxom, Des faubourgs de Lille au Palais Bourbon, Editions ETC, 1982, p. 29.

8 Dictionnaire du monde religieux dans la France contemporaine. Bretagne, Paris, Beauchesne, 1990, p. 88.

9 Mme Jeanine Gortais, cited in Le MRP vous parle!, n°104 – mars 2005, p. 11.

10 Albert Gortais, « La prière de nos chefs », Cinquantenaire,organe du Congrès jubilaire de l’ACJF, n° 4 – mars 1936.

11 Fernand Bouxom, « Construisons un monde nouveau ! » Cinquantenaire, n°1 – novembre 1935.

12 Joseph Debès et Émile Poulat, L’appel de la JOC (1926-1928), Paris, Cerf, 1986, p. 166-167.

13 Album souvenir du Congrès du 10e anniversaire de la Jeunesse ouvrière chrétienne, 1937.

14 André Colin, « Pour une cité meilleure », Annales de la Jeunesse catholique, n°43 – janvier 1936, p. 22.

15 Georges Bidault, « L’ACJF et les mouvements politiques de jeunesse », rapport au Conseil fédéral du 15 Juillet 1926. The report was sent to the presidents of regional and diocesan unions by National President André Debray March 3, 1934 in the aftermath of the fascist and counter-fascist marches in Paris during February.

16 Georges Bidault, ibidem, p. 16-18.

17 Fernand Bouxom, Des faubourgs de Lille, p. 63, 51.

18 Jean-Pierre Coco et Joseph Debès, 1937, L’élan jociste, le dixième anniversaire de la JOC, Paris – juillet 1937, Paris, Éditions ouvrières, 1989, p. 20.

19 André Colin, « Lettre aux secrétaires généraux et dirigeants », Les annales de la Jeunesse Catholique, n°48 – juillet-août 1936, p. 260-1.

20 Archives départementales de Nanterre, Fonds de la JOC : 44J399. Courrier de la JOC à la Direction de LAube, le 23 octobre 1937 a/s d’un article paru le 21 octobre.

21 « Délégués reçus par le président du Conseil Municipal de Paris », Programme du Cinquantenaire de l’ACJF, 1936, p. 7.

22 « Humanisme intégral », Annales de la Jeunesse Catholique, n°52 – décembre 1936, p. 432.

23 René Rémond, Les droites en France, Paris, Aubier, 1982, p. 179 ; Etienne Fouilloux, Les chrétiens français entre crise et libération, 1937-1947, Paris, Seuil, 1997, p. 195.

24 André Colin, « Pour une cité meilleure », Annales de la Jeunesse Catholique, n°43 – janvier 1936, p. 30.

25 Pierre-Henri Simon, « Le christianisme n’est pas une méthode pour résoudre les difficultés temporelles », Vie intellectuelle, 25 juillet 1934 cité dans Les annales de la Jeunesse Catholique, n°30 – septembre-octobre 1934, p. 367.

26 « Compte rendu du 39e Conseil Fédéral de l’ACJF », Les annales de la Jeunesse Catholique, février 1936.

27 André Colin, « Pour une cité meilleure », Les Annales de la Jeunesse Catholique, n°43, janvier 1936, p. 28.

28 Jacques Maritain, Esprit, octobre 1935, dans Les Annales de la Jeunesse Catholique, n°43 – janvier 1936, p. 22.

29 Jean-Pierre Coco et Joseph Debès, 1937, L’élan jociste, op. cit., p. 72.

30 Fernand Bouxom, « Le sens du Congrès », Conseil fédéral, janvier 1936, Les annales de la Jeunesse Catholique, n°44 – février 1936, p. 77.

31 Fernand Bouxom, Des faubourgs de Lille, op. cit., p. 35.

32 André Colin, « Discours de clôture », Programme du Cinquantenaire, p. 55-6.

33 Albert Gortais, « Le 8e Congrès des Secrétariats sociaux des 16-17 mai », Albert Gortais, dans La Chronique sociale de France, revue mensuelle d’étude et d’action, Organe des Semaines sociales de France, n°6 – juin 1936.

34 Albert Gortais, « Corporatisme ? (I) », Les annales de la Jeunesse Catholique, n°68 – septembre-octbre 1938, p. 239-245.

35 Albert Gortais, « Corporatisme ? (II) », Les annales de la Jeunesse Catholique, n°70 – décembre 1938, p. 300-312.

36 Album souvenir du Congrès du 10e anniversaire de la JOC, juillet 1937.

37 Quadragesimo anno, n°71 – « Retour de la mère au foyer ».

38 Jean-Pierre Coco et Joseph Debès, L’élan jociste, op. cit., 1937, p. 65.

39 Les annales de la Jeunesse Catholique, n°66 – mai-juin 1938, p. 136-138.

40 Archives de l’Evêché de Lille : JOC 1929-1937, Fédération de Roubaix. « Discours de Fernand Bouxom, juillet 1937 ».

41 Philip Nord, « Vu du XXème siècle », dans Claire Andrieu, Gilles Le Béguec, et Danielle Tartakowsky (dir.), Associations et champ politique: la loi de 1901 à l’épreuve du siècle, Paris, Sorbonne, 2001. Philip Nord, building on the work of sociologist Robert Putnam (Civic tradition in Modern Italy, Princeton University Press, 1993; Bowling Alone : The collapse and revival of American community, New York, Simon & Schuster, 2000) argued that the multiplication of mass associations in civil society provided a sound foundation for democracy.

42 « Victoire de l’Empire Français », Radio address, 22 juin 1940 broadcast on Radio-Beyrouth, published in the daily Al-Bachir 25 juin 1940.

43 Étienne Fouilloux, Les chrétiens français entre crise et libération, 1937-1947, p. 195-196.

44 Alain-René Michel, La JEC face au nazisme et à Vichy, 1938-1944, Presses universitaires de Lille, 1988, p. 141-142.

45 Archives jésuites, 1Pa505/2. Albert Gortais, « Les jeunes au service de la Communauté française », Rapport au Conseil Fédéral des 25-26 janvier 1941, p. 27-45.

46 Archives de la Préfecture de Police de Paris : GA B3, Renseignements généraux, novembre 1958 – n°172.397.

47 Fernand Bouxom, Des faubourgs de Lille, op. cit., p. 91.

48 Archives de la Préfecture de Police de Paris, GA B3, RG, 13 janvier 1943.

49 Renée Bédarida, Les catholiques dans la guerre, 1939-1945, Paris, Hachette, 1998, p. 74.

50 Maurice-René Simonnet, Sept ans au service de la jeunesse, 1939-1945, Epi, 1946, p. 15 ; Albert Gortais, « Pluralisme de la jeunesse et union de la Nation », Cahiers de Notre Jeunesse, n°2 – juillet-août, 1941, p. 8-15.

51 Réédité in Maurice-René Simonnet, Sept ans, op. cit., p. 28-29.

52 Maurice-René Simonnet, Sept ans, op. cit., p. 196. Bernard Comte, L’honneur et la conscience, catholiques français en résistance, 1940-1944, Paris, Les Éditions de l’atelier, 1998. Comte, an historian, argued that the war was a critical moment for the development of an independant conscience among Catholics at a time when clerical leaders remained loyal to Pétain.

53 Cahiers de Notre Jeunesse, n°1 – juin 1941, p. 2, 4-5.

54 Cahiers de Notre Jeunesse, n°4 – novembre 1941, p. 38, 47-48 ; Le Monde ouvrier, journal du MPF, 8 novembre 1941.

55 Fernand Bouxom, Des faubourgs de Lille, p. 92 ; Renée Bédarida, Les armes de l’esprit, Témoignage chrétien : 1941-1944, Paris, Éditions du Témoignage chrétien, 1977.

56 François Bazin, Les députés MRP, op. cit., p. 174-178.

57 Archives Nationales, 350 AP 73, Dossier Gortais.

58 Archives Nationales, 350 AP 12. Congrès constitutif, « Principes d’action du MRP », 2e séance du 26 novembre 1944.

59 Letter from Albert Gortais to André Diligent, 30 juillet 1977.

60 Fernand Bouxom, Des faubourgs de Lille, p. 93.

61 Archives Historiques de l’Archevêché de Paris, 2K1 7 2 LOC-MPF. Circulaire du 4 juillet 1944 accompagnée du bulletin « L’ordre familial en marche ».

62 Bruno Béthouart, Des syndicalistes chrétiens en politique, 1944-1962, Lille, Septentrion, 1999, p. 91.

63 Letter from André Colin to Georges Bidault, 18 juillet 1944.

64 Letter from André Colin to Eugène Duthoit, 1942, cited in « La Bretagne », Dictionnaire du monde religieux dans la France contemporaine, Beauchesne, 1990, p. 88.

65 Letter from André Colin to Francisque Gay, 30 mai 1944, regarding discussions with Paul Bacon to found a journal targeting the working classes. It would become Forces nouvelles, co-directed by Bacon and Gortais from 1945 to 1947. Circulation in 1945 was 40 000 copies according to p. Letamendia, Le MRP, op. cit., p. 226.

66 Letter from André Colin to Georges Bidault, 28 octobre 1944.

67 Letter from Albert Gortais to André Colin, 4 août 1944.

68 Lignes d’action pour la Libération, Mouvement Républicain de Libération, Centre National, Paris, août 1944, p. 11.

69 Archives Nationales, 350 AP 12. Congrès constitutif, « Principes d’action du MRP », 2e séance du 26 novembre 1944.

70 AN, 350 AP 45. Commission exécutive, 23 août 1945.

71 Forces nouvelles, n°1 – 10 février 1945.

72 Fernand Bouxom, Des faubourgs de Lille, op. cit., p. 110.

73 AN, 350 AP 45. Commission exécutive, 9 août 1945.

74 AN, 350 AP 56. André Colin, « Rapport de politique générale au Conseil National », 26 août 1945.

75 Le Pro, mensuel des dirigeants, n°6 – novembre 1944. « Bacon et Bouxom organisent une équipe ouvrière à St. Maur ».

76 François Bazin, Les députés MRP, op. cit., p. 69.

77 Albert Gortais, « Le Mouvement, rapport au Congrès National », 13-16 décembre 1945, p. 6-7 ; Pierre Letamendia, Le MRP, op. cit., p. 197.

78 Albert Gortais, « Rapport sur Le Mouvement », Congrès national du MRP, 13-16 décembre 1945.

79 Albert Gortais, Démocratie et libération, rapport sur la doctrine du Congrès national du 13 mars 1947, Mayenne, SERP, 6 juin 1947, p. 12-20.

80 André Colin, « Le courage au service de l’espérance française », Congrès national de Toulouse, 8 mai 1948, p. 25, 33.

81 André Colin to Albert Gortais, « Note sur la situation politique », 25 mars 1946.

82 AN, 350 AP 15. Congress of 1948, National Workers’Team assessed Bouxom’s work as reporter for the Family Commission in Parliament and his legislative propositions.

83 AN, 350 AP 45. Albert Gortais, « Note pour la Commission exécutive » ; Compte rendu de la Commission exécutive, 17 mai 1947.

84 AN, 350 AP 46. Commission exécutive, 12 février 1948.

85 Le Monde, 8 mai 1948.

86 Albert Gortais, « L’homme nouveau sera-t-il marxiste ou spiritualiste ? » Reproduction des Conférences du 15 novembre 1947. Paris, SERP, 1948, p. 7-9.

87 AN, 350 AP 47. Commission exécutive, débats des 14 et 28 décembre 1948.

88 AN, Fonds Georges Bidault, 457 AP 166. Dossier « Rencontres Internationales des NEI, mars – septembre 1949, Genève », Rencontre du 10 juin 1949.

89 Jacques Fauvet, « Les Républicains populaires perdent en sa personne l’un de leurs animateurs nationaux les plus généreux et les plus convaincus ». Le Monde, 27 septembre 1949.

90 AN, 350 AP 47, Commission exécutive, 14 décembre 1948, 28 décembre 1948 et 31 mars 1949.

91 Dictionnaire des parlementaires français, 1940-1958, tome 2, La Documentation française, 1992.

92 AN, 350 AP 47, Commission exécutive, 28 décembre 1948. Colin was a government minister several times during the first legislature serving as Secretary of State to the President of the Council in 1946, Minister of the Merchant Marine, and Secretary of State of the Interior in 1949. (Dictionnaire des parlementaires français, 1940-1958, tome 3, La Documentation française, 1994). The MRP federations proposed a revision to the party’s statutes arguing the Secretary General should be forbidden from participating in the government. Colin, Gortais and Bouxom opposed this measure arguing that the Mouvement’s unity was at stake. (Commission executive, 14 avril 1949).

93 Colin was deputy of Finistère until 1958, before becoming senator from 1959 to 1978.

94 Pierre Letamendia, Le MRP, op. cit., p. 197, 152.

95 Letter from Albert Gortais to André Diligent, 30 juillet 1977.

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Arthur Plaza, « From Christian Social Order to Humane Democracy Three Itineraries Leading to the MRP 1936-1948 », Chrétiens et sociétés, 12 | 2005, 73-96.

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Arthur Plaza, « From Christian Social Order to Humane Democracy Three Itineraries Leading to the MRP 1936-1948 », Chrétiens et sociétés [En ligne], 12 | 2005, mis en ligne le 02 mars 2012, consulté le 25 avril 2017. URL : http://chretienssocietes.revues.org/2214 ; DOI : 10.4000/chretienssocietes.2214

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Arthur Plaza

New York University The Institute of French Studies

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Chrétiens et Sociétés – XVIe-XXIe siècles est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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