Action Française
   A radical, right-wing, anti-Semitic movement founded in 1898 by Henri Vaugeois at the height of the Dreyfus Affair. The Action Française portrayed a bleak, pessimistic picture of contemporary national life, influenced by the fact that France by the end of the nineteenth century was an imperial power in decline. This condition was blamed on Jews, Protestants, and Freemasons, as well as Métèques, a word derived from the Greek that could be vaguely applied to anyone with foreign ancestors. Against all these Charles Maurras (1868–1952), the Action Francaise’s principal ideologue, claimed to defend an ancient race in the ancestral homeland of France.
   Initially, the movement was neither primarily Royalist nor Catholic. Catholicism was actively promoted, however, as the movement opposed the anticlericalism of the Third Republic. The Royalist tradition experienced a revival among people who believed that the recovery of French greatness depended on a strong and stable government headed by a hereditary, decentralized, antiparliamentary monarchy. Democracy, Maurras maintained, led to internal feuding and should therefore be suppressed through a coup d’état to restore the monarchy. Maurras believed that the solidarity of the nation could be guaranteed by the freedom of multiple centers of control in provinces just as during the days before the French Revolution.
   Between 1908 and 1914, Action Française played a major role on the far right of French politics. It experienced a setback in 1926 when Pope Pius XI sought to check the participation of Catholics in the organization, but it remained active alongside the fascist leagues of France during the interwar years.
   See also Anti-Semitism.
   FURTHER READING:
    Sternhell, Zeev. Neither Right Nor Left: Fascist Ideology in France. Translated by David Maisel Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986;
    Weber, Eugen Joseph. Action Française. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1962.
   NURFADZILAH YAHAYA

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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