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The Révolution nationale (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 .

As soon as it had been established, Pétain's government took measures against the so-called "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 Nazi.


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

  • The confusion of legislative and executive powers. The Constitutional Acts drafted by Pétain on 11 July 1940 attributed him "more powers than to Louis XIV" (according to a quote by Pétain himself, brought by his civil head of staff, H. Du Moulin de Labarthète), including that of drafting a new Constitution.

  • Personality cult. Marshall Pétain's portrait was omnipresent, printed on money, stamps, walls or represented in sculptures. A song to his glory, Maréchal, nous voilà !, became the un-official national anthem. Obedience to the leader and to the hierarchy was exalted.

  • Rejection of cultural modernism and of intellectual and urban elites. Policy of "return to the earth" (which did not convince more than 1,500 persons to return to the fields ).


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 Verdunmarker. 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. 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.

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'.

The sport policy

Vichy's policy concerning sports found its origins in Georges Hébert (1875-1957)'s conception, who denounced professional and spectacular competition, and near Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the Olympic Games and supporter of amateurism. Vichy's sport policy followed moral aims of "rebuilding the nation", was a little opposed Léo Lagrange's sport policy during the Popular Front and, but specifically opposed to professional sport imported from the United Kingdommarker. 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 minnister in May 1940, then State secretary from June to September 1940.
  • Jean Borotra, former international tennis player (member of the "The Four Musketeers") and also a PSF member, 1st General Commissioner to Sports from August 1940 to April 1942.
  • Colonel Joseph Pascot, former rugbyman champion, director of sports under Borotra and then second General Commissioner to Sports from April 1942 to July 1944.

As soon as October 1940, the two General Commissioners prohibited professionalism in two federations (tennis and wrestling), while giving a three year delay for 4 others federations (soccer, cycling, boxe and basque pelota). They prohibited feminine competitions of cycling or soccer. Furthermore, they prohibited or spoilted by seizing their assets at least 4 uni-sport federations, rugby league, ping pong, jeu de paume, badminton, and of 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" (Sportman'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 efforce ourselves to catch up with him in all occasions. I have obtained that this discipline of EG (General Education) be imposed to students (...) We have prepared punitions in case of desertions." (« 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


  1. René Rémond, Les droites en France, Aubier, 1982
  2. Actes constitutionnels du Gouvernement de Vichy, 1940-1944, France, MJP, université de Perpignan
  3. Olivier Wieviorka, "La République recommencée", in S. Berstein (dir.), La République
  4. Robert Paxton, La France de Vichy, Points-Seuil, 1974
  5. Alain-Gérard Slama, " Maurras (1858-1952): le mythe d'une droite révolutionnaire" (pp.10-11); article published in L'Histoire in 1992
  6. See Reggiani, Alexis Carrel, the Unknown: Eugenics and Population Research under Vichy, French Historical Studies, 2002; 25: 331-356

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