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The dreyfusard spirit in the 20th century

The dreyfusard spirit in the 20th century

Dreyfusards in the 1930s

In 1928, André Chamson, who would become the director of the National Archives, wrote "unfairly perhaps, but forcefully, the Affair appears as the myth of a generation that had the time, and for whom the vital problems of the day did not arise with the dreadful sharpness that they have since acquired." His generation lived within the memory of the great bloodletting that was World War I; it learned from Paul Valéry that "civilizations are mortal." Faced with the communism of Stalin, the fascism of Mussolini, and soon the national socialism of Hitler, a number of young intellectuals became fascinated with the newly-born USSR. For those, like J. Bruhat, who saw "the leather jackets of the Bolsheviks worn over the carmagnoles of the sans-culottes," the uniform of Captain Dreyfus and his "sense of honor" were relics from another century. They wanted to play a larger role "in the field of politics, in the name of new values or against new adversaries" (J.-F. Sirinelli).

Nevertheless, the Dreyfus model resurfaced, and the Anti-Fascist Vigilance Committee (CVIA) "fell within the tradition of the Dreyfusard-era petitions." Nicole Racine has shown how the CVIA was part of the "struggle of reason against terror and prejudice," even though its members were divided over the direction of the fight, and how it should be carried out. And yet, in chairing the unitary assembly of 14 July 1935, Victor Basch could legitimately see in it a miracle, of the same kind as had occurred in 1898. Before the "black years" of the Occupation, Jean Guéhenno saw in it "from one generation to another, like a transmission, a tradition of justice."

The final metamorphosis of the Dreyfusard intellectuals

During the "peacekeeping operations" in Algeria-a de facto war-the intellectuals stood in opposition "as has not been seen since the Dreyfus Affair," the expression of a deep division of the French (M. Winock). In La Tragédie algérienne, Raymond Aron explained "maintaining order by force excludes liberalism." On 5 April 1956, Henri-Irénée Marrou denounced the torture cells, "shameful for the country of the French Revolution and the Dreyfus Affair"; on 28 March 1958, André Malraux, Roger Martin du Gard, François Mauriac and Jean-Paul Sartre asked the authorities to "unequivocally condemn the use of torture in Algeria." The militants who took up the cry were carrying out an explicitly Drefusard mission, the search for a truth that had been deliberately withheld. In October 1958, the brochure "Nous Accusons" recalled Zola's "J'Accuse!", and in 1960, the "Manifesto of French intellectuals" that denounced "fanatical rebels, terrorists and racists" was a reply to the "Manifesto of the 121".

The intellectuals who supported the Third World and revolution broke away from the Dreyfusard intellectuals. Pierre Vidal-Naquet, who was part of the latter group, has clarified these different forms of engagement by not losing sight of the fact that reference to the Resistance had become the moral foundation of those who supported decolonization. The memory of Captain Alfred Dreyfus was supplanted by that of Reserve Captain Marc BlochMarc Bloch
Marc Bloch was born in Lyon in 1886. He was a specialist in the history of rural France, and the co-founder of the Annales d'histoire économique et sociale in 1929. In 1936, he was appointed professor of economic history at the Sorbonne, where his father had taught Roman history. In Strange Defeat, he recounted his experience as a French officer in 1939-40. He joined the French Resistance, was captured, and was shot in 1944.
, who claimed that he never asserted his origins except when faced with an anti-Semite; he recalled his education in the cult of the "patriotic traditions, of which the Israelites of the Alsatian exodus were always the most ardent supporters." Alfred Dreyfus would certainly have signed the will written on 18 March 1943 by the historian Bloch, who would die for France in 1944: "attached to my country, I loved it greatly and served it with all my strength; I die as I have lived, as a good Frenchman."