Uncovering a forgotten voice from the French inter-war Right.
Background, Formation and Beliefs
The inter-war period in Europe saw a plethora of radical ideas, actions and groups take shape, some of which held greater influence than others, all of which however reflected a despair at the events of the First World War, particularly the crumbling of older orders, mass loss of life and the treatment of veterans after the armistice was called. Ideologies were forged in this crucible that ranged the political spectrum, and some of which attempted an exit from political thought entirely. France was no different, itself having lost almost an entire generation of young men in the quagmire of mud, lead and death that formed the trenches of the front line, on the back of competing republican, reactionary and arch-Catholic sentiments that were already simmering at the outbreak of this tragic war.
Several French groups and organizations formed or took a more solidified shape during this era, some of which came to influence public and political opinion to a greater or lesser extent. However, one group, whose formation can only be described as springing from the noblest sentiments – the proper recognition of true veterans from the front who had been awarded the Croix de Guerre for actions which endangered their own lives in order to save others or further French military victory – has since disappeared entirely from the history books, especially within the Anglophone context: the Croix de Sang.
Little is known about this group, and indeed, for most, the present author included, the only introduction to the Croix de Sang has come from the martial industrial project Les Joyaux de la Princesse, whose 2007 album Aux Volontaires Croix de Sang was dedicated to the group. Within the limited box set of this album was a reprint of the original French manifesto the reader finds below, along with the hymn of the group and a handful of related propaganda images the artist has scrupulously searched for and assembled. What is certain is that the group was formed during the early 1930s by decorated Captain Maurice d’Hartoy, who founded the more publically recognized Croix de Feu, another veteran’s league in 1927, which was subsequently led by the more well-known figure Lieutenant Colonel Françoise de la Rocque in 1930. De la Rocque transformed the Croix de Feu into a more explicitly political force, and introduced a social, anti-German and Corporatist platform.
The group was dissolved in 1936 and, likely drawing heavily on the ranks of its members, de la Rocque formed the Parti Social Français1 in 1936, which would last until 1940, and the fall of France to German occupation. Little is known as to the continuity or fate of the Croix de Sang; however one propaganda image featuring a cloaked figure drawing its sword against a backdrop of a ploughed field mentions a Croisade d’Hiver 1933 – 1934, suggesting its co-existence or even independent activity to the Croix de Feu during those years. Other clues to the activity of the Croix de Sang during these years are present in the sample of the group’s hymn, attributed in the aforementioned album to 1934, and the collage artworks which adorn the album booklet, including; an image of a programme for the Grand Gala de Bienfaisance “Aux Volontaires Croix de Sang” dated to the 19th November, 1933; and an advertisement for a memorial album of a rally (forty-eight pages with one hundred and forty photographs) held on the 11th November, 1934. A small text indicates that the members of the Croix de Sang were metaphorically drawn from the Croix de Bois, which appears to be a reference to the wooden cross on soldiers’ graves, indicating that the Croix de Sang saw itself as a voice of the deceased soldiers, as well as a veterans’ league. In this aspect one could make a link to the mystical nationalism of Maurice Barrès,2 which was rooted in the cemeteries of dead soldiers (to which he dedicated many poems, composed in an almost religious fervour), and would see Barrès express Frenchness as being intricately linked to the network of war memorials and remembrances of the Great War.
Certainly, the Croix de Sang by its very name suggests a reverence for the blood spilt in deep commitment to France, and the reverence for those soldiers, both living and dead, which goes above and beyond normal limits. Was it in essence a cult of remembrance, a veneration of valour, a nationalist expression that aimed to form a force capable of resisting Socialist and Liberal dogma? One can only speculate as to the activities and deeper beliefs of the Croix de Sang, expressed as they were through marches, rallies and music, due to the paucity of information available. Truly, this appears to be a clandestine affair.
The question arises, then, why should we address the Croix de Sang in these pages, rather than the more visible (and arguably far more influential) Croix de Feu? Firstly, due to the actions of Maurice d’Hartoy in instigating this group, with its aims (as clarified in the manifesto below) in providing a voice for veterans who were justly awarded for their valour in combat, rather than the other recipients of the Croix de Guerre, who gained such a decoration for less valiant reasons. Secondly, the secrecy of this group, and its relative invisibility in the annals of history, make it worthy of exhumation and remembrance, it being born from the genuine desire of d’Hartoy, himself semi-paralysed during the First World War, to see justice be done and due reverence performed. Lastly, the fourth aim of the Croix de Sang as described by d’Hartoy, of forming a counter-revolutionary force of ‘incomparable military and moral virtue’, is especially interesting and worthwhile, forming a commentary on the socio-political environment of the day, and pointing towards the fabric from which the best elements should be drawn today when attempting any manner of Deep Right activism.
- Why I founded the Association of the ‘Croix de Sang’
- I. Accomplishing an Act of Justice
- II. To Accomplish an Act of Logic
- III. The Only Doctrine and the Only Leaders Worthy of Combatants
- IV. A Great Anti-Revolutionary and Anti-Coupist Force, of Incomparable Moral and Military Virtue
- V. The Characteristics of the Croix de Sang
- VI. Colonel Coquet de Terrier has Approved and Congratulated the Croix de Sang
The manifesto presented below is taken from a reprint (the only one I am aware of), from the 2007 album Aux Volontaires Croix de Sang by Les Joyaux de la Princesse. Any errors in translation are my own, and it is the pleasure of Arktos Journal to present, for the very first time in English, the Manifesto of the Croix de Sang, and to dedicate it to the memory of those brave soldiers who risked their all for their country. Extensive translator’s notes have been provided by myself to clarify figures and events mentioned in the text itself. The translation has been presented as closely as possible to the layout found in the original document to preserve its integrity.
Why I founded the Association of the ‘Croix de Sang’1
Maurice Hanot d’Hartoy
President of the Croix de Sang
On the proposal of comrade Carpentier, and with the unanimity of its members, the constituted general assembly of the Croix de Sang asked me to publish a small leaflet which would summarize, for the purposes of propaganda, the doctrine and the aims of our beautiful association.
‘Those who are absent must also know why you founded the Croix de Sang,’ one of us exclaimed.
I founded the Association of the Croix de Sang:
- To perform an act of justice (to honour, in the present sea of medals, those that have been won through blood).
- To accomplish, too, an act of logic (to create an association of combatants which is composed exclusively and undisputedly of the elite of these elements).
- To give to the mass of true combatants the only doctrine and the only leaders which are worthy of them.
- Finally, to achieve that which has not and could not have been accomplished in the Etats Généraux de Versailles:2 to form a committee of vigilance and patriotic action, to organize a great anti-revolutionary and anti-coupist force of the most incomparable moral and military value.
I will now explain myself with regard to these points.
I. Accomplishing an Act of Justice
(To honour in part, among the sea of medals, those that were won through fire)
In effect, too often:
In addition, the Governments, in their desire to satisfy the greatest number, did not hesitate to award to those good retainers behind5 the same ribbons as to the bloodied heroes of the trenches.
And the lions of Yser and Verdun6 then smiled with no a roar, because they had other troubles and worries. And then when it came to rewards, how many were silent, out of a modesty that was clearly abused.
But everyone’s time comes. And now arrives the hour to establish a legitimate and courteous distinction between those decorations won through danger to one’s life and the… others, less honourable than they.
Already, nearly one year on, and following the Ruotte Affair,7 I founded l’Association des Membres de la Légion d’honneur décorés au peril de leur vie,8 which is at present very prosperous, and whose adherents include the most glorious heroes of France, both military and civilian: radiologists, like Vaillant,9 whose flesh is so often tortured by the scalpel; aces of aviation with countless victories like Fonck and Vitalis;10 explorers like Charcot;11 policemen like Fleury,12 who was wounded ten times whilst arresting criminals; intrepid women like Louise Thuliez and Léonie Van Houtte;13 rescuers like Pollet14 who saved 196 lives; and countless others…
After having founded this first association, whose special goal was to defend the prestige of the Légion d’Honneur which today is threated by such an ignoble racket, I understood that my work was not yet finished.
Those with military medals of the simple Croix de Guerre15 wrote to me or told me that:
Your association is evidently the most beautiful of all and we applaud its goals, but we too, we have also been decorated…, through danger to our lives. … Without doubt the black ribbon is another colour, but the blood that we paid through brilliant action is also the same blood as yours. We therefore want, we too, to distinguish ourselves from the good men who wear the same sign as we, though they have never crossed a parapet, heard a whistling bullet or the roaring of a mine.
At that is how it was born, the sister and friend of the first, this second Association, which includes only ‘Combatants of the Front and Those Wounded through Brilliant Action’, no matter the decoration obtained.
Once again, we have the fullest sympathy with the French who have done their duty, even were it in Bordeaux,16 if fate had placed them in this place.17 We do not accuse them of trying to disguise themselves, for it is not their fault if the decoration they wear is similar to ours. But we say that ours has been won through other means, that’s all!
And as for our fellow comrades who deserve to be decorated and who have not been let they be willing to consider that our gesture is also a protest against forgetfulness, of which they were victims in favour of those less exposed.18
To have braved fire and death, we award ourselves a cross of honour, the same as that which other good people have obtained for the sake of safer service, but we risked the award only of… a wooden cross.19
Therefore, our cross, for us, was won through blood shed for the Motherland: it is the ‘Croix de Sang’.
II. To Accomplish an Act of Logic
(To create an association of combatants which was composed exclusively of their elite elements)
Just as today, ten years after the war and despite the plethora of associations for ‘old veterans’, there does not yet exist any group composed exclusively and uniquely of:
Soldiers from the Front;
Soldiers decorated all in the name of bravery;
Soldiers who have reunited, not for their own personal advantage but in the interests of the Motherland.
—For two main reasons:
- Because the majority of associations count on their number of voters to influence the men of politics. And in this race for great numbers, they allow themselves to become invaded by soldiers… from behind [the lines] – good Frenchmen without a doubt but incapable (and with good reason) of understanding and reflecting the spirit of the Front.
- Because the rare associations which are composed of real soldiers (there are a few) exist because of their adherence to military displays, but they do not reflect a sincere and active patriotism.
It is however very difficult – one only has to look at the Etats Généraux de Versailles on 11th November, 1927 – to express the patriotic will of the soldiers without addressing exclusively the genuine combatants who are faithful to the country which they saved.And since such a group did not exist, it was only logical to create one.
From now on, the Motherland will know where to find, without risk of error, the elite of our veterans, those men who are, if not the only ones, are at least the most qualified to express the thoughts of the Victors.
III. The Only Doctrine and the Only Leaders Worthy of Combatants
After the effort of the 11th November, 1927, one of our comrades wrote:
What will result from this unique front, of which, at Versailles, people spoke like others speak of peace, without knowing what is meant by these words, or where it will lead?
The veterans did not dare nor did not they want to do the right thing. They were afraid to shake off the yoke. And, in spite of the birth of the Federation, the party men who sit in Parliament will continue to regard us as eternal supplicants, never satisfied, and to whom, in order to have peace, they would grant satisfaction from time to time.
Read, one after another, the statutes that you understand from the various associations. You will see – and it’s a tribute to them – that they all have their particular usefulness, but you will see that the combatants think mainly – and legitimately – of their claims to ‘food’ and very little as to their right to control the government of a country that they themselves saved, or to the vital interests of the Motherland. You will see that they have, in addition, drawn up these statutes in a spirit of total submission to the powers… to the powers which they have preserved from the enemy’s yoke. And yet, the vast majority of fighters are patriotic and proud.
They therefore merit another doctrine and this doctrine can be summed up thusly: mens agit molem.20 That is the motto of the Croix de Sang.
They merit new leaders who are selfless, intrepid. They will be found in the Croix de Sang, every one of which has given proof of their intrepid spirit; who all have inscribed at the head of their considerations the name France.
IV. A Great Anti-Revolutionary and Anti-Coupist Force, of Incomparable Moral and Military Virtue
Revolutionary demonstrations broke out in Paris on August 31st.21
Scenes of looting occurred, where even the most modest traders were not spared.
The losses to the community have been considerable.
Pedestrians who could not defend themselves were beaten.
Finally, the ultimate ignominy occurred: the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, symbol of the War Dead, was odiously defiled.
Despite their efforts, the police nearly succumbed to the numbers and violence of the attackers.
Was there any single association of veterans which decided to eventually organize and take to the streets, where possible, to help the army or even the police to restore order by any means necessary?
And yet the true France, the honest France, the France of hard-labouring workers, has for a long time turned towards the veterans with hope.
This is why I founded, at great personal risk and peril, an association of the most incomparable moral and military virtue, the Croix de Sang.
Leave it to the others to make their discussions, the Croix de Sang studies in silence the most appropriate methods to organize the defence of society.
There are already roughly 150,000 veterans who fulfil the extant conditions for being admitted into the Croix de Sang.
Even if only a handful of these brave men are effective and ardent enough to join this vast movement, France will find an invincible army of educated volunteers, chosen from the most courageous and the most patriotic; in essence, the great army of the interior victory.22
V. The Characteristics of the Croix de Sang
The association of the Croix de Sang unites the following rare qualities:
- It prefers virtue over numbers;
- It is composed exclusively of the courageous;
- All the members may, at the head office, be made aware of the titles of their comrades;
- Its administrators do not become Pontiffs, but comrades; they are like the rest, they simply have accepted heavier duties, and of their own free will;
- Its administrators have undertaken to accept no decorations for the role that they perform within the association;
- It places the word ‘duty’ in front of ‘right’ and has the word ‘France’ at the head of its programme;
- It enables patriotic action by any means;
- It is neither jealous of nor does it fight with any other association;
- It facilitates, on the contrary, a coalition where applicable with other groups, even those not formed from veterans (a new approach, unique in the lifespan of such associations);
- It does not belong to a political party. It watches them all.
VI. Colonel Coquet de Terrier23 has Approved and Congratulated the Croix de Sang
Inspector of the sections of mutilated veterans, illustrious soldier; through his presence at the Grand Council of the Order of the Croix de Sang, Colonel Coquet de Terrier strengthens our divisions with the motto: Honour and Motherland.
Under the auspices of such elements, it is impossible not to achieve great things.
However, even if we do nothing, our coming together would be, by its very existence, a beautiful and great gesture of justice and patriotism.
But we will do something, thanks to you, Comrades, who from the four corners of France, will have to bring your ideas, your energy and your love to this great French work, so the future depends on you; that I place under your protection, I place it within your valiant hands,
But hurry yourselves, Comrades! because ‘the dead are growing’ among veterans, and old age with its trembling hands will soon come for the rest.
I want, finally, to remind you that the first ‘poilu’24 who registered with the association of the ‘Croix de Sang’ was Pierre Gallien,25 the energetic and much beloved commander of the ‘Sang du Souvenir’.26
We elected him Honorary President of the Croix de Sang. It seems fitting, therefore, to end this declaration by the word which made it famous and which expresses so perfectly the superhuman courage of France:
‘Awaken the Dead!’
We will translate as follows:
‘Awaken, those who seemed dead!
Awaken, those who shed their blood!
Awaken, the Croix de Sang!’
Maurice Hanot d’Hartoy
Man of Letters
(3 grades – 2 commendations – 1 injury)
Father of 4 children.
iLiterally ‘The French Social Party’. The Croix de Feu translates as the ‘Cross of Fire’. All other French terms, including the Croix de Sang, are clarified in the Manifesto translator’s notes below.
iiMaurice Barrès (19th August, 1862 – 4th December, 1923) was widely acknowledged as one of the foremost originators of the French radical Right at the start of the 20th century, and enjoyed huge popularity as an author, political thinker and poet during his lifetime. One of his most famous political work is Scènes et Doctrines du Nationalisme (1902).
1Literally ‘The Cross of Blood’. – Trans.
2The Etats Généraux de Versailles was a general assembly summoned by King Louis XVI which brought together the ‘Three Estates’; the clergy, the nobility and the commoners. Here however d’Hartoy is referring Les Etats Généraux de la France Meurtrie which took place at the Palace of Versailles on the 11th November, 1927, that focussed on the forced retirement of veterans over fifty-years-old and resulted in many veteran associations rising up in revolt. – Trans.
3Taminiau is referring to those who were not frontline soldiers in the First World War, but who served far behind the lines in other, often bureaucratic positions. – Trans.
4Sadly, I have been unable to locate any information regarding this poet. – Trans.
5Behind the front lines. – Trans.
6The Battle of Yser (October 1914) too place along the Yser River in Belgium, and cost the Belgians c. 20,000 men. The legendary Battle of Verdun (21st February – 16th December, 1916) proved devastating for all armies involved, with some estimates for French casualties and losses exceeding 500,000 men. – Trans.
7Marcel Ruotte (1883 – ??) was the deputy chief of Office for the Ministry of Commerce, and was made responsible for the classification and distribution of the Legion of Honour decoration. He was involved in a scandal in 1926, accused of selling the decorations to the highest bidders. – Trans.
8The Association of the Members of the Legion of Honour Decorated through Danger to their Lives. The Legion of Honour is the highest honorary decoration one can receive in France, and was created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 to reward those who rendered great services to the nation. – Trans.
9Charles Vaillant (6th August, 1872 – 4th December, 1939) was a French radiologist who developed the method of using treated paper rather than glass to capture the x-ray images, which was greatly aided the use of x-rays in the field. His use of radiology on himself for testing purposes led to his death through burns and amputations. – Trans.
10Colonel René Paul Fonck (27th March, 1894 – 18th June, 1953) was a French aviator who was termed the top Allied ‘fighter ace’ at the end of the First World War, with 145 claimed victories, 75 of which are confirmed. Adjutant Chef Marie Gaston Fulerant Leon Vitalis (15th February, 1890 – 17th August, 1941) was another ‘ace’ from the First World War, with 7 confirmed victories in the air. – Trans.
11Jean-Baptist Charcot (15th July, 1867 – 16th September, 1936) was a scientist, doctor and explorer, who accompanied the French Arctic Expedition from 1904 – 1907. He also explored Eastern Greenland and the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard from 1925 to 1936. He died in a shipwreck off the coast of Iceland during a storm. – Trans.
12Sadly, I was unable to find any information on this worthy Police Officer. – Trans.
13Louise Thuliez (12th December, 1881 – 10th October, 1966) was a school teacher who was also deeply involved in the French Resistance during the First and Second World War. In the former, she helped allied soldiers trapped behind enemy lines escape from Belgium into Holland, rescuing around 200 soldiers. The Germans imprisoned her in 1915, until she was released in 1918. Léonie Van Houtte (1888 – 4th May, 1967) was a seamstress who, along with Louise de Bettignies passed military intelligence to the Allied command. She received the Croix de Guerre, the Knights Cross of the British Empire and the Belgian Civic Cross. – Trans.
14Information on this worthy gentleman too is sadly elusive. – Trans.
15This award was created in 1915 and is awarded to those soldiers who distinguish themselves through bravery. – Trans.
16During the First World War the French government temporarily relocated from Paris to Bordeaux. – Trans.
17Having not won through injury or heroism. – Trans.
18In the war. – Trans.
19D’Hartoy is making a pun here, referring to the wooden cross of a grave. – Trans.
20The Mind Moves the Mass. – Trans.
21D’Hartoy appears to be referring to the riots that broke out in Paris and London following the executions of Italian-American anarchists Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nocola Sacco, led by sympathetic revolutionary groups. The damages amounted to 10,000,000 Francs, and the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, raised for those killed in the First World War whose bodies were never recovered, was defaced. – Trans.
22Here d’Hartoy is invoking a great force that can restore order within France. – Trans.
23Alas, no information on this august individual can be found. – Trans.
24Poilu was term for a French infantryman during the First World War. – Trans.
25Sadly, no information on this gentleman was forthcoming. – Trans.
26Literally ‘The Remembrance of Shed Blood’. It is unclear what this group or association was, no information could be found. – Trans.