Lighting the Fuse: Terrorism as Violent Political Discourse in Interwar France

  • Annette Finley-Croswhite
  • Gayle K. Brunelle


During 1936–1937 France experienced elevated levels of violence in the form of terrorism that historians have tended to overlook, opting to leave most discussion of terrorist activities to political scientists. This paper examines the use of terrorism in 1930s France by one of the most notorious and understudied groups of political radicals on the far right, the Comité Secret d’Action Révolutionnaire or Cagoule, whose members perpetrated terrorist acts in interwar France as part of their unsuccessful bid to overthrow the Popular Front government of Léon Blum. Former Cagoulards regrouped during the war to achieve their political goals in a reincarnation known as the Mouvement Social Révolutionnaire (Pour la Révolution Nationale) or MSR.1 The MSR reprised many of the same terrorist tactics they had employed in the interwar period, and against many of the same targets. The Cagoulard leadership (and, subsequently, that of the MSR) consisted of extremists expelled from the right-wing Action française in 1935 for advocating direct action in favour of the ‘National Revolution’. These extremists argued that mainstream leaders of the French right were all talk and no action, and criticised in particular the failure of the Action française to take advantage of the violent anti-parliamentary street riots of 6 February 1934 to overthrow the Republic.2


Political Violence Interwar Period Hard Edge Interior Minister Popular Front 
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© Annette Finley-Croswhite and Gayle K. Brunelle 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Annette Finley-Croswhite
  • Gayle K. Brunelle

There are no affiliations available

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