French Peasant Fascism: Henry Dorgi'Ares' Greenshirts and the Crises of French Agriculture, 1929-1939 / Edition 1

Paperback (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $7.63
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 87%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (19) from $7.63   
  • New (7) from $19.79   
  • Used (12) from $7.63   


French Peasant Fascism is the first account of the Greenshirts, a militant right-wing peasant movement in 1930s France that sought to transform the Republic into an authoritarian, agrarian state. Author Robert Paxton examines the Greenshirts in five case studies, throwing new light on French rural society and institutions during the Depression and on the emergence of a new rural leadership of authentic farmers. Paxton points out that fascism remained weak in the French countryside because the French state protected landowners more effectively than did those of Weimar Germany and Italy, and because French rural notables were so firmly embedded in social and economic power.

Although the Greenshirts disappeared with the Third Republic, they left a double legacy: a tradition of peasant direct action, which is still exercised today; and the idea of France as a peasant nation, whose identity and virtues rest upon the persistence of a large peasant sector. That self-image continues to influence French policy choices today, long after the social structure on which it rested has disappeared.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Thoughtful, reflective, sensitive to nuances, Paxton squeezes all possible information from his sources. Specialists will not want to miss his book. Nonspecialists should at least read the first chapter...and the last chapter....If they are not then moved to read the rest, they will at least have observed a first-rate mind at work."—The York Times Book Review

"Once again, Robert Paxton has done pioneering work."—Foreign Affairs

"This is a finely crafted piece of historical research." —Times Literary Supplement

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195111897
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/28/1997
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert O. Paxton is Professor of History Columbia University. He has also taught at University of California at Berkeley, State University of New York at Stony Brook and Columbia University. His areas of specialization include the Vichy regime in France and the French Right and he is currently preparing a comparative study of fascism.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Introduction 3
In Search of Henry Dorgeres 3
1 The Triple Crisis of the French Peasantry, 1929-39 11
The Depression 12
A Vanishing Way of Life 27
A Crisis of Representation 36
2 The Rise of Dorgerism 51
The Creation of Henry Dorgeres 51
Dorgeres and the Agrarian Press 54
Dorgeres, the Peasant Tribune 57
Dorgeres against the Republic 61
3 Five Scenarios of Peasant Action 69
Giving the Peasants a Voice: The Market-day Rally 70
Pushing Back the State: The Battle of Bray-sur-Somme, 18 June 1933 78
Pushing Back the Reds 84
Breaking Industrial Strikes: Isigny (Calvados), August-December 1936 102
Organizing the Market: Le Petrolage des Petits Pois, Finistere, June 1938 110
4 Dorgeres, the Agrarian Elite, and the State, 1934-44 119
Dorgerism, 1934-40: Who, Where, and How Many? 120
The Peasant Front 129
Where Did the Money Come From? 134
The Republic against Dorgeres 135
The Notables Drop Dorgeres 138
Triumph and Disappointment: Dorgeres at Vichy 142
5 Aftermath, Legacy, Meanings 151
Dorgeres after the War 151
A Village Fascism? 154
The Dorgerist Moment 165
France as a Peasant Nation 174
Notes 187
Bibliographical Essay 227
Index 235
Read More Show Less

First Chapter




DURING A LONG DECADE that began in the late 1920s, the men and women who drew their living from agriculture in France faced very hard times. Peasants always face hard times, and they always feel that city people care little and understand less about them. But the crisis of the 1930s went beyond the recurring insecurities--illness, bad weather, poor harvests--that peasants have always taken for granted as part of their lot. This crisis, which seemed to threaten the French family farm with extinction, had three dimensions.

First, the economic dimension of the peasant crisis of the 1930s--during the Great Depression--was an ever-deepening decline of farm prices that lasted so long and plunged so low that even the most diligent efforts could barely keep a family alive. Second, the cultural dimension of this crisis was the low esteem for peasant life, values, and needs that seemed to permeate the Third Republic. Schools, films, literature, and the popular press were devoted, or so it seemed to farm families, to making the peasants' children feel contempt for their way of life. They lured the best young people away to the cities and emptied the villages in a disheartening "rural exodus."

The third dimension concerned politics: it might be called a crisis of representation. There seemed to be no leader or institution in the French Third Republic with sufficient concern, comprehension, or will to devote public attention to the peasants' plight. Public policy on both the Left and the Right seemed overwhelmingly committed to cheap bread from abroad and at whatever cost to the future of independent small farmers. There was not even a thinker or writer who could give French peasants the dignity of understanding that what was happening to them was not the result of sloth, stupidity, or moral failure. No account of peasants' anger in the 1930s is complete without consideration of all three parts of the crisis, and we take them up one by one.

The Depression

The Great Depression of the 1930s hit agriculture before it affected the other branches of the economy. The prices farmers received for their products began a long slide in the late 1920s. This was a worldwide phenomenon, and its roots went back into the last third of the nineteenth century. First came the creation of a worldwide market in foodstuffs in the 1870s and 1880s, as the railroad and the steamship put cheap grain from the plains of Russia, Australia, and the Americas on the tables of every city on earth. After that revolution had occurred, French farmers began to confront a choice that has not been fully resolved even today: they must either produce cheaper or better foodstuffs than their foreign competitors or shelter behind the walls of an autarkic economic fortress.

A more immediate root of the agricultural depression in Europe was the economic dislocations caused by World War I. During the 1914-18 conflict, European farmers put down the plough and took up the sword. Their young men were in uniform; their horses had been requisitioned by the artillery; their fields were being sown with lead. The belligerent countries of Europe were forced to import food and to abandon their prewar agricultural exports. New producers rushed into the breach. Vast new areas were put to grain and animal production in Canada, Argentina, Australia, and in what was to become the dust bowl of the dry central plains of the United States. When the war ended, these producers had no intention of giving up their new markets, even though European agricultural production soon returned to prewar levels and even exceeded them. The result was overproduction, a flooded market, and a worldwide downward spiral of farm prices.

Wheat--cheap to grow and cheap to transport by the new mechanized techniques--was at the center of these trends. Almost every French farmer grew some wheat, specialization then being far less complete than it is today. Wheat still occupied five million hectares (eleven million acres) in France, 24% of the country's cultivatable land. French agriculture, despite its inefficiencies, was a formidable engine for the production of wheat. With 2% of the world's population, France produced 7% of the world's wheat in 1929.

Wherever agriculture touched hearts, as well as pocketbooks, there was a mystique about wheat, and nowhere more so than in France. Wheat marked the turning seasons; it was the symbol of regeneration, "our sacred plant." "Wheat forms the basis of the farmers' whole mental world," commented one rural agricultural official in 1934. So it is with wheat that we begin the account of the French peasants' Depression agonies.

Within France itself, cultivators had gradually, unevenly but steadily, increased their yields over the years by using improved strains and increasing quantities of fertilizer. Because France had an exceptionally large proportion of small family farmers who invested little and clung to traditional ways, French wheat productivity per acre remained among the lowest in Europe. Certain areas of extensive wheat cultivation, however, particularly the Paris basin and the northern plains, kept abreast of the latest techniques. The war-damaged farmlands of northeastern France received massive reinvestment and became more productive than ever. These high-yield farms carried French wheat productivity steadily upward in the 1920s, even as many small farms continued to produce small quantities by the inefficient old methods. Thus France continued its paradoxical role as both an exporter and an importer of wheat. In poor years, between the wars, France still had to import wheat; in good years, France produced more than enough for its own use and more than it could export in a glutted market.

French wheat growers also faced a declining internal market, for reasons more specific to their own country. As French consumers enriched their diet with other foods, they ate less bread. The French government and the wheat producers' association, the Association Generale des Producteurs de Ble (AGPB), tried to reverse this trend. But their various measures--improving quality, requiring millers to use techniques that consumed larger quantities of wheat for each unit of flour (taux de blutage), and keeping foreign wheat out of French bread--had the effect of sweeping against the tide. Zero French population growth made the steady shrinkage of domestic wheat consumption even more apparent. No wonder so many peasant leaders were passionate natalists.

Add to these structural factors the accident of perfect weather for maximum wheat harvests for two seasons in a row. The harvests of 1932 and 1933 were the most abundant in French agricultural history. Far from being good news, this meant a collapse of wheat prices even within the protected French market. In the middle 1930s, France (like the United States and other large wheat-producing countries) was drowning in surplus grain.

The price of wheat in France eroded steadily through the late 1920s, prosperous years for everyone except farmers. Wheat prices had reached their postwar peak in 1926:

                  1926      198 francs per quintal

                  1927      166

                  1928      161

                  1929      150

                  1930      147

These prices were already far below the 300 francs per quintal that farm spokesmen thought were necessary to make rural life attractive enough to stem the rural exodus. And even these inadequate prices were not to last. After a slight improvement in 1931, the bottom dropped out of the price of wheat in France. In several weeks after August 1932, it fell from 160 francs to 100-110 francs per quintal. The government's effort to defend a minimum price or 115 francs per quintal in July 1933 failed. It dropped to 80 francs in 1934, and averaged 70 francs in 1935. Many farmers sold their wheat in 1935 for 55 francs per quintal, if they could sell it at all. At that moment, when they did not yet know that the bottom had been reached, many farmers, large and small, thought they were going to be driven from the land.

A report from the prefect of the Haute-Garonne is graphic. At the Halle aux Grains in Toulouse, he wrote the Ministry of the Interior on 17 October 1933, that once again that week no one was buying wheat. There were many weeks like this all over France between 1932 and 1935. Big farmers could store their wheat and wait, living uneasily on their savings. But small farmers, lacking storage facilities and faced with urgent bills, usually had to sell at once. Either they could not sell their grain at all or they had to give it up for less than they had spent to grow it. Then they could not find the few francs needed to pay their bills for seed and fertilizer, to pay the rent (fermages or baux) if they leased their land (as so many did), and to buy a few indispensable items of personal consumption. First they cut back purchases; then they went into debt to the fertilizer merchant or the landlord.

"Farmers' debt ... is the drama of our time," Deputy Edouard Barthe, chief representative of the winegrowers, told the Chamber of Deputies on the last day of 1935. "It is probably the greatest threat to social peace; it imperils the very life of our country." Gilles Postel-Vinay has calculated that the increased peasant debt of the 1930s was lighter than that of the previous agricultural depression of the 1880s because the wartime profits and inflation of 1914-18 had permitted the liquidation of previous debt. But the new debt of the 1930s was "crisis debt" rather than the "investment debt" of optimistic periods of modernization, and it was resented all the more bitterly after the debt-free 1920s. When the French state chose this difficult moment to collect more taxes, to extract social security contributions for a farm's one or two hired hands, and during the Popular Front to extend such urban benefits to farm workers as the forty-hour week and paid vacations, these added costs were the last straw. The situation was particularly embittering for young farmers, who after returning from the war had taken out loans to get started. We find these angry war veterans especially numerous in the ranks of Dorgerism.

Peasants' anger reached the boiling point by late 1933. "I implore you, calm down our countryside," former Premier Joseph Caillaux wrote from his retirement in the Sarthe to Agriculture Minister Henri Queuille on 18 May 1934. "It is already boiling over. Don't stir it up any further." Feelings were to grow even more tense in 1935.

In 1935, as they contemplated the pittance they received for wheat, some farmers imagined that they might simply use it as currency. On the Far Left, Renaud Jean, the Communist deputy of the Lot-et-Garonne and the main peasant spokesman in the French Communist party, proposed that peasants pay their taxes in wheat at the price set (but not enforced) at 115 francs per quintal in July 1933. Similar ideas spread on the Far Right, as was not unusual in peasant matters. In the Eure-et-Loir, the Parti Agraire held a banquet in March 1935, payable in wheat. In June, Dorgeres proposed the payment of farm rents in kind, according to a scale set by a mixed arbitration committee. In some areas where it had been a traditional practice, farmers were allowed to exchange wheat for flour. The Norman farmers' leader, Jacques Le Roy Ladurie, both scholarly and inflammatory as usual, recalled that members of the Convention of 1793 had been paid in wheat--a refreshing idea for peasants who had both wheat and contempt for parliamentarians in abundant supply.

There were many ways for a wheat farmer to go bankrupt in those years. Valentin Salvaudon, whose refusal to pay social security for his workers had set off Dorgeres's first mass obstruction of a judicial sale in June 1933 (see Chapter 3), lost his farm in the following season because he had bought up his neighbors' wheat, expecting a price recovery that never arrived. Others lost their farms to creditors: the bank, the state, or a landlord. Sales of farms for debt were as vivid a part of Depression folklore in France as in the American dust bowl as described by John Steinbeck or Erskine Caldwell.

Parliament was not idle during the wheat crisis. It tried actively to remedy the situation. Indeed, some said it was too active. Thirteen French governments held power during the four years between January 1932 and January 1936, and each new ministry felt obliged to give the impression of boldly tackling the wheat price collapse. During the nearly five years between December 1929 and March 1934, successive French governments passed six laws and thirty-nine decrees and issued thirty-one arretes and two avis concerning the wheat market--and the lawmaking continued after that. These measures took official France (though not village France, in its everyday reality) from a nearly free market through a cycle of different experiments with state intervention, interpersed with one period of return to the free market.

Turning the import-export valves was the main device French governments traditionally used to stabilize French agricultural prices. So it was to the regulation of international trade that they first turned when an abundant wheat harvest accelerated the price decline in 1929. They did so all the more readily since they tended to blame the crisis on foreigners' overproduction. The import duty on wheat went up to 50 francs per quintal in 1929 and to an unheard-of 80 francs per quintal in 1930, effectively excluding foreign wheat from the French market. It had been 7 francs before World War I and 18 francs in the early 1920s--lower, in fact, taking inflation into account. Andre Tardieu, prime minister in 1929 and again in 1930 and minister of agriculture in 1931, was particularly active. His law of 1 December 1929 strengthened the government's power to raise agricultural import duties by decree without recourse to parliament (the padlock law, la loi du cadenas). It also established subsidies (ristournes) on wheat exports, limits on the proportion of foreign wheat that French flour could contain, and restrictions on temporary admission (admission temporaire).

Tardieu also put an end to the negotiation of Commercial Treaties, by which France had agreed during the 1920s to accept agricultural imports from countries like Spain and Italy in return for export possibilities for French industry--a typical example, according to peasant spokesmen like Dorgeres, of the French Republic's readiness to sacrifice French agriculture to industry.

Tardieu's most striking invention was the application of quotas (contingentement) to the total amount of certain products imported. This step got him into trouble with the United States, but Tardieu was remembered with particular fondness by peasant activists. Dorgeres considered him to be the best minister of agriculture since Jules Meline in the 1880s, and Dorgeres in no way lessened his admiration when Tardieu became a powerful advocate for a more authoritarian form of republic in the mid-1930s.

When regulating international trade did not stop the decline of wheat prices, French governments began to try to influence the internal farm economy. First, in 1930-31 came modest measures to sop up the excess by encouraging and subsidizing storage; carryover of stocks to a later year (report); and alternative uses (denaturation), that is, turning wheat into animal feed or distilling it into alcohol. After the moderate Left had won the elections of 1932, Edouard Daladier took the bold step in July 1933 of setting a minimum price for wheat of 115 francs per quintal. The minimum price system was further strengthened on 28 December 1933, including a tax of 3 francs per quintal on wheat to generate the funds needed to pay the costs of the state's intervention in the agricultural economy.

Because Daladier's experiments produced more inequity than price stabilization (small farmers were constrained to sell quickly to "speculators" at prices lower than the minimum), the more conservative Pierre-Etienne Flandin moved back toward market freedom (28 December 1934, the fifth law on wheat). Thereafter, wheat prices fell even more freely, and the farmers who had complained about state regulations now complained bitterly about the free market.

Reversing course sharply again in the summer of 1936, the Popular Front undertook state management of the entire wheat market of France, through the famous (or infamous) National Wheat Office (Office National Interprofessionel du Ble) of August 1936. By this time, wheat prices had finally turned upward again on their own (largely by long-term self-correction of the market and low harvests), and the Third Republic's cycle of major wheat legislation came to an end.

The French government spent large sums on its various attempts to bolster wheat prices. As of 30 June 1935, on the debit side of the budget was the sum of 946 million francs for intervention in the wheat market. From 1 January to 31 October 1935, "supporting the wheat market" was the largest item among treasury expenses, at 1,700,000,000 francs, coming just ahead of national defense (1,170,000,000 francs).

These actions failed to reverse the collapse of wheat prices. The first measures of storage, carryover (report), and alternative usage were too feeble, and, in any case, most poor peasants didn't have access to storage facilities; those who did worried about the mountain of wheat they had accumulated. The price-taxing of 1933 didn't work, partly because the state lacked sufficiently coercive administrative machinery for market supervision, partly because small peasants desperate for cash sold anyway, below the minimum. The grain wholesalers and millers (the "speculators" denounced by Dorgeres) were delighted to oblige. Flandin's return to the free market in December 1934 did not work because the huge "overhang" of previously stocked wheat exerted an exceptional downward pressure on prices.

If the 1936 Wheat Office seemed to work better than previous measures, this was partly because the market was beginning to correct itself anyway. Somewhat surprisingly, in view of their opposition to the Popular Front and their lack of rapport with Prime Minister Leon Blum and his minister of agriculture, the gentleman farmer Georges Monnet--the conservative agrarian organizations preferred to work with the Wheat Office than to fight it. But the farmers were calmer by then because prices had already begun to recover, and they were well represented in its councils--even though it was not run entirely by the agricultural profession as they would have preferred but was "interprofessional," including representatives of the milling and baking industries, grain traders, and consumers.

Not only did the successive governments' blizzard of laws and decrees not help, but also they did not even earn the gratitude of the wheat growers. Government policy changed too often and acted too little or too late while at the same time setting up vast systems of paperwork that infuriated and burdened the wheat growers. The best-informed and most intelligent spokesmen for the wheat growers--such as Pierre Halle, the brilliant and energetic secretary-general of the wheat producers' powerful pressure group, the General Wheat Growers' Association (Association Generale des Producteurs de Ble, AGPB)--eventually drew negative conclusions about democratic government itself. Publicly, Halle doubted that the parliamentary system had either the expertise or the authority to manage a market. He thought that the professional associations, like his own AGPB, should organize the wheat market within a corporatist system in which real authority lay with the producers. Privately, he went much further. He wrote to Andre Tardieu, for example, on 22 August 1936, agreeing with the former prime minister that the present regime in France was "intolerable and unfixable.... That is why we must throw it down." For Halle, by the time the Popular Front was in power, the only solution was a mass movement capable of swaying the public by emotion, since "reason doesn't work any more."

It is not surprising, therefore, given this cultivated expert's sweeping rejection of democracy in general and the French Republic in particular, that Halle was willing to appear often on the same platform with Dorgeres, a man whose company he would not have ordinarily sought. For example, Halle was one of the speakers at the giant rally in Rouen on 17 September 1935, when Dorgeres, who had just been sentenced for advocating a tax strike, was putting into motion the Peasant Front's plan to bring about a giant peasant boycott of the entire French economy and the French state.

Even experts like Pierre Halle were not sure what they wanted, however. They had no more conclusive answers than the parliamentarians. When he was disillusioned by the malfunctioning of the minimum price established in July 1933, Halle recommended a "progressive return to the free market," while at the same time demanding "the reinforcement of the state authorities charged with applying the regulations concerning wheat." Then, after successive forms of state intervention had failed, Halle shifted away from both the market and state authority to a nonstatist form of corporatism, "professional organization."

Halle recognized that there were several possible economic models. France could throw open its doors to the world wheat market and enjoy cheap bread at depressed world prices. He admitted that bread was cheaper in countries like Britain and Belgium, which imported cheap foreign wheat, than in protectionist France. But that course meant the destruction of many family farms and the deliberate sacrifice of a large part of the French rural community. Like his mentor Andre Tardieu, Halle believed passionately that French moral and social survival depended on retaining a large population of family farmers, even though they were unable to produce food at world market prices. Economic efficiency meant less to him than social and moral good: a France "in balance" (equilibre was a ubiquitous word among conservative political and economic commentators from Jules Meline to Philippe Petain). A "balanced economy" meant cities and industries no more powerful than a large, healthy rural population.

For those less well educated than Pierre Halle, it was even easier to become obsessed by the tragedy of the wheat glut. For ignorant small farmers unable to sell their wheat, the trouble was not vast economic forces but evil people. The uneducated farmer's list of personal enemies included the huge milling companies, which put many small millers out of business and encouraged the import of cheap wheat by ship, such as the immense Grands Moulins de Paris built just after World War I. There were also fraudulent dealers, speculators, and "international finance." Some of the large milling companies and international wheat dealers were tempting targets.

Dorgeres never missed an opportunity to blame peasants' sufferings on the big international wheat broker Louis Louis-Dreyfus, whom he loved to call King Two Louis (le roi deux Louis). Dorgeres and his followers never stopped believing that a lot of foreign wheat was entering France because of the fraudulent operations of brokers such as Louis-Dreyfus, abetted by ill-conceived government programs like temporary admission and covered by corrupt politicians. Louis-Dreyfus was a rural demagogue's dream target: wealthy, a powerful force in the international wheat trade, and the bearer of a name so resonant that the most unabashed barnyard anti-Semite would not dare dream it up. No wonder Dorgeres shifted his message in December 1932 from social security to wheat prices.

If the Great Depression had delivered a knockout blow to wheat alone, the calculating French peasant would have quickly shifted to other products. Indeed, this occurred. Far from staying mired in timeless custom, French peasants have always responded rationally and quickly to market opportunities--and they did so in the 1930s. They turned their energies most often to milk, meat, and vegetables; sometimes to flax or tobacco; and, where geography permitted, to wine. But the Depression also affected all the other cash crops, at different times and according to different factors. Sooner or later in the 1930s, every one of the alternative cash crops suffered a price collapse. All of French agriculture seemed stricken by some inexorable doom.

Wine came after wheat in economic and emotional importance. The production of these two crops affected so many French families that many (including Dorgeres) called them "electoral crops": their fate got politicians elected and governments overthrown, and they could not be ignored. In addition to its economic importance as the support of a million and a half vintners (vignerons)--one French family in six--wine, like wheat, enjoyed a special mystique in France. Wine and bread, declared Andre Tardieu in a speech opening the Conference Internationale du Vin on 7 March 1932, are the "culminating expressions of material and spiritual civilization." "The prolonged consumption of wine," affirmed M. de Mirepoix, president of the wine producers' association (la Confederation Generale des Vignerons, CGV), to the Conseil National Economique on 1 December 1930, "has certainly contributed to the formation and the development of the fundamental qualities of the French race: cordiality, frankness, gaity, wit, good taste--which set it so profoundly apart from people who drink a lot of beer."

The severe problems faced by producers of wine between the wars, like those of wheat growers, had their roots in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. First had come the scourge of Phylloxera, an American plant louse introduced accidentally into France in the 1860s, which destroyed more than half of the vineyards in the 1870s and 1880s and reduced French wine production by two-thirds. A solution had been found by grafting new vines onto resistant roots of the American wild grape. But the cost of replanting, along with new facilities for transporting wine by rail, gave an advantage to new industrial-scale vineyards that stretched for miles along the Mediterranean coast. Soon, by the early 1900s, the market overflowed with cheap wine. After the 1907 revolt of struggling small vignerons in the south, so massive it had required the intervention of troops, the winegrowers accepted a regulated market of a kind that the dispersed and individualistic wheat growers were incapable of matching, though they sometimes envied it.

The Great Depression did not spare the French wine producers, in spite of their organized market. The acreage devoted to wine production in Algeria, where grapes had first been planted while French production was reduced by the Phylloxera epidemic, almost tripled between the wars, to the rage of the Midi. Within metropolitan France, while acreage remained constant, yields crept upward as techniques improved. At the same time, French wine consumption leveled off, while Prohibition in the United States--an insult from which American-French relations have never recovered--closed a once-important market from 1919 until 1933. Then the perfect harvest weather of 1933 produced the biggest grape crop in French agricultural history. "Wine production," concluded an agricultural official in 1939, "is in the process of destroying itself by its own excesses."

The French state had long been tracing, for tax purposes, the quantity of wine produced and sold. During the overproduction crisis of the early twentieth century, it began also to regulate quality and to balance the wine market by purchasing the excess for distillation. In the 1930s, it turned to the regulation of production. Increasingly minute provisions concerning exactly what could be planted, irrigated, stocked, distilled, or sold culminated in the Wine Statute (statut du vin) of 30 July 1935. This sweeping regulation amounted, according to one agricultural expert, to "a beautiful example of a guided economy."

It restricted imports, limited new plantations, banned some inferior strains of grape, penalized an emphasis on sheer quantity, and reached the ultimate blasphemy: the uprooting of some vineyards. About 56,000 hectares (123,200 acres) of vines were actually pulled up in 1935-36, about a third of the amount foreseen. Producers of wines of high quality were further protected by reinforced restrictions on the right to use regional labels (appellations d'origine). Whereas earlier legislation (1919) had left it to the courts to enforce regional labels, a new Comite National des Appellations d'Origine des Vins et des Eaux-de-Vie (1935) enforced much more detailed restrictions on the kinds and qualities of wines that could use these coveted restricted labels, appelations controlees. The state's ultimate safety valve was an expensive program of distilling all the excess wine into industrial alcohol.

But wine figures little in our story of Dorgeres. I wondered why his movement did not profit from the stresses of the Great Depression and the labor troubles of 1936-37 in the wine country. The Midi in general had been fixed politically on the Left by long tradition. More specifically, the "wine producers had long been subjected to discipline by the supervision of their wines by the tax bureau" (l'Administration des Contributions Indirectes). One gets the impression also, from reading accounts of the ritualized forms taken by regular labor conflict in the southern vineyards since the early 1900s, that the southern vineyard workers' strikes of the Popular Front era were not the shocking novelty the farmhands' strikes were to the farmers of the north and west. For a combination of reasons, Dorgerism found almost no political space in the southern wine country.

In the Loire Valley, in contrast, Dorgeres did well among winegrowers. The Loire wine producers took positions contrary to those of the Midi in all things. The less sunny Loire Valley depended on chaptalisation--the addition of some sugar in the fermentation process to raise the alcoholic content, a technique that the Midi was always trying to ban. The Loire Valley, which was always complaining about southern overproduction, was the only wine-producing region where Dorgeres found a substantial following.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)