Croix de feu

By Richard Sanders, Editor, Press for Conversion!

The Croix de feu was a fascist veterans group in France that was involved in a failed coup there. It was used as a model for the type of organization that American fascists wished to establish in the U.S to help foment their coup against President F.D. Roosevelt.

MacGuire was sent to Europe by the American coup plotters to study veterans organizations and how they aided fascist governments in Gemrany, Italy France and elsewhere. He sent a report to his backers from France on March 6, 1934. In it he said that the Croix de feu:

“will be very patriotic during this crisis and will take the [wage] cuts or be the moving spirit in the veterans to accept the cuts. Therefore, they will, in all probability, be in opposition to the Socialists and functionaries [who believe] the correct way to regain recovery is to spend more money and increase wages, rather than to put more people out of work and cut salaries.”

This group, that MacGuire saw as a model for use in America, was the largest and most active fascist organization in France between the wars. It was financed by top industrialists and bankers like André Michelin (tires), Louis Renault (cars) and François Coty (perfume and newspapers). The Wandel (munitions) and Rothschild (banking) families also sponsored it. Its vice-president, M. Pozzo di Borgo, was a director of several corporations, and its manager was a bank vice-president.

It arose in 1925, when Ernest Mercier, an electrical and gasoline magnate and director of 19 companies, initiated the creation a veterans group. This lead to the Croix de feu’s founding in 1927. In 1930, Colonel Robert de La Rocque became its leader and transformed it into a paramilitary force. The next year, la Rocque lead the Croix de feu and other fascists, in storming the final session of the International Disarmament Conference. By 1934, it claimed 120,000 members. On February 6, exactly one month before MacGuire’s report, the Croix de feu had staged a near-successful coup. At their huge riot outside the Chamber of Deputies, police killed 15 and wounded 1000. The Radical-Socialist government was forced to resign. In 1936, the escalating threat of a fascist coup brought communists, socialists and liberals into a Front Populaire. After winning the election, they outlawed paramilitary groups, like Croix de feu. So, it became a political party, Parti Social Francais (PSF).

The Croix de feu began with two main demons: Leftists and Freemasons. The Marxists/Socialists were blamed for economic problems, labour strikes and because they advocated higher income taxes. Masons were accused of threatening traditional Catholic values with social decadence. By 1941, the Croix de feu/PSF added Jews to its list and fought a tripartite “Judeo-Masonic-Bolshevik” conspiracy.

The Croix de feu violently disrupted leftist gatherings, using weapons to assault workers as they left meetings. Fights between organized labour and the Croix de feu sometimes went on for hours. The government long ignored the fact that the Croix de feu and other fascist groups had munitions, machine guns and even airplanes.

The group’s policies included:

(1) Curtailing the free speech and assembly of those they disliked,
(2) Dissolving federations of labor,
(3) Privatizing state monopolies and abrogating social insurance laws,
(4) Stopping state “interference” in education. Technical schools would be run by big corporations,
(5) Opposing state-planned economy,
(6) Distrusting other countries,
(7) Mandatory 2-year military service; not reducing military spending,
(8) Making the public sacrifice to solve France’s financial problems.


Robert J. Soucy, "Review of Michel Winock's Nationalism, Anti-Semitism, and Fascism in France, 1998." H-France, December 1999.

France Between the Wars 1918-39

Bernard Knox, "Premature Anti-Fascist," First Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, April 1998.

S. Herman, "Fascist Trends in France," Class Struggle, Jan. 1935.
Vera Buch, "A Challenge to the French Working Class," Class Struggle, Oct. 1935.

Jeffrey Johnson, "Cosmopolitan Patriotism," New Thinking, Winter, 2003.

Source: Press for Conversion! magazine, Issue # 53, "Facing the Corporate Roots of American Fascism," March 2004. Published by the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade.

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