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November 15th, 2018
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In 1933, a faction of the French Socialist Party caused a scandal by proposing "Order, Authority, Nation" as a new basis for Socialist propaganda. Ten years later, some of these so-called "neo-socialists" became Nazi collaborators. In explaining their trajectory, the historiography argues that there were elements of neo-socialist ideology that pre-disposed it toward fascism. But neo-socialism was originally an explicitly anti-fascist discourse. How might anti-fascist discourse mutate into its political opposite? Desan argues that a relational approach allows us to understand the transformation in the neo-socialists' politics despite continuities in their discourse. He draws on discourse analysis to trace the changing meanings of neo-socialism, and on a situational analysis to relate the different moments in its development to their respective political contexts. Far from being a coherent and fixed doctrine that drove the neo-socialists' political trajectories, the meaning of neo-socialism changed in relation to its position in a given discursive system and according to the conditions of the political fields in which its protagonists were invested. Neo-socialism—both in its anti-fascist and fascist incarnations—was forged through the crucible of multiple political crises, and it was the neo-socialists' response to these various crises that determined their trajectory. The neo-socialist path to fascism was not a straight line, but was instead punctuated by a series of ideological adjustments to shifting political fortunes.