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War, Memory, and the Politics of HumorThe Canard Enchaine  and World War I$

Allen Douglas

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780520228764

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520228764.001.0001

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Politics as Usual

Politics as Usual

An Antiparliamentarism of the Left?

(p.184) 11 Politics as Usual
War, Memory, and the Politics of Humor

Allen Douglas

University of California Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines French domestic politics as viewed by the Canard. It shows that the paper wavered between two positions: the first was a “republicanism” located between the Socialist and Radical parties, while the second was a more politically undecided antiparliamentarism. The discussion looks at how the Canard satirized the way the rest of the press covered the Third International supporters and also developed a position that suggested the entire democratic-electoral process was a futile exercise.

Keywords:   domestic politics, republicanism, Socialist party, Radical party, antiparliamentarism, Third International, supporters, democratic-electoral process

The ideological flexibility of so much of the Canard’s discourse allowed it to vacillate among its roles as leftist, satirical, and veterans’ periodical. The result was often a kind of leftist antiparliamentarism or even a veterans’ antiparliamentarism. The Canard’s antiparliamentarism was not the antidemocratic one of the radical right or even that of prewar anarchists and syndicalists or followers of the Jacobin tradition, who wished to replace representative institutions with other forms of popular expression. The antiparliamentarism of the Canard was a critique of the parliament as a working body; and it was, thus, the centerpiece of an analysis of the political system of the French Third Republic. As the postwar decade advanced, disillusionment increased, and the Canard’s relatively optimistic electoral activism yielded to a condemnation of the whole system.

Deriding Clemenceau

Peace did not signal the immediate return of normal political life. During the interregnum between the armistice of November 1918 and the signing of the peace treaties in the summer of 1919, the Clemenceau government maintained tight censorship of the French press and backed it up with repression of leftist activity.1 But the end of the fighting did permit a far broader debate in France than had been possible during the war. The Canard criticized the continuation of censorship, contrasting it with the greater press freedom in Britain and the United States, and called for amnesty for political prisoners and an end to the state of siege.2 The weekly also gave a pro-veteran twist to the secrecy of the peace negotiations. A Gassier cartoon showed soldiers discussing the fact that they were not invited to the peace conference. A satirical article invoked the wartime division between soldiers and embusqués. Had one seen the diplomats involved (p.185) in the fighting? No, they had left that to the soldiers. Hence the soldiers should now leave the peace discussions to the diplomats.3

Politics as UsualAn Antiparliamentarism of the Left?

Figure 10. Clemenceau ridiculed, by Gassier (1918).

More courageously, the paper resolutely went after Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau. In the same issues in which the weekly treated Wilson to a visual cult of personality, it mercilessly mocked the one then surrounding Clemenceau—but also visually. A series of sketches showed Clemenceau as a variety of pompous and ridiculous statues (for an example, see figure 10).4

The Canard had effectively supported “the Tiger” (as Clemenceau was called) during the war but refused to make of this an argument for the peace. In January 1919, the weekly published a little story entitled “The (p.186) Lady Who Was Sick and the Doctor.” A thinly disguised allegory of the war, it told of a lady, gravely ill for four years, who brings in a new doctor. He puts her on a severe regimen, and it (along with some American “infusions”) cures her. But the physician insists that she continue her treatment despite the cure and posts a policeman at her door to make sure she does not leave. Puns on santé (health, but also the prison where the government incarcerated its political prisoners) and chambre (room, but also the Chamber of Deputies) completed the transparent critique of the prime minister.5 Other pieces reminded the Canard’s readers of Clemenceau’s prewar record of sending the army to shoot strikers.6 Clemenceau’s henchman, Georges Mandel, made an easier target, and the Canard was not above exploiting anti-Semitic stereotypes (and false rumors) to criticize Mandel, whom the paper opposed for essentially political reasons.7

Veterans Versus Deputies

Contrasting Clemenceau with Wilson was typical for pacifist and other leftist papers during early 1919.8 And the Canard showed its leftist bona fides through its support of the May Day general strike.9 But the preferred symbolic clientele of the weekly was not organized workers, it was returning soldiers. In a rare direct appeal, the Canard admonished the poilus:

Remember this modest “Canard,” which was often your joy in the darkest hours and which always came to your defense.

Remember that we were your friend and that, in spite of the censor and the imbeciles, we found a way, in our four little weekly pages, while laughing, to tell more truths than were told even in the big dailies.10

But the weekly expected more from the former soldiers than gratitude. On Christmas 1918, the lead article of the Canard repeatedly evoked “the sound of boots, of boots, of boots.” The boots were those of the returning troops, who worried the government, the profiteers, and the professional patriots, for theirs were the “derrières” that the soldiers were preparing to boot, the weekly intimated with undisguised glee.11 In case the allusion was too fine, the Canard made another direct appeal to the demobilized soldiers in March 1919. “Are you fed up with the deputies who, for five years, have behaved like cowards and lackeys?” the weekly asked. If so, then do as we will, we who have never voted before, and register to vote. Veterans against deputies—the Canard was recycling its binarism of soldiers versus embusqués while making an appeal to the unpoliticized. The title of the front-page appeal was “Hey you! The Demobilized!” The paper avoided the term anciens combattants (veterans), which, as we saw in chapter 7, (p.187) was already associated with militarism in the eyes of the web-footed weekly. The paper spoke as if it and the former soldiers were one group: “Soon, comrades, we will be able to wield the broom.”12

Politics as UsualAn Antiparliamentarism of the Left?

Figure 11. The veteran prepares to vote, by Gassier (1919).

From the verbal metaphor to the visual: a Gassier cartoon of April 1919 bore the title “The Demobilized Soldier at Drill” (see figure 11). It showed a man, whose costume partook of both the military and the civilian, holding a broom as one would a rifle with bayonet. The brush of the broom is pointing toward the portrait on the wall of a Mr. Duconault, deputy. The man explains to his wife, who is looking on with surprise, “But, as you can see, my dear, I am preparing for electoral reform!”13 While others in France were debating electoral systems or adjusting districts, the Canard considered the essential remedy a clean sweep of the existing deputies, a point made again in July and September. As the weekly put it in a headline (with the last sentence in the language of Shakespeare), “Will the outgoing deputies be defeated through electoral-list voting [scrutin de liste] or through single-member voting [scrutin d’arrondissment]? That is the question.”14

(p.188) As the above suggested, the Canard did not limit its attacks to the Clemenciste majority. Many Socialist deputies (like those in the reformist wing of the party) should also feel the wrath of the voters, the weekly opined.15 But it did not allow criticism of the politicians to lure it into the right-wing trap of an attack on all electoral politics. It mocked the rightist, patriotic claim to be above political divisions: “No politics, citizens,” it had a candidate declare; “all Frenchmen should unite in a single party: ours!”16 The Canard found a way to mock both the deputies in general and the right in particular. For five days we have had neither deputies nor a Chamber, the paper noted on October 22, but was the country any worse off? The same column, however, included an attack on the right-wing electoral alliance, the National Bloc, already soundly thrashed in a page 1 article two weeks before.17 The Canard continued its formula of demobilized soldiers and a clean sweep as the elections approached. In August, the weekly reminded recently demobilized soldiers (via a Laforge duck with a broom in his bill) that they had only twenty days after their release to register to vote. The October 29 headline described the first round of the elections, to be held on November 16, as the “Début du corps de balai,” a pun on ballet and balai (broom).18

Maréchal appears to have assumed that most veterans, and many others, were so disgusted with the corruption and sufferings of the war and armistice period that they would vote against the government. But, instead, the patriotically charged atmosphere of the war and victory, combined with superior electoral alliances on the right, produced one of the most conservative Chambers in the history of the Third Republic.19


The weekly also underestimated the effect of the red-scare campaign, which was fed by the real threat of a spread of Bolshevism westward across Europe. A major feature of the campaign was the now classic anti-Communist poster of a dangerous-looking revolutionary with a knife between his teeth.20 Immediately after the elections, the Canard took up the challenge of this propaganda masterpiece. Since the danger of Bolshevism was still imminent, the paper argued, one needed more such images, and it instituted a mock contest for a new anti-Bolshevik poster, with contributions attributed to leading conservative journalists. Two of the three examples brought out the implied cannibalism created by the placement of the murderer’s knife between his teeth. One showed a Bolshevik grasping a Russian victim who, reduced in size to that of a turkey leg, finds himself between (p.189) the monster’s teeth. The second represented Bolshevism as a horrific devil with a bloody fork between his teeth. The third shifted from cannibalism to sex, showing a pregnant woman and a dog. Its text: “The Bolshevik not only wants your money, he will rape your girlfriend and give your dog the mange.”21

The next issue made the connection of poster and election results clearer. Entitled “At the National Bloc Banquet,” it showed a scruffy man with a knife between his teeth and blood on his hands entering a fancy room in front of a group of distinguished politicians. The legend: “Photograph taken by Mr. Adolphe Carnot at the moment of the sensational entrance of the great victor: the man with the knife between his teeth”22 (Carnot was the creator of the poster campaign). A few months later, in March 1920, the Canard indignantly reported that National Bloc politicians were now thinking of normalizing relations with the Russian communists. So soon after the electoral campaign this was a fraud: “Today they want us, without further ado, to swallow the knife that Mr. Adophe Carnot had so ingeniously placed between the jaws of his Bolshevik character.”23

But the famous poster was also linked to the question of attitudes toward the new Soviet government in Russia. The Canard had welcomed the Russian revolution of February/March 1917, and it had countered indignation over the murder of the tsar with an illustrated (by Gassier) little history of the assassinations and domestic murders that had marked Russia’s ruling families.24 After the war the weekly joined the general campaign on the French left against French intervention in Russia.25 When it came to Lenin’s government itself, however, the satirical weekly eschewed commentary on events in Russia in favor of mockery of the coverage of Russian developments in the conservative French press.26 Here, the man-withthe-knife-between-his-teeth became a convenient symbol of the excesses of French propaganda and of the relation of anti-Bolshevik coverage of events in Russia to domestic political concerns. In February and March 1920, the Canard ran a feuilleton entitled “The Fiancée of the Bolshevik or the Bloody Knife.” A sendup of clichés about Russia and the reds, it ends as the distraught father realizes that one of his daughters has been impregnated by a Bolshevik. The otherwise adorable newborn has a knife between his teeth.27 But the absurdity of misplaced literalness could be exploited verbally as well, as in the following sentence, allegedly taken from a future book: “To sharpen his pencil, the Bolshevik removed the knife that he was holding in his teeth.”28

The Canard appropriated the image by transferring the knife from the mouths of Bolsheviks into those of their opponents. After the May Day (p.190) strikes of 1920, the Canard published sketches of the police in a variety of savage attitudes, including two officers of the law with knives between their teeth. The image did double duty, ridiculing the rightist cliché while supporting the claim of the accompanying article that, when it came to disturbing order and making trouble, no one could equal the French police.29 Three years later, the Canard illustrated a long attack on the then president of the Republic, Alexandre Millerand, with a picture of the conservative politician with a knife between his teeth.30 Indeed, the image, verbal or visual, of the-man-with-the-knife-between-his-teeth became a Canard topos, a mobile element that could be combined with other materials, as in the coverage of the Rif war.31 The topos economically evoked the absurdity of red-scare campaigns. And, through its association with the National Bloc poster of 1919, the anti-Communist image also reminded readers of the collusion of red scares with electoral tactics.

The Canard’s opposition to anticommunism as a political ploy, like its principled opposition to the repression of the Communist Party, in no way signaled sympathy for this new political movement. We saw the skeptical attitude of Bicard/de la Fouchardière. In 1928, while defending the Communist deputy and sometime Canard contributor Vaillant-Couturier against government harassment, the weekly’s passionate pacifist Pierre Scize added, “He spoke to me of the red army, of red discipline, of the red order. Through our conversation, I saw Communism rise up like a vast cage in reinforced concrete.” Scize’s 1928 appreciation, with its unconscious evocation of the worst of Stalinist architecture, encapsulated the Canard’s position on the legacy of Lenin. As much as the Canard could not tolerate the Soviet system’s authoritarianism (if not totalitarianism), it could not digest its joylessness.32 The exploitation of the red scare by the French right, added to the weakness of the proletarian party throughout the decade, invited the periodical to give the Communists virtual immunity from satire.

Against Parliament

Since the National Bloc majority took over so soon after the peace treaties, the criticism of this majority blended with that of the parliament itself. The Canard noted that the Chamber contained a high number of millionaires. And, more than being rich, members of parliament were corrupt. When a scandal broke out over payments from a bank to a number of lawmakers, the Canard headline read: “But That Is Completely Natural.” And the Canard’s regular attacks on the deputies for raising their own salaries, during (p.191) a time of general budget tightening, painted them as more greedy than self-sacrificing.33

The Senate received special treatment. Senators were generally older than deputies, and throughout most of the Third Republic this body, with its higher rural representation, tended to be more conservative than the Chamber of Deputies. In addition, in its role as a high court, the Senate had earned the special ire of the Canard when, at the behest of Clemenceau, it had convicted the Radical politicians Louis Malvy and Joseph Caillaux of treasonous activities, despite very weak cases.34 For the Canard, the senators were senile old men—in French, gaga. The weekly exploited this association by having the senators pushed around in wheelchairs (which resembled baby carriages with nurses) while saying “gagaga” or the like. Added to this mix was the claim that these senior lawmakers regularly visited the houses of prostitution on the rue des Martyres. Imagining the wheelchairs in the houses of ill-repute exploited the traditional comic trinity of old men, sex, and impotence. These associations became yet another set of topoi and another reduction of politics to bodies.35

The Canard brought all of these criticisms together in response to Millerand’s proposal for reform of the Constitution. The satirical weekly made its own suggestions. “The Republic is installed,” the document would declare, and deputies would be obliged to renounce both bribes and the subventions of private corporations; they would easily be able to meet this obligation since they were all honest men. To be a senator, the document would continue, one must not have fallen into second childhood and one must avoid the rue des Martyres. Finally, the sons of the president of the Republic must perform their military service. This last point was a slap at the fact that Millerand’s son, Jean, had avoided his.36

But the weekly also focused on the leftist antecedents of many of the leading conservatives. In February 1923, the Canard opened another contest, for the cleanest man in France. As explanation, the weekly invoked “our master” Anatole France. France had said that there was a moral hygiene like the physical one and that one should change one’s ideas as one would his shirts. The cleanest man in France was, thus, the man who had most often changed his political ideas.37 Movement from left, even the radical left, to the center and right was almost routine in French life, so the Canard had plenty of contestants. In succeeding weeks, the weekly presented, one at a time, its political quick-change artists, with savage précis of their careers.

On May 23, the Canard announced that its readers had chosen Millerand as the cleanest (hence politically the dirtiest) man in France. (p.192) Now president of the Republic and a leader of the right, Millerand had started his career as a fire-eating Socialist. To celebrate his coronation, the weekly quoted one of his articles of 1894, now so ironically appropriate: “‘The president of the Republic is the living incarnation, the proud descendant, of the great legal bandits who plundered our ancestors through usury, through monopolies, by the clever application of all the procedures that the legal system, made by them and for them, put into their hands.’”38


To find the greatest villain of the postwar years the Canard had no need for a contest. The greatest misfortune in France’s recent history was clearly the war, and for the Canard this catastrophe was associated with Raymond Poincaré, who was then president of the Republic. Attacking him was one of the few things the censor effectively blocked the wartime periodical from doing. The 1920s gave the satirical weekly ample opportunity to make up for any earlier—and involuntary—restraint.39

But the Canard’s focus on Poincaré also reflected his role as probably the most influential French political figure of the 1920s and a symbol of republican probity and patriotism. President from 1913 through 1919, Poincaré returned to parliament and became prime minister in January 1922 as the champion of a more resolutely anti-German policy. The Lorraine statesman served until the left victory of May 1924, but he returned to power in July 1926, as the monetary crisis led to the collapse of the Cartel des Gauches. Winning a parliamentary majority in the elections of 1928, he resigned only for reasons of health and age in July 1929.

The Canard summed up its general attitude to Poincaré in January 1926 by quoting another periodical’s comments on the former president of the Republic: “‘From the beginning of 1912 to the month of May 1914, one can say that the history of our country is linked to the personality of Mr. Raymond Poincaré.’” To that the Canard added:

Up to May 1914. Yes,

And even further, alas! Alas! alas!

Alas! alas! alas!

In the name of God, alas!

The black humor of this passage functions only because a regular reader of the Canard would know what was behind every “alas!” When word came that Poincaré was elected president of the Republic in 1913, someone is (p.193) supposed to have exclaimed, “Poincaré, c’est la guerre! [Poincaré, that means war!]” When the Great War broke out the following year, the prediction seemed to many to have been borne out. Certainly, the Canard did not hesitate to make of the sobriquet Poincaré-la-guerre a rhetorical albatross that it hung around the neck of the politician from the Meuse. In this case, as in much of its polemic against Poincaré, the Canard was a fellowtraveler since the Communists used the same phrase in their propaganda.40

The charge was based on Poincaré’s identification with a tougher policy of national preparedness against Germany before the war and especially on his involvement (with Prime Minister René Viviani) in state visits to France’s Russian and British allies as the international crisis was developing in the summer of 1914. Did he use his influence to push his country’s partners toward more intransigent positions? Poincaré’s response was to argue not only that blame for the war lay essentially with Germany (a position held by most French of the right and center and a large share of those of the left) but also that, as the largely ornamental president of the Republic, he was not involved in the diplomatic and military decisions that preceded the conflict. A lawyer and public speaker with a taste for amassing arguments, Poincaré defended himself in public lectures and articles. But his self-defense only further exposed his flank to the Canard’s rhetorical assault.

One tactic was to link Poincaré with Henri-Désiré Landru, the alleged serial killer who never confessed to his crimes. The Canard’s Landru requests that, like Poincaré, he be allowed to give a series of lectures in his defense, noting that he is accused of killing only a dozen or so women while the war had liquidated a far greater number of Frenchmen.41 A year later, the weekly announced that it would publish the memoirs of William II, in which the former monarch would prove that, like Poincaré, he was not responsible for the war. Though this link to the last Hohenzollern might be seen as mitigating Poincaré’s responsibility for the conflict, it was scarcely more flattering in a French context than the association with Landru. Throughout the early 1920s, the Canard ran the Poincaré/responsibility motif through all the rhetorical variations. The weekly put into Poincaré’s mouth the following revelations: While in the Elysée he was kept in the dark about everything. He did not know there was a war on. Being uninformed, he was not responsible for either the war or the peace that followed.42

The Canard, in its pursuit of Poincaré on responsibility for the war, made no attempt to be fair; the newspaper’s understanding of the causes of the war was not that simplistic.43 But the weekly’s unfairness can be seen even more clearly in its exploitation of the notion of Poincaré as the-man-wholaughs-in-cemeteries. In the spring of 1922, a photo appeared in which the (p.194) Lorraine patriot appeared to be smiling in a cemetery. His defenders said that he was really grimacing because the sun was in his eyes. Another explanation eventually surfaced to the effect that Poincaré was laughing nervously as photographers who, walking backward while taking his picture, caught their feet in some wire and almost tripped. The Communist daily, L’Humanité, seized on this photograph and started a campaign on the theme of Poincaré as the man who laughs in cemeteries. Picking up the story, the Canard made no mention of either explanation for this apparently unseemly conduct, instead stating, “Everyone shows respect in his own way. Mr. Poincaré laughs.” A few weeks later, the Canard switched registers, concluding that Poincaré had not laughed since merriment was not in his character.44

Despite this denial, the Canard continued to pursue the nationalist politician with the cemetery/laughing topos. A trip in the east of France ended, the weekly reported, “in the gaiety of the cemetery.” In August 1922, the Canard responded to a prediction of the end of the world with a cartoon signed “Varé.” Under a series of images of men and women knocked off their feet, the cartoonist wrote the following doggerel verse.

Chaos! nothingness! the entire earth

is no more than a vast cemetery

Over which looks down

the sweetened smile of Poincaré.

Between the verses, a half moon encloses a Poincaré, his mouth wide open in laughter, surrounded by crosses. Here, the Canard takes the apocalyptic idea and again reads it as a coming war, this time by tying it to Poincaré, the man who can link the last war to the next last one.45

What was the former president doing in a cemetery? Probably giving a speech. Poincaré gave numerous speeches in cemeteries, in front of monuments to the war dead. The frequency and length of these talks made them easy subjects for satire. Under the words “Silence Is Golden,” the Canard commiserated with the poor province of Lorraine, which had just heard three such speeches.46

That Poincaré was personally unpopular among the French, indeed was hated by many, especially former soldiers, was assumed by the satirical weekly. The Canard noted that Poincaré was being whistled at (that is, his image was being whistled at) at the cinema, as he had been during his visits to the front. A cartoon that appeared shortly after Mardi Gras 1922 showed a man covered with bandages. When his wife asks what happened, he answers that he had disguised himself as Poincaré.47

(p.195) Of course, many politicians were mocked in the Canard (and other papers as well), but the weekly nourished a hostility to Poincaré that led it to go directly after his character. In November 1922, a deputy created a tumult in the Chamber by speaking of “the good faith probably” of the minister from the Meuse. The Canard argued, “That he is lacking in good faith has been seen on twenty occasions.” But, the weekly added, it was intolerable that, as prime minister, Poincaré should be publicly called “probably.”48 A headline put it more pithily: “Poincaré Had Given His Word of Honor to Pardon [the Communist André] Marty: Why Are You Surprised That He Has Not Done It?”49 Worse for the pacifist weekly was that it affected to believe (and probably did believe) that the mere presence of Poincaré in a position of executive authority risked war. Under the byline of René Buzelin, the weekly greeted the return to power (as president of the Council, that is, as prime minister) of the nationalist politician: “The new presidency brings us as many hopes as did the former one. Besides, they are the same”—that is, war.50


The Canard’s linking of Poincaré to the risk of war seemed borne out when the prime minister sent French troops into Germany’s Ruhr district in January 1923. This decision also earned him a new nickname in the Canard (one also used by the Communists), “Poincaruhr.”51 Germany was a foreign country, and the Canard was perfectly willing to exploit stereotypes. But it did so in a way that allowed no ambiguity in its positions. The Ruhr venture was stupid and criminal. The only contrasts in the weekly’s coverage lay between antiphrastic and direct condemnation.

The occupation of the Ruhr brought together many of the obsessions of the postwar Canard: the reference to the last war and fear of a new one, the attack on Poincaré and French bellicosity generally, the criticism and ridicule of the military, and, last but not least, the mockery of French attitudes toward Germany. But these issues could be found throughout the Canard and in relation to other topics. The Ruhr occupation allowed the weekly to broach a topic that received little other treatment in its pages: the relationship between military and sexual conquest. We have already seen how the presence of Allied soldiers on the national soil generated sexual anxieties, but during the war itself French soldiers had few opportunities to camp in foreign lands, even less in enemy ones.52

The Canard greeted Poincaré’s decision to send troops into the Ruhr with a series of references to German women. Even before the actual entry, (p.196) the weekly presented the region as a land of riches, open to French appetites: “for us, women with perfumes rare and the glasses of beer.” Two weeks later, the Canard justified the occupation, first of all because of the petites femmes there. After all, they were too good for the Senegalese, but just right for the French boys. The reference to the colonial troops who performed so much of the occupation duty in Germany echoed the linkage of racism and sexual politics.53 It took Bicard, however, to put the matter into more general perspective. The net result of the occupation, he explained, would be that in twenty years there would be one hundred thousand extra Germans. The French youth there would impregnate German women, while their absence from France would reduce the birthrate at home. The population imbalance between a victorious France and a defeated Germany was a subject of national concern, with the right pushing for pronatalist policies.54

The exit from the Ruhr two and a half years later was treated as sexually by the Canard as the entry had been. The departure of the French troops left the local women in tears, begging the soldiers to write to them. Here the Canard used a Franco-German mishmash: “‘You vill zend me postcards. Especially vit ze Eiffel Tower, nicht wahr, mein Schatz?’” The mayor sends the men off with a speech in which he notes that the women conceived a real affection for them “and also little children, with whom we will have the honor of forming a Reichswehr that will surely impress you…. And the mayor spoke these admirable words, which say a lot about the memories that we are leaving behind: ‘See you soon, right? Until the next one…’”55

The Canard’s treatment of the motif of sex with the enemy women did more than pull prurient fun from a political situation. It mocked the sense of French superiority. French male desire for German women is expressed before the invasion, hence is distinct from the satisfaction of the needs of lonely soldiers. The superior elegance of French women was as much a part of the national mythology as the superiority of French wine, and the contrast between such Gallic charms and the alleged disgraces of Teutonic womanhood had amply excited wartime French cartoonists. In this context, the Canard’s sexualization of the lust for the Ruhr called attention to another, older lust. Newly mobilized French soldiers apparently also dreamed of German women as a prize of war in 1914. In 1928, Scize went back to his own memories of conversations in the barracks on July 31, 1914. The intellectuals talked of collecting paintings by Cranach and Dürer, the less educated of making it with German women. Similar fantasies are put into the (p.197) mouths of the newly war-drunk French soldiers in Dorgelès’s novel Le Cabaret de la Belle Femme.56

Thus, the Canard Enchaîné, which had belittled German rape of French women,57 publicized the other side of the coin, French lust for the women of the enemy, though it softened this desire by treating these encounters as consensual sex. The sexist bonhomie of the weekly’s treatment of the theme contrasts clearly with the positions of German nationalists, for whom the violation of their women, especially by colonial troops, was a source of patriotic outrage. Certainly, the transformation of wartime rape into voluntary coupling softens, and in the moral system of the Canard virtually legitimizes, such encounters. And the Canard’s sexualization of the Ruhr reinforced its tendency, seen in the Intran anecdotes, to highlight foreign “conquests” rather than intra-French adultery. Yet the Canard’s underlining of the preexisting desire for the women of the other suggests that the causes for wartime rape go further than the specific conditions of an invading army.58

Sex was also a metaphor for other desires. The Canard never accepted the Poincaré government’s position that it invaded the Ruhr only as a sanction for German nonpayment of reparations and as an inducement for Germany to fulfill the treaty. Instead, German nonpayment was an excuse for those who had always wanted to annex the Rhineland or at least to detach it from Germany. “A single reply to this docility of the Krauts, which resembles recalcitrance: enter the Ruhr and only come out on the other side,” wrote the Canard when Germany agreed to the terms of the Reparations Commission. Unsurprisingly, the weekly was unimpressed by Poincaré’s finding in January 1923 that Germany was remiss in the delivery of telegraph poles.59

Like the Rif, the Ruhr gave the Canard another chance to replay (the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce?) its World War I themes. And this time at least the cast of characters was the same. The third day of the French action, the Canard published the official communiqué (like those during the war).

11 P.M. Situation unchanged on the boulevards. The presence of Mr. Maurice Barrès has not yet been signaled on the Place de la Concorde. Toward the Quai d’Orsay, preparation of poisonous gases and tearproducing newspapers.60

Poincaré argued that French troops went into the Ruhr to get coal, both to use and as a form of pressure on Germany. So another Varé cartoon showed a group of freezing French soldiers in the Ruhr writing back to (p.198) headquarters, “We are freezing, send coal.” But the changing seasons did not spare the French forces ridicule. In August 1923, the cartoonist Mat drew a fat, contented German burgher sipping a cool beer under the awning of a sidewalk café. Covered in sweat, the French soldiers march by, singing in chorus (from the Madelon de la Victoire): “We have won the war. Hey! would you believe it that we got them?”61

Since, ultimately, the Ruhr occupation was set in motion to gain money, the Canard hammered away at the occupation’s nonproductivity. In January, it wrote:

[As soon as French soldiers set foot in the Ruhr,] heavy trucks began to move toward the Gare de l’Est full to the brim with the thousand things that the Germans were only awaiting a little shove to give us.

Here, first of all, are the billions of gold marks with which we are filling the wagons of the Bank of France; here is enough coke and coal to burst all the radiators of the Republic; here are the tons and tons of sauerkraut, of beer, of sausages, of mashed peas, of delikatessen [sic] of all sorts.62

In August of 1923, the Canard published the following report: “The interallied technical committee has discovered new veins, carefully hidden, of podzébi. It immediately took possession of them by virtue of article 445 ter of the Treaty of Versailles and will commence their exploitation.” These gains, added to others taken in cash, made “a total of ninety centimes in gold francs.” Podzébi, a reference to peau de zébie, or zebie skin, equaled nothing since the zebie was a nonexistent beast. When the Germans ceased passive resistance in the fall of 1923, the Canard declared that France had no more than when it started—that is, pohdezebi [sic] and nibdenib, which also meant nothing. Trying to make the occupation pay was contradictory. French troops seized eight billion marks in Essen, but these would have to be applied toward the costs of occupation, “The more soldiers we put into the Ruhr, the more the Krauts will have to pay; and the longer we stay there, the more Germany will be prevented from paying reparations, and the more we will have a reason to stay there,” the Canard concluded.63

It was not just that, with German hyperinflation, a billion marks was not what it used to be but that seizing such funds put the French military in an unflattering position: “Our troops have gloriously confiscated a sum of one billion destined for the foundries of Geisenkirchen. They have also heroically sequestered two billion marks, which were to serve as payment for the workers of the Rhein-Elbe mines.” What would happen to these workers? They would starve. The Canard reported coverage in the Petit (p.199) Parisien of the situation in three Ruhr cities. There was great misery, famine, and over 250,000 unemployed workers. It would be “piquant,” this other correspondent noted, if the French ended up feeding the workers of the Ruhr. “Piquant,” the Canard replied, “completely piquant, in effect, the situation of these 250,000 guys who are starving to death and whom we are going to have to feed if we do not want them to revolt.”64 And the weekly was quick to alert its readers when a number of these unemployed were shot by occupation troops. “It is unpleasant for their families, but that, in fact, makes for three fewer of them.”65

Starvation and unemployment in Germany formed an excellent platform from which to mock French attitudes toward the former foe. When the finance minister, Charles de Lasteyrie, expressed his fear that a rapid German recovery would endanger French industry, the Canard responded, “These words, spoken at the moment when the Reich, bankrupt, is collapsing into civil war, are particularly opportune. In effect, the famine raging in Germany has permitted it, up until now, to make important economies of foodstuffs.”66

Nor did the Canard evince any sympathy for French attempts to detach the Rhineland from Germany. Already in 1920, the weekly expressed its attitudes toward any potential German collaborators with French designs: “These Germans who form a committee to effect a dismemberment of their country seem to us to be rather comfortable bastards.” During the Ruhr occupation, the Canard spoke of the proponents of a Rhenish Republic: “And it is as if by magic that Mr. Deckers and his friends, Krauts though they had been, have become almost French.” The weekly then compared Deckers and his associates to “a von Kahr, a Hitler, and even a Ludendorff.” Referring to the now-famous Beer-Hall Putsch of 1923 linked the pro-French troublemakers of the Rhineland with the anti-French ones of Munich.67

From the Bloc to the Cartel

In January 1924, the Canard drew the political conclusions of the Ruhr episode with unusual directness: “High prices = international exchange/international exchange = Ruhr/Ruhr = Millerand-Poincaré/Millerand-Poincaré = National Bloc.”68 This demonstration of consequences was directed to the upcoming elections. The exchange crisis generated by the Ruhr intervention, with its accompanying high prices and taxes, made the National Bloc a tempting target. Whatever its reservations about the French parliamentary system in general, the Canard approached the legislative elections of 1924 with anticipatory glee. Even back in November 1923, the (p.200) weekly interpreted by-election results as showing that “the entire country is certainly, in effect, behind the National Bloc. But it is in order better to give it kicks in the _____!” As in 1919, the Canard wanted to throw the bums out, and it reintroduced the broom motif, though this time without any reference to the veterans’ vote. In April 1924, the weekly spoke of disinfecting the Chamber with universal suffrage.69

Yet hostility to the right did not mean an unqualified endorsement of the left. In 1924, the Canard congratulated itself on beginning its ninth year of publication. The weekly was “independent as the devil” and “passed joyously through life pecking at the right and at the left—at the right especially.”70 In reality, the Canard balanced opposition to the National Bloc with a more general critique of politics and politicians. In April 1924 the weekly ran, on its last page, a series of phony electoral newspapers. All these take-offs mocked politicians of the right: the first was for François Arago, the second for Georges Mandel, and the third for unnamed Catholic candidates. But the Canard followed these right-wing and candidateoriented sheets with a guide for the voters entitled “The Little Illustrated Voter, Organ for the Defense of French Citizens over Twenty-One.” It included advice like the following for electoral cuisine (again making food of people): “Seasonal Salad—You take an ordinary fellow, preferably without a criminal record, but with money,” and serve him up in a public meeting. And then there was this definition of electoral results: “The results of the elections consist in new taxes, laws in spades, parliamentary scandals, increases in the prices of public transportation, and other 20 percent surtaxes.”71

And this same issue (the last before the first round of voting on May 11) was filled with cynical comments:

But provided that we have not had our skulls stuffed again and that our good deputies, once elected, do not do exactly what their predecessors did: that is to say nothing.

But no, but no, that is not possible. Things are going to change, damnation!

We have, in any case, five more days to believe it.72

The Canard’s unflattering coverage of the petty maneuverings around the creation of the electoral lists of virtually all parties shed as much unflattering light on the Cartel as on the Bloc. Nor did the paper hesitate to accuse the Cartel’s leader, the reconstructor of the Radical party, Edouard Herriot, of having taken right-wing money in 1919. Herriot had already earned the (p.201) Canard’s scorn months earlier when, like other Radicals, he had failed to take a clear position against the Ruhr occupation.73

Whatever distances the weekly had traveled from the Cartel, its victory on May 11, 1924, was treated as the Canard’s. It was told-you-so time. The Canard claimed that its three mock electoral newspapers had hit the bull’seye since Arago, Mandel and the Catholic deputy Leret d’Aubigny had not been elected.74 The weekly also claimed to have helped, along with five other papers, turn public opinion against the conservative coalition; they had “won a victory all the more striking since they were grossly outnumbered.”75 Public opinion certainly played a part, but so did the unpopularity of Poincaré’s new taxes and the fact that this time it was the left, through its Cartel, that had the superior electoral alliance system.

But this Canard rarely put all its eggs in the same nest. In the same May 14 issue in which the weekly quacked in victory, Rodolphe Bringer had some advice for the newly elected deputies. Fold up your platform carefully, he suggested, and keep it in your pocket; you may even want to pass it some day because anything can happen—more likely you will sit on it. And be nice to your opponents across the aisle, the worldly journalist continued. Your interests and theirs are often the same.76 Even the victory claim noted above was colored by the Canard’s turn to irony in the same article, in which it pretended to be shaking down the victors for political favors.

The Canard had been born under the invigorating chill of censorship and had grown under the stimulating hostility of conservative governments. The new Cartel government under Herriot (with Socialist support) posed challenges to a periodical that lived on the mockery of the powerful. One response was to take on the job of keeping the victors honest. “Won’t it be necessary to remind the victors of May 11 of their electoral promises?” the Canard headline read on May 21. “More than ever, read the ‘Canard Enchaîné.’”77 Another possibility was to adopt the strategy used against the Communists: instead of attacking Herriot, attack those who attack Herriot. The Canard used this technique in June and July and came to Herriot’s defense against his right-wing critics during the London Conference, which negotiated France’s withdrawal from the Ruhr.78

By summer, however, the weekly was showing signs of genuine impatience with the Cartel government. So it created a new column entitled “Hey Mr. Herriot” (or “Hey Edouard”), with the logo of a man speaking through a megaphone into the head of a recumbent Herriot placidly smoking his pipe. The texts were reminders of electoral promises not kept or other actions not taken.79 But these were gentle nudges. The Canard opened up on the leader of the Radical party in an article that appeared on (p.202) July 30. Labeled “A Madman,” it told of an individual who insisted that, despite appearances, Herriot was not prime minister. His argument: “Have we evacuated the Ruhr? Has the embassy at the Vatican been eliminated? Has the 20 percent surtax been eliminated? Has Alsace been brought under French law? No, isn’t that so? So, you can easily see that Herriot is not minister.”80

After this point, the notion that Herriot and the Cartel were not carrying out their electoral program became a recurring topic served up in a variety of sauces. “Let’s be fair,” the Canard pleaded. Voters were beginning to say that the National Bloc and the Cartel were kif-kif— that is, tweedledee and tweedle-dum. But this view was not correct, the weekly asserted. Voters felt this way because the Chamber had gone on vacation without having acted on any of the reforms in its platform (except the amnesty). But voters should bear in mind that the deputies had, in compensation, passed a law that was not in their platform—free postage for deputies.81 A few months later, in October, the Canard affected to teach a lesson to the French right: none of what the opponents of the Cartel had so feared had been carried out. After the familiar list of nonactions, the weekly concluded that “honest citizens were wrong to have been alarmed.”82

The following year, in March 1925, Maurice Maréchal took the rare step of signing an article. This article was also unusual in that it began with a direct critique. Herriot was “made to be prime minister about as much as we are to be pope.” He was too easy-going, not tough enough on his opponents, too afraid of unpopularity—hence his compromises on important issues. After an ironic passage calling on Herriot to be more daring in the defense of corruption, Maréchal ended delicately balanced between irony and direct discourse. If Herriot did not act, the people “would have the right to think that nothing had changed in France since May 11.”83

Parliamentary Crisis

As the French financial and monetary situation deteriorated, the Herriot government was forced to resign in April 1925. It was followed by a dizzying series of cabinets as the crisis of the franc deepened and the Cartel majority gradually decomposed. The impotence of the recently elected Cartel majority did not cast French parliamentary institutions in a flattering light, and it led, in the Canard, to a strengthening of the antiparliamentary side of its political message. For example, in September 1925, the weekly imagined a tourist guide explaining to his foreign clients in front of the Palais Bourbon (Chamber of Deputies), “The deputies spend half of their time making (p.203) laws and the other half of it going from one ministry to another to ask that these laws not be applied to their more influential constituents.”84

But the sharpest pecks of the Canard’s beak were provoked by the decision of the deputies to raise their salaries (again) in early 1926: “The Chamber has just decided, in effect, to raise from twenty-seven to fortytwo thousand francs the level of the parliamentary ‘indemnity’ of our deputies and senators.” But this increase would not take effect until corresponding taxes were voted on: “This ingenious distribution of the increases of salary for the legislators and of taxes for the taxpayers constitutes a brilliant victory of the democratic and social spirit.”85 The Canard returned to the attack in succeeding issues, waxing ironic over the deputies’ alleged need to respond to inflation and suggesting that the voters would get their revenge at election time.86

Disappointment with the deputies was also disappointment with the Cartel. In June 1925 the Canard argued that “never was the politics of the National Bloc better carried out than by the Cartel.”87 In fact, the shifting parliamentary majorities were evolving rightward. One of the agents of this shift was Pierre-Paul Painlevé, whom the Canard attacked, among other things, for his vigorous prosecution of the Rif war.88 The Canard dealt with Painlevé in two, mildly contradictory, ways. It affected surprise that this leftist militant was carrying out such reactionary policies. Everyone assumed, the paper said, that the prime minister they were listening to was Painlevé, “but it is not Mr. Painlevé, who died a few months ago, while he was president of the Chamber. He was a gentle man, of peaceful habits, living willingly in the realm of the abstract.[…] In politics he displayed advanced ideas, sitting in parliament on the edges of the far left.” Then one night in the middle of a ministerial crisis, “he lost his head. It is claimed that, in order not to worry the country, this tragic death was kept secret. An individual who had governed formerly under the name of Poincaré agreed to replace the deceased.”89 The other technique was to suggest that Painlevé had always been a militarist by alluding to his association, as minister of war in 1917, with the disastrous Chemin des Dames offensive.90

The parliamentary crisis of 1925 and 1926, as cabinets succeeded one another with a speed surpassed only by that with which ministers of finance were renewed, led many in France to wonder whether they were witnessing not the collapse of the Cartel but that of the French parliamentary system, or even of the Republic. These months saw the dramatic growth of right-wing antiparliamentary leagues. The Canard’s attitudes toward this crisis of the French political system showed the limits of its antiparliamentarism.

(p.204) The Canard had never taken purely parliamentary events too seriously. On April 15, 1925, Guilac drew a cartoon over the text “Easter 1925, France anxiously awaits the solution to the ministerial crisis.” The picture accompanying this text was its bucolic and ironic counterpart and a virtual Canard idyll. Couples of various ages are spread out in the countryside, picnicking (with wine, of course), kissing passionately, playing cards; one man is sprawled out on the grass reading the Canard Enchaînéjoie de vivre trumps politics.91

But by the end of 1925 the situation was harder to ignore. So the Canard ridiculed a sort of worst-case political scenario. It imagined a series of letters, dated 1927 and 1928, from a “Miss Kate G.” to “Miss W.” in Boston. The letters are written in franglais with occasional English words, infelicitous expressions, and renditions of American mispronunciations of French words like “dépioutés” and “pioublic.” Paris is in an uproar because the “blue boys” (in English in the text) are rioting with the Communists, and the government had to send tanks to the Place de l’Opéra to clear away the demonstrators. “The Parisians are quite angry at the Dépouités who are always voting taxes. They have taxed gloves and socks. Thus people walk barefoot in their shoes.” On December 1, 1927, Miss Kate reports:

Politics are quite funny now. The Chamber is open all day and all night. At the door they sell sandwiches to eat while listening to the speeches and cooked potatoes to throw at the deputies. It is strictly forbidden because potatoes are scarce, but people do it anyway…. The blue boys invaded the Chamber at midnight calling out, “Deputies out. Dictator! Dictator!” The deputies ran out the other side. Then the boys seized the location and continued the session, but the firemen soaked them with the fire hoses prepared in advance by the government, and the boys ran out all sopping wet.

By 1928, the American in Paris reports, the situation has been straightened out.92 The Canard had no way of knowing that the crisis would be resolved in July 1926. Though the weekly was clearly having fun, this scenario was one projected, for example, by the French fascist leader Georges Valois, whose Blue Shirts were probably the inspiration for Miss Kate’s blue boys.93

But the Canard was also prepared to be perfectly serious when it came to calls for dictatorship. It characterized one newspaper inquiry on a possible future dictator as “scandalous”; and it gave a proper thrashing to a former anarchist, Jean Goldsky, who had become an advocate for some sort of dictatorial solution for France.94 The Canard’s beef had never been with (p.205) the parliamentary idea as such. The weekly had focused on the actual French system with its corruption and had remained hostile to any scheme for strengthening the executive. Its reaction to the next phase of France’s political and parliamentary evolution would remove any ambiguities on that score.

Poincaré Again

Though the return to power of Poincaré in July 1926 did not take the Canard by surprise, its initial response was almost pure reflex. The return would mean war, or at least the reoccupation of the Ruhr.95 Poincaré organized a cabinet of national union, with political celebrities in the various ministries; their political origins spread from the right (André Tardieu and Louis Marin) through the center-left (Herriot and Painlevé). A Pedro cartoon in the July 28 issue mocked these unnatural alliances. A fox, on the ground, addresses a cock on a branch, “Come on down, we will make national union.” (The Gallic cock here replaces Jean de La Fontaine’s crow.) The weekly went further, drawing frankly antiparliamentary, antipolitician conclusions from the new cabinet:

During the entire electoral season Mr. Herriot and Mr. Painlevé crisscrossed France, repeating: Poincaré, that means war, Poincaré, that means catastrophe.

On his side, not to be left out, Poincaré repeated: Herriot and Painlevé, that means revolution.

Tardieu said: Poincaré sabotaged the Treaty of Versailles.

Barthou shouted: Tardieu did not know how to make the peace. Meanwhile Marin raced across the country, screaming: Stop, thief! Herriot is a counterfeiter.

And finally Herriot had Albert Sarraut excluded from the Radical party for treason.

Today Poincaré, Painlevé, Barthou, Tardieu, Herriot, Marin, [and] Sarraut serve in the same cabinet and are as chummy as pigs.

If after this, there is still someone who believes in the declarations of politicians, we ask that he be framed and exhibited at the Neuilly Fair.96

Cartel-Bloc, Bloc-Cartel, the Canard reversed its earlier quip about the Cartel carrying out National Bloc policies; now it was evident that none could better carry out the Cartel policies than the members of the National Bloc.97 Such reversals of majority could not take place, however, without the flexibility of the Radical party, many of whose members were as comfortable (p.206) working with the center-right as with the left (if not more comfortable). The Canard went after the turncoat party on the occasion of its national congress in October 1926. A leading Radical politician is made to explain that “only yesterday the allies and associates of the fanatics of the far left, we were able to repudiate, once it became necessary, the fallacious and deadly doctrines that purely electoral considerations oblige us to profess to the country every four years.”98 Such policies demanded special “dispositions” on the part of the deputies. A cartoon showed a mother and another woman speaking of a little boy. “What docility,” exclaims the woman. “You will make a soldier of him?” “No,” the mother answers, “a Radical deputy.”99

The chief traitor, for the Canard, was Herriot. The paper treated him as an obedient student who did as Poincaré told him. It also wondered aloud whether Herriot was still a supporter of “peace”—that is, of Foreign Minister Briand’s policy of Franco-German rapprochement as opposed to Poincaré’s anti-German policy. Questioning Herriot on this score removed the one area where the Canard had always supported him against his opponents.100

By joining the Poincaré cabinet, Herriot also lent his political caution to Poincaré’s style of government. Virtually until the 1928 elections, Poincaré ran the Chamber by a kind of blackmail of confidence (much as Charles de Gaulle did in a later crisis). If he did not get his way, he would consider it a lack of confidence and resign; and no one was eager to take that political responsibility and risk a return to the franc crisis. In this way, also, Poincaré persuaded the Chamber to accept a “procedure of extreme urgency,” which, among other things, eliminated the right to propose amendments to bills. Not only did such a curtailment of the traditional powers of parliament go against the republican tradition, of which the Radicals were among the proudest champions, but it was Herriot’s refusal to Caillaux of these kinds of increased executive powers that had contributed greatly to the parliamentary crisis. The Canard was careful to remind its readers of precisely this point.101

Naturally, also, the weekly mocked so much pusillanimity. As Bringer put it in November 1926, “Mr. Poincaré has agreed to call the houses of parliament into session, but on the condition that no one either speak to him or ask him what he is planning to do”102 After eliminating the right of amendment, why not eliminate that of speech, or even the right to meet, the paper asked. A cartoon in the same issue made an even nastier comparison. Labeled “The Bad Example,” it showed a bandit holding up a peaceful citizen at gunpoint: “Excuse me, but the circumstances force me into this procedure of extreme urgency!”103

(p.207) Déjà vu

And through all these crises, the deputies still found it possible to raise their own pay, not to 42,000 francs but to 45,000; thus, the Canard saw in the deputies’ support for Poincaré the opposite of patriotic abnegation.104 Its expectations for the next set of legislative elections, scheduled for the spring of 1928, were all the lower. Gone were the avenging brooms. Whom should the weekly support? Not the right and Poincaré surely, for the Canard remained anxious about the Lorrainer’s anti-German predilections.105 Nor the Cartelists (Radicals and Socialists) who had shown themselves no better.

The former Cartelists had the advantage of not needing new electoral platforms. Throughout 1927, the Canard re-served the basic idea that the Radicals had been smart to do nothing:

One reproaches the good deputies with not having carried out their platform.

That’s a good one!

For, finally, if they had carried it out, what would be left for the next elections?106

Reusable platforms were only part of the general Canard theme of herewe-go-again. In its end-of-year and New Year’s messages for 1927–1928, the Canard explained that nothing had changed.107

For the New Year, the Canard provided a set of predictions. They came down to a repetition of the events of 1924–1926 squeezed into one year with the rising Radical politician Edouard Daladier replacing Herriot. A slightly abridged selection:

January 9—The Communist deputies are arrested.

January 22—Mr. Poincaré obtains a large majority.

March 14—All the candidates promise one-year military service, the abolition of the laws of political repression, and lower taxes.

April 29—Great Republican victory.

June 2—Constitution of a great Daladier-Renaudel cabinet.

June 9—The pound reaches 180.

July 13—The Communist deputies are arrested.

September 10—The Renaudel-Daladier government appoints its eighteenth minister of finance.

October 2—Mr. Doumergue calls on Mr. Poincaré.

(p.208) October 15—The new national union government reestablishes threeyear military service and raises the tax on salaries.

November 4—Those Communist deputies who are left are arrested.108

Redux applied to electoral propaganda too. When the official electoral notice boards went up in March 1928, Bringer wondered why the officials in charge had cleared away the posters from the previous elections: “At the moment when our elected officials ask of us the renewal of their mandates, would it not be interesting to see what they promised us at that time?” The weekly also noted sarcastically the sudden rise in anti-Communist hysteria that accompanied the electoral season.109

The Canard also updated its mockery of elections, candidates, and voters, describing, for example, the candidate as a charming fellow determined to take his voters for supremely intelligent people.110 After telling the story of a broken promise, Barbusse concluded in the pages of the Canard that “deputies have nothing in common with candidates.” On a lighter note, in January 1928, Jules Rivet celebrated the news of the creation of a new political party because “the more parties there are, the more candidates there will be, and the more candidates there are, the more free rounds there will be at the local bar. If our ancestors, as Pierre Bénard put it, had known the vermouth-cassis and the picon-curaçao, they probably would have given us universal suffrage several centuries earlier.”111

In the last weeks before the elections, the Canard hammered away at both sides, mocking the electoral corruption (through fund raising) of the right and the duplicity of the democratic left.112 The right’s victory in the parliamentary elections of April 1928 hardly came as a surprise; the Canard had been predicting four more years of Poincarism.113

After the conservative victory, the weekly ran a story that expressed its disillusionment with electoral politics. An unlucky rival accused the agent for the leading National Bloc politician, Charles de Lasteyrie, of having offered to buy his withdrawal from the second round of voting. The Canard wanted its readers to know that it was not shocked. Such offers were common. What was shocking was the price, which worked out to 32 francs 50 centimes per voter. In the future, the duck-journalist suggested, why not eliminate the middleman and pay each voter?114 For the postelection Canard, the French voter was a sucker. The weekly even called him “Mr. Ubu, voter,” adding:

Oh! The good fellow, how he seems satisfied with the role that he has been allowed to play for twenty-four hours!

(p.209) His smile, full of discretion, is a pleasure to see. And, in a typically French gesture, he already has his hand in his pocket.

For he is well aware that, in a very short time, he will receive, on a tax form, the little bill to pay.115

This was harsher language than any the Canard had ever used before to characterize French voters. Its tone reflected the abandonment of one of the weekly’s tactical options. The Canard would continue to be a leftist paper—that is, it would continue to attack left and right, but more the right than the left. But the newspaper no longer believed that electoral brooms could sweep out the Augean stables of French politics. In the weekly’s balance between partisanship and a global satirical vision, the Canard would now adopt only that degree of partisan engagement that would not interfere with its dominant vocation as critic of the entire French political and social system. This was now the basis of its antiparliamentarism, one informed by democratic values but highly skeptical of their realization.


(1) . Pierre Miquel, La paix de Versailles et l’opinion française (Paris: Flammarion, 1972), pp. 11, 21–22; Jean-Jacques Becker, La France en guerre, 1914–1918, la grande mutation (Paris: Editions Complexe, 1988), p. 71.

(2) . See, for example, “A travers la presse déchaînée,” CE, No. 133, 15 January 1919, p. 4; “Bien renseignés” and “La mare aux canards,” both in CE, No. 128, 11 December 1918, p. 2; “L’état de siège,” CE, No. 161, 30 July 1919, p. 1.

(p.307) (3) . “Tant d’Alliés que nous avons,” CE, No. 134, 22 January 1919, p. 1; H.P. Gassier, “Chut! Chut! Chut!” CE, No. 135, 29 January 1919, p. 1.

(4) . CE, No. 127, 4 December 1918, and No. 128, 11 December 1918.

(5) . André Dahl, “Autre conte,” CE, No. 132, 8 January 1919, p. 3.

(6) . See, for example, “La mare aux canards,” CE, No. 134, 22 January 1919, p. 2.

(7) . See, for example, “Dernière heure, la première sortie,” CE, No. 128, 11 December 1918, p. 3; “Nos feuilletons,” CE, No. 154, 11 June 1919, p. 4.

(8) . Miquel, La paix de Versailles, pp. 62–112.

(9) . Headline and p. 1 in CE, No. 148, 30 April 1919.

(10) . “Souvenez-vous!” CE, No. 132, 8 January 1919, p. 4.

(11) . “Dans leurs petits souliers,” CE, No. 130, 25 December 1918, p. 1.

(12) . “Ohé! Les démobilisés!” CE, No. 143, 26 March 1919, p. 1.

(13) . H. P. Gassier, “Le démobilisé à l’exercice,” CE, No. 147, 23 April 1919, p. 2.

(14) . “La mare aux canards,” CE, No. 161, 30 July 1919, p. 2; CE, No. 166, 3 September 1919, p. 1.

(15) . “La mare aux canards,” CE, No. 165, 27 August 1919, p. 2; “Encore un baiser,” CE, No. 168, 17 September 1919, p. 1.

(16) . “La campagne électorale est ouverte,” CE, No. 173, 22 October 1919, p. 1.

(17) . “Le bloc enfariné,” CE, No. 171, 8 October 1919, pp. 1–2; “Chronique électorale,” CE, No. 173, 22 October 1919, p. 4.

(18) . CE, No. 163, 13 August 1919, p. 2; CE, No. 174, 29 October 1919, p. 1.

(19) . See, for example, Jean-Jacques Becker and Serge Berstein, Victoire et frustrations, 1914–1929 (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1990), pp. 191–194.

(20) . See chapter 10.

(21) . “Pour combattre le bolchévisme,” CE, No. 180, 10 December 1919, p. 4.

(22) . “Banquet du Bloc National,” CE, No. 181, 17 December 1919, p. 3.

(23) . Leygues-Boulide, “Une escroquerie,” CE, No. 196, 31 March 1920, p. 1.

(24) . H. P. Gassier, “Petite histoire des bons petits tsars,” CE, No. 109, 31 July 1918, pp. 1–4.

(25) . See, for example, “En Russie? Jamais!” CE, No. 139, 26 February 1919, p. 1; Miquel, La paix de Versailles, pp. 109–110.

(26) . See, for example, Maurice Coriem, “Les rescapés de Russie,” CE, No. 226, 27 October 1920, p. 1; “A travers la presse déchaînée,” CE, No. 266, 3 August 1921, p. 3.

(27) . Jules Rivet, “La fiancée du bolchevik ou le couteau sanglant,” CE, Nos. 191–194, 25 February–17 March 1920.

(28) . Legrand-Mézet, “Phrases extraites de mon prochain livre,” CE, No. 196, 31 March 1920, p. 4.

(29) . “Les flics à la C.G.T.,” CE, No. 201, 5 May 1920, p. 2.

(30) . “Dernière heure, après le discours d’Evreux,” CE, No. 382, 24 October 1923, p. 3.

(31) . See chapter 10.

(32) . Pierre Scize, “En zig-zag,” CE, No. 602, 11 January 1928, pp. 1–2.

(33) . CE, No. 312, 21 June 1922; “Le ‘Canard’ avait raison,” CE, No. 187, 28 January 1922, p. 1; Victor Snell, “Pour surmonter la vague de la baisse,” CE, (p.308) No. 208, 23 June 1922, p. 1; “Démenti catégorique,” CE, No. 210, 7 July 1922, p. 2.

(34) . Lucien Laforge, “Basse-cour,” CE, No. 111, 14 August 1918, p. 1.

(35) . See, for example, “Dernière heure, frappant activité parlementaire,” CE, No. 343, 24 January 1923, p. 3; “Dernière heure, il n’y en a pas qu’en Angleterre,” CE, No. 355, 18 April 1923, p. 3; Mat, “Et cette santé,” CE, No. 372, 15 August 1923, p. 4; “Une aimable et traditionnelle cérémonie,” CE, No. 394, 16 January 1924, p. 1.

(36) . “Dernière heure, après le discours d’Evreux,” CE, No. 382, 24 October 1923, p. 3.

(37) . “Quel est l’homme le plus propre de France?” CE, No. 346, 14 February 1923, p. 1.

(38) . “Les lecteurs du ‘Canard’ ont voté,” CE, No. 360, 23 May 1923, p. 3.

(39) . See, for example, BDIC, F. Res. 270 SPE, t. 6 Service des Périodiques, Echoppages, 14 October 1916–10 January 1917, note of 31 October.

(40) . “Carnet,” CE, No. 499, 20 January 1926, p. 2. See, for example, Pierre Miquel, Poincaré (Paris: Fayard, 1961), p. 452; Max Gallo, Le grand Jaurès (Paris: Editions Robert Laffont, 1984), p. 528; Stanislas Jeannesson, Poincaré, la France et la Ruhr (1922–1924): Histoire d’une occupation (Strasbourg: Presses Universitaires de Strasbourg, 1998), p. 132; introduction to Raymond Poincaré, “Au service de la France,” La Revue de France 2 (1926), p. 225; headline, CE, No. 294, 15 February 1922; “La mare aux canards,” CE, No. 538, 20 October 1926, p. 2; Charles Lussy, “Est-ce le cabinet de la prochaine guerre,” L’Humanité, 16 January 1922, p. 1.

(41) . Maurice Maréchal, “Dernière heure, une erreur judiciaire?” CE, No. 242, 16 February 1921, p. 3.

(42) . Rodolphe Bringer, “Poincaré-pas-la-guerre,” CE, No. 309, 31 May 1922; “Nouvelles preuves,” CE, No. 325, 20 September 1922, p. 1.

(43) . See chapter 1.

(44) . “L’homme qui rit,” CE, No. 310, 7 June 1922, p. 1; “Un homme vraiment sérieux,” CE, No. 315, 12 July 1922, p. 1; Blaise Cendrars, La main coupée (1946; reprint, Paris: Editions Denoël, 1997), pp. 254–255. And see, for example, “Poincaré chez ses morts,” L’Humanité, 6 June 1922, p. 1, and “L’homme qui rit,” L’Humanité, 19 June 1922, p. 2.

(45) . Robert Henne, “M. Poincaré voyage dans l’Est,” CE, No. 316, 19 July 1922, p. 3. Varé, “On annonce la fin du monde,” CE, No. 322, 30 August 1922, p. 4. See chapter 7 of this book.

(46) . Miquel, Poincaré, pp. 450–454; Jules Rivet, “Marche Lorraine,” CE, No. 378, 26 September 1923, p. 1.

(47) . “Un homme vraiment sérieux,” CE, No. 315, 12 July 1922, p. 1; Jacques Leclerc, “Solilique du poilu inconnu,” CE, No. 385, 14 November 1923, p. 1. “Cinés,” CE, No. 298, 13 March 1922, p. 4; “Un exemple,” CE, No. 384, 7 November 1923, p. 1; J. Pruvost, “Lendemain de Mardi Gras,” CE, No. 296, 1 March 1922, p. 1.

(48) . “Excès intolérables,” CE, No. 334, 22 November 1922, p. 1.

(p.309) (49) . CE, No. 318, 2 August 1922.

(50) . René Buzelin, “Le ministère Poincaré,” CE, No. 290, 18 January 1922, p. 1.

(51) . CE, No. 393, 9 January 1924, p. 4, bottom. For the Ruhr occupation, see Jeannesson, Poincaré, entire, and for the epithet, p. 382.

(52) . See chapter 4. The importance of foreign occupation is indicated by Audoin-Rouzeau’s point that rapes occurred virtually everywhere troops invaded an enemy country; Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau, L’enfant de l’ennemi 1914–1918 (Paris: Aubier, 1995), pp. 33–54. On women as the booty of war, see, for example, Margaret Randolph Higonnet et al., “Introduction,” in Behind the Lines: Gender and the Two World Wars (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1987), p. 11.

(53) . Jules Rivet, “Dernière heure, apprenons à connaître nos richesses nationales,” CE, No. 338, 20 December 1922, p. 3; “Heureux augure,” CE, No. 340, 3 January 1923, p. 1.

(54) . G. de la Fouchardière, “Chronique de l’oeil-de-Bouif: Occupations dangereuses,” CE, No. 342, 17 January 1923, pp. 1–2. And see, for example, Becker and Berstein, Victoire, pp. 151–161; Mary Louise Roberts, Civilization without Sexes: Reconstructing Gender in Postwar France, 1917–1921 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), pp. 89 ff.

(55) . “Une grande victoire,” CE, No. 475, 5 August 1925, p. 1.

(56) . Christian Delporte, “Méfions-nous du sourire de Germania! L’Allemagne dans la caricature française (1919–1939),” Mots 48 (1996), p. 38; Pierre Scize, “Benda, Plunkett et nous,” CE, No. 605, 1 February 1928, pp. 1–2; Roland Dorgelès, Le Cabaret de la Belle Femme (1920; reprint, Paris: Albin Michel, 1928), p. 11. See also the examples (though these are of desire for rape rather than of sexual possession generally) noted in Audoin-Rouzeau, L’enfant, pp. 81–83.

(57) . See chapter 5.

(58) . Compare Audoin-Rouzeau, L’enfant, pp. 33–77, and see chapter 4 of this book.

(59) . “Heureux augure,” CE, No. 340, 3 January 1923, p. 1.

(60) . “Communiqués officiels,” CE, No. 341, 10 January 1923, p. 1.

(61) . Varé, “L’hiver dans la Ruhr,” CE, No. 17 January 1923, p. 1; Mat, “Dans la Ruhr,” CE, No. 370, 1 August 1923, p. 1.

(62) . “Dernière heure, l’occupation porte d’admirables fruits,” CE, No. 342, 17 January 1923, p. 3.

(63) . “Dernière heure, la Ruhr productrice,” CE, No. 374, 29 August 1923, p. 3; headline, CE, No. 378, 26 September 1923; “La revanche de la victoire,” CE, No. 379, 3 October 1923, p. 1; “La bonne méthode,” CE, No. 361, 30 May 1923, p. 1.

(64) . “Bonne affaire,” CE, No. 371, 8 August 1923, p. 2; “A travers la presse déchaînée,” CE, No. 381, 17 October 1923, p. 3.

(65) . “Réflexes,” CE, No. 371, 8 August 1923, p. 2.

(66) . “M. De Lasteyrie dénonce un grave péril,” CE, No. 372, 15 August 1923, p. 2.

(p.310) (67) . “La mare aux canards,” CE, No. 223, 6 October 1920, p. 2; “La révolution en Allemagne,” CE, No. 385, 14 November 1923, p. 1.

(68) . “La mare aux canards,” CE, No. 393, 9 January 1924, p. 2.

(69) . “Tout le pays,” CE, No. 384, 7 November 1923, p. 1; Mat, “Une bonne année se présage,” CE, No. 391, 26 December 1923, p. 1; Mat, “Le coup de balai,” CE, No. 393, 9 January 1924, p. 2; headline, CE, No. 407, 16 April 1924.

(70) . “Le ‘Canard’ entre dans sa 9me année,” CE, No. 392, 2 January 1924, p. 1.

(71) . “La feuille d’impôts et des Alpes-Maritimes,” CE, No. 406, 9 April 1924, p. 4; Pierre Bénard, “Le petit Girond,” CE, No. 407, 16 April 1924, p. 4; “La croix de mamers,” CE, No. 408, 23 April 1924, p. 4; “Le petit électeur illustré,” CE, No. 410, 7 May 1924, p. 4.

(72) . “Promesses,” CE, No. 410, 7 May 1924, p. 1.

(73) . “Petite chronique électorale,” CE, No. 402, 12 March 1924, p. 1; “Chronique électorale, préparez vos balais!” CE, No. 404, 26 March 1924, p. 1; “Petite chronique électorale,” CE, No. 408, 23 April 1924, p. 1; Rodolphe Bringer, “Notre politique,” CE, No. 345, 7 February 1923, p. 1; Pierre Bénard, “Les radicaux et le ministère,” CE, No. 368, 18 July 1923, pp. 1–2.

(74) . “Après le scrutin” and “Un grand succès,” both in CE, No. 411, 14 May 1924, p. 1.

(75) . “La mare aux canards,” CE, No. 411, 14 May 1924, p. 3; Maurice Morice, “Rendons à César,” CE, No. 413, 18 May 1924, p. 1.

(76) . Rodolphe Bringer, “La chambre du 11 Mai,” CE, No. 411, 14 May 1924, pp. 1–2.

(77) . CE, No. 412, 21 May 1924.

(78) . “La mort de Marie-Stuart, M. Herriot n’en est-il pas responsable,” CE, No. 417, 25 June 1924, p. 1; “Après Raymond, Edouard,” CE, No. 419, 9 July 1924, p. 1; Henri Guilac, untitled cartoon, CE, No. 426, 27 August 1924, p. 1.

(79) . “La mare aux canards,” CE, No. 420, 16 July 1924, p. 3; “Ohé M. Herriot,” CE, No. 423, 6 August 1924, p. 1.

(80) . “Un fou,” CE, No. 422, 30 July 1924, p. 1.

(81) . Maurice Morice, “Soyons justes,” CE, No. 423, 6 August 1924, p. 1.

(82) . “Craintes injustifiées,” CE, No. 432, 8 October 1924, p. 2.

(83) . Maurice Maréchal, “Trop de demi-mesures,” CE, No. 454, 11 March 1925, p. 1.

(84) . Pierre Bénard, “Le scandale des autocars,” CE, No. 483, 30 September 1925, pp. 3–4.

(85) . Maurice Morice, “Les symboliques, Q.D.M.,” CE, No. 500, 27 January 1926, p. 1.

(86) . Jules Rivet, “Opinions, les quarante mille,” CE, No. 501, 3 February 1926, p. 1; Ernest Raynaud, “Propos,” CE, No. 504, 24 February 1926, p. 1.

(87) . “Un grand parti,” CE, No. 467, 10 June 1925, p. 1.

(88) . See chapter 10 of this book and Becker and Berstein, Victoire, pp. 269 ff.

(89) . “Feuilleton du Canard Enchaîné, les survies mystérieuses,” CE, No. 486, 21 October 1925, p. 3.

(p.311) (90) . Drégerin, “Les chambres sont rentrées hier,” CE, No. 498, 13 January 1926, p. 1.

(91) . Henri Guilac, “Pâques 1925,” CE, No. 459, 15 April 1925, p. 1.

(92) . Jean de Pierrefeu, “Lettres anticipées, de Miss Kate G….à Miss W., à Boston (Etats-Unis),” CE, No. 494, 16 December 1925, p. 1.

(93) . Allen Douglas, From Fascism to Libertarian Communism: Georges Valois against the Third Republic (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), pp. 121–125.

(94) . “Signe des temps” and Pierre Bénard, “Un chic type,” both in CE, No. 504, 24 February 1926, p. 2.

(95) . “La minute attendue,” CE, No. 521, 23 June 1926, p. 1; Mat, “Si Poincaré revient,” CE, No. 525, 21 July 1926, p. 2; “Propos,” CE, No. 526, 28 July 1926, p. 2.

(96) . Pedro, “Le coq et le renard (fable),” CE, No. 526, 28 July 1926, p. 1; “La mare aux canards,” CE, No. 526, 28 July 1926, p. 2.

(97) . “Certitudes et espoirs,” CE, No. 526, 28 July 1926, p. 1; S., “Opinions,” CE, No. 532, 8 September 1926, p. 1.

(98) . Léon Archambaud, “Le Congrès Radical va définir irrévocablement la politique du parti,” CE, No. 537, 13 October 1926, p. 3.

(99) . William Napoleon Grove, “Dispositions,” CE, No. 542, 17 November 1926, p. 2.

(100) . “Une belle fête républicaine à la Sorbonne,” CE, No. 576, 13 July 1927, p. 3; “La mare aux canards,” CE, No. 551, 19 January 1927, p. 2.

(101) . “Certitudes et espoirs,” CE, No. 526, 28 July 1926, p. 1; Pierre Bénard, “La loi d’abord,” CE, 23 February 1927, p. 1.

(102) . Rodolphe Bringer, “De ma fenêtre,” CE, No. 542, 17 November 1926, p. 2.

(103) . Henri Monier, “Le mauvais exemple,” p. 1, and “La mare aux canards,” p. 2, both in CE, No. 527, 4 August 1926.

(104) . CE, No. 527, 4 August 1926.

(105) . See, for example, Maurice Morice, “Le discours de Lunéville,” CE, No. 573, 22 June 1927, p. 1.

(106) . “Propos,” CE, No. 556, 23 February 1927, p. 1; Drégerin, “Le budget de l’armée,” CE, No. 597, 7 December 1927, p. 1; Henri Monier, “Convictions,” CE, No. 573, 22 June 1927, p. 1.

(107) . “Au seuil de l’année,” CE, No. 600, 28 December 1927, p. 1.

(108) . “Prévision pour l’année 1928,” CE, No. 610, 4 January 1928, p. 1.

(109) . [Rodolphe Bringer,] “De ma fenêtre,” CE, No. 613, 28 March 1928, p. 3; Ernest Raynaud, “La main de Moscou,” CE, No. 585, 14 September 1927, p. 3.

(110) . “Petit dictionnaire à l’usage de M. Kérillis,” CE, No. 578, 27 July 1927, p. 3.

(111) . Henri Barbusse, “Faits divers,” CE, No. 614, 4 April 1928, p. 2; Jules Rivet, “Les heures nouvelles, un parti paysan va se constituer,” CE, No. 604, 25 January 1928, p. 2.

(112) . See, for example, “Curieuse initiative,” CE, No. 604, 25 January 1928, p. 4; headline, CE, No. 605, 1 February 1928.

(p.312) (113) . “La Bourse,” CE, No. 614, 4 April 1928, p. 4.

(114) . Ernest Raynaud, “La leçon d’un incident,” CE, No. 618, 2 May 1928, p. 2.

(115) . “M. Ubu, électeur,” CE, No. 618, 2 May 1928, p. 1.