Yvan Blot, the French politician, civil servant, and man of letters, who died on 10 October 2018 aged 70, was one of the central figures of the renaissance of right-wing thought in France over the last half century. Although France presents a left-wing and even socialist face to the outside world, French society is in reality largely conservative, as are a great number of her intellectuals who constitute a formidable undercurrent beneath the country’s politically correct surface.
The author of over 20 books and thousands of essays, Blot’s intellectual interests ranged very widely, encompassing the heritage of ancient Greece, Aristotle, Heidegger, contemporary Russia, direct democracy, immigration, and much else besides. The fact that hundreds of people attended his funeral was testimony not only to the great affection in which he was held but also to the considerable influence he had wielded over more than a generation of politicians and other public figures.
The key to Blot’s success lay in his two main qualities: lucidity and energy. A quietly spoken man who never seemed to get angry, even though his political career had made him plenty of enemies (having started politics in the Gaullist RPR party of Jacques Chirac, for which he was elected to the National Assembly, he joined the Front national in 1989 and represented it as a member of the European Parliament until 1999), Blot never gave up. An indefatigably curious mind led him to spend much of his time at conferences, either as a speaker or as a member of the audience, where his interventions were always concise and matter-of-fact.
On his deathbed, Blot was still writing. His last article, as so many of his lectures and books, was devoted to Aristotle’s teleology. But Blot had come to understand, especially towards the end of his life, that the key to his political belief system was in fact Christianity, whence the fact that in the sketch for his last article, God was at the top of the list of priorities. Although not publicly associated with Catholic politics during his public career, Blot had in fact been privately drawn ever closer to religion, thanks to the interest he developed for Russia at the end of his life. Having been a vigorous anti-Communist throughout his life (his first electoral victory, in 1983, was against the French Communist Party in Calais), Blot was fascinated by post-communist Russia and by the beauty of the Orthodox liturgy. His Christian name no doubt reflected his mother’s Polish roots but, at the end of his life, he started to spell it ‘Ivan’ as a sign of his new Russophilia.
Blot saw in Putin’s presidency a formidable example of how a country can overcome its revolutionary inheritance by renewing with its ancient historical roots. He wished that the same thing might one day happen in his native France. Immensely proud of belonging to the Valdai Group organised every year by the Russian presidency, Blot called for a statue of King Clovis to be erected in Place de la Concorde in Paris, in imitation of the statue of St. Vladimir the Great recently put up just outside the Moscow Kremlin. However, having been drawn back to religion through Orthodoxy, Blot—a member of the Catholic Academy of France—received the last rites from a Catholic priest and the Requiem Mass said for him in the parish church of the kings of France, Saint Germain l’Auxerrois, opposite the Louvre, followed the traditional Latin Tridentine liturgy.
After a brief association with the Nouvelle droite in the 1970s, Blot’s intellectual activism started in 1974, when he co-founded the Club de l’horloge with a group of other senior civil servants like himself. Such men constitute the backbone of the French state and, like Blot, they continued to work in their respective departments in spite of their unorthodox views. That year was also the year of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and, therefore, of the decisive abandonment of Gaullism in favour of the centrist pro-Europeanism which has dominated French politics without interruption ever since. The election of Emmanuel Macron in 2017, who like Giscard was a former Minister of Finance, only serves to perpetuate this consensus for another five years.
In contrast to this soft-left, post-nationalism, the Club de l’horloge favoured the patriotic politics of national liberalism, which it convinced Jacques Chirac to adopt in 1981. The latter’s defeat by François Mitterrand that year caused the leader of the French Right to abandon such policies, and to imitate the Socialist who was to dominate French politics for 14 years: Blot left Chirac’s RPR Party to join the Front national as a result.
Blot’s genius was to be very pragmatic. Although he was deeply interested in metaphysics, on which he wrote widely, and although his enemies would have considered him a radical at best, his political books often tackled problems in a supremely practical way. Thus, he not only co-authored a book on Islamic terrorism—which he correctly identified as a ‘revolutionary’ movement, and on which he had worked professionally as an inspector in the Ministry of the Interior—but also became an ardent supporter of direct democracy, as practised in Switzerland and certain American states, and a fervent opponent of what he rightly called the oligarchy which controls France and Europe.
In his last book, La nouvelle lutte des classes (The new class struggle), he argued that Europe is the victim of a battle between self-appointed political elites and the people they are supposed to represent but whom, in reality, they betray. Blot formulated the idea that the true democrats were now on the right, where they are anathematised as populists and nationalists, with the ‘progressive’ left having drifted into support for highly elitist and anti-democratic globalist oligarchy. Thus the political class has haemorrhaged into a de facto monopoly, which, in the name of management-speak, it manages very ineffectively—whence the seemingly terminal decline of countries like France.
A man whose political opinions put him in opposition to mainstream politics, Blot, with his permanent reasonableness and balance, was a rare embodiment of the advice given by the 17th century Italian Jesuit, Claudio Aquaviva, to those desiring to convert society to the truth: be resolute in execution but gentle in manner. Fortiter in re, suaviter in modo should be Yvan Blot’s epitaph. He was, in short, the perfect gentleman.