Synarchism’s Role in the Fall of France

FROM THE LECTURE SERIES: The Real History of Secret Societies

By Richard Spence, Ph.D., University of Idaho

In his sensational report, Henri Chavin, the chief of Vichy police, identified Synarchists in every ministry, including the entourage of the Vichy head of state, Marshal Philippe Petain. The report led to the belief that a secret society of bankers, industrialists, and technocrats had indeed brought France to the brink of civil war in 1940.

The flag of the chief of state of Vichy, France.
Henri Chavin’s report exposed a Vichy regime infested with Synarchists. (Image: Nicolas Raymond/Shutterstock)

The Murder of Jean Coutrot

It’s May 19, 1941. The deceased is Jean Coutrot, a 46-year-old unemployed engineer. The initial reports about Coutrot’s demise are curiously contradictory. He’s first reported to have died in his bed from an overdose of sleeping pills. But it turns out that he really fell—or was pushed—from the window of his Paris apartment. Now, how do you mix those up?

That’s what Henri Chavin, the chief of the French Vichy Government’s police, aimed to find out. That the Sûreté’s chief involved himself in what appeared to be a routine suicide is itself strange. But Chavin had had his eye on Jean Coutrot for some time. Chief Chavin suspected Coutrot was much more than an unemployed engineer.

For years, the engineer had been mixed up in a bewildering array of secret societies and questionable associations. The dead man was a graduate of the prestigious École Polytechnique, which, to this day, is known for turning out many of France’s CEOs and Nobel Prize laureates.

Back in 1932, Coutrot and several Polytechnique alumni formed a society dubbed the Groupe X-Crise. Their professed aim was to study the causes of the global Great Depression. Soon after, X-Crise was renamed the Polytechnic Center for the Study of the Economy. Coutrot also set up other think-tanks, such as the School for the Scientific Study of Labor, and the Institute for Applied Psychology.

One of his collaborators was the British writer and occult dabbler Aldous Huxley, the author of the dystopian novel Brave New World. Coutrot also organized what were known as nonconformist groups, although these shared no distinct political orientation.

Learn more about the Freemasons.

Jean Coutrot’s Relations with Secret Societies

Coutrot called himself a socialist but he was fiercely anti- Marxist. So far as Sûreté Chief Chavin could see, Coutrot’s brand of socialism didn’t fit any known variety. And there was much more to the mysterious Mssr. Coutrot. He belonged to an irregular Masonic lodge known as La Synarchie, and something else called the Martinist and Synarchist Order.

Coutrot was also connected to the bizarre and occult Polaire Brotherhood. And if all that wasn’t enough, Coutrot was part of the terrorist, fascist Cagoule. So, was Coutrot a socialist, a fascist, or an occultist? Or somehow all three? Last, but not least, Coutrot was a friend and associate of Charles Spinasse, the French economic official, who was also a friend and associate of Dmitry Navachine.

So, it seemed reasonable to assume that Coutrot and Navachine also knew each other. Might there also be a connection in their deaths? Barely a week after Coutrot’s suicide—or murder—the plot thickened further. Coutrot’s long-time secretary was also found dead under questionable circumstances. But the most important discovery Chief Chavin made was a leather-bound book among Coutrot’s papers.

This is a transcript from the video series The Real History of Secret Societies. Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus.

The Synarchist Pact and the Fall of France

In expensive gold-embossed lettering, its title read: The Synarchist Revolutionary Pact or simply Synarchic Pact. It purported to be the manifesto of a ‘polytechnic secret society’ called the Synarchist Empire Movement—MSE in French—or the Synarchic Revolutionary Convention. The manifesto ran to 100 pages, divided into 13 chapters composed of 598 ‘proposals’.

This Synarchic Pact outlined a plan for ‘an invisible revolution from above’ that would destroy the French Third Republic. It would replace messy parliamentarianism with an authoritarian regime controlled by big business and run by technocrats. It declared itself to be a force of ‘relentless action governed by divine law’ and warned that the pact and the very existence of the Synarchist movement must be kept absolutely secret.

But nowhere could Sûreté Chief Chavin find Synarchism defined. The manifesto seemed intentionally vague in the language. The basic implication was that Synarchy would be for France what Bolshevism was for Russia; Fascism for Italy; and Nazism for Germany. French Synarchy was supposed to be a part of a larger International Synarchist Movement that would eventually unify Europe and dominate the world.

Learn more about Masonic revolutions in America and France.

The Investigation of Chief Chavin

Chavin believed that Synarchists conspired to spread their ‘new revolutionary ideology’ in France. He claimed the first step was the 1921 appearance of a new Martinist sect dubbed the Martinist and Synarchic Order. At its head—as sovereign grand master—was a protégé of St. Yves, Victor Blanchard.

A map displaying German occupied territories in France during the Second World War.
A map depicting German occupation after the fall of France. (Image: Eric Gaba/CC BY-SA 4.0/Public domain)

The Martinists had closely attached themselves to the Grand Orient Lodge, France’s largest Masonic body. In fact, the Martinists initiated only master Masons. Victor Blanchard thought this was too restrictive. He wanted a bigger net to bring in non-Masons and even women.

According to Chief Chavin, Blanchard created another secretive Synarchic Revolutionary Convention in 1922. The Convention oversaw yet another secret society, the Synarchist Empire Movement. Victor Blanchard also had a day job. He was secretary to the French government’s Council of Ministers.

Finally, Blanchard reigned as the supreme master of the spooky Polaire Brotherhood. Here, the term ‘spooky’ means that the Polaires ultimately took orders from an elaborate Ouija Board that answered to the hidden masters in the Hollow Earth! You have to wonder: why did Blanchard need so many secret orders?

The basic answer is that each group catered to different constituencies. One might cater to the mystical-minded, another to the technocrats; one attracted leftists, another rightists. From the Synarchist view, all political ideologies were equally meaningless, but they were all useful in casting a bigger net.

Learn more about the Bolsheviks, Masons, and Russian Revolution.

The Conclusions of Chief Chavin’s Investigation

The final result of Chief Chavin’s investigation was an 18-page report to the French Ministry of Justice. There it sat until rediscovered after World War II and the fall of France. The report exposed a Vichy regime infested with Synarchists. Chavin identified Synarchists in every ministry, including within the entourage of the Vichy head of state, Marshal Philippe Petain.

Especially prominent were the heads of big banks. One was Jacques Barnaud of the Banque Worms, the same bank that murdered Dmitry Navachine worked for. The conspirators also included socialists, fascists, monarchists, Catholics, atheists, technocrats, and occultists. So, who—or what—was really behind the Synarchist cabal? Chief Chavin pointed the finger at high finance and big business.

He saw a Synarchist movement controlled not by robed cultists but by men in business suits. But Chavin warned that Synarchy was ultimately an ‘international movement’ run by a so-called High Bank. Its ultimate goal was to replace governments throughout the world. In their place, Synarchy would impose global authoritarianism with the financiers at the top, the industrialists just below, and an army of technocrats and spiritual snake-oil salesmen to keep the masses in line.

But what about engineer Jean Coutrot? Was he murdered? Chief Chavin considered Coutrot to be a very important Synarchist and possibly the author of the Synarchic Pact. Chavin also believed that Coutrot—with the connivance of fellow Synarchist Charles Spinasse—had deliberately sabotaged the French economy before the war.

The Synarchist Plot behind the Fall of France

Chavin argued that it was all part of the Synarchist plan to create a revolution through the disaster. And that led to France’s calamitous defeat in 1940. But Chavin suspected Coutrot either lost faith or got careless. The Sûreté chief noted that in early May 1941, shortly before Coutrot’s death, a mysterious dossier was sent to the head of state, Petain.

German soldiers marching past the Arc de Triomphe during the Second World War.
Vichy Sûreté chief believed that a Synarchist plot was responsible for the calamitous fall of France. (Image: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-126-0347-09A/Gutjahr/CC BY-SA 3.0 DE/Public domain)

It revealed many details of the Synarchist plot. The Synarchists around Petain covered this up, but Chavin believed Coutrot and his unfortunate secretary paid the price for perceived treachery or indiscretion.

So, where did the Russian Dmitry Navachine fit in? In Chavin’s estimation, Navachine had been too smart for his own good. He was a Martinist and a Synarchist, but not an insider on the plot. However, through his dealings with Banque Worms and Charles Spinasse, he’d presumably learned enough to make him dangerous.

Of course, many argued that the Chavin report was a paranoid theory concocted by a biased and overly credulous policeman. Maybe. Besides the lone copy of the Synarchist Revolutionary Pact, there’s really no evidence. Some think that the pact was just a hoax used by one Vichy French political clique to attack another.

Although many of those named in the Chavin report faced charges of collaboration, most avoided serious punishment.

In 1946, another Frenchman, Raoul Husson, re-analyzed the Chavin report in his book Synarchie. Husson concluded that a secret society of bankers, industrialists, and technocrats had indeed brought France to the brink of civil war and engineered defeat in 1940. He feared that they were again scheming to assert control.

Common Questions About Synarchism’s Role in the Fall of France

Q: What was France’s role in World War II?

France declared war on Germany in September 1939. But in 1940, when the real war began, the Germans invaded and defeated France.

Q: Why did France lose so quickly in World War II?

The French Army was unable to cope with the German Blitzkrieg tactics, and it was defeated after only six weeks of fighting.

Q: What was the outcome of the battle of France?

The Germans won the battle of France within six weeks due to the German Blitzkrieg tactics, which directly led to the fall of France.

Q: What side was Vichy France on?

Vichy France was allied with Britain in the Second World War, but the fall of France did not take long.

Keep Reading
New World France: A Story of Power and Decline
The History of France: The Road to French Absolutism
The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand: Europe on the Brink of World War I