Maurice Lacroix – Pierre Pascal: French Lieutenant, former Normalien, Soviet diplomat (1922)

Pierre Pascal

[A short article from 1922 in Marc Sangnier’s Christian democratic newspaper, La Jeune République, on the Catholic and Bolshevik Pierre Pascal. [May 19, 1922])

This is truly a curious figure, that of Pierre Pascal, old student of the École normale, lieutenant of the French Army, and, we say, the ambassador of the Soviets to the Vatican.

I knew him a little before the war, at the École, where he was my senior of two years. Certainly, none of us expected to see him one day serve in the ranks of the communists. And yet, has he changed so much?

In 1913 he was hardly occupied with political activity. The struggle of parties did not attract him, the operation of our parliamentary democracy did not have a great charm for him. It is not that he was indifferent to the activity of public affairs: he dreamed, on the contrary, of transforming the world, but he wanted it so completely, and his views were so fanciful!

Catholic and…. Monarchist.

A very ardent Catholic, a Christian with profound faith, Pascal could not have sympathy with the methods and manner of Action française, even less the philosophical ideas which serve as the basis of its system. Yet, I know well that he hardly loved the republic, and that his preferences were with the monarchy: not the monarchy of M. Maurras, founded on the nationalist postulate, but the monarchy of divine right, to the most Christian kingship, sanctified by the sacre at Reims.

That was not, incidentally, the essence of his ideas. Pascal wanted, above all, the establishment of a peace founded on religion; he dreamed of a restoration of the Christianity of the Middle Ages, resting on the spiritual authority of the Pope and the temporal authority of the emperor.

Which emperor? Pascal did not dream of a reestablishment of the Germanic Holy Roman Empire: to assure order in Europe, he planned on the agreement of the Pope and the Tsar.

Deeply attached to Catholicism, passionately attracted to everything that came from Russia, Pascal lived in his dream. He did not seem worried about the distance which separated his dream from the realities of the 20th century, and his idealism seemed incompatible with any effort of action.

Bolshevism Triumphs…

The Russian Revolution arrived. How did Pascal see and understand it? I don’t know. I am not surprised that he did not go along with Milyukov or Kerensky, no doubt too anxious to copy the Western democracies for his liking. Perhaps he saw in communism a return to the traditions of the primitive Church or at the very least a reaction against the work of Peter the Great, against the Europeanization of Russia, against modern civilization. He must have found there as well a heat of conviction which contrasts with the blasé skepticism too frequent[ly] [found] among us. His Christian mysticism in all likelihood sensed a kinship with Bolshevik mysticism.

It is difficult what his evolution was during the course of these years. I know well however that Pascal remained faithful to his previous ideal. Undoubtedly, Tsarism was no more. But the new power which has established itself in Russia must attract Pascal more than the monarchy of Nicholas II. Petrograd, the modern capital, has given place to Moscow, the holy city of two Tsars. Nicholas II resembled Louis XIV too much. The regime of Lenin, with the decentralization of Soviet Russia, makes one think rather of the kingship of Louis le Gros..

Have I understood Pascal accurately? I would not dare to claim that. The ideal which he serves is so far from our democratic ideal! I am sure, in any case, that there is at the root of his activity, a profound and deep Christianity; that, like us, he is disgusted by the false frameworks where the old world wants to lock up the lives of souls; that, like us, he wants to transform pagan society by penetrating its institutions with the spirit of Christ. Certainly, the difference between his politics and ours is great. And yet, because of this firm moral stance which he has always affirmed on the social and political terrain, is there not, between him and us, a true kinship of hearts?