Obituary: Etienne Borne

Etienne Vincent Borne, philosopher and writer: born Manduel (Gard) 22 January 1907; died 14 June 1993.

ETIENNE BORNE, a founder of the French Christian Democratic Party, the Mouvement Republicain Populaire (MRP), was a philosopher, teacher and one of the principal ideologues of French Christian Democracy. He was a keen political polemicist and was involved in a number of famous arguments on behalf of the MRP and of his conception of society. He was not, himself, a deputy but he was a member of the most influential political circles of Christian Democracy and a friend of many of its great names including Emmanuel Mounier and Georges Bidault.

Etienne Borne was born in Manduel (Gard), was a student at the Ecole Normale Superieur, and taught at the Lycee de Nevers, the University of Sao Paulo, and a succession of French schools as the philosophy agrege. In 1962 he was made an Inspecteur d'Academie and in 1971 an Inspecteur General. He was Secretary General of the Centre Catholique des Intellectuels Francais.

Borne was a passionate moderate. He remarked that the doctrine of the centre was the hardest to practise. As the editor of the MRP's Terre Humaine from 1951 to 1957 he was influential amongst intellectuals. Borne was also the MRP's link to the French Labour movement and was on the Christian Democratic Left.

In 1950 Borne was engaged in controversy with the pamphleteer Joseph Hours, defending the MRP from the charge that it was anti-patriotic and insisting that the subordination of the state to a higher ideal (Europe) was not 'anti-statism'. Borne entered the ring on behalf of the European ideal. The building of Europe, he asserted, was the one great new idea (alongside nationalism and imperialism). His speech to the 1954 MRP congress was a famous call to arms over Europe.

Unlike many of his milieu, Borne was not a neutralist and had a healthy suspicion of the Soviet Union but he did take the 1952 Republican Party rhetoric about 'rolling back the frontiers of Eastern Europe' rather too seriously and condemned the United States' 'bad humour' and impatience. He was a critic of liberalism and of Marxism and looked to a 'people's democracy which was neither totalitarian nor individualistic'. He was a critic of the Fourth Republic's Algerian policy.

After editing Terre Humaine he was one of the founders of France Forum and, after hesitating whether to support the Socialist Gaston Defferre, threw himself behind Jean Lecanuet in the 1965 presidential election.