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To What Extent Can The 1936 Popular Front Government Be Seen As A Missed Opportunity For Social Transformation

2255 words - 9 pages

Through a frustration with the right-wing leagues and an attempt to quell the growing menace of fascism, the left-wing Popular Front, led by Socialist León Blum, was elected into power. As Blum later reflected, it was a 'reflex of instinctive defence against the dangers which threatened French Republican institutions, and liberty itself'. In the two years the Popular Front held office they were tasked with dealing with the inherited budgetary, Treasury and currency difficulties amid rising international tension. This essay aims to critically examine the extent to which the Popular Front failed to meet the public and moreover its own expectations of achieving social transformation.The Third Republic had brought France victorious through the First Word War and Andre Tardieu had become the dominant political figure from 1929 to 1932, with the pre-war generation led by Poincaré being replaced. The franc was at unprecedented strength and the economy had never been more buoyant. It is believed by many that 1930 was the peak of economic prosperity; its index of industrial production was skyrocketing and the consumer price index reached its highest level in December 1930. However it was still a predominantly rural, ageing society with a static population. Between 1900 and 1939 'its population had increased by 3%, largely due to immigration and no country in the world had a higher proportion of people over sixty' (Jackson, p.18). Tardieu was obligated to carry out a series of long overdue reforms, incorporating advancements in technology and establishment of a welfare state. Jackson referred to it as a "period of transatlantic ideas of rationalisation an economic modernisation" (Jackson p.18). At the beginning of 1931 France, like the rest of the world, began to be affected by the depression, though it acted as more as a 'paralysis than a cataclysmic blow'. Tardieu resigned in 1932, preceding a succession of four governments in two years. Throughout much of 1933 there was much of a virtual vacuum at the centre of politics: the executive arm had ceased to function. Power was shifting to the streets. On the night of February 6th 1934, far-right-wing demonstrators took to the streets in protest against Daladier's 'Cartel des gauches'. This was perceived by the left wing, particularly the socialists, to be an attempt at a coup d'état, and three days later they staged a counterdemonstration, marking the first tentative union the Socialists and the Communists. The extreme right were numerically weak but seen against the background of fascist activity in other countries, it was understandable that they should be seen to represent a more serious represent than their relatively modest threat would justify. This was to be the rapprochement, the conception of the Popular Front.In the May 1936 legislative elections, the Popular Front, led by Léon Blum, composed of SFIO and Radical-Socialist ministers and supported by the Communist party,...

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