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(PASSIVITY and AGGRESSION in EUROPE, to 1936 – continued)

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PASSIVITY and AGGRESSION in EUROPE, to 1936 (3 of 3)

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Fear of the Left in France

In May 1936, elections in France brought to power a new coalition government. It was called the "Popular Front" and was a coalition that included Communists who were responding to the Soviet Union's new policy of allowing alliances with anti-fascists. After only a few days in office, France's new government announced its intentions to improve working conditions – which, along with wages in France, lagged behind other advanced industrialized nations. Labor leaders were emboldened by the Popular Front's victory. They were impatient and wanted to demonstrate their power, so they sent their workers out on strike, aggravating everyone but labor and the Left.

The head of the new government was Leon Blum, the leader of France's Socialist Party. Rightists in France wondered whether Hitler conquering France would be any worse than the Left in power in France, Rightists knowing that Hitler would suppress the Left. The expressions "better Hitler than Blum" and "better Hitler than Stalin" were heard. 

Industrialists, on the other hand, signed an agreement with the Popular Front government, creating what was called the Magna Carta for French labor. The forty-hour week and paid holidays were passed into law. Wages were fixed. National control over war industries and state control over the Bank of France was established.

It was the beginning of a new era in the relations between management and labor in France. And France's workers, back on the job and proud of their victory, turned to the pleasant task of deciding how to spend the paid holidays that they, for the first time, were to enjoy.

Sources

Between Two Fires: Chapter III, "The Night of the Long Knives,"  Chapter IV, "Revenge for Adowa,"  by David Clay Large, 1990

Frauen: German Women Recall the Third Reich, by Alison Owings, 1993

The Hidden Hitler, by Lothar Machtan, 2001

Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, by Gretchen Rubin, 2003

Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization, by Nicholson Baker, 2008

Nation magazine, May 24, 1933

Additional Viewing

Debate: "Neville Chamberlain Did the Right Thing," by IQ squared, June 5, 2013

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