France in the 1930’s Part I

France in the 1930’s Part I

According to, the elections of 1 and 8 May 1932 gave, for the second time, after the conclusion of the peace, the prevalence of left-wing parties; while, since July 1926, barring insignificant interruptions, power had been exercised by cabinets of “national union” or at least of coalition of the various parties.

As has already been briefly mentioned, the victory, in November 1918, had found France still united and all vibrant with the effort made to resist the enemy and overcome it. But even then some cracks were being made in the national “bloc”: faced with the task of “reconstruction” and the new problems imposed by peace, the differences in political programs reaffirmed themselves. In the new Chamber, which emerged from the elections of November 1919 (made according to the electoral law of 12 July 1919 which essentially represented a compromise between the majority and the proportional system) if the parties of the center and the right prevailed and if the socialists had lost seats, radicals and radical-socialists broke away from the “bloc”, while differentiating themselves from the socialists,

In foreign policy, alongside the diplomatic activity aimed at the conclusion of the remaining peace treaties (see world war, XVIII, p. 106) and to the execution of the Treaty of Versailles, especially as regards the disarmament of Germany and the payment by it of the reparations (among the numerous conferences, we will remember only those of Sanremo, 10-26 April, and Spa, 5 -16 July 1920), the action of France already appears to be concerned with creating, alongside those contained in the treaties, new safeguards for the integrity of the national territory against the possible danger of a German attempt at revenge (Franco-Belgian military convention of Brussels, 7 September 1920) and to prevent the spread of Communist principles (“encirclement” policy of the USSR: recognition of the various “white” armies and governments, aid to them and to Poland).

Forced to resign P. Deschanel, due to his serious health conditions, on September 23, 1920 A. Millerand became president of the republic and with unchanged criteria the French government implemented a policy of prestige and expansion, in Greece opposing the return of King Constantine and in Asia trying to extend its influence among the Muslim populations, hitting against Turkish nationalism and the aims of England, with which it nevertheless managed to agree on the delimitation of the territories under mandate; while in the League of Nations he placed the total disarmament of Germany as a precondition for that of France. But this policy ran up against many difficulties: the United States had regained its freedom of action and also in Europe the “war mentality” it was gradually disappearing: above all the economic situation, which was serious for everyone, increasingly recommended the re-establishment of Germany’s production and purchasing capacity and the resumption of normal relations with it. Hence the diplomatic work on reparations, in which France, although resisting obtaining a great deal, was still forced to make very serious sacrifices for those who counted on the economic resources deriving from the peace treaties to heal their own financial situation and were ill-adapted, solicitous of their own security, to reduce military spending. Hence the widespread discontent in the country which failed to see “the positive consequences of the victorious peace” (words of the President of the Chamber, R. Péret, January 12, 1921). Without making sacrifices, but at the same time relying more on energy and activities of France, both in financial matters and in internal politics (army reorganization program, administrative decentralization, large public works, etc.), wanted to govern A. Briand. The latter remained rigid towards Germany, but at the same time sought new political and military guarantees (economic and military agreement with Poland of February 19, 1921, trade treaties with Finland, July 13, 1921, and with Estonia, January 7, 1922 ); while, in the frequent conferences with the allies he still had to yield something. Briand himself declared that he now adhered to the système des moyennes and, not by the opposition of the right (especially by A. Tardieu), he also began direct negotiations with Germany. But his oratorical successes at the Washington Conference on Naval Arms Reduction and the Pacific in November did not get the French point of view to prevail. In the inter-allied conference in cannes (January 6-13, 1922), the offer of the English alliance in case of aggression by Germany led Briand to agree to the meeting of an economic conference in Genoa, inviting Germany and Russia: towards which France continued the policy of isolation, placing as a condition for the resumption of relations the recognition by the Soviets of the public debt contracted by the imperial government and located for the most part in France. He seemed to give too much and was disowned. And R. Poincaré imposed that in Genoa there was no talk of reparations. Then the Russo-German treaty of Rapallo once again alarmed France, which in the Washington conference accepted the treaties relating to the Pacific (13 December 1921 and 6 February 1922), the independence and integrity of China and, reluctantly, the one on armaments. naval (both of February 6, 1922) which for large ships placed it, with Italy, in third place among the powers, at a great distance from Great Britain and the United States, and also from Japan, while leaving it freedom for the construction of submarines. German disarmament was illusory, the League of Nations insufficient guarantee, France had to take care of her own safety, with provisions for the army and navy.

France in the 1930's 1