France in the 1930’s Part IX

France in the 1930’s Part IX

In the international field, while the Ethiopian crisis was being resolved, new and no less serious problems arose. Foreign Minister Y. Delbos, following the vote for the repeal of the sanctions against Italy (by July 15) issued by the League committee, conformed to the measures of the other powers, and shortly after they were signed in Rome (11 August) the new Franco-Italian trade agreements. A Havas release from July 9thhe had announced that the French government, in agreement with the British one, considered the Mediterranean agreements (8 December 1935-22 January 1936) for mutual assistance to have lapsed following the lifting of the sanctions. At the Montreux Conference for the Straits (22-25 June, 6-20 July), France, represented by Paul-Boncour, supported, in principle, the Russian point of view (Litvinov) and obtained, but not without effort, the British accession.

Meanwhile the nerve center had shifted towards Spain; the outbreak of the civil war was a source of direct and extremely sensitive concern for France: contiguity of the borders, fears for the future of the lines of communication between North Africa and the metropolis, possible repercussions in French Morocco, inherent constraints to the affinity of the parties in power in Madrid and Paris. The French government (1 August) appealed to the powers concerned “for the prompt adoption and strict observance, with regard to Spain, of common rules of non-intervention”. Having obtained the first adhesions (the Italian government, by joining, asked that the “non-intervention” be “integral”; see Italy, App.), Y. Delbos submitted the text of a convention to the governments and on August 15 banned any export of war material from France to Spain. Following discussions between the diplomatic chancelleries, which began on 26 August, the “Non-intervention Committee” was created, which was convened for the first time in London on 9 September. But the official directives of the French government appeared, from the first months of the Spanish conflict, compromised by internal political needs, by ideological currents, by diplomatic pressures from other countries (USSR), by the fear of the prevalence of new forces in the Mediterranean. western: whence the large supplies of arms and ammunition from France to the Spanish red government, whence the recruitment of volunteers for this same government.

According to, the events in Spain and the growing German rearmament (biennial stop) brought the attention of the French socialists and the communists themselves to military problems and their technical and financial needs. A decree was issued for the nationalization of the war industries (June 26, 1936), a bill was approved (September 7) for the increase of the armed forces, with an expenditure of 14 billion. Another 500 million credit was voted to extend the Maginot Line north; it was decided not to reduce the stops and to increase the war potential. In short, a vast rearmament plan in which parliament found its unanimity, but which was partly frustrated by extremist agitation, strikes, technical difficulties.

Between 12 August and 14 September, visits were made by General Gamelin to Warsaw, by General E. Rydz-Śmigly (inspector general of the Polish army) in Paris, by the French Minister of Commerce P. Bastid in Warsaw. This exchange of visits, together with new economic-financial ties (on 29 December the French chamber approved without dispute a loan of 1,350 million francs to Poland for military and railway expenses) marked a partial resumption of the close Franco-Polish ties that had been 1921, but which had faded somewhat following the German-Polish agreements of 1934.

In the extra-European world, France, as a mandatory power, found itself seriously engaged in Syria, where a nationalist revolt had broken out (19 January 1936) which could only be repressed with measures of force and after the arrest of several leaders. Subsequent negotiations led to the signing of an alliance treaty (9 September), which recognizes Syrian independence, but contemplates a commitment to collaboration in foreign policy and mutual diplomatic and military assistance (see Syria: History, App.). A consequence of the Franco-Syrian agreement was the similar alliance treaty between France and Lebanon (Beirut, 13 November 1936). But the victory of Syrian nationalism led Turkey to raise (September 1936) the question of the Sandjak of Alexandretta (v., App.): A question that gave rise to repeated Franco-Turkish frictions, until the Turkish troops were allowed to enter Alexandretta (July 1938) to collaborate with the French forces in maintaining order.

In the meantime, since the first months of 1937, a progressive worsening of the economic and financial situation had been noted; as a result of the new social laws, production costs had increased by more than the devaluation margin, canceling out any benefit (the Auriol devaluation had been 33%, the increase in production costs from June 1936 to June 1937 by 50%). On February 21, L. Blum declared that he wanted to slow down the pace of reforms and proclaimed the need for a “pause” in the political and social struggle, also in view of the next universal exhibition in Paris (inaugurated, with delay, in May). But the gravity of the disease could not be healed by a simple truce: the 1936 budget closed with a six billion deficit; the public debt had exceeded 355 billion (285 in 1932); it was necessary to take out a loan of 40,000 pounds on the London market to cope with cash emergencies, and to issue another 10 billion pounds on the domestic market for national defense (quickly signed). In June, faced with the massive exodus of gold from France (8 billion in just one month), Minister V. Auriol asked for full powers for financial recovery.

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