France in the 1930’s Part VII

France in the 1930’s Part VII

But the internal situation remained very serious: the conditions of the budget were worrying, with a deficit (including railways) of about 11 billion for 1935. So that in May the government had to ask for ample powers for the consolidation of the budget and the defense of the currency., against which a “stock exchange offensive” was carried out which provoked, between 29 March and 31 May, an exodus of gold for 10,856 million. Minister Germain-Martin had to resign. Flandin was about to replace him, when the request for full powers provoked the hostile vote of the chamber on May 31st.

After a very brief cabinet Bouisson, which did not obtain the full powers requested, these were granted, but only until 31 October, to the ministry – also of concentration – constituted by Fr. Laval. It issued a series of decree-laws aimed at tackling the deficit, reducing the cost of living, alleviating unemployment, maintaining public order, supporting the currency: measures that provoked lively protests (19 July) and conflicts, in August, in Toulon, Bret and Le Havre. The internal situation was also serious due to the contrast between the “leagues” and the “popular front”: on July 14, in different parts of Paris, there were simultaneous demonstrations of the Croix de feu and the “popular front”.

Faced with the German rearmament, France tried to keep the “Stresa front” steady: but this effort was rendered useless by the serious situation that emerged following the worsening of the Italo-Ethiopian conflict, and the attitude assumed by England and then also by France. After the failure of the negotiations between the three powers, in Paris (16-18 August) and the concentration of the English fleet in the Mediterranean in September, a complicated series of negotiations between Paris and London led to the conclusion of a kind of “Mediterranean pact”, at first only Franco-British, then extended to other powers, in the case of an Italian attack against England, both before and during the application of the “sanctions” against Italy: sanctions that France approved and applied. In Geneva, Laval declared fidelity to the obligations imposed on France by the League and at the same time the maintenance of Franco-Italian friendship as the principles and aims of French politics, understood as an indispensable instrument for maintaining peace; and he placed as a cornerstone the concept that the work of the League of Nations should aim at the solution of the conflict. In a meeting of Laval with the English minister Sir Samuel Hoare, proposals for peace preliminaries were formulated (December), presented to the belligerents and to the council of the League of Nations: but they were immediately repudiated by the English government itself, and so the attempt failed. del Laval to try to save Franco-English and Franco-Italian relations at the same time. Meanwhile, the internal situation remained serious: not only the parties of the “popular front” insisted on more vigorous action against Italy, but the riots did not cease while the left looked at some of the government measures and the delay in submitting the treaty with the USSR to parliament for approval. December, still some successes in the chamber, but his position was on the whole weakened, above all due to the hostility of the radical party, already outlined in the party congress in Paris, in October. And the resignations presented by the radical ministers led, on January 19, to the resignation of the ministry, on the eve of the discussion of a new electoral reform, a prelude to new elections.

According to, the difficult task of closing the old legislature and preparing the new one fell to the ministry established on January 25 with A. Sarraut as president and the Interior, P.-E. Flandin to Foreign Affairs; but his short life was disturbed not only by the persistence of internal difficulties and the abnormal external situation created by the sanctioning regime against Italy, but also by a sudden German gesture of force aimed at crumbling the building, already compromised several times, of Versailles.

In fact, with the note of 7 March 1936, while it declared that it no longer considered itself linked to the Locarno pact (stating that this pact had ceased to exist after the conclusion of the Franco-Russian treaty), it also communicated the military occupation of the area. Rhenish. The French council of ministers considered the German memorandum unacceptable, appealed to the League of Nations (recalling art. 4 of the Rhine pact) and summoned the signatories of Locarno to Paris (10 March). The meetings were continued in London (March 12-19), but between the proposals of the Locarnist powers (March 20) and the responses of the German government (March 24 and 31) there appeared a distance of views that was not easily overcome. Even a French attempt (April 6) at conciliation within the framework of the League of Nations and in harmony with the principle of collective security was not successful. The only result, for France, was the English assurance of a possible help and common military measures in case of need (April 2).

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