France History: Interwar Period

After the end of the war, the most important domestic political task was to eliminate or mitigate the economic, financial and social consequences of the war. When it came to the necessary decisions, the government and parliament were caught in the tension of a widely diversified field of parties. Foreign policy was also affected by these tensions. While the right saw a guarantee of French security in a “hard” course towards Germany, the left saw the creation of a collective security system within the framework of the League of Nations as a means of balancing national interests in Europe.

In the spring of 1919, under the Clemenceau government, a law on collective labor contracts and a law on the eight-hour day came into force. After the national Bloc won the election (November 1919), it provided Presidents Paul Deschanel (* 1856, † 1922; 1920) and Millerand (1920–24). The Radical Socialists voted nationally with the Bloc. In 1920 the communists split from the socialists. In 1924 the Cartel des Gauches (Left Cartel) won a major election and initiated a turning point in domestic and foreign policy. President Millerand had to resign in favor of G. Doumergue (1924–31). Prime ministers were among others. É. Herriot (1924-25) and Briand (1925-26). At the head of a new party alliance, the Union nationale, Poincaré,as Prime Minister (1926-29), stabilized the currency and state finances, leaving the management of foreign policy entirely to his Foreign Minister Briand. In 1931 Paul Doumer (* 1857, † 1932), after his assassination A. Lebrun became President (1932–40). Check to see more about France and other countries in the world.

The Great Depression (from 1929) had an impact in France since 1930, after production had risen in numerous areas in the 1920s (industrial development indices rose to 133% of 1911 levels). The disagreement of the moderate bourgeois forces in solving economic and social problems and the associated frequent changes of government favored the swelling of right and left radicalism. In February 1934 v. a. right-wing extremist groups (including Croix-de-Feu, Cagoule) unrest. The government of the Union nationale under Doumergue was able to settle the state crisis, but failed when the attempt to create more stable government relationships through limited political reforms.

The February riots, which the left viewed as an attempted coup by “fascism”, the social renewal will of many intellectuals, the social effects of the deflationary policy of the government under Father É. Flandin (1934/35) and P. Laval (1935/36) as well as Laval’s foreign policy, which was favorable to the fascist system of government in Italy, led to the formation of a popular front made up of socialists, communists and radical socialists. After the election victory in May 1936, the socialist L. Blum formed a government of socialists and radical socialists tolerated by the communists. She set, inter alia. the forty-hour week and the exemption from school fees, decided to nationalize part of the armaments industry and reorganize the Bank of France. But there were major problems (including inflation, bloody unrest).

Despite its victory in World War I, France v. a. threatened by a regaining strength in Germany. The search for “security” became the dominant theme of French foreign policy. In 1920 France formed an alliance with Belgium and in 1921 with Poland. In view of the growing Franco-British differences in European and colonial affairs and the refusal of the USA to enter into politico-military commitments in Europe, the French governments pursued the reparations policy all the more relentlessly towards Germany during this period. B. at the London (1921, London ultimatum) and Cannes (1922) conferences. In the course of the »policy of productive pledges«, Poincaré 1923 occupy the Ruhr area against the resistance of Great Britain and the USA. The government of the Bloc national, which for the first time established diplomatic relations with the USSR, was headed by v. a. a policy of understanding towards Germany and in 1924 agreed to an international solution to the reparations problem with the adoption of the Dawes Plan. The Franco-German rapprochement reached its climax in 1925 with the conclusion of the Locarno Agreements and in 1926 in the talks by Thoiry between Foreign Ministers Briand and G. Stresemann. In 1930 France agreed to the reduction (Youngplan), in 1932 the de facto cessation (Conference of Lausanne) of the German reparations payments. Even on the question of the occupation of the Rhineland, in which France had at times promoted separatist tendencies, an understanding was gradually reached by 1930. With the establishment of the Little Entente between 1924 and 1927, France expanded its alliance system. With the leading participation of Briand, a »war ostracism pact« (Briand-Kellogg Pact) was concluded in 1928. In matters of disarmament, France remained largely determined by security considerations (Geneva Conferences).

After the conclusion of the Four Power Pact (1933), French foreign policy sought to counter the aggressive policy of National Socialist Germany by further expanding the French alliance system: promoting the Balkan Pact (1934), assistance pact with the USSR (1935) and expanding the Anglo-French Entente into one Military alliance. The rapprochement with fascist Italy under Foreign Minister Laval remained an episode. In March 1936 France accepted the occupation of the demilitarized Rhineland by German troops. In the Spanish Civil War, the Popular Front government upheld the principle of “non-intervention”. In 1938 the Daladier government (1938–40) joined the British policy of appeasement towards National Socialist Germany (Munich Agreement, 1938), but gave an automatic assistance obligation for Greece, Romania and Poland after the Italian action in Albania in April 1939. After the German attack on Poland, the French, together with the British government, declared war on the German Reich on September 3, 1939.

France History - Interwar Period