France History – The Daladier Ministry

The unanimity, which had welcomed the Daladier cabinet on 10 April 1938, did not last long: already on 22 August the government decision to repeal one of the achievements of the Popular Front, the 40-hour working week, resulted in the resignation of the two ministers socialists, who were part of the cabinet in a personal capacity, Fr. Ramadier and LO Frossard.

This was, at the same time, cause and effect of the profound division of the public spirit, in which the socio-economic problem and the international problem, implying the rearmament and a more decisive policy of France, came to intersect in an inextricable and contradictory tangle., ensuring that, in the face of the worsening of the diplomatic situation, France would still remain stuck in a retrospective controversy, a slave to the moods aroused by the elections of 1936 and – in large areas of its public opinion – suffered the charm of the mirage hence so much part of European conservatism was taken, which saw in Hitler the advanced sentinel against the Bolshevik danger. It is therefore not surprising that, after recalling some classes of the reserve (September 24, 1938), Daladier, in Munich,

According to PHYSICSCAT, the Munich conference aggravates the split in public opinion but, at the same time, contains within itself, due to the contrast between the defenders and critics of the agreement, outside and above the traditional divisions, the possibility of a new classification and a new orientation of public opinion. However, neither the Right nor the Left fraction were able to reach an agreement, contributing not a little to the maintenance of the split the economic-financial policy undertaken, immediately after Munich, by Daladier and carried out by the Minister of Finance P. Reynaud in a clearly deflationary sense, aimed at nullifying the previous Blumian policy of increasing the purchasing power of the working class.

On the international level, meanwhile, the Daladier cabinet, while beginning, but weakly, the rearmament of France, tries to build on the Munich agreement, considering it as definitive for the European order and conveying all its attention to the metropolitan and colonial sector (policy of repli impérial). Thus, while a Bonnet-von Ribbentrop declaration (Paris, December 6, 1938) based on the commitment to develop peaceful relations and on the recognition of the definitiveness of the Franco-German border achieves a notable relaxation in relations with Germany, the anti-French demonstration of 30 November at the Italian Chamber and the subsequent denunciation of the agreement concluded with P. Laval on 7 January 1935 determine a clear stiffening in the French government, which culminated in the demonstration tour made by President Daladier at the beginning of 1939 in Corsica and Africa of the North.

This energy, perhaps only apparent because to his jamais Daladier also combines, or fails to restrain, the activity of his foreign minister who wants a detente with Italy (already prepared since his arrival in Rome, in October 1938, of the new ambassador François Poncet), earned the government a certain popularity, which it took advantage of to openly support and make the re-election as president of the republic of Albert Lebrun triumph (April 5, 1939), thus making the maneuvers of P Laval intended to have Fernand Bouisson elected to the high office, who would certainly reopen the doors of the presidency of the council to him.

The intermational situation, however, worsened: on March 15, 1939, Hitler proclaimed his protectorate over Bohemia and, at the same time, raised the Polish question, while at Wilhelmstrasse an obscure official refuted the protest note of Ambassador R. Coulondre, inferring from the declaration of 6 December a commitment by France to take no interest in the rest of Europe. But the changed attitude of the English conservatives facilitates the French government in its attempt to react: on 21 March Lebrun returns to London the visit made by the English sovereigns the previous year and the following day an exchange of notes from the two governments affirms the commitment of mutual assistance in the event of aggression. A whole series of diplomatic acts is now taking place: already on February 25, with the Bérard-Jordana agreement, followed by the sending of Ph. Pétain to Madrid as ambassador, the French government liquidated the aftermath of the Spanish affair; on 13 April it unilaterally gives its guarantee to Romania and Greece and reaffirms the validity of the Polish alliance; June 23 is the turn of a Franco-Turkish declaration of mutual assistance in the event of an aggression leading to war in the Mediterranean: later, it is followed by a protocol involving the return of the Alexandretta sangiaccato to Turkey.

All these pacts, however, in order to be truly efficient, need a corollary: the resurrection, with the inclusion of England, of the 1935 Franco-Soviet stillborn pact: at the British request, some steps are taken as early as March, and on June 15, conversations officially open in Moscow, where the Franco-British military missions arrive on August 11. This time, Franco-British diplomacy – poorly served at the Quai d’Orsay by Bonnet himself and by the secretary general A. Léger – fails completely: on August 19, the USSR signs, instead, a trade agreement with Germany and, four days later, a ten-year non-aggression pact.

France History - The Daladier Ministry

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