Popular Front: Has Léon Blum turned in his grave or not as Emmanuel Macron claims ?

Popular Front: Has Léon Blum turned in his grave or not as Emmanuel Macron claims ?

Eté 1936 : Léon Blum sous les projecteurs et sous les caméras. MAXPPP

Popular Front: Has Léon Blum turned in his grave or not as Emmanuel Macron claims ?

Une affiche du centre de propagande des républicains nationaux.

Is the leader of the Popular Front of 1936 betrayed by his heirs of 2024 ? The bridges between the two eras are in any case telling, between political instability and the rise of right-wing extremism. "That's not what the Popular Front is", asserts President Macron, who also places a banana skin on the route of the New Popular Front: "anti-Semitism& ;quot; supposedly of rebellious France, while Léon Blum was a victim. His great-grandson answers him.

"I have had a thought over the last 24 hours for Léon Blum", says the President of the Republic , Emmanuel Macron, on June 12. "If there is one who must turn in his grave, it’is Léon Blum, thinking that we called the Popular Front an electoral alliance which will give 300 constituencies to LFI, therefore to people who have made it very clear not to condemn anti-Semitism. That’s not what the Popular Front is, it has meaning in our history, it has a role, it has dignity. That's not it."

So what was the Popular Front ? On paper, not many differences with today in any case: major political instability, rise of fascism, rsquo;right-wing extremism, meeting of a left-wing bloc led by Léon Blum…

In addition to the Radical Party, the coalition included the two sworn enemies of the time: SFIO on one side (the Socialist Party) and SFIC on the other (the future PCF, French Communist Party), divorced since the split of the congress of Tours in 1920. However, fourteen years later, in 1934, there was a glimmer of hope, a peace that was still somewhat armed, but a peace nonetheless. Blum, the deputy from Narbonne, was still as reluctant to work with the communists. But he had to resolve to do so. The situation was serious.

“No to fascism”

On February 6, 1934, a demonstration by far-right leagues on the Place de la Concorde in Paris degenerated. Nineteen dead, more than a thousand injured and fall of the Daladier government.

Popular Front: Has Léon Blum turned in his grave or not as Emmanuel Macron claims ?

SFIO demonstration in reaction to the crisis of February 6, 1934. DIES

Six days later, on February 12, a left-wing demonstration sealed a rapprochement, around a common banner: "No to fascism". Two distinct processions (SFIO and CGT on one side, PCF and CGTU on the other) merged at Place de la Nation. On June 26, with the green light from Moscow, Maurice Thorez, head of the PCF, officially called for unity of action. On July 27, an anti-fascist action unity pact was signed. We would call it Popular Front.

Popular Front: Has Léon Blum turned in his grave or not as Emmanuel Macron claims ?

Mobilizations in 1934. CC BY SA

A year later, on July 14, 1935, a large-scale demonstration (the figure of 500,000 people has been put forward) stretched between Bastille, République and Nation. The left-wing parties took the solemn oath to remain united to disarm and dissolve the factional leagues, to defend and develop democratic freedoms and to ensure human peace.

The Popular Front overtaken by its left

Popular Front: Has Léon Blum turned in his grave or not as Emmanuel Macron claims ?

The newspaper Le populaire, support of the socialist party, hailed the victory, the SFIO overtaking the radicals, the day after the legislative elections of 1936.

In the 1936 legislative elections, the Popular Front won after an undecided first round: 57% in the second round on May 3. The SFIO goes beyond the radicals. It holds the upper hand with 149 deputies, followed by the Radical Party with 115 seats and the PC 72. The program, in addition to the dissolution of the leagues, provides for the reduction of the working week without loss of salary, the creation of ;rsquo;a national unemployment fund, the right to retirement…

Popular Front: Has Léon Blum turned in his grave or not as Emmanuel Macron claims ?

Strikes are increasing everywhere in France. CC BY SA

President Lebrun did not designate a government until a month later, on June 4. The people, who want to strike while the iron is hot, have had time to raise the stakes. The Popular Front is overtaken by its left: strikes are spreading like wildfire. The Matignon agreements, on June 8, ratify the law on 40 hours and paid leave.

Popular Front: Has Léon Blum turned in his grave or not as Emmanuel Macron claims ?

On July 14, 1936, demonstration in the presence of Thérèse and Léon Blum (top left), Maurice Thorez, Roger Salengro, Maurice Violette and Pierre Cot.

On July 14, the united left celebrated the victory around Léon Blum, Maurice Thorez, Roger Salengro, Maurice Violette and Pierre Cot (photo above). The joint adventure will last two years. It stopped in April 1938, against a backdrop of internal dissensions and a financial crisis linked to the armament plan.

So, yes or no, would Blum turn in his grave in the Jouy-en-Josas cemetery ? The Popular Front of 1936 was indeed a "an electoral alliance" just as much as the New Popular Front of 2024, between parties which had not previously been spared. "The situation is comparable", insists Aude historian Rémy Pech. "The communists treated the socialists as social traitors, social fascists. It was war."

He would still see a difference with 2024: "The left was forced to create an emergency Popular Front while that of 1936 had matured for two years, with committees which were not automatically affiliated with political parties. Macron may have rushed things out of fear that mayonnaise would take a left turn if we gave him time".

L’great-grandson of Léon Blum responds

Another distinction: the extreme left of the 1930s weighs much less than today. And Blum, a tutelary figure, had a more consensual profile than Leader Maximo Mélenchon. One put oil in the wheels, the other put it on fire.

There remains the banana peel left on the ground by Emmanuel Macron: "anti-Semitism" that’ LFI would not like " to condemn". Blum would turn in his grave because he's Jewish… At a time when Charles Maurras compared him to "human trash" which "with a kitchen knife".

Popular Front: Has Léon Blum turned in his grave or not as Emmanuel Macron claims ?

Léon Blum after the attack he suffered on February 13, 1936. CC BY SA

Léon Blum targeted as a Jew

On February 13, 36, while returning home to Île Saint-Louis, in Paris, Léon Blum's car was stopped in a traffic jam. Members of Action Française recognized him and wanted to lynch him. He is saved by workers, but he is injured in the head and neck.

That same evening, the Council of Ministers decided to dissolve the far-right movements. Three months later, Blum became head of the Popular Front government: "The Jewish band managed to capture part of the working class “, lamented the newspaper L'Action française on June 5, 1936, the day after Blum's appointment. The title of the front page is abject: "France under the Jew".

Popular Front: Has Léon Blum turned in his grave or not as Emmanuel Macron claims ?

The abject title of the newspaper L'Action française the day after the appointment of the Blum government.

"The memory of Léon Blum, Jewish, victim of so many insults and anti-Semitic attacks, is invoked to disqualify this agreement as New Popular Front, under the pretext of the supposed anti-Semitism of France Insoumise", puts forward the great-grandson of Léon Blum, Antoine Malamoud, in a blog published by Mediapart.

"The fact that LFI has made many imprudent or risky statements must be criticized and condemned", specifies Antoine Malamoud. But in his eyes, “it is at the heart of the thinking of the extreme right that anti-Semitism is structurally present, whatever the camouflage“.

Popular Front: Has Léon Blum turned in his grave or not as Emmanuel Macron claims ?

Clashes between far-right leagues and the police on February 6, 1934. CC BY SA

In Paris, the riot of February 6, 1934

The extreme right leagues (National Union of Combatants, Action Française, Jeunesse Patriote and Croix-de-Feu) demonstrated on February 6, 1934 against the Daladier ministry, following the ;Stavisky affair and the transfer of Paris police prefect Jean Chiappe.

Reputedly close to Action Française, he has just been dismissed by the Daladier government. For the anecdote, Jean Chiappe had a brother, Ange, of sinister memory, prefect of Gard between 1940 and 1944, shot in front of the arenas of Nîmes in 1945 for acts of collaboration.


Popular Front: Has Léon Blum turned in his grave or not as Emmanuel Macron claims ?

Édouard Herriot (radical party), Léon Blum (SFIO) and Marcel Cachin (PCF), caricatured in an anti-communist poster from the propaganda center of the national republicans. CC BY SA

In the region, in 1936, the scores of the Pop Front'

The Popular Front, in the region, did not panic the counters in 1936. "By the number of votes it received, the left seems to have regressed a little compared to 1932", notes historian Marianne Caron in her thesis “The Popular Front in Bas-Languedoc and Roussillon”.< /p>

"The Radicals, in the South, position themselves as the party of order, they will seek a conservative electorate", explains historian Fabien Nicolas. Radicals do not throw themselves into the arms of socialists, much less communists. The context of "fierce competition makes the Popular Front electoral cartel impossible in Béziers, citadel of radicalism". The mayor of Béziers, Auguste Albertini, was re-elected in the first round as a deputy in 36, facing a socialist. In the three districts of Biterrois, "no candidate claims to belong to right-wing or far-right parties that are active in Hérault, only candidates who are members of parties belonging to the electoral cartel of the Popular Front clash", specifies Fabien Nicolas. Times have changed.

All the deputies from Languedoc and Roussillon elected in 1936 are classified on the left, with the exception of two of the three deputies from the Catholic and conservative Lozère. In Hérault, a slight subtlety: the mayor of Montpellier, Paul Boulet, is not classified on the left but manages his town hall with the SFIO. In Gard, two communist deputies entered parliament for the first time in the region.

If the election did not unite the Popular Front in Languedoc, on the other hand, the public excitement was considerable. "Scenes of jubilation punctuated the outcome of the election", specifies political scientist Emmanuel Négrier. "This is perhaps also what is common between 1936 and 2024: the union has long been viewed with suspicion by the apparatuses but it is insistently requested by the electorate."

"When the election results were announced on the evening of May 3, 1936, the crowd took to the streets to show their joy", recalls Marianne Caron. But massive gatherings are coming, starting June 14. "Huge crowds, brass bands playing the Internationale and the Marseillaise, forests of flags, popular balls" are on the menu. More than 10,000 people demonstrated in Nîmes, 15,000 in Perpignan, 7,000 in Narbonne, 3,000 in Carcassonne, 2,000 in Beaucaire. The demonstrations were a little late. The first strikes too. They are triggered "with a clear delay" compared to Paris.

The progression of communist ideas worries socialists. For the radicals, this is the beginning of the end. They lose national leadership to the SFIO. The Second World War buried them. "The leaders of the maquis and the departmental liberation committees were socialists or communists, the laundry was done at the Liberation", summarizes Rémy Pech . Many radicals, like one of their leaders, Audois Albert Sarraut, voted full powers to Pétain.

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