Gustave Hervé (1871–1944) at the Extremes of the French Third Republic
Chapter 29 The Popular Front and Hervé’s Return to His Ancestral Faith
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The Popular Front began as a coalition of the Left against the menace of fascism and only later became a coalition government. It was a product of both the Depression and the rising fear of fascism. Robert O. Paxton recently described the coming of the Popular Front this way: “The economic goals of the three parties [Radicals, Socialists, and Communists] were in conflict, but they were pulled together by a desire to defend the French Republic against fascism. United mainly by this political cause, they found themselves obliged to deal primarily with economic depression.”1 It certainly aroused hopes that instigated a wave of sit-down strikes which were the largest popular uprisings since the Commune. However, the Popular Front did not involve that collection of revolutionaries, that ghastly specter so glibly conjured up by the Right. It was a coalition of anti-fascists. One could argue that the Popular Front was a success because fascists did not take power. However, the Popular Front aroused such great unmet expectations that many of its supporters soon became disillusioned.2 The vote totals on the Left had not changed much since 1932, but their distribution had shifted markedly toward the more extreme Left. What was especially novel was that the Radicals, who had been the dominant force on the Left for decades, were now displaced as the major party by the S.F.I.O., much as the Radicals had displaced the Opportunists forty years earlier. The Communist vote doubled and the Socialists became the...
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