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The Rise of Fascism in France
What was the quality of French government in the 30’s?
-notoriously weak, composed of coalitions of many parties, involving several
national scandals
i.e. Stavisky Affair – a financier who had sold worthless bonds to the public
had involved French gov’t premier Chautemps… had to resign after accusations
that Stavisky’s suicide was murder by Chautemps police
Rise of extremist groups…
Croix de Feu – right wing fascist organization
La Cagoule – extremist group set up to resist imaginary communist takeover
Le Front Populaire – 1936
-a coming together of radical socialists and Communists to form a common front
against a Fascist threat
-banned the Croix de Feu and promised social and economic reforms – quickly
split over foreign policy
really, a movement promoted by Stalin… who was consumed that Nazi
Germany was a danger
Communists were to work with liberals, socialists and any anti-fascist forces in
their country
-welcomed by foreign communists as it gave them a chance to share in
governing their countries
*the CCF in Canada soundly rejected the Front Populaire overtures
-Popular Front shows how flexible the USSR can be in pursuing its revolutionary
-the Pop Front made communism more respectable in Western Europe and N.
America (i.e. 12 000 votes in BC provincial election out of Vancouver)
-they were sadly disillusioned when during the Pop Front era Stalin signed a
secret agreement with Germany
-today communism does poorly in democratic countries, except France and Italy
as it is the “poverty party”
Moves Towards European Security
The Locarno Pact of 1925
This introduced a new era into European affairs which brought an air of optimism
to Western Europe. It was actually a series of treaties:
a) UK, Fr, Belgium, Italy, and Germany agreed to guarantee existing frontiers
and demilitarization of the Rhineland
b) Fr, Germany, and Belgium agreed not to make war
-UK had to guarantee frontiers in Europe
-Germany relieved that no more occupation
France allieved of some of her fears of German aggression
-however, left new Eastern states on their own… security in
the West = insecurity in the East
Germany enters the League
the Locarno era represents the only period of stability and hope for
lasting peace during the interwar years in Europe
Kellogg-Briand Pact (Pact of Paris) 1928
This agreement was supported by the USA, simply denouncing war as a
method of solving disputes
-did nothing effective to outlaw war
-failed to define the concept of “self-defense” so that obvious aggessors
could claim self-defense in attacking another country
1935 – The Stresa Conference
by ’35 Hitler solidly in power, and he wanted to incorporate Austria into the Reich
-the governments of Br and France had a common interest with Fascist Italy in
wanting to keep Germany out of Austria
April 1935
-they met at Stresa and pledged to uphold Austrian independence (T of V against
Anschluss)… however many Austrians desired the union with Germany
*Italy had been a fascist state by 1923 but by 1935 was not a firm ally of
Germany. Mussolini did not want to share a common frontier with the Nazis
The Stresa Conference was an attempt to persuade Fascist Italy to work together
with Britain and France
The Front Failed…
1. Britain and Italy looked to their own self-interests
(Britain and Germany negotiated and agreement where the German navy could
increase its size)… “Anglo-German Naval Agreement”
(Italy had dreamed of recreating a Roman Empire, so he invades Ethiopia)
UK and France – by condemning Italy it will drive them into the arms of
Hoare-Laval Agreement – Britain and France say Italy should get most of
Mussolini sees how strong he would be with an Italian-German alliance
by this move!!!
The conference was a total failure.
Conclusion – German democracy failed to survive the economic crisis
which developed after 1929
-thus, the Weimar Republic faltered from crisis to crisis until 1934 –
Reichstag surrendered its sovereignty to Hitler
paradox of decades…
1919-29  the bitter consequences of defeat accepted
1929-39  the savage triumph of German nationalism as Germany
becomes master of continental Europe… prelude to the catastrophe of
The great dilemma of the 1920’s and 30’s in Europe was whether to preserve
peace by collective security and arms limitations or by military alliances and the
building of strong navies
We should not be too critical of their efforts as today in the name of national
security the US has the most massive security affairs.
The great dilemma is still with us – 50 years ago or today we still do not know
how best to ensure our national security.