Cartel des Gauches

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The Cartel des gauches (French for Left-wing Coalition) was the name of the governmental alliance between the Radical-Socialist Party and the socialist French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO) after World War I (1914–18), which lasted until the end of the Popular Front (1936–38). The Cartel des gauches twice won general elections, in 1924 and in 1932. The first Cartel was led by Radical-Socialist Édouard Herriot, but the second was weakened by parliamentary instability. Following the 6 February 1934 crisis, President of the Council Édouard Daladier had to resign, and a new Union Nationale coalition, led by conservative Gaston Doumergue, took power.

The first Cartel des gauches (1924-26)[edit]

The Cartel des gauches, formed by the Radical-Socialist and the SFIO, was created in 1923 as a counterweight to the conservative Bloc National, which had won the 1919 elections with 70% of the seats (the "Blue Horizon Chamber"). Formed by the Alliance Démocratique, the Fédération Républicaine, Action Liberale (issued from the right-wing members who had "rallied" themselves to the Republic), the nationalists and a part of the radicals, the Bloc National had played on the red scare following the 1917 October Revolution to win the elections.

The left-wing coalition included four different groups: the independent radicals (the right-wing of the Radicals); the Radical-Socialist, which had united together, the Socialist Republicans and independent socialists (Paul Painlevé) and the SFIO. The Cartel organized a network of committees in the entire country, and started publishing a daily newspaper (Le Quotidien) and a weekly, Le Progrès Civique.

Due to the division of the right-wing, the Cartel won the elections on 11 May 1924, after the French government's failure to collect German reparations even after occupying the Ruhr. The left-wing obtained 48.3% of the votes, and the right-wing 51.7%, but the Cartel gained the majority of seats, with 327 against 254 (the right-wing and the first communist deputies). The new majority was led by Édouard Herriot, and broke up in 1926, with the SFIO passing into the opposition. Capital flight and the failure to retrieve the reparations created a monetary crisis, which led to the creation of a new government by the right-wing Raymond Poincaré. As soon as Poincaré formed his new government, composed of the right-wing and of the radicals, the monetary crisis ended.

The second Cartel des gauches (1932-34)[edit]

The right-wing then won the 1928 legislative elections, with 329 right-wing deputies against 258 for the left. As in previous elections, the radicals presented themselves with the left.

In 1932 the second Cartel won the elections, but there was no left-wing majority associating the radicals with the SFIO. The socialists asked for specific conditions in exchange for their participation in the government (known as "conditions Huygens"). Several governments fell in quick succession, each led by radicals allied with the "moderates". This parliamentary majority, distinct from the electoral majority, was weak. This parliamentary instability, coupled with the Stavisky Affair, provided a pretext for the 6 February 1934 riots organized by far right leagues. The following day, the radical-socialist president of the Council Édouard Daladier was forced to resign due to pressure by the rioters. It was the first time during the Third Republic (1871–1940) that a government fell because of demonstrations, and the left-wing became convinced that its fall was assisted by a fascist conspiracy to overthrow la gueuse (the beggar), as the royalist Action Française called the Republic. This prompted the creation of left-wing anti-fascist coalitions including the Comité de vigilance des intellectuels antifascistes and other similar groups. This broad left-wing coalition eventually led to the formation of the Popular Front, which won the elections in 1936, bringing to power Léon Blum.

Further reading[edit]

  • Colton, Joel. Léon Blum, Humanist in Politics (1968)
  • Jackson, Julian. The politics of depression in France 1932-1936 (2002)
  • Jackson, Julian. The Popular Front in France: Defending Democracy, 1934-38 (1990)
  • Larmour, Peter. The French Radical Party in the 1930s (1964)

See also[edit]