The 6 February 1934 crisis was an anti-parliamentarist street demonstration in Paris organized by multiple far-right leagues that culminated in a riot on the Place de la Concorde, near the seat of the French National Assembly. The police shot and killed 15 demonstrators. It was one of the major political crises during the Third Republic (1870–1940). Frenchmen on the left feared it was an attempt to organize a fascist coup d'état. According to historian Joel Colton, "The consensus among scholars is that there was no concerted or unified design to seize power and that the leagues lacked the coherence, unity, or leadership to accomplish such an end."
As a result of the actions of that day, several anti-fascist organisations were created, such as the Comité de vigilance des intellectuels antifascistes, in an attempt to thwart the rise of fascism in France. After World War II, several historians, among them Serge Bernstein, argued, while some leagues had been indisputably pushing for a coup, François de La Rocque had, in fact, turned in a liberal direction, toward a respect for constitutional order. However, if the lack of coordination among the fascist leagues undermined the idea of a fascist conspiracy, the fascist actions on 6 February were an uncoordinated but violent attempt to overthrow the Cartel des gauches government elected in 1932.
Édouard Daladier, who was president of the Council of Ministers, replaced Camille Chautemps on 27 January 1934 because of accusations of corruption (including the Stavisky Affair). Daladier, who had been a popular figure, was nonetheless forced to resign on 7 February. He was replaced by the conservative Gaston Doumergue as head of the government; this was the first time during the tenure of the Third Republic a government fell because of pressures from the street.
France was affected in 1931, somewhat later than other Western countries, by the 1929 Great Depression, which had been triggered by the Wall Street Crash of 1929 ("Black Thursday"). The economic and social crisis particularly affected the middle classes, traditional supporters of the Republic (in particular of the Radical-Socialist Party). Parliamentary instability followed, with five governments between May 1932 and January 1934, which fueled the anti-parliamentarist movement.
The latter took advantage also of a succession of political and financial scandals, such as the Marthe Hanau Affair (she had used her political supporters to attract, with her newspaper La Gazette du Franc, the savings of the petite bourgeoisie); the Oustric Affair (the criminal bankruptcy of banker Albert Oustric provoked the fall of André Tardieu's government in 1930, because of the involvement of the Minister of Justice); and, finally, the immediate cause of the 6 February 1934 demonstrations, the Stavisky Affair.
This new scandal, which involved Bayonne's Crédit municipal bank, exploded in December 1933. The embezzler Alexandre Stavisky, known as le beau Sasha ("Handsome Sasha") was linked to several Radical deputies, including a minister of Camille Chautemps's government. The press later revealed that Stavisky had benefited from a 19-month postponement of his trial because the public prosecutor was Chautemps' brother-in-law. On 8 January 1934, Alexandre Stavisky was found dead. According to the police report, he had committed suicide, a conclusion that provoked general disbelief. According to the right wing, Chautemps had had him assassinated to keep him from revealing any secrets. The press then started a political campaign against alleged governmental corruption, while the far right demonstrated. At the end of the month, after the revelation of yet another scandal, Chautemps resigned. Édouard Daladier, another leader of the Radical-Socialist Party, succeeded him on 27 January 1934.
Since 9 January, thirteen demonstrations had already taken place in Paris. While the parliamentary right was trying to use the affair to replace the left-wing majority elected during the 1932 elections, the far right took advantage of its traditional themes: antisemitism, xenophobia (Stavisky was a naturalized Ukrainian Jew), hostility toward Freemasonry (Camille Chautemps was a Masonic dignitary), and anti-parliamentarism. As historian Serge Bernstein emphasized, the Stavisky Affair was exceptional neither in its seriousness nor in the personalities put on trial, but in the right wing's determination to use the opportunity to make a left-wing government resign. In this aim, it could take advantage of the fact that the Radical-Socialists did not have an absolute majority in the National Assembly and thus the government was weak and an alternative coalition might be formed by the parties to the right.
However, it was the dismissal of the police prefect Jean Chiappe that ultimately provoked the massive demonstrations of 6 February. Chiappe, a fervent anticommunist, was accused of double standards, lenient towards the street agitation of the far-right (demonstrations, riots, attacks against the few left-wing students in the Quartier Latin by the monarchist Camelots du Roy, the youth organization of the Action Française, etc.). According to the left wing, Chiappe's dismissal was due to his involvement in the Stavisky Affair while the right wing denounced the result of negotiations with the Radical-Socialists: the departure of Chiappe would have been exchanged for support for Daladier's new government.
Right-wing anti-parliamentary leagues had been the main activists during the January 1934 demonstrations. Although these leagues were not a new phenomenon (the old Ligue des Patriotes ("Patriot League") had been founded by Paul Déroulède in 1882), they played an important role following World War I, in particular when the left wing was in power, as it had been since the 1932 legislative elections.
On the night of 6 February, the leagues, which had gathered in different places in Paris, all converged on Place de la Concorde, located in front of the Bourbon Palace, but on the other side of the Seine river. The police and guards managed to defend the strategic bridge of the Concorde, despite being the target of all sorts of projectiles. Some rioters were armed, and the police fired on the crowd. Disturbances lasted until 2:30 AM. 16 people were killed and 2,000 injured, most of them members of the Action Française.
Far-right organisations had the most important role in the riots; most of the UNC veterans avoided the Place de la Concorde, creating some incidents near the Elysée palace, the president's residence. However, Communists belonging to the rival left-wing veterans' organization ARAC may have been involved; one public notice afterward condemned the governing centre-left coalition (known as the Cartel des gauches) for having shot unarmed veterans who shouted "Down with the thieves, long live France!".
While on the right side of the Seine (north, on the Place de la Concorde), the policemen's charges contained the rioters with difficulty, the Croix-de-feu had chosen to demonstrate in the south. The Palais Bourbon, seat of the National Assembly, is much more difficult to defend on this side, but the Croix-de-feu limited themselves to surrounding the building without any major incident before dispersing. Because of this attitude, they earned the pejorative nickname of Froides Queues in the far-right press. Contrary to the other leagues which were intent on overthrowing the Republic, it thus seemed that Colonel de la Rocque finally decided to respect the legality of the republican (unlike the Action Française) and parliamentary (unlike the Jeunesses Patriotes) regime.
In the National Assembly, the right wing attempted to take advantage of the riots to push the Cartel des gauches government to resign. The left wing, however, rallied around president of the Council Édouard Daladier. The session was ended after blows were exchanged between left and right-wing deputies.
During the night, Daladier took the first measures to obtain the re-establishment of public order. He did not exclude the possibility of declaring a state of emergency, although he finally decided against it. However, the next day the judiciary and the police resisted his directives. Moreover, most of his ministers and his party withdrew their support. Thus, Daladier finally chose to resign. This was the first time during the Third Republic that a government had to resign because of pressure from the streets.
The crisis was finally resolved with the formation of a new government under the direction of former president of the Republic (1924–31) Gaston Doumergue, a right-wing Radical Republican whom the leagues seemed to accept. Qualified as a "National Union government", it included the most important figures of the parliamentary right wing, among them the liberal André Tardieu, Radical Louis Barthou, and social-Catholic Louis Marin, although also included were several members of the centre-left (the Radical-Socialist and similar smaller parties), plus War Minister Philippe Pétain, who would later lead the collaborationist Vichy regime during World War II.
Following 6 February, the left was convinced that a fascist putsch had taken place, and that it had been temporarily blocked. The importance of the anti-parliamentarist activity of far-right leagues was undeniable. Some of them, such as the Francisque, had copied all of their characteristics from the Italian Fascio leagues which had marched on Rome in 1922, thus leading to the imposition of the fascist regime. Although historian Serge Bernstein has showed that Colonel de la Rocque had probably been convinced of the necessity of respecting constitutional legality, this was not true of all members of his Croix-de-feu movement, which also shared, at least superficially, some characteristics of the fascist leagues, in particular their militarism and fascination for parades.
On 9 February 1934, a socialist and communist counter-demonstration took place while Daladier was being replaced by Doumergue. Nine people were killed during incidents with the police forces. On 12 February the CGT trade union (reformist, with loose links to the Socialist Party) and the CGTU (revolutionary, and linked to the communist party) decided to call for a one-day general strike, while the SFIO socialist party and the communist party decided to call for a separate demonstration. However, at the initiative of the popular base of these movements, the demonstrations finally united themselves into one. Thus, this day marked a first tentative union between the socialists and the communists. It had at its core the anti-fascism shared by both Marxist parties; a union had been opposed since the 1920 Tours Congress split, but this new rapprochement led to the 1936 Popular Front (consisting of radicals and socialists and supported without participation in the government by the Communist party). This antifascist union was in line with Stalin's directives to the Comintern, which had asked the European communist parties to ally with other left-wing parties, including social-democrats and socialists, in order to block the contagion of fascist and anti-communist regimes in Europe.
Furthermore, several anti-fascist organizations were created in the wake of the riots, such as the Comité de vigilance des intellectuels antifascistes (Watchfulness Committee of Antifascist Intellectuals, created in March 1934) which included philosopher Alain, ethnologist Paul Rivet and physicist Paul Langevin. The anarchist movement also took part in many antifascist actions.
Following the crisis, the parliamentary right also began to get closer to the counter-revolutionary far right. Several of its leaders would lose all trust in parliamentary institutions. Daniel Halévy, a French historian of Jewish descent, publicly declared that following 6 February 1934 he was now a "man of the extreme right". Although he personally abhorred Italian fascism or German national socialism, he went on to support the Pétain regime in Vichy. The radicalization of the right wing would accelerate after the election of the Popular Front in 1936 and the Spanish Civil War (1936–39).
The American journalist John Gunther wrote in 1940 that the Croix-de-feu "could easily have captured the Chamber of Deputies. But [de la Rocque] held his men back. 'France wasn't ready,' he explained". It was possible, Gunther said, that "like Hitler, he hopes to gain power by legal means." In the view of the far right, 6 February represented a failed opportunity to overthrow the Republic, which only presented itself again in 1940 following the balance had been tipped by the étrange défaite (Marc Bloch) or "divine surprise" (Charles Maurras), that is the 1940 defeat during the Battle of France against Germany. This deception prompted several far-right members to radicalize themselves, turning toward fascism, national-socialism or the wartime Vichy regime.
Despite the fears of the left, the 6 February crisis was not a fascist conspiracy. The far-right leagues were not united enough and most of them lacked any specific objectives. However, their violent methods, their paramilitary appearances, their cult of leadership, etc., explained why they have often been associated with fascism. Beyond these appearances, however, and their will to see the parliamentary regime replaced by an authoritarian regime, historians René Rémond and Serge Bernstein do not consider that they had a real fascist project. Opposing this view, other historians, such as Michel Dobry or Zeev Sternhell, considered them as being fully fascist leagues. Brian Jenkins claimed it was pointless to look for a fascist essence in France and preferred to make comparisons which led, according to him, to a clear convergence between Italian fascism and the majority of the French leagues, in particular the Action Française (in other words, Jenkins considers fascism an Italian historic phenomenon, and though a fascist-like movement existed in France, it should not be called "fascist" as that name should be reserved for Benito Mussolini's movement).
French legislative elections to elect the 15th legislature of the French Third Republic were held on 1 and 8 May 1932.
These elections saw the victory of the second Cartel des gauches, but the socialists and Radicals could not form a coalition government. Édouard Herriot instead formed a government with the support of the centre-right, and Radicals held the premiership up to the 6 February 1934 crisis.1936 French legislative election
French legislative elections to elect the 16th legislature of the French Third Republic were held on 26 April and 3 May 1936. This was the last legislature of the Third Republic and the last election before World War II. The number of candidates set a record, with 4,807 people vying for 618 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. In the Seine Department alone, there were 1,402 candidates.The Popular Front, composed of the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO), the Radical-Socialists, the French Section of the Communist International (SFIC), and miscellaneous leftists, won power from the broad Republican coalitions that had governed since the 6 February 1934 crisis. Léon Blum became President of the Council.
Broad Republican coalitions had governed since the 6 February 1934 crisis:
Government Gaston Doumergue II (Union Nationale, 272 days), Government Flandin I (204 days), Government Bouisson (3 days) and Government Laval IV (229 days).
For the first time, the Radical-Socialists were eclipsed on the left by the SFIO, while still keeping a considerable role in French politics.Action Française
Action française (French pronunciation: [aksjɔ̃ fʁɑ̃sɛːz], AF; English: French Action) is a French right-wing political movement. The name was also given to a journal associated with the movement.
The movement and the journal were founded by Maurice Pujo and Henri Vaugeois in 1899, as a nationalist reaction against the intervention of left-wing intellectuals on the behalf of Alfred Dreyfus. Charles Maurras quickly joined Action française and became its principal ideologist. Under the influence of Maurras, Action française became royalist, counter-revolutionary (objecting to the legacy of the French Revolution), anti-parliamentary and pro-decentralization, and supported Integralism and Catholicism.
Shortly after it was created, Action Française tried to influence public opinion by turning its journal to a daily newspaper and by setting up various organizations. By 1914, it had become the best structured and the most vital nationalist movement in France. In the inter-war period, the movement enjoyed prestige and influence, but its popularity gradually declined as a result of the rise of fascism and of a rupture in the relations with the Catholic Church. During the Second World War, Action française supported the Vichy Regime and Marshal Philippe Pétain. After the fall of Vichy, its newspaper was banned and Maurras was sentenced to life imprisonment. The movement nevertheless continued to exist due to new publications and political movements. Although Action française is not a major force in the right as it used to be, its ideas have remained influential.Battle of Cable Street
The Battle of Cable Street was an event that took place in Cable Street and Whitechapel in the East End of London, on Sunday 4 October 1936. It was a clash between the Metropolitan Police, sent to protect a march by members of the British Union of Fascists led by Oswald Mosley, and various anti-fascist demonstrators, including local anarchist, communist, Jewish and socialist groups. The majority of both marchers and counter-protesters travelled into the area for this purpose.Battle of South Street
The Battle of South Street was a riot that took place on Tuesday 9 October 1934 in Worthing, Sussex, England. The riot took place as members of the British Union of Fascists and various anti-fascist protesters clashed following a meeting of Fascists at the Pier Pavilion. The riot involved a series of clashes along and close to the length of South Street from the Pier Pavilion and the Royal Arcade at its southern end to the junctions with Warwick Street and Market Street further north.Cartel des Gauches
The Cartel of the Left (French: Cartel des gauches, IPA: [kaʁtɛl de ɡoʃ]) was the name of the governmental alliance between the Radical-Socialist Party the socialist French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO), and other smaller left-republican parties on two occasions between the World Wars (1924-26 and 1932-33). 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 and was without one clear leader. Following the 6 February 1934 crisis, President of the Council Édouard Daladier had to resign, and a new Union Nationale coalition, led by the right-wing Radical Gaston Doumergue, took power.Daniel Halévy
Daniel Halévy (12 December 1872 – 4 February 1962) was a French historian.Far-right leagues
The far-right leagues (French: ligues d'extrême droite) were several French far-right movements opposed to parliamentarism, which mainly dedicated themselves to military parades, street brawls, demonstrations and riots. The term ligue was often used in the 1930s to distinguish these political movements from parliamentary parties. After having appeared first at the end of the 19th century, during the Dreyfus affair, they became common in the 1920s and 1930s, and famously participated in the 6 February 1934 crisis and riots which overthrew the second Cartel des gauches, i.e. the center-left coalition government led by Édouard Daladier.For a long time, the French left wing had been convinced that these riots had been an attempted coup d'état against the French Republic. Although contemporary historians have shown that, despite the riots and the ensuing collapse of the governing left wing, there had been no organized plans to overthrow Daladier's Radical-Socialist government, this widespread belief led to the creation of the anti-fascist movement in France, and later to the dissolving of these leagues in 1936 by the leftist Popular Front government headed by Léon Blum.France in the twentieth century
The History of France from 1914 to the present includes:
the later years of the Third Republic (1870–1940)
World War I (1914–1918)
Interwar Period (1918–1939)
World War II (1939–1945)
the Fourth Republic (1946–1958)
the Fifth Republic (since 1958)François Coty
François Coty (born Joseph Marie François Spoturno; 3 May 1874 – 25 July 1934) was a French perfumer and businessman. He was a founder of the fascist league Solidarité Française. The company he founded in 1904 is now Coty, Inc., based in New York City.Gaston Doumergue
Pierre-Paul-Henri-Gaston Doumergue (French pronunciation: [ɡastɔ̃ dumɛʁɡ]; 1 August 1863 in Aigues-Vives, Gard – 18 June 1937 in Aigues-Vives) was a French politician of the Third Republic.
Doumergue came from a Protestant family and was a freemason. Beginning as a Radical, he turned more towards the political right in his old age. He served as President of the Council (prime minister) from 9 December 1913 to 2 June 1914. He held the portfolio for the colonies through the ministries of Viviani and Briand until the Ribot ministry of March, 1917, when he was sent to Russia to persuade the Kerensky government not to make a separate peace with Germany and Austria. He was elected the thirteenth President of France on 13 June 1924, the only Protestant to hold that office. He served until 13 June 1931, and again was Prime Minister in a conservative national unity government, following the riots of 6 February 1934. This government lasted from 6 February to 8 November 1934.
He was widely regarded as one of the most popular French Presidents, particularly after highly controversial Alexandre Millerand, who was his predecessor. Doumergue was single when elected, and became the first President of France to marry in office.According to "Rail Tales of the Unexpected" (Kenneth Westcott Jones, David St John Thomas, Nairn, 1992), Doumerge was involved in an unusual railway incident in the autumn of 1926. Travelling to Germany on the Orient Express around 1 am he accidentally opened an external door and fell from the train. His disappearance was not noticed until the train was approaching Augsburg. Eventually his whereabouts was ascertained and he was brought by car to rejoin his party. After falling out he first made contact with a signalman along the track. The signalman was reportedly unimpressed by the dishevelled elderly gentleman in night attire claiming to be the President of France. The signalman is reported to have responded with "And I'm the Emperor Napoleon!". Doumerge suffered only minor cuts and bruises.Georges Valois
Georges Valois (real name Alfred-Georges Gressent; 7 October 1878 – February 1945) was a French journalist and politician, born in Paris. He was a member of the French resistance and died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.Great Depression in France
The Great Depression affected France from about 1931 through the remainder of the decade. The crisis affected France a bit later than other countries, hitting around 1931. While the 1920s grew at the very strong rate of 4.43% per year, the 1930s rate fell to only 0.63%. The depression was relatively mild: unemployment peaked under 5%, the fall in production was at most 20% below the 1929 output; there was no banking crisis. The depression had some effects on the local economy, which can partly explain the 6 February 1934 crisis and even more the formation of the Popular Front, led by SFIO socialist leader Léon Blum, who won the election of 1936.Je suis partout
Je suis partout (French pronunciation: [ʒə sɥi paʁtu], lit. I am everywhere) was a French newspaper founded by Jean Fayard, first published on 29 November 1930. It was placed under the direction of Pierre Gaxotte until 1939. Journalists of the paper included Lucien Rebatet, Alain Laubreaux, the illustrator Ralph Soupault, and the Belgian correspondent Pierre Daye.Jeunesses Patriotes
The Jeunesses Patriotes ("Young Patriots", JP) were a far-right league of France, recruited mostly from university students and financed by industrialists founded in 1924 by Pierre Taittinger. Taittinger took inspiration for the group's creation in the Boulangist Ligue des Patriotes and Benito Mussolini's Blackshirts.
According to the police, the Jeunesses Patriotes had 90,000 members in the country and 6,000 in Paris in 1932. Its street fighters were led by a retired general named Desofy, and were organized around Groupes Mobiles, paramilitary mobile squads of fifty men, outfitted in blue raincoats and berets. The group stated its willingness to combat the "Red Peril" and the Cartel des Gauches (Left-wing Coalition), and chose to back Raymond Poincaré who came to power after the Cartel des gauches.
The organization retreated in 1926, but made a comeback in 1932, with the Cartel des Gauches 's electoral victory, and took part in the February 6, 1934 riots, an anti-parliamentary street demonstration in Paris in the context of the Stavisky Affair. In 1936, the Popular Front government outlawed the Jeunesses Patriotes and other nationalist groups.Pierre Pucheu
Pierre Firmin Pucheu (27 June 1899 – 20 March 1944) was a French industrialist, fascist and member of the Vichy government. He became after his marriage the son-in-law of the Belgian architect Paul Saintenoy.Robert Brasillach
Robert Brasillach (French pronunciation: [ʁɔbɛʁ bʁazijak] (listen)) (31 March 1909 – 6 February 1945) was a French author and journalist. Brasillach is best known as the editor of Je suis partout, a nationalist newspaper which came to advocate various fascist movements and supported Jacques Doriot. After the liberation of France in 1944 he was executed following a trial and Charles de Gaulle's express refusal to grant him a pardon. Brasillach was executed for advocating collaborationism, denunciation and incitement to murder. The execution remains a subject of some controversy, because Brasillach was executed for "intellectual crimes", rather than military or political actions.Robert Francis (writer)
Robert Francis, pen name for Jean Godmé, (1909–1946) was a French writer, winner of the 1934 edition of the Prix Femina.Solidarité Française
Solidarité Française ("French Solidarity") was a French far right league founded in 1933 by perfume manufacturer François Coty and commanded by Major Jean Renaud, they dressed in blue shirts, black berets, and jackboots, and shouted the slogan "France for the French". While Marcel Bucard's Francisme imitated Italian fascism, Solidarité française imitated the Nazi party.
Coty, former owner of Le Figaro, the sponsor of a newspaper which styled itself L'Ami du peuple after Jean-Paul Marat's (being nonetheless anti-republican), called himself the French Duce. He had financed the syndicalist proto-fascist Georges Valois and his Faisceau in the 1920s, the Croix-de-Feu in the early 1930s, finally deciding to form his own faction.
The movement claimed a strength of 180,000 in 1934, with 80,000 in Paris; the Parisian police thought the number in Paris closer to 15,000. The small membership did not however isolate Coty's group: the Solidarité Française found itself integrated in the loose coalition of far right movements such as Action Française and Pierre Taittinger's Jeunesse Patriotes. In this context, Coty's financing found its importance, as L'Ami du peuple had a fairly large circulation.
The group gained notoriety during the rally and later riot during the 6 February 1934 crisis, in front of the Parliament seat in the Palais Bourbon. It was dissolved by a law adopted by the Popular Front government of Léon Blum in June 1936. Many members of Solidarité Française subsequently joined Jacques Doriot's fascist Parti Populaire Français (PPF).