Between Justice and Politics: The Ligue Des Droits de L'homme, 1898-1945

By William D. Irvine | Go to book overview

SEVEN
From the Popular Front
to the Fall of France

The Popular Front was a critical turning point in the history of the League. In the wake of the frightening events of February 6, 1934, all elements on the French Left began to recognize the need for unity, aware as they were that, as had been the case in Italy and Germany, left-wing disarray threatened to open the door to fascism in France. In addition to preserving the democratic Republic, left-wing unity would rescue both the Socialists and the Communists from the counterproductive sectarian strategies in which they had been enmeshed. Entry into a broad left-wing coalition of republicans also served the Radicals because it might lead the public to overlook the fact that the crisis of 1934 owed not a little to their governmental incompetence and corruption. Long and difficult negotiations between the Socialists and Communists began in the spring of 1934; by the summer of 1935 they were joined by the Radicals and several score of other minor groups in the Rassemblement Populaire.1 The union was sealed with a triumphal manifestation in Paris and in most major towns of France on July 14, 1935. In Paris, a majority of the speakers at the founding rally of the Rassemblement Populaire (Basch, Ferdinand Herold, Paul Rivet, Julien Racamond, Eugène Frot, Léon Jouhaux, and Marc Rucard) were or would be members of the Central Committee. Victor Basch presided over the organizing committee of the Rassemblement Populaire whose permanent headquarters were also those of the League at the Rue Jean Dolent. A contemporary observer described Emile Kahn as the “work horse [of the committee] . . . conciliatory, discreet and adroit.”2 Both Basch and Kahn were in their element, deploying their considerable energy and diplomatic skills to minimize the often serious disagreements with the coalition’s partners. Indeed, the League and most of its subsequent historians considered the Rassemblement Populaire to be very much its own creation.3 Not since the Dreyfus affair had the League played such a prominent role in the defense of the Republic.

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Between Justice and Politics: The Ligue Des Droits de L'homme, 1898-1945
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Between Justice and Politics - The Ligue Des Droits de L'homme, 1898–1945 iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • One - Origins, Organization, and Structure 5
  • Two - Ici on Ne Fait Pas de la Politique 20
  • Three - Politics, Yes, but Not Electoral Politics 53
  • Four - Liberty with All Its Risks 81
  • Five - The League from below 111
  • Six - War and Peace- 1914–1934 132
  • Seven - From the Popular Front to the Fall of France 160
  • Eight - Vichy 194
  • Epilogue 213
  • Notes 225
  • Bibliography 255
  • Index 257
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