The political structure of the Third Republic and Leon Blum, 1936-1937



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Individualism, division, and compromise characterized the Third French Republic from its beginning in 1875 to its demise in 1940. Four years of debate were required after 1871 to hammer out the constitution which established a Parliamentary form of government with so many limitations that the executive power was severely curtailed. As a consequence, 105 Cabinets rose and fell during the seventy years the Third Republic existed; the average life span of each Cabinet was five and one-half months. The heritage of the French Revolution was maintained in the freedom of expression which allowed members of the Chamber of Deputies to group together for the exchange of ideas but prohibited them from uniting in well organized, disciplined political parties. The desires of the citizenry were thus voiced through their independent delegates who owed the people first allegiance. Léon Blum’s elevation to leadership grew out of a grass-roots movement of the people which was formed principally to combat fascist influences then on the increase in France. The Front Populaire proposed a program for action, but it could not bind the professed leaders of the movement into a solid organization. Thus, although a majority of the French male voters supported the Front, the structure of the Republic and the lack of solid political parties contributed importantly to the fall of the Blum Cabinet. In May 1936, sit-down strikes throughout the nation obtained for the French people many of the social reforms which were called for in the program of the Front by applying the necessary pressure to get 133 laws enacted during the first 73 days of the Blum Regime. Blum’s resignation on June 22, 1937 came as a result of the refusal of the Senate to accept his request for emergency powers. The demise of the government of Blum greatly disappointed the people who had supported him even though they had grown cool over some specific parts of his program.



Third French Republic, establish Parliamentary form of Government, Executive power limited, desires of the citizenry