Cartel des Gauches


Cartel des Gauches

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

The first "Cartel des gauches" (1924-26)

The "Cartel des gauches", formed by the Radical-Socialist and the SFIO, created itself in 1923 against 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 gathered 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 socialist "Section Française de l'Internationale Ouvrière" (SFIO - French Section of the Second International). 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 Edouard Herriot, and broke up in 1926, with the SFIO passing in the opposition. Capital flight and the failure to retrieve the reparations created a monetary crisis, which led to the call of right-wing Raymond Poincaré. As soon as Poincaré formed a new government, composed of the right-wing and of the radicals, the monetary crisis ended.

The second "Cartel des gauches" (1932-34)

The right-wing then won the 1928 legislative elections, with 329 right-wing deputies against 258 for the left. As in each election, 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"). Governments succeeded themselves, 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 Edouard Daladier had to resign before the pression of the street. 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", as the royalist "Action Française" called the Republic. This prompted an anti-fascist coalition in the left, with the creation of 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.

See also

*Capital flight
*France in Modern Times (1920-today)
*French Third Republic (1871-1940)
*Radical-Socialist Party (France)
*SFIO
*History of the Left in France


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