Bachelor of Arts
Leon Blum, France, British, Government, Spanish Civil War, Spain
This study will investigate Blum's response to the Spanish Civil War. Contemporaries and later scholars have differed in their assessments of this response.
First, Blum's most recent biographers, Colton and Lacouture, maintain that his fear of taking risks prevented him from taking a strong stance in support of the Spanish Republic. Blum's perception of his duties as a democratic leader within a coalition government were reinforced by his personal qualities. Writes Colton, "his desire not to offend political allies or even strong opponents, his role as conciliator and advocate of compromise, his strong sense of moral integrity, his faith in the integrity of others" limited Blum's vision of alternatives to nonintervention. Colton and Lacouture accuse Blum of a naive and misguided faith in the cooperation of national leaders, borne of his socialist ideals. The nonintervention policy embodies the tragedy of this faith.
To other contemporaries and Blum, the nonintervention policy was the only alternative to civil war in France. Anthony Eden related in his memoirs an interview with the Portuguese Foreign Minister, Senhor Monteiro, who had come away from France "apprehensive." "He would be much relieved if France got through the next few months without some serious internal conflict." "Monteiro," Eden went on, "was one of the first to think that France might be shattered, because the hatreds within the country were greater than the hatred of same Frenchmen for the foreign enemy."
Would a majority of the French have followed Blum into Spain? Blum said it was impossible for him to risk war without the consent of public opinion. But according to Blum's former Minister of Aviation, the working class "would have willingly given up the advent of an unquestionably just social legislation to help the Spanish Republic."
Thirdly, still other historians view Blum's policy from the perspective of dissension within the Popular Front itself. Lacouture argues, for example, that since the Communist Party refused to participate in the cabinet, Blum's political stand depended on alliance with the more moderate Radical Party. When one considers that the two most influential Radical ministers in the circumstances, the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Delbos) and the Minister of National Defense (Daladier), became, respectively the symbol and the defender of nonintervention, it is justifiable to say that in the Spanish affair, the Radical party, half the Popular Front on the governmental level, exercised an invincible force of obstruction. Any policy claiming to provide long-term aid for the Spanish Republic would obviously have led to a cabinet crisis and a breaking of the Popular Front "contract." How "obvious" was the threat of the Radical Party
Fourthly, some explain that Blum advocated nonintervention aware that a rebel victory was likely, that Italy and Germany would have sent more arms to Spain anyway, and that the French military establishment supported the Franquists. Did Blum accurately gauge the strategic threat? How much authority did Blum exert over the military, and did this affect his decision? "While prepared to justify his policy in terms of military exigencies, it seems unlikely he was so susceptible to their dictates, "observes historian Robert Young. He adds a "stunning fact": ... in this crucial three-week period, preceding the nonintervention decision, the government failed to consult the French chiefs of staff on the precise nature of the strategic menace or on the kinds of operations which could be mounted against it. The last prevailing argument is that the British government forced nonintervention on France. "Rightly or wrongly," wrote Pierre Cot, "it looked as if the non-intervention policy would be the only way of preventing England from aiding Franco." On the other hand, others, such as the British Minister in Paris, Hugh Lloyd Thomas, confirmed this rumor was government-directed, to "appease the hostility of the extreme elements within their country, which looked like getting them into international complications.
This thesis will answer the above questions in an attempt to assess the major reasons for Blum's response to the Spanish Civil War.
Schechter, Gail, "Leon Blum: Socialist and French Premier During the Spanish Civil War" (1984). Honors Papers. 632.