The French Popular Front, 1936–37

  • David A. L. Levy


When French people cast their minds back fifty years to the time of the Popular Front, their most vivid memories tend not to be of Léon Blum or of the first socialist-led government in French history, but rather of the strikes of May and June 1936 that accompanied Blum’s election. The scale of the strikes alone would have been sufficient to make the time memorable. There were more strikes in the single month of June than there had been during the previous fifteen years. But the factory occupations which accompanied the strikes also contributed to the festive atmosphere for which June 1936 is remembered. There were often open days and concerts in the occupied factories and entire communities would go to lend their support, to give food to the strikers, or simply to enjoy themselves. If the atmosphere surrounding the strikes was quite novel, so were the results of the workers’ action. Under both the impetus and the threat of the strikes, the newly elected Popular Front government reacted with unparliamentary haste. According to one reckoning, 133 laws were passed in a mere 73 days.1 The changes included the introduction of paid holidays for workers, a forty-hour week, substantial wage rises and improved trade union rights.


Trade Union Factory Occupation French People Radical Party Trade Union Movement 
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© Helen Graham and Paul Preston 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • David A. L. Levy

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