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Léon Blum (1872—1950) French statesman, Prime Minister 1936–7, 1938, 1946–7.

Spanish Civil War

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Popular Front

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A governing coalition of parties which was formed during the 1930s, including the Communist party. This was facilitated by a new directive of the world Communist movement, the International, which now encouraged its members to abandon previous policies of non‐cooperation in favour of building a common front against Fascism. Although open to all pro‐democratic parties, the PF was supported principally by left‐wing parties. PF governments were intrinsically unstable due to the heterogeneity of their members, and because some of their members, notably the Communists and the socialists, competed for the same electorate.

In Spain, it was the election of a Popular Front government by a narrow margin in February 1936 which increased the divisions with conservatives and contributed to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Despite chronic disunity among its members about the nature and extent of the reforms to be undertaken, the Popular Front proceeded to transform the economy along collectivist lines, while adminstrative power was given to workers' and peasants' councils. The PF was defeated by General Franco in early 1939.

In France, a Popular Front government was led by L. Blum from 1936. Its social reforms included the introduction of a 40‐hour working week, paid holidays, and collective bargaining. However, the PF was unable to overcome the financial difficulties caused by its social programme, which was accompanied by a sharp increase in military expenditure. Blum had to resign when the Communist Party, which had refused to join the Popular Front but upheld its majority in the Chamber of Deputies, rejected Blum's policy of non‐intervention in the Spanish Civil War. There followed a number of short‐lived governments supported by the same coalition, but the PF finally broke up in the wake of the Munich Agreement.

In Chile, a PF government, which was directed not so much against Fascism as against the military, was established in 1936. The Radicals dominated the coalition: hence their more moderate policies of furthering state involvement in economics received priority over welfare reform. Alarmed by the steady rise in Communist support, however, and influenced by the Cold War, the Radicals switched sides to end the Popular Front and cooperate with the right to outlaw and persecute the Communists in 1948.

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