ON THE Sixth of February the divorce between French public opinion and the French world of politics became manifest for all to see. It had been so complete that down to the very last moment Parliament and the Government had failed to perceive the extent and the violence of public dissatisfaction. Wholly engrossed in parliamentary manœuvres and election worries, they had lost touch with the people. They did not know how devastating the depression had been, that the people gradually were coming to feel that the mere casting of a ballot was not the way to express themselves clearly, and that stronger measures would be required if they were to make their voices heard through the partitions separating the political world from the rest of the country.
All through January the passions of Paris had been mounting as the scandals in the courts, in politics and in finance were brought to light. The members of the Government had so little perception of the public state of mind that they looked upon the restlessness in the streets as a demonstration engineered by the extreme Right. Then on the evening of the Sixth of February it added a technical blunder to its psychological misapprehensions. It crystallized the vague sentiments of 90,000 people who were out in the streets looking about for a way to express themselves, and at one stroke transformed them into 90,000 rioters.
The Sixth of February was the day of the middle classes. The depression reached France somewhat later than other countries, and so did not attain its peak till late in 1933 and early in 1934. Its effects were not as visible in France as elsewhere, since the number of unemployed in proportion to the general population was not so high as in the United States, England or Germany. That was partly due to the fact that large numbers of foreign laborers who had come from Poland, Czechoslovakia or Italy during the "boom" years simply were dismissed and sent home. The depression
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