Courtesy Reuters

The New French Chamber

THE election of April 26 and May 3, 1936, was France's depression election. Great Britain had a comparable election in 1931, the United States in 1932, Canada in 1935; and in each case the party in power was swept out of office. So it was in France. The chief victims were the Radical-Socialists; the victors were the Socialists and Communists.

1928 1932 1936
RIGHT: Conservatives 15 5 11
Independent Republicans -- 28 --
Republican Federation 131 76 88
Popular Democrats 17 16 23
Left Republicans 106 73 84
Independent Radicals 55 68 31
LEFT: Radical Socialists 123 159 116
Dissident Socialists 48 37 37
Socialists 101 130 146
Dissident Communists 2 11 10
Communists 14 12 72
--- --- ---
                        Legal Maximum 612 615 618
                        RIGHT: 324 (53%) 266 (43%) 237 (38%)
                        LEFT: 288 (47%) 349 (57%) 381 (62%)

Political Parties: The French people are divided into two great political camps: the Right and the Left. This is the fundamental fact underlying all French politics and it should never be lost sight of in the multiplicity of parties. The number of parties has been over-emphasized. True, there were in the last Chamber 17 different political groups; but many of these exist only on the parliamentary terrain and for tactical purposes. Two outstanding authorities on French politics, Charles Seignobos and Georges Lachapelle, list only 10 or 11 parties which have real roots throughout the country. The Ministry of the Interior uses a similar number in classifying electoral returns. These parties acquire meaning if one arranges them in a hierarchy extending from the monarchists on the extreme Right to the communists on the extreme Left.

On the extreme Right are the Conservatives, i.e., monarchists. Next to them, proceeding from Right to Left, are two groups of what might be called dyed-in-the wool tories: the Independent Republicans and the Republican Federation. As parties they accept the Republic, although various members do not. Pierre Taittinger of the Republican Federation is not only the leader of the Jeunesses Patriotes but an outstanding Bonapartist and an advocate of some form of strong-man rule. The Popular Democrats are difficult to classify. They have two fundamental tenets which in the practice of French politics have always been contradictory: a strong defense of the Church and a fairly extreme social democracy. The deputies of this party vote quite conservatively. The two remaining parties of the Right are the Left Republicans of Pierre Etienne Flandin -- André Tardieu once belonged to this group -- and the Independent Radicals.

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