Courtesy Reuters

Reforming the Bank of France

DURING the few weeks it has been in power, the Blum Government has enacted a broad program of reforms. Certain of these reforms were submitted to and adopted by Parliament under the pressure of immediate circumstances. Others were part of a program which had received careful consideration, which had been the subject of controversy before the election, which were the substance of electoral promises. The reform of the Bank of France belongs to this latter category. In conjunction with the bill for the nationalization of war industries, central banking reform was a subject on which the parties of the Left, unified in the Popular Front, were in complete accord. It was one of the major planks in the Popular Front platform, and it proved to have great propaganda value. It provided the Left with two excellent slogans. "Down with the Regents" implied that the administrators of the Bank of France were an enemy to be conquered. The other -- that the Banque de France should become the Banque de la France -- is difficult to translate. In general it implies that the Bank of France should become the Bank of Frenchmen, that the country's leading financial institution should no longer serve private but national interests.

The extent of the popular support behind the Bank reform is reflected in the vote, 444 to 77, by which the Chamber adopted the bill. Opponents could only muster 77 votes, although the Opposition normally amounts to 220. What happened was that 76 deputies of the Right abstained from voting at all, while some 60 others joined forces with the Left. The Senate, the bulwark of social conservatism, accepted the project, 190 to 74. These figures are significant, for they show the magnitude of the Popular Front's success. They also show the influence which it has acquired over men who, earlier, were either neutral or hesitant.[i]

Victory over the Bank of France is symbolical: it was the assault on the citadel, the fall of the Bastille of the moneyed aristocracy. But it is a

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