France and Non-Intervention
Repository: Bibliothèque Municipale de Toulouse, Toulouse, France
Creator: Gouvernement municipal de la ville de Toulouse
Fond or Collection
Bulletin municipal de la ville de Toulouse
Repository and Location
Bibliothèque Municipale de Toulouse, Toulouse, France
Date Created: 1936-06
Extent: 1 item
Geographic Region: Toulouse, France
Léon Blum (1872-1950) was the head of the Popular Front government in France when the Civil War broke out. The previous month, his Socialist Party (SFIO), in alliance with the Radicals and the Communist Party, had won elections and formed a coalition cabinet with the Radicals that had the support of the Communists. On July 19, he was contacted by his Spanish counterpart, José Giral who also led a government that came out of a Popular Front electoral alliance, urgently requesting assistance in the form of military supplies. After consulting with Foreign Minister Yvon Delbos and War Minister Édouard Daladier, both from the Radicals, and with the Communist Party, Blum agreed to do so two days later.
In addition to democratic and anti-coup solidarity, it was in France’s interest to have an ally in a future war with Germany and to ensure communication with its colonies in North Africa. Even so, Blum’s decision provoked immediate criticism from some elements of the Radical Party, the right, the Catholic hierarchy and some Catholic public opinion, and the army. They were afraid that his support for the Republic would contribute to starting a new war in Europe and, even more, that the revolutionary outbreaks that the military coup had provoked in the Republican zone would spill over into France. Facing intense public controversy and the opposition of Albert Lebrun, the president of the Republic, Delbos and Daladier changed their minds, leaving Blum and the other Socialist ministers isolated. Blum was also subject to intense pressure from British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden. From the first moment, these Conservatives had been opposed to helping the Republic. Doing so, they believed, would undermine their policy of appeasing Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy and be dangerous for British economic interests in Spain that were under threat from the revolutionary left. After an intense debate in the cabinet on July 25, the French government changed its position.
A week later, on August 1, Blum proposed that the countries of Europe sign a Non-Intervention Agreement that would prohibit the sale of weapons to both sides in Spain. Britain supported the initiative and at the end of the month every country in Europe except Switzerland, a total of 27, signed. Non-Intervention did not stop the war, but it did provide some cover for the British refusal to support the Republic. Above all, the agreement was repeatedly violated by Germany, Italy, the Soviet Union and, at times France. It turned into a farce that contributed significantly to Franco’s victory in 1939.
When France itself was defeated by Germany in June 1940, Léon Blum was arrested by the collaborationist Vichy government, which handed him over to the Nazis as a Jew and a leading leftist. He was sent to Buchenwald concentration camp but survived and would briefly lead a new government in 1946 and 1947.