Political will and swimming suits
As is well known, if French people can get a tan on the beach during summer season, it is, first of all, thanks to the Popular Front government (“Front Populaire“).
Directed by Leon Blum from June 1936, the latter instituted the two first weeks paid leave. Three others followed in 1956, 1969 and 1982. In the meantime and among other measures, salary increases were negotiated, collective agreements were signed, the 40 hours working week was adopted.
Nonetheless, we sometimes forget these social advances are not the result of a national and international favourable context: economical and financial crisis, massive strikes, violent political confrontations, increasingly deafening sound of jackboots in Europe, etc.
The Popular Front policies provide us, above all, a conception of human being in which individual is not turned into a simple reproducer. These policies also teach us it is feasible, with a real political will, not to sacrifice the citizens’ interests for the sake of circumstances, whatever they may be.
Nonetheless, it is true, Front Popular actions were not free of critics. For instance, we can definitely think about its colonial policy or its non-intervention during the Spain war. And to make matters even worse, Leon Blum was faced to increased difficulties until the fall of his first government (June 22, 1937). However, we can conclude from this short experience that prioritize individuals stays a choice and that politicians can make great things when they are giving themselves the means to do so. It is true from the French beaches; it is also true from the Greece ones. Who says change lives is not possible during troubling times?
TO GO FURTHER:
DENOYELLE Françoise, CUEL François, VIBERT-GUIGUE Jean-Louis, Le Front populaire des photographes, Paris, Editions Terre Bleue, 2006, 224 p.
GUERIN Daniel, Front Populaire, Révolution manquée, Paris, Actes Sud, coll. Babel, 1999, 513 p.
KERGOAT Jacques, La France du Front populaire, Paris, La Découverte, 2006, 413 p.
MARGAIRAZ Michel, TARTAKOWSKY Danielle, LEFEUVRE Daniel, Le Front populaire, Paris, Larousse, coll. L’œil des archives, 2009, 239 p.
VIGREUX Jean, Le Front populaire : 1934-1938, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, coll. Que sais-je ?, 2011, 127 p.
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