France History – The Third Republic Part II

France History - The Third Republic 2

According to EXTRAREFERENCE, the struggles through which the republic had established itself had two consequences: the prevalence of the legislative power over the executive with the consequent dangers of the excesses of parliamentarism, and the formation of a stormy political atmosphere. Among the crises of particular gravity there was the one caused by the movement led by gen. Boulanger with nationalist and revenge tints and with dictatorial tendencies (1887-89); that for the scandal of the company formed for the cutting of the Isthmus of Panama (1892); and above all that which broke out around the case of Captain Dreyfus, unjustly convicted of espionage in favor of Germany (1894). The Dreyfusist crisis gave rise to vehement contrasts, which confronted the currents of the right (including the Catholics who entered in 1892 in the republican orbit, and the nationalists and monarchical survivors) and leftist parties, advocates of the innocence of the condemned. The revision of the process in 1899 constituted the substantial success of the left parties, with the prevalence of these (radicals, radicals-socialists, socialists) in the political life and in the government of the republic, which was accompanied by the development of a heated anticlericalism that resulted in the fight against the congregations (1903), in the conflict with the Vatican and in the denunciation of the Concordat (1906). The fact that the republic was able to overcome the various crises and consolidate itself showed the vitality and strength of the new regime and the progressive decline of the monarchical currents, ultimately reduced to representing small but combative minorities.

The consolidation of the republican regime was accompanied by the return of France to a great international policy, the first successes of which occurred in the colonial field, just ten years after the Treaty of Frankfurt and the Commune., with the protectorate of Tunisia (1881) and with the occupation of Indochina and Djibouti (1883-85). To this was added the agreement with Russia, first in the form of a generic agreement (1891), then under that of a real alliance (1893) in sharp contrast to the system of the Triple, created ten years earlier by Bismarck also to isolate the victory of 1870 and paralyze the ambitions of revenge. At the time of the formation of the Double, the third republic was in difficult relations not only with Germany, in the face of which French patriotism always considered the question of Alsace-Lorraine open, but also with England for maritime rivalry and colonial in Africa and Asia, and with the Italy that a large part of French public opinion from 1870 onwards regarded with suspicion and aversion, both for the lack of solidarity in the war against Prussia and for joining the triplicist system. Italian-French relations had been particularly difficult in the early years after 1870, when the clerical-monarchical currents prevailing in the assembly seemed at certain moments ready to act to give Rome back to the pope. The upper hand of the republicans after 1877 had improved the situation, which however became critical again in 1881-1882, due to the French coup in Tunisia, carried out in such a way as to harm not only the interests, but also the Italian susceptibility, and for the formation of the Triple. L’ The clearly triplicate imprint that Italian politics had in the decade in which the dominant political figure in Italy was Crispi (1887-1896), which kept the atmosphere between Rome and Paris stormy. But the last few years of the last century saw a change in French foreign policy towards England and Italy. Colonial tension with England, which came at the critical moment of the impact on the Sudan question at Fashoda (1898), gave way to an agreement in which France began to subordinate its maritime and colonial interests to those of England, in view of establishing a system with England substantially aimed at facing Germany. This movement, which began with the African agreement in 1899, resulted in the Anglo-French general understanding of April 1904. Likewise, the tension with Italy slowed down after the fall of Crispi, and through the conclusion of conventions relating to the condition of Italians in Tunisia (1896) and a commercial treaty (1898), the way was opened that led to an agreement Mediterranean (1900), confirmed and expanded in 1902 with the addition of a mutual neutrality clause in the event of a defensive war. The new political orientations, which had the greatest advocate in the Foreign Minister T. Delcassé, while assuring France the development of colonial expansion in Morocco, greatly improved its international position, especially vis-à-vis Germany. This aimed at reacting to French politics, repeatedly seeking in Morocco the ground to paralyze it (landing of William II in Tangier, 1905; Agadir coup, 1911). But the crises that the German attempts caused had no other result than to aggravate Franco-German relations, despite the apparent provisional arrangements (decisions of the Algesiras Conference 1906; Franco-German agreement of autumn 1911, which left Morocco to France, in exchange for the cession of a part of the French Congo to Germany). The dissension created by the Alsace-Lorraine question was unbridgeable; and when the hour of the world conflagration came, France and Germany found themselves fatally confronted again ( war).

The war caught France in a particularly critical hour of domestic politics; because, while an awakening of nationalist patriotism had taken place, which was also manifested by the election as president of the republic of Raimondo Poincaré, a Lorraine resident and advocate of a resolute policy (1913), the democratic and socialist currents, prevalent in parliament, agitated for the reduction of military service. But the enemy invasion, which immediately presented itself with much more formidable proportions and characters than in 1870, suppressed the struggles and contrasts and determined that sacred union, which together with military heroism and the aid of the allies allowed France to reach the salvation and final victory, even after more than four years of terrible trials.

The peace treaty that the vanquished Germany was to sign at Versailles on June 28, 1919, and which was integrated with those imposed on minors adversaries (Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Turkey) not only destroyed the Treaty of Frankfurt, but opened up new avenues for France. of development and power. In fact, in Europe France regained the provinces lost in 1871, temporarily occupied a part of German territory, and managed to build around the defeated Germany, and at the expense of this and its allies, a series of states linked to the French political system. Outside Europe, in Africa and Asia, it greatly enlarged the already vast and rich colonial empire, with part of the German colonies and with the mandate over Syria. Furthermore,

But even more than the concern for economic and financial recovery, the concern for maintaining the situation created by the victorious peace dominated in post-war France, that is, the so-called problem of security. At first, in the immediate post-war period, under the influence of the nationalist currents that the war had excited, the solution to the problem was sought in a tightening of politics towards defeated Germany, to which the oppressive device of the 1919 pacts was lent and which culminated with the occupation of the Ruhr (1923), aimed not so much at pressing on Germany to make it pay for all the reparations, as at better compressing it and dominating it politically. This nationalist policy was also intertwined with ill-concealed aspirations towards a kind of continental hegemony,

A change, or at least an attenuation of such guidelines, threatening in the long run for peace, manifested itself when, in 1924, the revival of democratic currents in the elections in which the left cartel triumphed, and at the same time the natural alleviation of tensions and exasperations fermented with the war, led to the pursuit of peacekeeping in a conciliation with Germany, with the consequent loosening of the grip of the treaties. The policy was inaugurated which had A. Briand as its characteristic exponent and which led to the Locarno pact (1925), the Young plan (1929), and the early eviction of the Rhine occupations (1930). But the resistance against further developments of such a policy remains strong.

Thus the third republic is now faced with the problem of reconciling the just requirements of French security with the needs of European peace, which require the renunciation of hegemonic aspirations and the true reconciliation between winners and losers, which can only be reached through a radical transformation of the spirit. which he dominated in 1919 at Versailles and in the peace treaties.

France History - The Third Republic 2