The Dark Side Part III Chapter II - Fritz the Cat

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The Dark Side Part III
Chapter 2

Blum’s Popular Front was to contain the Communist, Socialist, and the Radical-Socialists, the latter the representatives of the rural petit bourgeoisie. It united with the two labor unions and intellectuals to demand a suspension of the fascist leagues. The well-to-do saw it as a threat to their privileges. Both sides began preparing for the election of the spring of 1936.

(pg 239)  Groups formed and reformed with fuzzy solutions to the crisis, but Hitler's rise tended to focus their attention. Conservatives in France and England both wanted to oppose Hitler for as long as his expansionary policy was directed to the east.  On October 9, 1934, French Foreign Minister Barthou was assassinated. He was of the school of Clemenceau and Foch who had pulled France through WWI, and had been trying desperately to force and alliance with Russia and to rearm.  He was replaced by Laval who wanted an alliance with Italy. (pg 244)  On March 16th, 1935, Hitler decreed a conscript army of half-a-million men, twice the size of the French army. France was still militarily superior to Germany, and Hitler's conscription decree gave it the right, under the Versailles treaty, to occupy Germany, which surely would have been the end of Hitler. Still France, Italy, and England met Hitler's decree with statements only during the Stresa pact.

(pg 245)  Laval went to Russia and forged a pact, but one with the teeth of the 1914 agreement pulled, with a clause stipulating that the Council of the League of Nations, Great Britain, and Italy would have to certify Germany's aggression before either party was required to intervene.
Moreover, the pact did not include a military convention. Laval delayed presenting it for ratification before the chamber, and it was not to take effect until a year after its ratification. By then the French policy of containing Hitler was in ashes, and the Republic, more divided than ever. The French military was also timid, not wanting to provoke Hitler by forming alliances against him, but Hitler was determined to go about his business regardless of the papers signed against him.

The French left, in common with Britain and Russia, world to stand up to Hitler, but not to0 the point of going to war.  The French right was equally pacifist and wished to accommodate Mussolini and Hitler, with whose ideologies it increasingly sympathized with, and was hostile to Russia. The Right's fear of communism was sharpened by a massive Popular Front demonstration on July 14, 1935, Bastille Day.

On October 3, 1935, Italy invaded Abyssinia, adding to the chaotic European political situation. Laval had made a secret agreement with Mussolini accepting this, but his allies were adamant in moving for League of Nations sanctions. Sanctions came, and Laval did what he could to undermine them. On Dec 9, with Italy using poison gas and indiscriminately bombing in its advance, British foreign minister Sir Samuel Hoare and Laval signed an agreement giving Mussolini the better half of Abyssinia. British public anger at the move forced Hoare to resign and Prime minister Stanley Baldwin, after first approving, to abandon the agreement.

(pg 248)  Despite Laval’s' best efforts, Mussolini felt betrayed and repudiated its previous Stresa agreements. France lost Italy in its Anti-German front as well as the conception of collective security under the League of Nations. In May of 1936 Emperor of Abyssinia fled and the King of Italy declared himself emperor of Abyssinia. That spring the League of Nations died. Germany pressed forward its rearmament and in a year or two at most would be stronger than France. Russia pressed France for an alliance, but the Right's fear and hatred of communism blinded the French to the necessity until it was too late. The Abyssinian war put a severe strain on Anglo-French relations.

(pg 249)  Britain wanted French aid in the Mediterranean and in Abyssinia for what the French saw as imperial motives, but refused a definite agreement to come to France's aid if Germany attacked, and while joining Italy and France in protesting Germany's violation of the Versailles Treaty at Stresa, it had already signed a secret agreement with Hitler giving him the right to ignore the Versailles treaty, regarding the size of Germany's navy. French diplomacy, once the wonder of the world, was in shambles. The Right feared communism and the left feared fascism.  Domestic quarrels were more venomous than ever. Hitler was aware of the opportunities this presented.
(pg 252)  In May of 1935 Hitler secretly instructed the German High Command to prepare plans for the military reoccupation of the Rhineland, in contravention to the Versailles treaty. As early as October 1934 the French consul general in Cologne reported on a hasty construction program designed to accommodate a military incursion, but no attention was paid in Paris, but by the fall of 1935 alarm bells began to ring.

With the New Year the French government and High Command were aware that Hitler was preparing to move into the Rhineland. Timidity and hesitation reigned in Paris. Would the British fulfill its obligations to support France after having made the secret naval treaty with Germany? Britain and France each wanted concrete assurances from the other while leaving its own freedom of action unrestrained.

(pg 254)  The French government was astounded at the military's appraisal of its weakness in the situation. On the other side, the German generals feared the French army and considered the reoccupation too big a risk. The French could mobilize a million trained men in 8 days, vastly superior to Germany's yet untrained conscript army, and enter the unoccupied Rhineland itself, but didn't want to appear to be the aggressor or to act alone.  Britian pushed France to renegotiate the Versailles Treaty in Germany's favor.  France was wavering, her generals studying the situation and nothing more.

(pf 257)  In the middle of January Army Chief of Staff Gamelin was deluged with reports of German preparations, yet did nothing but request supplemental military credits. In addition he grossly exaggerated the strength of the Germany Army, as he was to do o the very end. The French high command seemed more like a university faculty than a fighting force. They continued to mark time. France, at this crucial time became more interested in the April election than the activity of its neighbors. The French counsel for Cologne, Jean Dobler, was finally permitted to come to Paris to make his report on German preparation to reoccupy the Rhineland. On February 13 the French consul in Dusseldorf, Henry Noel, wired French Prime Minister Flandlin that German officers in civilian clothes had arrived in the city. On February 27 the French cabinet decided that in the event of a German reoccupation that they would not act alone but would consult with the British, Belgian, and Italian governments, and reserved the right to take preparatory measures, yet waited a week to notify the British, who seemed relieved, as did Belgium.
(pf 260)  On March 2, Hitler gave orders to reoccupy the Rhineland on March 7. Later confidential papers revealed that the Germany military reserved the right to retreat if met with armed resistance. At dawn on May 7 the Germans entered, yet it was several hours before the French finally accepted the fact. At 10 AM Hitler began a two hour rant before the Reichstag denouncing the Franco-Soviet pact and the Locarno Treaty and promising peace if France did not respond.

(pg 262)  According to Prime Minister Surraut the civilians were united in demanding an immediate military response, while the military wanted time to prepare. This after a move that had been months in the making, by a relatively small German detachment, as was easily observable to civilians on the scene, but the French generals were confident in France's short term power, and equally confident in its long term weakness, should they be forced to face Hitler alone.

The British ambassador demanded that the French not take action without consulting them, yet Hitler had entered the Rhineland on a Saturday, as he had a year earlier when he tore up the Versailles treaty, knowing of the traditional weekend in the country of the British Cabinet, giving himself 48 hours to consolidate his hold. British Prime Minister Baldwin was determined to let things drift. He knew little of foreign affairs and cared less.

On Saturday evening French Prime Minister Surraut made his decision to appeal to the League of Nations. The Sunday papers disclosed that the French public was even less inclined to action. The Right-wing press reiterated the opinion that opposing Hitler would only benefit Russia. The left commensurated with a country that had seen a part of its territory demilitarized for 17 years and advise3d accepting Hitler's promise of peace.  The French government decided on Sunday to appeal to the League of Nations, no doubt apprehensive of the effect the risk of war and mobilization would have on the elections due in 3 weeks.

Three battalions of German infantry entered the Rhineland, and no tanks. The Panzer divisions had been founded only six months earlier and were in no state for combat. French General Gamelin had, by the end of the second day, done nothing but put the Maginot line on alert. He was waiting, as he said, for British and Italian reinforcement. The British did everything possible to avoid doing anything. Foreign Minister Anthony Eden resisted placing financial and economic sanctions against Germany, although for five months he had been hounding France to back such sanctions against Italy. He delayed a Paris meeting until Tuesday, and would agree to that only if no decisions be arrived at, placing responsibility on a Friday League of Nations meeting, where they would no doubt register a formal protest against another German violation of treaties.

(pf 275)  The French military was completely out of date. The old men who led it offered the politicians the alternative of total mobilization, at the cost of 30 million francs a day, and which would be viewed as aggressive by the rest of the world, or doing nothing. The British were adamantly opposed to anything slightly risking war. On March 19 Britain reaffirmed its obligations under the Locarno Treaty, after having just reneged on them, and agreed to a series of requests to be made of Hitler in order to normalize relations, all of which Hitler rejected.

(pg 280)  British intransigence did not leave France completely alone, as the French generals liked to complain.  France also had treaties with Poland and Czechoslovakia, who together had a larger and better trained army than Germany, with the Czechs better armed than Germany. Moreover, they were closer to Germany than Britain, and ready to back France against Germany. Had France acted decisively in her own interests and crossed the border to meet Hitler, others would have surely backed her.

Material gathered after the war made clear that Hitler and his generals knew that if their bluff was called they were doomed. Instead the European structures of peace and security set up in 1919 collapsed.  After Hitler had fortified the Rhineland the French could no longer promise her eastern allies quick penetration into Germany, even with more resolute generals.  

(pg 282)  Poland and Czechoslovakia realized that a timid French army that would not cross into an undefended Rhineland would certainly not enter a fortified one. Hitler's position with the German people, who rejoiced at his show of force, was strengthened, and his ascendence over his generals was furthered. He had showed them how hollow their fear of the French army was, and opened vast new possibilities for conquest in the east
(pg 282)  In addition, Belgium defected from its military alliance with Britain and France, and Italy slipped over into the German camp, angered at the sanctions imposed after its invasion of Abyssinia (by the colonial giants France and Britain), and impressed by Hitler's cheap victory. After in effect asking Britain for permission to defend itself, France's foreign policy (or lack thereof) deteriorated further. Soon it would be asking Germany's permission to act.

Hitler had replaced Germany's WWI generation of high army officers with younger, more ambitious ones. During the U.S. Civil War President Lincoln had replaced four generals before he found some who would take the war to the enemy. President Bush Jr, in the lead-up to the 2nd Gulf War, perhaps conscious of his father's failure to solve the Saddam problem, informed his gathered generals – "We are not going for a tie here." Yet the French generals Gamelin and his subordinates were still in control when Hitler's blitzkrieg, four years later put a full stop to any French pretensions to glory on the world stage, a glory they show no signs of recovering to this day.  The loss of population during the First World War and the loss of morale during the second were the grave yard of their empire.

Did Hitler time the Rhineland invasion not only for a Saturday when the British political class was relaxing in the country and not to be disturbed, but also for a few short weeks before the most important election, in the minds of nearly every Frenchman, since the previous epic battle between the Left and Right, that is, between the haves and the have-nots, in 1877?

The Left, the Popular Front, the combined Socialists, Communist, and Radical-Socialist parties, plus the two great labor unions, had shown their size and power the previous Bastille day in Paris, and did not want a war to intervene in their plans. The right, the wealth-holders and traditional rulers of France, would do anything to protect the wealth their families had accumulated over generations, and in a few cases, scores of generations, from a class of politicians whose corruption had just been evinced by a series of scandals, and whose ineptitude was evinced by the continuing depression. The stories of their Russian cousins, fallen from grace and now living in poverty in Paris, was their crystal ball. If a war was to come, let it at least wait until they had that wealth which could be transported out of the country. The influx of European gold into U.S. custody would both strengthen and disrupt the U.S. economy in the coming years and lay the foundation for the far from inevitable transfer of world hegemony from the old world to the new.

France further divided - the Popular Front and the Spanish Civil war 1936-7

(pg 285)  Leon Blum, Socialist leader and one of the principal architects of the Popular Front coalition, had been beaten nearly to death by a gang of Action Francaise and Camelots du Roi youth. Had a nearby group of construction workers not intervened, his end was certain. Blum, a Jew whose family had recently emigrated from Germany, had been marked for death on the front page of Action Francaise's newspaper by Charles Maurras, leader of the party and editor of the paper. The attack, leaving Blum unable to campaign for the April 26 election, galvanized the left and raised questions among many moderates, whose votes were recognized as decisive by everyone, as to what kind of treatment they could expect from the Right. The French proletariat, whose standard of living could only be described as "shocking," had violently disturbed their rich neighbors' peace in 1848 and 1871. This election would be no less disturbing.

85% of the electorate turned out. The Socialists and Communists gained votes at the expense of the Social-Radicals, whose participation in the previous conservative government, with its deflationary fiscal policy and regressive taxation, had hurt not only the poor but the middle class, and pushed many of its members further to the left.

(pg 286)  In 424 of the 598 electoral districts of Metropolitan France, no party received a majority and a run off the following Sunday was held, where only a plurality was necessary. This second round is where the division for power between the socialists and communists had always allowed the right to triumph. Now instructions from Moscow, as mentioned earlier, were for the Communists to put that contest off to another day and insure the solidity of the left vote lest the fascists take power exactly as Hitler had done three years earlier in Germany. Was Stalin's belated wisdom the result of his peasant education, or did the legendary craftiness of the Russian peasant look to a complete the reshuffling of the European deck to Moscow's advantage, as had happened after WWI? The left won the vote by 1,400,000 out of 10 million votes. The popular Front gained a strong majority in the Chamber of Deputies, 378 to 220.

This was France's chance to modernize. They were still in the agricultural age when everyone around them was industrializing. This in spite of their leadership in many industrial innovations, including the tank and airplane, as noted earlier. Perhaps it was the balmy climate, so conducive to an afternoon in an outdoor cafe, discussing, discussing, discussing. And an evening at the theater, amazed at the wit these discussions had evoked.

(pg 287)  The long overdue social and economic reform essential to industrialization required these leisure hours to be spread more evenly. Twelve hour days, day in and day out, in a cramped spoil servicing a machine was not equivalent to 16 hour days in the open during planting and harvest time. Higher pay, paid vacation, shorter working hours, and collective bargaining rights for all employees, new policies to get a stagnant economy moving, curbs on financial speculation, and reforming the Bank of France to serve the country’s needs and not those of its depositors, were all on the agenda.

The Parisian food market at this time was emblematic of French society. There was an incredible gap between the low prices paid by the producer and the high prices paid by the consumer. It was old fashioned, over centralized, protectionist, inefficient, corrupt, and impervious to change. Its veneer of vitality concealed a core of decay. It was sustained by a nexus of private interests, agents, concessionaires, dealers, and middlemen.

The elections spawned all manner of disorder. France was on the gold standard, and in the first week after the elections Frenchmen cashed in 2.5 billion francs for gold, so urgently needed in France, it was instead put to work in the U.S. The same tactic had been employed in the previous left government of Herriot in 1924, and effectively.

Blum, the new premier, had to wait a month before assuming office, and the caretaker government of Surraut did nothing to stop the flight of capital out of the country. Blum had assured the rich that the new government would be working strictly within capitalist parameters, to no avail.
For 30 years the socialists had refused to be part of a "bourgeois" government, meaning that no one, not even Blum, had any cabinet experience.  Another crisis struck while Blum was waiting to assume office. The workers, perhaps beguiled by demagogues seeking votes, and elated by the election results, refused to wait for the wheel of justice to begin turning, insisted on going on strike across the country. Though the party and union apparatus (and the vast majority of French workers were unorganized) begged them to go back to work, from May 26th on strikes grew like wildfire. The day before Blum took office, June 3, there were 350,000 Parisians on strike, and double that in the rest of the country.

Moreover, the strikers copied a tactic originating in the Detroit, Michigan auto factories. Instead of just refusing to work and forcing the owner to train new workers from out of the abundant unemployed, the workers occupied the factories, forcing the employer to settle or evict them forcibly. The conservatives were enraged and even Blum admitted they were illegal, but he could do nothing.

For 30 years Blum's socialist party had refused to participate in "bourgeois" governments, and now the communist and union Deputies refused to participate in this. On Saturday, June 6, Blum presented his government (which included the novelty of three women undersecretaries in a country where the women could not vote) and outlined the program of the Popular Front, which, beside the labor measures demanded by the strikers, called for public-works projects, nationalization of the armament  industry, reform of the Bank of France, a Wheat Office to stabilize farm prices, raising the mandatory school age, a repeal of the cuts in salaries of the civil servants, and pensions for war veterans. He received a decisive vote of confidence 384 to 210.

It would be an uphill battle, to say the least. The bourgeoisie feared that Blum was another Lenin, or perhaps Kerensky, capital was fleeing the country, the Treasury was broke, the economy dead, sit-in strikes immobilized industry, Mussolini was completing the conquest of Abyssinia, Hitler was consolidating his hold on the Rhineland (the ancient invasion route) and feverishly rearming, and neighboring Spain, under a new Popular Front of its own, was sliding into anarchy and almost certain civil war.

In addition France's ancient anti-Semitism, in abeyance since the Dreyfus affair, burst out anew, even on the floor of the chamber, but especially in the right-win press. Though Blum was the only Jew in the cabinet, and only two of his ministers were Jews, the press portrayed Blum as surrounding himself with Jews. The Right loathed Blum as a Jew, as a socialist, and as the leader of a Leftist government. The Left saw him as a savior.

Sunday June 7, Blum brought together leaders of the employer's association and the General Confederation of Labor in the Hotel Matignon to resolve the sit-ins. Before the night was over they reached agreement. The workers would evacuate the factories and end their strike in return for 7-15% increase in wages, the industry's acceptance of the principle of collective bargaining, the right of unions to represent workers in negotiation with management, and no reprisals against workers for joining a union. Furthermore, the government assured the workers that Parliament would quickly legislate a 40-hour week and a two week vacation with pay. The CGT announced jubilantly that in reality this meant a 35% rise in wages. The right-wing press sourly agreed.

Yet the workers were reluctant to agree and the strikes spread. On June 11 an estimated 2 million workers were on strike. All week long Blum and his cabinet ministers worked day and night to persuade the workers to end their strike. The Communist Party could not control its own members. Leon Trotsky in exile in Norway encouraged the workers to arm themselves.  Four days after the Matignon agreement the Chamber passed on nearly unanimous votes the various provisions, with the Senate acting the same way.    By June 18, within 10 days, laws that had been on the agenda for 20 years were passed, the only important social legislation of the entire 3rd Republic, over 60 years old.

On Bastille Day, in a massive Parisian demonstration, a jubilant Blum proclaimed 1936 equivalent to the great years of 1792, 1848, and 1870. The advance in social justice had strengthened the bond between the French worker, the Republic and the country. The cause of the workers struggling for social justice and the Republicans struggling for civil and political liberties, Blum said, must be indissolubly linked.

The Import of the Spanish Civil War

(pg 296)  The crisis in France was aggravated by the crisis in Spain. Spain had created its own Republic only five years earlier, and its own Popular Front only two months earlier than France. Since elections the Spanish Popular Front had seen its most vital task, if it was to even survive, as replacing the army officer corps, overwhelming monarchist or fascist and picked almost exclusively from the Spanish nobility, with few officers loyal to the Republic.  The government had retired many on full salary, thinking this would make them happy. Instead, it gave them the money they needed to conspire among each other. The Army Chief of Staff, General Francisco Franco, had not been forced into retirement, but had been dismissed from his post and sent to the Canary Islands to command a small post.

By the beginning of 1936 the workers and peasants, mostly uneducated and elated by their electoral victory, thinking their troubles over and thirsty for revenge after years of savage repression, even from the bourgeois Republic, were burning castles and churches and sometimes killing priests, nuns, monks, and grandees. Wildcat strikes, some among the million strong anarchist syndicate, the world's most organized and dedicated anarchist movement, before or since, were breaking out daily. The anarchists were against any government, including the Popular Front. Political assassinations left any leader, Left or Right, feeling hunted. The unemployed generals were plotting to bring back the king and restore the authority of the Catholic Church. Four days after Blum's triumphant Bastille Day speech insurrection spread from Morocco, where it had broken out only a day earlier, to mainland Spain.

The Spanish Popular Front government asked the French Popular Front government for arms, and Blum agreed, thinking he could keep it secret. Word leaked out and the French Right erupted in rage. The British entreated Blum to show restraint, fearing the war they thought they had just escaped in the Rhineland. Blum's own ministers in a few short days discovered inconveniences and difficulties in their own plan. Blum was not an effective or dynamic leader in the affair.  If Blum had shipped the original military aid it should have been enough to stop Franco. The trickle of arms that did reach Spain from France was only enough to keep the popular Front Government on life support. Blum had a choice to redress affairs when, on July 30, three Italian bombers were forced to land in Algeria and Morocco, and were found to be carrying arms for Franco. Surely this was an opportunity to aid an ally who wasn't terrified of war, being in one already, but rage on the right and timidity on the left prevented any action.

(pg 300)  Even moderates in France feared that the arming of the Spanish government would lead to the ideological civil war breaking out in Spain crossing into France, which was certainly ripe for it. British, pressure on France to avoid intervening in Spain, increased.  The French diplomatic corps proposed a non-intervention pact among the great powers regarding Spain. A convenient fiction or Blum, the lifelong pacifist, who nevertheless sent 55 planes, mostly bombers and fighters, to Madrid. France was isolated in Europe on the Spain question, and on August 8, a depressed and frustrated Blum agreed to go through with the non-intervention pact, surely knowing that though Germany, Italy, and Russia might sign, they would arm their champions anyway.

It has been said that the Spanish Civil War was a warm-up to the 2nd World War. Perhaps at this early date, the European conservatives still believed that Hitler would really expand only eastward, and then rid them of this new Soviet monstrosity? If so, perhaps letting the fascists and communists have their warm-up war in Spain made sense. It could have also been a warm-up for the proxy wars between the east and west that followed without letup after WWII in Korea, Vietnam, Angola, Mozambique, Afghanistan, Central and South America, and certainly in the Middle East.

German and Italian men and material aided Franco blatantly while Britain kept a tight lid on aid to the Republic. British Prime minister Stanly Baldwin and British diplomat Anthony Eden later shed crocodile tears over their naiveté in the affair, but they always knew what was going on. Realistically, it was surely not in the interest of the conservatives who ruled in Britain to risk even the chance of a repeat of the Russian revolution that close to their shores. For his part, Blum's timidity in facing the issue was due to his quite rational belief that the French officer corps was very sympathetic to Franco and that French support to the Republic that threatened Franco could very well result in a French coup d’état, as was attempted on February 6, 1934, but this time with the backing of the military.

On August 24, 1936 Hitler doubled the length of time of service required of its draftees to two years, which would double the size of the army soon.  France already required two years of its conscripts, and with her smaller population could not match Germany man for man, as she had shown in 1914.  The French General Staff, on Sept. 8, 1936, said that its only hope in war was for more and improved tanks and planes.  The day before the cabinet had announced a special credit of 14 billion francs for a swift and urgent rearmament, causing a financial crisis and further flight of capital.

On Sept. 26 the government devalued the franc by 30%.  Gold brought back from abroad could only be exchanged at the old rate, ensuring that it stayed abroad.  That month the government had 50 billion in gold in the Bank of France.  By the end of the year the government was running a 16 billion franc deficit.  The money to rearm France had to come from somewhere.

(310)  On March 7, 1937, the free market in gold was reestablished, meaning that those who had shipped gold out of the country could repatriate it at a 30% profit.  Also on that day a “pause” in government pay raises for civil servants promised to compensate for the inflation unleashed by the devaluation was announced, all new government spending was halted, and a special committee to advise on exchange stabilization was established, made up of three of the most conservative financiers in France.

Blum felt he had to lift the country out of  the depression on capitalist terms. He expected the capitalists to help him in this endeavor, but they would have none of it. They either spirited their gold abroad or sat on it at home. In June of 1936 the Finance Minister calculated that there were some 60 billion francs "missing" from the economy. Germany had started pulling out of the depression with Hitler's rearmament decrees, which put Germany back to work. The U.S. would later do the same. The French capitalists, even in the critical armaments industry, refused to spend money on modernization, expansion of plants and hiring more workers, despite lucrative government contracts.  The tanks and airplanes that could have met Hitler's blitzkrieg were held hostage to a French capitalist strike.

Hitler's domestic policy was much like his foreign policy, he took what he wanted. He forced loans from the rich, set policy for industry, jailed reluctant owners, and bettered the conditions of the working class. His forced march onto a war footing came, initially at least, at the expense of the Jews alone, whom Hitler had been demonizing from day one.

(pg 309)  France's domestic policy, regardless of who was Premier, was also like its foreign policy. It appeased the rich, begged industry, and pretended to reform the Bank of France but changed nothing.

Blum tried to reinvigorate France's ties to Russia, but met resistance from conservatives and army offices. Unfortunately, Poland refused to grant passage to Russian troops through its country to reach Germany in the event Germany attacked France. Some politicians thought Russia sought to involve France in a conflict with Germany and then provide little aid.

At about this time, the end of 1936, Blum received information from his old friend Edouard Benes, President of Czechoslovakia that some Russian generals were in contact with Germany, implying that any French army plans given to Russia were not secure. In reality, Hitler had forged and planted documents incriminating the Russians. Stalin fell for it, or perhaps pretended that he did and used the opportunity to consolidate his power. This was the occasion of Russia's infamous "show trials" where all the "Old Bolsheviks" who could have challenged Stalin's leadership confessed to treason. An alarmed western intelligence service feared the communists had discovered a way to seize control of people's minds, but the confessions were probably just to save their families. Another 5,000 of the Soviet High Command and Army where shot after a summary trial.

All in all, nearly everyone of importance in France was against any alliance with Russia, and were relieved when plans were quietly dropped. They would be resumed, indeed franticly pursued, by the French government three years later, when it was too late.

At the end of 1937, the French generals, "good humored sexagenarians" in the words of de Gaulle, still advised retaining their horse cavalry. They were studying the questions of a tank battalion, which they felt vulnerable to anti-tank weapons. They realized that anti-tank weapons were vulnerable to air and artillery, and continued studying the matter. Blum later bitterly reproached himself for not modernizing the army against the will of the generals. Perhaps he reproached himself after Marshal Petain had locked him up without trial.

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