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Leon Blum

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Category: General Interest
Reference No: 8388
Status: Available
Price: £15.00
  Leon Blum

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French politician, the first Socialist (and the first Jewish) Prime Minister of France, presiding over the Popular Front coalition government in 1936–37.

It was the Dreyfus affair (which began in 1896 and centred on a French captain, Alfred Dreyfus, falsely convicted of treason for selling military secrets to the Germans) that brought him into active politics for the first time It also led to a close association with Jean Jaurès and him joining Jaurès’s French Socialist Party in 1904 (he became his successor as leader in 1914)

As Prime Minister in a "Popular Front" government of the left between 1936 and 1937, his government introduced, against considerable opposition, the 40-hour working week and secured paid vacations and collective bargaining for many workers; it nationalized the chief war industries and the Bank of France, and introduced other social reforms.

Blum declared neutrality in the Spanish Civil War (1936–39) to avoid the civil conflict spilling over into France itself.

Once out of office in 1938, he denounced the appeasement of Germany. When Germany defeated France in 1940, he became a staunch opponent of Vichy France.

In October 1940 Blum was indicted by the Vichy government on trumped-up charges of war guilt, and in February 1942 he was brought to trial at the court of Riom. The powerful defense put up by Blum and his co-defendants so greatly discomfited the Vichy authorities and so irritated the Germans that in April the hearings were suspended indefinitely, and Blum was returned to prison. In the closing days of the war, Blum and other high-profile prisoners were transferred from the Dachau concentration camp to a hotel in the Tirolean countryside, where they were ultimately freed by Allied forces in May 1945.

After the liberation of France, Blum emerged as one of France’s leading veteran statesmen, and in the spring of 1946 he negotiated a U.S. loan to France of $1.37 billion for post-war reconstruction. In December 1946 he formed a month-long “caretaker government,” the first all-Socialist French ministry, pending the election of the first president of the new Fourth Republic. Blum retired from public life in January 1947 but served as vice-premier in André Marie’s ministry of August 1948. He lived in retirement in the years that followed.

This is a fine card (4.5" x 3.5"), nicely signed and dated (May 1938) in black fountain pen ink. In very good condition.