By Richard Vinen

This publication describes a interval within which France teetered on, and infrequently over, the threshold of civil struggle. It exhibits how the increase of fascism, German invasion, the Vichy govt, and withdrawal from Empire confident an important variety of Frenchmen that killing their compatriots was once a valid method to in achieving political ends.

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Many commentators argued that the key to their strikes was their non-rational nature. Simone Weil, an intellectual who had taken a job on a production line, talked of an attitude of 'kermesse' or festival. Workers who had taken over factories put on pantomimes and fancy dress parades. Some strikers seemed more concerned with celebrating their temporary liberation from the stopwatch and the factory whistle than with any political demand or labour regulation. The truth is probably that all three of the interpretations given above are partially correct.

To the inhabitants of Strasbourg, which was annexed by the Germans in 1940, Vichy meant unconditional surrender; an inhabitant of Oran, in which German troops never set foot, might reasonably have believed that Vichy was a 33 R. Vinen, France, 1934–1970 © Richard Vinen 1996 34 ~CE, 1934-1970 regime of national reconstruction that would ultimately lead to military revenge against Germany. Public opinion changed over time. The growing identification of the regime with the political right began to lose it support as early as January 1941.

Where they had set out to unite France, they now divided her. Businessmen railed against the Matignon accords. Far from being won over by the government's main tendue, Catholics were suspicious of what now seemed to be a dangerously revolutionary government. Their suspicions, and those of many other bourgeois conservatives, were exacerbated by events in Spain. Of all the democratic countries, France was most affected by the Spanish Civil War. The government of republican Spain was also an alliance of left-wing parties, and many Frenchmen, especially European inhabitants of Algeria, had relatives in Spain.

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