Clemenceau, Georges Eugène Benjamin

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Clemenceau, Georges Eugène Benjamin

 

Born Sept. 28, 1841, in Mouilleron-en-Pareds; died Nov. 24, 1929, in Paris. French politician and statesman.

By education, Clemenceau was a doctor. He became a member of the Académie Française in 1918. During the Second Empire, he was a radical republican. After France had lost several battles in its war with Prussia in 1870–71, Clemenceau nevertheless advocated continuing the war. As a deputy in the National Assembly, he voted against the Treaty of Frankfurt (1871). During the Paris Commune of 1871, Clemenceau attempted to “reconcile” the Communards and the Versailles government. In the early 1880’s, Clemenceau became a leader of the bourgeois radicals and put forward a wide-ranging plan of democratic reforms, borrowed in part from the program of the Labor Party (founded in 1879). A strong advocate of a revanchist war against Germany, Clemenceau in the 1880’s harshly condemned the French ruling circles for their policy of colonial expansion, which in his opinion weakened France’s position in Europe. These attacks in the Chamber of Deputies and in the press helped to bring down the cabinets of Gambetta, Ferry, and Brisson and created for Clemenceau the reputation of a “destroyer of ministries.” His temperamental and slashing addresses to parliament earned him the sobriquet “The Tiger.”

After becoming indirectly involved in the Panama Scandal, Clemenceau was defeated in the elections of 1893. He was active in the defense of A. Dreyfus. In 1902 and again in 1909 he was elected to the Senate. From March to October 1906 he was minister of the interior and from October 1906 to July 1909 prime minister. On taking power, Clemenceau cruelly repressed manifestations of the labor and democratic movements. In the years before World War I, he carried on intensive chauvinistic and militaristic propaganda. He fought against the Socialists and harshly criticized his political rivals in the bourgeois camp, including R. Poincaré, A. Briand, and J. Caillaux, for choosing a course in domestic and foreign policy that he charged was insufficiently tough. From the very start of the war, he demanded complete victory over Germany, whatever the cost. In November 1917, he became prime minister and simultaneously minister of war. He tried to establish a dictatorial regime. He organized anti-Soviet intervention and offered support to the White Guard generals Kolchak and Denikin. Clemenceau also played a major role in organizing the suppression of the Hungarian Soviet Republic. As chairman of the Paris Peace Conference of 1919–20 and chief of the French delegation, he was one of the authors of the Versailles Peace Treaty of 1919 and strove to establish a military and political hegemony of French imperialism in Europe. Defeated in the presidential elections of 1920, Clemenceau left active political life.

REFERENCES

Rusanov, N. S. Gallereia sovremennykh frantsuzskikh znamenitostei. St. Petersburg, 1906.
Mordacq, H. Le Ministère Clemenceau, 4 vols. Paris, 1930–31.
Hadancourt, G. Clemenceau. . . . Paris, 1958.
Ratinaud, J. Clemenceau ou la colère et la gloire, 7th ed. Paris, 1958.
King, J. Foch Versus Clemenceau. Cambridge, 1960.

B. L. VUL’FSON

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