Blum, Léon

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Blum, Léon

(lāôN` blo͝om), 1872–1950, French Socialist leader and writer. Well established in literary circles, he entered politics during the Dreyfus AffairDreyfus Affair
, the controversy that occurred with the treason conviction (1894) of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus (1859–1935), a French artillery officer and graduate of the French military academy.
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 and rose to party leadership. In 1936 he brought about the coalition of Radical Socialists, Socialists, and Communists in the Popular Front, which won an overwhelming electoral victory. This first Popular Front government, which he headed as France's first Socialist and first Jewish prime minister, inaugurated the 40-hour week, collective bargaining, and compulsory arbitration; it also reorganized and nationalized the Bank of France; and nationalized the munitions industry. Conservative opposition to Blum's fiscal measures forced his resignation (1937). Blum served as vice premier (1937–38) under Camille ChautempsChautemps, Camille
, 1885–1963, French politician. A Radical Socialist leader, he was premier in 1930 and in 1933–34, when the Stavisky Affair (in which he was not directly implicated) caused his resignation.
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, was briefly premier in 1938, and opposed the Munich Pact. Arrested (1940) by the Vichy government, his Jewish origins made him a prime defendant in the abortive war-guilt trial at RiomRiom
, town (1990 pop. 19,302), Puy-de-Dôme dept., S central France, in Auvergne. It has distilleries, tobacco plants, and factories making pharmaceuticals. Of Gallic origin, the Roman Ricomagus grew around the collegiate Church of St. Amable (1077; restored).
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 in 1942. Blum was imprisoned until the end of the war. After negotiating (1946) a credit agreement with the United States, he was again premier for a little more than a month in 1946–47, heading a Socialist cabinet. The elder statesman of French Socialists, Blum gradually came to represent the moderate wing. His writings include For All Mankind (tr. 1946, repr. 1969).


See biographies by J. Colton (1966, repr. 1974), J. Lacouture (tr. 1982), and P. Birnbaum (tr. 2015).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Blum, Léon


Born Apr. 9, 1872, in Paris; died Mar. 30, 1950, in Jouy-en-Josas. French political figure and statesman; leader of the French Socialist Party, French Section of the Socialist International (FSSI).

Blum was born into a bourgeois family. In the late 1880’s and early 1890’s, Blum was engaged in literary activity and was a theater and literary critic. He joined the socialist movement in the late 1890’s. In 1902 he became a member of the French Socialist Party, which was led by J. Jaurés. He was elected for the first time to the Chamber of Deputies in 1919. Blum was against the FSSI’s entry into the Comintern and was one of the chief organizers of the party’s split in 1920. He became one of the most influential leaders of the essentially new socialist party, which retained its former name of FSSI, and he was political director of its central organ, the newspaper Le Populaire de Paris.

Blum’s policy was contradictory to some extent. He was an opponent of Communism and the Soviet Union; nevertheless, he accepted united action with the Communists in 1934. From June 1936 to June 1937 and from March to April 1938, Blum was the head of the Popular Front governments, which carried out a number of important social reforms. However, Blum’s so-called policy of nonintervention in Spanish affairs, which contributed to the strangling of republican Spain by fascism (1939), and his refusal to execute consistently the points of the agreed-upon program of the Popular Front contributed to its disintegration. On the eve of World War II (1939–45), Blum took a stand against the Munich Agreement of 1938. although he had supported much of the policy of appeasement of fascist Germany. During World War II, after German troops had entered Paris (June 1940), Blum voted against granting emergency powers to the capitulator Pétain. Blum was arrested in September 1940 and interned in Germany from 1943 to 1945.

Blum was head of the government from December 1946 to January 1947. In the postwar period the anti-Communist and anti-Soviet character of Blum’s policy increased noticeably. He supported an end to the cooperation with the Communists that had been established during the Resistance. He was one of the initiators of a deepening of the split in the French labor movement in 1947, and he was the source of the policy of the “third force” (the so-called middle line to which the socialists should allegedly adhere between the Communists and the right-wing bourgeois forces). Blum’s foreign policy was pro-American and anti-Soviet. In ideological matters he led the campaign for an open rejection of the Marxist philosophy, to which he opposed his concept of so-called humanistic socialism.


Thorez, M. “Blium kak on est’.” In his book lzbr. proizvedeniia, vol. 1. Moscow, 1959. (Translated from French.)
Audry, C. Léon Blum ou la politique du juste. Paris, 1955.
Vichniac, M. Léon Blum. Paris, 1937.
Goltom, J. Léon Blum. Paris, 1968.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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