Paul Reynaud (October 15, 1878 - September 21, 1966) was a French politician and lawyer prominent in the interwar period, noted for his stances on economic liberalism and militant opposition to Germany. He was the penultimate Prime Minister of the Third Republic and vice-president of the Alliance Démocratique center-right party.
Early life and politicsReynaud was born in Barcelonnette, France. His father had made a fortune in the textile industry, enabling Reynaud to study law at the Sorbonne. Reynaud was elected to the French Chamber of Deputies from 1919 to 1924, representing Basses-Alpes, and again from 1928, representing a Paris district. Although he was first elected as part of the conservative "Blue Horizon" bloc in 1919, Reynaud shortly thereafter switched his allegiance to the center-right Alliance Démocratique party. Reynaud later became the vice-president of his party.
In the 1920s, Reynaud developed a reputation for laxity on German reparations, at a time when many in the French government backed harsher terms for Germany. In the 1930s, particularly after 1933, Reynaud's stance hardened against the Germans. Reynaud backed a strong alliance with the United Kingdom and, unlike many others on the French Right, better relations with the Soviet Union as a counterweight against the Germans.
Reynaud held several cabinet posts in the early 1930s, but he clashed with members of his party after 1932 over French foreign and defense policy and was not given another cabinet position until 1938. Like Winston Churchill, Reynaud was a maverick in his party and often alone in his calls for rearmament and resistance to German aggrandizement. Reynaud was a supporter of Charles de Gaulle's theories of mechanized warfare in contrast to the static defense doctrines that were in vogue among many of his countrymen, symbolized by the Maginot Line, and was an outspoken opponent of appeasement in the run-up to the Second World War. He also clashed with his party on economic policy, backing the devaluation of the franc as a solution to France's economic woes. However, Pierre Étienne Flandin, the leader of the Alliance Démocratique, agreed with several of Reynaud's key policy stances, particularly on Reynaud's defense of economic liberalism.
Return to governmentReynaud returned to the cabinet in 1938 as Minister of Justice under Édouard Daladier. The Munich crisis, which began not long after Reynaud was named Minister of Justice, again revealed the divide between Reynaud and the rest of the Alliance Démocratique; Reynaud adamantly opposed abandoning the Czechs to the Germans, while Flandin felt that allowing Germany to expand eastward would inevitably lead to a conflict with the Soviets that would weaken both. Reynaud publicly made his case, and in response Flandin pamphleted Paris in order to pressure the government to agree to Hitler's demands. Reynaud subsequently left his party to become an independent. Reynaud still had Daladier's support, however, whose politique de fermeté was very similar to Reynaud's notion of deterrence.
Reynaud, however, had always wanted the Finance ministry. He endorsed radically liberal economic policies in order to draw France's economy out of stagnation, centered on a massive program of deregulation, including the elimination of the forty-hour work week. The notion of deregulation was very popular among France's businessmen, and Reynaud believed that it was the best way for France to regain investors' confidence again and escape the stagnation its economy had fallen into. The collapse of Léon Blum's government in 1938 was a response to Blum's attempt to expand the regulatory powers of the French government; there was therefore considerable support in the French government for an alternative approach like Reynaud's.
Paul Marchandeau, Daladier's first choice for finance minister, offered a limited program of economic reform that was not to Daladier's satisfaction; Reynaud and Daladier swapped portfolios, and Reynaud went ahead with his radical liberalization reforms. Reynaud's reforms were successfully implemented, and the government stood down a one-day strike in opposition. Reynaud addressed France's business community, arguing that "We live in a capitalist system. For it to function we must obey its laws. These are the laws of profits, individual risk, free markets, and growth by competition."
Reynaud's reforms proved remarkably successful; a massive austerity program was implemented (although armament measures were not cut) and France's coffers expanded from 37 billion francs in September 1938 to 48 billion francs at the outbreak of war a year later. More importantly, France's industrial productivity jumped from 76 to 100 (base=1929) from October 1938 to May 1939. At the outbreak of war, however, Reynaud was not bullish on France's economy; he felt that the massive increase in spending that a war would mean would stamp out France's recovery.
The French Right was ambivalent about the war in late 1939 and early 1940, feeling that the greater threat was from the Soviets. The Winter War put these problems into stark relief; Daladier refused to send aid to the Finns while war with Germany continued. News of the Soviet-Finnish armistice in March 1940 prompted Flandin and Pierre Laval to hold secret sessions of the legislature that denounced Daladier's actions; the government fell on March 19. The government named Reynaud Prime Minister of France two days later.
Prime minister and arrestAlthough Reynaud was increasingly popular, the Chamber of Deputies elected Reynaud premier by only a single vote with most of his own party abstaining; over half of the votes for Reynaud came from the socialist SFIO party. With so much support from the left - and the opposition from many parties on the right - Reynaud's government was especially unstable; many on the Right demanded that Reynaud attack not Germany, but the Soviet Union. The Chamber also forced Daladier, who Reynaud held personally responsible for France's weakness, to be Reynaud's Minister of National Defense and War. One of Reynaud's first acts was to sign a declaration with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain that neither of the two countries would sign a separate peace.
Reynaud abandoned any notion of a "long war strategy" based on attrition. Reynaud entertained suggestions to expand the war to the Balkans or northern Europe; he was instrumental in launching the allied campaign in Norway, though it ended in failure. Britain's decision to withdraw on April 26 prompted Reynaud to travel to London to personally lobby the British to stand and fight in Norway.
The Battle of France began less than two months after Reynaud came to office. France was badly mauled by the initial attack in early May 1940, and Paris was threatened. On May 15, five days after the invasion began, Reynaud contacted his British counterpart and famously remarked, "We have been defeated...we are beaten; we have lost the battle...The front is broken near Sedan." Charles de Gaulle, whom Reynaud had long supported and one of the few French commanders to have fought the Germans successfully in 1940, was promoted to brigadier general and named undersecretary of defense. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/2WWreynaud.htm
As France's situation grew increasingly desperate, Reynaud accepted Philippe Pétain as Minister of State. Pétain, an aged veteran of the First World War, advised an armistice. Soon after the occupation of Paris, there was increasing pressure on Reynaud to come to a separate peace with Germany. Reynaud refused to be a party to such an undertaking, and resigned on June 16 rather than sign it. Pétain, who became the leader of the new government (the last one of the Third Republic), signed the armistice on June 22. Reynaud was arrested on Pétain's orders. However, Pétain finally decided not to have him judged during the Riom Trial, and he was given to the Germans, who kept him prisoner until the end of the war. Reynaud was liberated by Allied troops near Wörgl, Austria, on May 7, 1945.
Postwar lifeAfter the war, Reynaud was made again a member of the Chamber of Deputies in 1946. Reynaud was in several cabinet positions in the postwar period and remained a prominent figure in French politics, although his attempts to form governments in 1952 and 1953 in the turbulent politics of the French Fourth Republic were failures. Reynaud supported the idea of a United States of Europe, along with a number of prominent contemporaries. Reynaud presided over the consultative committee that drafted the constitution of France's (current) Fifth Republic. In 1962, Reynaud denounced his old friend de Gaulle's attempt to eliminate the electoral college system in favor of direct vote. Reynaud left office the same year.
Reynaud remarried in 1949 at the age of 71 and went on to father three children. Reynaud died on 21 September 1966 at Neuilly-sur-Seine, leaving a number of writings.
==Reynaud's Government, 21 March - 16 June 1940==
- Paul Reynaud - President of the Council and Minister of Foreign Affairs
- Camille Chautemps - Vice President of the Council
- Édouard Daladier - Minister of National Defense and War
- Raoul Dautry - Minister of Armaments
- Henri Roy - Minister of the Interior
- Lucien Lamoureux - Minister of Finance
- Charles Pomaret - Minister of Labour
- Albert Sérol - Minister of Justice
- César Campinchi - Minister of Military Marine
- Alphonse Rio - Minister of Merchant Marine
- Laurent Eynac - Minister of Air
- Albert Sarraut - Minister of National Education
- Albert Rivière - Minister of Veterans and Pensioners
- Paul Thellier - Minister of Agriculture
- Henri Queuille - Minister of Supply
- Georges Mandel - Minister of Colonies
- Anatole de Monzie - Minister of Public Works
- Marcel Héraud - Minister of Public Health
- Alfred Jules-Julien - Minister of Posts, Telegraphs, Telephones, and Transmissions
- Ludovic-Oscar Frossard - Minister of Information
- Louis Rollin - Minister of Commerce and Industry
- Georges Monnet - Minister of Blockade
- 10 May 1940 - Louis Marin and Jean Ybarnegaray enter the Cabinet as Ministers of State
- 18 May 1940 - Philippe Pétain enters the Cabinet as Minister of State. Reynaud succeeds Daladier as Minister of National Defense and War. Daladier succeeds Reynaud as Minister of Foreign Affairs. Georges Mandel succeeds Roy as Minister of the Interior. Louis Rollin succeeds Mandel as Minister of Colonies. Léon Baréty succeeds Rollin as Minister of Commerce and Industry.
- 5 June 1940 - Reynaud succeeds Daladier as Minister of Foreign Affairs, remaining also Minister of National Defense and War. Yves Bouthillier succeeds Lamoureux as Minister of Finance. Yvon Delbos succeeds Sarraut as Minister of National Education. Ludovic-Oscar Frossard succeeds Monzie as Minister of Public Works. Jean Prouvost succeeds Frossard as Minister of Information. Georges Pernot succeeds Héraud as Health Minister, with the new title of Minister of French Family. Albert Chichery succeeds Baréty as Minister of Commerce and Industry.
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