Anti-parliamentarianism of the 1930s

Anti-parliamentarianism of the 1930s

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  • Revision of the Constitution.


  • Parliamentary massacre game.


Revision of the Constitution.

© Contemporary Collections

Parliamentary massacre game.

© Contemporary Collections

Publication date: September 2011

Historical context

When the socialist-backed radicals returned to power in May 1932, the economic crisis that France escaped until 1931 now hit the country as international tensions grew. The mainstream press goes wild and explodes this political and financial scandal that is the Stavisky affair.

Image Analysis

The first poster draws a conclusion with the words "The parliamentary regime is collapsing". The image occupies most of the available surface and owes to the pressures exerted on the Palais-Bourbon to bring it down to crush a little more still a text of which it is the strict illustration: the Palais-Bourbon , on the pediment of which hangs a very sad tricolor flag, cracks and collapses, leaving hardly time to salute to a crowd of panicked deputies who flee in an unworthy stampede worth some to collapse. However, who is responsible for what appears here as an earthquake is not named. The second poster, on the other hand, gives pride of place to the text which occupies almost two-thirds of its surface. The Parliament, victim and object that it was on the first poster, becomes here the subject of History: “In 17 years [ie since the end of the war, figured, in the continuation of the portraits of presidents of the Council by that of Clemenceau, the first to date] the French Parliament overthrew thirty ministries, ”says the commentary. These are represented in the remaining third in the agreed form of a game of massacre, the frame of which somewhat recalls the silhouette of the Palais-Bourbon and where the "heads" to be killed are represented, in the chronological order of succession of ministries, by the photo of each of the Council presidents on a base bearing their name. Thirty in total: "The average length of a ministry is 6 months," the text comments.

None of these posters are signed, but they fit well in various ways in the political struggle of the day. The first, probably prior to February 6, 1934, by its graphics arouses laughter at the expense of elected officials, ridiculous. However, it includes a watchword, that of a revision of the Constitution, in impersonal form. In the second poster, following the fall of the Doumergue cabinet in November 1934, the tone changes dramatically, although the slogan is the same. The poster calls out to the French reader and urges him to act. His text begins with a statement that is worth affirmation: “Such a regime cannot last. The regime in question is not named but simply designated by its acts: massacres of ministries, powerlessness in the face of the crisis and European tensions (which are not named either). This French is then invited to act by "demanding the reform of the Constitution". A reform that involves obtaining the right of dissolution and referendum, two measures likely to radically change the balance of power for the better benefit of the executive.


The constitutional laws of 1875 granted the executive, and in particular the President of the Republic, genuine power. But Mac-Mahon's defeat in 1877 against the Republicans discredited the right of dissolution, now tainted with Caesarism. This development was reinforced by the failure of the Boulangist movement, called for the revision of the Constitution with a view to strengthening the executive. Therefore any reform project going in the same direction is suspected of being anti-Republican. These suspicions spared neither Clemenceau, who had become the "Father of victory" who failed in the presidential election in 1920, nor Millerand, who had to resign in 1924.

On the other hand, the proportional voting system, which leads to a fragmentation of representation, fosters government instability. Supporters of state reform silenced since 1924 resume their voices under the aegis of André Tardieu, who published in 1934 Time for decision and has a strong will to succeed where its predecessors failed. The posters therefore participate in this fight, which saw political violence make a comeback, in particular on February 6, 1934. In the aftermath of this serious political crisis, the right regained power but was reduced to new expedients. The Doumergue ministry fell in November 1934 after having once again tried to revise the Constitution, an attempt that was unsuccessful and which was to be the last of the Third Republic.

  • February 6, 1934
  • anti-parliamentarianism
  • deputies
  • Palais-Bourbon
  • France
  • Third Republic
  • Constituent Assembly
  • poster
  • caricature
  • Doumergue (Gaston)
  • Millerand (Alexandre)
  • Mac Mahon (Patrice de)
  • Constitution


Christian DELPORTE and Laurent GERVEREAU, Three Republics as seen by Cabrol and Sennep Paris, BDIC, 1996.

Serge BERSTEIN, February 6, 1934 Paris, A. Colin coll. “Cursus”, 2001.

Nicolas ROUSSELIER “André Tardieu or the crisis of liberal constitutionalism”, in Twentieth century January-March 1989.

To cite this article

Danielle TARTAKOWSKY, "Anti-parliamentarianism of the 1930s"

Video: Kautsky in the 21st Century panel, 9520


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