"), but now it seemed to many that it was a matter of choosing not between democracy and Communism but rather between two dynamic, totalitarian systems, seemingly "new" in nature and evolving in unexpected and alarming directions."
Germany's previous position as a shining light of western civilization was hard to deny, and as the hatreds of World War I faded, hopes had arisen that a democratic Germany could securely join Europe's other advanced liberal democracies.
Soviet Russia was more barbaric and dangerous than tsarist Russia ever was.
The reputation of the Germans as a more civilized people made Europeans think that the danger of Germany was less than that of Soviet Russia.
A strong minority of Europeans still consider Soviet Russia to be a representation of the revolution, even though it has been contorted.
By early 1936, it became more difficult to determine what a "Communist" system would look like for most European left-wingers, since any decision to ally with Soviet Russia and the Communist parties in their own countries did not necessarily mean that they hoped for a system exactly like that Left-liberals and democratic socialists were attracted to the Popular Front coalition because they believed that a unified left was necessary to oppose the fascist threat from within their own countries.
Hitler and Nazism were seen as the lesser evil by most of the conservative right.
The Popular Front organized an anti-fascist rally on Bastille Day in 1935.
A million people squeezed into the Place de la Bastille to hear speeches against fascists.
In the parliamentary elections of the following spring, the Popular Front won more seats than any other party.
For the first time, the Socialists overtook the Radicals as the largest delegation to the Chamber, with 149 seats.
The Communists rose from 12 seats to 72, but the Radicals dropped from 157 to109, a worrying sign since the drop suggested a move to the right of former centrist voters for the Radicals.
Although the Popular Front won 58 percent of the total vote, the vote revealed a sharper divide between the right and left in France and not a significant groundswell of votes for the left.
The wave of strikes that rolled over France between the May 3 vote and the assumption of the office of prime minister on June 4 by the Socialist leader Leon Blum intensified the political polarization.
The leaders of the PCF were surprised by the strikes and did their best to calm the strikers.
Some 2 million workers were involved by the first week of June, occupying their factories and refusing to leave.
The French economy stopped working.
The strikes were hailed by some on the extreme left as the beginning of a long-awaited revolution in the West.
The strikes had more in common with the 1871 Paris Commune than with the Bolshevik Revolution, in the sense that they represented an inchoate exultation, a flexing of muscle, with especially intriguing similarities to the Commune's strange "festival of the oppressed" in the spring of 1871.
The Popular Front victory awakened lower-class expectations, but the strikers had no long-range or coordinated program.
The goal of the Popular Front in France would be to exercise power under capitalism but not "conquer" it, as would be the case in a future social revolution.
The future revolution would only be possible if a majority of the population favored it, which was not the case in 1936.
The exercise of power would involve dealing with the fascist menace, but he also expressed a hope to accomplish something like the New Deal in the United States, attending to various social and economic inequalities but retaining the market economy and private ownership.
The "Matignon Agreements" were hammered out after a meeting with representatives of the French industry.
A forty-hour week, salary increases of 12 percent, and two-week vacations with pay were included in the Agreements.
Legislation was passed that dissolved the fascist leagues, but in many cases the leagues reformed as political parties and were protected by the constitution.
Many leaders of industry did all they could to undermine the Agreements, and many workers complained that a rapid rise in the cost of living was blocking their salary increases.
Industrial leaders were upset about the drop in productivity.
Both had a point.
French investors fear for the future and moved their capital abroad.
The govern ment needed a higher return from taxes to support its welfare measures, but it faced stagnant labor productivity and a declining tax base.
The regime's economic reforms were paused early in 1937.
By the spring, barely a year after he took office, Blum was forced to resign and be replaced by a Radical-led parliamentary coalition.
The years 1936-7 were excellent for Nazi Germany.
The Berlin Olympics in the summer of 1936 followed Hitler's successful gamble in remilitarizing the Rhineland.
The German economy was booming.
Germany's workers increased their productivity because they worked longer hours.
Industry leaders and investors in Germany were more supportive of the Nazi government than they were of the Popular Front.
The challenges of foreign policy were more difficult than those of domes tic ones.
Hitler took a major foreign-policy gamble in March 1936, against the advice of his generals and in violation of the Locarno Agreements, when he remilitarized the Rhineland against the advice of his generals.
He thought it was too late to respond when Blum took power in June.
He would have faced strong opposition to any effort to drive Germany's armies out of the Rhineland.
The British made it clear that they would not participate in any military action against Germany over the issue of the Rhineland's remilitarization, despite the fact that the French were reticent to take any action.
In July 1936, after barely a month in office, Blum learned that General Franco had risen up against Spain's Popular Front, an uprising that quickly developed into a fullscale civil war.
Some on the left of France's Popular Front, especially the Communists, were against full-scale military aid to the Spanish Popular Front, but the Radicals, as well as many leading figures in the Socialist Party, were against it.
Being drawn into Spain's civil war seemed too similar to being drawn into the Balkans in 1914.
The lack of British support for any major foreign-policy initiative was due to the reticence of the French since 1923.
The Conservatives remained strong in Britain's parliament in the early 1930s, while the Labour and Liberal parties had little interest in the British Popular Front.
The British Union of Fascists and the British Communist Party both had 40,000 members.