Robert Zaretsky: Occupy ParisRoundup: Historians' Take
A nation reeling from unprecedented economic and political crises votes into office a left-leaning government promising change. When the promises are thought by many to be too little, and many others too much, popular unrest surges toward the extremes of the political spectrum. Citizens on the left and right turn away from traditional parties and labor organizations and take matters into their own hands. Spontaneous strikes and occupations break out across the nation, and all eyes turn to the political leader who had promised change his supporters could believe in.
It is déjà vu all over again. The Occupy Wall Street movement has pirouetted onto the political center stage just as France is marking the 75th anniversary of the mass strikes that accompanied the electoral victory of the Popular Front government led by Léon Blum. The many parallels between then and now, particularly in the personalities of Blum and Barack Obama, cast the OWS movement in a new and intriguing light.
To better understand them, we’d do well to look at France in the mid-1930s. The country’s economy, still staggering under the weight of the Great Depression, was in a shambles. The policies of France’s deficit hawks had come home to roost with a vengeance. Entrenched conservative distrust of deficit spending had catastrophic consequences for French workers: By the summer of 1936, at least 2 million men and women—one out of six citizens—were unemployed. The lives of those who still had jobs were flushed with anxiety. The French philosopher Simone Weil, who worked for a spell as a power press operator at a Paris factory in the 1930s, was ordered at the end of her first day at work to double her output if she wished to keep her job. The employer, she told a friend, “makes a favor of allowing us to kill ourselves and we have to say thank you.”...
comments powered by Disqus
- Rubio Surges Into Second In New Hampshire
- Branstad Says Cruz Ran ‘Unethical’ Campaign
- Christie Highlights Santorum’s Endorsement of Rubio
- Portman Comes Out Against Trade Deal
- Megyn Kelly Gets a Book Deal
- A Big List of the Bad Things Clinton Has Done
- An Unambiguous Sign Sanders Won Last Night’s Debate
- Still Friends at the End
- Quote of the Day
- Trump Still Leads as Clinton Slips
- Clinton Can’t Shake Image as Wall Street’s Friend
- Maddow Doesn’t See Sanders Winning
- Why Does the Media Still Shield Chelsea Clinton?
- Bush Jokes His Mother May Have Abused Him
- Rubio Closes the Gap in New Hampshire
- Newly released interactive map shows images of destroyed monuments of Mosul
- How the Rise of the Post Office Explains American Innovation
- These Americans are reliving history and don’t mind repeating it
- Britain largest home is saved for the nation
- Shelter and the slums: capturing bleak Britain 50 years ago
- WSJ features an article by a conservative calling for the abolition of Black History Month
- Mary Beard, herself a bestselling author, wonders why more women historians aren't
- Princeton U. historian Imani Perry claims mistreatment in parking ticket arrest
- Retired historian George Dennison remains on the payroll at the U. of Montana while faculty are cut
- The Atlantic profiles exciting ways to teach history