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What If France Had Started World War II?

Gary Oswald

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Discuss this Article by @Ottens here

This is probably the last article that we'll put up on a weekend. They tend to get less attention, I've noticed. From next week, look for regular articles only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday with extra articles on Tuesday and Thursday if supply allows.
 

Redolegna

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French Communist Party leader Léon Blum in 1937 (Studio Piaz)
Well, that's going to stick in my craw.

Blum was a socialist from the SFIO. He was the one who held it together after the Congress of Tours where the split happened. He was never a communist. Ever, ever, ever. The Communists were briefly allied to him in 1936-38 for the Front Populaire, but they stopped at confidence and supply along with electoral alliance.

Another is to have La Rocque’s French Social Party win the 1936 election, which I prefer, as it would mirror Hitler’s democratic rise to power in Germany.
Ah, yes, that political juggernaut, with their six deputés and three more through by-elections. Whose progression in the polls in 38-39 came from deradicalization rather than going farther right which the PPF did... without success.

Also, I won't say much positive about La Roque, but the man had the opportunity for turning a hostile march into a coup and didn't, denounced totalitarianism and racism, and in so far as he was for war, it was because he didn't think Hitler's aggression should be taken lying down. And even he endorsed Munich.



Really, the article answers its own question within the first few lines. France would not have started WWII, because it couldn't. It would have lost 1870-71 and WWI. It would have lost its allies. Germany would be stronger. Even in WWI, despite not being exactly reluctant and giving some assurances to Russia, France was not the most energetic of movers towards war. And it had patiently built an alliance which could win against Germany and its allies. It would have not that and it certainly couldn't count on central European states to be their ersatz Russia, since those can only exist through a Central Powers defeat or as client states in a Mitteleuropa setup.

The tendency for a fascist or proto-fascist France was one which was a concern in the 1880s, at the height of revanchism, with the weird phenomenon that was Boulangisme and several war scare engineered by Boulanger. In the end, despite protesting an enormous indemnity, which it paid ahead of time, and an annexation of regions whose population considered itself French for the most part, France decided it would not go to war alone against Germany in another guaranteed losing round and made the necessary compromises to attract allies while Germany under Wilhelm II made its level best to alienate the whole world.
 

Space Oddity

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"France loses WW1 and goes Fascist because reasons" is one of the more annoying clichés of Central Powers victory TLs. They blithely ignore that the first European country to embrace Fascism was actually one of the victors of WW1.
It's part and parcel of ignoring the fact that Italy was involved in WWI.

Also, I won't say much positive about La Roque, but the man had the opportunity for turning a hostile march into a coup and didn't, denounced totalitarianism and racism, and in so far as he was for war, it was because he didn't think Hitler's aggression should be taken lying down. And even he endorsed Munich.
There's a tendency to make the Croix-de-Feu and the parties that grew out of it into "the Nazis, but French" because, hey look at all that marching and those scary symbols. This ignores much of the group's actual politics, but hey, you've got to have the parallels, amirite? (Which shouldn't be taken as denying that they had a nasty authoritarian streak.)
 

SenatorChickpea

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I thought this was going to be an article about a French government that somehow decides to go ahead with intervening in Rhineland (or escalating the occupation back in the twenties,) but apparently no.

I do wish more alternate history dealt with the idea that the Third Republic lasted from 1871 to 1940, which perhaps suggests that it wasn't quite as unstable and doomed to inevitable collapse as the lazy memes suggest; too many counterfactuals between set in France between Sedan and... ha, Sedan, I guess!... just seem to want to get the Republic out of the way without engaging with its fascinating complexity.
 

Charles EP M.

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I do wish more alternate history dealt with the idea that the Third Republic lasted from 1871 to 1940, which perhaps suggests that it wasn't quite as unstable and doomed to inevitable collapse as the lazy memes suggest
IIRC, it was also a deliberate decision to say "this is now the fourth republic and not the third restored" after the liberation?
 

ChrisNuttall

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"France loses WW1 and goes Fascist because reasons" is one of the more annoying clichés of Central Powers victory TLs. They blithely ignore that the first European country to embrace Fascism was actually one of the victors of WW1.
It's probably because Italy was laughable - she was certainly portrayed laughably - and Hitler wasn't even remotely funny.

More seriously, Italy did have serious problems - all of Europe did - and victory didn't do anything to make them go away. She thought she'd been cheated at the peace conference, IIRC, which didn't help. France was a bit more stable.

That said, a France that lost WW1 would certainly have the same incentive to rearm and rebuild and find newer and better ways to do things than Germany (Republic and Reich) had in OTL. However, it might find it harder to get away with it. Imperial Germany was less foolish than the interwar French and British leadership. An openly revanchist French regime would have been shut down quickly, unless it somehow managed to hide its true nature. (Maybe they devote lots of effort to opening up Africa, with an eye to using it as a training ground for a new model army.)

Thinking about it, a germany that won in 1918 would have a LOT of problems. They might not manage to keep a close eye on France.

Chris
 
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