The 1929 crisis in France

The 1929 crisis in France

  • Unemployed at Les Halles.

    BRASSAÏ Gyula Halász, known as (1899 - 1984)

  • “Work, bread! »- Poster of the S.F.I.O. (French section of the workers' international).

    ZÉNOBEL Pierre (1905 - 1996)

© Estate Brassaï - RMN-Grand Palais Photo CNAC / MNAM Dist. RMN-Grand Palais Jacques Faujour

“Work, bread! »- Poster of the S.F.I.O. (French section of the workers' international).

© ADAGP, Library of contemporary international documentation / MHC

Publication date: September 2005

Historical context

The outbreak of the crisis in France

If France seemed at first spared by the economic crisis which hit the United States head-on in 1929, this was not the case in the following years: suffering the effects of the devaluation of the pound sterling that had occurred in September 1931, the country had to deal with falling prices and a slowdown in agricultural and industrial production, while the budget deficit reappeared. On the other hand, instead of causing, as in the United States or Germany, a sudden increase in the number of unemployed and in poverty, the French crisis is reflected in a progressive, but just as serious, paralysis of economic activity. ; paralysis which lasted until 1939 when other countries experienced some recovery.

In order to fight against this crisis, the government is deploying a certain number of measures organized around four axes: raising protectionist barriers intended to reduce imports, limiting agricultural and industrial production to slow down prices, protecting the economy. petty trade, deflationary policy to reduce the budget deficit.

Image Analysis

The manifestations of the crisis

Despite all the efforts made by the state, most socio-professional categories are affected and see their incomes collapse, while unemployment increases (273,000 unemployed in 1932, 340,000 in 1934). The working class environment is particularly affected, as shown by this photograph taken by Brassaï of a group of unemployed people gathered in Les Halles around 1932. With an objective realism and refusing any artistic effect, this French photographer of Hungarian origin (1899-1984 ) defined photography as a way of "getting lost in order to stick as closely as possible to reality and achieve resemblance in a sort of absolute" (The literary Figaro, October 21, 1950).

In this very simple composition, the lighting effects emphasize certain figures, while they relegate others to the background. The side light hits the character seen from behind, towards whom all eyes converge, and designates him as the leader of the group. The lively discussion and the attentive faces of the unemployed reflect their fears and aspirations for change in the face of the crisis of which they are the main victims. Their concerns are relayed by the S.F.I.O. (French Section of the Workers' International), of which this campaign poster for the legislative elections of May 1932 features a man who, with his mouth wide open, calls "Work, bread!" ".

The brutality of the movement, the emphasis on the body and the violence of the cry are characteristic of the political poster in the 1930s, especially in revolutionary movements and in particular in the French Communist Party. The red background of the poster also evokes the revolutionary character of the SFIO, while the extreme simplification of the graphics reinforces the impact of the message, directed against a government accused of not having a serious program to fight the crisis. and against unemployment in particular.


The accession of the socialists to power

The inability of the right-wing governments of Pierre Laval and then of André Tardieu to resolve the problems posed by the crisis resulted in their defeat in the elections of 1932. The left largely won in the Chamber with 334 deputies, against 259 for the right . In the left coalition comes the radical-socialist party (157 seats), followed by the S.F.I.O. (129 seats). It is removed from power by the new president Édouard Herriot, who decides to govern alone, without the participation of the Socialists. However, the political dissensions and the difficult socio-economic context, to which are added several political or financial scandals and the threat of fascism, contribute to discredit the regime in place and to prepare the coming to power of the Socialists. , supported by trade unions.

Since the split of the Congress of Tours in 1920 which led to the founding of the Communist Party, the SFIO, gathered around Léon Blum and the Popular Left Front in 1934, has been striving to gain a parliamentary majority and to reconcile the party's revolutionary demands. with the exercise of power within existing social and political frameworks. It was done during the 1936 elections: after the failure of the radical experiment, then a brief return of the right to business, the Popular Front managed to rise to power in 1936. This victory mainly benefited the SFIO , which for the first time becomes the main political force on the left, ahead of the radicals.

  • unemployment
  • Crisis of 1929
  • elections
  • workers
  • Paris
  • socialism
  • silver
  • SFIO


Serge BERSTEIN, France in the 1930s, Paris, A. Colin, 1988.

Dominique BORNE and Henri DUBIEF, New History of Contemporary France, volume XIII “The Crisis of the Thirties, 1929-1938”, Paris, Le Seuil, coll. "Points", 1989.

George LEFRANC, The Socialist Movement under the Third Republic, volume II, Paris, Payot, 1977.

Alain SAYAG and Annick LIONEL-MARIE, Brassai, catalog of the exhibition of the Center Georges-Pompidou, April 19-June 25, 2000, Paris, Le Seuil-Éditions du Center Pompidou, 2000.

To cite this article

Charlotte DENOËL, "The crisis of 1929 in France"

Video: Stock Market Crash of 1929 Explained - Documentary - Key Insights and Analysis