Léon Blum: Prime Minister, Socialist, Zionist by Pierre Birnbaum

By Pierre Birnbaum

Léon Blum (1872–1950), France’s best minister thrice, socialist activist, and brave opponent of the pro-Nazi Vichy regime, profoundly altered French society. it truly is Blum who's answerable for France’s forty-hour week and its paid vacation trips, which have been one of many reforms he championed as a deputy and as best minister, whereas appearing as a proudly noticeable Jew, a Zionist, and finally a survivor of Buchenwald.
 
This biography absolutely integrates Blum’s Jewish commitments into the bigger tale of his existence. in contrast to earlier biographies that downplay the importance of Blum’s Jewish background on his revolutionary politics, Pierre Birnbaum’s portrait depicts a rare guy whose political convictions have been formed and pushed via his cultural historical past. the writer powerfully demonstrates how Blum’s Jewishness used to be significant to his outlook and challenge, from his earliest access into the political area in response to the Dreyfus Affair, and the way it sustained and inspired him during the rest of his existence. Birnbaum’s Léon Blum is a serious bankruptcy within the higher heritage of Jews in France.

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Extra info for Léon Blum: Prime Minister, Socialist, Zionist

Example text

As a worthy and experienced lover . . I deserved to taste the fruits that you, in spite of your own heart’s desire, felt you had to reserve for another man. With what irresistible voluptuous sweetness you would have bestowed on me the nuptial gift of yourself! Your husband would have come into your life later, as he did. ”25 To anti-Semites, Blum’s book was an attack on the family intended to justify the seduction of young French women by Jews. La Croix des Alpes-Maritimes wrote that, despite Alfred Naquet (who was instrumental in legalizing divorce in France) and Alfred Dreyfus, certain traditions of honor and virtue remain in the French soul and can be rooted out only by dint of great effort.

22 A fresh convert to socialism, Blum at this point placed all his hope “among proletarians, clever craftsmen, and hard-working and generous youths among the petite bourgeoisie. 23 Blum’s rather naive social determinism led him to underestimate the degree of reactionary and anti-Semitic sentiment in the very segments of society in which he placed his hopes. “Do not forget that the Semites are nearly all concentrated in big cities,” he wrote. ” In his view, the origin of French anti-Semitism “is not in the lower classes but in high society.

Little by little, my own life became confused with his. ”2 Young Blum, just embarking on a literary career, identified body and soul with Stendhal’s hero. He also began work on a book about Stendhal. The author of The Red and the Black, Lucien Leuwen, and The Charterhouse of Parma appealed to Blum, just as he appealed to Proust. 3 Following the example of Stendhal’s De l’amour (On Love), Proust included a long section “Sur l’amour” (On Love) in Jean Santeuil, a preliminary study for his Search, while Blum at about the same time published Du mariage (On Marriage), which caused a scandal in 1907.

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