10 July 1940, vichy, france lessons on dynasties from a democratic suicide

10 July 1940, Vichy, France: Lessons on dynasties from a democratic suicide

Jean Lacroix, Pierre-Guillaume Méon, Kim Oosterlinck 18 July 2020

Growing populism has brought up concerns that democracies can provide directly into authoritarian pressure. On 10 July 1940, exactly 80 years back, the French parliament approved an enabling action granting full capacity to Marshal Philippe Pétain. Analysing the way the Members of Parliament voted, this column implies that MPs owned by a pro-democratic dynasty had been much more likely to oppose the action. Dynastic politicians may donate to stabilising democracies by better resisting peer pressure.


In a period when different democratic countries are exhibiting signs of authoritarian backsliding and increasing questions on the drivers of populism (Rodrik 2019), lessons could be drawn from history (Voth 2008). The tenth of July 2020 marks the uncelebrated anniversary of a submit French history that parallels current debates on the fragility of democracies.

On 10 July 1940, exactly 80 years back, the French parliament dedicated democratic suicide: almost all its members voted to get rid of the 3rd French Republic by moving an action granting full capacity to Marshal Philippe Pétain. One cannot but wonder what sort of democratically elected parliament in a 65-year old republic could move such a bill.

By analysing what established individual Members of Parliament’s (MPs’) votes, we exhibit that MPs owned by a pro-democratic dynasty had been much more likely to oppose the allowing action (Lacroix et al. 2019).

The context of the vote

Neither the military defeat nor the armistice signed with Germany on 22 June 1940 implied a regime transformation. Other countries that were invaded – like Belgium and holland – maintained their institutions. Nonetheless, the French government made a decision to consult its MPs to get rid of democracy.

French MPs knew that the target was to determine an autocratic regime that could implement the ‘Révolution nationale’, a radical conservative reform package predicated on Catholicism, political centralisation, large capitalist corporations, and coercion. The regime nearly quickly started out discriminating against Jews, although there is absolutely no proof German demands on French insurance plan towards Jews until August 1941 (Paxton 1972).

The vote was thus just about the most consequential of France’s history. Its outcome was no formality.

Determinants of the vote

The results can, of course, get blamed on the cunning of Pierre Laval, the Vice-President of the Council of Ministers, who seen the military defeat as a chance to replace the republic with an authoritarian regime aligned with Germany and Italy. 1 He leveraged his supporters within the parliament and required benefit of rising anti-parliamentarian sentiment.

However, nearly all MPs had been democrats elected within an election that experienced brought to electric power a left-wing coalition. Most of them therefore exceeded a bill that was at odds with their political views. Some had been seen crying; others had been even already acquiring steps towards what would later end up being the resistance.

Laval and his associates wouldn’t normally have succeeded without the disorganisation, the chaos, and the uncertainty due to the military defeat. The vote occurred in the spa town of Vichy, to where in fact the government experienced retreated just eighteen days following the armistice was signed (Wieviorka 2001: 25). Not merely was it problematic for MPs to access Vichy, nonetheless it was also hard to allow them to discover a spot to stay and function. Political parties experienced collapsed, making it even more complicated to coordinate any opposition to the bill. In a nutshell, debate and coordination prior to the vote were extremely difficult, a lot more so since MPs didn’t get a draft of the bill until 9 July, your day prior to the vote.

Under those conditions, MPs were dropped, pressured, and confronted a radical uncertainty in regards to what the proper decision was. They, subsequently, had a solid incentive to conform (Ermakoff 2008). Herd behaviour was very likely, and Pierre Laval’s intrigues supplied a focal point which to coordinate.

However, 80 out of 669 MPs identified the resolve to oppose the take action. To comprehend what prompted them to stick out, we gathered the votes and bibliographies of all MPs who participated in the vote, because of the Dictionnaire des déplaceés et sénateurs français (1889-1940) (Joly 1960). We in that case studied the correlates of their votes on the allowing act.


Our virtually all striking result concerns the behaviour of dynastic MPs, thought as politicians who happen to be related by blood to different individuals formerly retaining political office (Dal Bó et al. 2009, Geys and Smith 2017), and extra specifically of pro-democratic dynastic MPs, those owned by a dynasty whose founder was a defender of democratic ideals.

Pro-democratic dynastic MPs were much more likely, by a margin of 9.6 to 15.1 percentage points, to oppose the action than were members of different political dynasties or elected representatives owned by no political dynasty (Amount 1). Propensity score estimates claim that the result we observe could possibly be causal.

Amount 1 Mean comparison – Shares of MPs opposing the action

*** p 1 Pierre Laval have been elected as a socialist MP in 1914 and served as minister many times and doubly President of the Council of Ministers. He previously been the French ambassador to Italy, where he befriended Benito Mussolini.

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