During 1933 Serge Stavisky, a naturalized Frenchman from Russia, floated forged bonds on the Paris Bourse (stock exchange). When the police finally came to arrest him on 8 January 1934, he committed suicide. Enquiries into the delay in prosecuting him found that he had been backed and protected by a number of parliamentary Deputies and Ministers of the Third Republic. An official of the Public Prosecutor's Office was found murdered, which added to the charge of cover‐up. Amid the sense of economic and social crisis pervading at the time, Action Française and other right‐wing groups exploited the incident to the utmost by suggesting that it showed not just the incompetence, but also the corruptness of the current French political system. In a series of demonstrations, the most violent was on 6 February 1934, when fourteen people were killed and over 230 wounded. Prime Minister Daladier, himself appointed to handle the crisis a few weeks earlier, resigned. It took a ‘government of national unity’, under the veteran President Doumergue, to pacify the country again. For the right, the scandal became a potent example of the failure of the Republican political system. To the left, it signalled an imminent takeover by Fascism, as had happened recently in Italy and Germany. This fear was exaggerated, but nevertheless became the catalyst for the formation of the Popular Front.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).