During the postwar period, laborers stage hundreds of strikes, particularly in 1919 and 1920, protesting low wages and high prices. Many of these demonstrations turn violent, with clashes between protesters and police forces.
Hard times and inefficient government increase resentment among ordinary citizens, some of whom turn toward fascism. France puts down a revolt in Morocco and jails communist militants who oppose France's policies in its colonies. In 1934 a financial and political scandal involving the sale of worthless bonds discredits the Radical Socialist Party and parliamentary democracy in general.
The right's rise brings religious violence. The right attacks Léon Blum as a Jew and attempts to assassinate him. Blum's announcement of a pause in social reform causes violent demonstrations in which several Socialists are killed and more than 200 are wounded. A year later, a general strike in protest of the expanded work week leads to severe repression as activists are systematically put down.
German occupation and cooperation by the authoritarian Vichy government bring a period of repression and discrimination. The Vichy regime works with Nazi Germany to hunt down and deport Jews. Political parties are abolished; the leaders of the Popular Front are arrested; political meetings and strikes are prohibited. Food rationing triggers the rise of a black market.
Angry and spontaneous acts of revenge over those who cooperated with the Germans give way to an official government purge of collaborators. De Gaulle is determined to carry out the purge legally, and hundreds of court proceedings follow. Vichy's Marshal Pétain is sentenced to life imprisonment.
The Algerian National Liberation Front launches a terrorism campaign in Algeria; the French army responds with torture. Enraged French intellectuals publish books and articles detailing the use of torture. The government's attempted cover-up causes a public uproar. De Gaulle narrowly survives several assassination attempts. Colonial-rule extremists carry out terrorist acts in Algeria and France.
The public learns the government has tried to hide to scope of a violent crackdown on Algerians in Paris during a protest in 1961. Disenchantment with the government comes to a head in a May 1968 upheaval begun by students and joined by workers across the country. The police erect barricades and respond to student attacks with violence.
Separatists on the Mediterranean island of Corsica begin a string of bombings. In Paris, a series of explosions is linked to a Lebanese terrorist group. A violent anarchist group, Action Directe, contributes to the climate of terror. France creates an anti-terrorism office, expanding the powers of magistrates to hold terrorism suspects without charge.
Several corruption scandals come to light as France's magistrates unearth evidence of illegal fundraising during the Cold War era, often organized nationally via fictitious holding companies. Dozens of businessmen and politicians are placed under formal investigation as investigating magistrates delve deeper into political schemes over time.
Algerian-based Islamic fundamentalists are believed to be responsible for a bombing campaign carried out primarily on Paris commuter trains. France implements a joint military operation known as Vigipirate designed to meet the security threat. While having little effect on terrorism, the plan does reduce the crime rate.
French authorities bring more than 100 terrorists to justice for past acts of violence, but controversy over allegations of racism in the mass trial leads to minimal sentencing. Chirac is linked to public contract manipulation and illegal use of publicly owned buildings during his term as mayor of Paris. An intense investigation of corruption charges among prominent political figures begins.
Finance Minister Dominique Strauss Kahn steps down in the wake of corruption allegations of which he is later cleared. Constitutional Council head Roland Dumas is jailed on corruption charges along with two top executives of the oil company Elf Aquitaine; he is eventually cleared. Despite growing judicial independence, top politicians are still often seen as immune to prosecution.
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