Dubois, Mary Elizabeth
The effects of post WWI economic distress on French society during the 1920s resulted in a drastic dismembering of previous social ideologies, which, in turn, led to amassed societal transformation.
The economic ruin following the Great War began when investment fell 44% from pre-war levels, thus inhibiting businesses from expanding. The money flow circulating throughout the country began to dissolve, causing citizens to spend less, creating a cyclical lack of money distribution. The Dawes Plan of 1924, which demanded the reparations from Germany be paid of full, was of no help (the money was worthless before 1923). The Bank of France made attempts to stabilize the economy through various campaigns: accumulate vast amounts of foreign currency, liquidate the nation-owned pound sterling, and change all the remaining reserves from the US dollar to gold by imposing a gold standard. The latter ultimately caused the Great Depression in France in the 1930s.
These economic woes led to a profound shift in political ideology, which would ultimately lead to cultural and social changes. During the end of the 1910s, an increased support for liberal/moderate government nearly crushed socialist extremists. When little progress was made in economic recovery after the 1919 moderate election (as previously discussed), radical communism began to infiltrate the country. The schism between the rich and poor was widening considerably. People blamed the war on capitalists, sympathizing with communism and its “fair” class system and interpreting communist propaganda as a means to “unify” the country. When the French moved to the Gold standard, rural farmers were prevented from obtaining loans for planting, which resulted in vast unemployment. These large percentages of unemployment led more and more people to be upswept with radical communist ideas that idealized a world where every class would be equal and men could find equal paying jobs. The socialist movement in France had never gained the support it did after WWI, despite its previous existence.
The upsurge of socialism and communism in post-war France was most acutely the result of WWI & its economic repercussions. This, in turn, caused a phenomenal social change that resulted in the societal ideals of anti-war, anti-conservatism, and pro-nationalization of industry. Contemporary France cultural and social norms would be drastically different had it not been for the Great War & its ideological transformation.