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Georges Bidault

24/06/194628/11/1946

Georges Bidault

Georges-Augustin Bidault (5 October 1899 – 27 January 1983) was a French politician. During World War II, he was active in the French Resistance. After the war, he served as foreign minister and prime minister on several occasions before he joined the Organisation armée secrète.

Fourth Republic

On 4 January 1946, Bidault married Suzanne Borel, the first French woman to be employed as a diplomat. The same year he served as foreign minister in Félix Gouin's provisional government. On 19 June 1946 the National Constituent Assembly elected him as president of the provisional government. His government, formed on 15 June, was composed of socialists, communists and Bidault's own MRP. In social policy, Bidault's government was notable for passing important pension and workman's compensation laws. An act of 22 August 1946 extended coverage of family allowances to practically the entire population, while a law of October 1946 provided that insurance of occupation risks "would henceforth be mandatory and that such insurance would be granted by the Social Security that had been created in 1945". In August 1946, an Act was passed that made provision for two-day's holiday a month up to a maximum of 24 working days for young persons between the ages of 14 and 18 and for one-and-a-half days' a month up to a maximum of 18 working days for those aged between 18 and 21. In addition, an Act was passed on 11 October 1946 that introduced occupational medical services.

Bidault later became foreign minister once again. The government held elections to the National Assembly on 29 November after which Bidault resigned. His successor was Léon Blum.

Bidault served in various French governments, first as foreign minister under Paul Ramadier and Robert Schuman. In April 1947 he supported Ramadier's decision to expel the Communists from his government. Bidault had recently been to Moscow and was disturbed by the Soviet regime; he believed an agreement with Stalin was impossible.

In 1949 he became the President of the Council of Ministers (prime minister) but his government lasted only 8 months. During his last term as prime minister, a law of February 1950 that regulated collective bargaining, and contained a guarantee of the right of workers to strike. The same law required the government to fix minimum wages for agriculture and for industry. In Henri Queuille's governments in 1950–1951 he held the office of Vice-president of the Council and under Rene Pleven and Edgar Faure also the post of defense minister.

In 1952 Bidault became an honorary president of MRP. On 1 June 1953 President Vincent Auriol assigned him to form his own government but the National Assembly refused to give him the official mandate at 10 June. In 1953 Bidault became a presidential candidate but withdrew after the second round.

Bidault was foreign minister during the siege of the French garrison at Dien Bien Phu from March to May 1954. He protested to the Red Cross that the Viet Minh were shooting at clearly marked French medical evacuation flights, killing some of the evacuees. The ongoing fighting in Indochina had exhausted him; he was described by American secretary of state John Foster Dulles as "a deeply harassed man" and later by a historian as "on the verge of a nervous breakdown". Caught between his desires to end the war and to maintain French rule over its colonies, he vacillated between pressing the war, perhaps by asking the Americans for air support, or seeking a negotiated solution. Bidault stated that John Foster Dulles (then Secretary of State of United States) offered France two atomic bombs in 1954.

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Published in 21/09/2020

Updated in 19/02/2021

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