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Moch, Jules (1893–1985)

Prominent French Socialist Party (SFIO) leader and cabinet minister during the Third and Fourth French Republics. Born in Paris on 15 March 1893 to an assimilated Jewish family, Jules Moch entered the École Polytechnique. World War I interrupted his education, and he then served with distinction during the war in the French Army.

Following the war, Moch used his engineering skills to help in the rebuilding of northeastern France, which had been devastated in the four years of fighting. During 1928–1936 and 1937–1940 he served in the French Chamber of Deputies as a member of the SFIO, first from Drôme and then from Héralult. A close associate of socialist leader Léon Blum, Moch joined the Popular Front government in 1936 and became minister of public works and transport in 1938.

In 1940 Moch was in the minority of deputies who voted against the election of Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain to become French premier. Briefly imprisoned by the Vichy regime, Moch then joined the French Resistance and in 1943 the French government-in-exile headed by General Charles de Gaulle.

Moch served in the Consultative Assembly established in Paris after the city's liberation in August 1944. He was also elected to and served in both constituent assemblies (1945–1946) and in the National Assembly (1946–1958 and 1962–1967). Under the Fourth Republic he served as cabinet minister of public works and transportation (1945–1947), the interior (1946–1950, 1958), and defense (1950–1951). He was deputy premier during 1949–1950.

As transport minister, Moch played an important role in reestablishing the French transportation infrastructure that had been badly damaged in World War II. Roads, railroads, bridges, and airports all needed to be repaired or rebuilt. His most important service to France came as minister of the interior, however. A wave of communist-inspired strikes swept France during 1947–1948. The socialist Moch threatened to use all the power of the state to break the strikes, insisting on the "right to work." In 1948 he stated the view that the communists were attempting a coup de Prague, an effort to seize power in France as they had done in Czechoslovakia that February. As minister of defense, Moch worked to rebuild the French military establishment and to carry out the deployment of limited French forces to fight in Korea. (France was already at war in Indochina.)

Moch opposed U.S. efforts to rearm the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, West Germany). As a deputy, he also voted against the European Defense Community (EDC). Later he also spoke out against President de Gaulle's nuclear strike force, the Force de Frappe.

As a socialist, Moch's influence declined in the Gaullist Fifth Republic. In 1962 Moch won election to the National Assembly of the Fifth Republic, but he became discouraged over what he saw as its lack of political power and resigned in 1967. At the same time, he became disillusioned by what he considered the radicalism of younger socialists and his party's alliance with the French Communist Party. He resigned from the SFIO altogether in 1975. Moch died at Cabris (Alpes-Maritimes) on 1 August 1985.

Spencer C. Tucker


Further Reading
Méchoulan, Eric. Jules Moch un socialiste dérangeant. Paris: Bruylant, 1999.; Moch, Jules. Human Folly: To Disarm or Perish. London: Victory Gollianz, 1955.
 

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