When a Frenchman's well-worn leather purse is threatened his thoughts turn forcibly to Justice, he begins to talk louder & louder, may end by erupting with other Frenchmen into unseemly acts. Last week 10,000 solid citizens from various parts of France, members of the National Federation of Taxpayers, met in Paris, clamored for Justice until suddenly, shouting "On to the Chamber!", they started a rush for the Chamber of Deputies, grappled with Paris police, had to be beaten back by ornate cavalry of the Garde Républicaine.
"We will not pay higher taxes!" boomed a fervent spokesman for the prosperous, bourgeois mobsters. "Let the State abandon its multiple functions!* Taxes must be lowered, not raised. If need be let the State raise money by a lottery!"
President Albert Lebrun of France was up most of the night, before the riot because the Cabinet of that stylish Paris Lawyer Maître Paul-Boncour was falling on the issue of this year's budget which French Deputies have threshed with increasing futility for two weeks (TIME, Jan. 30). Final debate dragged through 22 hours. When famed Papa Henri Chéron, stubborn old Norman Finance Minister, demanded an "absolute [balanced] budget" at the cost of drastic tax uppings and salary slashes, he was met by arguments for what was called a "relative budget."
Deputy Léon Blum, leader of the Socialist Party whose votes had been vital in keeping the Paul-Boncour Cabinet in power, attacked Papa Chéron thus: "In a crisis like this all estimates need to be modified from one minute to the next. . . . The pursuit of a rigorous balance is the pursuit of a mirage. . . . If the violence of the remedy aggravates the ill, what will become of your rigid balance? There is nothing to do but approach a balance, and certainly meanwhile one must borrow."
Such reasoning had so obvious an appeal to the Chamber that Premier Paul-Boncour threw overboard some of Papa Chéron's most onerous taxes and economies. For a time the Cabinet seemed to have been saved. It won a vote of confidence 348 to 243. The Chamber voted 400 to 181 to sit all night and began to vote sections of the budget, voted 65 of the 150 sections. Suddenly up popped an item of 5% reduction in the pay of civil servants. Socialist objections touched off pandemonium. "My heart is torn," cried stringy-haired Socialist Blum, "but I am unable to vote with my friends!" In an incoherent scramble all sorts of Deputies, eager to curry favor with civil service constituents, followed the Socialist bolt. The Paul-Boncour Cabinet fell at 6 a. m. by a vote of 193 to 390, "guillotined at dawn" like the last (Herriot) Cabinet (TIME, Dec. 26). The Ministers promptly delivered their resignations at the Elyseé Palace to President Lebrun.
Elected last May the present Chamber has patently not "found itself." Its Deputies are so assorted that they should (French wiseacres agree) support a Cabinet of the moderate Left. But two such Cabinets have been capriciously kicked out at moments of national crisis. Last week President Albert Lebrun wondered with profound puzzlement whom to pick as the next premier.