Ancient history

Jean Jaurès

Jean Jaurès, by his civil name Auguste Marie Joseph Jean Léon Jaurès, was a French politician, born in Castres on September 3, 1859 and died in Paris on July 31, 1914.

Jean Jaurès comes from a family of modest French provincial bourgeoisie, with some brilliant careers (two admiral cousins, one of whom will become Minister of the Navy in 1888). He is the nephew of Admiral and Senator Benjamin Jaurès.

Jean's father, Jules Jaurès, is a small peasant; his wife Adélaïde Barbaza, raises their two children with great conscience:Jean, the eldest, and Louis who will become admiral and republican-socialist deputy.

School background

A brilliant student, Jaurès benefited from the chances of social promotion offered by the Republic, he studied at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand. In 1878, he was received first at the École Normale Supérieure on rue d'Ulm, then third at the philosophy aggregation in 1881.


Jaurès first taught at the Lycée Lapérouse in Albi, then joined Toulouse in 1882 to work as a lecturer at the Faculty of Letters. He also gives a course in psychology at the high school for young girls in the same city.

Entering politics

He does not then conceive of any other gathering than that of the Republicans. Tempted by a political career, he was elected Republican deputy in Castres on October 4, 1885, obtaining, among 6 candidates in the running, 48,067 votes out of 93,932 voters (51%). Unregistered, he sits in the center left and most often supports Jules Ferry, even if his great man remains Gambetta. His proposals for social reform were noticed and earned him the congratulations of the socialist review.

It was his defeat in these same elections four years later that led him to run for Toulouse, this time under the socialist banner, and on the municipal list.

“Moderate Republicans” in the Socialist Party

Jaurès was not always a socialist and a Marxist. When the Republic was established for good, after a decade of dithering about the regime (in 1870 the Second Empire collapsed, the Republic was proclaimed but the monarchists, divided, dominated in the Chamber of Deputies), Jaurès did not is only twenty years old.

He entered politics in 1885, becoming a deputy for Tarn at the age of 25. He was then the spiritual son of Jules Ferry and sat among the "opportunists", socially moderate republicans. He then finds the radicals of Clemenceau too agitated and the socialists violent and dangerous for the republican order in construction. He was nonetheless interested in the fate of the working class and put his now legendary eloquence at the service of the regime's first social laws (freedom of association, protection of delegates, creation of workers' pension funds, etc.).

Son of 1789, he nevertheless believes in institutional and republican reformism, in the alliance of workers and the working class for the triumph of freedom, equality and fraternity.

In 1889 the Republicans won the legislative elections but he, this Republican who advocated state control over companies, was beaten in the constituency of Carmaux (Tarn), by the Marquis de Solages, president of the mines. Beaten, Jaurès resumes his teaching at the faculty of Toulouse. He was awarded a doctorate in philosophy in 1892 with his main thesis On the reality of the sensible world and his secondary thesis in Latin, On the origins of German socialism in Luther, Kant, Fichte, and Hegel.

He also continues his political activity. He ran for municipal elections (1890). Since 1887, he collaborated with the radical Dépêche, and he became a municipal councilor, then deputy mayor for public instruction of Toulouse (1890-1893). His experience, his knowledge of working-class circles and socialist militants, his work and his research oriented him towards socialism. This development ended with the Carmaux miners' strike.

The Great Carmaux Strike

Jaurès was on the sidelines of national political life when, in 1892, the great strike at the Carmaux mines broke out.

The mining company, led by Baron Reille, the strongman of the Tarn right, and his son-in-law the Marquis Ludovic de Solages, deputy for the constituency, had just dismissed one of its workers, Jean Baptiste Calvignac, union leader and socialist , miner, new mayor of Carmaux since May 15, 1892, for being absent on several occasions in order to fulfill his obligations as elected municipal official. It was to call into question universal suffrage and the real rights of the working class to express themselves in politics.

The workers go on strike to defend this mayor of whom they are proud. The Republic sends the army, 1500 soldiers, in the name of “freedom of work”. The Republic seems to take the side of the monarchist employers against the strikers. In France, we are in the midst of the Panama scandal.

Deputy for Carmaux

In his articles in La Dépêche, Jaurès supports this strike. Jaurès no longer supports this Republic, which he considers to be in the hands of capitalist deputies and ministers for whom finance and industry take precedence over respect for people:Carmaux and the mine are the political springboard he was looking for. He learned about the class struggle and socialism. Having arrived as a bourgeois intellectual, a social republican, he came out of the Carmaux strike won over to socialism.

Under pressure from the strike and from Jaurès, the government arbitrated the Solages-Calvignac dispute in favor of Calvignac. Solages resigns from his deputy seat. Jaurès is quite naturally appointed by the workers of the basin to represent them in the Chamber:from now on, it is a white collar, and no longer the miner Calvignac, who is their leader.

The Carmaux workers then asked Jaurès to be their candidate in the by-election. Jaurès was elected on January 8, 1893 as an independent socialist despite the rural votes of the constituency which did not want "sharers". Close to the Guesdists, Jaurès campaigned ardently against the villainous laws or in favor of the glassmakers of Carmaux, dismissed by their boss Rességuier.

Jaurès then launches into the incessant and resolute defense of the workers in struggle. For example, he is at the origin of the famous Verrerie Ouvrière in Albi. In the wine-growing Languedoc, he visited the "free winegrowers of Maraussan" who created the first cooperative cellar.

The Dreyfus Affair

At the start of the Dreyfus affair, Jaurès did not take a clear position. He even goes so far as to initially condemn the sentence of deportation, deemed too lenient (a simple non-commissioned officer would have been purely and simply sentenced to death). However, following popular and political pressure, and also thanks to the enthusiasm of the young graduates of Normale and in particular Lucien Herr, convinced by Germanist militants, by Zola's J'accuse, he committed himself with passion .

Jaurès and the Socialists began to defend Alfred Dreyfus bluntly. It is with the Dreyfus affair that Jaurès enters fully into history. The case involves not only individual injustice, but respect for humanity itself. It poses the problem of the lies and the arbitrariness of the major institutions, in particular the army, which intends to have a separate "justice". In addition, the Catholic and nationalist right instrumentalize the affair with a view to overthrowing the Republic.

He then opposed the orthodox Marxists, including the leader, Jules Guesde, for whom Dreyfus was a bourgeois officer and therefore his defense would not be a priority (the memory of the bloody repression of the Paris Commune, and other workers' revolts , has a lot to do with the distrust of the militant workers towards the cause of an officer). But for Jaurès, the overwhelming misfortunes and injustices of which Dreyfus was a victim erased class differences. Dreyfus is no longer a privileged or an exploiter:he is a man who suffers unjustly.

The Republic

Defeated in the 1898 elections (the installation of the Verrerie Ouvrière in Albi and his ardent defense of Dreyfus provoked his defeat), Jaurès became director of La petite republique. It is in the columns of this newspaper that he publishes Evidence relating to the Dreyfus affair. He directed a Socialist History of Contemporary France (Éditions Rouff) for which he wrote the volumes devoted to the French Revolution (1901-1903).

Jaurès became aware of the resistance of capitalist society and the dangers revealed by the rise of nationalism and anti-Semitism. The defense of the republic became his primary objective:he therefore supported the Waldeck Rousseau government, which associated with its action, for the first time in the history of the Republic, the socialist Alexandre Millerand, appointed to commerce and industry .

Jaurès and his French Socialist Party are clearly committed to the bloc of the left and the Combes government (1902-1905) which prepares the vote for the separation of Church and State (December 1905). However, the expected social reforms are marking time. The dynamism of the block is exhausted. Jaurès, vice-president of the chamber in 1902, was not re-elected to this office in 1904.


Jaurès, re-elected deputy for Tarn in 1902, 1906, 1909 and 1914, founded the daily L'Humanité in 1904. He influenced his strategic choices and gave priority to socialist unity. This, under pressure from the International, was realized at the Globe Congress (April 1905) with the creation of the SFIO, unifying the different socialist sensibilities of France.

Fragile unity:Jaurès is criticized, but he often manages to convince his comrades. An important political leader, he engaged in dialogue with the revolutionary trade unionists of the CGT and fought against the colonial expedition in Morocco.

Even if he recognizes the class struggle, for Jaurès, humanity is one and the man on the left must get involved in the Republic for a democratic and non-violent revolution. In 1904, the congress of the Second International preferred the ideas of Jules Guesde, but the elections indicated a contrary favour:31 deputies in Jaurès and 12 in Guesde.

Regional languages

It was during a trip to Lisbon in 1911 that Jaurès became convinced that regional languages ​​should be taught in schools. Although he always spoke Occitan and followed the literary movement in the Occitan language, in particular by writing reviews in La Dépêche under the pseudonym of Le Liseur, he had never taken a position in favor of his teaching.

He does this in two articles[1] where he proposes to rely on the linguistic knowledge of Occitan, Basque and Breton children to compare regional languages ​​to French and thus develop their judgment and reasoning. He also insists on the ease of understanding the other Romance languages ​​when you master French and Occitan.


Jaurès, who has had an international dimension for a long time, will, for the last ten years of his life, fight against war. He is obsessed with threats to peace, especially during the Balkan Wars in 1912-1913. In 1910, he wrote an important bill devoted to the new army in which he advocated an organization of National Defense based on the military preparation of the entire Nation. He leads a vigorous campaign against the law of Three Years of military service, ardently defended by the deputy Émile Driant, and voted in 1913:it is the gathering of Pré-Saint-Gervais on May 25, 1913, which brings together 150,000 people.

1914 seems to bring new reasons for hope:the war in the Balkans is over, the elections in France are a success for the socialists. But events are rushing. The assassination of the Archduke François Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914 is felt as a dramatic event only with the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia on July 23, 1914. Jaurès tries to influence in a direction favorable to peace , government policy.

Pacifist but not anti-militarist, Jean Jaurès called for a general strike, shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, which, if not followed, would have to give way to national defence.

His positions in favor of pacifism made him very unpopular among nationalists and he was assassinated at the Café du Croissant, 146 rue Montmartre in Paris (2nd), on July 31, 1914, three days before the outbreak of hostilities, by Raoul Villain, member of the League of Young Friends of Alsace-Lorraine, a movement of nationalist students. This assassination also achieved its goal, because it facilitated the rallying of the left, including many socialists who hesitated, to the "Sacred Union".

At the end of the "Great War" and in reaction to the massacre it caused, a large number of French municipalities named streets and squares in his honor, recalling that he was the most fervent opponent of such a conflict. . A Paris metro station also bears his name.

After 56 months of preventive detention, his murderer Raoul Villain was acquitted on March 29, 1919. His widow Mrs. Jaurès was condemned to pay the costs of the trial, as a civil party.

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