Jean Jaurès

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Jean Jaurès
Member of Parliament
for Tarn department
In office
8 January 1895 – 1 June 1898
Preceded by Jérôme Ludovic de Solages
Succeeded by Jérôme Ludovic de Solages
Personal details
Born (1859-09-03)3 September 1859
Castres, Second French Empire
Died 31 July 1914(1914-07-31) (aged 54)
Paris, French Third Republic
Resting place Panthéon
Nationality French
Political party French Socialist Party
Spouse(s) Louise Bois
Children Madeleine Jaurès, Louis Paul Jaurès
Alma mater École Normale Supérieure
Occupation Director of L'Humanité
Profession Professor, Journalist

Jean Jaurès (French: [ʒɑ̃ ʒɔ.ʁɛːs]; full name Auguste Marie Joseph Jean Léon Jaurès; 3 September 1859 – 31 July 1914) was a French Socialist leader. Initially an Opportunist Republican, he evolved into one of the first social democrats, becoming the leader, in 1902, of the French Socialist Party, which opposed Jules Guesde's revolutionary Socialist Party of France. The two parties merged in 1905 in the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO). An antimilitarist, Jaurès was assassinated at the outbreak of World War I, and remains one of the main historical figures of the French Left.

Early career[edit]

The son of an unsuccessful businessman and farmer, Jean Jaurès was born in Castres (Tarn), in a modest French provincial bourgeois family. He was the first cousin once removed of the admiral and senator Benjamin Jaurès, who was named Minister of the Navy and Colonies in 1889, and of the admiral Charles Jaurès. His younger brother, Louis, also became an admiral and a Republican-Socialist deputy.

A brilliant student, Jaurès was educated at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris and admitted first at the École normale supérieure, in philosophy, in 1878, ahead of Henri Bergson. He obtained his agrégation of philosophy in 1881, ending up third, and then taught philosophy for two years at the lycée of Albi, before lecturing at the University of Toulouse. He was elected Republican deputy for the département of Tarn in 1885, sitting alongside the moderate Opportunist Republicans, opposed both to Georges Clemenceau's Radicals and to the Socialists. He then supported both Jules Ferry and Léon Gambetta.


In 1889, after unsuccessfully contesting Castres, this time under the banner of Socialism, he returned to his professional duties at Toulouse, where he took an active interest in municipal affairs, and helped to found the medical faculty of the University. He also prepared two theses for his doctorate in philosophy, De primis socialismi germanici lineamentis apud Lutherum, Kant, Fichte et Hegel ("On the first delineations of German socialism in the writings of [Martin] Luther, [Immanuel] Kant, [Johann Gottlieb] Fichte and [Georg Wilhelm Friedrich] Hegel") (1891), and De la réalité du monde sensible.

Jaurès was a highly influential historian of the French Revolution. His research in the archives in Paris led to his formulation of the Marxist interpretation of the Revolution. His book Histoire Socialiste (1900-03) shaped the Marxist interpretations by Albert Mathiez, Albert Soboul and Georges Lefebvre that came to dominate the interpretation of the revolution in class conflict terms, into the 1980s. Jaurès emphasized the central role of the middle class and overthrowing aristocratic control, as well as the emergence of the working class "sans-culottes," who espoused a political outlook and social philosophy that came to dominate revolutionary movements on the left.[1][2][3][4]

Rise to prominence[edit]

Jean Jaurès was initially a moderate republican, opposed to both Clemenceau's Radicalism and socialism. He developed into a socialist during the late 1880s.

In 1892, Jaurès supported the miners of Carmaux when they went on strike over the dismissal of their leader, Jean Baptiste Calvignac. Jaurès' campaigning forced the government to intervene and require Calvignac's reinstatement. The following year, Jaurès was re-elected to the National Assembly as socialist deputy for Tarn, a seat he retained (apart from the four years 1898 to 1902) until his death.

Defeated in the election of 1898 he spent four years without a legislative seat. His eloquent speeches nonetheless made him a force to be reckoned with as an intellectual champion of Socialism. He edited La Petite République, and was, along with Émile Zola, one of the most energetic defenders of Alfred Dreyfus (during the Dreyfus Affair that polarized the Right and Left). He approved of the inclusion of Alexandre Millerand, the socialist, in the René Waldeck-Rousseau cabinet, though this led to a split with the more revolutionary section led by Jules Guesde.[5]

SFIO leadership[edit]

Jaurès' Action socialiste, 1899

In 1902 Jaurès was again returned as deputy for Albi. Jaurès and the independent socialists merged in 1902 with Paul Brousse's "possibilist" (reformist) Federation of the Socialist Workers of France and with Jean Allemane's Revolutionary Socialist Workers Party to form the French Socialist Party, of which Jaurès became the leader. They represented a social democratic stance, opposed to Jules Guesde's revolutionary Socialist Party of France.

During the Combes administration his influence secured the coherence of the Radical-Socialist coalition known as the Bloc des gauches, which enacted the 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and the State. In 1904, he founded the socialist paper L'Humanité.[6] According to Geoffrey Kurtz, Jaures was “instrumental” in the reforms carried out by the administration of Emile Combes, “influencing the content of legislation and keeping the factions within the Bloc united.”[7]

Following the 1904 Amsterdam Congress of the Second International, the French socialist groups held a Congress at Rouen in March 1905, which resulted in a new consolidation, with the merger of Jaurès's French Socialist Party and Guesde's Socialist Party of France. The new party, headed by Jaurès and Guesde, ceased to co-operate with the Radical groups, and became known as the Parti Socialiste Unifié (PSU, Unified Socialist Party), pledged to advance a collectivist programme. All the socialist movements unified the same year in the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO). In the general elections of 1906, Jaurès was again elected for the Tarn.

His ability was now generally recognized, but the strength of the SFIO still had to reckon with the vigorous radicalism of Georges Clemenceau, who was able to appeal to his countrymen (in a notable speech in the spring of 1906) to rally to a Radical programme which had no socialist ideas in view, although Clemenceau was sensitive to the conditions of the working class. Clemenceau's image as a strong and practical Radical leader considerably diminished the popularity of the socialists. Jaurès, in addition to his daily journalistic activity, published Les preuves; Affaire Dreyfus (1900); Action socialiste (1899); Etudes socialistes (1902), and, with other collaborators, Histoire socialiste (1901), etc.

Jaurès travelled to Lisbon and Buenos Aires in 1911. He supported, albeit not without criticisms, the teaching of regional languages, such as Occitan, Basque and Breton, commonly known as "patois", thus opposing, on this issue, traditional Republican jacobinism.[8]


Jaurès was a committed antimilitarist who tried to use diplomatic means to prevent what became the First World War. In 1913 he opposed Émile Driant's law, which implemented a three-year draft period, and tried to promote understanding between France and Germany. As conflict became imminent, he tried to organise general strikes in France and Germany in order to force the governments to back down and negotiate. This proved difficult, however, as many Frenchmen sought revenge (revanche) for their country's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and the return of the lost Alsace-Lorraine territory.

Jean Jaurès


The site of his assassination still exists.

On 31 July 1914 Jaurès was assassinated[6] in a Parisian café, Le Croissant, 146 rue Montmartre, by Raoul Villain, a 29-year-old French nationalist. Jaurès had been due to attend a conference of the International on 9 August, in an attempt to dissuade the belligerents from going ahead with the war.[9] Villain was tried after World War I and acquitted but was killed by Spanish Republicans in 1936.

23 November 1924, Jaurès's remains were transferred to the Panthéon.[10]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ James Friguglietti and Barry Rothaus, "A new view of Jean Jaures' 'Histoire Socialiste.'" Consortium on Revolutionary Europe 1750-1850: Selected Papers (1994), pp 254-261.
  2. ^ James Friguglietti, "The people and the terror: history seen from below," Proceedings of the Western Society for French History (1974), Vol. 2, pp 177-185.
  3. ^ James Friguglietti, "Albert Mathiez, an Historian at War." French Historical Studies (1972): 570-586 in JSTOR
  4. ^ Henry Heller (2009). The Bourgeois Revolution in France, 1789-1815. Berghahn Books. p. 12. 
  5. ^ See the 26 November 1900 debate between Jules Guesde and Jaurès. (French)
  6. ^ a b Raphael Levy (January 1929). "The Daily Press in France". The Modern Language Journal 13 (4). Retrieved 16 February 2015.  – via JSTOR (subscription required)
  7. ^
  8. ^ Jean Jaurès, "L'éducation populaire et les "patois"", in La Dépêche, 15 August 1911
    "Méthode comparée", in Revue de l'Enseignement Primaire, 15 October 1911. On-line (French)
  9. ^ Robert Tombs (1996). "To The Sacred Union, 1914". France 1814–1914. London: Longman. p. 481. ISBN 978-0-582-49314-8. 
  10. ^ "Le Panthéon (1924). Collection Bibliothèque de l'Assemblée nationale". National Assembly of France (in French). 2012. Retrieved 8 April 2012. 
  11. ^ Trains Al Steward.
  12. ^ Áine McGillicuddy, René Schickele and Alsace: Cultural Identity Between the Borders. Bern: Peter Lang 2010, page 110.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bernstein, Samuel. "Jean Jaures and the Problem of War," Science & Society, vol. 4, no. 3 (Summer 1940), pp. 127–164. In JSTOR.
  • Coombes, J. E. "Jean Jaures: education, class and culture." Journal of European Studies 20.1 (1990): 23-58.
  • Goldberg, Harvey. The Life of Jean Jaures. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1962.
  • Goldberg, Harvey. "Jean Jaurès and the Jewish Question: The Evolution of a Position." Jewish Social Studies (1958): 67-94. in JSTOR
  • Kurtz, Geoffrey. Jean Jaures: The Inner Life of Social Democracy. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2014.
  • Noland, Aaron. "Individualism in Jean Jaures' Socialist Thought." Journal of the History of Ideas (1961): 63-80. in JSTOR
  • Tolosa, Benjamin T. "The Socialist Legacy of Jean Jaures and Leon Blum." Philippine Studies (1992): 226-239. in JSTOR; online
  • Tuchman, Barbara W. "The Death of Jaurès", chapter 8 of "The Proud Tower - A portrait of the world before the War: 1890-1914" pp. 407 – 462, (1966).
  • Weinstein, Harold. Jean Jaurès: A Study of Patriotism in the French Socialist Movement (1936)
  • Williams, Stuart, ed. Socialism in France: From Jaurès to Mitterrand (Pinter, 19830)

External links[edit]