Jaurès, Jean

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the shaping of an intellectual
a young republican deputy
the orator
the dreyfusard
from the "leftist bloc" to socialist unity
the cause for peace
the first casualty of the war
the left grateful to a great man

JAURÈS, JEAN (1859–1914), French politician.

In the collective memory of the French, there are few who embody, as did Jean-Joseph-Marie-Auguste Jaurès, the faculty for being in politics and still considering political action as an ethical priority. For nearly twenty years, with an interruption in the legislature from 1898 to 1902, he was one of the prominent figures in parliamentary life, though he never participated in any government. Even his adversaries recognized his exceptional skill as an orator. He could not only sway the course of an assembly deliberation, but also speak to the people in a language that revealed to them the better world they each had within them. The father of the unification of the various French socialist movements into one single party, and a staunch opponent of war, he was murdered on 31 July 1914, making him more than just the "hero killed ahead of the armies" as Anna-Élisabeth Mathieu de Noailles (1876–1933) sang, but the sacrificed prophet of peace.

the shaping of an intellectual

Jean Jaurès did not emerge from the laboring classes. His father, Jules Jaurès, was an unsuccessful businessman, but by the time of his death, in 1882, Jules was the landlord of a seven-hectare farm, the Fedial, near Castres, the county seat of the Tarn. It was in Castres where Jean, on 3 September 1859, and his younger brother Louis were born. Their mother, Marie-Adélaide Barbaza, from a Catholic family, was a good example of the middle bourgeoisie of Castres.

They lived in relative ease: Jean entered his native town's secondary public school at age ten on a scholarship. His ascension was exemplary in that it was first and foremost due to his excellent school results. In 1876 he received a scholarship to attend prep school in Paris for the entrance exam to the École Normale Supérieure of Ulm Street (ENS). Two years later, he was placed first at the ENS, ahead of Henri-Louis Bergson (1859–1941). Like Bergson, Jaurès leaned toward philosophy; in 1881 he was placed third on the certification exam (agrégation), this time behind Bergson. Among the most important people he met at the ENS was Lucien Herr, who was named ENS librarian in 1889, and who had exercised his influence on a number of students, making him an eminent figure in "intellectual socialism."

Appointed at his request to the Albi high school, in 1883 Jaurès began teaching an undergraduate seminar and a class on moral philosophy at the University of Toulouse. He remained a professor in his ways and was always conscious of a teacher's social role, be it as the Toulouse mayor's adjunct in 1890, or as a collaborator, from 1905 to his death, in the Revue de l'enseignement primaire et primaire supérieur (Review of primary and middle school education). He was also always an astonishing "reader," a name he adopted when signing the literary chronicles he contributed to La dépêche de Toulouse as of 1893. When he came to Toulouse to give a lecture in support of the railway workers who had been dismissed after their strike of 1910, he spoke of the Russian novelist and moral philosopher Leo Tolstoy. This choice is perhaps enough to measure the cultural contrast between that era and the early twenty-first century.

a young republican deputy

Jaurès's parliamentary career began before his studies ended. He was twenty-six years old when he entered the Palais-Bourbon in 1885, elected on the republican list of his département of the Tarn. His young age may alone explain the discretion of his first mandate, which was not renewed in 1889. He returned to his teaching and his studies, but especially to his loved ones—that same year, he and his wife, Louise, whom he had married in 1886, had a daughter named Madeleine. He wrote his two theses, the French and the Latin, De la réalité du monde sensible (Of the reality of the world), and defended them at the Sorbonne in the beginning of 1892.

This initial relationship between metaphysical reflection and political commitment is essential in understanding how Jaurès subsequently made sure that words and action went hand in hand. First, his metaphysics amounted to total trust in mankind, but without completely negating God, an idea that had a place in his quest for moral perfection and social harmony. His ideas, therefore, distanced him from the "secularism" of his comrades. Second, he understood that he was on the wrong path in thinking, as he wrote in 1897, "that by logical and interior evolution, the entire governmental Republic must be bent on the idea of social equality, and on the fraternal organization of work and property." As of 1886, when defending his proposal for a law on worker pensions, he had declared himself a partisan of the "socialist idea."

Strengthened by this ascension and the experience he gained as a member of the Toulouse municipal council, and upon the request of the Socialists in the small industrial town of Carmaux, Jaurès ran for election in the fall of 1892, and won by a small margin on the French Labor Party program of Jules Guesde (1845–1922). He remained loyal to a constituency still strongly influenced by the notables of old, such as the Solages and Reille families, and within which the indecisive balance between labor votes and farmer votes made any majority doubtful. He was devoted both to the Carmaux miners, who ran a difficult strike in 1892, and also to the glass workers engaged in a struggle with their employer, Rességuier, both on location and in the National Assembly. Workers found in him not only a representative eager to plead for conciliation and arbitration, but, more importantly, the organizer of a mobilization that resulted in the creation of a Workers' Cooperative inaugurated on 25 October 1896.

the orator

On 21 November 1893, Jaurès engineered the fall of the government, achieving immediate celebrity. He criticized the prime minister (president of the council) Charles Alexandre Dupuy (1851–1923), a longtime academy inspector, for holding to the narrow rationalism of new popular education, and disguising it as social policy: "You've interrupted the old song that was human misery's lullaby … and human misery has woken up screaming, it has stood up before you and today it demands its rightful place, its great place in the sun of the natural world, the only one you have not yet eclipsed."

Jaurès's eloquence moved from his teacher's lectern to the podium of the National Assembly and to the stage of the political meeting, from the struggle for socialist unity to the "war on war" campaign. The election of some forty socialist deputies in the summer of 1893 stimulated him. Discreet, reserved, as a young republican deputy, Jaurès was now in the foreground as a socialist orator. When Alexandre-Félix-Joseph Ribot (1842–1923) asked him the explanation for this change, noted by all who remembered him when he first got to the National Assembly, Jaurès made this answer, which sheds light on his progression toward socialism: "I was like a volcano spewing out ice." For the author Jean Guéhenno, who as a child saw Jaurès speak in 1906 at Fougères, in Brittany, during the great strike of the shoe industry workers,

he had became the Orator, in the deepest sense that word could have meant in ancient republics. Orator. The man who speaks and thus defines the world, gives it life for us men, and cleans it up, corrects its mistakes, if need be, the man who pleads and persuades and convinces and who begs, and who slowly changes us and converts us to justice and truth. (p. 44)

the dreyfusard

The Dreyfus affair was one of the great battles of Jaurès's life. He was not an early dreyfusard, or supporter of Alfred Dreyfus (1859–1935), but he was certainly one of the most persevering. In his case it was not, as it was for Émile Zola (1840–1902), out of an aversion to anti-Semitism that he embraced the cause of Captain Dreyfus. Militarism was his true enemy, that is, the caste spirit that continued to permeate an army that successive governments, in his mind, had not dared, or did not know how, to turn into a truly republican institution. So he first attacked the military court system, this special tribunal, free to condemn on the basis of "evidence" that it had itself fabricated.

Les Preuves (Proof) was precisely the title he gave his articles in La petite république socialiste in August 1898. To the comrades of the French Labor Party, for whom "only class struggle and social revolution matter," he answered straightaway: "If Dreyfus … is innocent, then he is stripped of all class characteristics by the very extent of the disaster…. In revolutionary combat, we can still keep human guts; to remain socialist, we are not obligated to flee outside of humanity." His political commitment, cemented with the publication of J'accuse by Zola, on 13 January—he testified at Zola's trial on 12 February—cost him his seat as a deputy on 8 May, in favor of the Marquis de Solages. Jaurès refused a second-round sure election in Paris.

He therefore had more time on his hands. He used it first to advocate for Dreyfus, particularly in his own region in the south of France. After the incoherent verdict pronounced by the court of appeals in Rennes—Dreyfus was found guilty again but this time with extenuating circumstances—the issue of presidential pardon came up, which Jaurès, against Georges Clemenceau (1841–1929), advised that Dreyfus should accept. But he urged Dreyfus to pursue the struggle until fully rehabilitated. And it was Jaurès who, upon returning to the National Assembly in 1902, relaunched the case in order to get the appeals court to definitively repair the injustice, which it did in 1906. The greater freedom that his electoral defeat in 1898 brought him also enabled him to begin writing his Histoire socialiste de la Révolution francaise (1901–1907; Socialist history of the French Revolution). Then he participated in the debate triggered among socialists by the entrance of their parliamentary leader, Alexandre Millerand (1859–1943), into the government of "republican defense" formed by Pierre-Marie-René Waldeck-Rousseau (1846–1904) on 22 June 1899. Millerand worked alongside General Gaston-Alexandre-Auguste de Galliffet (1830–1909), one of those responsible for the repression of the Commune of Paris in 1871.

from the "leftist bloc" to socialist unity

Jaurès approved of socialists participating in the government, and therefore of the choice of partial reform, even though this was difficult to reconcile with the socialist project of immediate and integral revolution. In his eyes, action in service of the working class did not exclude putting republican institutions to good use—or better still, reforming those institutions, subject to democratic consent. To put this kind of reform into effect, two kinds of organization had to be created: the trade union and the party. Jaurès therefore opted for a model of "social democracy" that fell far short of winning consensus in his own party. He took as priorities the strengthening of trade unions, both in organizing labor and in labor disputes, as well as the need for unity between various socialist groups, such as supporters of Guesde, Paul Brousse (1844–1912), É douard-Marie Vaillant (1840–1915), or the supporters of Jean Allemane (1843–1935) or the independents.

Unity took a long time coming because this diversity was the product of the very history of the French labor movement. In 1899–1900, Jaurès failed in his attempt to have a Belgian-style formula adopted, in which the party would gather together professional, union, and political organizations. The General Confederation of Labor (CGT), created in 1895, mistrusted parliamentary action and leaned toward revolutionary syndicalism. As of 1902, competition intensified between the Socialist Party of France of Guesde and Vaillant and Jaurès's own French Socialist Party. Jaurès was one of the principal supporters of the government of Emile Combes (1835–1921). From January 1903 to January 1904, he was vice-president of the National Assembly and one of the most active members of the leftist delegation, on whom the prime minister relied. Once Combes was over-thrown, Jaurès played a determining role in the process that resulted in the separation of church and state on 9 December 1905. He and Aristide Briand, deputy of Saint-Étienne, and reporter of the law, devised a formula for "religious associations" formed according to the "rules for the over-all organization of religion" that was acceptable to Catholics.

The French Section of the Workers' International (Section Française de l'Internationale Ouvrière or SFIO) emerged during a 23–26 April meeting held in Paris, at the Globe Hall. But this had required the intervention of the International at its congress in Amsterdam (August 1904). In appearance at least, Guesde's views were preferred to those of Jaurès. But other struggles would allow Jaurès to consolidate his political rise, particularly the actions of the wine makers of the south in 1907. As a man who was introduced early on to the condition of farmers, especially in the south, he could hardly be indifferent to their struggles. At the congress of Toulouse of 1908, his motion, adopted almost unanimously, enabled the SFIO, until then a minimal association between rival organizations, to become a full-fledged modern party.

the cause for peace

"The Party is making me who I am," Jaurès said and why not believe it? But the party did not absorb all of his energy. Man of the verb, he was naturally a man of the press. He contributed regularly to the Dépêche de Toulouse from 1887 to 1914, and was the political director of La petite république from 1898 to 1903. He also created and ran his own periodical, L'humanité, beginning in 1904. This was certainly a "socialist paper," but was not the paper of the Socialist Party. An "open Tribune" was added to it in August 1906, open to the CGT. The paper experienced financial problems in 1906–1907, but by 1912 a print run of eighty thousand copies was achieved. Changing the format to a six-page daily in January 1913 proved to be a lucrative decision, as the number of copies printed reached 150,000 in 1914.

In L'humanité, young intellectuals such as Jean-Richard Bloch joined with the older Dreyfus supporters such as Anatole France to support Jaurès in his fight for peace. This fight was not only inspired by the rise of nationalism that followed the Franco-German crisis of 1905. Jaurès was also worried about the turn that the French colonial venture was taking in both Algeria and Tunisia. For Jaurès, the effects of nationalism were threatening for more reasons than their continued nurturing of the possibility of war between France and Germany. It seemed to him that the weakening of the Ottoman Empire was the greatest factor in the instability of a Europe where, as he foresaw in 1895, the rivalry between the "imperial societies" bore "war within them as rain clouds bear a storm." As early as 1896 he had interceded in support of the persecuted Armenians, and in 1908 he put all his hope in the "Young Turks" revolution. The Balkan Wars (1912–1913) cemented his conviction that modern war could only be a horrific massacre. But he had not waited for that moment, he had already begun unrelentingly spreading what the French politician Vincent Auriol (1884–1966) called his "apostle's faith" at the service of peace.

Already in 1907 at the SFIO congress in Nancy (France) and at the congress of the International in Stuttgart (Germany), he had asked that the struggle against war become a priority, even if that meant calling a labor strike. In his Armée nouvelle (New army) project, in 1911, he elaborated on his conception of national defense, based on popular mobilization when democratic principles were threatened. He won a decision from the International's political bureau to hold a special congress at Bâle, on 24 and 25 November 1912. In France he participated in the campaign against the lengthening of military service to three years, which culminated in the meeting at Pré-Saint-Gervais on 25 May 1913. When the military law was passed in July, Jaurès became the target of harsh attacks. Some, such as the writer Charles-Pierre Péguy (1873–1914), his former admirer, accused him of weakening a preparation for war that had now become necessary. Others reproached him for his blind trust in German social-democrats.

the first casualty of the war

The results of the polls of April–May 1914 showed that his arguments had weight: for the first time, 103 Socialists would sit in the National Assembly. But he would only be hated more for it. After the assassination of the Austrian archduke Francis Ferdinand in Sarajevo on 28 June, he doubled his efforts to save the peace. On 14 July at the SFIO congress in Paris, he passed a vote for "a simultaneously and internationally organized labor strike." On 18 July, in L'humanité, he stated that "whatever our adversaries may say, there is no contradiction in making the maximum effort to ensure peace and, if this war breaks out in spite of us, in making the maximum effort to ensure the independence and integrity of the Nation."

On the morning of 31 July, Jaurès's last article for L'humanité appeared, entitled "Keeping Calm Is Necessary." The German ultimatum was given to the French government during the day. On that last night of peace, Jaurès was dining at the Cafédu Croissant, only a stone's throw away from the paper's offices, at 142 Monmartre Street when a stranger, Raoul Villain, shot him at point-blank

range. The announcement of his death on 1 August, the day of general mobilization, was the first act of the "sacred union" to which the president of the republic Raymond Poincaré called the French in his address to Parliament on 4 August. Also on 4 August, the day of Jaurès's funeral, Paul-Eugène-Louis Deschanel, president of the National Assembly, saluted Jaurès as a "martyr to his ideas," and the secretary general of the CGT, Léon Jouhaux, vowed before the coffin to rally labor to this "sacred union," which the German war declaration justified, and to endorse the duty of defending their "homeland in danger."

the left grateful to a great man

The cult of Jaurès began the very day following the assassination. But after so many hateful attacks, and such a complete failure of the international strike-to-save-the-peace project, consensus would not be without ambiguities. Once dead, Jaurès took his place in the arsenal of symbols used by the Left. The symbol was both unifying and pacifist. But this unity—forged in the anger triggered by the acquittal of his murderer on 29 March 1919, which brought out 100,000 to 150,000 people to protest in Paris on 6 April—was followed by a split between socialists and communists at the congress of Tours in December 1920, and by the problematic union of the leftist cartel, which, in 1924, having won a majority in the elections, decided to transfer Jaurès's ashes to the Pantheon. While Carmaux miners stood by the catafalque on 23 November, communist activists protested outside the official funeral procession. "We keep him for ourselves," declared Léon Blum (1872–1950) in the name of socialists, "but in keeping him we also give him to the Nation and to history."

At the end of February 1895, Theodor Herzl, a correspondent in Paris for the big Austrian daily newspaper Neue freie Presse, both an admiring and railing witness of French political mores, wanted to record a speech by Jaurès on a cylinder. On this cylinder, he suggested, future generations could find the magic of a "rhapsodist," a worthy heir to Léon Gambetta, and "all the resonance of the insane agitation that has marked the public life of a great nation." He still asked himself: "will they be moved, or will they rail us and wonder what the reason was for all this noise?" Barring any unforeseen discovery, there is no reason to believe Jaurès's voice was ever recorded. But his word lives on. This is undoubtedly because, being a utopian thinker rather than a realist politician, he posed questions about property, justice, science and faith, defense and peace that are all essential for the future of democratic societies. And these questions have not lost any of their pertinence, because they cannot be given any definitive answers. The ultimate lesson Jaurès taught us is found in his untiring efforts to overcome a contradiction: too sincere a republican to believe in the imminence of the revolution but too passionate a socialist to be satisfied with the Republic as it was, he saw politics as the means to "bring all men to enjoy the fullness of humanity." Who would want to renounce that ambition today?

See alsoDreyfus Affair; First International; France; Pacifism; Socialism.


Goldberg, Harvey. The Life of Jean Jaurès. Madison, Wis., 1962.

Guéhenno, Jean. La mort des autres. Paris, 1968.

Jaurès, Jean. Œuvres. 4 vols. Paris, 2000–2001.

Launay, Michel. Jaurès orateur ou l'oiseau rare. Paris, 2000.

Levy-Bruhl, Lucien. Jean Jaurès: Esquisse biographique. Paris, 1924.

Rabaut, Jean. Jean Jaurès. Paris, 1981.

Rappoport, Charles. Jean Jaurès: L'homme, le penseur, le socialiste. Paris, 1915. Rev. ed, edited by Claudie Weill and Daniel Lindenberg. Paris, 1984.

Rebérioux, Madeleine. Jaurès: La parole et l'acte. Paris, 1994.

Rioux, Jean-Pierre. Jean Jaurès. Paris, 2005.

Jean-FranÇois Chanet

Jean Jaurès

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Jean Jaurès

September 3, 1859
Castres, France
July 31, 1914
Paris, France

Teacher, journalist, political leader

Though his life was cut short by an assassin's bullet, Jean Jaurès made a lasting contribution to French politics. A brilliant teacher, writer, and political thinker, Jaurès was most importantly an idealist who believed that society's hope lay not in fighting or struggle but in the free thoughts and dreams of its working people. Perhaps the greatest testimony to Jau rès's enduring contribution is that dozens of schools all over France have been named after him. A strong supporter of free dom and excellence in education for all, Jaurès might have been proudest of this legacy.

A Passion for Learning

Jaurès was born to lower-middle-class parents on September 3, 1859, in Castres, a small textile center in the south west of France. A quick and enthusiastic student, he was anx ious to get the best education possible, so he left his home as soon as he could to continue his studies in Paris. However, he always had an affection for the area he came from and returned there to work at different times throughout his life.

In 1879 at the age of twenty, Jaurès entered the École Normale Supérieure, a respected college in Paris. Three years later, he graduated with a degree in philosophy and moved to Albi, near his hometown, to teach high school. In 1883, he went to teach at the University of Toulouse, also in the south of France. In 1885, he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies, the most important lawmaking body of France at that time. He enjoyed politics, and though he was defeated in the 1889 election, he ran again in 1893 and was elected once more.

As a young deputy, Jaurès did not forget his experiences as a student and a teacher. He strongly recommended that more towns create good schools for the working people who lived there. He believed in the separation of church and state, and he thought it was important that these schools be secular, or nonreligious. He insisted that students needed to be exposed to ideas, thoughts, and experiences beyond those that they had grown up with. He also defended the right of students to express themselves and learn to think for themselves.

Socialism and Activism

It was during his second term as a deputy that Jaurès began to embrace the ideas of socialism. Socialism is a political and economic theory based on the idea of cooperation and shared resources for the common good. The idea of socialism originated in Europe during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. This was the time of the Industrial Revolution, when the discovery of electricity and the invention of the steam engine and other machines led to the construction of factories. Goods that had once been made by hand at home or in craft shops were now manufactured in large quantities by workers running machines. The factories brought great wealth to their owners, but those who worked in the factories were often poor, mistreated, and underpaid. As these injustices became obvious, many people began to think that there must be a way to divide the profits from the new industries so that the workers themselves could benefit more from their own labor. Some of the first socialist thinkers were French, including François-Nöl Babeuf and the count of Saint-Simon, Claude Henri de Rouvroy. There also were many other important socialists all over Europe, such as Karl Marx of Germany and Charles Kingsley of England.

Jaurès had been raised in a district of textile mills and mines, and he read about the struggles of the factory workers and miners from his hometown who were fighting for better conditions by forming unions and going on strike. As he learned more about the struggle of working people, he became more and more interested in the ideas of socialism. He developed his own theories and began to write and speak about them. He founded several socialist newspapers, including L'Humanité (Humanity) in 1904. While some socialists called for a class war, insisting that the workers must rise up and take control by force, Jaurès had a vision of a democratic socialism, the belief that the middle class and the working class could work together to create a fair division of power. He hoped that the rise of socialism could be a peaceful transformation based on a positive vision of what society could be.

In 1894 Alfred Dreyfus (1859–1935), a French army officer of Jewish descent, was accused of treason, convicted, and condemned to life in prison. At that time, those of high rank in the French army and government were mainly Catholic, and many of them were anti-Jewish. Many socialists and others on the left thought that Dreyfus had been framed because he was Jewish. Jaurès was one of Dreyfus's most outspoken defenders, and he wrote articles about the incident for socialist newspapers. Though Dreyfus was eventually pardoned, the "Dreyfus Affair," as it was called, tore French society apart, with the "Dreyfusards" on the left and the "anti-Dreyfusards" on the right. ("Left" and "right" are terms referring to a person's political views. A person on the left is willing to accept political change, while a person on the right does not support change.) Jaurès lost his seat in the Chamber of Deputies in 1889 because of his public support of Dreyfus. However, in 1902 Jaurès was once again elected to serve as a deputy, and he remained part of the chamber until his death.

One positive result of the Dreyfus Affair was that it united the many different socialist groups around a single cause; all of these groups were angered at the poor treatment of an outsider at the hands of the ruling interests. Jaurès had long hoped and worked for such unity, and in 1905 he helped form the French Socialist Party, which joined the major socialist parties into one unified group.

Peace Activist

After the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914, Jaurès began to speak out against the alliances that entangled France. He was mistrustful of the Russians and the British, with whom France had treaties, and he even thought that an alliance with the Germans (whom many French people hated) made more sense. Most of all, Jaurès disliked

nationalism (devotion to the interests of a particular nation) and the wars it so often produced. He was in favor of negotiation between nations rather than fighting. So, as the countries of Europe began declaring war on one another, Jaurès began to speak out against the war and against France's allies. He suggested that socialism could bring world peace and that France should not join in the war.

His speeches and writings angered French people who supported the war and who were motivated by strong patriotic feelings, especially those people who hated the socialist ideas that Jaurès supported. On July 31, 1914, three days before France entered World War I, Jaurès was assassinated as he sat at a café in Paris. His killer, Raoul Villain, has been described by many as a fanatic patriot who was angered by Jaurès's speeches against the war.

Besides being a powerful speaker, Jaurès was a productive writer who started several newspapers and wrote many books. Among his works are Action Socialiste (Socialist Action;1899), Études Socialistes (Socialist Studies; 1901), and Histoire Socialiste de la Révolution Française, 1789–1900 (Socialist History of the French Revolution, 1789–1900; 1901–08), an eight-volume study of the French Revolution.

For More Information


Goldberg, Harvey. The Life of Jean Jaurès. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1962.

Jackson, J. Hampden. Jean Jaurès, His Life and Work. London: G. Allen and Unwin, 1943.

Weinstein, Harold R. Jean Jaurès: A Story of Patriotism in the French Socialist Movement. New York: Columbia University Press, 1936.

Williams, Stuart, ed. Socialism in France: From Jaurès to Mitterrand. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1983.

Web sites

Gianoulis, Tina, Translator. "Jean Jaurès, July 1903." [Online] http://www.ukans.edu/~kansite/wwi0300/msg00150.html (accessed April 2001).

Left, Right, and Center: The Political Dance

Journalists and others who write and talk about politics often use the terms "right" and "left" to describe different political views. Those on the right tend to be more conservative; that is, they are in favor of little change or very slow change in the way things are. Conservatives usually support traditional ways of thinking—they are often identified as the "old guard" or the "establishment," meaning that they approve of the political system that already exists. Those on the left work for change in the existing political system. Leftists are also called liberals. Liberals are in favor of change and reform in society, with the goal of improving people's lives. On the right, people are more likely to be unquestioningly loyal to their country; those on the left more frequently challenge their country's actions and policies.

Those on the extreme right are called reactionaries. Rather than resisting changes, as conservatives do, reactionaries want things to change back to how they used to be. Those on the extreme left are called radicals. Radicals do not favor the slow, steady progress that the liberals work toward. Instead, they think that society needs big changes quickly. Both radicals and reactionaries sometimes support violent revolution to achieve their goals. The Nazi Party which rose to power in Germany in 1933 is an example of an extreme right-wing party. The Communist Party which dominated Russia until 1991 is an example of an extreme left-wing party.

The Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, edited by William and Mary Morris (New York: Harper and Row, 1988), suggests that these terms came into use because of the habit in European legislatures of seating the conservative parties on the right of the king or prime minister and the liberal parties on the left. Being seated on the right of an important person is traditionally a sign of rank and favor, and the conservatives, who generally supported those in power, were given that favor. The liberals, who might be working to change the balance of power, were seated less favorably on the left.

Jean Jaurès

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Jean Jaurès

Jean Jaurès (1859-1914), the greatest of the modern French Socialists, played a key role in the unification of the Socialist movement and in the struggle to prevent World War I.

On Sept. 3, 1859, Jean Jaurès was born at Castres, Tarn, into a lower-middle-class family. After studies there, he attended the lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris. His intellect and articulateness won him first place in the 1878 entrance competition for the prestigious École Normale Supérieure, from which he graduated with a philosophy degree in 1881. While teaching at the lycée of Albi and then at the University of Toulouse, he became involved in politics.

In 1885 Jaurès was elected to the Chamber of Deputies from the Tarn as a moderate, unaffiliated republican. In the Chamber he worked for social welfare legislation and spoke vigorously against Gen. Boulanger. Defeated in 1889, he returned to teaching at Toulouse. His studies and his contact with the workers, especially the miners of Carmaux, whom he aided during the strike of 1892, led Jaurès to socialism.

Running on the platform of the Marxist French Workers' party, Jaurès was returned to the Chamber in January 1893, principally through the support of the Carmaux miners. Both within and without the Chamber he now emerged as one of the most effective spokesmen for the Socialist cause. His appeal was not limited to the working class; indeed, he was particularly effective with the petty bourgeoisie and the intelligentsia, who were impressed by his stand during the Dreyfus Affair, when he insisted that socialism stood for justice for every individual, regardless of class.

At the same time Jaurès was working to unify the Socialist movement, a role for which his eclectic formation, moralism, preference for synthesis over doctrinal purity, and conciliatory temperament well fitted him. The dogmatists, like Marxist leader Jules Guesde, distrusted him; but because he was the Socialists' most effective parliamentarian and most widely respected figure, they needed him. The first effort at federation (1899) broke down, largely over the entry of Socialist Alexandre Millerand into the ministry.

Jaurès defended ministerial participation under certain circumstances in a democratic regime, but this view was definitively rejected by the Second International (International Working Men's Association) in 1904. His decision to yield the point made possible the unification of French socialism in 1905, and his newspaper, Humanité, became the principal organ of the new party. Unification also forced him to abandon his leading role in the coalition which sustained the anticlerical ministry of J. L. E. Combes and to remain for the rest of his career an opposition leader.

The shadow of the coming war brought forth his greatest effort, to prevent France from causing conflict, to use the International to dissuade the powers, and to appeal to the common sense of mankind, but the forces for war were much stronger. His effort, mistakenly construed as unpatriotic, aroused bitter hatred that led to his assassination on July 31, 1914.

Further Reading

The best book on Jaurès in any language is Harvey Goldberg, The Life of Jean Jaurès (1962), a sympathetic, scholarly, and well-written treatment. Two older, briefer works worth reading are Harold R. Weinstein, Jean Jaurès: A Study of Patriotism in the French Socialist Movement (1936), and J. Hampden Jackson, Jean Jaurès: His Life and Work (1943). □