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Jean Jaurès

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Subject: Social democracy, International Socialist Congress, Stuttgart 1907, Panthéon, Ramsay MacDonald, Dreyfus affair
Collection: 1859 Births, 1914 Deaths, 19Th-Century Latin-Language Writers, Anti–world War I Activists, Assassinated French Politicians, Burials at the Panthéon, Paris, Deaths by Firearm in France, Democratic Socialists, École Normale Supérieure Alumni, French Atheists, French Esperantists, French Historians, French Humanists, French Male Writers, French Marxists, French Newspaper Founders, French Pacifists, French Section of the Workers' International Politicians, French Socialist Party (1902) Politicians, Historians of the French Revolution, Lycée Louis-Le-Grand Alumni, Members of the Chamber of Deputies of the French Third Republic, People Associated with the Dreyfus Affair, People from Tarn (Department), People Murdered in France, People Murdered in Paris, Politicians from Midi-Pyrénées, University of Toulouse Faculty
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Jean Jaurès

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: ; 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 1
    • Historian 1.1
  • Rise to prominence 2
  • SFIO leadership 3
  • Anti-militarism 4
  • Assassination 5
  • In popular culture 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10

Early career

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 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 ) (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 [1][2][3][4]

Rise to prominence

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

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 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

  • Numerous streets and plazas in France are named for Jaurès, especially in the south of France, as well as in Vienna (Austria), Plovdiv (Bulgaria), Tel Aviv and Haifa (Israel), Buenos Aires (Argentina) and also in Germany.
  • Jaurès appears as a character in many period French films and TV series, sometimes as the main subject and sometimes as a supporting character.
  • Jacques Brel wrote a song, "Jaurès", and recorded it for his last album Les Marquises. In it, he wonders why Jean Jaurès was killed, while lamenting on the life of the working class. (This song was re-interpreted by the band Zebda in 2009 as a celebration of the 150th anniversary of Jaurès's birth.)
  • "Les Corons", a song by Pierre Bachelet, contains a reference to Jean Jaurès: "Y avait à la mairie le jour de la kermesse, Une photo de Jean Jaurès".
  • Al Stewart's song "Trains" includes the lyrics, "on the day they buried Jean Jaurès, World War One broke free..."[11]
  • Jean Jaurès appears in the poem "The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy" by Geoffrey Hill.
  • Metro stations have been named after Jaurès in Paris (Jaurès, Boulogne - Jean Jaurès), Toulouse and Lyon, Metro Place Jean Jaurès.
  • In the 1976 film Maîtresse ("Mistress"), a character looking at a Parisian map laments, "There are too many avenues named after Jean Jaurès."
  • The Russian dissident historian, Zhores Medvedev, was named after him. (This has been disputed however: see 23 March 1972.New York Review of Books,the letter by Michael Lerner in the )
  • Jaurès figures in Jules Romains' epic fictional work Les Hommes de Bonne Volonté and his assassination is depicted in Roger Martin du Gard's novel The Thibaults.
  • Since 1981, a video clip of François Mitterrand placing a rose in front of Jaurès' tomb at the moment the Socialists returned to power in pomp and circumstance is often played on French television.
  • In the play Hans im Schnakenloch ("Hans in the mosquito pit") by René Schickele, the character Cavrel represents Jaurès.[12]
  • Jaurès is the idol and moral compass of the lead character, the union leader Michel, in the French film, The Snows of Kilimanjaro (2011). Michel quotes Jaurès throughout the film to justify and reflect on his actions.

See also


  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. ^
  5. ^ See the 26 November 1900 debate between Jules Guesde and Jaurès. (French)
  6. ^ a b  – 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. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Trains Al Steward.
  12. ^ Áine McGillicuddy, René Schickele and Alsace: Cultural Identity Between the Borders. Bern: Peter Lang 2010, page 110.

Further reading

  • 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

  • De primis socialismi germanici lineamentis apud Lutherum, Kant, Fichte, Hegel (in Latin)
  • Jean Jaurès Biography
  • by Margaret PeaseJean Jaurès, socialist and humanitarian ( New York : B. W. Huebsch, 1917) PDF/DjVu from Internet Archive
  • Jean Jaurès at Find-A-Grave
  • (English) Jaurès' texts at Marxists archives
  • Biography
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain
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