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The memory of Jaurès, a powerful orator

The memory of Jaurès, a powerful orator

The Republican author of Les Preuves

In the winter of 1894-95, Jaurès observed "a prodigious deployment of Jewish power to save one of their own," and was astonished at a conviction that was mild compared with the sentences handed down to enlisted men. However, once he was convinced of Dreyfus's innocence, he never stopped hammering home proof of it, and was in the first rank of those seeking Dreyfus's rehabilitation. On 22 January 1898, he stated: "Since this affair began, we have all been dying from half-measures, hesitations, doubts, lies and cowardice!" His position as a fearless Dreyfusard contributed to his defeat in the legislative elections in May 1898, but in August and September of the same year, he published proof of Dreyfus's innocence in his journal La Petite République as well as in a book that sold for the modest sum of one franc and a half.

In 1900, Dreyfus sketched a portrait of him: "a thick and heavy physique, the neck of a bull, a powerful head, with clear blue eyes that come to life and shine when speech carries him away, and a kindly smile that is full of goodness." For Dreyfus, Jaurès was the soul of nobility and courage, and he understood that Jaurès advised him to "only take action with decisive proof." In 1902, Jaurès told his colleagues, readers and constituents "the whole of enlightened and loyal France knows the truth." He resumed at length his arguments before the Chamber of Deputies in 1903, which were a testament to his "fiery and penetrating eloquence, full of admirable imagery and concise logic", that Dreyfus so admired, judging his speech to be "perfect." The captain also admired Jaurès's position concerning the punishment of those who had sought information within the Army "in the greater interest of the Republic, [while amnesty was granted] to men who had committed crimes in order to uphold an iniquitous conviction, and who had led us to the threshold of a coup d'état against the Republic."

The martyr of Peace, watched over by Justice

As Jean-Pierre Rioux has written, after the Dreyfus Affair, Jaurès "took part in defending a Republic that was threatened, and which responded by strengthening the State, reducing its liberal energy, favoring blocs and rewarding its zealous civil servants." He remained a man who could help "in freeing a critical sense, in probing wounds, in reading what was real and in saying what was true." In the preface to L'Armée Nouvelle, Jean-Noël Jeanneney demonstrated that Jaurès remained a patriot who still matters to us because he "did not allow his reflections to remain strictly military." He was shot dead on 31 July 1914 by Raoul Vilain, who was acquitted in 1919 by a nationalist jury that also ordered Jaurès's widow to pay court costs! He was interred in the Pantheon on 23 November 1924. On 19 December 1964, André Malraux had the remains of the French Resistance leader Jean Moulin transferred to the Pantheon, to be watched over by Justice, along with Jaurès. Indeed, the Socialist struggle has always been marked by its refusal of injustice; in his preface to Les Preuves, Jean-Denis Bredin reminds us that intolerance for what is unjust was, for Jaurès, the foundation of all political morality.


Jaurès attacked in 1898

Jaurès reading L'Humanité