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The role of intellectuals

The role of intellectuals

The bastions of pro-Dreyfus opinion

According to Pascal Ory, at each stage in a debate, there is an "intellectual act characterized" by those who take a stand, often joining forces, and sometimes becoming activists. A few individuals were at the heart of the mobilization in favor of Dreyfus. These included Lucien Herr, the librarian of the Ecole Normale Supérieure; Gabriel Monod, the founder of Revue Historique; and Émile Duclaux, the director of the Pasteur Institute. According to Vincent Duclert, the Academy of Sciences, the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes and the Ecole Normale Supérieure were "Dreyfusard bastions," which upheld the links between the practice of knowledge, interdisciplinary comparison and citizenship.

Lucien Herr drew up the first list of potential Dreyfusards and mobilized those in the Ecole Normale Supérieure. On 5 November 1897, Gabriel Monod wrote an open letter to the major daily newspapers that included a critical analysis of the bordereau. Eminent figures from the Ecole des Chartes testified at the Zola trial; although fifty-five of their colleagues opposed them as of 22 February 1898, they persisted, demonstrating at the Rennes trial that the handwriting on the bordereau was not that of Dreyfus.

Protest lists

Between them, L'Aurore and Le Siècle published forty protest lists, although anti-Dreyfusards labeled those who signed them as "mostly idiots and foreigners." The 1,500 signatures of those who defended Dreyfus via Zola included doctors, physicists, anthropologists, linguists, philologists and chemists. One chemist, Edouard Grimaux, stated that "real scientific method was lacking in the charges brought against Dreyfus." In response, the War Ministry took away his laboratory at the Ecole Polytechnique, even though Grimaux described himself as "one of those die-hard patriots who run to see the regiments when they march by." In terms of public opinion, it was during the Affair that the category of intellectuals appeared.

A Jauresian synthesis

In the fall of 1898, Jaurès published Les Preuves, in which he used his skills as a journalist but also-as an Ecole Normale-trained philosopher-the rhetorical tradition and the science of texts.

Madeleine Rebérioux sees in this book a questioning of the entire social order, as well as a synthesis between Dreyfusism and socialism, because Jaurès called on the proletariat: "Dreyfus is laid bare by the very excess of unhappiness that is the nature of class; he is nothing more than humanity itself at the lowest imaginable point of misery and despair." Many voices began to make themselves heard with greater and greater insistence, relaying the protests of the Captain and his family and friends.