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Jaures's struggles

Jaures's struggles

The honor of unmasking the traitors

Jean Jaurès, standing for reelection as deputy from the Tarn in the spring of 1902, confirmed in his profession of faith: "Now, all of enlightened and loyal France knows the truth." After the senatorial elections, he received Dreyfus and Mornard on 11 January 1903. To avoid a delayed response to the call for a new investigation, he stated forcefully that the Combes government must be informed that the Republican Party would supported him all the more if he were to take from the nationalists "this poisoned weapon of an unsolved affair." The captain continued to return to the source of "all the idle gossip relative to that which occurred in the deliberations chamber of the Rennes court martial." Despite the reticence expressed by Waldeck-Rousseau, Jaurès had his speech prepared by February; Dreyfus's Carnets relate that he wanted to denounce the secret role of the annotated bordereau and to bring to the fore "all of the actors of the drama [in order to] tear away all veils, and force them to explain themselves publicly." Clemenceau was doubtful and hung back, continuing to lament the policy of the amnesty, "thanks to which those who will be unmasked tomorrow will be untouchable."

The assault before the deputies

In La Petite République dated 25 March 1903, Jaurès explained that the country must "demand satisfaction from lying, caste-ridden institutions and the fruits of wickedness that they have born," and that society must be cured, as it was "corrupted by a caste mentality and a spirit of monastic mendaciousness." As of 23 March, Jaurès announced to his colleagues that on 6 or 7 April he would make a speech with the goal of reopening the Affair, by holding in check the propagation of heinous stories, and by showing that the Rennes trial had been haunted by the dangerous and villainous tale of the annotated bordereau signed by Wilhelm II. To accept that the Nationalist Party should set itself up as the accuser of the Republic would be "the stupor of history, the scandal of conscience, and the shame of reason."

As Jean-Pierre Roux has written, Jaurès was a staunch defender of Dreyfus, "in his place as a man of honesty, in his role as an intellectual, and in the very first rank." The Affair marked a turning-point in his life, because it linked the emancipation of the proletariat with the conquest of the Republic, confirming that "the true intellectual class, despite its recklessness and lack of awareness, is the working class, because it never has need of lies." The political class remained cautious: by a vote of 235 to 70, "the Chamber, confident in the Government, and determined to not allow the Dreyfus Affair to leave the legal arena, puts it on the agenda." It was then up to the War Ministry to order an investigation.