Jean Jaurès 1904
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitch Abidor.
First Published: April 18, 1904.
The following was the first editorial in the first issue of L'Humanité.
The very name of this newspaper, in its breadth, spells out exactly what our party proposes. In effect, all socialists work for humanity’s fulfillment. Humanity doesn’t yet exist, or rather barely so: in the interior of each nation it is compromised and shattered by class antagonism, by the inevitable struggle between the capitalist oligarchy and the proletariat. Only socialism, in absorbing all classes in the common ownership of the means of labor, can resolve this antagonism and make of every nation, finally reconciled with each other, a parcel of humanity.
Between nations there exists a barbaric regime of defiance, ruse, hatred and violence that still prevails.
Even when they seem to exist in a state of peace, they bear the traces of yesterday’s wars, and the fear of tomorrow’s. How can we give the beautiful name of humanity to this chaos of hostile and wounded nations, to this pile of bloody scraps? The sublime effort of the international proletariat is to reconcile all peoples through universal social justice. Then and only then will there be a humanity that considers its superior unity within the living diversity of free and friendly nations. As democracy and reason develop within peoples and individuals, the need to have recourse to violence diminishes. Let universal suffrage affirm itself; let a vigorous secular education open spirits to new ideas and develop the habit of reflection; let the proletariat organize and group itself according to a law ever more fair and generous; let all this happen and the great transformation that will liberate mankind from oligarchic property will be accomplished without the violence that, 110 years ago, bloodied the democratic and bourgeois revolution, and which our great communist Babeuf grieved over in a beautiful letter.
This necessary social evolution will be all the simpler because all socialists, all workers will be more firmly united. All of us here, at this newspaper, want to work for this union. I am well aware of the sharpness of all of the polemics against the socialists. I know of the conflicts surrounding methods and tactics, and it would be childish to pretend to cover up these divisions with an artificial and purely external unity. Unity cannot be born of confusion. We will always defend here, clearly and loyally, the means of action that seem to us the most effective and the most certain. But we don’t want to aggravate, by the prolonging of controversies and the venom of polemics, discords that were doubtless inevitable, and which the force of events will certainly resolve. For us, revolutionary socialists and reformist socialists are above all socialists. If there are groups that let themselves be dragged by a sectarian passion to play counter-revolution’s game, we will fight them with firmness. But we know that within both socialist factions strong feelings exist for the republic, free thought, the proletariat, and social revolution. Under various formulas, some of which seem to us to be out of date and, consequently, dangerous, all socialists serve the same cause. And when the time comes we'll see to it that, without abandoning any of our own conceptions, we'll try here to second the effort of all.
We would also like for this newspaper to be in constant communion with the entire working class movement, both union and cooperative. To be sure, here, too, there are differences in method. And those who try to turn the organized working class from political action commit a terrible error. But what would be, and what would be worth, this political action without a strong economic organization of the working class, without a lively continuous action of the proletariat itself. This is why, without stopping to examine the diversity and opposition of tactics and formulas, we will be happy to receive all communications that illustrate working class life. And with our efforts we'll back up all the efforts of proletarian union and cooperative movements. In this way the breadth and movement of life will put us on guard against any sectarian temptations.
It’s through extensive and precise information that we wish to give all free minds the means to understand and judge world events for themselves. The great socialist and proletarian cause has no need of lies, half-lies, tendentious information, garbled news, or calumnies. It also doesn’t need us to unjustly diminish or disparage the adversary, nor for us to mutilate facts. Only decaying classes are afraid of the truth. I would be happy for socialist democracy, united with us in heart and mind, to be proud to state with us that all parties and classes have to recognize the faithfulness of our accounts of events, the accuracy of our information, and the exactitude of our reportages. I dare say that it is in this way that we will show our respect for the proletariat. It will see, I hope, that this constant and scrupulous concern for the truth, even in the sharpest battles, doesn’t weaken the vigor of combat; on the contrary, it gives a decisive force to the blows struck against prejudice, injustice and lies.
But all of this would be worth nothing, and all of our efforts would be vain or even dangerous, if the complete independence of our newspaper wasn’t assured, and if financial difficulties could deliver it to hidden influences. The independence of the newspaper is complete. Our capital, which is fully subscribed, is sufficient to allow us to expect the hoped for development of the paper; more importantly, the capital subscription was made without any conditions. No interest group can either directly or indirectly weigh on the politics of l'Humanité. What is more, we places in our by-laws a stipulation that the share of labor done by collaborators in the newspaper will be represented by shares called “contribution shares,” which will permit the editorial board and the political directors to maintain equilibrium in the managing of the newspaper. In the establishment of the newspaper this is a sure guarantee of independence. It’s in my name, as political director representing the directors, that the “contribution shares” are listed. Is there any need to add that this is not a speculation on my part, or on that of my collaborators? In the first place, the “contribution shares” will not receive any benefits until all present or future actions will have received a dividend of 6%. But above all, in a letter attached in annex to my contract, I turn over in advance to the administrative council, which is composed of men chosen from among our friends, the eventual profits from the “contribution shares,” in order to improve the conditions of all our collaborators and to contribute to socialist propaganda and organizational work among the working class. Under these conditions, when the time comes to increase the newspaper’s capital we'll be able to make, in full confidence, a public appeal to democrats and the proletariat. Allowing a great newspaper to live without its being at the mercy of any business group is a difficult but not insoluble problem. All of us here will give a full effort of consciousness and labor to deserve this success. Let the camp of democracy and the proletariat assist us in this task.