Studies in Socialism by Jean Jaurès 1906
JEAN JAURÈS is best known to Socialists as the chief exponent in France of the method of reform as opposed to the method of revolution.
In France the question of method has been complicated by the political situation. French Reformists have been led into a particularly close union with the other Republican groups, not only because by these tactics they can further the adoption of social reforms, but also because the political situation has demanded such an alliance.
To a French political thinker of the type of Jaurès the social and political problems are closely united. He sees but two great parties, the party of the Revolution and the party of the Counter-Revolution. The Revolution, according to this special use of the word, is not a sudden upheaval that took place a hundred years ago, or is to take place a hundred years hence, but a process of development, begun by those who claimed political rights for all citizens in 1789 and continued by those who have claimed social and economic rights for them ever since. Extreme Marxists like Guesde and Vaillant do not have this sense of the unity and continuity of the liberal movement. To them a moderate liberal Republican is a natural enemy and the tool of capitalism: to Jaurès he is in a sense the tool of Socialism, because in giving his best effort to maintain Republican institutions he is strengthening the foundation without which Socialism must remain a purely Utopian ideal.
French political conditions have tended to accentuate Jaurès’ position. The Opposition in the French Chamber is not an Opposition in the Parliamentary sense of the word, but a revolting, a seceding fraction of the community, whose aim is to overthrow the whole Republican regime, re-establish monarchy, and undo the work of the Revolution.
Under these circumstances it was natural for Reformist Socialists and other Republicans to unite in their fight against the common enemy. The Revolutionists maintain, however, that the union has been too close, that Jaurès and his friends have risked merging the party with the other groups of the Left and have lost sight of their essentially Socialistic aims. The situation reached its climax in 1899 with the entrance of the Reformist Millerand into the Waldeck-Rousseau coalition cabinet. The “affaire Millerand” is particularly interesting, as it has served as a text for endless arguments on both sides, and was one of the principal issues between the two wings of the French Socialist party.
Millerand took office as Minister of Commerce and Industry in 1899, at a time when many serious men thought that the existence of the Republic was in danger. When in office he three times voted against his party, and as Minister was obliged to receive the Czar, the typical representative of autocracy, when he came to Paris. These acts, the Revolutionists maintained, fully proved their contention that any alliance between Socialists and Bourgeois could only tend to weaken the position of the former; and they wished to expel Millerand from the party. The Reformists, while formally censuring him for his anti-Socialist votes, pointed with satisfaction to the practical reforms he instituted while in office, and argued that so much positive gain justified their theory that co-operation was a valuable and necessary method of obtaining their ends.''
At the time these essays were written the Socialists in France were divided into several parties, representing the extremes of theory and action, and many of Jaurès’ arguments are addressed more to his Socialist than to his non-Socialist opponents. Since then, however, a variety of reasons has made it possible for all factions to re-unite in a single organization. The International Congress at Amsterdam in 1904 devoted most of its time to a discussion of the question of method, and ended by passing a resolution that proclaimed the principle of class-war in the dogmatic Marxist manner, and was in effect a censure of the French leader. Jaurès made an eloquent and spirited defence of his policy: he declared that he was willing to make any reasonable concession in the interest of party unity, but maintained that his tactics were the only practical ones. The Congress expressed a wish that the various French parties would re-unite, and accordingly a joint committee met during the winter to formulate a compromise agreement. In the meantime political conditions had changed somewhat. The Ministry supported by Jaurès was defeated, the new Ministry found a majority without the aid of the Socialists, and these were able to withdraw from the group of Parliamentary Republicans. In April, 1905, the new party organisation was completed.
These events seem at first sight like a step backward, but we cannot help being convinced that the triumph of the orthodox element is only apparent. The lighting strength of the party is undoubtedly increased by union, and Jaurès is too wise a politician not to know when a partial surrender will lead to final victory. His belief in the Reformist method is of course unshaken, but he is willing to wait and be politic, knowing that in the end his adversaries will be forced by the pressure of events to follow his plan of action. He towers above them, secure in his larger vision of history and conscious of the great part he has yet to play in the politics of his country and of the world.
Jaurès is probably the most conspicuous and at the same time weighty personality in French political life at present. He is continually before the public ; his activity is incessent. His personal organ, L'Humanité, contains almost daily articles signed by him, and represents his policy in every department of life: in its advanced interpretation of social legislation and social conditions in general, in its pacific (international) attitude to foreign affairs, even in its criticism of literature, art and the stage. He graduated at the head of his class at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, and has been twice Professor of Philosophy at Toulouse. During an interval of four years in his Parliamentary career he wrote a history of the French Revolution that is said by some authorities to be based on a more careful study of original documents than any other history of the period.
But it is as a political leader and orator that he is best known and most successful. He attends political meetings all over the country, and wherever he goes he communicates some of his indomitable enthusiasm and splendid energy to his hearers. In the Chamber of Deputies he makes an incredible number of fiery and eloquent speeches, hardly ever letting an important debate pass without taking an active and usually a dramatic part, and never failing to secure a breathless attention, whether out of the Chamber or in it. He is equally at home denouncing the reactionary element and exalting the work of “Republican Solidarity,” pleading the cause of sanity and justice in international affairs and upholding the specifically Socialistic claims. A cool Anglo-Saxon might find him too excitable and emotional, might even point to instances where he seems to have allowed his eloquence to run away with his judgment, but the most unfriendly critic must grant his ability, energy and sincerity.
The French volume contains a number of essays dealing with the French law regulating property and inheritance, and the rural movement — extremely interesting in themselves, but not applicable to countries where the Napoleonic Code is not in force, and these have been omitted. Parts of the essay on The Problem of Socialist Method have also been left out, and the order in which the essays appear has been altered. These changes have been made with the consent of M. Jaurès. As examples of quite another style, a paper that appeared in a daily journal and the speech delivered on the occasion of the visit of the English Parliamentary delegates to Paris, have been added.
Paris, December, 1905.
1. See the report of the Bordeaux Congress published by the Société Nouvelle, Paris, 1904. For a German reformist’s estimate of the case see von Vollmar’s address delivered in Dresden in February, 1901, and translated by R. L. C. Ensor in Modern Socialism. Millerand formulated and succeeded in getting passed a law limiting to ten hours the working day in factories where men, women and children were employed, and in the departments under his immediate control as Minister, he instituted the eight hour day. He also established certain minimum conditions for all labour on contracts for National public works. His special effort, however, was given to the encouragement and recognition of organized labour. He created Labour Councils, the members of which are elected by organized workers and organized employers. These Councils form permanent boards of arbitration and conciliation which may be consulted by private concerns and must be consulted by the State; they fix the standard rate of wages and hours for every district and this standard is at once applicable to State contracts. They also make annual reports on the conditions of labour, causes of unemployment, enforcement of the law, etc. Millerand also introduced, but did not succeed in getting passed, a bill to regulate industrial disputes, a moderate adaptation of compulsory arbitration on the New Zealand model.
2. I think that our I.L.P. delegates will agree that this statement is too strong. Something considerably less than that happened. — [Ed.]