Democracy and Military Service. Jean Jaurès 1907
Extracts from three articles by General Percin, published in “l'Humanité” Oct. 10, 12, & 19 1915.
Jaurès asked why the Government was taking no measures, in time of peace, to concentrate the 1,600,000 men of the Reserve, thus making sure of a mass of 2,000,000 men to meet ally invader with irresistible force. The events of 1914 have shown that, of the 1,600,000 Reservists in question:
(1) A few more than 200,000 were used to bring the first-line regiments up to their full establishment.
(2) A few less than 400,000 were formed into Reserve Regiments.
(3) About a million remained in the depots, waiting their turn to replace the casualties at the front. These men at the depots had meanwhile no organization; there was a great lack of officers; some of the men had neither uniforms nor arms. Yet James had written, [four years before this], ‘It is the duty of France to put into the first line these drilled and strong men who are furnished by the eleven classes of the Reserve. Why does our Government subtract nearly half of our active forces from the army, before the real tug of war comes — before those first battles, which (as they themselves tell us) will be decisive?’ ..... The clearness of this forecast is amazing. Certainly, it was useful to keep the first-line units up to their establishment by this stream of substitutes. But it would have been better still to have these Reservists at the front from the very beginning, grouped in organized units, which would have enabled its to confront the two million Germans with two million Frenchmen. Then, perhaps, we should not have lost the first battle. We should, perhaps, have been able to push the success of our second battle farther than we did ..... Once again, why did we accumulate this million in the depots, where there were no instructors to drill them, and such a lack of uniforms and riles that a number had to be sent home again for a time? .... Why had we not taken our precautions to meet the enemy with numbers at least equal to his own — with two million men instead of 1,300,000?”
And General Percin bears testimony to Jaurès’s general clearness of vision in these matters.
“The fact is that few of our contemporaries knew more of military questions than Jaurès; I do not mean, of course, details of drill and tactics, but the general principles of army organization and of warfare. None had read the classics of military science more carefully, from Langlois to Bernhardi ; none could quote them more appositely ; none foretold more exactly the actual events which marked the beginning of this present war.”