Jean Longuet 1896
Source: Justice, 13th June, p.6 and 20th June 1896, p.6
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Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
Our comrade Zevais said, at the beginning of the year, in the Petite Republique, that the most important events for the French proletariat in this year 1896 were the municipal elections, as a national event, and the London Congress, from the international point view.
Let us, then, see what are the results of the French municipal elections. It is necessary that English Socialists should have a French Socialist opinion concerning them, and not view them only by the falsehoods of the capitalist press (from your Crocodile or Daily News to our Temps and Debats). I think that it can surely be said, and without any partiality, that those elections have been a very great success – first for the whole French Socialist party; secondly, for the Marxist Organisation (Parti Ouvrier Francais).
While, indeed, a great many important towns were won over to Socialism, there were very few losses, and these of little consequence. Moreover, such losses as there are were sustained (with the only exception of the little town of Romilly, where the Socialists are now 12 against 15) by other Socialist organisations than the Parti Ouvrier Français. So with the pure Blanquists at St. Denis and St. Ouen, and with the “impure” Blanquists at Lyons, where the former upholders of Boulanger lost six seats.
However, the capitalist press loudly shouted that those elections were very bad for the Socialists, and the Government statisticians, with their fanciful calculations, contrived to prove that we had undergone many defeats. For instance, they all repeated that Agen was lost for Socialism. As a matter of fact, the last municipality was entirely of the palest Radical hue, whereas the new one numbers nine Socialists out of 27 councillors.
In a general way, we can say that the provinces show a great improvement. In Paris there are very few changes.
At Montmartre the old fighter and former member of the Commune, S. Dereure, has been out-distanced by only 98 votes by another Socialist, Veber. It is rather with sorrow than with anger that we have seen a large number of Socialist deputies come, and instead of supporting Dereure (so modest and devoted an old soldier of our cause) place their services at the disposal of that young journalist Veber, who really has done nothing so brilliant as to justify such proceedings.
The new Paris Municipal Council numbers 32 Socialists and 29 Socialist-Radicals, out of 80 members. Now we must say that among those 32 members numbered as Socialists there are many Socialist-Radicals, as Lucipia or Piperaud, for instance, who are far from subscribing the whole of the Socialist programme.
As a matter of fact there are about a score Socialist members of the Paris Municipal Council. Among the various Socialist organisations who really exist only in Paris, the provinces knowing chiefly the Parti Ouvrier Français, the Blanquists keep their seats, the Broussists have lost one and gained another.
The Independents won three seats. The Allemanist organisation leaves the battle field much weaker. I think that their pseudo-anarchist tendencies formed one of the chief reasons of their defeat. So long as they keep among them men like Pelloutier, Lavaud and Guard, who are much more Anarchists than Socialists, they will be defeated in electoral contests.
Two of their former, but now seceding, representatives, Faillet and Berthaut have been returned against them with very large majorities, and they now hold only one seat (with Chausse.)
The Marxist organisation had for the first time a rather important number of candidates in Paris, and something like 10,000 votes.
In the suburbs the Blanquists lost St. Denis, the Marxists gained Stains and Ivry, where our friend Roussel is now Mayor.
In the provinces the most brilliant successes are in the north. The two main causes are the large capitalist concentration in that country, and the strong organisation of the Socialist soldiers in the only Marxist Organisation (Parti Ouvrier Français.)
In Calais where there sat 5 Socialists in the last municipality, there is now a large majority of the organised workers party (26 out of 34 Councillors.) It is our energetic comrade Salembier who is now Mayor of Calais.
Lille, the largest town of the whole northern region of France, has been won by the Socialists, and it is a workingman, a printer, Delory, who was elected to the Mayorality of that great city.
As glorious as the conquest of Lille and of Calais was the re-election of the whole Roubaix Municipal Council with more than 1,500 votes majority. The capitalist press had indeed made the most considerable effort to have no more their girls given in lawful wedlock by that “vile cabaretier” Carette.
They spent somewhere about £150,000 for that grand battle.
A fact will show JUSTICE readers what they have done. They bribed some poor devils, former members of the party, and made of them a group called “les Desabusés du Parti Ouvrier” “the disenchanted of the Workingmen’s Party.”
Everyone had received 1,000 francs (£40), and for such poor wretches it was something enormous, and if the Socialists had been defeated they were to have, received as much again, One of them, remorse bitten, went to Carette and told him the whole story. It was then the “redisenchantment of a disenchanted “ one.
The bills were shortly worded. The Socialist one ran thus : “Workers vote for your class, vive le Parti Ouvrier!” and the capitalist bill had these words: “A bas les sans-Patrie!” (Down with the anti-patriots). However, our brave Carette and the whole of the Socialist council have been re-elected and without any ballot.
In the northern region again, Croix Fourmies (the little place made dismally celebrated by the wild shooting down of harmless workingmen and women on the 1st of May, 1891), Armentières, Hellunes, Wigneties are now in the hands of the working-class. So in the east with Sedan, Dijon, the chief town of Burgundy, and also St. Claude. At Troyes the Socialists have been defeated, but gathered more than 3,000 votes for their first trial of strength. Romilly has now twelve Socialist councillors out of twenty-seven. At Lyons the Blanquists lost seven seats, but the Parti Ouvrier Francaise has now three councillors in the new Municipal Council. In the south the large cities of Marseilles, Toulon, Narbonne, Cette, La Ciotat, which were already ruled by the Socialists, have returned, but with larger numbers, their former councillors. Grenoble, Cahors, Agen, Begles, Aubin, where not a single Socialist belonged to the former Council, have now strong Socialist minorities.
In Perpignan, Prades, Carcassonne, Castres, and Albi, the combined forces of Socialists and Socialistic Radicals have driven out of the Hotels de Ville the coalition of pure reactionaries and Opportunists.
In the Midland region, Montluçon has re-elected with a bigger majority its Socialist Municipal Council, whose mayor is comrade Dormoy. So too, with Carmaux, Vierzen and Limoges, with its mayor, Deputy Labussière. In St. Etienne, Socialists are now 17, as against 19 Opportunists.
The great metropolis of the South West, Bordeaux, had been long under the sway of Opportunists and other reactionary Republicans, against whom Socialists, Socialistic Radicals, and Royalists have combined with success – something like an alliance between Socialists, Fabians, and Tories against Liberals. Now, we are bound to say that the Bordeaux Opportunists, headed by M. Raynal, are such contemptible fellows that any combination against them may be justified.
In the West, where bourgeois Republicanism itself was but a few years ago under the ban of respectability, in that historical stronghold of “Chouannerie” and Vendée, the great Socialist idea is moving on, as everywhere, with tremendous strides. For the first time three friends of ours were elected at Nantes, and, considering that the bulk of the Council consists of 7 Opportunists and 16 Clericals, both sides are at the mercy of the Socialists for a majority.
At Rennes, Cherbourg, Villedieu, Caen, Le Mans, Condé-sur-Noireau, Flers, where but two years ago the very name of Socialism was unknown, large minorities voted for the Socialistic programme.
In Upper Normandy, also, Sotteville is now in the hands of the working men; and at Le Havre, where Socialism fought its first engagement, it numbered more than 2,900 votes.
With the only exceptions of Sedan and Dijon, in the East, where the “Allemanists” are the only organised body; Commentry and Vierzon, where the Blanquists hold a majority; Limoges and Toulon, where Socialists do not belong to any particular organisation, all the Socialist victories in the provinces were won by men belonging to the Marxist organisation, the Parti Ouvrier Français, with above 700,000 votes against 200,000 for the remainder of the various Socialistic organisations.
In a general way, we can boast that the French municipal elections have marked a new and striking triumph for International Social-Democracy.