Charles Rappoport 1903

Jaurès’ Speech

Source: Le Socialiste, February 1-8, 1903;
Translated: for by Mitch Abidor.

He was eloquent. He was dexterous. He wasn’t great. He was no longer the popular tribune, feared and hated by the exploiting world. He was the caressed parliamentary artist, flattered, almost acclaimed by this same crowd. His implacable enemy is no longer capitalist society, the old regime of violence and iniquity. His adversaries of the moment are now called Deschanel and Ribot, those pale shades of a dead past.

He no longer denounces the failings of the dying society. He no longer glorifies the beauties of a new humanity. He has become more modest. He eloquently, warmly defends the ministerial combinations of today, he carefully prepares the ministerial combination of tomorrow.

He no longer plays at the popular lion. He contents himself with the role of the governmental fox. The heroic time of indictments of the scandals of the capitalist regime, of the capitalist regime itself, are past for him. He no longer rails against the old song that lulls human misery: he sings it himself with a few modifications. Yes, he sings the old philanthropic song of universal peace, the old song of big words that hide miserable realities.

Even when criticizing – and how gently he does so – his political adversaries of the moment, he maintains a constant preoccupation with pleasing them. He disdains neither their smiles nor their applause. Deep down, between he and they, between those who govern today and the minister of tomorrow, there are no irreducible antagonisms. There are only misunderstandings. They all want the same thing, and they want it sincerely. They demand – and this is the heart of their program – the general and universal disarmament of revolutionary forces. Before and above all they fear the revolution. Their preoccupation – which has become an obsession – with the avoidance of the employing of revolutionary means chases away the “ideal” to be realized. Let humanity perish as long as legality survives.

And yet, we have known other accents in the voice of Jaurès, other strings in his lyre. We have even known a Jaurès who said in 1895, at the same tribune of the chamber where he has just solemnly adhered to the policy of verbal disarmement of Tsar Ncholas II, the following:

“While all peoples and all governments want peace, despite all the congresses of international philanthropy, war can still be born of a still possible chance event...Your violent and chaotic society still, even when it wants peace, even when it is in a state of apparent repose, bears war within itself, just as a sleeping cloud bears a storm. (Very good! Very good! from the far left). Messieurs, there is only one way to abolish war between peoples, and that’s to abolish economic war, the disorder of the present society; it’s to substitute for the universal struggle for life – which arrives at the universal struggle on the battlefield – a regime of social peace and unity. And this is why if you look not at intentions, which are always vain, but at the effectiveness of principles and the reality of consequences, logically, profoundly, the Socialist Party is the only party of peace.” (Excerpt from the Journal Officiel of April 8, 1895.

On that occasion l’Officiel didn’t hasten to publish supplementary editions of Jaurès’ speech. The bourgeois press of the time didn’t rush to spread Jaurès’ words throughout the world. Today it finds it to be in conformity with the interests of the class that support it to proclaim as important revelations the few obvious truths proffered by the emulator of the tsar, to wit: 1 - When all the powers disarm simultaneously there will no longer be a need for permanent armies; 2 - When universal peace triumphs there will be no more battles; 3- When Germany returns the Alsace and Lorraine to France, Alsace-Lorraine will belong to France?

An eminent and universally known militant from a neighboring country, passing through Paris said to me a few days ago:” Socialism is absent from Jaurès’s speech.” It is as well from his heart and his spirit. It is finally time for the authorized representatives of international socialism to proclaim aloud, with all the clarity and precision necessary, what they quietly think. Otherwise international socialism risks – at least partially – degenerating into a kind of language for international conventions.

As for us, our duty remains the same, today like yesterday. It is to assemble together, ever more united, ever more ardent, in our class party, the Socialist Party of France. Individuals can betray or go over to the enemy, which always has more personal advantages to offer than us. But classes never betray.