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Jean Jaurès: champion of peace, socialism and a genuinely free press


On July 31 1914 Jean Jaurès was assassinated. Today, French political movements of just about every colour are seeking to appropriate his memory. 100 years on, Patrick le Hyaric, editor of the French newspaper l’Humanité that was founded by the historic socialist leader puts the record straight about Jaurès, and explains why his ideas and life work are relevant today.

In this hundredth anniversary of the assassination of Jean Jaurès, public figures have got into the habit of quoting him, at the end of banquets and other grand events, manipulating his ideas, and playing to audiences using Big Media. They are all far from the ideals of the founder of l’Humanité and MP for Tarn in the Midi-Pyrénées, where he was born.

Many pretend to weep for Jaures, but only in order to better praise Clemenceau, French’s prime minister during the First World War, who was frequently on the side of warmongers around the world. Instead Jaurès, until his last breath, had done everything to avoid triggering the slaughter of that war. Jaurès ceaselessly sought to show that the First World War was motivated by the desire for imperialist domination, the lure of financial gain and to conquer new territories.

Those, at the top echelons of the French state, who had this absurd idea to honour in a single day all who died for France encourage all sorts of confusion. How, indeed, in the same spirit can one commemorate the bloody and senseless carnage of 1914 and the conflict in which the democrats had in the late 1930s to confront the “unclean beast” of Nazism? By confusing everything, we deliberately blurs the lines of demarcation, we lose our citizens and France. These are the same French leaders who accepted membership of the European Union and NATO and so brought our country into the integrated command of a war machine that has led to risky military adventures. They ignored this powerful message that Jaurès threw down to the world:

“Freedom by force is a strange enterprise full of hazards. In giving it, we remove it.”

And what of this attitude of our socialist President who transforms the Israeli military occupation and the process of colonization into a banal “neighborhood dispute”, establishing an aberrant symmetry between Israelis and Palestinians, hiding this fundamental fact: there is there a colonizer and a population that is suffering the violence of colonization.

The France of Jaures would act with energy, starting from the resolutions of the United Nations, to urgently silence the roar of the bombs that kill Palestinian children in their beds and schools. In addition, the France of Jaures would work tirelessly for the convening of an international conference for justice and peace in the Middle East, to place the Palestinian people under international protection and to allow the existence of two states; one for the Palestinians in the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, one for Israelis, guaranteeing their legitimate right to security.

To invoke Jaurès, is to rise above self interest for the common interest in a humanism that is embodied in the reinvention of democratic, secular, social republic. It is to seek ways to join forces to bring forth “these great social changes called revolutions” that “cannot or can no longer be the work of a minority.” When multiple crises of globalised and financialised capitalism are shaking the world, generating new inequalities, exploiting people and nature to the point they threaten ecosystems, those seeking to revive Jaurès should ponder this sentence: “There is only one way to abolish war between peoples, and that’s to abolish economic war.” Today that would mean cutting short negotiations, conducted in the utmost secrecy, around the transatlantic free trade treaty.

Those who cling to, who commemorate Jaurès in order to better “vitrify” him, to render him harmless; to hide his passion for action for social justice and real equality, his complexity and how modern he was. They are trying to hide the patient and hard struggle for socialist and popular unity. And the path of ecological and social transformation, of radical change in society, as part of a unitary process, “what Marx has beautifully named revolutionary change,” he wrote in October 1901. “It consists, I think, in introducing in today’s society forms of ownership that belie it, which go beyond it, that announce and prepare the new society and by their organic force they hasten the disappearance of the old world.” Today, Government policy turns its back on this recommendation, encouraging the predominance of the most neo-liberal and antisocial theses.

It moves away from that jaurésienne idea of the democratic republic that must change nature, its economic bases, its social and ecological content by changing the balance of political and social forces. It should be, according Jaurès, “a mixed period, where the seeds of democracy that had neutralized the preponderant influence of the bourgeoisie grow under proletarian action. It will be a period of transition and preparation where the organized working class will start to share economic power (…), where the working class completes its economic education for the coming communist order. ”

That this is pondered by all activists and left supporters in France’s forthcoming summer schools would be the best tribute that can be made to the founder of our newspaper. A tribute with great relevance today, that strongly reaffirms that the Left, today as yesterday, must not be the crutch of capital in crisis. It must provide, in combination with a wide popular movement, the means for radical, democratic transformations for the common human ecological good.

In his first editorial in the founding issue of l’Humanité, Jaurès argued for a new type of press, that would put the people, their struggles and hopes, their thirst for knowledge and culture, at the heart of the newspaper. Today we must rise to this formidable challenge to give “all free minds the means to understand and judge world events for themselves.”

What modernity! To support l’Humanité and the pluralism of the press is more urgent than ever in the violent ideogical war we face. L’Humanité has never existed without osmosis, through joint action between its staff and readers to broaden its audience and its dissemination. Would this not be the most clear demonstration of fidelity to the living work of Jean Jaurès?

Translation by Revolting Europe

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope


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