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Saturday, August 11, 2018

Jean Jaurès: Last Speech

The great French Socialist leader and orator, Jean Jaurès [1859-1914], fought to his last breath in an heroic effort for peace when the first dark clouds of the World War began to settle over Europe in 1914. On July 29 he addressed a meeting of many thousands at Brussels, called by the International Socialist Bureau. This speech, given here, was his last; for two days later he was assassinated in Paris by a pro-war fanatic.

The diplomats negotiate. It seems that they will be satisfied to take from Serbia a little of its blood. We have, therefore, a little rest to insure peace. But to what lessons is Europe submitted? After twenty centuries of Christianity, after one hundred years of the triumph of the rights of men, how is it possible that millions of persons, without knowing why, can kill each other?

And Germany? If she knew of the Austrian note it is inexcusable to have allowed such a step. And if official Germany did not know of the Austrian note what is her governmental wisdom? You have a contract which binds you and drags you into war and you don’t know why you have been dragged? I ask, what people have given such an example of anarchy? [Applause.]

Nevertheless the authorities hesitate. Let us profit thereby and organize. For us, socialists, our duty is simple. We do not need to impose upon our government a policy of peace; our government is practising it. I, who have never hesitated to bring upon my head the hatred of our patriots by my obstinate will and by my desire to bring about a Franco-German understanding, have the right to say that the French government desires peace. [Applause.]

The French government is the best ally for peace of the English government which has taken the initiative in conciliation and gives Russia advice of prudence and patience. As for us, it is our duty to insist that the government shall speak to Russia with force so that she will refrain. If unfortunately Russia pays no heed, it is our duty to say, “We know of but one treaty; the treaty which binds us to the human race.” [Applause.]

This is our duty, and in expressing it we find ourselves in accord with our German comrades who demand that their government see to it that Austria moderates her acts. It is possible that the telegram of which I spoke is due partly to that desire of the German workers. One cannot go against the wish of four millions of enlightened consciences.

Do you know what the proletarians are? They are the men who have collectively an affection for peace and a horror of war. The chauvinists, the nationalists, are men who have collectively a love for war and slaughter. When, however, they feel over their heads the menace of conflicts and wars which may put an end to their capitalistic existence, then they remind themselves that they have friends who seek to reduce the storm. But for the supreme masters, the ground is mined. In the drunkenness of the first battles they will succeed in pulling along the masses. But gradually as disease completes the work of the shells, as death and misery strike, these men will turn to German, French, Russian, Austrian and Italian authorities and demand what reasons they can give for all the corpses. And then revolution let loose will say, “Go and beg grace from God and man.”

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