Who's Who - Jean Jaures

Jean Jaures Jean Auguste Marie Joseph Jaures (1859-1914) was, until the immediate pre-war years, a popular as well as charismatic leader of the French Socialist Party.

Jaures was born in Castres, France on 3 September 1859 and attended the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris.  After graduating Jaures was employed as a teacher at the lycee of Albi between 1881-83, and thereafter at the University of Toulouse from 1883-85.

In 1885 he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies without representing any political party, although he suffered defeat four years later, in 1889.  He then returned to university where in 1891 he presented for his doctorate.

A by-election in 1893 saw Jaures returned to the Chamber as an Independent Socialist.  Once again, in 1898, he suffered defeat at the polls, although following his re-election in 1902 he remained in the Chamber until his assassination in 1914.

Involved in the Dreyfus affair in 1894 as a supporter of Dreyfus, Jaures argued that Alfred Dreyfus' treason conviction was based upon forged evidence.  It has been suggested that it was Jaures' evidence in the Dreyfus trial that cost him his electoral seat in 1898.

A co-founder in 1904 of the socialist newspaper L'Humanite (along with Rene Viviani and Aristide Briand, both future French Prime Ministers), Jaures was a man of numerous talents.  A prolific writer, he proved himself as capable at giving a speech as penning it.

With his political instincts inspired by the French Revolution, Jaures conventionally opposed imperialism in all its forms; yet in other aspects he was less orthodox in his socialism, in that he continued to believe in the rights of the individual over the state.

A firm advocate of the Second International socialist movement, he accepted their argument preventing its members from participating in so-called 'bourgeois' governments.  As such he never accepted a position within the French cabinet; which meant, given his leadership of the party (since 1905), that the Socialist Party was also denied a role in government.

As the storm clouds of war approached, Jaures' popularity waned somewhat, as he continued to advocate closer relations with Germany.  Indeed, at the height of the July Crisis of 1914 he travelled to Brussels to try to persuade German socialists to strike against potential war in Europe.

Shortly after his return from Brussels to Paris, on 31 July 1914, Jaures was murdered by a 29 year old nationalist fanatic, Raoul Villain; three days later Germany declared war with France.

A 'Wibble-Wobble' was slang for tanks.

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Who's Who