A translation of:
Henri Moreigne, “Dernier discours et dernière mise en garde de Jean Jaurès,” Agoravox, July 31, 2018
Translated by Dennis Riches
On July 31, 1914, Jean Jaurès was assassinated in Paris. A week earlier in Lyon-Vaise, on July 25th, he delivered what was to be his final speech. The elected representative of Tarn described the situation in Europe in a way that was equally realist and alarmist. Nintey-nine years later, it is no longer war that menaces Europe but the erasure of values, the erosion of memory, and the return of old demons that feed off a major economic crisis and unemployment that is reaching levels without precedent.
After describing the infernal machinations underway as war approached, the founder and director of the journal l’Humanité called for people to rise up:
Citizens, in the darkness that surrounds us, in the profound uncertainty of today and tomorrow, I do not want to speak carelessly. I still hope that at the last minute governments will come to their senses so that we won’t have to fear the disaster which will unfold if war breaks out in Europe.
You saw the war in the Balkans. An army was almost completely killed on the battlefield or put into hospital. An army of 300,000 men departed for battle, and now 200,000 men rest in the fields and in trenches, while the last 100,000 are in hospital beds, infected with typhus.
Think of what a disaster war would be for Europe. It would not be, like in the Balkans, one army of 300,000 men, but instead four, five or six armies of two million men. What a massacre! What ruin! What barbarity! And this is why, when the storm clouds are above us, I still hope that this crime will not be committed. Citizens, if the storm breaks out, we will have to act as soon as possible to stop the crimes of our leaders. If there is still something we can do, if there is still time, we will double our efforts to prevent catastrophe… I believe our international socialist movement is united.
Whatever happens, citizens—and I say these things with a sort of despair at this moment when we are threatened with murder and savagery—there is only one way to maintain peace and save civilization. All working people—French, English, German, Italians, Russians—must gather their forces and unite to avoid this terrible nightmare.
I would be ashamed of myself, citizens, if there were one among you who believed that I was looking to profit from an election victory, however profitable it might be, in the drama of these events. I have the right to tell you that it is our duty, your duty, not to miss any chance to show that you are with this international socialist party that represents, at this hour, under the gathering storm cloud, the only promise of peace. – Jean Jaurès, July 25, 1914
What remains a century later of these prophetic words? Not much. The international response, based on national egoism, not only prevailed but was captured and recuperated by financial powers that created a globalization to their liking, based on competition among peoples and corporate freedom from state control. The guns of today are not those aimed at a few Balkan territories but weapons aimed at employment, deficits and austerity. Far from being the hoped-for shield, the Europe of 2013 is reduced to being a union of mercantile republics with no political objectives other than to reconstitute a new sort of enlarged Hanseatic League. Yet the great Jaurès in his last speech reminds us that the key to progress is in the capacity to create bridges beyond borders. This is the great challenge in the 21st century for those who want to find meaning in their lives beyond mercantilism, consumerism and greed.