Jean Jaurès 1894

On the Anarchists

Translated: by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2010

In 1893, during the wave of anarchist bombings that shook France, the government passed laws, known as the lois scelerates (scoundrelly laws), that seriously limited freedoms. Aimed particularly at anarchist circles, the Right insisted on equating the Socialists with the anarchists. Jaurès gave the following speech in the Chamber of Deputies attacking that notion.

I barely need to point out that it is now we who are paying for these accusations; and the exchange of polemics between the Right and the Opportunists has ceased since the Right has rallied — since it has become a necessary part, or at least an ornament — of the government majority. (applause and laughter from the far left)

M. de laRochefoucault: All of the Right hasn’t rallied.

So it’s not my intention to ask the government to once again take up the system of polemics, nor do I, for my part, want to return to this. I simply ask it this: ‘For the last few months, why have you shown yourselves, in your searches, so lacking in confidence, so suspicious towards working-class militants? Why, based on the vaguest clues, on the most futile pretexts, on the information of informants, on anonymous denunciations, why have you increased searches and arrests in the homes of the poor? (noises on the left and center. Applause on the far left) And on the contrary, why have you systematically ignored the serious clues which could compromise, at least before the public consciousness, certain eminences of the big banks and of capital? Why have you systematically refused to understand as they occur, and to signal to the country the processes, the actions, the ambitions of the church in our current social agitation?”

Messieurs, this multifarious and varied conspiracy of the capitalist order with the anarchy that wants to violently destroy it is a curious and striking paradox, yet logical and striking.

In the first place, between the society we call regular and polite, and, on the other hand, all of the disinherited who live without bread, without a home, without a tomorrow, sometimes hired, sometimes fired, the capitalist order has dug such an abyss that in order to find out the criminal thoughts that sprout in the head of the poor, it is forced to have recourse to their companions in poverty. So it is that you are forced to hire from among criminals to keep an eye on crime; from among the poor to keep an eye on the poor; and from among the anarchists to keep an eye on anarchists (interruptions from the center. Very good! Very good! from the far left.)

Le Figaro published an illustrated supplement that recapitulated the most brutal provocations and the most violent images that appeared in Pére Peinard.[1]

And I simply wanted to make the remark that it’s the capitalist regime itself which, in order to increase the dividends and profits of the big newspapers, served up to present and future comrades the quintessence of the anarchist papers you suppressed. (applause from several benches. Diverse movements)

M. Rene Viviani — it’s the newspaper of the Elysée palace!

Albert Petrot — And of the Pope

Messieurs, you say that justice must be inexorable, that it must strike without pity; yet the organs of conservative society are the first, in publishing in advance the charges against the anarchists brought to the Cour d'assises, to do all that is possible , in the interest of profit, to weaken the action of justice. (Very good! Very good!)

They publish in advance the names of jury members so that we have seen — and it’s a contradiction in which there’s something savage — the same newspapers that called for the head of Emile Henry give his mother in advance the names of the men with whom she must dispute it. (diverse movements)

I have the right to state that a regime whose fundamental maxim is “every man for himself, and everything for money,” produces just such contradictory affects. (noises...)

At the same time that you permit the church, without bothering it — you know we wouldn’t ask for this — but without even warning the country, to continue its worker and peasant propaganda work, every day you denounce, every day you slander, every day you try to diminish in the eyes of public opinion this Socialist Party which is one of the living parts of the Republic itself, which has always been republican, and which has always defended the republic in its hour of peril. (Applause on benches on the left. Interruptions from the center)

You have shown a completely contradictory spirit according to whether you had to deal with democracy itself, and its most ardent factions, or the underhanded enemies of democracy. In your police inquests as well as in your general political attitude, you have been nothing but indulgent, and blindly beneficent, towards those who try to profit by the anarchist attacks to the profit of reaction, and you have tried your best to lose a party that desires all the consequences of the Republic, which wants, above all, the principle itself. (repeated applause from the far left)

1. Banned anarchist newspaper.