1901 The Socialist Crisis in France [Luxemburg]
First appeared in 5 instalments in Neue Zeit, 1900/1901
Despite violent class and party struggles, we do not hear of dangers threatening the republican form of government in the United States of America. This is entirely understandable, since the republic in America was won simultaneously with national independence. The Americans have never experienced monarchal rule as an independent nation. In France, on the contrary, the fears for the welfare of the Republic appear just as understandable, since it was twice established through violent struggle, only to be twice, after a short existence, overthrown by the monarchy. We, therefore, have these past experiences casting their ominous shadows on the present situation – shadows which conceal the vistas of historical development that lie between past and present.
Coup d’état : 1799 and 1851
Although the two Napoleonic coups d’état – the Eighteenth Brumaire of 1799 and December 2nd of 1851 – were produced by specific and immediate political situations, their roots went far below this surface. The First and the Second Empires alike were the direct products of preceding revolutions. They marked the extreme point of rest of the receding revolutionary wave and were supported in both cases by two powerful classes of bourgeois society, the big bourgeoisie and the peasantry.
In the Eighteenth Brumaire, we have a bourgeoisie in the period of the revolution’s ascent, seeking to check it and lead it back to its starting point in order to strangle it, because it had been carried beyond the point they fixed for it – the creation of a constitutional bourgeois state – and was threatening the very foundations of this state. Hand in hand with this bourgeoisie went a peasantry, liberated and in possession of the land, fearing every new change as much as the return of the old regime, and anxious to consolidate its conquests through a government that was hostile to both the revolution and the legitimate monarchy. Facing these two classes across the barricades was a working class which during its short rule had frightened the petty bourgeoisie and driven it into the arms of reaction, but at the same time had shown that it did not yet possess an independent, practical program of action and had, therefore, been grinding itself to pieces in the revolutionary struggles. Finally, the threat offered by the anti-Jacobin coalition of feudal-reactionary Europe caused the internal contradictions and struggles to be pushed into the background and concentrated everything upon the necessity for a strong, external front.
In the coup d’état of December 2, 1851, we have a bourgeoisie in power, which, like the big landowners, is frightened by the revolutionary uprising of the proletariat and the petty bourgeoisie. It secures the help of the petty bourgeoisie to trample the proletariat underfoot in the June massacre, and then, in order to finish with the petty bourgeoisie, strengthens the state power more and more at the expense of popular representation. In doing this, it finally places its own neck in the noose, with the greater resignation since it, from the beginning, is monarchically minded, and only finds fault with the monarchy of Bonaparte because it would have preferred that of the house of Orleans or the Bourbons. Next to this bourgeoisie, we have a peasantry, which has been devoted to the Napoleon tradition since the First Empire. In the Second it sees a means of establishing order with the bayonets of the army, and of controlling the turbulent city population it hates and fears.
The pattern of the coup d’état is, therefore, the same in both cases: on the one hand, the positive economic and political interests of the dominant classes in society tied to the monarchy; on the other, the working class, by now rendered incapable of action, as the only real republican force. Finally, in both cases, the monarchy finds its foundation prepared in advance by the march of the counter-revolution, which has already created posts combining the supreme civil and military powers: the life-long consulships and the plebescite-elected President. Whatever the coup d’état conquered, therefore, had already dropped into the lap of the Republic as a ripe fruit of the counter-revolution. The coup d’état did not establish a new state of affairs. It merely recognized the new situation and gave it its name.
The Bourgeois Republic
The events in France during the Dreyfus affair were fundamentally different. Those who interpreted the treason of certain generals and the rise of the Nationalists. as omens of a third coup d’état modelled after the two previous ones, disregarded the entire social development of France in the last thirty years. The profound alterations in the social structure of France during this period may be summed up as follows. In 1799 and in 1851, the Republic was arrested and executed by the coup d’état before it had a chance to rid itself of its revolutionary baggage. The Third Republic, however, has been able to last long enough to enter a normal period of existence and prove to the bourgeoisie that it knows how to adapt itself to their interests, and much better than any monarchy in the world could possibly do.
The main body of the bourgeoisie achieved undivided political rule for the first time in the Third Republic and, has wielded it since the end of the 1870′s almost continuously through the cabinets and parliamentary majorities of the opportunist petty-bourgeois parties. The French colonial policy and militarism, as well as the resulting gigantic state debt, have shown to the bourgeoisie that the Republic can compete with any monarchy in these most lucrative projects of the bourgeoisie. The Panama Canal and the South Railroad affairs have finally proved that Parliament and the Republican administration are tools no less adaptable to the lords of high finance than the political apparatus of the Orleanist monarchy.
The Third Republic, furthermore, has proved to be fertile soil for the petty bourgeoisie. A huge crop of small state creditors and state officials sprang up from the growing national debt and the continuously expanding bureaucracy. The entire existence of this army was dependent upon the peaceful stability of the Republic.
And finally, the Republic’s oldest and most bitter enemies, the landowners – the small and even more the big – have been showered with golden fruits from the Republic’s horn of plenty. If, at the time of the coup d’état of the second Napoleon, one section of the peasantry was already progressive enough to break with monarchal rule in a series of brutally suppressed revolts, it now had abundant opportunity to still further revise its views of the Republic. A whole series of important measures have been carried through in the last two decades that benefited most directly the wealthier peasants, the old support of Bonapartism. The reduction of land taxes alone since 1897 amounts to nearly 25 million francs. Despite the great increase of the government’s net income, the tax burden of the landowners has decreased by one-sixth! The system of protective tariffs, particularly on cattle and grain, has above all added to the wealth of the landowners. Then there are the additional expenditures of hundreds of millions of francs for technical improvement, for the construction of roads, further reduction of freight rates on the products of the soil, etc.
In general, we note the nearly complete cessation of effective social reforms and the trend towards drawing the state income almost entirely from indirect taxes which bear most heavily on the masses. Between 1865 and 1897, while the population has remained constant, the income from the tariff has increased 183%, the proceeds of the tobacco monopoly by 49%, liquor taxes by 84%. All of this indicates a very obvious material gain for all the possessing classes, the costs of which are largely borne by the only non-possessing class – the proletariat.
It must be added that the Republic in its foreign affairs, was in its internal policies, gives ample proof of its usefulness by its alliance with Czarist Russia, the chieftain of European reaction. Once its greatest enemy, Russia today is the Republic’s benevolent patron and ally.
The last thirty years have not passed over the stage of history without leaving their mark. They have transformed the Third Republic from the much-feared spectre of revolutionary upheaval into the normal form of existence of bourgeois society.
Today the Republic has the support of the main body of the bourgeoisie and of the peasantry – the suspicions of this one-time chief opponent having been disarmed by the Republic’s proving itself a kindly protector. And the working class too, still loyal despite its being treated like a step-child, is no longer the same as in the days of the first and second coups d’état. Politically trained, clarified, organized, even if split into factions, the socialist proletariat of France, whose parties polled nearly a million votes in the last elections to the Chamber, commands respect today as firm bulwark of the Republic.
Grand Alliance in Bedlam
It is clear that in this milieu monarchism is reduced to a wholly different role than it formerly played. During the Dreyfus affair, everybody regarded the nationalist camp as the headquarters of the coup d’état purely because of the slogans of the daily struggle, even as every reactionary like Méline, Barthous, or Ribot was considered a monarchist without further thought. Closer and calmer examination, however, revealed that the Nationalists presented anything but an internally united and homogeneous political front. On the contrary, this camp was rather a rendezvous of heterogeneous elements with the most varied goals and interests.
In the center, we see the compromised top ranks of the army, the general staff, and its adherents. It is true that these, in their fear of being called to trial before the Republican civil authorities, were driven to rebel against this authority. But fundamentally, they have no serious interest in the reconstitution of the monarchy. On the contrary, it was just in the Third Republic that the army was glorified as never in the past, because of the spread of an idiotic chauvinist cult and through various reforms and special privileges. And the Dreyfus affair itself has best shown that the military heads have, from their own viewpoint, found the Republic to be a paradise. It can easily be demonstrated that a despotism and autocracy of the military chiefs such as existed under the wing of the opportunist Republic cannot be so easily conceived of under a monarchist regime. The military chiefs could not seriously feel a longing for the tight reins of the monarchy. Their anti-republicanism, in this case, was only the natural form of self-defense of swindlers who were unmasked and caught by the Republic.
Next we have the clergy, which has always been on guard under the Republic, watching for an opportunity to strangle it. No doubt the clerics exercized an enormous influence on public opinion, but they were incapable of any action, appearing only as the stage managers and prompters, and not as the actors.
Thirdly, we find a strong anti-Semitic tendency in the petty bourgeoisie, a natural development in France, the land of small enterprises and a Jewry active in the financial world. The agitation against the "Dreyfusards", as with every reactionary current, provided them with favorable grounds for a nationalist demagogy. But they had no need to declare their allegiance to a Caesarian coup d’état , nor, in fact, did they declare such an allegiance.
Finally, there are the real monarchists. Some represent the peasantry in the most backward regions of France. Others are aristocrats who were forced, during normal times, to conclude an open peace with the Third Republic as "monarchal republicans" – or at least to accomodate themselves quietly to the situation – but who now, taking heart from the crisis, appear on the political scene with their entourage of journalists and littérateurs.
It is to be expected that these elements, impotent by themselves, should, shoulder to shoulder with the papist hierarchy, at once group themselves around the hard-pressed generals, pushing them forward as the storming party and generally using the crisis for their own purposes. Nor is it to be wondered at that this circumstance, together with the rebellious attitude of the compromised general staff, should give the entire camp a tinge of Caesarism. The monarchist tendencies, injecting themselves into the Nationalist camp from without, really found no point of contact whatsoever. Not only was there no important movement in their direction from any class in society, but there was not even a focal point in the form of a seriously regarded pretender to the throne. The one, a First Lieutenant in the Russian Army, leads his obscure existence in a garrison of a provincial city of the Czar’s Empire, and can no longer refer to Austerlitz and Jena as proof of his legitimacy, but must rely on Sedan and Metz. The other, a nonentity who idles about in foreign countries, has a following of a couple of hundred gray-haired men and women whose entire "agitation" consisted of gathering at an annual banquet as they lately did once more to give expression in hackneyed speeches to their hopes in the "course of events".
Under such circumstances, the united action of this camp had to content itself with whipping up a chauvinist delirium, with Jew-baiting, and with a glorification of the army it surpassed all previous performances. But nearly everything was missing for a serious political act, like the overthrow of the Republic. They lacked internal cohesiveness. organization, a program of action, and above all, an internal development of social conditions which, as in the previous cases, carried the monarchy in its womb and awaited but a coup d’état to give it birth. The Dreyfus affair provided an issue to rally around. It could supply the basis for a monarchist agitation, it could even furnish the political motive for the execution of a coup d’état, but it could not supply the positive forces which were lacking for an overthrow. Monarchism provided the outward coloration, not the content of the crisis.
The Independent role of the Army
The latter lay in a completely different direction. Even as the Third Republic was evolving into the final form of the political rule of the bourgeoisie, it was also simultaneously developing all its internal contradictions. One of these fundamental contradictions is that between a Republic based upon the rule of a bourgeois parliament and a big standing army adapted to the needs of colonial and world politics. In a strong monarchy, the army is reduced, as a matter of course, to an obedient tool in the hands of the executive power. However, in a parliamentary republic, with its momentarily changing government composed of civilians, with an elected chief-of-state whose post may go any one of the "rabble", whether formerly a tanner’s apprentice or a slick-tongued lawyer, the army, with its outspoken caste-spirit, naturally shows the tendency to become an independent power, only loosely tied to the state apparatus as a whole.
The cultivation of "pressure group" politics on the part of the bourgeoisie of France has gone so far as to result their falling into separate groups, which, without any feeling of responsibility for the whole, have made the government and parliament a plaything of their special interests. This development has, on the other side, given rise to the army developing from an instrument of the state into an independent "pressure group" of its own, prepared to defend its interests without regard for the Republic, despite the Republic, and against the Republic.
The contradictions between the parliamentary Republic and the standing army can be solved only through the dissolution of the army into the civil population and the organization of the civil population into the army. This would mean changing the army from an instrument of conquest and colonial rule into an instrument of national defense In short, the solution must be found in replacing the standing army by a militia. As long as this is not done, the internal contradictions will continue to result in periodic crises, in clashes between the Republic and its own army, which the obvious results of the army’s growing independence, its corruption and insubordination, become ever more prominent.
The mutiny of the military heads was one as of their attempt to assert their independence of the republican civil authorities. It by no means indicated a desire to lose this independence entirely through the establishment of monarchy. Hence the farcical character of the actions of the monarchists. A stormy pillow-fight in the press, an ear-splitting tumult by the anti-Semitic rowdies, the appearance of cheering crowds before the offices of the Nationalist press, and the noisy shattering of windows in the offices of the pro-Dreyfus papers, the insulting of innocent passers-by, the attempt to heat up the president at the race track … but in the midst of this electrically-charged, nerve-wracking atmosphere – not a single serious political movement to carry through a coup d’état . The ferment came to a head in that great historical moment when the extravagant buffoon, Deroulede, grabbed General Roget’s bridle as he was leading his troops into the barracks and, with an emphatic pose, sought to lead him against the President’s palace in the Elysee, without having the slightest notion what General Roget was expected to do once he got there, nor what was to result from the whole adventure. The rogue in military uniform proved wiser than the fool in civilian clothes and a sword stroke across Deroulede’s fingers was the answer to the beau geste of the anti Semitic leaders. Thus ended the sole attempt at a monarchist coup d’état.
Comedians – Monarchal and Socialist
Events in a word were considerably different than they appeared on the surface. Here, as ever, the security of the Republic did not depend on individual "saviors", above all not on a minister’s seat, but upon the whole internal relationship of the economic and political conditions of the country. It is easy to understand how the danger of a coup d’etat in France could appear to be serious and great in the midst of the-tumult of the daily struggle, where an investigation of the social background of the phenomena is very difficult, virtually impossible for the participants, and where, as a matter of course, the events and facts assume exaggerated dimensions. An energetic action was natural on the part of the republicans to hold the nationalist mob and the General Staff in check – and an action outside of parliament was an even more crying need.
But to adhere to such views born in the daily struggle today, after the crisis is over and when it can be seen from a distance, and to celebrate in all seriousness the cabinet of Millerand as the true "saviors" of the French Republic, is nothing else but an example of that vulgar historical method, which, as a counterpart of vulgar economics, presents the events merely as they present themselves on the surface of political life and understands history to be the work of ministers and other "important" people, instead of understanding its true internal relationships. Millerand’s salvation of the Republic is to be taken just as seriously as the monarchist threat presented by Deroulede.
The measures to be taken were dictated by the situation itself. If the army has grown to an independent body and posed itself against the organism of the Republic, it is necessary to lay the axe to its independence and to draw it closer to civilian society through the abolition of the court-martial and the shortening of the period of military service. If the priests support the rebellious tendencies of the militarists and agitate against the Republic, it is necessary to destroy their power through the dissolution of the religious orders, confiscation of their property and separation of the school from the church and the church from the state.
And above all, if the corruption in the army and the legal lynching of Dreyfus – with its complex web of lies, falsifications, perjuries, and other crimes – if this has completely shattered the prestige of France, both internally and externally, it is necessary to reestablish the authority of republican justice by making an example of the guilty ones, by pardoning all those unjustly convicted, and by the full clarification of the issues.
The cabinet has been at the helm for nineteen months. It has twice outlived the average life-span of a French cabinet – the fatal nine months. What has it accomplished?
It is hard to imagine a more extreme contradiction between means and ends, between task and accomplishment, between the advance advertisement and the subsequent performance than is to be found in the expectations roused by the Waldeck-Rousseau cabinet and its achievements.
First – The Army
The whole program of reform of military justice has now been reduced to the promise of the Minister of War to take into account "mitigating circumstances" in the course of court-martial proceedings. The socialist, Pastre, speaking in the Chamber on December 27 of last year, proposed the introduction of the two year military term, a reform already introduced in semi-absolutist German). The Radical Minister of Republican Defense, General André, answered that he could take no position on this question. The socialist, Dejeante, demanded in the same session that the clergy be removed from the military academies, that the religious personnel of the military hospital be replaced by a secular personnel, and that the distribution of religious publications by the army be ended. The Minister of Republican Defense, whose task it was to secularize the army, answered with a blunt rejection of the proposals and a glorification of the spirituality of the army – amid the stormy applause of the Nationalists. In February, 1900, the socialists denounced a series of terrible abuses in the army, but the government rejected every proposal for a parliamentary investigation. The Radical, Vigne d’Octon made some gruesome revelations in the Chamber (session of December 7, 1900) on the conduct of the French military regime in the colonies, particularly in Madagascar and Indo-China. The government rejected the proposal for a parliamentary inquiry as being "dangerous and purposeless". Finally came the climax: the Minister of War mounted the tribune of the Chamber to tell of his heroic defense of – an officer of the Dragoons who was boycotted by his colleagues for having married a divorcée.
Next – The Church
A legal formula is devised which covers the monastic orders with the same provisions that apply in the case of open societies. Its application against the clergy will depend upon the good will and its application against the socialists upon the bad will of future ministers.
The Republic has in no way weakened the authorized orders. Then still have their property of almost 400 million francs, their state subsidized secular clergy headed by 87 Bishops, their 87 seminaries, their 42,000 priests, and their budget for publications of about 40 million francs. The chief strength of the clergy lies in its influence upon the education of two million French children who are at present being poisoned in the parochial schools and made into enemies of the Republic. The government bestirs itself and prohibits such instruction – by non-authorized religious orders. But almost the entire religious instruction is precisely in the hands of the authorized orders and the Radical reform results in 15,000 out of 2 million children being rescued from the holy water sprinklers. The capitulation of the government to the church was introduced with Waldeck-Rousseau’s speech in which he paid his respects to the pope and was sealed with the vote of confidence in the government offered by the Nationalists.
Grand Climax: The Amnesty Laws
The "defense of the Republic" à la Waldeck-Rousseau reached its grand climax last December with the adoption of the Amnesty Law.
For two years France was in a turmoil. For two years the cry went up for truth, light, and justice. For two years a judicial murder weighed upon its conscience. Society was being literally suffocated in the poisoned atmosphere of lies, perjuries, and falsifications.
At last the government of Republican Defense arrived on the scene. All the world held its breath. The "great sun of justice" was about to rise.
And it rose. On December 19 the government had the Chamber adopt a law which guaranteed immunity to all charged with crime, which denied legal satisfaction to those falsely accused, and quashed all trials already in process. "Those who were yesterday declared the most dangerous enemies of the Republic are today again taken to its bosom as prodigal sons returned home. In order to defend the Republic, a general pardon is extended to all its attackers. In order to rehabilitate Republican justice, all victims of the judicial frame-ups are denied the opportunity for vindication.
Petty-bourgeois radicalism ran true to type. In 1893 the bourgeois radicals took the helm through the Cabinet of Ribot to liquidate the crisis caused by the Panama scandal. But because the Republic was declared in danger, the accused deputies were not prosecuted and the whole affair was allowed to dissolve into thin air. Waldeck-Rousseau, commissioned to handle the Dreyfus Affair, dissolves it in a complete fiasco "in order to close the door to the monarchist danger".
The pattern is an old one:
The shattering overture that announces the battle loses itself in a timid growl as soon as the action is to start. The actors cease to take themselves seriously, and the performance falls flat like an inflated balloon that is pricked with a needle. (Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire.)
Was it to realize these grotesque, piddling, laughable measures- I speak not from the viewpoint of socialism, or even of a half-way capable radical party, but merely in comparison to the republican measures of the opportunists in the ’80s, like Gambetta, Jules Ferry, Constant, and Tirard – was it for this that a socialist, the representative of working-class power, had to be taken into the cabinet?
The opportunist Gambetta, with his moderate Republicans, demanded in 1879 the removal of all monarchists from government service and, through this agitation, drove MacMahon from the presidency. In 1880 these same "respectable" Republicans carried through the expulsion of the Jesuits, and a system of compulsory, free education. The opportunist Jules Ferry drove over six hundred monarchist judges from the bench in his judicial reforms in 1883 and dealt a hard blow at the clergy with his law on divorce The opportunists Constant and Tirard, in order to cut the ground from under Boulangism, reduced the term of military service from five to three years.
The radical cabinet of Waldeck-Rousseau failed to even rise to the stature of these most modest republican measures of the opportunists. In a series of equivocal manoeuvres in the course of nineteen months it accomplished nothing, absolutely nothing. It did not carry out the least reorganization of military justice. It did not bring about the slightest reduction in the period of military service. It did not take one decisive step to drive the monarchists out of the army, judiciary, and administration. It did not undertake a single thorough measure against the clericals. The one thing it did do was to maintain its pose of fearlessness, firmness, inflexibility – the classic pose of petty-bourgeois politicians when they get into hot water. Finally, after much ado, it declared that the Republic is not in a position to do anything about the band of military rogues and simply must let them go. Was it for this that the collaboration of a socialist was necessary in the Cabinet?
How "Necessary" Was Millerand?
It has been said that Millerand was personally indispensable for the building of the Waldeck-Rousseau cabinet. As far as is generally known, France is not suffering from a lack of men who are covetous of a cabinet portfolio. If Waldeck-Rousseau could find two useful Generals in the ranks of the rebellious army to serve as Ministers of War, he could have found a half-dozen men in his own party who were eager for the post of Minister of Commerce. But after one has come to know the record of the cabinet, one must in any case admit that Waldeck-Rousseau could have calmly taken any agreeable Radical as a co-worker and the comedy of the "defense of the republic" would not have come out one hair worse. The Radicals have always understood how to compromise themselves without outside assistance.
We have seen that the monarchist danger, which scared everyone so much during the Dreyfus crisis, was more of a phantom than reality. The "defense" of Waldeck-Rousseau, therefore, was not necessary to save the Republic from a coup d’état . Those, however, who still today defend the entry of Millerand into the government as they did two years ago, and point to the monarchist danger as both the motive for the entry and for remaining, are playing a dangerous game. The more serious one paints the picture, the more pitiful appear the actions of the cabinet, and the more questionable the role of the socialists who participated.
If the monarchist danger was very slight, as we sought to establish, then the rescuing efforts of the government begun with pomp and circumstance and ended in fiasco, were a farce. If, on the other hand, the danger was great and serious, then the sham actions of the cabinet were a betrayal of the Republic and of the parties that placed their confidence in it.
In either case, the working class has not, in sending Millerand into the cabinet, taken over that "large share of responsibility" which Jaurés and his friends speak of so proudly. It has merely fallen heir to a part of the shameful "republican" disgrace of petty-bourgeois radicalism.
The contradiction between the hopes confided in the cabinet of Waldeck-Rousseau and its actual achievements has confronted the Jaurés-Millerand section of French socialism with but one alternative. It could confess its disillusionment, admit the uselessness of Millerand’s participation in the government, and demand his resignation. Or it could declare itself satisfied with the politics of the government, pronounce the realities to be just what it had expected, and gradually tone down its expectations and demands to correspond with the gradual evaporation of the government’s will-to-action.
As long as the cabinet avoided the main question and remained in the stage of preliminary skirmishes – and this stage lasted an entire eighteen months – all political tendencies that followed its policies, including the socialists, could still drift along with it. However, the first decisive step of the government – the Amnesty Law – pushed matters out of their twilight zone into the clear light of day.
"The Whole Truth!"
The outcome of the Dreyfus Affair was of decisive importance for the Jaurés group, whether they liked it or not. To play on this card, and this card only, had been their tactic for two full years. The Dreyfus Affair was the axis of all their politics. They described it as "one of the greatest battles of the century, one of the greatest of human history!" (Jaurés in Petite Republique, August 12, 1899). To shrink from this great task of the working class would mean "the worst abdication, the worst humiliation" (ibid., July 15, 1899). "Toute la verité! La pleine lumiére!" The whole truth, full light, that was the goal of the socialist campaign. Nothing could stop Jaurés and his friends – neither difficulties nor nationalist manoeuvres nor the protests of the socialist group led by Guesde and Vaillant.
We battle onward, [Jaurès called out with noble pride] and if the judges of Rennes, deceived by the detestable manoeuvres of the reactionaries, should again victimize the innocent in order to save the criminal army chiefs, we will again stand up on the morrow, despite all proclamations of expulsion, despite all mealy-mouthed references to the falsification, distortion, and belittling of the class struggle, despite all dangers, and call out to the generals and the judges: You are hangmen and criminals! (Ibid. July 15, 1899)
During the trial at Rennes, Jaurés wrote confidently:
Be it as it may, justice will triumph! The hour is drawing nigh for the freeing of the martyrs and for the punishment of the criminals! (Ibid. Aug. 13, 1899.)
As late as November of last year, shortly before the passage of the Amnesty Law, Jaurés declared at Lille:
For my part I was prepared to go further. I wanted to continue until the poisonous beasts would be forced to spit out their poison. Yes, it was necessary to prosecute all forgers, all liars, all criminals, all traitors; it is necessary to pursue them to the extreme summits of the truth, as on the extreme point of a knife, until they were forced to admit their crimes and the ignominy of their crimes before the entire world. (Les Deux Methodes, Lille, 1900, p.5.)
And Jaurés was right. The Dreyfus Affair had awakened all the latent forces of reaction in France. The old enemy of the working class, militarism, stood completely exposed, and it was necessary to direct all spears against its body. The working class was called upon for the first time to fight out a great political battle. Jaurés and his friends led the workers into the struggle and thereby opened up a new epoch in the history of French socialism.
Jaurés Crosses the Rubicon
As the Amnesty Law was presented to the Chamber, the right-wing socialists suddenly found themselves facing a Rubicon. It was now clear that the government that had been formed to liquidate the Dreyfus crisis, instead of "turning on the spotlight", instead of establishing the "entire truth", and instead of forcing the military despots to their knees, had extinguished truth and light and bowed its own knee to the military despots. This was a betrayal of the hopes Jaurés and his friends had placed on the government. This ministerial post revealed itself to be a useless tool for socialist politics and the defense of the Republic. The tool had turned against the master. If the Jaurés group wanted to remain true to their position in the Dreyfus campaign and to the task of republican defense, they immediately had to turn their weapons and use every means to defeat the Amnesty Law. The government had laid their cards on the table. It was necessary to trump them.
But to decide on the Amnesty proposal was also to decide on the existence of the cabinet. Since the Nationalists declared themselves against the Amnesty, and made the question one of a vote of confidence in the government, it was easy for a majority to be formed against the proposal and lead to the downfall of the cabinet.
Jaurés and his friends now had to make a choice: either fight through to the finish their two-year campaign on the Dreyfus issue, or to support the Waldeck-Rousseau cabinet, either for the "full truth" or the cabinet, either for the defense of the Republic or the ministerial post of Millerand. The question balanced in the scales for only a few minutes. Waldeck-Millerand outweighed Dreyfus. The cabinet’s ultimatum accomplished what the Guesde-Vaillant manifestoes of excommunication had failed to accomplish: in order to save the cabinet, Jaurés and his group voted for the amnesty and thereby gave up the Dreyfus campaign.
The die had been cast. With the acceptance of the Amnesty Law, the right-wing socialists made as the guide for their conduct, not their own political interests, but the maintenance at the helm of the Waldeck-Rousseau cabinet. The vote for the Amnesty Law was the Waterloo of their Dreyfus campaign. In the twinkling of an eye, Jaurés had brought to naught all he accomplished in the course of two years.
The Retreat Becomes a Rout
After surrendering their chief political stock, the Jaurés group sped merrily on their sportive way. To save the government, they gave up – reluctantly and with internal Katzenjammer over the costly price – the goal of two years of gigantic struggles: the "whole truth" and "complete light". But to justify their own adherence to a government of political fiascos, they had to deny the fiascos. Their next step was to justify the capitulation of the government.
The government pigeon-holed the Dreyfus Affair instead of fighting it through to the end? But that was necessary "in order to put an end to the now useless and boring trials and avoid sickening the people with too much publicity, which would now soon obscure the truth." (Jaurés in Petite Republique, Dec. 18, 1900).
It is true that two years ago the whole of "loyal and honest France" had been called upon to pledge: "I swear that Dreyfus is innocent, that the innocent shall be vindicated and the guilty shall be punished" (Ibid., Aug. 9, 1899).
But today "all these judicial trials would be an absurdity. They would only tire the country without clarifying it and hurt the cause we are trying to serve. . . The true justification of the Dreyfus Affair lies today in the work for the Republic as a whole" (Ibid., Dec. 18, 1900).
Yet another step and the former heroes of the Dreyfus Campaign appear to the Jaurés group as troublesome ghosts of the past with whom one cannot finish quickly enough.
Zola, the "great defender of justice", "the pride of France and of humanity", the man of the thundering "J’Accuse!", issues a protest against the Amnesty Law. He insists now, as previously, on "the whole truth and the full light". He accuses once more. What confusion! Does he not see, asks Jaurés, that there is already "enough light" to penetrate all intellects? Zola should forget his failure to be vindicated before a court of law and remember that he is glorified in the eyes of "that great judge, the whole of humanity", and please, be so kind as not to bother us with his eternal "J’Accuse!" "Only no accusations, no empty reiterations!" (Ibid., Dec. 24, 1900.) The work for the Republic as a whole, that is the main thing.
The heroic Picquart, "the honor and pride of the French army", "the pure knight of truth and justice", rejects as an insult his prospective recall to the army under the Amnesty Law – what arrogance! Does not the government offer him, with its intended recall to the army, "the most brilliant vindication"? True enough, Picquart has a right to have the truth spread on the records of the courts. But our good friend Picquart should not forget that the truth is not only a concern of Col. Picquart, but of the whole of humanity. And in comparison to humanity as a whole, Picquart’s concern for vindication plays a little role indeed. "In fact, we must not permit ourselves, in, our insistence upon justice, to be limited to individual cases." (Gerault-Richard, Petite Republique, Dec. 30, 1900.) The work for the Republic as a whole, that is the main thing.
Dreyfus, this "example of human suffering in its deepest agony", this "incarnation of humanity itself upon the summits of misfortune and desperation", (Jaurés, Petite Republique, Aug. 10, 1898) – Dreyfus defended himself, bewildered, against the Amnesty Law, which cut off his last hope for legal rehabilitation – what rapacity! Do not his tormentors suffer enough already? Esterhazy drags himself through the streets of London, "hungry and broken in spirit". Boisdeffre was forced to flee from the general staff. Gonse is out of the top ranks and goes about dejected. DePellieux died in disgrace. Henry committed suicide by cutting his throat. Du Paty de Clam is out of the service. What more can one ask for? Are not the pangs of their conscience enough punishment for the criminals? And if Dreyfus is not content with this. favorable outcome of events and insists upon punishment by human courts – just let him be patient. "There will come a time when punishment will overtake the wretches." (Jaurés, Petite Republique, Jan. 5, 1901.) "There will come a time" but right now the good Dreyfus must realize that there are more important problems in the world than these "useless and boring trials". "We have better things to gain from the Dreyfus affair than all this agitation and acts of revenge." (Gerault-Richard, Petite Republique, Dec. 15, 1900.) The work for the Republic as a whole, that is the main thing.
One more step and the Jaurés group regard all criticism of the government’s policies, to which the Dreyfus campaign was offered as a sacrificial lamb, as frivolous playing with the "government of Republican Defense".
Sobering voices are gradually raised in .Jaurés’ own camp to question the action of the cabinet in the "democratization of the army" and the "secularization of the Republic" – what light-mindedness! How terrible "systematically and with nervous impatience [after eighteen months - R.L.] to discredit the first achievements of our common efforts … Why discourage the proletariat?" Jaures, Petite Republique, Jan. 5, 1901.) The proposals of the government on the religious orders was a capitulation to the church? Only a "dilettante and mealy-mouthed performer" could say that. As a matter of fact, "it is the greatest struggle between the church and bourgeois society since the laws on the secularization of the schools" (Ibid., Jan. 12, 1901).
And if, in general, the government flounders from one fiasco to another, does not the "assurance of future victories" remain? (Ibid., Jan. 5, 1901). It is not a matter of single laws – the work for the Republic as a whole, that is the main thing.
Just what, after all of this procrastination, is the "work for the Republic as a whole"? It is no longer the liquidation of the Dreyfus Affair, nor the reorganization of the army, nor the subordination of the church. As soon as the existence of the cabinet is threatened, everything else is given up. It suffices for the government, in order to pass its favorite measures, to pose it as a vote of confidence and Jaurés and his friends are safely put into the harness
Yesterday, the cabinet must take defensive action it order to save the Republic. Today, the defense of the Republic must be given up in order to save the cabinet. "The work for the Republic as a whole" means, today, the mobilization of all Republican forces to keep the cabinet of Waldeck-Millerand at the helm.
The present attitude of the Jaurés group towards the policies of the government is, in one sense, in direct contradiction to its position during the Dreyfus Affair. But, in another sense, it is nothing but a direct continuation of the previous policy. The same principle – unity with the bourgeois democrats – served as the basis of socialist policy in both cases. It served during two years of unyielding struggle for a solution of the Dreyfus Affair, and, today, because the bourgeois democrats have deserted the fight, it leads the socialists to also liquidate the Dreyfus Affair and to give up all attempts at a fundamental reformation of the army and a change in the relations between Republic and Church.
Instead of making the independent political struggle of the Socialist party the permanent. fundamental element and unity with bourgeois radicals the varying and incidental element, this principle caused Jaurés to adopt the opposite tactic: the alliance with the bourgeois democrats became the constant, and the independent political struggles the incidental element.
Already in the Dreyfus campaign, the Jaurés socialists failed to understand the line of demarcation between the bourgeois and the proletarian camps: If the question presented itself to the friends of Dreyfus as an attack upon the by-products of militarism – as the cleansing of the army and the suppression of corruption – a socialist had to view it as a struggle against the root of the evil – against the standing army itself. And if the bourgeois radicals considered justice for Dreyfus and punishment for the guilty ones as the single central point of the campaign, a socialist had to view the Dreyfus Affair as the basis for an agitation in favor of the militia system. Only thus would the Dreyfus Affair and the admirable efforts of Jaurés and his friends have been a great agitational service to socialism. Actually, however, the agitation of the socialist camp, on the whole, ran in the same shallow channels as the agitation of the bourgeois radicals with a few individual exceptions in which the deeper significance of the Dreyfus Affair was touched upon. It was exactly in this sphere that the socialists, despite their greater efforts, perseverance, and brilliance, failed to be the vanguard, and acted as the co-workers and camp followers of the bourgeois radicals. With the entry of Millerand into the radical cabinet, the socialists stood entirely upon the same ground as their bourgeois allies.
The circumstance which divides socialist politics from bourgeois politics is that the socialists are opponents of the entire existing order and must function in a bourgeois parliament fundamentally as an opposition. The most important aim of socialist activity in a parliament, the education of the working class, is achieved by a systematic criticism of the ruling party and its politics. The socialists are too far removed from the bourgeois order to be able to achieve practical and thorough-going reforms of a progressive character. Therefore, principled opposition to the ruling party becomes, for every minority party and above all for the socialists, the only feasible method with which to achieve practical results.
Not having the possibility of carrying their own policies with a parliamentary majority, the Socialists are forced to wring concessions from the bourgeois majority by constant struggle. They achieve this through their critical opposition in three ways. (1) Their demands are the most advanced, so that when they compete with the bourgeois parties at the polls, they bring to bear the pressure of the voting masses. (2 ) They constantly expose the government before the people and arouse public opinion. (3) Their agitation in and out of parliament attracts ever greater masses about them and they thus grow to become a power with which the government and the entire bourgeoisie must reckon.
The French socialists grouped about Jaurés have closed all three roads to the masses by the entry of Millerand into the government.
Above all, an uncompromising criticism of the government’s policies has become impossible for the Jaurés socialists. If they wanted to chastise the cabinet for its weaknesses, its half-measures, its treachery, the blows would beat down upon their own backs. If the efforts of the government at Republican defense are a fiasco, the question immediately arises, what is the role of a socialist in such a government? In order not to compromise the ministerial post of Millerand, Jaurés and his friends must remain silent in the face of all the acts of the government that could be used to open the eyes of the working class. It is a fact that since the organization of the Waldeck-Rousseau Cabinet, all criticism of the government has vanished from the organ of the right wing of the socialist movement, Petite Republique and every attempt at such criticism is immediately denounced by Jaurés as "nervousness," "pessimism," and "extremism." The first consequence of socialist participation in a coalition cabinet is, therefore, the renunciation of the most important task of all socialist activity and, above all, of parliamentary activity: the political education and clarification of the masses.
Furthermore, in those instances where they have been critical, the followers of Millerand have robbed their criticism of all practical significance. Their conduct in the matter of the amnesty proposals showed that no sacrifice is too great for them in order to keep the government in power. It revealed that they arc prepared is advance to cast their votes for the government in every instance when the government levels a pistol, in the form of a vote of confidence, at their breast.
It is true that the socialists in a country governed by a parliament are not as free in their conduct as, for instance, in the German Reichstag where they can take a position of opposition without regard for the consequences and at all times express themselves unmistakably on it. Out of regard for the "lesser evil," the French socialists on the contrary, see themselves constantly forced to defend a bourgeois government with their votes. But, on the other hand, it is specifically through the parliamentary régime that the socialists gain a sharp weapon which they can hold over the head of the government like a Sword of Damocles and with which they can give their demands and their criticisms added emphasis. But in making themselves dependent upon the government through the cabinet post of Millerand, Jaurés and his friends remade the government independent of them. Instead of being able to use the spectre of a cabinet crisis to force concessions from the government, the socialists, on the contrary, placed the government in a position where it could use the cabinet crisis as a Damocles sword over the head of the socialists to be used at any time to force them into line.
The Jaurés group has become a second Prometheus hound. A striking example is the recent debate on the law regulating the right of association. Jaurés’ friend, Vivian, tore to pieces the government’s proposals on the religious orders in a brilliant speech in the Chamber and counterposed the real solution to the problems. When, however, Jaurés, on the following day, after overwhelming praise for the speech, puts into the mouth of the government the answers to Viviani’s criticism, and when, without even waiting for the debate to open and before all attempts to improve the government’s proposals, Jaurés advises the socialists and the Radicals to guarantee. the acceptance of the government’s measures at any price, the entire political effect of Viviani’s speech is destroyed.
The ministerial position of Millerand transforms – this is its second consequence – the socialist criticism of his friends in the Chamber into empty holiday speeches, without any influence whatsoever upon the practical politics the government.
Finally, the tactic of pushing the bourgeois parties forward through the pressure of the socialists reveals itself this instance, as an empty dream.
In order to safeguard the future existence of the government, the supporters of Millerand think they must maintain the closest cooperation with the other groups of the Left. The Jaurés group is swallowed up entirely by general "republican" swamp of the Left, of which Jaurés is the leading brain.
In the service of Millerand, his socialist friends play present, the role usually played by the bourgeois Radicals.
Yes, contrary to general practice, the Radicals play the role of the most thorough-going oppositionists within present Republican majority and the socialists play the role of the right wing, the moderate governmental elements.
D’Octon and Pelletan, both Radicals, were the ones forcefully demanded an inquiry into the horrible colonial administration, while two socialist deputies of the right wing found it possible to vote against the inquiry. It was the Radical Vazeille who opposed the strangling of Dreyfus Affair by means of the Amnesty Law, while the socialists finally voted against Vazeille.
Finally, it is the socialistic Radical, Pelletan, who gives the following advice to the Socialists (Dépeche de Toulouse, December 29)
The question comes down to this does a government exist to serve the ideas of the party that supports it or to lead that party to a betrayal of its ideas? O, the men whom we maintain at the helm don’t fool us! With the exception of two or three Ministers, they all rule about in the same manner as a Cabinet headed by Méline would. And those parties that should warn the Cabinet and chastise it, crawl upon their stomachs before it. I, for my part, belong to those who view as excellent strategy the attempt of the Socialist party to place one of its people in power, instead of isolating itself as a result of a systematic struggle against government. Yes, I hold this strategy to be first rate. But to what purpose? So that the progressive policies in the Cabinet receive added support, and not so that the worst omissions by the Cabinet find the socialists as hostages…. Today, Waldeck-Rousseau is no longer an ally, as we would like to believe, but the guide of the conscience of the progressive parties. And he guides them, it appears to me, a little too far. It suffices to have him pull out of his pocket the bogey-man of the Cabinet crisis to make himself obeyed. Beware! The politics of the country will lose something when out of us and out of you there will be formed a new category of sub-opportunists.
Socialists who attempt to win away petty-bourgeois Democrats from their position of opposition to the government, and petty-bourgeois Democrats who accuse the Socialists of crawling on their stomachs before the government and of betraying their own ideas – that is the lowest level to which socialism has yet sunk, and at the same time the final consequence of socialist Ministerialism.
Thus the tactic of James, which through the sacrifice of the socialist principle of opposition sought to achieve practical results, has revealed itself to be the most impractible in the world.
Instead of increasing the influence of the socialists upon the government and the bourgeois parliament, the tactics of Jaurés has made them into involuntary tools of the government and passive appendages of the petty-bourgeois radicals.
Instead of giving the progressive policies of the Chamber a new impetus, the withdrawal of the socialist opposition killed the last chance of bringing the Chamber to act in a decisive and courageous manner.
And this is their greatest failure. The fiasco of the Waldeck-Millerand-inspired actions of republican defense was not accidental but the logical result of the impotence from which the bourgeois radicals in the Chamber suffered from the very beginning and to which the socialists condemned themselves through their participation in the bourgeois radical government.
If the miserable "actions" of the Waldeck-Rousseau government signified the sad end of its republican mission to an impartial observer, they signified to Jaurés, despite weaknesses which he could not deny when pointed out from his own ranks, the happy beginning of a great era of democratic renaissance in France, based upon the firm alliance of socialism with petty bourgeois democracy.
That is why [writes Jaurés], the building of an ever so timid left majority for the support of an ever so indecisive and weak a government of the left, is, in my view, a fact of the greatest importance. I regard it as an embryonic, but necessary foundation of the legislative and administrative organism which will lead society into the path toward the realization of the highest equality for which we strive. (Petite Republique, January 8, 1901.)
It is this distant vision of the coming epoch when the socialist proletariat and the radical petty bourgeoisie will rule together that makes it necessary to maintain the government of Waldeck-Rousseau at the price of principled political aims! This it is that makes it necessary to maintain the alliance with the bourgeois left at the expense of independent Socialist opposition! Jaurés has only left out of sight, in this grandiose political cloud-castle, the fact that petty bourgeois radicalism, which he wants to place in power with the support of the socialists, has already collapsed long ago as the result of a tactic which has sad similarities to that of Jaurés.
The Republican program has been the foundation for the political role of the French petty bourgeoisie since the Great Revolution. As long as the big bourgeoisie entrenched themselves behind the monarchy, the petty bourgeoisie could appear as the leader of the masses. The contradiction between the working class and the bourgeoisie, in large measure, took the form of a difference between the Republic and the Monarchy and constituted a firm backbone for the petty-bourgeois opposition.
These circumstances have changed with the development of the Third Republic. With the transformation of the big bourgeoisie from an enemy into the very backbone of the Republic and the realization of the petty-bourgeois program – republican form of government, "sovereignty of the people" through a parliamentary regime, freedom of press, organization, and conscience – the ground was pulled from under the feet of petty-bourgeois politics and its spear directed against the bourgeoisie was broken. Only the outer decorations of a bourgeois republic remain as the aim of the petty-bourgeois "radical" program, like a progressive tax system, reform of public education, and the struggle with clericalism.
While the political differences between the petty bourgeoisie and the big bourgeoisie disappeared, the social differences between the bourgeoisie and the working class developed still more deeply. Together with the soul of program, the petty-bourgeois radicals lost many of their supporters. The proletariat appeared on the scene as at independent party in the sharpest conflict with the Radicals as well as with the Moderates. Within the Radical camp itself a differentiation took place. While one section was impelled by material interests to draw close to the bourgeoisie, another section found itself forced to adopt a socialist coloration.
"Pure" middle class radicalism, reduced to the role of weak buffer party, could only choose one of two courses to carry through its program. It could either limit itself to the role of an opposition in the Chamber and use the extra parliamentary pressure of the masses to support it, or it could limit itself to parliamentary combinations for the purpose of participating in the government of the big bourgeoisie.
The first course, to win the support of the masses in competition with a socialist working class party, had now become doubly impossible for the Radicals. Not only could they offer the working class little, but due to the prominence and stability of small industry in France, the petty bourgeoisie was frightened away by the social aspirations of the proletariat. And since it persisted with its paltry program there was no other way left open but parliamentary cooperation with the bourgeoisie. And this was the beginning of its collapse.
In ordinary times, petty-bourgeois radicalism was assigned the role of being a passive accomplice of the opportunistic bourgeoisie in the joint cabinets. But from time to time it had the opportunity to prove that it was absolutely indispensable. This occurred whenever the bourgeoisie had compromised itself by some scandal and threw the Republic into a crisis. In such a situation, radicalism finds the opportunity to again pull out its old tattered program of "defense of the Republic" and to temporarily take over the helm Regularly at this point, the fact that the Radicals lack parliamentary majority to carry through their program is "discovered," though this is always a known fact from which the proper conclusions can be drawn in advance.
In order to keep itself at the helm and to rule, Radicalism is forced to desert its own program and either hide behind pretenses designed to conceal its inactivity or to take to the road of openly opportunistic politics. In either case it reveals to the Chamber its superfluity and to the country its unreliability and thus becomes ever more an impotent tail to the bourgeois kite.
The record of the Waldeck-Rousseau Cabinet is a faithful picture of such Radical politics. If one regards the "united left," upon which Jaurés wants to build the entire present-day politics of the Socialist party, as a compact political group that has come together for the cleansing and reforming of the Republic, one makes the same mistake of overestimation as made in that view according to which the nationalist camp is a compact mass with serious monarchist longings.
Quite the contrary, we see in the "united left" the most varied elements, with all shades from socialism to reaction represented. The extreme right wing, the Progressives of the Isembére group, rub elbows with the storm troops of Méline. The "united left", internally divided, has only come together out of a common necessity for the reconstitution of law and order. When this objective has been achieved – and it appears as if the Amnesty Law is its classic solution – the binding interests recede into the background, the left disintegrates, and the "government of Republican defense" is left suspended in mid-air. The fact that the Méline Cabinet had a majority in this very same Chamber indicates that the present majority is only a temporary one. And the recent election of Deschanels to the presidency of the Chamber, which could only take place due to the betrayal of their own candidate, Brisson, by a section of the Left, shows that the collapse of the "united left" is only a matter of time.
And this situation gives a logical explanation of the conduct of the Waldeck-Rousseau Cabinet. Not having the possibility to undertake any sort of thoroughgoing action, it feels itself compelled to blunt the edges of the contradictions that had been sharpened by the crisis through a series of capitulations. Thus it emerges true to the traditions of petty-bourgeois radicalism. Taking over the helm without the power to carry out its own program, it ends up by betraying it.
The government of Waldeck-Millerand is, therefore, not the beginning of an era of democratic rule based upon the socialist-radical alliance, as Jaurés sees it. It is much more the continuation of the previous history of the petty-bourgeois radicals who feel themselves called upon, not to realize their own democratic program, but to periodically clean away the political dirt piled up by the big bourgeoisie so that bourgeois reaction can continue a normal existence in its republican form. The new era begun with the Cabinet of Waldeck-Rousseau, unfortunately, consists of the fact that for the first time the socialists have participated in this historic mission of the petty bourgeoisie. The socialists, under the illusion that they were serving the program of socialism, were in reality serving as shock troops for the petty-bourgeois radicals in the same manner that the latter, under the illusion that they were serving the program of democracy, were in reality serving as the shock troops of the big bourgeoisie.
The tactic of Jaurés is, therefore, built on sand. The rise of petty-bourgeois democracy, which was to be facilitated by Millerand’s entry into the government and by the surrender of their position as parliamentary opposition by the socialists, reveals itself to be a phantom. Contrary to his aim, Jaurés has crippled the only force in France that could have defended democracy and the Republic, by chaining the socialist proletariat to the corpse of petty bourgeois radicalism.