The Blue Raccoon

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Jaurés And The Workers Who Wouldn't Unite
Universal brotherhood didn't stand a chance against militaristic nationalism-- and the bullets of an assassin

Jean Jaurés inciting peace and understanding--crowds
like this made him, and his supporters, think they were
actually going to stop a European war.
Image: Blog Leituras Favre

Jean Auguste Marie Joseph Jaures (1859-1914) was the symbol of the French Socialist Party prior to World War I, a leading advocate of peace and universal brotherhood, who believed in his heart that workers from Germany would not march in massive armies to go and slaughter French workers.

He never held a government position, though he had a few terms in the Chamber of Deputies without representing an actual party. Jaurés was more of a voice of conscious than a politician.

On this May 1, the traditional Labor (or, Labour, for those members of the billion-eyed audience who like their English pinkey-up), Day commemoration, is also the commemoration of the calling of an 1886 strike for an eight-hour work day in the United States. On May 3,1886, Chicago workers marching near the McCormick Harvester factory were fired upon and beaten. This became known as the Haymarket Riots.

The blowback from the Haymarket event crippled the socialist and anarchic movements in the U.S. The potential of these movements ever making inroads to the political philosophy of the nation underwent a massive deflation. Meanwhile, in Europe, a sense of true epochal change was in the air -- except it was the Wilhelmine Germans and Lenin who wanted the revolution. Thing is, Lenin, who commanded no armies and didn't wear funny hats, knew where the music was playing.

Lenin understood that if a true overwhelming of the present structures of government was to be accomplished, no sentiment could be spared, not a shred of the old way of conducting business could remain. A new methodology was needed to wipe away all that had come before.

Jean Jaurés participated in an international peace conference at Brussels during July 1914. He believed that the brewing war could be an opportunity to prove the righteousness of his cause. He advocated union between the Germans and French, who had much to gain and almost everything to lose if they chose conflict. This made him hated among French nationalists.

Then, on July 13, 1914, while sitting in a Paris cafe, he was shot and killed by a 29-year-old nationalist fanatic, Raoul Villain. His name is just too poetic and subtle; the villain Villain who killed Jaurés.

The very next day, posters went up throughout French town squares announcing the general mobilization in preparation for war, and all hell followed after.

Jaurés did not live to see his idealism gone to mud and gore in Flanders fields. The workers of Europe, goaded by national pride and the propaganda machines, killed each other in bloody heaps with numbed, dutiful, assembly-line precision for the next four years.

The tumult of war knocked the shoddy props from underneath imperial Russia. The Germans, seeking to incite Russian collapse, released Lenin from his Swiss box. The revolution he led would in the end pickle his body while Stalin perverted his concepts and through pogroms kill hundreds of millions. Throughout the Eastern Bloc of Europe, thousands of civilians in the "proletariat" were kept busy spying on their neighbors through the secret police apparatus: the fearful betraying the fearing. Notable malingerers from those "Stalinist" glory days are China, and North Korea and Cuba.

Villain was murdered in 1936.

His too-late end is reminiscent of the demise of Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijevic, whose street name was Apis or "The Bee," and the polar opposite of Jaurés. Dimitrijevic was the Serbian officer who set up the state-sponsored terrorist organization called The Black Hand. Dimitrijevic was respected for his personal heroism and zeal, though he worked in the shadows, where Jaurés labored in the full light of assemblies and conferences.

Divided into covert cells that did not know of each other--a kind of early 20th century Eastern European Al Qaeda--they received their coded instructions from the committee headed by The Bee. Gavrilo Prinzip, a shabby man and a lousy terrorists except that his aim proved true, was sent by The Apis as part of a group whose mission it was to kill the Archduke Franz Ferdinand during a June 28, 1914, visit to Sarajevo.

This delivered probable cause to the Austro-Hungarians. The thudding timpani of Gustav Holst's "Mars" from his suite The Planets predicted what was to come. Written about the time of the war's eruption--but not completed or performed in public until near its end-- Holst brought a tonal metaphor to the sense of Europe at this discrete moment. His aesthetic attennae sensed the coming catastrophe, and he wrote the score. Holst was prescient in more ways, too; the music was for the Modernity and in the almost century since its premier, The Planets has been pillaged so often by entertainment that it strikes the contemporary ear as a soundtrack.

The Bee was squashed by the events he set in motion; as detailed in this overview from the site of Brigham Young University's Harold B. Lee Library:

"In March 1917, Apis was arrested in a government crackdown on the Black Hand. Several theories exist for why. One, is that Prime Minister Pasic and the Prince Regent were preparing to negotiate a separate peace with Austria and that they feared Black Hand reprisals. Another theory was that Pasic wanted to eliminate Apis and the others because they could expose government involvement in the Sarajevo murders. Yet another theory is that Apis was actively subverting the government.
For whatever reason, Apis and many others received a rigged trial before a military tribunal. Apis and three others were sentenced to death for treason. Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijevic was shot at sunrise on June 24, 1917."

Jaurés the peacemaker, Villain the killer and Dimitrijevic the war-bringer all died by violence. Princip, history's trigger man, languished in prison while the world he helped push into the abyss flew to pieces around him. He died, his tiny body consumed by tuberculosis, on April 28, 1918 at a hospital in a town named Theresienstadt.

Due to his murderous act in Sarajevo--whether the exact or proximate cause of World War I has filled scholarship cluttered volumes--that village would become the site of an artificial ghetto created by the Nazis to contain enemies of their state.

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