Jaurès and pacifism

Jaurès and pacifism

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Title: Pacifist demonstration in Pré-Saint-Gervais in 1913.

Author : PRUNIER Gaston (1863 - 1927)

Creation date : 1913

Date shown: May 25, 1913

Dimensions: Height 79.5 - Width 63.5

Technique and other indications: oil on mounted cardboard

Storage location: Jean-Jaurès de Castres Museum website

Contact copyright: © Jean Jaurès Museum

Pacifist demonstration in Pré-Saint-Gervais in 1913.

© Jean Jaurès Museum

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

On May 20, 1913, fearing anti-militarist excesses, the government banned the annual demonstration in memory of the Communards which was to take place at Père-Lachaise. To get around this decision, the SFIO calls for a demonstration on Sunday, May 25 at Pré-Saint-Gervais, a gathering place already known to activists, made available by the socialist mayor of the city.

That year, the demonstration in memory of the Commune thus turned into a vast pacifist rally conceived as the culmination of the campaign against the reinstatement of the law of three years of military service.

Image Analysis

There are about 150,000 people there. Several groups have formed. The setting is green and soothing. The manifestation occupies two thirds of the table. We can clearly distinguish stands with passionate speakers and attentive listeners, many red flags (about sixty), groups evolving a little in a scattered order but without the overall harmony being really called into question.

In the foreground, very close to the highest point of this "red Hat hill" where the painter dominates the situation, women and men in their Sunday best take the time to live. The sun is here ; hats, caps, boaters are out, while a newspaper auctioneer takes advantage of the world and the success of the day to sell one of the special issues edited for the occasion.

In the distance, the city imposes its presence. Vast dwellings, industrial buildings, chimneys and factory smoke ... everything, down to the silvery gray of the horizon and the rising clouds, recalls the proximity of the capital.

A pacifist demonstration, this rally naturally brings together all the far left antimilitarists. But many pacifists present alongside the former Communards do not mix their voices with this minority, refusing to confuse pacifism, anti-militarism and anti-patriotism. All, however, intend to protest against the absurdity and cruelty of war, against the military hierarchy and the brutalization of barracks life, against warlike chauvinism and the intervention of the army in strikes. All, too, are internationalists and believe that we must respond to the actions and arguments of nationalists.


This painting evokes one of the best-known episodes of the pre-1914 period: one of the most important gatherings of the time which gave the opportunity to the first reporters-photographers to take the most beautiful pictures representing Jaurès orator, and to Louis Aragon to leave to posterity admirable pages putting the people of Paris and its suburbs in a situation.

Hot-painted by a socialist-leaning pacifist artist, this oil realistically describes the atmosphere of a popular rally initiated by the far left. Good-natured and colorful atmosphere where speeches, calls and conversations fuse from all sides, although half covered by cheers, hoots, bugle blasts, songs and music of the harmonies, calls from newspaper criers and coconut merchants came in droves.

The Pré-Saint-Gervais was still very green at the time. It could accommodate large-scale demonstrations, modern demonstrations that combined the characteristics of popular festivals, Sunday outings and protest demonstrations in a pleasant setting. The suburbs then began to play an important role in mobilizing the forces of progress.

  • suburbs
  • red flag
  • Jaurès (Jean)
  • demonstrations
  • labor movement
  • pacifism
  • socialism
  • antimilitarism
  • SFIO
  • speaker


Jacques DROZ (dir.), General history of socialism, t. 2, Paris, PUF, 1978-1979.

Raoul GIRARDET, The Military Society in Contemporary France (1871-1914), Paris, Plon, 1953.

To cite this article

Alain BOSCUS, "Jaurès and pacifism"

Video: Why Im Not a Pacifist