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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Un manuscrit de Jean Jaurès ne doit pas devenir objet de spéculation

by Jacqueline Sellem

Jean Jaurès Manuscript Must Not Become Object of Speculation

Translated Sunday 18 March 2012, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Bill Scoble

An important Jean Jaurès manuscript will be auctioned off on March 25. Patrick Le Hyaric, the director of l’Humanité, has launched an appeal for the government to exercise its pre-emptive right so that the document may enter the French public collections.

In just ten days, on March 25, an original Jean Jaurès manuscript will be put up at public auction to the highest bidder at Lasserre château, in Montastruc-la-Garonne, in southern France.

The voluminous document – it is 121 pages long – is, in the opinion of historians, of prime importance, since it resulted in the “motion of the Tarn,” which was adopted with one dissenting vote at the 1908 congress of the French section of the Workers International (SFIO), held in Toulouse. Like any manuscript, this document offers precious insights. By examining the writing, the crossed-out passages and the hesitations, the reader can get an idea of the way the author’s thoughts developed. But the manuscript is also, one hundred years on, a very modern text. Right from the first lines, you are struck by its topicality. “The Socialist Party is a revolutionary party,” Jaures states. “It does not simply propose to mitigate and to reform the abuses of present-day society, it wants to fundamentally reform this same society and to transform all capitalist property into socially-managed property.”

The manuscript, which is presently owned by the descendants of an Albi family, with which Jean Jaurès was befriended, is to be sold in a lot that includes two other documents of lesser importance — the final, approved for press, version of a Jaurès article based on his speech, and the newspaper Cri des travailleurs in which it appeared.

The opening bid for the auction is set at 150,000 to 200,000 euros. This is considerably more than the operational budget of a départemental archival service. The price will make the manuscript, whose interest as part of the French national heritage is obvious, an object of speculation. This consideration is what led Patrick Le Hyaric, the director of l’Humanité, the newspaper Jean Jaurès founded, to launch a public appeal for the Minister of Culture to exercise the government’s pre-emptive right.

The affair brooks no delay because, in order to exercise its pre-emptive right, the French Archives Administration must declare its intention to do so at the sale, and the administrative authority’s final decision must then be rendered within just two weeks.

In view of this situation, Patrick Le Hyaric has also launched an appeal for everyone, from the historians to the ordinary citizens, to mobilize themselves. A mobilization similar to that which followed the announcement that Robespierre’s manuscripts were to be sold, in May 2011, really can snatch these documents from the speculative market of private collectors, so that they can be conserved at a public institution that will make them available to all.

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