Guesde, Jules

Guesde, Jules

Guesde, Jules (zhül gĕd), 1845–1922, French socialist, whose original name was Basile. Exiled for his support of the Paris commune, he became a confirmed Marxist after 1876 and, with Paul Lafargue, led in advocating socialism in France and a policy of noncompromise with the existing government. Guesde was largely responsible for the formation (1905) of the unified Parti socialiste, which marked the triumph of Marxism over variant forms of French organized socialism. He was a deputy (1893–1921) and served in the cabinet during World War I, when his patriotism overcame his former uncompromising stand. He wrote many socialist pamphlets and articles.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Guesde, Jules


(pseudonym of Mathieu Basile). Born Nov. 11, 1845, in Paris; died July 28, 1922, in St.-Mandé. Figure in the French and international socialist movement. One of the founders of the French Workers’ Party and one of the leaders of the Second International.

Guesde was born into the family of a teacher. He joined the republican movement in the 1860’s, contributing to the republican press in Paris and Toulouse. During 1870-71 he published Les Droits de I’homme, a left-republican newspaper, in Montpellier. He ardently supported the Paris Commune of 1871, for which he was sentenced to a five-year prison term; however, he succeeded in escaping abroad. Guesde was an émigré from 1871 to 1876 (first in Switzerland, then in Italy), and he joined Bakunin’s supporters at that time. The works of N. G. Chernyshevskii, with which he became acquainted during those years, had a considerable influence on the subsequent development of his views. In 1876 he returned to his homeland and took part in the French workers’ movement. He devoted much attention to the study of the works of K. Marx. To a great extent, his personal contacts with Marx and Engels also contributed to his shift to the standpoint of scientific socialism. Guesde and P. Lafargue became the first propagandists for Marxism in France, and Guesde did a great deal for the development of the socialist movement in the country. At the end of 1877 he founded the socialist newspaper L’Egalité—the first organ to popularize the ideas of scientific socialism within the French workers’ movement. The paper laid the foundation for the formation of the Workers’ Party (1879). Guesde took part in the elaboration of the party’s program.

Heading the Workers’ Party from 1880 to 1901, Guesde fought against petit bourgeois currents in the workers’ movement—Proudhonism and anarchism—as well as an extreme opportunist orientation within the party itself— possibilism. He opposed the antipopular policies of the bourgeois republicans, particularly the policy of colonial aggrandizement. He was elected a member of the Chamber of Deputies of the French parliament in 1893 and became the leader of its socialist faction. Guesde led the party’s struggle for the economic demands of the proletariat, including the eight-hour workday and increased wages. Although in most cases he held the correct position in the struggle against reformism in the French socialist movement (for example, with respect to the socialist A. Millerand’s entry into a bourgeois government in the late 1890’s), Guesde committed certain theoretical and tactical errors on a number of issues. For example, in the so-called Dreyfus Affair, he maintained a sectarian position of nonintervention in the struggle.

Guesde joined the French United Socialist Party (founded in 1905). Remaining one of its leaders, he gradually slid into a centrist position. Although he was faithful to Marxism in words, he simultaneously reconciled himself to the fact that the party was, in reality, increasingly basing itself on opportunistic practice, limiting itself, for the most part, to parliamentary activity. With the onset of World War I, Guesde adopted a social chauvinistic position, joining France’s imperialist government. (He was a state minister from August 1914 to October 1915.) His betrayal of socialism was his political death. Having lost his former authority, he ceased to play a major political role. After the formation of the Communist Party of France (1920), which the great majority of socialists joined, Guesde remained a member of the Socialist Party.

The first period of Guesde’s activity, when he served as a propagandist for the ideas of Marxism in the French workers’ movement and as a talented popularizer of the theories of scientific socialism, was evaluated highly by Marx and En-gels. At the same time, they noted his tendency toward sectarian and dogmatic errors. Evaluating Guesde at a later stage of his activity and giving him credit for his services in the past, Lenin noted the centrist degeneration of Guesdism and the gradual death of “Guesde’s orientation.” After Guesde’s betrayal in 1914, Lenin branded his position as social chauvinistic.


Essai de catéchisme socialiste. Brussels, 1878.
Le Socialisme au jour le jour. Paris, 1899.
Quatre Ans de lutte de classe à la chambre 1893-1898, vols. 1-2. Paris, 1901.
Questions d’hier et d’aujourd’hui: Le réformisme bourgeois: Les syndicats et le parti socialiste. Paris, 1911.
Ça et là: De La Propriété, la commune, le collectivisme. Paris, 1914.
In Russian translation:
Kollektivizm. Moscow, 1905.
Gosudarstvennye predpriiatiia i sotsializm. Moscow, 1907.
Programma frantsuzskoi rabochei partii. St. Petersburg, 1906. (With P. Lafargue.)


Marx, K., and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 22, pp. 503-25; vol. 34, p. 283; vol. 37, pp. 261-65, 399-400; vol. 39, p. 57.
Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 26, pp. 111-18, 209-65; vol. 31, p. 93.
Engels, F., P. Lafargue, and L. Lafargue. Correspondance, vols. 1-3. Paris, 1956-59.
Zévaès, A. Jules Guesde (1845-1922). Paris, 1928.
Thorez, M. Izbr. proizv., vol. 1. Moscow, 1959. Pages 298, 411.
Belkin, I. D. Zhiul’ Ged i bor’ba za rabochuiu partiiu vo Frantsii. Moscow, 1952.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
Mentioned in ?