Born in Paris, he began his career as a clerk in the French Home Office, but on the outbreak of the Franco-German War he was editing Les Droits de l'homme at Montpellier, and had to take refuge at Geneva in 1871 from a prosecution instituted on account of articles which had appeared in his paper in defence of the Commune. In 1876 he returned to France to become one of the chief French apostles of Marxian collectivism, and was imprisoned for six months in 1878 for taking part in the first Parisian International Congress. He edited at different time Les Droits de l’homme, Le Cri du peuple, Le Socialiste, but his best-known organ was the weekly Egalité.
He had been in close association with Paul Lafargue, and through him with Karl Marx, whose daughter he married. It was in conjunction with Marx and Lafargue that he drew up the programme accepted by the national congress of the Labour party at Le Havre in 1880, which laid stress on the formation of an international labour party working by revolutionary methods. Next year at the Reims congress the orthodox Marxian programme of Guesde was opposed by the "possibilists," who rejected the intransigeant attitude of Guesde for the opportunist policy of Benoit Malon.
At the congress of St-Etienne the difference developed into separation. Those who refused all compromise with a capitalist government followed Guesde, while the opportunists formed several groups. Guesde took his full share in the consequent discussions between the Guesdists, the Blanquists, the possibilists, etc. In 1893 he was returned to the Chamber of Deputies for Lille (7th circonscription) with a large majority over the Christian Socialist and Radical candidates. He brought forward various proposals in social legislation forming the programme of the Labour party, without reference to the divisions among the Socialists, and on November 20 1894 succeeded in raising a two days' discussion of the collectivist principle in the Chamber.
In 1902 he was not re-elected, but resumed his seat in 1906. In 1903 there was a formal reconciliation at the Reims congress of the sections of the party, which then took the name of the Socialist party of France. Guesde, nevertheless, continued to oppose the opportunist policy of Jean Jaurès, whom he denounced for supporting one bourgeois party against another. His defence of the principle of freedom of association led him, incongruously enough, to support the religious Congregations against Émile Combes. Besides his numerous political and socialist pamphlets he published in 1901 two volumes of his speeches in the Chamber of Deputies entitled Quatre ans de lutte de classe 1893-1898.
This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.