Rue Saint Marc

Arrondissement 2

Numbers 1, 36, 39

An old road that was first built around 1650 it was named after a shop sign. Amokrane Ould Aoudia, a lawyer for the FLN, was assassinated at his home at No. 1 on May 21 1959 by the French Secret Service. The operation was called ‘Omo’ and the secret service decided to pretend it was carried out by a fictitious ‘Red Hand‘ organisation.

Around the locations of No. 36 and No. 39 (at what was the old No. 10 Rue Neuve St Marc) was the print shop of Le National. This new paper housed the meeting on July 26 1830 of the 44 journalists, including Pierre Leroux who drafted a protest letter against the Four Ordinances issued by Charles X. It was the seizure of the four papers who printed the letter the next day that sparked the July revolution of July 27 to July 30.



Key dates in 1830

Chronology from Le Maitron of key dates in French labour history

Author: Stéphane Sirot, additional material by Michel Cordillot, René Lemarquis and Claude Pennetier with Steve Jefferys (italicised)

January 19 The first extreme cold period of the year that began on December 6 1829 ends.

February 7 The government decides to seize Algiers.

February 8 The second extreme cold period of the year that began on January 24 ends.

February 15 The Globe set up by Paul-François Dubois and Pierre Leroux becomes a daily.

February James Fazy and Antony Thouret‘s newspaper La Revolution first appears.

May 16 Charles X dissolves the Chamber of Deputies after 221 deputies had voted against his ministers.

May 25 The French expeditionary force of 38,000 soldiers embarks at Toulon to attack Algiers.

June 23-July 19 The new elections give outright majority to the liberal opposition to Charles X with 274 deputies out of 428.

July 5 Algiers is taken and Algeria becomes a French colony. This colonisation without consulting the British leads their ambassador to not give support to Charles X during the July Revolution; the expedition also weakens the number of loyal troops based in and around Paris. The news reaches Paris on July 9.

July 25 Under Article 14 of the 1814 Constitutional Charter that allowed the King to rule by decree, Charles X signed four decrees at St Cloud to restrict press freedom to cut the number of voters (by excluding patents from the possessions that counted towards taxable wealth), to dissolve the new Chamber of Deputies and to set up a new reactionary government.

July 26 The new ordinances were published, sparking a protest letter signed by 44 journalists from 12 newspapers who met in the National office in the Rue St Marc. They included Leroux of the Saint-Simonian Le Globe and Thiers of the constitutional monarchist Le National. Four newspapers (Le National, Le Temps, Le Globe and Le Journal du commerce) decide to go ahead and publish the protest letter, Thousands of copies are then distributed in the streets.

July 27-28-29 The ‘Glorious Three days’. Barricades across Paris. Louis-Philippe replaced Charles X in August.

July 27 The Commerce Law Court declares the ordinances restricting the electorate of the merchant and commercial classes was contrary to the 1814 Charter and was not obligatory. In the printing districts a large number of print workers found themselves unemployed, and angry, unleashed a Paris-wide insurrection threatening the government and ministers. A big crowd gathered in the gardens of the Palais-Royal and are cleared by mounted troops. In the early afternoon, after troops killed one man and wounded three others, the first barricade was built in the Rue Saint-Honoré, turning over a builders’ rubble cart that had been waiting for the troops to pass.

That night barricades were built across Paris, using paving stones and tree trunks where they could be cut. Meanwhile Charles X’s new military commander, Marmont, the hated Duke of Raguse, dispersed his 15,000 troops to key places such as the Place du Carrousel, the Place Louis XVI (Concorde), the Bastille square, the Place Vendome and the Pont Neuf.

July 28 As Paris students, workers and shopkeepers armed themselves fighting took place near the Town Hall that Marmont attempted to retake, and in the Rue Saint-Denis and Rue Saint Martin in an effort to clear Rue St Honoré. By early afternoon the troops were cornered and fraternisation was beginning. But Charles X rejected proposals to negotiate.

The Town Hall was occupied and the fearful government ministers escaped back to the Tuileries Palace. At nightfall Marmont organised a difficult retreat to a defensive rectangle stretching from the Place de la Concorde to the Louvre, with the Rue St Honoré and the Seine its north and south limits. Altogether some 800 insurgents had been killed and 4,500 wounded in the fighting, while 200 soldiers were killed and 800 wounded.

The people spent the night building still more barricades which in some places were every 20 metres, making it very difficult for the troops to move their artillery. Eyewitnesses suggested after the event that there were 4,000 barricades built in total during the July revolution.

July 29

July 30 The club called Friends of the People is set up.

July 31 The last attempt to prevent Lafayette from transferring power to Louis-Philippe fails.

July-November Strikes take place for higher wages and the reduction of the working day in Rouen, Darnetal, Paris, Roubaix and Limoges. Some printing and weaving machines are borken.

October 17-20 Considerable unrest in Paris when the trial of Charles X’s ministers takes place. Posters appear on the walls again in the workers’ districts inciting citizens to arm themselves to reconquer the rights they have again been denied.

December 20-22 A new wave of poster proclamations aimed at ‘the People’ and calling on the workers’ districts to take action and demanding an elected assembly representing these districts renewable every year. Some very violent worker and student demonstrations take place followed by a large number of arrests.



Place de la République

Arrondissements 3, 10, 11

Numbers: 12

A small square close to the present huge open space first appeared in the 17th century soon after the 14th century Charles V wall and its Temple gate were knocked down. It became known as the Château-d’Eau square after 1811 when Napoléon Bonaparte inaugurated a huge fountain surrounded by lions there to celebrate his opening of a much-needed aqueduct bringing fresh water to Paris from the North.

The Chateau d’Eau fountain stood from 1811 to 1867 in the Place du Chateau d’Eau that was enlarged in 1854 and finally became the Place de La République in 1879. Cast in iron by the Creusot factory, supplier of canons first to the young Republic and then to Napoleon, the fountain was moved to La Villlette in 1867.

The square witnessed a left demonstration on June 13 1849 against the prince-president Louis Napoleon’s decision to declare war on the Rome Republic. Ledru-Rollin and another 30 deputies marched from the Square, hoping unsuccessfully to secure widespread popular support – something they failed to get because of mistrust over Ledru-Rollin’s involvement in the 1848 June Days insurrection.

Haussmann’s aim to subdue the most working class and militant north-eastern area of Paris created the huge public square we recognise today.

In 1855 Haussmann ordered the building of the huge Prince Eugène barracks at No. 12 behind the fountain. It was big enough for 3,200 soldiers. This postcard dates from the 1900s. The barracks was renamed the Vérines barracks in 1947 after its former Republican Guard commander who was shot by the Germans for his resistance activities in 1943. The barracks was the last German stronghold to surrender in Paris on August 25 1944.

Planning to make troop movements through Paris easier, in 1857 Haussmann approved the knocking down and building through of what are today the Boulevard Voltaire (at the time the Prince-Eugène Boulevard) and the Avenue de la République.

From 1865 the square began to take its present dimensions becoming a rectangular square 280m long by 120m wide. In 1867 a second much bigger fountain with 8 bronze lions around it spitting water was planned for the square (it is now in the Place Félix-Éboué) and the first fountain was moved to supply water to the cattle waiting to be slaughtered at the new livestock market at La Villette. Built between 1860 and 1867 the giant La Villette meat market replaced five other big Parisian slaughter house centres (at Montmartre, Menilmontant Roule, Grenelle and Villejuif).

On May 30 1878 some 6,000 demonstrators staged an illegal demonstration in the square demanding the freedom of all France’s political prisoners. This was one of the first steps in winning the amnesty for the imprisoned, deported and exiled Communards in 1879.

In 1879 the square was given its present name. A competition was also held for a grand monument dedicated to the Republic to be erected in the square. This was won by the Morice borthers. On July 14 1880 a plaster model was inaugurated in the square and the bronze version was inaugurated three years later.

A minority on the competition jury so strongly defended the proposal made by the newly-returned Communard, Jules Dalou, that in 1880 his model was chosen to be put in the Place de la Nation.

Some of Paris’ most important demonstrations have taken place in the Square. On February 9 1934 the Communist Party organised a demonstration starting at the Gare du Nord and marching to the Square.

Three days after the attack on the National Assembly by the fascists, calling for the outlawing of the right-wing leagues and for a government of workers and peasants. It was banned by the government and attacked by the police. The most significant thing about the demonstration was that many socialist workers also responded to the events of February 6 1934 by joining the communist demonstration. This was the real beginning of the Popular Front.

On July 14 1935 the North African Star movement held up the Algerian flag for the first time during the Bastille Day demonstration in the Square.

On May Day 2002 hundreds of thousands filled the Square to protest against Jean-Marie Le Pen of the fascist National Front getting through to the second round of that year’s presidential election.

The Square was also full two days after the machine gun attacks of November 13 2015 as Parisians showed their determination not to give in to terrorism.

Despite fear that the Bataclan terrorists might strike again, tens of thouands filled the Place de la Republique two days after the murders of 130 people and the wounding of another 413.

One week later a solidarity demonstration with undocumented migrants and against the State of Emergency took place from the Place de la Bastille to the Place de la Republique.

Solidarity demonstration on Noveber 22 2015 for the sans-papiers and against the state of emergency. Harrassed by police from start to finish it finally arrived at the Square

Two weeks after France’s biggest terrorist attack since the German occupation, the March for the Climate to take place demanding stronger action from the COP21 international conference was also banned under the November 20 State of Emergency. This did not prevent more than ten thousand demonstrators taking to the street.

The police started arresting demonstrators in the Place de la Republique on Sunday afternoon November 29 2015 after their demonstration calling for real climate action from COP21

By the early afternoon on November 22 2015 the 3-5,000 demonstrators still at the Square protesting the infringement of their freedom were tear-gassed and attacked with sound grenades by the police, who made 341 arrests and kept 317 of the protestors overnight.

Still under the State of Emergency, massive trade union demonstrations against the socialist President Hollande’s liberalising labour law measures began. Disillusion with the so-called ‘Socialist’ government sparked anger and a new social movement. After a massive day of demonstrations on March 31 2016, a number of leftists decided to meet in the Place de la République, and not to disperse, but to stay on and sleep there.

The Nuit Debout movement was born. The photograph at the top of this article was taken in April. Every evening at 6 pm people – mainly young people – would meet at the Square, often voting on different issues, and some would sleep there. In June, after the labour law reform had been passed by the government, the meetings got smaller and smaller and fizzled out.

Steve photographed the base of the Nuit debout protest during the day on April 14 2016. It was still covered with the slogans and placards from the 2015 anti-terrorist demonstrations

In the 2020s the Square remains the focal point for demonstrations linked to the real demands for freedom, equality and humanity.

I found this image stencilled on a wall close to the Place de la Republique on April 14 2016

One website that keeps Parisians informed on what demonstrations are taking place now in the Place de la Republique and other places in Paris is Demosphere.




Montparnasse Cemetery

Arrondissement 14

3 Boulevard Edgar Quinet

Originally called ‘the Southern Cemetery’ it was opened in 1824 as one of four that made up a new network of burial places outside the original walled city centre: Passy (west), Montmartre (north) and Père-Lachaise (east).

It was developed on the private burial plot of the ‘Brothers of Charity’ religious order (now called St-Jean-de-Dieu Hospital Order) and on three local farms. Soon it stimulated a local monument statutory industry, among whom was Antoine Bourdelle, Jules Dalou‘s studio neighbour. Dalou was himself buried here, having famously sculpted the Père-Lachaise tombs of Victor Noir and Auguste Blanqui.

Around 35,000 people are now buried there, and with them memories of those who struggled for a better world.

Among these is a broken column, commemorating the four sergeants of La Rochelle, Jean-François Bories, Charles Goubin, Jean Pommier and Charles Raoulx guillotined on September 21 1822 in the Place de Grève outside the Hotel de Ville for being members of the Carbonari and plotting to overthrow Louis XVIII.

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the pivotal figure of French socialism in the mid-19th century, is buried here.

Denis Dussoubs has a commemorative tomb in the cemetery. He was shot while trying to persuade troops to remain faithful to the Second Republic and to stop Louis-Napoleon’s coup d’État  that had taken place two days earlier on December 2 1851. His brother, Gaston, a deputy was unwell, and asked him to go to speak to the troops in his place.

Pierre Leroux, the first to use the word ‘Socialism’ was buried there shortly after the declaration of the Paris Commune in April 1871.

Alfred Dreyfus, against whom such an anti-Semetic injustice was done in the 1894 that France became politically divided in ways that shaped its 20th century history.

Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre are buried next to each other.

The cemetery also includes two monuments: one to those killed in the Franco-German war (1870-1871) sieges of Paris and Strasbourg; the other to the Communards killed there during the bloody week of May 21-28 1871 and afterwards.

During the retreat from the cemetery Jean Allemane prevented Joseph Piazza from being shot by his own men, by locking him up in the 5th arrondissement’s town hall next to the Pantheon. Sadly, the Communards forgot to release him and he was killed by the Versaillais. The executions and quick burials in the cemetery finally ended only on June 19 1871.



Rue Montorgueil

Arrondissements 1, 2

Numbers: 50, 52, 57, 72, 73, 78

From the 13th century the road was called ‘mont Orgueilleux‘ (Pride Hill). Until the late 20th century the street was associated with bringing fish, and particularly oysters, into Paris.

Pierre-Jean de Béranger was born in No. 50 in 1780. Years later he was a regular guest at literary events at the restaurant at No. 78 (then number 59) called ‘Au Rocher de Cancale’.

In 1839 the insurrectionaries of Blanqui and BarbesSociety of the Season‘s uprising built a barricade across the street between Nos 52 and 43, at an angle with the Rue Tiquetonne.. Blanqui’s headquarters was in the  café at No. 57, on the corner with No. 1 Rue Mandar.

The bustling Café du Centre is on the site of the one that Blanqui and Barbès used as their HQ during the May 1839 insurrection of the 500 members of the Société des Saisons.

On December 4 1851 a barricade across the road at No. 72 was thrown up by opponents of Louis-Napoleon’s coup d’Etat, and many protestors were killed when it was taken by the army.

Twenty years later, nearly at the same place, at No. 73, another barricade witnessed strong resistance to the advance of the Versaillais troops on May 24 1871.




Jules Dalou

1838-1902 * France

Sculptor * Communard

Dalou with his wife and daughter in exile in London in 1876, painted by Lawrence Alma Tadema

After his return from exile under the general amnesty of 1789, from 1880 until his death in 1902 Dalou lived in an apartment in the Avenue du Maine. His daughter was mentally ill and required the continuous presence of his wife or another adult.

Initially Dalou rented a studio in the Artists Collective in the Rue Denfert-Rochereau. But from 1881 Dalou’s workshop was very close to his flat in the then Impasse de Maine, a 150m private road. now 18 rue Antoine Bourdelle.

It was in the Impasse de Maine workshop that Dalou produced many of his masterpieces. The reactionary politics of the immediate post-Commune period had given way to a more liberal environment, one in which successive republican governments saw the major threat to the country coming from the monarchists and Bonapartists on the right of the political spectrum.

Dalou therefore became an acceptable recipient for those with public funds to distribute.

One of his earliest large bids was to design a sculpture to feature in the celebration of the hundredth anniversary of the French Revolution in Place de la Republique. His proposal didn’t win, but as runner-up he was given a commission for the piece to provide the central sculpture in the Place de la Nation.

Poulain Chocolate produced a series of advertising prints featuring Famous sculptors including Jules Dalou and his best known work

In 1880…

Dalou’s last work was erected six years after his death, a memorial to Auguste Scheurer-Kestner (1833-1899), the vice-president of the Senate and the first politician to defend Alfred Dreyfus’ innocence.

Dalou’s monument to the Republican and Dreyfusard Auguste Scheurer-Kestner was erected in 1908 in the Luxembourg Garden, just metres from the Palace that had become the home of the Senate, where Scheuere-Kesnter was vice president from 1894 until his death in 1899.


Le Maitron



Palais Bourbon

Arrondissement 7

National Assembly, 8 Place du Palais Bourbon

The existing Bourbon Palace that has been used as the Chamber of Deputies or National Assembly ever since 1815 was originally built between 1722 and 1728. It was then enlarged considerably between 1771 and 1789 under the neo-classical architect Marie-Joseph Peyre (who also designed the Odeon Theatre) before being nationalised in 1792 after its then princely owner had fled France.

Under the Directory the Council of Five Hundred began to meet in the Palais Bourbon. from January 21 1798. By then it had been modified to include a hemicycle theatre. Napoleon’s powerless Corps Legislatif also met there in a building that was now adorned by a new corinthian facade facing the Seine and on the opposite bank at the end of the Rue Royale, Napoleon’s Temple to the Glory of the Great Army (now the Church of the Madeleine).

At what is now the back, or south-facing side of the Palais Bourbon is the Square (Place du Palais Bourbon). In 1883 and 1884 Félix Fénéon published poetry by Paul Verlaine and the Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud from No. 8 in the Libre revue.

Many of those in LeftinParis were deputies in the National Assembly at one point or other in their lives: Jean Zay, Leon Blum, Ledru-Rollin,


Key Dates 1816 – 1829

Chronology from Le Maitron of key dates in French labour history

Author: Stéphane Sirot, additional material by Michel Cordillot, René Lemarquis et Claude Pennetier and Steve Jefferys (italicised)


May 8 Divorce abolished (only to be re-established in 1884) by the ultraroyalist chamber of deputies elected in august 1815 by a majority of 225 to 11.


January 8 An order forbidding introductio of black slaves into French colonies was issued

January/February Rural unrest as bread shortages and local famines hit the Brie and Champagne areas of France.

February 5 A new electoral law restricts the electorate to those who pay 300 francs in taxes, to about 90,000 men, and to become a deputy requires paying 1000 francs in taxes, limiting eligibility to about 15,000. Elections take place at meetings of electors who have constituted themselves as an Electoral College.

February 12 A law permits those suspected of plotting against the royal family or state security can be arrested and held without being taken to court.

April 1 The coalition powers agree to a reduction in the numbers of occupying soldiers from 150,000 to 120,000, reducing the cost of supporting them to the treasury.

June 8 An insurrection breaks out in Lyon and the surrounding area, leading to the first executions of workers on June 13.

September 20 Elections for the Chamber of Deputies see some liberal deputies elected and the formation of an Independent Party in the Chamber.

October Trials take place in Lyon of the Lyon workers arrested in June.


March 20 A fire takes place at the Odeon Theatre.

October 20-26 Partial elections in which the Independents gain 20 seats.

November 30 The occupying troops leave France after it paid war indemnities,


February 26 Weaving machines are destroyed in Vienne and later in the year at Mortagne and Limoux.

September 11-20 The liberals have some success in the elections


February 13 Assassination of the Duke de Berry, King Louis XVIII’s nephew and son of the future Charles X provoking a government shift towards repression and the start of the second wave of White Terror. Censorship is reestablished and individual liberty suspended.

June 3 A 17-year-old student Nicolas Lallemand is killed by a palace guard in the Place du Carrousel during a demonstration against giving two votes to the tax payers who pay the most tax.

June 9 Lallemand’s funeral procession to Pere Lachaise cemetery was swollen to 6,000 people by large numbers of workers from the Saint-Antoine area.

August 19 The French Bazar conspirators of the Rue Cadet try to initiate a Bonapartist conspiracy, at the same time as in Lyon and Colmar.


May 1 The French Carbonari movement is founded by Philippe Buchez, Saint-Arnand Bazard and Jacques-Thomas Flotard. Support for secret societies is in part a response to the gradual elimination of liberals in the National Assembly as the 1820 law of the double vote takes effect.

May 5 Napoleon dies on Saint Helena. The news reaches Paris on July 5.

December 24-28 A Carbonari insurrection is Saumur fails to take off.

France: Population is 30,461,875, of which Paris is 713,000 and the next two largest towns are Marseille with 116,000 and Lyon with 115,000.


January 1 La Fayette arrives in Belfort but the Carbonari plan for an insurrection is discovered.

February 24 Carbonari insurrection led by General Berton fails at Thouars. His march on Saumur is stopped and he is executed on October 5.

Spring Charles Fourier published the first abridged 700-page version of his Grand Treatise, proposing the establishment of ideal communities and moved from Besancon to Paris with most of the 1,000 copies to sell them to as many people as possible. Initially only having a handful of followers, the Fourierist movement developed rapidly in the 1830s under the leadership of Victor Considerant.

March 19 Four sergeants based at La Rochelle are arrested for planning a Carbonari insurrection.

July 1-3 A Carbonari insurrection at Colmar aiming to release the Belfort prisoners and to bring Napoleon II to power, fails. It was led by Colonel Caron, who was executed in Strasbourg on October 1.

September 21 The Four Sergeants of La Rochelle are executed in the Place de Grève in front of the Paris Town Hall. The executions are witnessed by the young Auguste Blanqui.


March 3-4 Jacques-Antoine Manuel, a minority liberal deputy and friend of Beranger, is thrown out of the Chamber of Deputies for opposing Louis XVIII’s proposed invasion of Spain to ‘restore a grandchild of Henry IV to the throne of Spain’ and with him, royal despotism. Some rioting in Paris followed.


February 25 – March 6 The ultra royalist right secure 415 deputies out of 430 after rigged elections that follow the victory of the French army over the Spanish democratic movement.

August 6-8 A strike and demonstrations involving over 1,500 spinners at Houlmes, near Rouen, and neighbouring villages demands parity with wages and conditions in all the factories in the region.

September 16 Louis XVIII dies. Charles X becomes king.


May 19 Death of Saint-Simon, author of the Catechism of Industrials and New Christianity. Few knew of them during his life, but his ideas were popularised by his disciples Olinde Rodrigues, Prosper Enfantin and Saint-Amand Bazard., who brought together between 1826 and 1830 a philosophical school comprising a brilliant and active group. Saint-Simon is buried at Pere Lachaise.

October 1 The first issue is published of the Saint-Simonian Producer journal, whose final issue is published on December 12.

November 30 Between 60,000 and 100,000 people attend the funeral of the former Napoloeonic General and liberal deputy Maximilien Sébastien Foy, who is buried at Pere Lachaise.

December 24 A strike takes place in the coal mines and mirror factories of Commentry in central France. This small town became the first in France to elect a socialist mayor in 1882, and hosted the September 1902 unity congress that created the short-lived Socialist Party of France with the merger of the ‘Marxist’ French Workers Party (POF) of Jules Guesde, with the Blanquiste Revolutionary Socialist Party of Eduard Vaillant and its semi-autonomous Revolutionary Communist Alliance led by Arthur Groussier.


November 1 The Law Gazette appears for the first time.


February 7 Nine miners are killed in a coal mine in Aniche.

March 30 The funeral of La Rochefoucault-Liancourt sparks a riot after the police charge the students carrying the casket in the Rue Saint-Honore, and it falls to the ground and breaks open.

April 29 A republican demonstration takes place against the new press censorship laws. The Parisian National Guard is disbanded.

August 24 Some 100,000 people attend the funeral of the liberal deputy Manuel who had earlier opposed the French army intervention to restore absolutism in Spain.

September The royalist Pierre Charnier founds the earliest Lyon mutual aid society among the silk weavers of Lyon. It watches prices and allows the master workers to support each other.

October 4 The French start fighting the Dey of Algiers following the alledged insult to the French consul on April 30.

November 17-20 After the electoral success of the opposition (180 government absolutism-supporting deputies are re-elected with an opposition of 170 liberals and 80 right/conservative deputies) violent demonstrations, met with severe repression, take place across France but especially in Paris. Many workers are killed and wounded. For the first time since the 17th century Fronde barricades appeared on the streets. Blanqui was shot in the neck on the corner of the Rue aux Ours and the Rue Quincampoix on November 19.

November 30 The Lyon Mutual Aid Society founded by Jacques Lacombe is authorised by the mayor.


Bazard publishes the Doctrine of Saint-Simon. Buonarroti publishes in Brussels his historic Conspiracy of Equals. This action, and the success of this book, stimulate the emergence after 1830 of a communist neo-Babeufian movement that will inspire the secret societies of the first decade of the July Monarch, that will develop further during its second decade.

Journalists associated with ‘Young France’ and the La Tribune des départements which is launched the following year, becoming the official voice of the Rights of Man society, form a Republican Society.


January 1 Gas lights are lit for the first time in the Rue de La Paix (10) and in the Place Vendôme.(4). By the end of the year 12 gas lights lit up the night at both the Place de l’Odeon and the Rue de Catiglione, as well as the galaries of the Palais Royal.

May 25-30 The ‘War of the Maidens’ (Guerre des Demoiselles) breaks out in the Ariège department in the Pyrennees in protest against the 1827 Forestry Code that prohibited peasants from collecting wood, cutting it and keeping their animals in pastures in the forests. The rebellion continued off and on for three years, and then sporadically until 1872.

June 8 The republican daily newspaper, La Tribune des départements, is published

December The newspaper Le Globe moves under the control of the Saint-Simonians under the influence of Pierre Leroux.


Rue de Bourgogne

Arrondissement 7

Numbers: 4

Virtually the entire revolutionary left of the 1840s used to visit No. 4. This was where the Slav exiles lived and where Bakunin used to meet Proudhon, Leroux and many others. Bakunin was finally expelled from France in 1847.

After receiving threats to his life, in 1937 Jean Zay moved to the road that was so close to the heavily guarded Chamber of Deputies.


Rue de Verneuil

Arrondissement 7

Numbers: 46

The road was named after the Duke Henri de Bourbon-Verneuil, a son of Henry IV who was Abbott of the nearby St Germain-des-Pres abbey in 1640 when the road was first opened.

Jean Zay lived in a flat at No. 46 from 1934. His eldest daughter was born there in 1936, the year he became Minister of Education and Culture in the Blum Popular Front government.

There is now a rare plaque to a leftist on the wall outside the flat.

After facing increasing threats from La Cagoule, the undergorund fascist organisation, the Zay family moved to the Rue de Bourgogne.


Place de la Bastille

Arrondissements 4, 11, 12

Numbers: 12

Called after the ‘small fort’ originally built next to the St Antoine gate into Paris and then turned into a stone fort in 1370, the Bastille soon became a six tower fortress with thick walls and a moat. By 1553 it was an eight-tower fortress with a copper-bottomed moat. In the 17th century it was turned into the prison that was eventually taken by Paris’ newly-formed militia and local people on July 14 1789.

One of the wine merchants, Claude Cholat, who participated in the storming of the Bastille sketched the scene from memory a few days later

Demolition began almost immediately. Voltaire’s coffin was symbolically brought there on its way to the Pantheon on July 11 1791.

In 1792 it was decided to turn it into a huge square, the Place Antoine. The Marseillais volunteer national guardsmen arrived there singing the song that became the national anthem on July 30 1792.

From June 9 to June 14 1794 the guillotine was installed in the ruins of the fort. But after killing 73 people in less than three days the local shopkeepers complained so much (about the smell and those who had come to watch) that it was moved to what is now called the Place de la Nation, and was then the Square of the Overthrown Crown.

After the 1830 Revolution the new King Louis-Philippe decided to erect a column in the middle of the square to honour the 615 victims of the ‘Trois Glorieuses‘ Revolution – the Three Glory Days. It was inaugurated in 1840.

On April 13 1834 barricades went up in the square as local workers rioted in support of the silk workers’ insurrection in Lyon.

On February 24 1848 Louis-Philippe’s throne was taken from the Tuileries Palace and ceremoniously burnt at the foot of the July column. Three days later the 196 dead in the February Revolution were buried in the crypt beneath the column, and the Second Republic was officially proclaimed there.

On June 24 1848, when the new right-wing government announced the dissolution of the National Workshops, the Bastille square was entirely circled by barricades, and a red flag placed in the hands of Dumont’s 1836 allegorical statue le Génie de la Liberté flew briefly from the top of the July Column to accompany the flame of freedom and the broken chains of despotism.

Dumont’s statue is of a winged male god – chosen probably precisely because it was not the traditionally feminine revolutionary with a phrygian gap – in keeping with the rightward direction of the Orleans monarchy. The names carved on the column are of the dead of 1830.

A red flag flew again on top of the column on February 24 1871, when 14 battalions of the National Guard marched by in a commemoration of the 1848 revolution. The government’s attempt to replace the flag by the Tricolour on February 26 and March 9 1871 both failed.

During the 1871 Paris Commune three local sections of the International Workingmen’s Association used to meet in the Cour Damoye at No. 12.

On May 25 1871 when the Versaillais troops entered Paris the Communards tried to blow up the column by setting fire to five oil delivery barges in the tunnel that runs beneath it. This failed, and the column was also missed by shells fired at it, although nearby buildings were hit.

The Communards fought hard to defend the symbol of revolutionary liberty, but were eventually overrun by the Versaillais. During the bloody week of May 1871 nearly all were killed in the fighting or shot afterwards.

The Place de la Bastille became the symbol of left and republican resistance.

The first Parisian demonstration of Communards after the suppression of the Commune took place at the Bastille square on May 9 1880.

In 1935 two major demonstrations took place there. On International Women’s Day 1935, feminists led by Louise Weiss and Cecile Brunschvicg symbolically burnt chains of male dominance in the square.

On July 14 1935 a demonstration that brought together both Socialists and Communists marched from the Bastille to Vincennes. This was called under the name of ‘People Together’ (Rassemblement populaire) that became the Popular Front that won the 1936 parliamentary elections.

On May 29 1968, the day De Gaulle temporarily left France, the CGT trade union organised a mass demonstration against his government, shown here in a police surveillance photograph passing the Place de la Bastille

Since 1991 the Marche de les Fiertes have usually begun or ended at the Place de la Bastille. In the 21st century they have usually attracted at least half a million people. There were certainly about that number when Marian and I watched for hours as the marchers went by.

The 50th anniversary Paris gay pride march June 24 2017
The first Gay Pride march in Paris in 1981 passed through the Place de la Bastille.



Key Dates 1795-1815

Chronology from Le Maitron of key dates in French labour history

Author: Stéphane Sirot, additional material by Michel Cordillot, René Lemarquis et Claude Pennetier and Steve Jefferys (italicised)


April 1-2 A workers’ insurrection repressed in Paris.

May 20, May 23 Another workers’ insurrection in Paris ending in the Army occupying the militant Saint-Antoine district. The revolt is finally over after three days of fighting. The slogan of the revolutionaries was ‘Bread and the Constitution of Year 2‘.

December Workers strikes in Paris


March 30 Gracchus Babeuf and his comrades establish the Insurrectionary Committee of the Equals. Sylvain Maréchal drafts the Manifesto of the Equals.

May 10 Babeuf, Buonarroti and 245 ‘Equals’ supporters arrested.

September 9, 10 Equals plot to win over the Grenelle soldiers for a revolution foiled. Many arrests.

October 10 30 of the Equals condemned to death by a military court.


May 27 Babeuf and others in the Conspiracy of the Equals guillotined.

November 16 Carpenters strike in Paris


September 19 110 inventors and industrialists participate in the opening ceremony of an Industrial Exhibition in the Champs de Mars organised under the 1795-1799 Directorate.


November 9 Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte stages a Coup d’État that overthrows the Directorate and opens a period of social calm with regulations highly favourable to employers. This took place on the 18 Brumaire an VIII in the revolutionary calendar.


December 24 Chambers of Commerce and Industry are created by the 1799-1804 Consulate that replaces the Directorate.


April 12 A law is passed regulating work in factories and workshops and at the same time renewing the illegality of workers’ combinations.

December 1 The workers’ passbook (livret ouvrier) is introduced. It is a kind of identify passport that allows the police and employers to know the exact situation of each worker. Any worker travelling without their passbook is declared to be a vagabond and can be treated as such.


March 21 The Civil Code (article 1781) states that in the case of a dispute about a worker’s salary the word of the master takes precedence over the worker’s statements in front of a tribunal. This article is only abolished in 1866. The Code provides for divorce, but within a marriage the wife is treated as a minor, and her property is given to her husband. On his death the property is divided equally between the children, abolishing the right of the oldest male child to inherit all the property.

December 2 Napoléon is crowned Emperor at Notre-Dame Cathedral by Pope Pius VII.


March 18 Establishment of the first industrial tribunals called Conseils de prud’hommes (Wise Men Councils) to arbitrate where there were disputes between employers and their skilled workers. The first one appeared in Lyon.


June 11 Decree passed to finalisie the 1806 Industrial Tribunal law.


February 10, 22 A decree outlining a new Penal Code was passed into law. It codified all the penal laws passed between 1791 and 1800. Its articles 291, 292, 414, 415 and 416 required all associations of 20 or more people to secure government approval for their existence and confirmed the illegality of all combinations of workers aiming to stop work or modify wages.


March 2 Hunger riots in Caen; an order is passed organising the distribution of 2 million soups.


January 3 A decree fixes the minimum age a child can go down a mine to ten.


March 31 Coalition armies enter Paris. Napoleon abdicates at Fontainebleau on April 5 in favour of his son, and then unconditionally on April 11.

May 3 Louis XVIII enters Paris.

June 4 Louis XVIII issues a Constitutional Charter providing for a parliamentary system with a house of lords nominated by the King and an elected chamber of deputies.

October Saint-Simon and his then secretary, Augustin Thierry publish De la réorganisation de la société européenne. It proposes the extension of English parliamentary rule under a constitutional monarch to every European state with a European parliament above them. It escapes the restoration censor, unlike its second edition.


February 25 Napoléon Bonaparte leaves Elba for France.

June 18 Napoléon defeated at the Battle of Waterloo.

June 24 Napoléon leaves Paris.

July 8 Louis XVIII returns to Paris.

July 15 Napoléon surrenders to the English on the Bellerophon that sails for Plymouth

August 7 The Northumberland leaves for Saint-Helena with Napoléon on board. It arrives there on October 16.

November Pierre-Jean Béranger published his first book of songs, Chansons morales et autres in which he celebrated the victories of the Revolution and the Empire, attacked the ancien regime and the supremacy of the clergy.

December 7 Marshal Ney is executed in the Luxembourg Garden for having supported Napoléon during the 100 Days.

PLACES 1795-1815

Key dates 1787-1794

Chronology from Le Maitron 1791-1794 of key dates in French labour history

Authors: Stéphane Sirot, additional material by Michel Cordillot, René Lemarquis et Claude Pennetier, and from 1787 to 1790 by Steve Jefferys


May 25 Assembly of Notables called by Louis XVI to support his proposals to raise taxes and put pressure on the 13 local Parlements to endorse them was dissolved after failing to agree to them.


May 5-6 Paris rioted when its Parlement was surrounded by troops after refusing to register the new tax laws and called for the King to call an Estates-General meeting.


January 24 Louis XVI called for elections to the Estates-General, the only body with the power to advise the King to raise taxes directly.

April 28 After a candidate in the Paris elections argued that deregulating the price of bread would allow wage cuts a riot took place around his wallpaper factory and home in the Rue de Montreuil, during which some 25 people were killed by the troops.

May 5 The deputies from the nobility, clergy and Third Estate (everyone else) met in Versailles near the royal chateau.

June 17 The Third Estate deputies voted to declare themselves a National Assembly, representing the people of France.

June 20 After the King ordered the closure of the Assembly’s meeting place the delegates met in a nearby Tennis Court and swore ‘The Tennis Court Oath‘ not to disperse until they had agreed a new French Constitution.

July 13 After Louis XVI began to move troops into Paris, the new Paris Assembly of Voters and its Third Estate deputies decided to create a militia of male voters to defend order and their property.

July 14 When the militia were prevented from taking gunpowder from the Bastille fort/prison for the muskets they had seized, shots were exchanged and a short siege took place before the Bastille governor surrendered.

August 4 The National Constituent Assembly passed the first of 19 decrees carried in just one week that ended the privileges of the nobility and went on to abolish taxes to be paid to the Church and then to end serfdom.

August 26 The Assembly passed the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

October 5-6 After some 10,000 women marched from Paris to Versailles, under great pressure the royal family agreed to go back with them the next day to live in the Tuileries Palace in Paris.


May 21 The Constituent Assembly established the Paris Commune with each of 48 administrative sections sending three delegates to the new municipal government, voted in by ‘active’ citizens – men aged 25 and over who paid taxes.

June 19 Hereditary peerage abolished by the Constituent Assembly.

July 12 A new Civil Constitution for the Clergy was passed, requiring the clergy to give an oath of fidelity to France.


March 2, March 17 The Allarde Law outlaws corporations and proclaims the principles of the freedom of work, business and industry.

May 22, June 14 The Le Chapelier law outlaws combinations of tradespeople/workers and strikes.

July 20 All agreements on wages and prices are banned.


June 20 The Parisian Sans-Culottes (trouser wearing workers) storm the Tuileries Palace and force King Louis XVI to wear the red phrygian bonnet.

August 10 The Sans-Culottes create a insurrectional commune (Paris government) invade the Tuileries Palace and overthrow the monarchy.

August 11 Universal suffrage is enacted by the Legislative Assembly.


April 6 Committee of Public Safety established by the National Convention.

May 24 The Girondins arrest the ‘Enragés’ Jacques Hébert.

May 31 A Paris insurrection takes place against the Girondins.

July 27 Maximilien Robespierre is elected to the Committee of Public Safety.

September 5 The leader of the Enragés, Jacques Roux, is arrested.


March 13, March 24 The remaining Enragés leaders, known as Hébertists, are arrested, tried and then executed.

July 28 Robespierre is executed in the Place de la Concorde.

PLACES 1791-1794

Daniel Stern (Marie d’Agoult)

1805-1876 • Germany

Romantic author • Historian

Daniel Stern, her pseudonym, was a republican whose salon was visited by Marx in 1844. She lived with Lizst and wrote the History of the 1848 Revolution.

More info


Ouvrier Albert / Alexandre Martin

1815 – 1895 • France

Revolutionary • Socialist

Alexandre Martin, known to everyone in Paris as the ‘Worker’ Albert, was the first working class man to enter a French Government in February 1848.

Revolutionary and socialist, ‘Worker Albert’ served on the 1848 Labour Commission before being jailed in May 1848.


  • 15, rue Neuve-de-Ménilmontant (now rue de Commines). In 1839 Albert lived here when he was one of the leaders of the Four Seasons Club organised by Blanqui and Barbes, .
  • 131, rue Vieille-du-Temple Albert was arrested in January 1841 after the assassination attempt on Louis-Philippe on 15 October 1840, when he lived at this address. finding communist pamphlets at the house he was jailed for a month for belong to a Communist club.
  • 64 rue Léon Frot. Albert worked in the button manufacturer Batperosses from 1845 to 1848.
  • 11 rue des Bourdonnais. Offices of ‘Reform’ journal and meeting place on 21 February 1848 of republicans about their attitude to the ban on the Paris banquet. Albert attended as did at least two police spies. On 24 February this was where a left list for the government was drawn up. Albert’s name was added when the offices were invaded by a delegation of workers was there along with those of Ledru-Rollin and Louis Blanc.
  • Luxembourg Palace. On February 28 the Luxembourg Commission was established and moved in. It included Albert and Louis Blanc as well as Victor Considerant, a follower of Fourier. One of the police spies was arrested in Albert’s office in the palace on March 14 1848.
  • 10 place de l’ Hôtel de Ville. Paris Town Hall. On 15 May 1848 among the demonstrators who seized the Town Hall were Albert, Blanqui, Louis Blanc, Cabet, Pierre Leroux and Raspail, Shortly afterwards they were evicted by the still selective (wealthier) National Guard on the orders of Ledru-Rollin and Lamartine. Raspail was arrested at about 6 pm and transferred to the Vincennes Prison.

More Info / Plus d’informations


Jean Allemane

1843-1935 • France

Communard * Revolutionary Socialist

On March 31 1871 Jean Allemane was present when the Red Flag was raised on the cross that had had its two arms sawn off on top of the Saint Geneviève church which had been turned back into the Panthéon.

The 5th arrondissement’s Committee of Vigilance attended by Allemane used to meet at 17 Rue Pascal during the Commune. This was an old masonic meeting place.

As a 27-year-old printworker wearing a big red belt he was active (and visible) in the 5th arrondissement fighting around the Pantheon in the Bloody Week of May 1871.

There was fighting at most of the barricades in the Fifth arrondissement during the Commune’s final ‘bloody week’. There are reports of Jean Allemane and Maxime Lisbonne being present at those in Rue Cujas, Rue des Fossés Saint Jacques, Rue Malebranche, Place Maubert and Rue Soufflot. When the barricades fell, many of their defenders were shot on the spot or after improvised military tribunals with priority given to serving soldiers and foreigners who had come to support the Commune. Some 400 prisoners were shot after the fighting.

Allemane is recorded as having led the defence of the Quarter on May 24 and having directly commanded a barricade in the rue du Pot de Fer which was also defended by many women.

At the Mairie/Town Hall of the Fifth arrondissement at 21 Place du Panthéon, Allemane had locked Joseph Piazza inside on May 24 1871 to protect him from his men who accused him of sacrificing them in vain. But the Communards forgot to release Piazza when they retreated from the Marie and he was shot by the Versaillais.

Allemane survived and was deported after the defeat of the Commune. A widower, he was living at the bar he ran at 14 rue Maître Albert with his mother and son Charles when he was arrested on May 28 1871.

 A week after he returned to Paris after finally being amnestied, on May 15 1880 Allemane married a seamstress, Adèle Quénot, at the 6 Place Gambetta, Town Hall of the 20th arrondissement with whom he had already had two children.

From 1882 to 1889 the couple lived at 11 rue du Pressoir before moving to 14 rue de la Fontaine au roi in 1890.

In 1885, while still working as a typesetter and page designer at the Rue du Croissant printworks, he opened his own small printing shop, the Productrice at 51 Rue Saint-Saveur. Shortly afterwards he turned the business into a cooperative.

In 1880 he joined the Federation of French Socialist Workers (FTSF) that had been created at the Lyon Congress in 1878. When that party split in 1882, with Jules Guesde and Paul Lafargue leaving and creating the Parti ouvrier (French Workers’ Party), Allemane stayed with Paul Brousse and the Parisian majority.

In the 1880s he created the Allemanist syndicalist tendency within French socialism. The socialists who remained in the FTSF were called ‘possibilists’ as against the ‘doctrinaires’. The possibilists tended to be federalists while the doctrinaires were more likely to be centralists.

In 1889 Allemane was a founding member of the Société fraternelle des anciens combattants de la Commune (Fraternal society of Former Communards’. He was a regular follower of its meetings at a wine merchants at 133 Rue Saint-Antoine.

Allemane became the leading spokesperson for the FTSF in the 1890s.

From December 6-9 1899 he participated in the first congress of French socialist organisations, along with Jean Jaurès and Paul Lafargue in the Salle Japy in the Rue Japy. This was a huge gymnasium in the 11th Arrondissement set up in 1884 that could seat 1,500 people.

After the second congress in the Salle Wagram (at 37-39 Avenue de Wagram) in September 1900, Allemane was nominated to the Agreement Committee working party of the different organisations. It met regularly at 17 rue Portefoin.

More info

Le Maitron


Louis Althusser

1918-1990 • Algeria

Philosopher • Communist

Philosopher and Communist from 1948. His structural Marxism strongly influenced Maoist currents in 1968.

He met his wife, a Communist and resistance fighter, in January 1946 while working on his Diploma of Superior Studies at the École normale supérieure in the Rue d’Ulm.

From March to May 1947 he was hospitalised for the first time at the Sainte-Anne psychiatric hospital in the Rue Cabanis. Diagnosed with a manic-depressive psychosis, roughly every three years he had to be hospitalised for brief periods.

He joined the Communist Party in 1948, but moved only slowly away from the Catholicism of his youth.

He lived with his wife, Helene Rytman, nearly continuously (although not exclusively) from 1948 to 1980 apart from some holidays and periods of hospitalisation) in a flat at the ENS in Rue d’Ulm.

This was where, suffering from another major depression, he strangled her on November 16 1980. As a result he was hospitalised for the rest of his life, dying on 22 October 1990.

More info / Plus d’informations


Louis Aragon

1897-1982 • France


Louis Aragon is one of the rare French leftists for whom plaques have been erected in Paris.

One recalls the time he and the Russian-born Elsa Triolet, who was awarded the first ever Goncourt prize for her wartime novels in 1945, first lived together in the Rue Campagne-Première. Another plaque marks their later years together in an old palace in the Rue de Varenne.

Aragon and his partner of 40 years first lived together near Montparnasse at 5 rue Campagne-Première, and then near the Invalides in 56 rue de Varenne.

Poet, rebel and surrealist in the early 1920s, Aragon was first tempted to join the Communist Party 1921 and then did so in 1927 with four other surrealists, in his case only beginning a life-time’s membership. While increasingly dissident from the 1950s, Aragon remained a PCF member until his death.

Aragon was illegitimate. He was born in the Avenue de Villars in 1898, close to the Eiffel Tower, the subject of one of his last poems. His name was chosen by his quite wealthy 57 year-old father, Louis Andrieux, whose senior administrative position and family meant he was never going to marry his young mistress. Andrieux had fond memories of six months he had been ambassador to Spain in 1882, hence the young boy was named ‘Aragon’.

Shortly after the 1900 International Exhibition Marguerite Toucas, his 27-year-old mother and his grandmother moved to the Avenue Carnot, where she took in boarders for four years before moving to Neuilly where she lived from translating novels. Throughout his youth his mother pretended to be his sister, and his grandmother, his mother.

Aragon first met André Breton at the Maison des Amis des Livres, a bookshop on the Rue de l’Odéon in 1917. On March 19 1919 this was where they started to store copies of their own new review, Littérature.

Towards the end of the First World War both Aragon and Breton were stationed at the Military Hospital at the Val du Grace in the Rue St Jacques. Appolinaire was also a patient there at the time. In 1918 Aragon was sent to the front as a medical auxiliary and on three occasions was buried by shell fire.

On leave and while in Paris they also both visited the office of the Nord-Sud literary review at 12 Rue Cadet that produced 16 editions between March 1917 and October 1918 and also carried illustrations by Georges Braque and Fernand Léger. The review was named North-South to indicate the connection between Montparnasse and Montmartre.

Aragon’s first collection of poems ‘Feu de joie’ (A ceremonial rifle salute) was published in 1920 – with a little help from Picasso

Several editorial meetings of the future surrealists used to take place at the bar round the corner at 79 Rue du Mont Cenis.

Immediately after the December 1920 split between the Communists and the Socialist minority at the Congress of Tours, Aragon and Breton went together to the offices of the Paris Socialist Federation at 49 Rue de Bretagne that were part of the majority that backed affiliation to the Communist International. They offered to support the party, but decided not to join.

As the tensions between the Dadaists following Tzara and the proto-surrealists around Breton intensified a physical fight took place at the Theatre Michel on the Rue des Mathurins between the two leading protagonists, witnessed by Aragon and Eluard. Pierre de Massot had his arm broken by Breton’s walking stick.

On July 13 1923 Aragon denounced the owner of Le Rotonde on the Boulevard du Montparnasse for having spied for the police on Lenin before the First World War.

Aragon’s relationship with Nancy Cunard ended in late 1928 just before he met Elsa Triolet. The Cunard heiress was connected with many leading artists and writers in the inter-war years

In 1925 Aragon lived at 1 Rue Le Regrattier, with his then mistress, Nancy Cunard. This was where he wrote his novel, Aurélien, first published in 1944. It tells the story of a young soldier, back from the trenches, who enters the world of Paris’ decadent artistic groups.

Aragon and other surrealists were moving towards liberation and revolution but Aragon went on to embrace Marxism and then the Communist Party as the next step.

On 21 September 1925 the Manifesto drafted by Breton that Aragon signed ‘The Revolution First and Always‘ appeared in the Communist daily,  L’Humanité, and then simultaneously on October 15 in Clarté and La Révolution surréaliste.

Aragon met Vladimir Mayakovsky on November 5 1928 round the corner at the Coupole bar on Boulevard Montparnasse. One account suggests that Aragon first met Elsa Triolet there on November 6 1928 in the company of Mayakovsky, the partner of Elsa’s sister, as well as Ilya Ehrenburg and Sergei Eisenstein.

The Russian Jewish-origin writer Elsa Triolet went to Paris in 1928 where she met Aragon, with whom she lived for 42 years, becoming the first woman to win the Prix Goncourt in 1944

Aragon subsequently said that it was this meeting with Mayakovsky that persuaded him that poets can serve a revolutionary cause. Mayakovsky told Aragon that ‘The poet who knew how to turn poetry into a weapon, the poet who knew they were not below the Revolution should be the link between the world and me‘.

Subsequently, over the next three winter months of 1928/29 Aragon often visited 29 Rue Campagne Première where Elsa lived in room 12 and people like Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray were among several other artists who came and went.

The Russian Jewish-origin writer Elsa Triolet went to Paris in 1928 where she met Aragon, with whom she lived for 42 years, becoming in 1944 the first woman writer to win the Prix Goncourt

With other surrealists, including Breton and Pierre Naville, Aragon opened the Surrealist Gallery in the former offices of the review Clarté at 16 Rue Jacques Callot in the spring of 1926. Clarté was inspired by Raymond Lefebvre in 1919 and appeared as the journal of French communist intellectuals from 1921 to 1928 being edited by Henri Barbusse.

Five leading surrealists joined the PCF at this time. The first in was Benjamin Péret in 1926. In January 1927 Aragon did so, followed by Breton, Éluard and Pierre Unik.

Aragon and other militants in his Communist Party cell signed into the workers’ cooperative restaurant La Famille nouvelle at 101 Rue St Dominique. It was one of 25 in Paris at the time.

In the autumn of 1928 Aragon had bought an apartment at 54 Rue du Chateau from Marcel Duchamp. Elsa then moved in with him on January 29 1929. The Bar du Chateau, opposite at No. 53, was where the surrealists, including Breton, Raymond Queneau, Raymond Péret and others used to meet.

Aragon photographed in a camera booth in 1929. The hand on his cap is probably Elsa’s

On March 11 1929 the surrealists’ meeting held a ‘critical discussion of the fate of Leon Trotsky‘. It resulted in the exclusion of Roger Vailland, Roger Gilbert-Lecomte and René Daumal, who would not go along with the ‘line’ that it was necessary to send Trotsky into exile.

Breton and Aragon then pushed the need for the surrealists to support the Communist Party still further. On December 15 1929, supported by Aragon, Breton wrote the ‘Second Surrealist Manifesto’. In 1930 Aragon followed this with an article in La Révolution Surréaliste called ‘Surréalisme au Service de la Révolution‘. In November 1930 he amd Elsa Triolet then went on a trip to Russia, partly to visit Elsa’s sister, Mayakovski’s lover, since Mayakovski had just committed suicide.

In July 1931 a poem, ‘Red Front’ Aragon had writtenin Moscow the previous year was published in France. As a result he was prosecuted for calling on soldiers to disobey orders and for writing ‘Kill the cops’ and ‘Shoot Léon Blum’.

In 1932 Breton, who had not renewed his membership of the PCF in 1930, and the other surrealists published a pamphlet defending Aragon. L’Humanité, the Communist Party’s daily, then issued a statement claiming that Aragon entirely disapproved of Breton’s pamphlet and that its authors were objectively counter-revolutionary. This ‘Aragon affair’ cemented the breach between Aragon and the surrealists.

In the early 1930s, as the Communist Party began tentatively to try to break its own isolation in the ‘Class against Class’ period, Aragon joined the Association des Écrivains et Artistes Révolutionnaires (AEAR -Revolutionary Writers and Artists Association). Founded in March 1932 by the communist writer, Paul Vaillant-Couturier.

In April 1932, however, Aragon and Triolet left again for Moscow, where they then stayed for nearly a year. Aragon worked there on the French edition of the review ‘Writings from the World Revolution’ (Littérature de la révolution mondiale) linked to the AEAR that was principally a way of getting Russian Communist authors better known globally. In July 1933 he became the editor of the AEAR’s French review, Commune.

When Aragon finally returned in April 1933 he worked for a year as a general affairs journalist for L’Humanité. In April 1934 he became the AEAR’s General Secretary, based initially at the first Cultural House established by the Communist Party at 12 Rue de Navarin.

1934 was also the year Aragon published his first novel in a series called ‘The real world’,  Les Cloches de Bâle (The Bells of Basel). This marked his conversion to ‘socialist realism’ in writing. In 1935 he described what he meant by this as ‘Socialist realism or revolutionary romanticism: two names for the same thing where Zola’s Germinal meets Hugo’s Punishments‘.

The office of the AÉAR moved to 13 Rue du Faubourg Montmartre that also housed the office of the Federation of French Working Class Theatre. Aragon, Vaillant-Couturier and Léon Moussinac regularly met there.

As the PCF moved away from the sectarian ‘Third Period‘, following the Nazi election victory in 1933 and the mobilisation against French fascists in February 1934, Aragon became a leading figure in the intellectual anti-fascist movement.

Aragon moved house in February 1935 to 18 Rue de la Sourdière. A special meeting took place there on June 14 1935 that decided to exclude Breton as a speaker at the Writers’ Congress that was taking place a week later. Breton had slapped Ehrenburg several times on the Boulevard du Montparnasse after Ehrenburg had described all surrealists as ‘pederasts’.

Breton’s exclusion led the surrealist writer René Crevel to organise a reconciliation evening meal at the La Closerie des Lilas restaurant on June 17 attended by Aragon, Ehrenburg, Breton and Tzara. Failing to resolve the conflict, Crevel committed suicide that night.

The First International Congress of Writers for the Defence of Culture took place in the Salle de la Mutualité at 24 Rue Saint-Victor, from June 21 to 25 1935. It brought together 230 participants from 38 different countries, including its presidents, Malraux and Gide, and Brecht. It was largely initiated by Henri Barbousse, under direct instructions from Stalin.

It is quite probable that Aragon invited some of the writers present to eat with him at what has been described as one of his favourite restaurants in the inter-war years at 1 Place de l’Odéon. Initially called the Café Voltaire it became La Méditerranée which then, like today, was known for its fish soup, bouillabaisse. I was really pleased to find around 2015 that it had started to offer a ‘cheap’ (for central Paris) three course menu that includes its bouillabaisse (it’s only one minute from my dad’s flat!).

On March 1 1937 Aragon became Editor of the second Communist daily newspaper, the evening paper, Ce Soir, based at 31 rue du Quatre Septembre. Launched by Maurice Thorez at the height of the Popluar Front as a competitor to Paris-Soir, it was extremely successful with circulation rising from 120,000 in late 1937 to 250,000 in March 1939. It denounced the Munich Agreement of September 29 1938 in the strongest terms.

Aragon worked with Jean-Richard Bloch and Paul Nizan. Nizan was killed in the French rearguard action defending the retreating British at the battle of Dunkirk in May 1940. Aged 34 he had enlisted after resigning from the Communist Party (PCF) in August 1939 in protest at the Hitler-Stalin Pact. As a result Nizan was vilified by Thorez as a police spy, and only ‘rehabilitated’ in the late 1970s.

Aragon’s belief in Stalin and Russian Communism remained strong, despite the evidence presented by writers like Gide and Victor Serge, and despite his expressing privately a little disquiet at the execution in Russia in June 1937 of the partner of Elsa’s sister.

The Ribbentrop-Molotov pact led Ce Soir with the rest of the PCF press and the party itself to be banned by the Daladier government on August 25 1939. This was two days after the ‘non-aggression’ pact was signed. Aragon’s editorial on August 23 was titled ‘Long live Peace’ and ‘All against aggression’. He argued the then Party line… the Pact was not incompatible with a three-side agreement between France, Britain and the Soviet Union; it was vital to fight Fascism and to carry out your patriotic duty in the face of aggression against France.

On August 27 1939 Aragon was physically attacked by far right demonstrators in the street after the PCF was banned. So he briefly took refuge in the Chilean Embassy at 2 Avenue de La Motte Picquet. This was at the invitation of the Communist poet and diplomat posted there at the time, Pablo Neruda, Chile’s most famous national poet who died (probably poisoned) immediately after Pinochet’s coup of September 1973.

On September 2 1939 Aragon was mobilised as a medical auxiliary and sent to the Belgian frontier, where he resumed writing poetry, some of which was published in December 1939’s issue of Nouvelle Revue Française, probably at the suggestion of Elsa Triolet, when the review was still being edited by his friend Jean Paulhan.

He experienced the May-June fighting at the front, with his courage earning him two citations, a military medal and the Military Cross with one palm. He was taken prisoner at Angoulême and then escaped.

Demobilised in July 1940 in the Dordogne, he met Elsa again and they went to Nice. Aragon then attempted to publish with a ‘legal literary resistance’ strategy at odds with the PCF doctrine in Occupied France.

The clandestine PCF leadership then sent Georges Dudach to find Aragon in Nice and to bring him back to Paris to work there with other intellectuals. The pair were arrested by the Germans on June 25 1941 – three days after Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa – trying to cross the demarcation line between the Occupied and Non-Occupied zones. They were released after spending three weeks jailed at Tours, without having been recognised.

Aragon’s visit, coinciding with the change in PCF line towards the Germans, enabled him to work with Paulhan, Danielle Casanova, the painter Édouard Pignon and Georges Politzer.

Aragon stayed in secret in the flat belonging to Lucien Scheler at 19 Rue de Tournon. Later in the Occupation Scheler sheltered Paul and Nusch Éluard from police attention.

Aragon met Paulhan in late July 1941 in the gardens of the Roman ampitheatre of Lutèce, since Paulhan’s flat was being watched. They discussed setting up a new review designed politically to encourage ideological resistance called Lettres françaises focusing on ‘historical precision in poetry’.

Aragon returned shortly afterwards to the Southern Zone and Nice. He continued to publish ‘legal’ poems that aimed to raise political consciousness. When Nice was occupied by the Italian army in November 1942 he and Elsa moved to Lyon, where they lived under false papers.

The last poem under his own name published legally in France during the war appeared on March 11 1943 on the literary pages of a Lyon review. It was called The Rose and the Reseda. In the summer they moved again, to Saint-Donat in the Drôme. He continued to write poetry and to publish under pseudonyms.

Aragon and Elsa Triolet returned to Paris in late September 1944, shortly after it was liberated. Aragon then resumed publishing Ce Soi after Liberation in late 1944. The paper was based at the former offices of Paris-Soir at 37 Rue du Louvre, that had been taken over on August 25 1944 by the Communist daily, l’Humanité. This address was also where Aragon edited Les Lettres françaises.

During the Cold War after 1947 Aragon continued to publicly support the Moscow line, supporting socialist realism in painting and writing, while in private defending Picasso and Matisse when they were criticised in Pravda.

Aragon participated in the Communist cult of personality that all Communist Parties emulated as reflections of what was happening in Russia around Stalin. He was a speaker at the celebration of Maurice Thorez‘ 50th birthday on April 28 1950 at the Gymnasium Huyghens at 10 Rue Huyghens.

At the height of the Stalinist cult of personality, Aragon turned out the sycophantic poem ‘Maurice has come back/Il revient’ for the celebration of Maurice Thorez’ return to France from Russia after a bout of illness on April 8 1953.

In the early 1950s Aragon was still publicising Fougeron‘s paintings as the politically correct kind of ‘social art’ painting in the service of the working class. Ce Soir closed in 1953, with Aragon then working primarily on Les Lettres françaises.

‘Atlantic civilisation’ was painted by André Fougeron in 1953, This was after Fougeron had denounced Aragon in  l’Humanité for inviting Picasso to draw Stalin after he had died for Lettres Francaises

After the 1956 Khrushchev revelations about Stalin and the Hungarian Revolution Aragon moved away from ‘socialist realism’. In 1966 he drafted a resolution calling for the PCF not to intervene on cultural issues and to recognise the importance and right of free creativity.

In 1960 Aragon and Triolet moved to a flat in the state-owned 18th century mansion the Hôtel Gouffier de Thoix at No. 56 Rue de Varenne. It was located opposite the French Prime Minister’s official office and home in the Hôtel Matignon.

In 1968 Aragon broke openly with the PCF line. First he supported the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia, and then from the start he sided with the student revolt in Paris. As a result on January 7 1969 he learned at 5 Rue du Faubourg Poissonnière that all the Soviet and their satellite magazine subscriptions had been cancelled. The office of the Les Lettres françaises was next to the printing works of the Communist daily, L’Humanité, at No. 7.

Aragon with the students of 1968 outside the Sorbonne. on May 1. Two weeks later he joined them in re-occupying the Sorbonne

Elsa Triolet, Aragon’s partner since 1929, and wife since 1939, died of a heart attack in the garden of the Villeneuve Mill in Saint-Arnoult-en-Yvelines they had jointly owned since 1951 on June 16 1970. Aragon secured a special presidential dispensation to allow her to be buried there.

The final issue of Lettres françaises that appeared was dated October 11-17 1972. In his editorial he wrote of his life as being ‘like a painful game in which I lost’.

Aragon continued to appear occasionally at Communist Party events, but played no further active part. From 1974 he began bringing together and organising the publication of his complete poetic works. He died on December 24 1982 and was buried with Elsa in the grounds of the old mill at Villeneuve, where at the time of writing (April 2020) there still exists an Aragon-Triolet Museum.

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Inessa Armand

1874-1920 • France

Communist, Feminist, Internationalist

French mother of five who was brought up in Russia and became a teacher at the Bolshevik training school in Paris, Armand became Lenin’s lover in 1910 and then inseparable from him for the next ten years.

Armand was born in Paris as Inès Stéphane with her mother an English teacher of singing. When her father died an aunt found work for her mother in Moscow, where Inessa too started to work teaching private lessons in singing and languages. One of the Russian families she worked for was the Armand family, and at 18 she married the oldest son, giving birth to three children between 1894 and 1901, and a fourth in Lausanne in 1903.

She returned to Moscow and joined the social democratic party, where she was arrested on January 6 1905. Released on October 22 1905 during the general strike, she was arrested again on June 7 1907 and exiled to Siberia. Escaping from there in November 1908 she got to Belgium in 1909 and then to Paris in 1910, where she lived initially at 241 Rue Saint-Jacques.

Working with the Bolshevik faction saw her meet Lenin. Lenin fell head over heels in love with Armand. Observers wrote: ‘He doesn’t take his eyes off her’.

Lenin then invited her to teach at the Longjumeau cadre training school he set up in the Spring and Summer of 1911.

While Lenin and Krupskaya lived Lenin and Krupskaya lived in a 48 sq.m flat from December 1909 to June 1912 in No. 4 rue Marie Rose, Inessa Armand lived at number 2.

In 1910 Lenin had rented her a flat in the building next door to him and Krupskaya in the Rue Marie Rose in the 14th arrondissement. [No plaque at his address now].

The site of the New Cafe d Orleans av Gen LeClerc. A good place for a drink to the lovers Lenin and Armand who used to meet further up the street in 1910-12.

In 1910-11 she and Lenin used to pop out to the Cafe d’Orleans, then 10 minutes from their street. But that was knocked down and the current cafe (on the opposite side of the Avenue General Leclerc) is even closer to the street where they were neighbours, but without the 19th century decor.

Inessa was very close to Lenin from then until she died in Russia of cholera in 1920 aged 46. She had travelled back in the armoured train through Germany with Lenin in 1917, although here presence was always kept out of the official Communist hagiography.

Armand organised a conference of working women in 1918 and then chaired the First International Conference of Communist Women. She also supported the Workers’ Opposition to the early bureaucratisation of the Bolsheviks in power. Some woman!

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Lucie Aubrac/Bernard

1912-2007 • France

Communist • Resistance • Anti-racist

Lucie Bernard, born in the suburbs of south-eastern Paris, was the daughter of a gardener badly wounded in the First World War. She attributed her early passionate pacifism to her hatred of the damage war brings.

In the 1930s she joined the young Communists and after 1940 became a resistance fighter in the Unoccupied Zone while working as a teacher. A film was made of the dramatic escape from the Gestapo that she organised for her husband in 1943, after which her husband adopted the pseudonym Aubrac they both changed their names to in 1950.

Lucie Bernard initially aimed to become a primary school teacher. But after securing a rare competitive scholarship she rejected the dormitory living and uniforms required and left home, drawn to studying history and wider political ideas.

She joined the International Youth Circle of Quakers in the early 1930s. It used to meet in Rue Guy-de-la-Brosse.

In 1933, after Hitler came to power in Germany, the French section of the Society of Friends set up an International Refugee Aid society in Rue Rataud to help refugees from Germany, and later from Spain.

This was probably how Bernard found out in 1935 that she could get cheap lodgings in an attic room in the same building as the Refugee Aid society, just to the south of the Sorbonne. She kept renting the room until 1939.

While still attending the Quaker Youth Circle meetings, in 1932 Bernard/Aubrac also joined the Young Communists. They appeared to her at the time as the most active and committed anti-militarists.

Bernard was a militant and courageous seller of the bi-monthly Avant-Garde young communist publication. In the 1930s its sellers were often attacked by members of the numerous fascist leagues. In 1935 she was asked by the Communist Party to sit on its Paris regional committee and invited (but declined) to go to the Lenin School in Moscow to be trained as a future leader.

Fascists were marching in Paris in the 1930s, and would beat up Communist Party and other left newspaper sellers if they were not defended by their comrades

In 1936 Bernard/Aubrac was helping make ends meet by working in a nursery school in Rue Victor Cousin next to the Sorbonne. She also heard a speech by the young radical politician, Jean Zay, and was so impressed that she cycled down to get involved in his re-election campaign in the Loiret in 1936.

Graduating from the Sorbonne in 1938 she was nominated to teach in a secondary school in Strasbourg. In December 1939, she married the son of wealthy Jewish shop owners, Raymond Samuel, a young engineer who had been called up into the army where he was also based in Strasbourg.

Raymond Samuel (Aubrac) (1914-2012) married Lucie in 1939 and was rescued from prison by her three times. He was a leader of the resistance in the Southern Zone. After the war he was close to the PCF and the Citizens Movement

By July 1940 Raymond was a German prisoner of war but Lucie Samuel helped him escape, with both of them travelling to Lyon in the unoccupied zone of France. That autumn with Emmanuel d’Astier they created a resistance group called ‘The Last Column‘ and started producing an underground paper called Libération. It aimed to break the predominant apathy towards the German occupation shared in the Southern Zone.

In the summer of 1942 Libération Sud asked Raymond to lead its new military wing. In March 1943 he was arrested by French police, along with other local resistance leaders. Lucie then went to the prosecutor pretending to be an agent of De Gaulle. She warned him that he would be a dead man if Raymond (then François Vallet) was not released. He was let out shortly afterwards and Raymond and Lucie then organised the escape of the other resistance fighters when they were being transferred to hospital.

In June 1943 Raymond was arrested again in Lyon with Jean Moulin and eight other national resistance leaders. This time the arrest was by the Gestapo, headed at the time by Klaus Barbie.*

*Barbie, known as the ‘Butcher of Lyon’, had personally tortured French resistance fighters. The US helped him escape to Bolivia after the war, where in 1980 he was implicated in the 1979 Garcia Meza fascist coup d’état. After the Junta was forced out of power in 1982, Barbie was extradited to France, tried and convicted of crimes against humanity. His lawyer maliciously used the trial to accuse Raymond Aubrac of being the agent who had denounced Moulin, an accusation only finally declared false in the European Court of Human Rights in 2004. Barbie finally died of cancer in prison in 1991.

Courageously, Lucie Aubrac went to see Barbie personally and persuaded him that she had to marry Raymond (now Claude Ermelin) before he was executed because she was six months pregnant by him. Allowed to leave the Prison Montluc for the marriage Lucie organised an attack on prison wagon, killing five guards and rescuing Raymond and another ten resistance fighters.

After several months in hiding, on February 8 1944 the family arrived in London on one of the special planes that moved at night between France and England. Lucie gave birth to her daughter twelve days later.

Lucie Aubrac’s wartime exploits were made into a film in 1997

In October 1944 Aubrac was nominated to the Provisional Consultative Assembly as one of just 12 women out of 248 delegates. Based in Algiers from November 1943 to July 25 1944, after the liberation of France its second series of sessions were held at the Luxembourg Palace in Rue Vaugirard from November 7 1944 to August 3 1945.

Aubrac first staying on getting back to Paris with her two children at the Hotel Pont Royal in the Rue Montalembert. Her husband Raymond Aubrac was Commissioner in charge of Marseilles, stirring up opposition by requisitioning 15 collaborationist companies between September 10 and October 5 1944.

From January 1945 until the spring of 1946, the reunited family lived in a sequestered flat in Rue Marbeuf. At this time, Raymond, sacked for his left views as Marseille Commissioner, was now responsible for the national de-mining programme, while Lucie was active in the Consultative Assembly.

Aubrac immediately launched a weekly paper Privilèges des femmes to inform French women of their new rights. After 13 issues it folded, judged too communist by the socialists and not communist enough by the PCF.

From March to July 1945 she was editor of La Femme (Woman), the weekly paper of the Femmes de la Libération (FLN) before her proximity to the PCF saw her removed.

By December 1945 La Femme had stopped referring to the militancy of women in the resistance and was reinforcing a woman’s traditional role

From 1945 to 1947 Lucie Aubrac made several attempts to join the Communist Party – but despite the support of several leading Communists including André Marty each was rejected.

Despite this, In October 1946 she stood for election as a deputy in the SaôneetLoire department on the list of Communists, republicans and resistance fighters led by the Communist Waldeck-Rochet. She was only put in third place by the PCF, with only the first two getting enough votes to be elected as deputies.

Aubrac was still considered too ‘indisciplined’ and her first book about the resistance movement was considered to have not made enough about the role of the PCF. She was criticised for not submitting everything she wrote to the Party before publishing it.

In November 1946 she was resinstated as a teacher and given a post in the Lycée Jacques-Decour in Avenue Trudaine, where she worked for most of the next ten years. It was the only lycée in France renamed in honour of a resistant after the occupation.

Despite the PCF’s reticence about Lucie, her husband was an open supporter of many Communist policies. When Ho Chi Minh came to Paris to follow the negotiations with the government, he stayed at their new house and became god-father to their daughter Elisabeth.

Ho Chi Minh stayed with the Aubracs for six weeks in August and September 1946 while following the negotiations led by Pham Van Dong on the future of Indochina. He is photographed here with new baby Elisabeth and Lucie Aubrac by l’Humanité on September 16 1946.

Campaigning against France resuming its colonial policies in IndoChina and elsewhere, In 1948 Lucie and Raymond jointly founded Le Mouvement pour la Paix (Peace Movement).

Became a major anti-racist campaigner.

Lucie Aubrac in her 90s

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Mikhail Bakunin

1814-1876 • Russia

Anarchist • Internationalist

Russian revolutionary who became a major theoretician of anarchism and lived in Paris in the mid-1840s, meeting Marx and Proudhon.

Bakunin arrived in Paris in July 1844 and was put up by Henry Börnstein in a room at 14 Rue des Moulins. For most of the time between 1844 and 1847 Bakunin was lodged at a Slav centre at 4 Rue de Bourgogne ofen visited for discussions by the French socialists Proudhon and Pierre Leroux.

During this lengthy stay in Paris Bakunin also visited Marx in Rue Vaneau.

On November 29 1847 Bakunin spoke at a meeting held at 251 Rue St Honoré commemorating the Polish Revolution of 1830.

During the 1848 revolution when he returned briefly to Paris in February he lived in the barracks of the Rue de Tournon.

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Armand Barbès

1809-1870 • France

Republican Insurrectionist

Organiser with Blanqui of the republican Rights of Man society, he was wounded in the 1839 insurrection and sentenced to life imprisonment. Called ‘the scourge of the establishment‘ by Marx , in 1892 perceptions had changed. The 18th arrondissement’s Boulevard Barbès and in 1903 the new Barbès metro station were named after him as a republican icon.

Barbès was one of the many left political prisoners who were jailed in the Sainte Pélagie prison from 1831.

On June 2 1836 several members of the Society of Seasons led by Barbès and Blanqui were arrested in their secret workshop at 22-24 Rue Dauphine where they were making gunpowder.

On May 9 1839 Barbès arranged for a trunk to be left that evening with the 55-year-old Catherine Rouchon, a widow who made trimmings for furniture, at 23 Rue Quincampoix. On May 12 when she wasn’t there some of the Society knocked down her door and collected its contents, ammunition. After the insurrection she identified Barbès to the police in the infirmary at the Conciergerie.

When the Society of Seasons insurrection finally took place on May 12 1839 Barbès and Blanqui took part in the pillaging of the Lepage armoury at 22 Rue du Bourg l’Abbé. Today, after the Haussmann rebuilding of Paris under the Second Empire, this is where the buildings stand at 64-66 Boulevard de Sébastopol.

Blanqui’s headquarters during the insurrection was in a café at 1 Rue Mandar. Barbès led another column to seize the Palais de Justice on the Cité island on the Seine, where they also attacked the police station, killing its commander.

The most important of the barricades erected on that Sunday in May 1839 was across the Rue de St. Martin. The insurrection was able to seize one local town hall at 43 Rue des Franc-Bourgeois.

The insurrectionaries, in the low thousands, including an estimated 200-300 students, occupied the Hotel de Ville. During the attack Barbès was wounded in the head. He was arrested outside 79 Rue des Gravilliers (now 248 Rue St Martin) at about 7 pm on May 12.

In 1848 Blanqui and Barbès were both released from prison, but they were no longer close allies. They did, however, found the Political Prisoners’ club at a meeting in the Salle Valentino at 251 Rue St Honoré  with Barbès as President and Blanqui Vice-President.

On March 21 Barbès founded the Club de la Révolution at a meeting in the Salle Molière at 159 Rue St Martin. At the same time he was meeting Proudhon, Pierre Leroux and Étienne Arago. With Leroux at 12ter Rue Coquilliere Barbes founded the newspaper, The True Republic, whose first issue stated: ‘Without labour reform, there is no true Republic‘. It produced 104 issues before being banned in August by Cavaignac.

On May 15 1848 the Republican left (Barbès, the worker Albert, Louis Blanc, François-Vincent Raspail and others) organised a demonstration in Paris to the Palais Bourbon, the Chamber of Deputies in support of the Polish revolution. While not being planned as an insurrection, Barbès took centre stage in the Constituent Assembly and announced the formation of a new government. Soon after they are all arrested.

The 15 arrested after the May 1848 protests against government inaction over the Polish revolt against the Russian colonisers included insurrectionary revolutionaries like Barbes and Blanqui alongside socialist republicans like Blanc and Raspail.

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David Barta (Korner)

1904-1976 • Romania


Korner joined the Romanian Communist Party as a teenager, but was converted to Trotskyism as a student in Paris in 1933 and 1934. He returned to Paris in 1936 and was active in the French Trotskyist organisation, the Internationalist Workers’ Party (Parti ouvrier internationaliste).

In October 1939, at the outbreak of war, when the French far left was in disarray, he split to form his own group, the Groupe communiste, later the Union communiste (UC). He considered the rest of the French Trotskyists had become a “a petty bourgeois milieu whose organisational practices were social democratic and not communist”. Barta argued for ‘revolutionary defeatism’

From October 1942 with fewer than a dozen supporters in his renamed organisation the UC, he produced an illegal duplicated publication called Lutte de Classes (Class struggle). It was highly critical of the other Trotskyist currents’  alleged concessions to nationalism. His group gave gave priority to factory organisation. The UC did not therefore participate in the reunification of the other three Trotskyist organisations towards the end of the war.

After the end of the war the group’s membership was tiny, but it had a little support at the giant Renault-Billancourt factory on the Seguin island in the Seine to the West of Paris., where it regularly distributed Lutte de Classes leaflets.

One member inside the Renault factory that was nationalised on January 19 1945 because of Louis Renault’s collaboration with the Germans was the activist Pierre Bois [1922-2002]. For nearly three years after the war the French Communist Party had ministers in the government, and took a position of opposing all strikes. In April 1947 Bois was in the leadership of a strike, initially against the policy of the main union, the CGT.

Korner wrote a leaflet calling for a general strike. As support for the strike spread through Renault, the Communist Party were obliged to switch to support for the action, which led to their exclusion from the government (some months before the onset of the Cold War that would have certainly forced them quit their posts in any case).

The 1947 strike led to the formation of the Syndicat Démocratique Renault (SDR – Renault Democratic Union). But this created difficulties for the small organisation; as Barta put it later “In an extremely complicated political situation the disproportion was far too great between our tasks and the inexperience of our young activists”.  In 1950 Barta’s UC collapsed.

Some of the members, however, including Bois and Robert Barcia stayed in contact and came together in 1956 to launch what was to become Voix ouvrière. Although this organisation and later Lutte  ouvrière claimed Barta’s heritage, he did not return to activity, though he had some contacts with the new organisation.

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Ahmed Ben Bella

1916-2012 • Algeria

Anti-Colonialism • FLN • Human Rights

Ahmed Ben Bella was radicalised by the Algerian massacres of May 8 1945. This is a key date. It marked the end of the Second World War in Europe and was celebrated with victory marches all over Algeria. 

Ben Bella had volunteered to fight the Germans in 1939. Serving in the French Moroccan 5th regiment as part of the French expeditionary army he was decorated by De Gaulle after the April 1944 battle of Monte Cassino. 

On 7 March 1944 De Gaulle’s French National Liberation Committee had agreed that 62,000 Muslim Algerian soldiers should be given French citizenship and allowed to vote. On 8 May 1945 the French colonial authorities agreed that marches could go ahead, but on condition that only French flags were waved. 

Massacre of up to 30,000 Algerians on 8 May 1945

At Sétif, a young man carrying an Algerian flag was shot dead by a policeman. The demonstrators then turned on the police and local Europeans. Gunfire takes place at Guelma and Kherrata and reprisals supported by De Gaulle then take place over the following two weeks. By the end of May 1945 100 European-origin people and somewhere between 3,000 and 30,000 Algerians were dead. 

Ben Bella then joined Messali Hadj’s Parti du peuple algérien and in 1947 the Organisation spéciale, the armed section of Hadj’s nationalist movement. In May 1950 he was arrested in Algiers and sentenced to seven years imprisonment for a bank robbery. 


In April 1952 Ben Bella escaped from his Algerian prison and got to Marseille and then Paris, where he was hidden in an attic in the Rue Rochechouart. By 1953 he had got to the recently established Egyptian republic via Switzerland. He was then responsible for supplying arms to the FLN, flying frequently from Egypt to Italy, Spain and Morocco. 

Ben Bella and four other FLN leaders arrested after their plane was intercepted on October 22 1956

Twice he narrowly escaped bombs planted by the French Secret Service. Finally, on 22 October 1956, the French air force forced a regular Air Atlas-Air Maroc airliner carrying Ben Bella and four other FLN leaders flying from Morocco to Tunisia to divert to Algiers. In Morocco anti-French protests led to the deaths of 60 Europeans. 

Inside the Prison de la Sante where Ben Bella experienced the worst conditions of his 6 years in jail

Ben Bella and the four other political leaders of the FLN were then taken to Paris and jailed in the La Santé prison for the two and a half year. While he was there several FLN fighters were guillotined on the prison’s scaffold. 

Ben Bella and Che Guevera at Algiers airport in 1964

Elected president of Algeria in 1963, Ben Bella made Algeria a global centre for Third World socialism. He experimented in self-managed cooperative businesses and promoted revolutionary movements. 

The new Algerian president and his defence minister Boumediene who would imprison Bell Bella in 1965

Ben Bella was overthrown in June 1965 by his defence minister, Houari Boumédiène. Held a prisoner until 1980 he then left Algeria and lived in Switzerland from 1983 to 1990. Back in Algeria his new political party was banned in 1997. 

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Daniel Bensaïd

1946 – 2010 • France

Trotskyist • Internationalist

Bensaïd’s Jewish father’s two brothers were killed during the German  Occupation. In his autobiography he reproduced the official document certifying his mother’s “non-membership of the Jewish race”. Without it, he noted, he would never have been born. He joined the Communist Party at the age of sixteen. But he soon became a dissident.

In 1966 with Alain Krivine [b. 1941] he helped found the Trotskyist Jeunesse communiste révolutionnaire (JCR – Revolutionary Communist Youth).

During the 1968 general strike he became prominent as a speaker and activist in the student movement. When the JCR was banned in 1968 he helped to found what became the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR – Revolutionary Communist League).

Bensaïd became part of the leadership of the new organisation, which grew rapidly in the aftermath of 1968. Krivine ran for the presidency twice, in 1969 and 1974, and the organisation launched a weekly paper, Rouge (red), which between 1976 and 1979 became a daily (Bensaïd was heavily involved in this).

He also took responsibility, as part of the Ligue Communiste‘s leadership, for the military-style attack on an anti-immigrant meeting of the far right Ordre Nouveau at the Mutualité in Rue Saint Victor on June 21 1973. The attack was a serious error of judgement that led to the Ligue communiste and Ordre Nouveau both being banned a week later.. 

Bensaïd also became a leading figure in the Fourth International, and took particular responsibilities for Latin America. He was a university lecturer in philosophy, and wrote copiously; he was the author of around forty books, on topics ranging from the history of Trotskyism to Joan of Arc.

He survived AIDS for some sixteen years before dying of cancer as a result of the drugs he had been obliged to take.

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Pierre-Jean de Béranger

1780 – 1857 • France

Song-writer * Constitutional monarchist * Republican

Pierre-Jean Béranger was the most influential French song-writer of the 19th century.

He was born at 50 Rue Montorgueil on August 19 1780, but was brought up by his grandfather, a tailer who lived at an address unknown in the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine. There, as a small child he witnessed the storming of the Bastille.

By the time he was 20 he was living in a shack at 50 Rue René Boulanger.

He began writing patriotic songs that were appreciated both under Napoleon and initially under Louis XVIII. But by 1821 his songs began to bite at the Bourbons and in December 1821 he was jailed in the political wing of the Ste Pélagie prison whose entrance was at nos 2-8 Rue du Puits de l’Ermite. Released after winning an appeal three months later, he found his popularity greatly enhanced.

In the mid-1820s under the Restoration Béranger lived at 27 Rue des Martyrs. On August 24 1827 he took part in the funeral at Père Lachaise cemetery of his friend from up the road, Jacques-Antoine Manuel, alongside whom Béranger himself would be buried thirty years later. An elected deputy Manuel had been thrown out of the National Assembly in 1823 for opposing the Bourbons sending troops to support the Spanish king Ferdinand VII against a popular uprising.

In March 1828 Béranger was jailed for the second time. On this occasion he spent nine months at the La Force prison for publishing another collection of his anti-Bourbon patriotic songs.

His songs helped shape the cultural background for the widespread support for the 1830 July Revolution.

From 1833 to 1835 Béranger lived in an attic room on the 2nd floor of 42 Rue Raynouard in the 16th arrondissement. In 1839 he published two poems reflecting the influence on him of Saint-Simon and Cabet, one of which, ‘Madmen‘ has been described (in the Maitron) as ‘publicly showing his sympathy for all forms of socialism’. The other, the Old Tramp, confirms his humanism.

A few years later from 1841 up to 1848 he lived in another 16th arrondissement flat at 19 Rue Vineuse. He made much of his ordinary background, writing of how ‘low’ he was in his 1847 poem ‘Villain’.

Viewed as France’s ‘national poet’, his songs with their indirect critique of the Bourbons led him to imprisonment. He appealed to liberals, republicans, Bonapartists and socialists. Under the Second Empire he was criticised for having in part helped build up the Napoleonic myth that allowed Louis-Napoleon to take power.

The first statue of Béranger in the Square du Temple was sculpted by Amédée Doublemard,. it was erected by public subscription in 1879 and placed close to where he had lived. It was melted down to provide bronze for the German Army occupiers in 1942,

Béranger died on July 16 1857 in the top floor of No 5 Rue Vendôme, that was renamed Rue Béranger in 1864. When he lived there the regency mansion built between 1720 and 1725 was called the Hotel de la Haye. It is now the Pierre-Jean-de-Béranger Secondary School while the mansion next door is the Béranger Primary School.

A second Béranger statue by Henri Lagriffoul took the place of the first in 1953.

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André Bergeron

1922 – 2014 • France

Trade Unionist * Anti-Communist

André Bergeron was a strong anti-Communist who saw the role of trade unions as being totally independent of political parties and exclusively as negotiating agreements with the employers.

A printworker and then postman, he joined the Young Socialists in 1936. He became an official of the CGT-Force ouvrière in 1948, when it was being actively supported and funded by the AFL-CIO, and became its General Secretary from 1964 to 1989.

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Louis Blanc

1811 – 1882 • Spain

Socialist * Journalist * 1848 Provisional Government Minister

A key figure in early French socialism, Louis Blanc was influenced by utopian communists, but argued the importance of the state. He led the Labour Commission from February to May 1848 and then lived in exile until 1870.

Louis Blanc opposed ‘murderous competition’ and stood for a new organisation of work based on workers’ associations.

Educated thanks to a royal grant in his early 20s he got a job as a private tutor for an industrialist and became interested in working conditions in the factories around industrial Arras in Northern France.

Moving to Paris in late 1834 he started to work for a pro-democracy newspaper and became active in left circles. In 1838 he called for the creation of a national railway company rather than dozens of private businesses. He became known as a republican/democrat propagandist.

As editor in chief of the Revue du Progrès politique, social et littéraire  from 1839 to 1842 he developed many of the socialist ideas with which he became identified: universal suffrage, a single representative body, strong central control over all collective areas of society, a just distribution of wealth between capitalists and their workers.

It was in the Progress Review that he first articulated the ideas behind his 1839 pamphlet, ‘The Organisation of Work‘. This became the blueprint for most French socialist schools of thought for the rest of the century. Essentially it proposed that the State fund the creation of workers’ cooperatives, whose profits would be returned to a central fund that would redistribute them in social security and reinvest them in new cooperatives.

Between 1841 and 1848 he worked with Pierre Leroux and George Sand on the Revue indépendante. Also, over 1841 to 1844 he published five volumes of a history of the first ten years of the Louis-Philippe monarchy, and then in 1847 a history of the French revolution. This history, highly sympathetic to Robespierre, made Blanc a big attraction in the 1847 pro-democracy Banquets campaign whose banning led in February 1848 to the overthrow of Louis-Philippe.

From 1842 he lived at 2 Rue Taitbout, shortly before he joined the reform group producing the radical daily, La Reforme from Alexandre Ledru-Rollin’s office in the Rue des Bourdonnais.

In 1844 Blanc was one of the many French leftists, including Proudhon and Cabet, involved in discussions with Karl Marx and other German exiles at the office of the fortnightly Vorwarts (Forward!) newspaper in the Rue des Moulins.

On February 24 1848 Blanc was back at Ledru-Rollin’s office putting up left names to be placed on the Provisional Government. The next day he welcomed a march on the Hotel de Ville demanding that the provisional government guarantee work for the unemployed.

On February 26 Blanc was one of the founders, with Albert, François Arago and Ledru-Rollin and others, of the leftist Rights of Man club.

On March 1 1848 Blanc and Albert presided over the first meeting of the Workers’ Commission at the Luxembourg Palace, with other left reformers such as André Savary, Constantin Pecqueur and Victor Considerant, Their meetings, unlike any others before the Constituent Assembly began to meet, were open to the press, allowing their discussions to reach a wide audience.

The Commission introduced two major reforms within days. It initiated an unemployment scheme whereby workers who attended ‘national workshops’ would be allocated work and be paid; and at the same time it funded ‘social workshops’ in the form of cooperatives supplying uniforms for the national guard and saddling and harnesses for the army. The latter, production cooperatives, were profitable and survived until 1850. The former were closed in June 1848 leading to the bloody June days insurrection of working-class Paris.

Elected to the Constituent Assembly on April 23 1848, Blanc was removed from the government. His last report to the new Assembly unsuccessfully proposed that the Workers’ Commission should be replaced by a Ministry of Labour.

It was at Rue Taitbout that Blanc and other leftists met and decided not to participate in the following day’s protest demonstration that ended up occupying the Hotel de Ville and unsuccessfully demanding a change in government.

Blanc had been the honorary president of the Socialist Workers’ Club that met at the Valentino Dance Hall in the Rue St Honore. It was dissolved after the failure of the occupation of the National Assembly on May 15 1848 at the Hotel de Ville when Barbès, Blanqui, the worker Albert, Leroux and François-Vincent Raspail, they tried to change the membership of the government.

Accused of supporting the 15 May protest, even though he had not participated, in August the Assembly voted by 504 to 22 to put him on trial. He defended himself stressing his commitment to socialism as the logical next step of the republican’s tryptique, Freedom, Equality and Fraternity. Without hanging around for the verdict he left Paris on a false passport, via Belgium, for England.

After his return from exile to France at the end of the Second Empire on September 4 1870 Blanc was elected top of the list as Deputy for the Seine on February 8 1871. He voted against Thiers taking power and against peace with the Prussians. But he was also opposed to the Paris municipality, the shortlived Commune, assuming it had a right to govern the whole country, and made repeated unsuccessful appeals for negotiation and reconciliation between the Commune and the Versailles government.

At the end of the Commune, his furniture, papers and library were destroyed in the fire.

He then moved to live above the Café Tortoni at 21 Rue Visconti. He was on the extreme left of the National Assembly with virtually no wider influence. On February 20 1876 he was elected deputy for both the 5th and the 13th arrondissements in Paris and at Saint-Denis. In 1881 he was re-elected by the 5th arrondissement.

On March 3 1879 Blanc (in the National Assembly) and Victor Hugo (in the Senate) successfully passed a law providing an ‘Amnesty-Pardon’ to around 3,500 Communards jailed or exiled after the 1871 Paris Commune.

Louis Blanc died on December 6 1882 and was buried in Père Lachaise next to his art critic younger brother Charles who had died in January. A huge funeral procession followed his coffin to the cemetery.

A statue of Blanc by Léon-Alexandre Delhomme was erected in the Place Monge (5th arrondissement) and then melted down during the German Occupation to be turned into guns.

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Marc Bloch

1886 – 1944 • France

Resistance Fighter • Historian

The son of a Jewish university lecturer in Roman history, Marc Bloch’s teenage years were spent under the shadow of the Dreyfus Affair. He did his higher secondary school studies at the prestigious lycée Louis-le-Grand in the rue St Jacques. Leaving top of the class he was accepted at the elite École normale supérieure in the Rue d’Ulm which he entered in 1904.

After two grants allowed him to study in Germany he taught at lycées in Montpellier and Amiens before being mobilised in 1914. Initially an infantry sergeant he was wounded but ended the war as a captain in intelligence with one of the 35,000 Legion of Honour decorations given for courage on the battlefield during the war as well as the Croix de Guerre.

In 1919 Bloch married Simonne Vidal. with whom he had six children, and was posted to the new university of Strasbourg. In 1929 Bloch, Lucien Febvre and André Piganiol founded the multidisciplinary historical journal Annales d’Histoire économique et sociale. This journal believed in ‘total history’, breaking with the silo mentality that had prevailed up to that point.

In 1936 Bloch secured a post at the Sorbonne, becoming Professor of Economic and Social History in 1938. From 1936 to 1939, Bloch lived in a flat above the Lutetia swimming pool at 17 Rue de Sèvres.

In 1939, aged 53, he volunteered to rejoin the army. He was appointed to undertake the mobiisation of soldiers in Strasboug, and then to work on logistics. He was evacuated from Dunkirk on May 31 1940, but immediately returned to France via Plymouth and Cherboug. When the Germans reached Normandy he made his way to rejoin his family at Le Bourg-d’Hem, where they had a holiday home.

France’s leading 20th century historian was then excluded from his Paris post In October 1940 as a Jew. The Germans requisitioned his flat and sent his library of books back to Germany under the law allowing them to do what they wanted with the Jewish property.

The Vichy Government’s new Secretary of State for Education, however, was an historian who had been taught by Boch’s father. Jérôme Carcopino decided to reappoint Bloch as a Professor ‘for exceptional scientific services to the French state’ and to post him to Strasbourg University in exile in Clermont-Ferrand. He therefore declined a job offer from the New School of Social Research in New York and moved to Clermont-Ferrand with his unwell wife and their children.

Early in 1941 Bloch was allowed to relocate to the University of Montpellier, where many other university lecturers were also now based. Bloch joined the intellectual resistance group that produced the underground papers Liberté and Combat.

With the occupation by the Germans of the southern zone on November 9 1942, Bloch moved into clandestinity. He quickly became a leading figure in the Lyon area Franc-Tireur movement. In preparation for the liberation in 1943 he was given the job of editing the resistance Political Notebooks.

Memorial to the 30 resistance fighters shot on June 16 1944 in Saint Didier de Formans, Ain. Marc Bloch’s name is fourth from the top of the left column. Four of those murdered were never identified.

Denounced by an informer he was arrested on March 8 1944 and then brutally tortured by Klaus Barbie among others without revealing any information. He was executed by the Germans with 29 other resistance fighters shortly after 8 pm in the evening of 16 June 1944. The youngest shot was 19, Bloch, aged 59, was the eldest.

In 1997 a small gap between redeveloped housing in a poor part of Paris was called ‘Place Marc Bloch’ to remember his name.

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