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.
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.
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.
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 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 17rue Portefoin.
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 theÉcole 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.
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.
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 bornin 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.
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 Aragonand 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.
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 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 Duchampand Man Ray were among several other artists who came and went.
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.
In the autumn of 1928 Aragon had bought an apartment at 54 Rue du Chateaufrom 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.
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 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‘.
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 at1 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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].
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Saône–et–Loire 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.
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).
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 at27 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s quite difficult to avoid Auguste Blanqui while walking around Paris. He spent much time in many of its (now disappeared) prisons, and rarely stopped plotting insurrections. He played key roles in several riots, demonstrations and uprisings and fought on many barricades.
Aged ten, a journey across France with his family to Paris at the height of the White Terror of the 1815 Restoration marked him. At 17, when he was still a student at the Collège Royal de Charlemagne he witnessed the guillotining in front of the Town Hall of the four sergeants of La Rochelle on 22 September 1822. They were executed for being members of the Carbonari, part of a military plot to overthrow Louis XVIII.
The Charbonnerie française included Bonapartists, liberals and anti-Bourbon republicans. Blanqui joined it in 1823 when it had thousands of members, 40% in the army and others, like him, urban young men from wealthy backgrounds railing against repression.
Blanqui taught part-time at a girls’ school in the Hotel Sully, next to the Place Royale (now Place de Vosges) in 1825, where he first met the 13-year-old Amélie-Suzanne Serre who, eight years later, became his wife.
In 1827 he was wounded twice by a sabre cut – at the rue Saint-Honoré in April and on the Saint-Michel bridge in May, and once in the neck by a pistol shot on 19 November on the corner of the rue aux Ours and the rue Quincampoix. These wounds occurred at different demonstrations for freedom of the press, against the increasing role of the Jesuits and the last in celebrating the victory of the opposition to Charles X at Paris local elections.
Blanqui joined and became very active in the Société des amis du peuple club that appeared between July and October and which included others who are also now Parisian street names: Arago, Raspail and Cavaignac.
Already influenced by the socialism of Saint-Simone in 1831 Blanqui was arrested in January 1831 for membership of a forbidden student society that called for the abolition of the University as a vestige of the Empire and the Restoration.
He spent three weeks in the Prison de la Force (a private aristocratic town house used as a prison from 1780 to 1845) at 2-4 rue du Roi de Sicile.
In July 1831 he was jailed for a month as co-editor of the Au peuple paper that had breached the law prohibiting criticism of the government.
A year later, while living with his mother at 96 rue de Montreuil, Blanqui was arrested again along with 14 other leaders of the Société des amis du peuple, and tried at the Palais de Justice (4 boulevard du Palais). He was the only one jailed (for a year) after making an incendiary defence speech.
Hazan (IOP) writes: ‘asked to give his profession he replied “proletarian”. The procurator objected that this was not a profession. Blanqui responded: “It is the profession of the majority of our people, who are deprived of political rights”. During that year’s imprisonment he was in and out of hospital, being ill with the cholera that had just killed his father. He was in jail during the brief 1832 uprising against Louis-Philippe.
In April 1834, after the second revolt of Lyon’s silk workers (canuts) he fought in the two days of rioting in Paris, and narrowly escaped with his life in the Rue Transnonain (now incorporated into Rue Beaubourg). Living then at 13 Rue des Fossés-Saint-Jacques, he helped organise the legal defence of the arrested republicans.
On March 11 1836 Blanqui was arrested again. This time with Armand Barbès, another leader of the Société des Familles founded after the 1834 repression. The two men were charged with secretly manufacturing bullets at 24 Rue Dauphine and gunpowder at 113 rue Broca. Blanqui was released after six months but forbidden to return to Paris, so he moved 30km north-west of Paris to the Oise river.
After several secret visits to Paris from the Oise, Blanqui and Barbès founded a new secret society, the Société des Saisons to replace the Familles, dismantled by the police. The new conspiratorial club was built on a cellular structure with just six men in each ‘week’, and four weeks in each ‘month’, and three months in each ‘season’ and four ‘seasons’ in each year. In early 1839 Blanqui decided the time was ripe for another attempted insurrection.
On May 12 1839 more than 500 men met in the Rue Saint Denis and Rue Saint-Martin. Blanqui’s headquarters was a café at 1 Rue Mandar, on the corner with Rue Montorgueil.
First, they needed weapons and ammunition, so they raided the Lepage Brothers armoury round the corner, at 22 rue du Bourg l’Abbé (now 64-66 Boulevard de Sébastopol), taking 310 rifles and 200,000 rounds.
Then they tried to capture the police station and partly succeeded in taking the Town Hall. A handful of barricades were built but there was no mass uprising.
Barbès, wounded, was captured the same day and imprisoned in the Conciergerie. 77 insurgents were killed, as were 28 soldiers. Subsequently nearly 700 arrests were made, including Blanqui in October. Both were given death sentences, subsequently commuted to deportation and then prison on Mont Saint-Michel.
Placed in solitary confinement Blanqui refused to read letters from his wife that had been opened. He advised her against visiting because of the degrading treatment by the guards she would have been subjected to. Amélie-Suzanne died in 1841 without ever seeing him again.
Blanqui returned to Paris on 25 February 1848 and immediately founded the largest club, the Société républicaine centrale. In April the provisional government release a document to discredit Blanqui, claiming he had betrayed the 1839 insurrection.
In May 1848 Blanqui advised against holding the demonstration in favour of Poland that ended in occupying the Constituent Assembly in the Hotel de Ville that had only been elected in April. Nonetheless he was soon arrested and in April 1849 was sentenced to ten years in prison.
It was from his cell in the Vincennes Castle Prison, just outside central Paris, that he could hear the suppression of the workers’ revolt in June 1848, when at least 10,000 were killed.
Released in 1859, Blanqui is jailed again for a further four years in 1861, for attempting to create another secret society. He arrived back in Paris incarcerated again at the prison Sainte-Pélagie in the Rue de la Clef. It had its own ‘political prisoner’ section and courtyard.
Blanqui had first been held there in 1832 with other members of the Society of the Rights of Man. In the early 1860s he met young imprisoned republicans there, and was visited in his cell by Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929), the future socialist and then French prime minister.
Escaping in 1865 he lived in Brussels for the next five years before finally returning to Paris on August 12 1870. This was just two days before another Blanquist insurrectionary attack on barracks at La Villette failed both to get enough weapons or to trigger a mass uprising. Blanqui and two others received a death sentence.
Capture and Commune
After mounting anger follows Louis-Napoléon’s capture and surrender at Sedan on September 1 1870, a new insurrection forced his abdication on September 4. On 21 October as Paris is besieged a mass uprising takes place.
Blanqui briefly becomes a leader of a new provisional government, but when the National Guard commanders refuse to support it, the movement failed. Blanqui then gets just 50,000 votes in the 3 November election in Paris, and with his health failing, leaves for Bordeaux in February 1871 to try and recuperate.
On March 17 1871, the day before the Paris Commune uprising, Blanqui is captured by the soldiers of the Thiers Versailles regime, and tried for his participation in the October 31 insurrection. Once again he is jailed and moved to another old abbey used as a prison in the 19th century: Clairvaux. south-east of Troyes (the high security prison, one of France’s oldest, is finally only to close in 2022). Blanqui was kept there from 1872 to 1879 – and Peter Kropotkin followed him to the same prison in central France between 1883 and 1886.
Trying to get him amnestied, socialists nominated him for election several times, including in the 6th arrondissement of Paris in July 1878. When he was eventually elected for Bordeaux, the result was invalidated. Ill, he was finally pardoned on June 10 1879.
He spent the next two years speaking in towns across France. On 27 December 1881 he returned late to his room on the Boulevard d’Italie (now the Boulevard August-Blanqui), where he suffered a cerebral haemorrhage and died on January 1 1881.
Between 100,000 and 200,000 socialists and republicans followed his cortege to the Père Lachaise cemetery. The revolutionary who had spent 43 years and two months in total under police arrest and who believed that real liberty for workers could only come with a revolution in society.
In 1906, after Louise Michel’s death, the anarchist sympathiser and sculptor Émile Derré revised his 1898 Cornice of Kisses (Le Chapiteau des Baisers) into a ‘Dream for a House of the People‘ that included Louise Michel, Élisée Reclus and August Blanqui.
Hazan (HOB) ends his history of the Paris barricades in which Blanqui invested so much of his life, arguing that ‘thanks to Baudelaire, Blanqui, Hugo and Lissagaray, this is a history that is still living, a source of inspiration for those unresigned to the perpetuation of the existing order’.
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.
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.
Marc Blondel was the first FO General Secretary to publicly shake hands with the Communist-supported CGT on 28 November 1995, helping kick off a decade-long mini-strike wave in France.
Working in a post office sorting centre in 1956, as one of the short-term jobs he did while beginning to study law, Bondel joined the Force ouvrière (CGT-FO) trade union that was particularly strongly implanted among government, local government and social security workers. It had been formed in 1948 with the support of the American CIA and AFL-CIO as an anti-Communist trade union pole.
Shortly afterwards Blondel became a freemason, joining the ‘Avant-garde maçonnique‘ lodge, linked to the influential Grand Orient de France. He then met many other leftists who were anti-clerical masons.
Whether as a result of these connections or not, on March 24 1960 he began to work for the government’s new Unemployment agency, the ASSEDIC. He quickly set up an FO branch in the office where he worked and created a trade union liaison committee of ASSDEIC offices across Paris. Later that year he became Paris regional secretary of FO branches across the government’s partly independent social security system.
Within a year he had secured full-time status with 100% relief from his ASSEDIC job to act as an FO official. In this period he also became close to Pierre Lambert‘s trotskyist Parti Communiste Internationaliste (which counted Lionel Jospin among its members in the 1960s), allowing it to use his FO office for its meetings.
By 1965 he had become the Paris regional secretary of the FO’s federation of white collar workers and managers. Nine years later he was elected General Secretary of the national federation and then, in 1980, the FO national congress elected him to the leading FO Confederation Committee.
By then Blondel was a member of the Socialist Party and in 1989 he was narrowly elected General Secretary with 54% of the membership vote after he received the support of the Lambertist Parti des Travailleurs. He had stood for a policy of ‘challenge trade unionism’ that he contrasted with ‘partnership trade unionism’.
Re-elected massively in 1992, 1996 and 2000 he was one of the principal leaders of the successful campaign against the government’s attempt to reform Social Security. During the 1995-1996 campaign his misogyny came to the fore in his attack on Nicole Notat, the CFDT’s general secretary, when he argued ‘His job was not to sleep with prime ministers’.
Marc Blondel died in March 2014 at the Val du Grace military hospital in the Rue St Jacques.
Radicalised by the Dreyfus Affair Léon Blum became the major Jewish figure of French socialism in the interwar years. He became Popular Front prime minister from 1936 to 1938. He was imprisoned in Buchenwald from 1943 to 1945 after having been handed to the Germans by the far right Vichy regime. He was briefly prime minister again in 1946-47.
During the first half of the 20th century, alongside his mentor Jean Jaurès, Blum personified the alternative to the insurrectionary road to socialism.
He was born on April 9 1872 at 151, Rue Saint-Denis, above the silk wholesale business run by his father in a street whose northern stretch is still today dominated by the textile trade. A really bright student, from 1882 to 1888 he attended the Lycée Charlemagne in the Marais, while boarding in the Rue des Francs-Bourgeois.
He then went on to the still more prestigious Lycée Henri-IV in Rue Clovis in the Latin Quarter on the Left Bank of the Seine., where he met Andre Gide. Blum’s final thesis there argued that criminals should be examined through the interplay of independent factors leading to their crime’.
Aged 18 he passed directly into the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) in the Rue d’Ulm in 1890. Failing his first year exams he then moved to studying literature and law, getting a law degree at Paris University in 1894.
The Rue Laffitte offices of La Revue Blanche went on to become one of the key organising centres of the campaign to pardon Dreyfus in the early 20th century.
Blum took and passed exams to become a top notch civil servant in the Conseil d’Etat in December 1895. He kept this post for the next 25 years and in 1896 married Lise Bloch and moved to the Rue du Luxembourg, on the west of the Luxembourg Garden. After the First World War this road became the Rue Guynemer in honour of a French pilot ace.
Herr’s friendship was a key factor in Blum’s involvement in the campaign to pardon Dreyfus. It was at Herr’s flat in 1898 that Blum first met Jean Jaurès, where both were persuaded of the Dreyfus’ innocence. Later, Blum wrote that this was where he became a socialist: ‘from the injustice inflicted on an individual, we tried, as Jaurès did from the start, to generalise it to social injustice’.
Blum’s death was the occasion of another of the huge left funeral processions that regularly punctuate French history. It left from the Rue Victor Massé offices ofthe evening socialist paper Le Populaire, founded in 1916, by Jean Longuet, Marx‘s grandson, and closely associated with the SFIO and Blum from 1921.
Living in the 18th arrondissement, she was Deputy General Secretary of the CGT’s post office trade union federation in 1931 and 1932, and then treasurer of the union in 1938.
A member of the executive of the French League for the rights of women, she is quoted as saying:
To be a trade unionist is a good thing, but to be both a trade unionist and a feminist is better, because feminism gives a shot in the arm to the trade unionist in danger of keeping to general facts and forgetting that a woman worker has twice as much to complain about because she is exploited twice: as a woman, and as a worker’.
Brassens contributed regularly in 1946-1947 under pseudonyms to the weekly anarchist newspaper Le Libertaire. In the 1950s Brassens’ donations enabled the Libertarian communist federation that ran the paper to move into an office in Rue Saint-Denis.
Brassens was one of many famous singers who appeared at the venue the Concert Pacra in the boulevard Beaumarchais.
Aristide Briand was one of several socialists who moved away from being close to revolutionary syndicalism into the centre and right of French politics between the 1880s and 1900s. He became head of government 11 times between 1906 and 1932.
A lawyer, he was initially close to revolutionary syndicalism and then supported Jaurès. He moved to the centre and was a government minster other than prime minister another 15 times between those years.
Born in Tuscany, a direct descendant of Michaelangelo’s brother, he was enthused by the French Revolution and moved, first to Corsica, then to Paris. Nominated by Robespierre as a Commisioner responsible for newly conquered territories to the East of France, after Robespierre’s overthrow in 1794 he was imprisoned in the Plessis prisonin Rue Saint-Jacques for allegedly having decided illegal to confiscate the land of a Genoan wealthy man.
Prison was where Buonarroti first met Gracchus Babeuf (1760-1797). Arguably, Babeuf was the first revolutionary socialist.
As Buonarroti’s biographer, Jean Marc Schiappa wrote, the Paris prisons at this time were “real schools of political confrontation and education”. After many political prisoners were amnestied in October 1795, Babeuf’s supporters became active in the political ferment of the Club du Panthéon in Rue Clovis.
In 1795 Buonarroti attended meetings of the future Conspiracy of Equals at 54 rue de la Ville l’Évêque. There, they organised what the “Conspiracy of the Equals” of 1796 (“Conspiracy” was the name given to the organisation by the government that repressed it.
Babeuf and Buonarroti aimed to agitate as openly as possible. Buonarroti was an organiser, but also wrote one of the key documents of the organisation, the remarkable Draft Economic Decree, which proposed full citizenship for both sexes a hundred and fifty years before it was achieved in France.
After a ninety-six day trial in Vendôme (the authorities were afraid that holding the trial in Paris would lead to disorder) Babeuf was guillotined, but before he died Buonarroti promised his comrade that he would tell the story of the “conspiracy”.
Buonarroti was imprisoned for six years, and then exiled, first to Geneva and then to Brussels, Grenoble (then in Savoy) and back to Geneva. He lived in considerable poverty, working as a music teacher, accompanied by his faithful partner Teresa Poggi. But he continued to try to organise, though the organisations he formed, sometimes concealed within Freemasonry, were of necessity highly secretive in form.
In 1828 he published his History of Babeuf’s Conspiracy for Equality, which circulated widely in Paris, and established a continuity between Babeuf’s ideas and a new generation of activists.
Utopian socialist and influential propagandist for Babeuf in Paris, he was a strong influence on Auguste Blanqui. He returned to Paris in August 1830, and spent his last years developing contacts with the new generation of revolutionaries.
One of his associates described him then as “a man of seventy… with a Prometheus-like energy, bidding defiance to the powers of the earth, arousing all far and near to break the chains of despotism”.