Paul Lafargue

1842-1911 • Cuba

Socialist • Parti ouvrier • Laura Marx

Lafargue first visited London and met Karl Marx in 1865. He married Laura Marx in 1868 and with Jules Guesde was one of the founders of the French Workers’ Party. Lenin came to see him on his first trip to Paris in 1895. Jaurès, Lenin and Keir Hardie all spoke at his and Laura’s joint funeral in 1911 after they committed suicide together.

Locations
  • 47 rue du Cherche-Midi: Paul Lafargue and Laura Marx, his wife, move in to a flat here on 1 December 1868. In July 1869 Marx made a secret 6-day trip to Paris to see them (using the pseudonyme Alan williams). The couple committed suicide together here in 1911.
  • 51 avenue de Flandre: In 1869-1870 Lafargue worked on Henri Rochefort‘s republican newspaper La Marseillaise with Victor Noir (before his assassination by Napoleon III’s cousin) and Prosper-Oliver Lissagaray.

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Socialism

Accused of being drunkards in several areas of France the early SFIO campaigned against alcoholism as well as against capitalism

French socialism began to distinguish itself both from Proudhon’s anarchistic appeal to humanity’s moral responsibilities and from Blanqui’s insurrectionism in the 1890s. Founded by Blum, Jaures and Vaillant in 1905 in the aftermath of the Dreyfus affair, the SFIO united left reformist republicans and Marxist sectarians. The alliance broke up in 1920 when a majority at the Tours Conference voted to affiliate to the new Communist International.

Despite being a minority at that SFIO conference, the SFIO of left reformist socialism became the leading left political current through nearly all the interwar period. After the Communist Party ended Stalin’s ‘class against class’ propaganda against the Socialists and proposed a Popular Front alliance, Blum became prime minister in 1936.

Under the Fourth Republic its internal divisions over Algerian independence, with Mendes France and the challenge of the stronger Communist Party allowed De Gaulle to take power. In 1981 Mitterrand won a decisive majority on a left platform that he abandoned three years later. From then the Socialist Party became largely a party of elected national and local officials, without any real mass membership. In 2017, following five politically disastrous years under Hollande, the Socialist Party suffered a major defeat in both the presidential and National Assembly elections. A new left party, La France Insoumise (France untamed), did relatively well, with the Left Front’s presidential candidate getting 19.6% of the vote in the first round.

The vote for the La France Insoumise leader Mélenchon in the first round of the 2017 presidential elections shows stronger support in the less wealthy parts of Paris

Like the Socialists, though, Melonchon’s La France Insoumise has still virtually no local membership base. In the European elections of 2019, its share of the vote fell to 6%.

Work in progress