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.
This was where on February 21 1848 the Republicans around the Reform paper took the decision to resort to armed resistance to the King’s decision to ban the Paris banquet in their national campaign to extend the franchise. Among those meeting were the Worker Albert, Ledru-Rollin, Etienne Arago and Marc Caussidière.
The office became the headquarters of the February Revolution, and was where on February 24 1848 Ledru-Rollin, Blanc, l’ouvrier Albert, Flocon, Arago and Cavaignac drew up the left’s list for membership of the provisional government.
A century later, No 32 was the home from 1954 to 1958 of the Catholic priest, Henri Grouès (called l’abbé Pierre), who had been in the resistance and then a deputy, and was the founder of the Emmaüs charity.
Before the Military School (École Militaire) was built (1752 to 1760) the boggy area that today lies South of the Eiffel Tower was used for growing vegetables. In 1765 it was decided to use this mainly flat ground to practise manoeuvres, and to name it the ‘God of War Field’ (Champ-de-Mars).
During the French Revolution the area was renamed ‘The meeting field” (Champ de la Réunion). It was surrounded by a ditch and given an ornate entrance and used for national celebrations. The first, on September 20 1790, was to commemorate those killed by the mutineers and those who died in putting down a mutiny that had taken place at Nancy between August 5 and August 31 1790.
The mutineers had imprisoned their officers when they held back some of their wages for alleged expenses they had incurred for laundry and shoes. When they surrendered, 22 were hung, 41 were condemned to 30 years as galley slaves and 72 put in prison. One was the last to be tortured to death in France using a wheel.
The biggest event in the Champ de Mars took place on July 14 1790.
Just over a year later, after Louis XVI’s abortive escape bid, it was where people were asked to come to sign the petition calling for the King’s abdication. And so on July 17 1791 it where the Mayor of Paris, Bailly, and La Fayette carried out the orders of the constitutional monarchists who controlled the Constituent Assembly. These were to disperse the crowd. The soldiers opened fire and then the cavalry dispersed everyone else.
On December 30 1793 a celebration of the retaking of Toulon from the English and the Spanish was held there, organised by the regicide painter Jacques-Louis David.
He organised an even bigger event in the Champ de Mars on June 8 1794, the Festival of the Supreme Being. This was Robespierre’s pet dream of replacing Christianity with a more egalitarian and rational religion.
From September 18 to September 22 1798 the Directorate organised the first exhibition of the products of French industry at the Champ de Mars. This was the precursor of the 19th and 20th century universal exhibitions that took place in 1867, 1878, 1889 (when Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley spent 6 weeks there), 1900 and 1937.
One of the jobs given to those enrolled in the 1848 National Workshops was to create flatten the terraces and plant trees on the Champ de Mars.
On April 16 1848 a march of National Workshop workers on the Town Hall assembled there to demand a second postponement of the national elections after their success on March 17. This time they also sought a change of the provisional government to put Louis Blanc in charge. They were dispersed by the national guard on the orders of Ledru-Rollin.
The area was also used during the ten days from Louis-Napoléon’s December 2 1851 Coup d’État to execute prisoners. On just the one night of December 4 336 were shot without trial.
On May 21 1871 the National Guardsmen defending the canons parked in the Champs de Mars fought hard against superior numbers of Versaillais troops. Finally overrun, many (perhaps up to 1,500) captured defenders of the Commune were then shot.
One of the ‘Great Boulevards’ in a wealthy part of Paris, it was built on the allotments outside the city when in 1670 Louis XIII’s wall around Paris was declared obsolete. Initially called the ‘New Boulevard’ and then the ‘Depot Boulevard’ (after the 1764 regimental arms depot there). It was finally named after the Italian Theatre built there in 1783 that is now occupied by the Comic Opera.
Even numbers are in the Ninth arrondissement, while odd numbers are in the Second.
From December 1919 to 1923 Louis Aragon and André Breton with other surrealists used to meet regularly in the Café Certà at No. 2. This address was in the ‘Passage de l’Opéra‘ – two parallel galleries of cafés and shops first built in 1822 and demolished in 1925.
The Mulhouse bar was based at No. 8. In March 1848 meetings of the German democratic association used to take place here, attended, among others by Karl Marx and Ludwig Feuerbach.
Ironically, on the other side of the Boulevard, at No. 9, in 1942 to 1943 the Vichy government tried unsuccessfully to recruit French workers to work voluntarily in Germany.
Arlette Laguiller, who became the first woman to stand for President of France as a candidate of the Trotskyist Lutte Ouvriere sect in 1974, led a strike and occupation in 1968 at the Credit Lyonnais headquarters at No. 19 in 1968. The building had been the first in Paris to be lit by electricity in 1876.
Louis Blanc lived above the Tortoni café at No. 22 for a period.
No. 30 was the site of a bomb left by the anarchistsAction Directe against the Israeli Leumi bank on 13 April 1985.
During the Revolutionary Terror (April 6 1793 to July 28 1794), the Palace became an overflow prison, holding among others Danton and Desmoulins who were both executed on April 5 1794.
In December 1830 a demonstration against the clemency shown to Charles X’s former ministers, was violently put down outside the Palace.
The Palace was the location of the Workers’ Commission set up after the February 1848 revolution. Workers had demanded a Minister of Labour, calling the post a ‘Minister of Progress’, but this had been turned down and Louis Blanc accepted the position of President of the Commission instead.
Others nominated to the Commission included Albert and the followers of Fourier, Victor Considerant and François Vidal.
Pierre Marie de Saint-Georges, the Minister responsible for the National Workshops set up in 1848 was also based at the Palace. On June 22 Louis Pujol was nominated spokesperson of the 56 delegates chosen by a workers’ meeting at the Panthéon to negotiate with Pierre Marie.
The meeting took place at the Luxembourg Palace, and Pierre Marie’s attack on the delegation, asking if they were ‘slaves’ to Pujol, fueled an anger that observers credited with sparking the huge June 1848 workers’ uprising.
In May 1871 the military tribunal set up in the Palace summarily sentenced hundreds of Communard fighters and supporters to be shot in the Luxembourg Garden at the back of the palace, just below the statues of French queens.
On July 3 1880 Victor Hugo finally got the amnesty for the Communards through the Senate, based at the Palace more or less continuously since 1805.
After the Germans occupied Paris in 1940 they made the Palace the headquarters of the Luftwaffe, where it was visited by Hermann Goering. His Luftwaffe Field Marshal was also given a luxurious apartment there. It also served as an administrative centre covering prisoners of war.
The Palace was one of the last bastions of German opposition at Liberation in August 1944. Its soldiers only finally surrendered on August 25 to the resistance fighters led by Colonel Fabien, when they were faced with 5 tanks detached by General Leclerc and the threat of air strikes.
The road was given the name Mill Street after the mills situated on a small hill that existed there as late as the 17th century. It was opened in 1624 and the hillock levelled out by its new owner.
From January to December 1844 the fortnightly German language paper Vorwärts! (Forward!) was published by Henri Bornstein at what was then 32 rue des Moulins but is now No. 14. Its circulation was about 1,000 copies, and Marx became a major editor of it from the summer. This was where Bakunin stayed when he first arrived in Paris in July 1844.
Vorwärts! was outlawed on January 25 1845 after an article was published applauding an attack on Prussian King Frederick William IV.
Meetings of the editorial collective of the Deutsch–Französische Jahrbücher (German–French Annals), also took place there. However, only one double issue appeared in February 1844. Several of contributors and potential contributors met and argued there frequently in 1844, eventually going their own ways. They included Proudhon, Leroux, Etienne Cabet and Louis Blanc, as well as Marx, Arnold Ruge and Bakunin.
Opened in 1804 this world famous cemetery gets its name from Louis XIV’s Jesuit priest confessor from 1675 to 1709, François d’Aix de La Chaize. This was the period when the Sun King, having decided that anyone who was not a Catholic was the ‘enemy within’, revoked the 1598 Edict of Nantes that had tolerated protestants. While discriminatory measures took off from 1661, persecutions intensified from 1679 leading up to the 1685 revocation in the Edict of Fontainebleau. One per cent of the population, some 200,000 Huguenots were then forced out of France.
In 1780, finally, all cemeteries within the city walls were closed. As Consul Napoleon decreed that cemeteries should be open to all faiths and to the poor as well as the rich. In 1803 the land on the hill was acquired by the Prefect of the Seine department and the design of the cemetery entrusted to Alexandre-Theodore Brongiart.
This café was also where Marx and Engels met on August 28 1844 and agreed to work on ‘The Holy Family‘ together. Further along the street, at No. 251, was the Valentino Hall, which Engels entered on one occasion in his brief 1844 visit to Paris to escape the police spies who were following him.
Upstairs the Café de la Régence was the centre of French chess for over a century. It was where Robespierre, the young officer Napoléon Bonaparte and Louis Philippe all played their chess (no not together!). The café also doubled as one of Paris’ four cafe/shop post offices in the early 19th century.
The Café was well-positioned. It was close to the Palais Royal before the Revolution and afterwards it was on the route of those being taken from the Conciergerie prison to the Place de la Concorde to be guillotined.
At 10.30 pm on the evening of December 3 1973 one of the cartoonists for the French satirical paper Le Canard enchaînéreturned to its offices at No. 173 to find a government DST ( Direction de la surveillance du territoire) team of spies installing microphones. The French State has always believed it has the right to spy on dissidents.
Nearly two hundred years earlier the French state still believed in its right to execute dissidents. One issue was how this done. Should it be a lengthy process by strangulation (hanging) or a lengthy process by chopping at your neck with an axe?
Dr Joseph Ignace Guillotin, a humanist who opposed the death penalty helped develop a quicker, more efficient way of killing people. One of those who drafted the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, he died on March 26 1814 in his medical office at No. 209. This was on the route of those travelling to be ‘humanely’ executed at what is now the Place de la Concorde.
On November 29 1847 Bakunin spoke to the 1,500 people who attended a commemoration banquet of the 1830 Polish uprising against Russia at the Valentino Hall. Before Haussmann’s re-modelling of Paris its address was No. 359 rue St Honoré. This was where Valentino, the orchestra conductor and violinist, introduced the polka dance to Paris that same year, 1847.
The size and central location of the Hall attracted many revolutionaries to hold meetings there. In 1848, in February Cabet held a meeting of the Icarians there.
In March, Blanqui organised meetings of the Central Republican Society he chaired at Valentino’s. The Club of Political Prisoners presided by Armand Barbès with Blanqui as its vice-president also met there.
The Socialist Workers’ Club whose honorary president was Louis Blanc also met there until the May 15 1848 demonstration when it was dissolved after the failure of a left insurrectionary attempt to defend the socialist aspects of the February 1848 revolution.
On January 27 1871 the Valentino Hall was used by the Officers of the 1st Battalion of the National Guard to protest against the Armistice signed by the Thiers government with the Prussians.
Olympe de Gouges, opponent of slavery and author of the 1791 Declaration of the Rights of Women and Women Citizens, lived at No. 270. A History of Paris marker post has been put by the front foor to mark this feminist pioneer and martyre.
The main entrance to the second Jacobin monastery in Paris was at No. 328. Its side entrance in the Rue St Hyacinthe led to the monk’s canteen where the anti-royalist Breton Club began to meet in 1789. After the closure of the monasteries in 1790 the convent was rented to the Friends of the Constitution, who later took the name the Jacobin club .
General Lamarque died at his home at No. 368 of cholera. His funeral procession that left from here on June 5 1832, sparked the 1832 uprising against Louis-Philippe’s increasingly authoritarian rule that features in Hugo‘s Les Misérables.
When Robespierre was himself guillotined on July 28 1794, the cart carrying him to the scaffold stopped outside No. 398 (formerly No. 366) where he had lived for three years since he moved there secretly on July 17 1791 to avoid arrest after the Champs de Mars massacre. The house’s walls had been dripped with the blood of butchered cattle.
Named after the three generations of the Taitbout family who successively became Clerks to the Paris Town Office from 1698 to 1775, the road was opened in 1773.
Louis Blanc lived 1842 to 1848 above the Tortini café at No. 2 that was founded by a Venetian migrant initially called Velloni as a cafe and ice-cream parlour in 1804 (sketched above in 1888). It was there that Blanc and his supporters, Louis Greppo, Théophile Thoré and Hippolyte Detours, met on May 14 1848 and decided not to participate in the following day’s protest demonstration against the new government’s refusal to support the Polish revolutionaries.
Many writers, musicians and artists lived at a creative colony of separate houses at No. 80 that was known first as the Cité des Trois-Frères and then as the Square d’Orléans. Rebuilt in classical style and finished in 1841, from 1842 to 1849 Frédéric Chopin lived in No. 9, while George Sand lived on the first floor of No. 5 from 1842 to 1847. The lovers were both visited by many of the period’s celebrities, including Leroux, Honoré de Balzac, Heinrich Heine, Eugène Delacroix, François Arago and the actress Marie Dorval.
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.
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%.