Lucie Aubrac/Bernard

1912-2007 • France

Communist • Resistance • Anti-racist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Became a major anti-racist campaigner.

Lucie Aubrac in her 90s

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David Barta (Korner)

1904-1976 • Romania


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Daniel Bensaïd

1946 – 2010 • France

Trotskyist • Internationalist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Auguste Blanqui

1805-1881 • France

Revolutionary • Insurrectionist • Prisoner

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. 

Four sergeants based at La Rochelle were guillotined in Paris in 1822 for allegedly plotting against Louis XVIII

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. 

July Revolution

The July revolutionaries had only a few hunting rifles and weapons belonging to the National Guard that had been disbanded by Charles X in 1827

In July 1830 using a rifle Blanqui had hidden in the mid-1820s he fought in the rue Saint-Honoré outside the Palais Royal, along the rue de Hanovre and Palais de Justice, but especially in the Latin Quarter, where he then lived at 85, rue de la Harpe (in the still existing street whose southern end was demolished to create the Boulevard Saint-Michel). 

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. 

He became friendly with Philippe Buonarroti, who returned to Paris in 1830 to promote the insurrectionary egalitarian philosophy of the Grachus Babeuf (1760-1797). 

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.

Daumier sketched the 14 April 1834 massacre of men, women and children at 12 rue Transnonain by Louis-Philippe’s troops

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. 

1839 Insurrection 

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. 

Building a barricade for the May 12 1839 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. 

1848 Revolution 

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. 

Blanqui and Barbäs under arrest for the May 1848 demonstration

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 

Blanqui attacks the bourgeois government of National Defence on November 2 1870 as failing Paris

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. 

Over 100,000 attended Blanqui’s funeral in 1881. His tomb at the Päre Lachaise cemetery was sculpted by Jules Dalou

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. 

Louise Michel and August Blanqui kissing feature in Emile Derrés memorial column in 19

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’.

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Philippe (Filippo) Buonarroti

1761-1837 • Italy

Communist insurrectionary • Babeuf • Blanqui

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 prison in 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.

Buonarroti sketched at about the time of the Conspiracy of Equals in the French Revolution

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”.

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Aimé Cesaire

1913 – 2008 • Martinique


Aimé Cesaire in 1934 founded the Black cultural Negritude movement in Paris, becoming a poet, writer and politician

Studying in Paris in the 1930s, Cesaire moves towards Black nationalism and anti-colonialism.

He was elected an overseas deputy in the French National Assembly in 1945, sitting as a Communist until 1956, then as an independent until 1978, and finally as a socialist until 1993.

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Paul Eluard

1895 – 1952 • France

Author • Poet • Communist

A surrealist poet in 1924, Eluard joined the Communist Party in 1926 with Breton, and then left in 1933 when Breton was expelled, and rejoining in 1942 when he wrote in most famous poem, Liberty.

In 1947 another PCF member, Fernand Leger, illustrated Paul Eluard s most famous poem, ‘Liberty I write your name’
  • 43 Rue Louis-Blanc – Eluard ( then Eugène Grindel ) in Paris from 1908 to 1913.

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Friedrich Engels

1820-1895 • Germany

Communist • Marx • Second International • Socialist

Following the customary sequencing of their names, ‘Marx and Engels’, I thought, ‘Nice day, let’s follow up the reference in the Communist Manifesto to their first meeting’.

So I walked to Rue Vaneau where Karl Marx lived from 1843 to 1845. There were fields and a pond at the back then (now the gardens of the Matignon Palace).

I then strolled the 35 minutes from there and across the Pont Royal bridge to the place where the Café de la Régence used to be in the Rue Saint-Honoré, opposite the Palais Royal. This was where Karl met the 24-year-old Friedrich Engels (a very handsome young man) on August 28 1844.

Marx, then 26, had moved to Paris to work away from the risk of jail in Germany on a German-French socialist-leaning periodical. He had read and liked Engels’ serialised articles on the ‘Condition of the Working Class in England‘, and they had corresponded. So it wasn’t an accidental meeting.

Upstairs at the Café de la Régence was the epicentre of the French chess circle – where allegedly Robespierre and Napoleon and Louis Philippe had all played chess (no not together!). The cafe also doubled as one of Paris’ four cafe/shop post offices at the time.

Maybe they played chess together? Or bought some stamps?

Unlikely. Engels wrote later: When I visited Marx in Paris in the summer of 1844, our complete agreement in all theoretical fields became evident and our joint work dates from that time.

Their very first joint work, published in German in February 1845, was The Holy Family, a critique of the Young Hegelians. Engels had completed his allocated chapters (1, 2, 3 and sections of others) before he left to go back to work at Manchester’s Ermen & Engels factory on September 6.

Engels visited Marx again, soon after Marx was expelled from France to Brussels. in the summer of 1845 he took Marx on a trip to London and Manchester, preparing the ground for the establishment of the Fraternal Democrats. By then Engels had resigned from his Manchester job

In 1846 and 1847 Engels often travelled between Paris and Brussels attempting to build a Communist Corresponding network. Engels was then expelled from France at the end of January 1848 because of his political activities. He lived during those years on the money sent him by his mother and father.

In the wake of the February 1848 revolution that overthrew Louis-Philippe, Marx was expelled from Belgium and returned to Paris on March 4 1848. Engels joined him there soon afterwards. They both then returned to Germany and on June 1 1848 published the first edition of their New Rhenish Gazette.

With the failure of the 1848-1849 German Revolutions, Engels and Marx were forced to flee. Marx went to London via Paris. Engels to London and then in November 1850 to Manchester where he became manager of the office there of Ermen and Engels, in order to be able to earn money with which to support Marx..

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Zhou Enlai

1898 – 1976 • China

Communist • National Liberation

Zhou Enlai, born to a wealthy Mandarin family had a modern, liberal education and went to university in Japan for a year in 1917. He came to France after spending the first six months of 1920 in prison for his involvement in a nationalist demonstration.

Zhou left China in November 1920 as one of the 1,200 ‘work-study’ Chinese students that the nationalist Li Shizeng, based in France, organised in the early 1920s within his Franco-Chinese cultural programme.

After experiencing work at the Say sugar refinery at 123 – 127 boulevard Vincent Auriol (formerly the boulevard de la Gare), he then spent two weeks in the Renault Billancourt factory.

Zhou with his family wealth behind him, unlike the other Chinese students did not have to work. So he moved quickly into full-time political activity. He joined the Communist Party soon after its foundation, early in 1921. At this time he first met Ho Chi Minh.

In February/March 1922 Zhou moved to Berlin, which was also the centre of the Western European secretariat of the Communist International.

In June 1922 Zhou returned to Paris, lodging at the Hôtel Godefroy, 17 rue Godefroy (where there is one of Paris’ rare plaques to a communist). While there he moved frequently to and from Berlin, helping found in Paris the European branch of the new Chinese Youth Communist Party, and then the European branch of the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomingtang) in 1923.

Zhou Enlai aged about 24 in front of the hotel where he stayed in Paris from 1922 to 1924 in 17 rue Godefroy. there is now a Hotel Neptune at number 15.

From 1923 Zhou employed the 17-year-old Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997) to type out the stencils and run the duplicating machine he had installed in Paris. Deng eventually recovered from being purged by Mao to opening China to foreign investment and the global market in the late 1970s and 1980s.

In 1923 the younger Deng Xiaoping moved to Paris from a village 120 km away to work with Zhou Enlai

In the summer of 1924 Zhou returned to China with a reputation of being an excellent organiser, and became leader of the Shanghai insurrection of 1927. From 1935 he became one of Mao’s most reliable supporters in the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, and was Prime Minister of China from 1950 to 1975.

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Félix Fénéon

1861-1944 • Italy

Anarchist • Art Collector • Dreyfus campaigner

Born in Turin and raised in Burgundy, Félix Fénéon topped an examination to become a senior administrator at the Ministry of War in Paris at the age of 20. During the 1880s he became known as a leading literary and art critic in the Paris. In the 1890s he was accused of being an anarchist bomber and jailed for several months before being found not guilty.

To my great surprise while travelling to Paris on June 20 2019, Marian found an advertisement in the Eurostar magazine for a major art exhibition devoted to Fénéon. It began at the Musée du Quai Branly, where it was essentially devoted to his collection of African art. From October to January 2020 it continued at the Musée de l’Orangerie, where it focused on his anarchist artist friends. The combined exhibition was then scheduled to cross the pond to New York in 2020.

Fénéon wrote for a journal called La Libre Revue in 1883 and 1884 while he was still living with his parents in Rue Vaneau. Its correspondence address was 8 Place du Palais Bourbon. He then became a founding editor of La Revue Indépendante in 1884, whose offices were in the Rue de Médicis. He then became editor of La Vogue in 1885, contributing to Le Symboliste in 1886. All of these posts were part-time.

Fénéon coined the term ‘neo-impressionism’ and promoted pointillism. Very friendly with Georges Seurat, he promoted pointillism. 

Paul Signac painted Felix Feneon in the pointillist style in 1890

At the same, like many intellectuals in the ten years from 1885, Fénéon was attracted by anarchist libertarian and egalitarian ideals. He attended anarchist meetings, was a friend of Émile Henry, the 20-year-old bomber of the Café Terminus. He supported the ‘propaganda by deed’ movement and had a substantial police file. 


The senators’ favourite local Restaurant Foyot in the rue de Conde was bombed by an anarchist on April 4 1894

After the Rue de Condé explosion at the Restaurant Foyot, the police found nothing incriminating at his flat in Rue Lepic. But a flask of mercury and detonator tubes were found in his office at the War Ministry. He was arrested and jailed in the Prison Mazas

Laurent Tailhade, an anarchist friend of Feneon and sole victim of the 1894 Foyot bombing

With 29 others in August 1894 he was put on trial at the Palais de Justice for ‘criminal association’ with other anarchists in the ‘Trial of the Thirty‘. 

This was in the same month that the 20-year-old Italian anarchist baker, Caserio, who in June 1894 in Lyon had mortally stabbed the French President Sadi Carnot, was guillotined. The political climate was highly hostile to anarchism.

In the witness box, however, Fénéon mounted a brilliant defence. He totally ridiculed the prosecution. Fénéon and 26 others were found not guilty.

Fénéon lost his War Office post and steady income. His lawyer, Edgar Demange went on to represent the Jewish Captain Alfred Dreyfus in his two trials in 1894 and 1899.

He was then asked by Thadée Natanson to became editor of La Revue Blanche, an influential artistic and literary journal, sympathetic to anarchist ideas that the wealthy banker’s son had founded in 1889. Its offices were in the Rue Laffitte.

Active in supporting Dreyfus, Natanson was in 1898 one of the founders of the Rights of Man League. His wife Misia, the daughter of the Polish sculptor, Cyprien Godebski, were at the heart of the Parisan cultural and artistic scene at the beginning of the 20th century.

Misia and Thadee Natanson painted by Pierre Bonnard in 1906

Artists like Pierre Bonnard and Toulouse-Lautrec designed the front covers of La Revue Blanche and illustrated articles by authors such as Proust and Gide. He also published poems by Stéphane Mallarmé

Toulouse-Lautrec was one of many leading artists who Feneon attracted to La Revue Blanche from 1895. Here he is using Misia Natanson as a model

Fénéon broadened the journal’s politics to include pieces by Lucien Herr, Léon Blum, Kropotkin and Tolstoy. In January 1898 Fénéon signed the Manifesto of Intellectuals published in support of Dreyfus the day after Zola’s ‘J’accuse’ letter that led to Dreyfus’ second trial. 

Feneon at La Revue Blanche painted around 1896 by Felix Vallotton

La Revue Blanche ceased publishing in 1903 and Feneon then worked as a jobbing art critic journalist.

World War 1 

From 1906 until 1925 Fénéon was artistic director of the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune art gallery, also initially located in the Rue Laffitte. He edited its journal from 1919 to 1926. 

During the World War 1, when some leading anarchists identified with their national governments, Fénéon began to distance himself from anarchism. After the Bolshevik revolution, along with his friend Paul Signac, he became closer to the Communist Party

From 1920 to 1922 he worked as a literary editor for Editions de la Sirène, publishing James Joyce, Jerome K Jerome and many others. In 1936, on the victory of the Popular Front, he hoisted a red flag in front of his house.

He died at Châtenay-Malabry aged 82 in 1944. 

In 1947, shortly before her own death, his widow, Fanny Goubaux, set up the annual Prix Fénéon (Feneon Prize), organised by the University of Paris. This was funded by the sale of much of his by then extensive art collection, bought from antique dealers and given by his friends.

In 1947 Fanny Fénéon established the Prix Fénéon from the proceeds of the three sales of Fénéon’s art collection.

Today, Feneon Prizes for literature and art still offer under 35-year-old poor French artists and writers funding to help them follow their chosen path. In 2018 Julia Kerninon won the literary prize, and Salomé Fauc the artistic prize.

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Pierre Frank

1905-1984 • France

Communist • Trotskyist • 4th International

Member of the Fourth International secretariat from 1948 to 1979.

Of Russian parentage, Frank trained as a chemical engineer. He joined the Communist Party in 1925, but by 1927 supported the Russian Left Oppositio. Early in 1929 hetravelled to Prinkipo, the Turkish island where Trotsky lived after first being exiled by Stalin.

Returning to France a Trotskyist in August 1929 Frank and others launched La Vérité (the Truth), France’s first Trotskyist publication and was accordingly expelled from the Communist Party. From July 1932 until June 1933 he worked for Trotsky as one of his secretaries on Prinkipo.

On Trotsky’s suggestion Frank and other Trotskyists joined the SFIO in June 1935 – only to be expelled in October. In the later thirties Frank had tactical divergences with Trotsky. After an arrest warrant was issued for him in June 1939 he escaped to Belgium and then spent the Second World War in Britain, where he was interned on the Isle of Man until November 1943..

He returned to Paris in 1946 and became part of the leadership of the Trotskyist Parti Communiste Internationaliste. He sided with Pablo [1911-1996] at the time of the split in 1952 and supported the strategy of entry work in the Communist Party.

The PCI was one of the first French organisations to engage in solidarity work in support of the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN). Frank was briefly jailed for his activity. Although the organisation was very small it contained some courageous activists who “carried suitcases” for the FLN, including Henri Benoits [b 1926] and Clara Benoîts [1930] who organised solidarity with Algerian workers at Renault-Billancourt, Denis Berger [1932-2013] who organised jailbreaks, and Alain Krivine [b. 1941] who turned to the Trotskyists in the 1960s out of disillusion with the Communist Party.

Frank continued to play a leading role in the organisation, which grew rapidly after 1968, becoming the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire, until his retirement in the late 1970s. He wrote several books, including a history of the Communist International.

Pierre Frank died in the Pitié-Salpêtrière University Hospital, one of Europe’s largest publicly-owned, a former prison in the Boulevard de l’Hôpital. Others who died there included Josephine Baker in 1975, Michel Foucault in 1984, the same year as Frank, and Princess Diana in 1997.

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Eugen Fried

1900 – 1943 • Czechoslovakia

Communist • 3rd International

The Slovak Eugen Fried became a professional revolutionary in 1919. He had massive influence over the PCF in the 1930s

Eugen Fried was first jailed for his involvement in the 1919 Budapest uprising. In the 1930s he was the Communist International’s Paris representative to the French Communist Party. He was assassinated by the Gestapo in 1943.

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Fernand Grenier

1901 – 1992 • France

Communist, Women’s suffrage

Fernand Grenier was one of the young socialists who joined the Communist Party in 1922. During the Second World War he represented the PCF and the FTP resistance in London with De Gaulle.

On 21 April 1944 Fernand Grenier, the Communist representative at the Consultative Assembly set up in Algeria, moved the successful motion to give women the vote. He was re-elected Deputy to the National Assembly from 1945 to 1968.

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Robert Hardy / Barcia

1928 – 2009 • France

Communist •Trotskyist • Lutte Ouvrière

Son of a Spanish migrant Robert Barcia was a leader of a Trotskyist sect that eventually became Lutte Ouvrière.

Barcia was born in a Paris working-class family, with a leftist Spanish father. At the age of fourteen he joined the Communist Youth in April 1943 when Paris was under the German Occupation.

In September 1943 he was jailed by the French police in the Santé prison for possession of illegal leaflets. In the five months he spent in jail before being released because he was still under 16, he developed his political education copying out the Communist Manifesto by hand .

The parents of one of his fellow prisoners put him in touch when he got out with the Communist Group, the dozen or so Trotskyists led by David Korner (Barta). Korner had refused to unite with the other small French Trotskyist groups because he believed they had made concessions to nationalism.

In September 1944 a comrade from Barta’s group, Mathieu Bucholz, was murdered by Communist Party members to stop him influencing other young communists. This murder made a deep impression on Barcia, who then joined Barta’s group and adopted the pseudonym Hardy.

Between spells in a sanatorium for his tuberculosis, in April 1947 Barcia and other Union Communiste (Trotkyste) members actively supported their comrade, Pierre Bois, [1922-2002] who led the 1947 strike at Renault Billancourt (577 Avenue du Général Leclerc, 92100 Boulogne-Billancourt) that forced the withdrawal of Communist ministers from the government.

The Union Communiste split in November 1949 and disappeared in the early 1950s, but Hardy and Bois kept in contact, despite Hardy spending the whole year 1952 in the Rue Quatrefages tuberculosis clinic.

In 1956 Hardy relaunched the group with the name Union Communiste Internationaliste. The Hungarian insurrection and its repression would, it believed, allow Trotskyism to win many active Communists. Their strategy was to produce regular factory bulletins. This was effectively their only activity, and unlike other Trotskyists they played little role in supporting Algerian independence. In 1962 they launched the paper Voix ouvrière (workers’ voice).

Hardy led the group for nearly 50 years, though he never appeared in public and never wrote under his own name. To earn his living he ran  a  company which trained commercial travellers to sell drugs to doctors.

Voix ouvrière was banned by the government in June 1968, but within a fortnight Hardy and other comrades launched a new weekly paper called Lutte ouvrière (LO – workers’ struggle). It was the first left paper to reappear after the dissolution of virtually all the left sects.

In the aftermath of 1968 LO grew rapidly and raised its public profile considerably. From 1971 it held an annual fête during the Whitsun holidays in the outskirts of Paris – a three-day open-air festival with stalls, political discussion and entertainment. And fit began to contest elections. In particular Arlette Laguiller [b 1940] was a candidate for the presidency on six occasions.

Laguiller, a bank worker who had led a strike and occupation at the Crédit Lyonnais headquarters in 1968, was the first woman to run for the presidency, standing in 1974. Her best result was in 2002 with 1,630,000 votes (5.72% of the total). In 1999 she was elected a member of the European Parliament. By the 1990s LO was distributing regular factory bulletins to over half a million workers.

But despite becoming well-known, LO remained a small organisation. It was tightly disciplined and put very high demands on its members, described by one critic as “soldier-monks”. For reasons of “security” all members had pseudonyms, and they were very strongly discouraged from having children.

Barcia died in 2009, but, in keeping with the cult of secrecy that characterised the organisation, news of his death was not made public till fourteen months later.

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Annie Kriegel

1926 – 1995 • France

Communism • Historian • Resistance • Anti-Communism

A resistant at 16 and then at 19 a member of the Communist Party, she moved to the right after 1956 and became the major anti-communist historian of the French Communist Party

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Pierre Lambert / Boussel

1920 – 2008 • France

Communist • Trotskyist • Parti des travailleurs

One of the few leaders of the fragmented French Trotskyist left to actually put themselves up for an electoral test, in 1988 Lambert stood in the Presidential elections for a ‘Movement for a Labour Party’ and did miserably (116,823 votes).

In 1992 he founded the Parti des Travailleurs (Labour/Workers’ Party) that dissolved itself into the Parti ouvrier indépendant (Independent workers’ party) in 2008.

Arguably, one of his main legacies was the fact that a former member, Lionel Jospin, was prime minister in a cohabitation government with the corrupt President Jacques Chirac from 1997 to 2002, and that several leading trade unionists from the anti-Communist Force ouvrière trade union confederation acknowledged his influence.

Of Russian Jewish parentage Pierre Boussel joined the Communist Youth at the age of fourteen and became a Trotskyist soon afterwards when he failed to understand how the PCF could abandon its anti-militarist positions after the Soviet Union signed the Franco-Soviet treaty of mutual assistance in May 1935.

Some of the tiny numbers of Trotskyists and their sympathisers like Lambert decided to join Maurice Pivert‘s ‘Revolutionary Left’ tendency from 1935 and then the PSOP, the breakaway Parti socialiste ouvrier et paysan (Socialist workers and peasants party). This was set up in 1938 and had around 8-10,000 members.

It was here that Lambert met Pierre Frank and Raymond Molinier (whose membership the PSOP refused). In December 1938 he joined their tiny group first established in March 1936, the Parti communiste internationaliste.

The PSOP, however, decided quickly to expel those like Lambert who attended a meeting of ‘friends’ of the ‘Truth’ newspaper on May 30 1939. This had taken place at the Auger restaurant in the Brasserie du Commerce at No. 48, Rue des Archives, and the expulsions by the PSOP took place a few days later, on June 3 1939.

During the German Occupation Lambert worked clandestinely with the otherTrotskyists in the small circle. On February 15 1940 he was arrested and convicted of threatening the security of the state with a three-year jail sentence. He was being transferred during the collapse of the French army in May 1940 and was able to escape and reestablish clandestine contacts in Paris.

While working to rebuild the CGT under the Occupation, as early as October 1943 he argued for the unification of the divided French Trotskyist groups.

After the war Lambert became part of the leadership of the Parti Communiste Internationaliste (PCI producing the journal ‘Truth’ (La Vérité ) from 46, Rue de l’Arbre Sec.

In 1952 the PCI split. Lambert led the faction that opposed Pablo‘s strategy of entry into the Communist Party and insisted on maintaining an open revolutionary organisation.

Within the Fourth International  Lambert was aligned with James P Cannon in the USA and Gerry Healy in Britain, though he later broke with both. Over the years his organisation had several names, but the group was generally known by his name as the “Lambertistes”.

During the Algerian war the Lambertistes supported the Mouvement National Algérien of Messali Hadj, the bitter rivals of the FLN, who fought a savage war with their fellow nationalists, leaving some four thousand dead on French soil.

On 16 January 1955 Lambert and Piveau organised a meeting demanding the release of Hadj at No. 8 Rue Danton, in the meeting room of the ‘Knowledge Societies’ (Hôtel des sociétés savantes). This led to very bitter relations with the other French Trotskyists, who supported the FLN.

In 1968 it was a member of the Lambertist organisation, Yvon Rocton [1938-2008], who led the very first strike and occupation at Sud-Aviation in Nantes. That sparked off the wave of workplace occupations eventually involving ten million workers.

In 1988 Lambert stood in the presidential election, but obtained only 0.38% of the vote.

Lambert’s insistence on the importance of the history of the movement perhaps explains why a number of France’s most important left-wing historians have been members of his organisation – Pierre Broué [1926-2005], a specialist in the history of communism, Jean-Jacques Marie [b 1937], a biographer of Stalin, Lenin and Trotsky, Benjamin Stora [b. 1950], expert on the Algerian war, and Jean Marc Schiappa [b. 1956], an authority on Babeuf and Buonarroti.

Some 2,000 people attended Boussel’s funeral at the Père Lachaise cemetery, including Jean-Luc Mélenchon  and the three FO-CGT trade union general secretaries who followed Leon Jouhaux from 1963 to 2018, André Bergeron, Marc Blondel and Jean-Claude Mailly.

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Henri Lefebvre

1901 – 1991 • France

Communist • Marxist • Philosopher • Sociologist

Marxist philosoper of art and space and time, Lefebvre joined the Communist Party in 1928 with other surrealists. Fired from his teaching post under Vichy in 1941 he joined the resistance. He left the PCF in 1956 and taught sociology at Nanterre from 1965 to 1968.

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Lenin (Vladimir Ilych Ulyanov)

1870-1924 • Russia

Communist • Armand • 3rd International

Vladimir Ilych Ulyanov (Lenin) first visited Paris in June 1895 to meet Paul Lafargue, Marx’s son-in-law, the first socialist to be elected to the French parliament and a leader of the French Workers’ Party, the POF, Parti ouvrier français.  On December 3 1911, ironically perhaps given Lenin’s political distance from Lafargue, Lenin was one of those who spoke at Paul and Laura’s joint funeral after their suicides on November 25.

Lenin used his first visit to read about the history of the 1848 Revolution at the City of Paris’s Carnavalet Museum iat 23 rue de Sévignés that was created in 1880.  It will be great to visit it again after its 2018-2019 renovation.

In 1902 and 1903 Lenin gave several university lectures under the pseudonym Mr Illine. He also spoke to Iskra political meetings at various locations in Paris while living most of the time in London. He would be put up by Russian exiles while lecturing in the Rue des Écoles.

Trotsky, also in exile, attended at least one of the lectures he gave on the Russian Agrarian question. On 25 February 1903 Trotsky and Lenin spoke at a conference on Iskra‘s agricultural policy.

In December 1902 Lenin and Trotksy, Krupskaya and Natalya, went together to see a show at the Comic Opera in Rue Favart. Lenin leant Trotsky a pair of shoes for the occasion since his were not presentable. Trotsky later complained they were too small: ‘I suffered awfully, and Lenin kept making fun of me the whole time’.

In 1902 and 1902 Lenin and Krupskaya were put up by a Russian exile in 3, Rue de l’Estrapade.

On December 10 1904 Lenin sat for the Russian Jewish sculptor Aronson in the Rue Vaugirard who produced a bust that won a gold medal at the Liege art show in 1906.

Lenin sat for Naoum Aronson in his studio iat 93 rue Vaugirard on December 10 1904. The bust was subsequently displayed in the Soviet pavilion at the 1937 World Fair in Paris.

A few years later Lenin and Trotsky met again in Paris. In 1910 they are recorded as playing chess together and with Guillaume Apollinaire at the La Closerie des Lilas café restaurant at the eastern end of the Boulevard du Montparnasse.

In May 1905 Lenin is recorded as having spoken at a meeting on ‘Our tasks’ at 8 rue Danton. He was back speaking again in May 1908 and used the Sainte-Geneviève library at 10 Place du Panthéon in research for his book on Materialism and Empirical Criticism.

in December 1908 on their arrival from Geneva after staying a couple of nights at the Hotel des Gobelins (24 or 27 Boulevard St Marcel), where Lenin’s younger sister was living at the time while studying at the Sorbonne, Krupskaya and he moved to a second-floor flat at 24 rue Beaunier with his sister and Krupskaya’s mother.

In July 1909 he and Krupskaya then moved to a 48m2 flat at 4 rue Marie Rose, living there until July 1912. It became the Paris Lenin museum, but was sold by the French Communist Party when it needed the money in 2007. [A plaque on the wall outside was taken down soon after.]

Lenin opened a bank account at the Credit Lyonnais branch at 19 avenue du Général Leclerc soon after arriving in Paris. The Café du Lion, just down the avenue at number 5, was where he used to organise meetings of the Bolshevik faction within the Russian Social Democrats.

Lenin used to regularly cycle the 20 minutes to the National Library in the Rue de Richelieu next to the Palais Royal until the bike was stolen one day. But Lenin’s life wasn’t all Bolshevism and research.

On October 13 1909 the news arrived in Paris that Spanish educationalist, anti-monarchist and anti-Church, Francisco Ferrer had been shot by a military tribunal after September’s bloody suppression of an uprising against Spain’s colonial war in Morocco at which Ferrer had not been present.

Hours later Lenin and Krupskaya (and Jean Jaures) went on a 20,000-strong protest demonstration that surrounded the Spanish Embassy (34 boulevard de Courcelles). When the cavalry were ordered to disperse the demonstrators, pistol shots killing a policeman answered the sabre attack,.

In 1909 the 40-year-old Lenin also quickly fell head over heels in love with the 35-year-old Inessa Armand, the mother of five who was also lecturing at the Russian revolutionary school in Paris. Observers wrote: ‘He doesn’t take his eyes off her’. In 1910 Lenin had organized for her to move into a flat next door to him at number 2, rue Marie Rose [No plaque there either.]

Not surprisingly, in 1910-12 Armand and Lenin used to pop out to the Cafe d’Orléans, at 43 avenue de Général Leclerc, 10 minutes from their flats. But that was knocked down and the current café with that name (on the opposite side of the Avenue) is even closer, but without enough charm to merit a drink when I walked by it.

When Lenin left Paris for the last time (heading towards Poland) in July 1912, his comrades held a farewell meal for him and Krupskaya at the Pavillion Montsouris restaurant at 20 rue Gazan.

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Benny Lévy / Pierre Victor

1945 – 2003 • Eygpt

Maoist • Communism • Gauche prolétarienne

Leader of the Maoist Proletarian Left group in the early 1970s, Lévy became Sartre’s secretary from 1973 to 1980. He moved to Israel in 1997 and became a follower of the Rabbi Moshe Shapiro.

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Rosa Luxemburg

1871-1919 • Poland

Philosopher • Economist • Revolutionary

The Rue Riquet Rosa Luxemburg

Rosa Luxemburg lived most of her 48 years a long way east of Paris, mainly in Warsaw and Berlin. But a new garden has been named after her in the 18th Arrondissement of Paris. The Rue Riquet garden is next to the railway lines leading into Paris’ Gare de L’Est. A few kids were playing in the Jardin Luxemburg when I walked round. Trains kept passing in the background. 

The beautiful garden and play area opened in 2014, one hundred years after Luxemburg had spoken alongside the French socialist leader, Jean Jaurès, at a mass anti-war meeting in Brussels, on July 29 1914

Rosa Luxemburg and Jean Jaurès spoke at a mass anti-war meeting in Brussels on 19 July 1914

Just two days before Jaurès was murdered and a week before the First World War broke out. Luxemburg had travelled to Belgium as part of the last desperate efforts of the Second International to stop the war. With Karl Kautsky and Hugo Haase she represented Germany at that emergency meeting. Keir Hardie was there too, representing Britain. 

World War 1 

In his last ever public speech, given at Brussels’ Cirque Royal, Jaurès congratulated the 100,000 Berlin workers who had demonstrated against war the day before. And he added: ‘You will allow me to especially pay tribute to the courageous woman, Rosa Luxemburg, who fans the flames of her ideals close to the heart of the German working class’. 

Luxemburg had already spent a year in German prisons. She would return to Germany from Brussels to be jailed for most of the First World War. 

She was born in Russian-controlled Poland in 1871. A big anti-Jewish pogrom took place in Warsaw in 1881, and this direct experience of anti-Semitism took the ten-year-old girl towards anti-racist internationalist politics. 


The Lithuanian Leo Jogiches with whom Luxemburg fell in love in Zurich in 1890

At 16 she got involved with a small socialist group. At 18 she followed her brother and enrolled at Zurich University, where she met and fell in love with a Lithuanian student and already committed revolutionary socialist, Leo Jogiches

Together they set up the Polish Kingdom Social Democratic party (SDKP) and after enrolling for a doctorate in Zurich, Luxemburg travelled to Paris to edit their new paper, Sprawa robot¬nicza (Workers’ Cause), whose first issue appeared in July 1893. 

Plaque for the ‘International Activist’ Rosa Luxemburg put up in 2010 outside 21 rue Feutrier

Luxemburg stayed initially near the Sacré Coeur in northern Paris. She lodged with another Polish revolutionary, Adolf Warszawski (murdered by Stalin in 1937), and his wife. On International Women’s Day, 2010, one of the few plaques to leftists in Paris commemorating her was erected at 21 rue Feutrier

In 1895 Luxemburg moved to a third floor flat at 7, Avenue Reille in the 14th arrondissement, sharing with another revolutionary, Cezaryna Wanda Wojnarowska.

While editing Workers’ Cause, Luxemburg regularly used to research her thesis at the Polish Library on the Ile St Louis and the French National Library at the Palais Royal (as did Lenin 15 years later). Her doctorate on the Industrial development of Poland was accepted at Zurich University in 1897. 


Luxemburg and Jogiches were political comrades and lovers for over half of their too short adult lives. But Luxemburg complained bitterly from Paris that all he ever wrote to her was about what she should put in the paper. 

In one letter she wrote: ‘Dearest, I was so furious [with your last letter] that I wasn’t going to write again before I left [Paris]…. Your letters contain nothing, absolutely nothing that isn’t about Sprawa robot¬nicza … Not a word about anything new that has affected you personally…The only thing that unites us is the Cause and old shared feelings. I feel as little desire to come back to Zurich as I have to stay here…I’ve got masses of impressions and thoughts – but no-one to share them with! You?’ 

In 1898 she had a marriage of convenience with a German socialist to get German nationality and moved to Berlin. There, Jogiches finally joined her in 1900. Her intimate relationship with Jogiches ended in 1906 and during the next five years she had another lover, the son of Clara Zetkin

German SPD 

Luxemburg speaking at an SPD meeting in Stuttgart in 1907

In 1899 Luxemburg published ‘Social Reform or Revolution’, a critique of Eduard Bernstein. She criticised Lenin’s views on party organisation and advocated mass strikes rather than parliamentary activity. 

Her growing political and theoretical influence in Germany, her public debates with Lenin about the centralized party and nationalism, and her criticisms of Bernstein made her a leading figure in the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). 

These qualities, coupled with her speaking Yiddish, French, Polish, Russian and German, led her to become a member of the Second International Bureau in 1903. In 1905 her experience of the Russian Revolution led her to theorise the role of the mass strike as a way of transforming the working class from a reactive to a proactive historical force. 


In 1912 a speech Luxemburg gave a speech on ‘Women’s Suffrage and Class Struggle’ at the Second German SDP women’s rally. She argued: 

‘Women’s suffrage is the goal. But the mass movement to bring it about is not a job for women alone, but is a common class concern for women and men of the proletariat… the proletarian woman’s lack of political rights is a vile injustice.’ 

She ended her speech: ‘Fighting for women’s suffrage, we will also hasten the coming of the hour when the present society falls in ruins under the hammer strokes of the revolutionary proletariat.’ In 1918 she supported women’s sections being created within the Spartakus League. 

After the German Social Democrats (as did the French Socialists and British Labour Party) voted war credits in August 1914, Luxemburg organised a group of resistors. 

They included Karl Liebnecht, Frank Mehring, Paul Levi, Clara Zetkin and Jogiches. 

Spartakus League 

From jail Luxemburg continued to campaign against the war, and in 1917 created the Spartakus League as the far left of a new Independent SPD opposed to the war. 

After the failed January 1919 Spartakus uprising that she had not encouraged but supported once it began, Luxemburg was arrested again. 

Liebnecht and Luxemburg’s portraits are now displayed in the German Historical Museum in Berlin

On her way back to prison she was shot in the head by the officer commanding her guards. Her body was dumped in a canal and an army communique issued saying she had been killed by angry crowds. Karl Liebknecht was assassinated in the same way the same day. 

Luxemburg’s presumed body was only finally recovered in May. By then, Jogiches, who had started asking questions about her murder, had also been arrested and then ‘shot will trying to escape’. 

The Rue Riquet Rosa Luxemburg garden in December 2016

In winter it’s not always easy to find a red flower against a background of railway beams and shunter trains. But there was at least one in the Rosa Luxemburg garden when I walked through it.

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Georges Marchais

1920 – 1997 France

Communist • PCF General Secretary

Marchais joined the Communist Party in 1947 and started to work full-time for the PCF in 1956. General Secretary from 1972 util 1994, he was also a deputy in the National Assembly from 1973 to 1997. His shift towards eurocommunism had little effect on the PCF’s declining membership and vote in the 1980s and 1990s.

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Karl Marx

1818-1883 Germany

Communism, First International, Parti ouvrier

Karl Marx’s Jewish father, Heinrich, studied law in the French law school in Mainz and converted to Protestantism when Russia annexed the Rhineland to keep his legal job. Karl, himself, studied at the French secondary school in Trier on the Moselle river that flows through France to Germany.

It was not, therefore, by accident that the 25-year-old newly-married young neo-Hegelian atheist student chose to emigrate to Paris when political opposition became impossible in Colonge. Karl and Jenny von Westphalen lived in Paris from October 1843 to January 1845.

Jenny von Westphalen iat about the time of her 1836 engagement to her childhood friend in Trier, Karl Marx, whom she married in 1843. Over the next 14 years they had seven children, of whom only three daughters survived into adulthood.

They stayed in two different addresses in the Rue Vaneau. Arnold Ruge had invited Marx to Paris to work on the German-French Annals based at No. 22.

Editorial meetings of the Annals took place at Henry Bornstein‘s editorial offices of the fortnightly Vorwärts! Pariser Deutsche Zeitschrift Forward! Paris German Journal] that appeared in 1844. The meetings with French leftists included Marx as well as Etienne Cabet, Proudhon, Pierre Leroux and Louis Blanc. The German idea of collaboration didn’t go down to well with the French socialists, however, and only one double issue of the Annals was ever published in February 1844.

Ruge put the couple up at No. 23, where one flat was already the home of the German leader of the League of the Just, German Maurer. With approximately 60,000 German workers in Paris at this time the League became a migrant organisation, supported by many communistic skilled workers, and meeting regularly in a now unknown venue in the Cours de Vincennes that links the Place de la Nation to the Porte de Vincennes.

There were fields and a pond to the Eastern side of Rue Vaneau, part of the estate belonging to the then ruling Orléans branch of the Bourbon family, whose huge house is now known as the Matignon palace. This became the official residence of French prime ministers in 1935.

Marx published two articles at this time, the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, and On the Jewish Question‘, where he began to develop the argument that the working class was the key agent of social change. Flora Tristan had also placed the working class at the centre of political action a year earlier, and in The Holy Family Engels had written a brief defence of her from the Young Hegelians. Between April and August 1844 Marx wrote the 1844 Paris Manuscripts now known as the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844.

After their first child, Jenny, was born on 1 May 1844, Marx and Jenny rented a 3-room flat on the other side of the street at No. 38 Rue Vaneau. This was where guests such as Engels, Proudhon and the Russian, Bakunin came to discuss politics.

While he lived in Paris Marx met with many leftists and republicans. He visited Daniel Stern‘s salon on the Quai Voltaire. He met with Proudhon several times in a bar in the Rue Coquillière from October 1843 onwards, and also visited him in his student room home at 36 Rue Mazarine. Proudhon was also invited to Marx’s flat at 38 Rue Vaneau.

On one walk I strolled the 35 minutes from there, across the Pont Royal to the site of the Café de la Régence on the Rue St Honoré opposite the Palais Royal and where, today, No 155 Rue St Honore is at an angle with the Rue St Thomas du Louvre. This was where Marx met the 24-year-old German socialist Friedrich Engels on August 28 1844, and where Marx first talked to Engels about the concept of historical materialism.

Friedrich Engels in his mid-20s, about the time he began working with with Marx on The Holy Family

Marx, then 26, had read and liked Engels’ articles on the Condition of the Working Class in England, and they had corresponded. So it wasn’t an accidental meeting. Upstairs was the centre of the French chess circle – and allegedly characters as diverse as Robespierre, Napoleon and Louis Philippe had all played chess there (not together!). The cafe also doubled as one of Paris’ four cafe/shop post offices at the time.

After agreeing to collaborate with Marx on what was published in 1845 as The Holy Family, Engels continued on his way home to Germany on September 6 1844. By then the core of what became known as ‘Marxism’ had already taken shape in Marx’s thoughts.

Marx was expelled from Paris to Brussels on February 3 1845 after an article he wrote in Vorwärts resulted in pressure being put on Guizot, Louis-PHilippe’s prime minster, by the Prussian king. There, Marx completed the Theses on Feuerbach, arguing that the world only changes through actual, physical, material activity.

Marx was briefly in Paris again in 1848 during the revolution before leaving for Cologne in April. On 5 March 1848, after arriving from Brussels he spoke at a meeting of the Central branch of the Society for the Rights of Man and the Citizen in the Rue St Martin, Marx spent several nights at the Hotel Manchester at 1, Rue de Gramont.

After a few nights there he moved in to the headquarters of the German Communist League at 10 rue Commines (the old Rue Neuve de Ménilmontant) in the Marais. While he was in Paris on March 8 he helped found the German Workers’ Club, and attended meetings of the German Democratic Club that met in the Mulhouse Bar at 8, Boulevard des Italiens. Others present at that time were Ludwig Feuerbach and Arnold Ruge.

Marx left Paris for Cologne at the beginning of April 1848, where he would edit ‘The New Rhine gazette’.

Back in Paris again the following year after his expulsion from Germany, Marx and his family lived from June to August in a couple of rooms in the Rue de Lille under the name of Meyen.

Marx was an observer of the start of the Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle demonstration against French intervention against the Roman Republic on June 13 1849. The Left Republican contingent set off from their meeting place at 6, rue Thérèse (then called the Rue du Hasard).

Marx’s next visit to Paris was under the false identity of Alan Williams to spend a week in July 1869 with his daughter Laura, and son-in-law, Paul Lafargue at their home at 47 Rue du Cherche-Midi.

Paul and Laura Lafargue about the time they moved in to the Rue Hautefeuille in 1869.

Marx’s final visit to Paris was in June 1881 . He stayed with his Parisian first-born daughter, Jenny, at her and Charles Longuet’s house in Argenteuil for three months after returning (still ill) from a break in Algeria that Engels had hoped would improve his health.

Jennychen’s own health was poor, although she disguised this from her father. In September 1881 she gave birth to a fifth child [Jenny Longuet (1881-1952)] before dying four months later at Argenteuil from bladder cancer. She was 38 year old.

Marx’s wife Jenny died in December 1881, shortly after he returned to England. The news of Jennychen’s death devastated him early in 1882. He died in London just over a year later at 64 on 14 March 1883 and was buried in Highgate Cemetery in an area reserved for agnostics and atheists.

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