From one war to another
Anarchism, Socialism, Paris Exhibition, Dreyfus, Revolutionary syndicalism – in progress
Anarchism, Socialism, Paris Exhibition, Dreyfus, Revolutionary syndicalism – in progress
Union Sacrée, Pacifist opposition, Women strikers, Mutineers – in progress
Numbers 2, 5, 34, 41, 45, 47
The rue des Écoles was the first of the broad streets driven through the Latin Quarter of Paris by Haussmann as a major East-West carriageway. It was given this name in 1852 since it crossed the Paris district with the highest concentration of universities/ colleges (Schools). Hazan reports (IOP) that the second, more successful attempt to create an East-West road on the left bank was the Boulevard Saint Germain. Its final section was only opened in 1877.
From 1816 until 1843 the Institute of Young Blind Persons was located at No. 2, on the site of a 13th century gate in the Philippe-August wall that was finally demolished in 1684. A plaque dating from 2002 records this as the address where Louis Braille (1809-1852) developed what became the braille reading system.
On 7 September 1870, after Napoleon III‘s defeat and capture at Sedan on September 2 in the Franco-Prussian war, Blanqui published the first edition of a daily, La Patrie en danger (‘The country in danger’). Initially he supported the new Republican government, formed on September 4. The daily’s editorial offices were based then at No. 34, but the paper only published for five days until September 12.
The barricade at No. 45 was quickly destroyed and the defenders executed. Priority in the executions was given to soldiers who had supported the Commune, considered deserters from the Versaillais army, and foreign fighters.
As early as 1873, however, students who later included Jules Guesde began to discuss Marx’s ideas at the same Café Soufflet on the corner of the Rue des Écoles and Boulevard St-Michel.
The poet Paul Verlaine lived at No.5 in the apartment belonging to Rachide Eymery in November 1886.
In 1902-3 Lenin gave three lectures on the Russian agrarian question to the Sorbonne University’s École pratique des Hautes études at No. 47 and at 16 rue de la Sorbonne, round the corner. Trotsky attended all three of them.
A secret printworks was placed in the basement of the Sorbonne’s Science Faculty at No. 47 in 1941. It printed the paper, Defence of France from September.
Hazan (IOP) adds: ‘Between the river and Rue des Écoles, a number of old bookshops-cum-publishers remain to remind you that until the end of the ancien régime, Rue Saint-Jacques had a virtual monopoly of printing – from the time that the three Gering brothers, who came from Konstanz, established their presses at the sign of the Soleil d’Or in 1473.’
Opened in 1870 the road was named after the paternalist industrialist Frédéric Japy. In the late 18th century he invented machine tools that could make some parts of clocks and built workers’ housing to keep his skilled home workers close. Some of his workshops were nearby.
No. 2 was built in 1870 as a covered market, but it was then converted in 1884 into a gym that could also hold political meetings and was known as the Salle Japy. In the 1900 photograph above the Salle is on the left.
At the end of this meeting the new version of l’Internationale was sung together by the different groups for the first time, becoming the anthem of French socialism. The song’s words had been written in June 1871 by the Communard Eugène Pottier to the tune of La Marseillaise, but they were set to the currently-known melody in 1888 by the Belgian socialist Pierre De Geyter.
Many other significant left meetings took place in the Salle Japy. On April 22 1920 the Third Federal Congress of the Railway workers there decided to call an unlimited strike from May 1st for the nationalisation of the railways. On March 7 1925 Marcel Cachin told a Communist meeting there ‘It shouldn’t be that women have two bosses: their employer and their husband’.
But under the German Occupation the hall was also first used as an internment centre for around 5,000 ‘migrant’ Jews. ‘Foreign’ Jews were the first to be rounded up on May 14 1941 and then deported to their deaths.
On July 16 1942 when René Bousquet, Secretary-General to the Police for the Vichy Regime, ordered the partially autonomous French police to round up Jews in Paris, women and children were interned in the Salle Japy before being deported.
Number: 1, 22
On the St Louis island this very narrow street was built between 1614 and 1646 and named after François Le Regrattier, the wealthy treasurer of the Swiss Guards, the mercenary soldiers who served the kings of France from 1471 to 1830. He and two developers were awarded the contract to build on the Island. Its current length was decreed in 1868 when it incorporated the ‘Headless Woman Road’ (La rue de la Femme sans Tête).
No. 1 at the southern side of the Island, in a prime location with a view of Notre-Dame, contained the apartment belonging to the heiress of the Cunard Lines, Nancy Cunard. She had many lovers and from 1925 to 1928, Louis Aragon was largely living there with her.
The founder of the French Workers’ Party. Jules Guesde (then Jules Bazile), was born in No. 22 on November 11 1845.
One of 12 broad radial roads that leaves the Arc de Triomphe from what used to be called the ‘Square of the Star’ (Place de l’Étoile) and was renamed Place Charles-de-Gaulle in 1970. The road was first opened on January 16 1789 when the section of the Farmers’ tax wall was completed between the Etoile (Neuilly) and Roule (Ternes) customs posts. It became de Wagram on March 2 1864 during the Second Empire to honour Napoleon I’s significant victory over the Austrians at the Battle of Wagram on July 6 1809.
The Salle Wagram at No. 37/39 witnessed some key meetings in the history of the Left in France. On the site of a guingette (open air café) run by a Napoleonic war veteran since 1812 on a country lane outside the city walls (and so providing cheap wine), under the restoration he developed it into dance hall, the Bal Dourlans.
In 1865 a new covered hall designed by Fleuret was inaugurated surrounded by two rings of seats. In 1899 the hall was given in a legacy to one of the five academies grouped within the Institut de France, which continued to run it as a dance hall, concert hal, exhibition halll and venue for political meetings.
Immediately after the 5th Congress of the Second Socialist International was held at the Salle Wagram from September 23 to 27 1900, leading to the establishment of a permanent international committee, an even more important development took place.
From September 28 to 30 1900 the Second Congress of French Socialist organisations took place at the Salle Wagram. Jules Guesde (P.O.F.), Jean Allemane, Jean Jaurès and Aristide Briand were all present. During it Guesde’s Parti Ouvrier de France decided to leave the unity meeting.
On March 28 1910 Vera Figner presided at a fund-raising concert at the Salle Wagram to support Russian revolutionaries escape from prison. Among those who attended were Lenin and Maxime Gorky, although Lenin avoided meeting Gorky since he didn’t wish to have a political argument with him.
Shortly before Lenin left Paris he attended an event at the Salle Wagram on April 15 1912 to honour the centenary of the birth of Alexander Herzen, the founder of Russian socialism.
On the third anniversary of the Russian Revolution, November 7 1920, Pierre Monatte, the anarchist Caroline Rémy and Boris Souvarine were among those who attended a celebration meeting at the Salle Wagram.
André Malraux attended at least two meetings organised by the Communist Party in the Salle Wagram. One in 1933 was support of ErnstThälmann, the jailed leader of the German Communist Party, and on December 23 1935 he spoke at the second anniversary of Dmitrov’s acquittal of setting fire to the Reichstag.
On July 30 1936 Malraux was given huge applause at the Salle Wagram when, returning from Spain, he spoke at the first major solidarity meeting with Republican Spain.
Under the Occupation the fascist French Popular Party mounted a ‘Bolshevism against Europe’ exhibition at the Salle Wagram that opened on March 1 1942. On March 8 three resistance fighters failed to set off a bomb in the exhibition. The Romanian-born Jew André Kirschen (aged 15 and a half), Karl Schoenhaar and Georges Tondelier were arrested. They were tortured and the two older men were executed. Kirschen was sent to a concentration camp because of his youth, and survived.
After the Second World War the Salle Wagram was hired by the extreme right on October 28 1948 to hold a meeting for ‘Peoples oppressed by the Bolsheviks’. A counter demonstration by 12,000 communists was attacked by the police, involving 1 death and 300 wounded.
After the war it was also the major Paris jazz venue, with musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Bud Powell and Django Reinhardt all playing there. Sidney Bechet performed his last concert there in 1958.
On September 1 1950 a communist meeting in support of the Vietnam liberation movement was held at the Salle Wagram. Its principal speaker was Léo Figuères, a resistance fighter who had visited Vietnam and whose arrest had been ordered by the military.
The Algerian liberation movement whose president was Messali Hadj, the Mouvement pour le Triomphe des Libertés Démocratiques, held huge meetings at No. 37 on June 13 1950 and, in protest against police violence on May Day, on May 5 1951.
The Algerian war for independence that began in 1954 saw a joint protest meeting of the SFIO and Marceau Pivert‘s recently founded (June 1955) Mouvement pour la justice et les libertés outre-mer (Movement for Justice and Freedom in the Colonies) taking place at the Salle Wagram on October 7 1955. The meeting called on the government to stop sending military reinforcements to Algeria.
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%.
Work in progress