1871-1914

From one war to another

The Dreyfus affair was the moment that redefined the French Left between the two wars against Germany

Anarchism, Socialism, Paris Exhibition, Dreyfus, Revolutionary syndicalism – in progress

Rue du Croissant

Arrondissement 2

Numbers 8, 10, 12, 13, 16 20

This street with an amazing history was named after a café sign of a crescent moon with gold stars that hung outside No. 12 way back in 1612.

More recently it became a major centre of left republican and socialist publications. The office of Le Charivari (1832-1893) where Honoré Daumier and other caricaturists worked was at No. 16. This was also the address of Le Siècle, whose office was used for the historic meeting on February 21 1848 that decided to resort to arms if troops were used against the banqueteers.

On September 9 1870 Henri Rochefort printed the first issue of La Marseillaise at No. 16. At about the same time Auguste Blanqui was printing La Patrie en Danger at No. 13.

Under the Commune in 1871 the street became full of daily and weekly newspapers. Henri Rochefort published Le Mot d’Ordre at No. 8. La Mère Duchêne was printed at
No 10.

L’ami du Peuple (originally the title of Marat’s publication in the French Revolution) was also printed at No. 13, where people could also buy Le Cri du Peuple and La Fédération, the journal of the National Guard’s Republican Federation. Its press also printed the newspapers La Sociale and La souveraineté du Peuple. Le Père Duchêne was launched at No. 16 and then banned a week later on March 12 1871. The satirical paper Le Grelot was published at No 20.

Later, under the Third Republic in 1884-1886, the L’Intransigeant, involving Rochefort and Nathalie Le Mel, was published at No 12. This initially left paper evolved rapidly towards the extreme right.

‘Newspaper Printing Works’ is still proudly displayed above the modern door to 16 rue du Croissant, former home of L’Humanité.

In 1910 the building at No 16 housed the editorial and business offices of l’Humanité.  This was where its founder, Jean Jaurès , was about to go when he was assassinated on July 31 1914 at the Café du Croissant on the corner with rue Montmartre.

The site where Jean Jaurès’ assassin fired two bullets through a café window in the street on the right of my photograph.

PLACES

Rue Montmartre

Arrondissements 1, 2

Numbers: 1, 24, 64, 113, 123, 138-142, 144, 146, 154

The cafe at the corner of Rue Montmartre and Rue du Croissant where Jean Jaurès’ assassin fired two bullets through the café window in the street on the right of my photograph.

On January 11 1898 Zola submitted his defence of Alfred Dreyfus J’accuse to Georges Clemenceau, editor of the L’Aurore newspaper at No. 144. It was printed the following day.

Jean Jaurès was assassinated in the adjoining cafe at No. 146 on 31 July 1914.

Rarely for Paris, two plaques mark both these important spots in the story that helped define the modern French left.

The street has many other associations with the history of left struggles in Paris too. At No. 1, the barricade across La Pointe St Eustache saw considerable fighting on May 24 1871.

No 24 was the location of an arms depot created in 1942 by Paris city employees during the German occupation.

Nearly a century earlier, in March 1848, the Hôtel d’Angleterre at No. 64 was the location of the German Social Democratic Society organised by the poet Georg Herwegh, and the arms depot set up by the Republican National Guard to arm the ‘Democratic Legion’ of German volunteers formed to go to the support of the German Republican Hecker insurrection in Baden in April 1848.

During the 1830 Revolution François-Vincent Raspail was the president of the Revolutionary Club based at No. 113 that Buonarroti supported. It soon became the Society of the Rights of Man that was responsible for the first huge demonstration (and riot and barricade made famous by Victor Hugo) of June 5-6 1832.

A northern stretch of Rue Montmartre was a centre of newpaper printshops.

No. 123 was associated with left newspapers. In 1893, Le Chambard socialiste was based there. The CGT and then CGTU trade union paper Worker’s Life (La Vie Ouvrière) was printed at the Dangon printworks there from 1919. In 1927 the same printshop produced Ho Chi Minh‘s Vietnamese paper, l’Âme annamite (The Vietnamese soul).

On 18 April 1904 the first issue of the daily newspaper l’Humanité founded by Jean Jaurès was printed at No. 138-142. The same address in 1916 saw a left socialist anti-war newspaper, Le Populaire de Paris, appear. It was founded by Marceau Pivert, Jean Longuet, Paul Faure and Henri Barbusse.

On July 18 1927 the then Communist leaders Marcel Cachin and Jacques Doriot (who became a fascist leader between 1934 and 1936) were arrested at the L’Humanité offices now based at its printing works. The same address, No. 138-142, was the interwar editorial offices of the Young Communist publication, L’Avant-Garde.

On 27 February 1848, Proudhon published the first edition of his newspaper, The People’s Representative, at No. 154.

On November 15 1793, four months after Jean-Paul Marat‘s assassination, the delegates from the Montmartre commune called for the Rue Montmartre to be renamed Rue Mont-Marat.

Originally some believe the name Montmartre derived from ‘Mont Mars’ because of an alleged Roman temple to Mars built on the hill. Others consider it was because criminals or Christian martyrs were executed on the top of hills.

Plus d’informations

PLACES

Rue Réaumur

Arrondissements 2, 3

Numbers: 57, 90, 100, 111

One of the 22 metre-wide roads hammered through the old medieval street network of central Paris under Baron Haussmann from 1854 to 1858. It absorbed some of the ancient streets it went through and destroyed others. Its final section, westwards from the rue St Denis, was only opened in 1897.

The road was named after the biologist René Antoine de Réaumur (1683-1757) because ot its proximity to the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers, some 50 metres going north where the road crosses the Rue de St Martin.

Léon Blum was moved round the corner from his birthplace in rue St Denis to No. 57 when he was a young boy.

A member of the Paris National Guard and of the International Workingmen’s Association, Jacques Durand, lived at No 90 (at the time No. 8 rue Thévenot). A cobbler who had stood as an IWMA candidate in the February 8 1871 elections he was elected by the 2nd Arrondissement to the Paris Commune on April 21. On May 25 1871 after fighting ended in the area he was arrested at home, interrogated at the Town Hall of the arrondissement, and then taken to the back of the Notre-Dame des Victoires church and shot.

From 1924 to 1940, the editorial office and printworks of what was then a right-wing paper, ‘L’Intransigeant‘ that was edited by André Malraux in 1934, were at Nos. 98-100.

Outside the printing works and offices at No.100 in 1927 when an American film star came to Paris

After the June 1940 Occupation of France the building housed a German press centre from 1940-1944, and was targeted several times by the Resistance.

After Liberation in 1944 No. 100 became the offices and printshop of the papers Franc-Tireur and the Défense de la France that eventually became France-Soir.

The L’Algérie libre paper of Messali Hadj’s Mouvement pour le triomphe des libertés démocratiques was also printed at No. 100 from its launch at the end of 1948 until its suppression in November 1954. On June 17 1950 sellers of the paper were arrested, and on September 18 1950 when the edition of the paper was seized for the first time, a protest demonstration led to the arrests of 1,100 Algerians who came to protest outside the printworks.

The newspaper Jean Jaurès co-edited at No. 111 in 1898, La Petite république, was France’s widest circulation socialist paper in the 1890s. This was where he published ‘The Proofs’ of the innocence of Dreyfus.

Plus d’informations

PLACES

Rue de Richelieu

Arrondissements 1, 2

Number: 58, 64, 66, 102, 104, 110,

The magnificent reading room of the National Library of France at No. 58 used by both Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg as well as many other socialists and communists..

Lenin got a reader’s ticket to No. 58 on the recommendation of a socialist member of parliament, Louis Roblin. Lenin visited the library regularly throughout his stay in Paris from 1909 to 1912. On one occasion the bicycle he used to journey from the 14th arrondissement was stolen according to police reports.

The journal of the Internationalist Communist Party, French Section of the Fourth International, Workers’ Truth, that appeared from August 1952 to May 1962, was based at offices at No. 64. Michel Raptis (Pablo), based in Paris until De Gaulle’s 1958 Coup d’Etat was the 4th International’s secretary through this period.

In March 1848 the Fraternal Association of Linen Seamstresses, a women’s revolutionary club set up by Elisa Lemonnier and its president, Désirée Gay, used to meet at No. 66, the Hôtel de Brouilly.

On July 27 1830 the seizure of the presses at the printshop of the ‘Times’ ( Le Temps) at No. 102 was the trigger that set off the 1830 July Revolution against the increasing Bourbon repression under Charles X.

The first meeting of the radical republican Friends of the People club, attended by Pierre-Jean de Béranger and Étienne Cabet among others took place at No. 104 on July 30 1830.

The editorial offices of the socialist daily paper launched on April 18 1904 by Jean Jaurès, Anatole France, Octave Mirbeau and Aristide Briand and others, l’Humanité, were then at No. 110.

The near kilometre-long road stretching northwards from the centre of Paris was given the name in 1633 after Cardinal Richelieu, alongside his Cardinal Palace (now the Palais-Royal). During the French Revolution, from 1793 to 1806 it was called the Rue de la Loi.

MAP

Villa de la Tour

Arrondissement 16

Number 96

Jean Jaurès lived at 96 bis villa de la Tour from 1899 until his assassination in July 1914

Built in 1874 as an offshoot to the Rue de Tour (part of the old rue du Moulin de la Tour at Passy), where he lived briefly at No. 8, Jean Jaurès lived at 96 bis, villa de la Tour from 1899 until his assassination ion 31 July 1914. His body was brought back there that same evening.

PLACES

Avenue de Wagram

Arrondissements 8, 17

Number: 37/39

Looking up the Avenue to the Arc de Triomphe around 1900

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.

The entrance that led to the Salle Wagram around 1900

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.

Caroline Remy, the anarchist journalist who joined the Communist Party in 1921 shown here painted by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

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.

Socialism

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

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

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

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

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

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

Work in progress