The Pompidou Centre in rue Beaubourg, built between 1971 and 1977, marked a physical turning point in the history of Paris.

Pompidou, Giscard d’Estaing, Maoism, Trotskyism, Left Union – in progress

Rue de l’Arbre Sec

Arrondissement 1

Numbers: 15, 39, 46

Named either after a draper’s street sign showing a tree without leaves or from the hangman’s scaffold a the street’s northern end, on the corner with the  Rue Saint-Honoré, in the 13th century it was the north-south road crossing the 10th century city walls.

Friedrich Engels lived at No. 15 (formerly No. 11) in 1844 when he came to visit Marx in Paris. The building is now a primary school, previously for girls.

Engels stayed at No. 15 in 1844 when he visited Marx and ignited their life-long collaboration.

After the First World War, the pioneers of Algerian national independence used to meet at No. 39, the ironmonger’s shop belonging to Hadj-Ali Abdelkader. In 1926 he was both a member of the Central Committee of the French Communist Party and first president of the North-African Star movement created that year.

The German ‘League of the Just‘ formed largely of exiled German skilled workers used to meet in 1836 at No. 46 led at that time by Wilhelm Weitling.

Pierre Lambert ran the Parti communiste internationaliste also at No. 46 in 1950-1951, producing the newspaper, La Véri, from 1946 until 1958 when it was turned into a journal.


Rue des Archives

Arrondissement 3

Numbers: 48, 58, 76

The Brasserie du Commerce and its Auger Restaurant at No. 48 were a regular meeting place for left groups in the mid and late 1930s. The Young Socialists (Jeunesses socialistes), ‘Bolshevik-Leninists around ‘Truth‘, and the Communist-dominated Secours Rouge (Red Cross) that changed its name to Secours populaire (People’s Help) all used to meet there.

It was at the Brasserie du Commerce that Marceau Pivert, Daniel Guérin and the Luxemburgist René Lefeuvre drew up the constitution of the ‘Revolutionary Left’ tendency within the SFIO on September 25 1935.

No 48 was also the place where Pivert’s new left revolutionary socialist party, the PSOP, decided to exclude the small numbers of Trotskyists including Lambert who had started to ‘enter’ it in 1939.

In 1808 the National Archives were placed in the Hôtel de Clisson at No. 58. It was built first in 1371 (its turreted gateway survives) and then acquired by the Duke of Guise who changed the name to the Hôtel de Soubise.

One of the barricades erected during the brief insurrection of May 12 1839 by the Seasons Club led by Blanqui and Barbes was based at No. 76, across the road at what was then the junction of 18 Rue du Grand Chantier with the Rue Pastourelle.

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Rue Danton

Arrondissement 6

Numbers: 8, 10

The 1896 Congress of the Feminist International took place in the recently completed Hôtel des sociétés savantes (elite Knowledge Societies – ranging from Sociology to Zoology and Astronomy) at No. 8.

This was also the venue for a thousand-strong meeting to hear Trotsky speak on December 6 1907 about ‘The stages of the Russian Revolution and the Current Political Situation‘.

Lenin spoke more than once at the Knowledge Societies meeting hall. On May 12 1908 he spoke there on ‘Our Tasks’ and on November 29 1909, just after he came to live in Paris, he spoke on ‘Counter-Revolutionary Liberal Ideology’. He gave a lecture on Leon Tolstoy who had died two months earlier on 18 January 1911, and in June that year spoke on’ Stolypin and the Revolution’.

The Italian socialist Pietro Nenni spoke there at an advanced Socialist school on January 8 1935.

On 16 January 1955 Pierre Lambert and Marceau Pivert organised a meeting demanding the release of Messali Hadj in the same huge meeting room.

The building was bought by the Sorbonne in 1985 and since 2005 is the Research Centre of Paris IV – Sorbonne university.

About where No. 10 now stands in 1865 was No 1 Rue Larrey, where Nathalie Le Mel lived with her three children and organised the cooperative kitchens of the Marmite association. This was also an address where the International Working Men’s Association continued to organise after it was banned by Napoleon III.

The short street was only built between 1888 and 1895 and was named after the French revolutionary Danton from the start.

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Communism as an international struggle for freedom. This 1951 socialist realist painting by Boris Taslitkzy shows French dockers fighting to stop arms going to French Indochina

What is shared between those who define themselves or are defined by others as ‘communist’? And how may ‘Communism’ be distinguished both from French anarchism and French socialism, with which it shared much common history and ground?

Babeuf was guillotined on 27 May 1797 as leader of the Conspiracy of Equals against the Directorate

Manifesto of Equals

The 1795 Paris revolutionary ‘Manifesto of Equals’ inspired by François-Noel Babeuf and rescued from oblivion by Philippe Buonarroti (1761-1837) summarised what remained (and remains) common to nearly all those who described themselves as communist across the following two hundred and some years:

We need not only that equality of rights written into the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen; we want it in our midst, under the roofs of our houses… We lean towards something more sublime and more just: the common good or the community of property! No more individual property in land: the land belongs to no one. We demand, we want, the common enjoyment of the fruits of the land: the fruits belong to all.

We declare that we can no longer put up with the fact that the great majority work and sweat for the smallest of minorities. Long enough, and for too long, less than a million individuals have disposed of that which belongs to 20 million of their kind, their equals.

Let it at last end, this great scandal that our descendants will never believe existed! Disappear at last, revolting distinctions between rich and poor, great and small, masters and servants, rulers and ruled.’

After agreeing to this general statement of belief, communists had much more to disagree with each other upon.  

We have divided the considerable history of Communism in France into five periods:

Communism 1830-1917

For nearly 80 years before the redefining of communism with the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the 1920 formation of the…

Communism 1918-1938

The Communist (Third) International was formed in Russia in 1919. The Soviet Communist Party directly dictated French Communist Party policy from…

Communism 1939-1947

From the shock of the 1939 non-aggression pact between Moscow and Berlin to holding ministries in the French government from 1945…

Communism 1978-to date

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the end of the Soviet Union, changes to its traditional working class constituency…