From one war to another
Anarchism, Socialism, Paris Exhibition, Dreyfus, Revolutionary syndicalism – in progress
Anarchism, Socialism, Paris Exhibition, Dreyfus, Revolutionary syndicalism – in progress
Numbers: 14, 39, 49, 62, 71
The road was named ‘Brittany’ after a never completed project of Henry IV to build a great square into which several streets would run, each with the name of a different province. After two streets were merged in 1851 the road is nearly half a kilometre in length. The even-numbered side of the road was demolished in 1920 to widen the road to its present width.
No. 14 was where the first issue of the centre-left newspaper Libération was prepared and published on April 18 1973.
The oldest covered market in Paris at No. 39, the Market of the Red Children (Le marché des Enfants Rouges), was established in 1628 near an orphanage whose children were dressed in red, the colour of charity). During the ‘Bloody week’ at the end of the Paris Commune in May 1871 the market was fortified and defended.
On January 2 1910 Lenin attended a revolutionary ‘goguette‘ – a kind of drinking + sing-song / poetry-and-literature dinner with roughly 20 people – organised by La Muse Rouge in a room on the first floor of No. 49. We don’t know if he was accompanied by Krupskaya or Inessa.
The venue (shown in the photograph above taken in the 1910s) was the Third arrondissement’s communal building. At the time there were hundreds of these goguette events being organised regularly in Paris. The Muse Rouge theatre group was expelled by the PCF in 1925.
By 1921 the building included the office of the Paris Federation of the SFIO (Socialists) and this was where Breton and Aragon came to apply to join the new French Section of the Communist International, less than a week after the majority of socialists had voted at the Tours Congress to affiliate to the Third International.
In 1922 the cooperative workers’ restaurant and café La Famille Nouvelle based at No. 49 was visited by many leftists including Ho Chi Minh. Many left events took place, including monthly dinners of the Revolutionary Esperantists, who were entertained by the Socialist Federation’s choir.
On September 1 1939 Palmiro Togliatti was arrested by the French police and taken to the Police Station at No. 62. They didn’t find out his true identity and he was jailed only for holding false papers and finally released in February 1940.
In the bloody week of May 1871 a barricade across the road at No. 71 defended by the 86th National Guard battalion mounted strong resistance to the Versaillais troops. This was also the address where Sylvain Maréchal, who drafted the Equality Manifesto of April 1796 is supposed to have lived.
Numbers: 2, 11, 12, 13, 22
Dividing the 2nd and 9th arrondissement, the Boulevard gets its name from the Capucine Monastery, whose gardens used to lie along the south side of the road.
During the Paris Commune‘s final days on May 22 1871 a barricade with 12 canon crossed the road at the Place de L’Opéra.
The first Pan African Congress was held at the Grand-Hôtel de la Paix at No. 12 on February 19 1919. Fifty black representatives who had been excluded from the Versailles Peace Conference met together, closely watched by the police. The American William du Bois and Senegalese Blaise Diagne were its joint chair persons.
The Café de la Paix on the ground floor of the hotel on the northwest corner of the junction between the Boulevard meets the Opera Square opened on June 30 1862. On July 14 1937 it was attacked by striking waiters.
Throughout the German occupation a notice was displayed saying: Jews not allowed (Interdit aux juifs).
The victorious Austrian Emperor Francis 1 stayed at the Colonnade private mansion at Nos. 37 to 43 in 1814 and again in 1815, when it became the Foreign Ministry. It stayed that until 1853.
On September 7 1831 a demonstration outside the Hotel de la Colonnade, the Foreign Ministry at Nos. 37-43, was dispersed violently by the army. The demonstrators shouted: ‘Long Live Poland, Down with the Ministers’.
In the early evening of February 23 1848 another demonstration outside the Ministry sparked the 1848 Revolution. The 14th Line Regiment, protecting the sacked reactionary prime minister Guizot, fired directly into the crowd killing 52 people and wounded many more. The bodies were then paraded throughout Paris and by the morning most arms shops had been looted and some 1,500 barricades erected.
A big meeting room at No. 39 saw several political meetings at the end of the Second Empire in 1870 and 1871. On September 22 1889 Louise Michel and Maxime Lisbonne, known as the d’Artagnan of the Commune, organised a meeting there in that year’s election campaign. Lisbonne’s manifesto stated:
‘ENTERTAINER I am! ENTERTAINER I remain! Give me your votes to swell the numbers of those who dare to say the same, and you will see that if I hesitate, like a real entertainer, the words on the paper that will come out of the hat will be ‘DEMOCRATIC SOCIAL REVOLUTION’.
Before the Military School (École Militaire) was built (1752 to 1760) the boggy area that today lies South of the Eiffel Tower was used for growing vegetables. In 1765 it was decided to use this mainly flat ground to practise manoeuvres, and to name it the ‘God of War Field’ (Champ-de-Mars).
During the French Revolution the area was renamed ‘The meeting field” (Champ de la Réunion). It was surrounded by a ditch and given an ornate entrance and used for national celebrations. The first, on September 20 1790, was to commemorate those killed by the mutineers and those who died in putting down a mutiny that had taken place at Nancy between August 5 and August 31 1790.
The mutineers had imprisoned their officers when they held back some of their wages for alleged expenses they had incurred for laundry and shoes. When they surrendered, 22 were hung, 41 were condemned to 30 years as galley slaves and 72 put in prison. One was the last to be tortured to death in France using a wheel.
The biggest event in the Champ de Mars took place on July 14 1790.
Just over a year later, after Louis XVI’s abortive escape bid, it was where people were asked to come to sign the petition calling for the King’s abdication. And so on July 17 1791 it where the Mayor of Paris, Bailly, and La Fayette carried out the orders of the constitutional monarchists who controlled the Constituent Assembly. These were to disperse the crowd. The soldiers opened fire and then the cavalry dispersed everyone else.
On December 30 1793 a celebration of the retaking of Toulon from the English and the Spanish was held there, organised by the regicide painter Jacques-Louis David.
He organised an even bigger event in the Champ de Mars on June 8 1794, the Festival of the Supreme Being. This was Robespierre’s pet dream of replacing Christianity with a more egalitarian and rational religion.
From September 18 to September 22 1798 the Directorate organised the first exhibition of the products of French industry at the Champ de Mars. This was the precursor of the 19th and 20th century universal exhibitions that took place in 1867, 1878, 1889 (when Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley spent 6 weeks there), 1900 and 1937.
One of the jobs given to those enrolled in the 1848 National Workshops was to create flatten the terraces and plant trees on the Champ de Mars.
On April 16 1848 a march of National Workshop workers on the Town Hall assembled there to demand a second postponement of the national elections after their success on March 17. This time they also sought a change of the provisional government to put Louis Blanc in charge. They were dispersed by the national guard on the orders of Ledru-Rollin.
The area was also used during the ten days from Louis-Napoléon’s December 2 1851 Coup d’État to execute prisoners. On just the one night of December 4 336 were shot without trial.
On May 21 1871 the National Guardsmen defending the canons parked in the Champs de Mars fought hard against superior numbers of Versaillais troops. Finally overrun, many (perhaps up to 1,500) captured defenders of the Commune were then shot.
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.
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.
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.’
The street finally took its current name in 1881. It roughly translates as ‘the street of torture’. The strappado is where the victim has their hands tied behind their back and they are dropped from a height, sometimes with weights added to the body to increase the pain. In English the word ‘estrapade’ has come to mean where a horse rears and plunges and kicks to try and unseat its rider. This is because it was the site of an ancient deep ditch dug outside Paris’ oldest medieval Wall that was constructed on Philippe Auguste’s order from 1190 to 1215.
Hazan (IOP) describes the Wall’s left-bank route as a ‘semi-eclipse that essentially encompasses the Latin Quarter. Starting at the Seine, where the Institute of France now stands, going up the rue Mazarine to the Porte de Buci, the old wall went along rue (formerly Fossés-) Monsieur-le-Prince up to the top of the Montagne Saint-Geneviève (now the Panthéon) where ‘the names of streets and squares still perpetuate its memory: Fossés-Saint-Jacques, Estrapade, Contrescarpe. It then descended towards the Seine in a straight line, following the rue des Fossés-Saint-Victor (now Cardinal-Lemoine) and rue des Fossés-Saint-Bernard, reaching the river at the tower of La Tournelle.’
On June 24 1848, the workers’ barricade across the rue de l’Estrapade could be taken only after the Panthéon had been captured. To do this canons were placed in the rue Soufflot. Then soldiers who had got through to the square through a backdoor in the law school entered the Panthéon, where they took prisoners before executing them and then attacking and overwhelming the rue de l’Estrapade barricade.
Number 3, five minutes’ walk to the rue des Écoles where Lenin was lecturing, was where he and Krupskaya were put up by another Russian exile in 1902. The plaque on the wall confirms that Denis Diderot lived at the same address from 1747 to 1754 while he was publishing his enlightenment Encylopedia, whose aim was ‘change the way people think‘.
The Comic Opera, set up by Louis IV in 1714, had the first Favart Theatre built for it in 1783, when it was inaugurated in the presence of Marie-Antoinette. Charles-Simon Favart (1710-1792) was a popular playwright who helped inaugurate the comic opera vaudeville style.
The first theatre in Rue Favart was destroyed by fire in 1838, and a new one built on the same site in 1840. The building was burnt down again in 1887 with nearly 100 people in the audience killed.
In 1898 the third Opéra Comique theatre was opened in Rue Favart in the presence of the French President, Félix Faure. It was the major work of architect, Louis Bernier (1845-1919).
Four years later Lenin loaned Trotsky a pair of respectable shoes so the two couples (Vladimir and Krupskaya, Natalya and Leon) could go along to a show, but Trotsky kept complaining the shoes were too tight.
Number 11bis, 20, 20bis, 21, 26, 31
Crammed full of smallish theatres since 1818, when the Montparnasse Theatre first opened its doors, the road ran along the outside of the Farmers’ General tax wall. This made it a good location to drink wine that was not subject to the Paris tax, and the numbers of music halls, theatres and restaurants that sprang up gave it its name. It was absorbed into Paris in 1863.
Sometimes political meetings were held in the cafés in the street. Gustave Courbet and many of Paris’ bohemian intellectuals and artists used to drink at the Café des Mille Colonnes, next to Bobino at No. 20bis, in the 1860s. On December 17 1904 all the Russian revolutionary groups in Paris met there together.
During 1870-1871 the dance hall, Bal du Jardin de Paris, at No. 21 was used to hold 30 public political meetings.
The Montparnasse Theatre you now see at No 31 was rebuilt in 1886 and is on the list of historic monuments. It staged the Paris premier of Berthold Brecht’s ‘Threepenny Opera’ (l’Opéra de Quat’sous) in 1928.
The writer Simone de Beauvoir spent the academic year of 1936-1937 based at the hotel then named Royal-Bretagne living there with Sartre when he was in Paris at No. 11bis. Today, this art-deco hotel has another name and looks more upmarket than it did in the 1930s.
Nearly opposite De Beauvoir’s hotel was the famous Bobino music hall at No. 20, sadly demolished in 1985 and turned into a Mercure hotel with a new Bobino now at the back. De Beauvoir and Sartre saw two singers there in 1932, singing anarchist and anti-militarist songs.
Numbers 5, 11, 19, 43, 70, 101, 110
Since 1948 the Avenue is now named after Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque, the first French general to arrive in Paris in August 1944 – in American-loaned tanks and armoured vehicles and wearing American helmets with the Croix de Lorraine painted on their sides. He died in a plane crash in 1947 just as he was about to argue the case for French withdrawal from Indochina – before the wars of national liberation in the region had really started.
From 1863 to 1948 the tree-lined avenue was called the Avenue d’Orléans, running from the Denfert-Rochereau Square to the southern ‘ entrance to Paris (Porte d’Orléans), at the huge roundabout now called the Place du 25 Aout 1944, commemorating the Liberation of Paris.
It is one of Paris’ oldest roads, down which pilgrims used to follow what the Pope officially called one of the three most important pilgrimages for Christians in 1492 to the cathedral of Saint Jacques de Compostelle in Spain. This pilgramage had begun as early as the 9th century AD.
In the days when it was still the Avenue d’Orléans Lenin was often seen in the Café du Lion at No. 5 , where he organised meetings of the Bolshevik faction of the Russian social democrats.
The French police estimated there were around 25,000 Russians in Paris around 1910, of whom 1,000 were revolutionary socialists and 500 anarchists. They were being watched both by the French police and by the Czar’s secret police, the Okhrana. On one occasion an agent spying on them was chased by Lenin and other Bolsheviks along the pavement in front of No. 101.
In 1911 a meeting of the Bolshevik faction organised by Lenin in the first floor room at the Café Les Manilleurs at No. 11 saw a near physical fight between them and Anatoli Lunacharsky and other followers of his brother-in-law, Bogdanov in the Vpered faction.
In December 1908 Lenin opened a bank account at the Crédit Lyonnais bank branch at No. 19.
During his time in the area, Lenin used occasionally to be seen at the music hall called the Fantaisies de Montrouge at No 70. It was converted from being a theatre to the Grand-Cinéma that re-opened there in September 1911. That building was knocked down and rebuilt in reinforced concrete in 1922 and then became the 1,300-seater cinema the Mistral. Gaumont finally closed it in July 2016 and sold it to a housing developer.
The headquarters of the Russian Social Democrats on the first floor and the printworks of the ‘Social Democrat’ paper in a office in the back of the yard, were at No 110. Among those regularly present between 1909 and 1912 were Lenin, Zinoviev, and Kamenev.
Numbers 2, 4, 7
The street was built in 1898 over an old quarry. It was named after an earlier owner of the land.
Number 4, the 48 square meter two-room second-floor flat was occupied by Lenin, Krupskaya and her mother from July 6 1909 to June 12 2012.
The flat was bought by the Communist Party in 1955 and opened as the Paris Lenin museum in 1955. On March 25 1960 it was visited by Krushchev along with Maurice Thorez. It was given the Russian Communist Party’s seal of approval a second time in 1985, when it was visited by Gorbachev and Georges Marchais.
In 2007, however, the PCF sold it when things were going downhill for its fortunes . The plaque outside the building was then taken down.
Father Corentin Cloarec (1894-1944), the Franciscan vicar of the nearby Saint-François monastery at No. 7 who was chaplain to the Denfert-Rochereau resistance group, was assassinated there by the Gestapo on June 28 1944. The brick monastery was built in 1935 and its remarkable chapel glass is now listed as a historic monument.
What was once the Ruelle des Capucins was renamed in 1806 soon after the death of the astrologist Pierre Méchain, due to its proximity to the Observatory that was founded in 1667.
The Union printers, a Russian immigrant printing works, was set up here in 1910. Hazan (WTP) writes that it was supposedly used by Plekhanov and Lenin. It then moved in book printing, along with publications of the modernist movement.
In 1913 Monatte had the CGT paper, La Vie Ouvrière printed here.
Shortly after his death in the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, Guillaume Apollinaire’s Calligrammes was also printed here. From 1930 to 1933 the Union also printed the Surrealist group’s periodical, Le Surrealisme au service de la revolution.
The printshop finally closed in 1990.
Numbers 99, 102, 103, 108, 126, 132, 142, 159, 171
The boulevard du Montparnasse crosses three arrondissements. The odd numbers on the north side are all in the 6th; the even numbers from 2 to 66 are in the 15th; and from number 68 onwards the addresses are all in the 14th. It was named with reference to the Greek residence of the muses by 17th century students after a tiny hillock in the area.
One excellent source on the left in Paris, the website Parisrévolutionnaire suggests that both Lenin and Trotsky were at the Dôme in 1905. Hazan (IOP), however, insists the Dôme… should never have been allowed to call itself the café of Trotsky and Kertész.
What is certainly true is that in the early years of the 19th century, the Dôme at No 108 became a major intellectual centre, and attracted many left political and artistic people.
Pablo Picasso as well as Modigliani, Utrillo and Apollinaire all drank or ate at le Dôme (No. 108) and la Rotonde (No. 103). The owner of La Rotonde was denounced by Aragon on July 13 1923 for having been a police informer on Lenin before World War One. Other neighbouring well-frequented intellectual and artist cafes of the interwar years included la Coupole (No. 102-104) and le Select (No. 99) .
Diego Rivera was also part of this leftish Montparnasse scene in the early 20th century.
From 1865 to 1866, after the publication of his first novel, Émile Zola lived in a room at No. 142.
In the 1920s Le Dôme became a meeting place for many English-language writers like Ernest Hemingway, Sinclair Lewis and Sylvia Beach. In 1924 John Dos Passos joined other American writers at No. 171 the La Closerie des Lilas bar.
At the eastern end of the Boulevard near the Port Royal, this famous restaurant is where in June 1941 Simone De Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre organised a clandestine ‘Socialism and Freedom’ meeting of about 50 intellectuals, including Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Yet in the face of increasing repression they did not do much more, and in September 1941 Sartre agreed to take the job of a secondary school teacher who had been fired for being Jewish.
Hemingway was also known to eat frequently in the years 1924-1926 at the Le Nègre de Toulouse restaurant at No 159.
Louis Aragon met Mayakovsky for the first time at the Coupole on November 5 1928. The Coupole was requisitioned between 1940 and 1944 for German-only events
Earlier, under the Second Empire that he satirised so brilliantly, Émile Zola lived at No 142 in 1865 to 1866.
Numbers: 19, 54, 102, 108
Building began in 1838 and in 1839 it was formally named the Rue Rambuteau to honour the Seine department Prefect from 1833 to 1848. Claude-Philibert Barthelot de Rambuteau who initiated its construction with the widening of streets in central Paris to 13m.
The kilometre-long east-west was conceived after the 1832 cholera epidemic had proved the case made by the hygienists to pull down many of the Paris’ narrow medieval streets. Its tearing up a sizeable area of old Paris stimulated one of the first Parisian housing speculation spikes.
One of the streets knocked down and merged into the road was the Rue de la Chanverrerie where, at the junction with Rue Mondétour, at approximately No. 102 Rue Rambuteau, a barricade was built on June 6 1832. This was where Victor Hugo placed the Caberet Corinthe and the death of Enjoiras in Les Misérables.
Several other barricades appeared in the road in the early days of the February Revolution and again during the June days of 1848. Fighting also broke out on December 3 1851 as some tried to resist the seizure of power by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte.
On April 28 1848, after the shift against radical republicanism, Armand Barbès held a meeting of the Club de la Revolution at No. 54, the home of Citizen Furet. Barbès had set up as a more ‘moderate’ alternative to Blanqui‘s more insurrectional Société républicaine centrale, and this meeting discussed the election results and set in motion the attempted insurrection of May 15.
A personal interest of mine is that No. 108 was built on the birthplace of the adventurer cum comic poet Jean-François Regnard. On August 10 1779 his name was given to the second shortest-street in Paris next to the newly-built Odéon Theatre. This street was where my father James Jefferys (1914-1996) lived nearly half his life.
Number: 58, 64, 66, 102, 104, 110,
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.
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 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.
Numbers: 63, 79, 106, 158, 191
One of Paris’ oldest streets it now runs for 1.3 km from the Rue Rivoli up the the Place de la Republique, with the Square du Temple garden created in 1857 leading off it at No. 158.
The name Rue du Temple comes from the Templars district, a large area of land given to the Knights Templar military religious order around 1170. In 1240 the 50 metre high keep was built within a walled enclosure. It initially housed the king’s treasure, and then became a prison. Its most famous occupants from August 13 1792 were Louis XVI and his family.
On December 18 1795 Marie-Thérèse Charlotte de France, their daughter, was the only Bourbon to leave the Tower alive and without a trip to the guillotine. Louis XVI was guillotined on January 21 1793. Marie-Antoinette on October 16 1793. Elisabeth, the king’s sister, on May 10 1794. Louis, the king’s son, died from tuberculosis in the keep on June 8 1795.
On June 29 2017 the Square’s name was changed to Square du Temple – Elie-Wiesel in honour of the human rights campaigner and Holocaust survivor.
The Templar Tower was knocked down by Napoléon Bonaparte in 1808 partly to prevent Royalist pilgrimages to the site and partly, some argue, to spare his future wife, the sight of her aunt’s last address. The garden and Square was one of 24 laid down under Haussmann’s plan for giving Parisians a little more air.
On February 27 1871 the Square at No 158 was the meeting point of the National Guardsmen on their way to the Champs-Élysées to try and stop the Prussians from entering Paris. Every Saturday during the Commune the band of the National Guard played there to raise funds for the widows and children of men who had died in the war.
Former soldiers who had joined the Commune and foreigners were the first to be executed in the Square on May 25 1871.
Women Communards such as Elisabeth Dmitrieff and Nathalie Le Mel used to meet in a women’s club at the Grand café de la Nation at No. 79, the 17th century Hotel de Montmor. On International Women’s Day March 8 2007 under the recently elected Socialist Paris mayor, a small triangular square at the meeting point of the Rue du Temple and the Rue de Turbigo was named the Place Elisabeth Dmitrieff. It is just outside the entrance to the Temple metro station.
In October 1870 Blanqui was in hiding at No. 191. The flat belonged to Eugène Cléray, a clockmaker and follower of Blanqui who was deputy mayor of the Third arrondissement during the Siege of Paris. Blanqui stayed in the flat on October 31 before going to the Hotel de Ville to see how the insurrection against the new republican government’s indifferent handling of the war with Prussia was going.
During the occupation of Paris the Central Telephone Archives at No. 106, built in 1927-1928, was taken over by the Germans, and was one of their remaining strong-holds in August 1944.
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.
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?
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: