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..

More info / Plus d’informations


The rise of Republicanism, Socialism and Feminism. Key dates

On August 7 1830 Louis-Philippe agreed to a new Constitutional Charter. This promised freedom of the press and declared that censorship would never be re-established. Within weeks there was an explosion of papers with political cartoons.

On November 4 1830 Charles Philipon launched a weekly newspaper, La Caricature, whose four pages of text were accompanied by two of lithographs.

A month later the government reacted. On December 4 1830 it restored the stamp duty tax on newspapers and re-introduced censorship. Philipon’s response in the Foam of July cartoon above showed Louis-Philippe blowing bubbles of many of the unfulfilled promises in the Charter: popular elections, mayoral elections, an end to ‘jobs for the boys’.

Philipon was acquitted for this cartoon but was arrested again. On November 14 1831 he first drew Louis-Philippe as an image transformed into a pear. He was jailed for a year in January 1832 at Sainte-Pelagie prison, where he was joined by Daumier for his cartoon, Gargantua.

Daumier’s 1831 cartoon showing Louis-Philippe demanding ever more in taxes while excreting increasingly authoritarian laws earned the artist six months in prison

The Orléans monarchy deceived those who had hoped the relatively bloodless July Revolution would lead to a constitutional monarchy and deeply angered the Republicans who had been sceptical from the outset. At the same time, industrialisation was beginning to transform small bits of France, particularly its major towns and Paris. The scene was being set for the re-emergence of French radical republicanism and its more edgy components, socialist and feminist thought and organisation.

The slow growth of an increasingly impoverished urban working class, the much more rapid growth of a wealthy upper class of merchants, financiers and of the lawyers on whom they depended, coupled with the spread of literacy and connectivity through railway travel all occurred against living memories of revolutionary democracy, secularism and of Napoleonic modernity.

The young who had been the first to support the insurrection and even to die in 1830 were the first to experience disillusion. The change of King had neither removed aristocratic privilege nor did it guarantee a free critical press.

Many workers were resisting the commodification of their lives that followed the development of huge workplaces in which they had no rights to collectively resist or to make collective demands.

Many young middle and working class women not only experienced the same disenfranchisement that their male peers did, but considered that the enlightenment and French Revolutionary calls for full male franchise, freedom and democracy should also apply to their gender.



Second Empire, Coup d’État, pomp and defeat

Louis-Napoléon was mercilessly caricatured by Daumier and others

Coup d’état, Second Empire, Haussmann, Colonialism, Sedan, National Government – in progress

The topography of Paris changed dramatically under the Second Empire. Driven by dual needs to re-engineer whole areas to facilitate military intervention against resistors and to create and sustain housing speculation, Louis-Napoléon’s Paris prefect, Georges-Eugène Haussmann, invested public funds massively in renovating Paris.

Near the very beginning of this process, the realisation by some commercial entrepreneurs that the developing railway system made it possible to put on sale together a wide variety of national and international manufactured products and foodstuffs led to the establishment of what we now call Department stores. Huge stores that sold many different products rather than just one type of good or service catered for Paris’s growing wealthy upper and middle classes.

On November 18 1852 the Bon Marché store opened its doors on the Rue de Sèvres. With its fixed prices, acceptance of returns and advertising it revolutionised the shopping habits of well-to-do Parisians.

Four years later the second oldest surviving department store was opened on the rue Rivoli. At first it was called ‘The Parisian Bazar’, and from 1856 it was renamed the ‘Bazar Napoléon’ before the end of the Second Empire in 1870 led to its current name BHV (Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville). In 1865 Le Printemps was opened on the corner of the Boulevard Haussmann and the Rue du Havre, close to the busy Gare St Lazare, the capital’s first railway station built in 1837.

Boulevard des Capucines

Arrondissements 2, 9

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.

The Vaudeville Theatre at No. 2 organised a benefit show by the Art Theatre for Gauguin, Flora Tristan‘s grandson, and Verlaine on May 21 1891.

Lenin also showed up there on January 12 1910 to see a play called ‘The Barricade‘ by the catholic reactionary Paul Bourget.

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 radical democratic German poet Georg Herwegh put up Marx and Jenny von Westphalen at No. 13 when the couple first arrived in Paris on October 12 1843.

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’.

More info


Rue du Cherche-Midi

Arrondissement 6

Numbers: 38, 39, 44, 47, 91

Named in 1832 after a shop sign showing a painted medieval sun dial with people looking for midday at 2 pm in the afternoon, the road brought together three shorter streets.

The Cherche-Midi military prison at No. 38 had originally been a monastery whose religious community was suppressed in 1790. It then became a factory making army uniforms and then a supply depot. It was largely demolished in 1847 although the trials of many of those arrested in the workers’ uprising of June 1848 took place there.

A new prison with 200 individual cells was built there in 1853. Prisoners worked in silence during the day and were isolated in their cells at night.

Several Communard fighters were slaughtered there on May 30 1871.

This was also the location of the official degradation of Captain Alfred Dreyfus on 24 December 1894.

On 22 September 1939 a demonstration outside the prison took place in support of the 16 court-martialed and jailed conscientious objectors, who refused to fight in the French army. On November 11 1940 the students arrested at the Armistice Day demonstration at the Place de l’Étoile were imprisoned here by the Germans who had taken the prison over.

In a bad state of repairs it stopped being used for military prisoners in 1947, after which it was only used for military tribunals.

On September 5 1960 the court martial took place here of six Algerian FLN fighters and 18 members of the Jeanson French support network.

The prison was finally demolished in 1966 and the Human Sciences building finished in 1970, which it now shares with the School for Advanced Studies in Social Science.

After his marriage to Adèle Foucher, Victor Hugo lived at No. 39 opposite the prison with his in-laws from 1822 to 1824. This was just up the road from No. 44, where Hugo had lived as a child in 1813-1814.

Paul Lafargue and Laura Marx moved into No. 47 on December 1 1868 soon after their marriage. Karl spent six days with them in July 1869 under the false identity of Alan Williams. This address was where the couple committed suicide together in 1911.

When she arrived in Paris in 1861 from Brittany, Nathalie Le Mel worked at the Angel Entreprise at No. 91. She was one of the first women to join the International Workingmen’s Association.

Plus d’informations


Rue Commines

Arrondissement: 3

Numbers: 10, 15

Named in 1864 after Philippe de Commynes, the road was built through the site of the Convent of the Daughters of Calvary in 1804, when it was first called the rue Neuve de Ménilmontant,

When Marx arrived in Paris in March 1848 he stayed in the offices of the German Communist League at No. 10. While there he met Engels and Ferdinand Flocon, a member of the new Provisional Government like the Worker Albert. Marx left Paris after the defeat of the June insurrection.

In 1839 Albert was living at No. 15 when he was one of the leaders of the Four Seasons Club organised by Blanqui and Barbes.


Boulevard des Italiens

Arrondissements 2, 9

Numbers: 2, 8, 9, 19, 22, 30

Boulevard des Italiens by Gustave Caillebotte (1880)

One of the ‘Great Boulevards’ in a wealthy part of Paris, it was built on the allotments outside the city when in 1670 Louis XIII’s wall around Paris was declared obsolete. Initially called the ‘New Boulevard’ and then the ‘Depot Boulevard’ (after the 1764 regimental arms depot there). It was finally named after the Italian Theatre built there in 1783 that is now occupied by the Comic Opera.

Even numbers are in the Ninth arrondissement, while odd numbers are in the Second.

From December 1919 to 1923 Louis Aragon and André Breton with other surrealists used to meet regularly in the Café Certà at No. 2. This address was in the ‘Passage de l’Opéra‘ – two parallel galleries of cafés and shops first built in 1822 and demolished in 1925.

The Mulhouse bar was based at No. 8. In March 1848 meetings of the German democratic association used to take place here, attended, among others by Karl Marx and Ludwig Feuerbach.

Ironically, on the other side of the Boulevard, at No. 9, in 1942 to 1943 the Vichy government tried unsuccessfully to recruit French workers to work voluntarily in Germany.

Crédit Lyonnais’s headquarters was built between 1876 and 1913 in the grand Haussmann style. This didn’t stop it experiencing a strike and occupation in 1968

Arlette Laguiller, who became the first woman to stand for President of France as a candidate of the Trotskyist Lutte Ouvriere sect in 1974, led a strike and occupation in 1968 at the Credit Lyonnais headquarters at No. 19 in 1968. The building had been the first in Paris to be lit by electricity in 1876.

Louis Blanc lived above the Tortoni café at No. 22 for a period.

No. 30 was the site of a bomb left by the anarchists Action Directe against the Israeli Leumi bank on 13 April 1985.

Plus d’informations


Rue de Lille

Arrondissements 7

Numbers 23, 45

The old Rue de Bourbon running parallel to the Seine was renamed the Rue de Lille in 1792 to commemorate the successful defence of Lille against an Austrian army, whose six-day bombardment of the town destroyed half of Lille’s houses.

After the 1814 restoration the street’s name reverted again to Bourbon before going back to Lille again in 1830. Unusually, it kept this name – even under the Second Empire, where Louis Napoleon often swept out names associated with the French Revolution of 1789-1794.

The street does four plaques, including one to Max Ernst, who lived at No. 19 from 1962 up to this death in 1976, but neither Friedrich Engels nor Karl Marx’s stays are acknowledged.

Engels lived at No. 23 from 1846 to 1847, where the police kept a close eye on him as he wrote reports of the emerging republican and democratic movement for German and the Chartist Northern Star papers.

From June to August 1849, while fighting the fearful French government’s stringent conditions for granting him exile after his May expulsion from Germany (he had to live in Morbihan in Brittany), Karl Marx and his family came back to Paris secretly and lived at No. 45 under the name of Meyen in two rooms rented to a person called Ramboz.

Ironically, directly opposite the rooms lived in by Engels and Marx, stood the Orsay Palace. This was built between 1810 and 1838 and its ground floor became the central building of the French State Council (Conseil d’État) in 1840, while its first floor housed the French Exchequer Accountants (Cour des comptes) , two of the most important legal and financial institutions of the French state. The palace was burnt down during the Commune on the night of 23 to 24 May 1871, and the Gare d’Orsay was built on the site to transport visitors to the 1900 Universal Exhibition.

Ordered by Napoleon to serve as a barracks and headquarters of his Overseas Department, the Orsay Palace was burnt down in 1871. Today the site is partly occupied by the Orsay museum.

Further along the street there was a very important barricade erected across it at No. 50 during the Commune – and made famous by Émile Zola in his 1892 novel la Débâcle (The Downfall), the penultimate novel in the Rougon-Macquart series.


Rue Mazarine

Arrondissement 6

Numbers 5, 34, 36, 70

The road was named in 1687 after the nearby Four Nations College founded by the chief minister to Louis XIII and Louis XIV, Cardinal Mazarin. This is now the Institute of France, whose dome is seen at the end of the street.

It runs along the length of the Philippe August 13th century city wall, the base of one of whose towers can still be seen in the courtyard of the Institute of France at No. 5.

The Mazarin College, now the Institute of France at the end of the road shown here in the early 20th century, was where the revolutionaries of July 28 1830 distributed gunpowder before the assault on the Hotel de Ville.

The first of several cooperative Marmite restaurant was opened by Nathalie Le Mel at No. 34 in 1868. Associated with the Paris section of the International Workingmen’s Association, it offered food and political discussions

Proudhon had a long association with Rue Mazarine. He roomed in No 36 in 1844 and 1845, when he had several discussions with Marx there.

By 1847-1848 Proudhon was living in a cheap top floor room in the house built at No. 70, the same address as the novelist of Parisan poverty, Henri Murger..

Plus d’informations


Rue des Moulins

Arrondissement 1

Numbers: 14, 25

The road was given the name Mill Street after the mills situated on a small hill that existed there as late as the 17th century. It was opened in 1624 and the hillock levelled out by its new owner.

From January to December 1844 the fortnightly German language paper Vorwärts! (Forward!) was published by Henri Bornstein at what was then 32 rue des Moulins but is now No. 14. Its circulation was about 1,000 copies, and Marx became a major editor of it from the summer. This was where Bakunin stayed when he first arrived in Paris in July 1844.

Vorwärts! was outlawed on January 25 1845 after an article was published applauding an attack on Prussian King Frederick William IV.

Meetings of the editorial collective of the Deutsch–Französische Jahrbücher (German–French Annals), also took place there. However, only one double issue appeared in February 1844. Several of contributors and potential contributors met and argued there frequently in 1844, eventually going their own ways. They included Proudhon, Leroux, Etienne Cabet and Louis Blanc, as well as Marx, Arnold Ruge and Bakunin.

The Desenne printworks that published the radical newspaper Le Vieux Cordelier for Camille Desmoulins during the French Revolution in December 1793 and January 1794 was located at No. 25.


Rue Saint-Honoré

Arrondissement 1, 8

Numbers: 153-155, 157-159, 204, 251, 270, 368

The nearly 2 km road follows most of the old West to East roman road through north central Paris.

The Café de la Régence from 1681 to 1854 was based approximately at Nos. 153-155, nearly opposite the Palais Royal (No. 204). Voltaire, Diderot and Rousseau were all enlightened customers there in the mid-18th century. Benjamin Franklin also visited while he was American Ambassador to France from 1776 to 1785.

The rough location of the Cafe de la Regence on the corner of the Palais royal square.

This café was also where Marx and Engels met on August 28 1844 and agreed to work on ‘The Holy Family‘ together. Further along the street, at No. 251, was the Valentino Hall, which Engels entered on one occasion in his brief 1844 visit to Paris to escape the police spies who were following him.

Upstairs the Café de la Régence was the centre of French chess for over a century. It was where Robespierre, the young officer Napoléon Bonaparte and Louis Philippe all played their chess (no not together!). The café also doubled as one of Paris’ four cafe/shop post offices in the early 19th century.

On October 16 1793 the Jacobin and regicide painter, Jacques-Louis David, sketched Marie-Antoinette in a cart being taken to the scaffold from a first floor window in Rue St Honore

The Café was well-positioned. It was close to the Palais Royal before the Revolution and afterwards it was on the route of those being taken from the Conciergerie prison to the Place de la Concorde to be guillotined.

On July 28 1830 at Nos. 157-159 the very first barricade was erected at the cross roads with Rue Rohan and Rue de Richelieu. This marked the start of the July 1830 Glorious Revolution that overthrew Charles X

At 10.30 pm on the evening of December 3 1973 one of the cartoonists for the French satirical paper Le Canard enchaîné returned to its offices at No. 173 to find a government DST ( Direction de la surveillance du territoire) team of spies installing microphones. The French State has always believed it has the right to spy on dissidents.

The editorial offices of Le Canard Enchaine satirical weekly at No. 179

Nearly two hundred years earlier the French state still believed in its right to execute dissidents. One issue was how this done. Should it be a lengthy process by strangulation (hanging) or a lengthy process by chopping at your neck with an axe?

Dr Joseph Ignace Guillotin, a humanist who opposed the death penalty helped develop a quicker, more efficient way of killing people. One of those who drafted the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, he died on March 26 1814 in his medical office at No. 209. This was on the route of those travelling to be ‘humanely’ executed at what is now the Place de la Concorde.

The medical offices of the man whose name was given to the guillotine died here at No. 209 in 1814.

On November 29 1847 Bakunin spoke to the 1,500 people who attended a commemoration banquet of the 1830 Polish uprising against Russia at the Valentino Hall. Before Haussmann’s re-modelling of Paris its address was No. 359 rue St Honoré. This was where Valentino, the orchestra conductor and violinist, introduced the polka dance to Paris that same year, 1847.

Le Bal Valentino was opened in 1838 and closed in 1890. One of the largest halls in Paris it alternated classical music concerts and dancees, while hosting many political meetings

The size and central location of the Hall attracted many revolutionaries to hold meetings there. In 1848, in February Cabet held a meeting of the Icarians there.

In March, Blanqui organised meetings of the Central Republican Society he chaired at Valentino’s. The Club of Political Prisoners presided by Armand Barbès with Blanqui as its vice-president also met there.

The Socialist Workers’ Club whose honorary president was Louis Blanc also met there until the May 15 1848 demonstration when it was dissolved after the failure of a left insurrectionary attempt to defend the socialist aspects of the February 1848 revolution.

On December 25 1848 No. 251 hosted the first socialist women’s banquet held in Paris.

On January 27 1871 the Valentino Hall was used by the Officers of the 1st Battalion of the National Guard to protest against the Armistice signed by the Thiers government with the Prussians.

251 Rue St Honore is now the exclusive Mandarine Hotel, describing itslf as the ultimate luxury hotel. The earlier dance hall and meeting place was demolished and rebuilt in the 1930s

Olympe de Gouges, opponent of slavery and author of the 1791 Declaration of the Rights of Women and Women Citizens, lived at No. 270. A History of Paris marker post has been put by the front foor to mark this feminist pioneer and martyre.

Olympe de Gouges’ time at 270 Rue st Honore is now marked by a historic Paris plaque in the pavement on the right of the door

The main entrance to the second Jacobin monastery in Paris was at No. 328. Its side entrance in the Rue St Hyacinthe led to the monk’s canteen where the anti-royalist Breton Club began to meet in 1789. After the closure of the monasteries in 1790 the convent was rented to the Friends of the Constitution, who later took the name the Jacobin club .

General Lamarque died at his home at No. 368 of cholera. His funeral procession that left from here on June 5 1832, sparked the 1832 uprising against Louis-Philippe’s increasingly authoritarian rule that features in Hugo‘s Les Misérables.

General Lamarque, who lived at No. 368, was a leading critic of Louis-Philippe. He died of cholera here on June 1 1832 and his funeral on June 5 triggered the 1832 June insurrection in Paris

When Robespierre was himself guillotined on July 28 1794, the cart carrying him to the scaffold stopped outside No. 398 (formerly No. 366) where he had lived for three years since he moved there secretly on July 17 1791 to avoid arrest after the Champs de Mars massacre. The house’s walls had been dripped with the blood of butchered cattle.

Off the courtyard behind the doorway to No. 398 Robespierre rented two rooms from Maurice Duplay, a cabinet-maker and supporter. The house was rebuilt to the same floor plan in the 18th century.

Plus d’informations


Rue de Saint-Martin

Arrondissement 3

Nos 1-2, 8, 30, 78, 135, 145, 159, 270

Delacroix shows all social classes supporting the July Revolution of 1830

Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863) showed his bare-breasted Liberty-Marianne in a Phrygian cap walking across a barricade thought to have been at 8 Rue de Saint-Martin in his iconic painting Liberty guiding the People. He wrote to his brother soon after the July 1830 Glorious Revolution:

‘I’ve embarked on a modern subject—a barricade. And if I haven’t fought for my country at least I’ll paint for her.’

Delacroix’s painting was shown in the Salon of 1831 and bought by the French government. Its intention was to hang it in the throne room of the Luxembourg Palace. But after the June 1832 insurrection it was returned to Delacroix as being ‘too revolutionary’. It was only exhibited again briefly after the February 1848 Revolution, and then next in the Salon of 1855.

John, the designer of Left in Paris, borrowed from Delacroix the bearded rifle-wielding bourgeois revolutionary and the pistol-waving working-class teenager seen on our menu pages.

Hazan (WTP) tells us that the two-day 1832 Republican insurrection that followed the dispersal of the huge crowd behind a red flag at the Republican General Lamarque’s funeral on June 5 saw the first use of artillery against Parisian insurgents. The demonstrations followed opposition deputies accusing the government of breaking its promises and refusing to support oppressed people like those in Poland.

George Sand painted by Delacroix in 1838, about the time she was working on the novel referring to Rue Saint-Martin

There were three barricades protecting the Rue de Saint Martin headquarters of the Republicans at what was then number 30. Writing a novel about the events ten years later George Sand makes this address the home of her working-class hero.

The reality was that the defenders of the 1832 barricades killed around 75 soldiers and National Guardsmen sent by Louis-Philippe. Over 90 insurgents were killed, 200 wounded and 1,500 prisoners were taken. Eighty-two people were subsequently deported.

Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables fiction places Gavroche’s death at 107 Rue de Saint Martin at the barricade with the Rue Aubry le Boucher. In his Comédie humaine Balzac (1799-1850) has the republican Michel Chrestien killed at the Rue Saint-Merri barricade across the street.

Louis-Auguste Blanqui’s first insurrectionary attempt was made in 1839 with the Society of the Seasons, and its first barricade built was across the entrance to the Rue de Saint Martin, from numbers 1 to 2 on 12 May 1839. The conspirators used to meet in a wine seller’s shop at 10 Rue de Saint Martin.

Blanqui and Armand Barbès were also present at what was probably the most important barricade erected in 1839, at number 78 Rue de Saint-Martin, the St Merry barricade. Barbès was wounded outside number 248 and arrested at the end of the insurrection.

Another barricade appeared at the beginning of Rue de Saint-Martin during the workers’ uprising against the closing down of the schemes for unemployed workers on 23 June 1848.

In July 2018 I spent a couple of days at a sociological conference at the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers at 270-272 Rue St Martin. A 19th century costumed film was being shot there using the 19th century buildings as a backdrop, with a portable guillotine added for good measure. Strange to think that Karl Marx supposedly gave a speech there on March 5 1848 to the Central branch of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen Club immediately after his explusion from Brussels.

The Conservatoire (before 1794 the priory of Saint-Martin-des-Champs) was also the location of the National Convention organised by Ledru-Rollin a year later, on 13 June 1849, to try and stop the war on the Republic of Rome.

Further up the street, the old Molière Theatre at No 159 provided a venue for many meetings and organisations. Ledru-Rollin and Barbès were among those who held meetings of the Revolutionary Committee for the elections to the Constituent Assembly in March 1848. On November 14 1869 the Parisian Federation of Workers Societies was formed there.

During the bloody week of May 1871 the Conservatoire was fortified, and the last fighter is supposed to have been a woman defending it with a machine gun. Another barricade that saw fierce fighting was built at 145 Rue de Saint-Martin.

One of the 600 barricades built in August 1944 in answer to the FFI call to make German troop movements in Paris as difficult as possible

The street’s cobblestones again came in handy in August 1944. One photograph looking down Rue St Martin shows the barricade built outside number 135 (now next to a Monoprix shop). It was one of some 600 built in Paris after the resistance FFI (French Forces of the Interior) called for them to be built on August 19 to stop German troop movements.

Today, the left side of the street exists no longer: it was demolished to make room for the Beaubourg (Pompidou Centre) as was the 1832 battleground of the Rue Saint-Merri. From barricades to shopping opportunities.

But at least there is still some art nearby – although as Hazan (WTP) reminds us, the architects’ original democratic, accessible concept for Beaubourg “for people to meet here, in a certain everyday way, without having to pass through a gate and being checked like in a factory” has now been ‘renovated’ out of existence. Today access is only for ‘the right class of people’.


Rue Vaneau

Arrondissement 7

Numbers 1b, 22, 23, 26, 38

A 12 metre-wide street originally built in 1826 under a royal decree, it was initially named rue Mademoiselle because of its proximity to the building that became the Matignon Palace/Hôtel , now the official residence of France’s prime ministers. The owner of the huge Hôtel at 55 rue de Varenne at that time was Mademoiselle Louise-Eugenie, the younger sister of Louis-Philippe. The name was changed to rue Vanneau (with two nn’s) in the initial democratic phase of King Louis-Philippe in October 1830.

The street was again renamed in 1873, as the right-wing Republican government sought to use name changes to reinforce its shaky legitimacy. So from rue Vanneau it became rue Vaneau (with one n) in honour of a student killed attacking the Babylone barracks during the Glorious Revolution on July 29 1830.

Although Karl Marx lived at both No. 38 and No. 23 in 1843-1844 and his first daughter, Jenny (who later married Charles Longuet), was born at No. 38 there is no commemorative plaque on either address. The offices of the review that had brought Marx to Paris, Annales franco-allemandes, were at No. 22.

Another left literary figure to have lived in the road was Félix Fénéon. He was still living with his parents at No. 26 when he got his first job at the Ministry of War in 1881 and soon afterwards began writing art criticism, book summaries, short stories and even a first draft of a psychological novel for a monthly journal that ran from October 1883 to March 1884.

The photograph above is from 1905, some 60 years after the Marx family lived a little further down the street.

You will see a plaque on 1b, rue Vaneau, where André Gide lived on the sixth floor from 1928 and died in 1951, and where he hid Albert Camus in another flat in the building in 1944.


Quai Voltaire

Arrondissements 7

Number 29, 27, 7

In 1791 the owner of the huge house at No. 27, the Marquis de Villette, a gay friend of the enlightenment philosopher and writer who had died there in 1778 , renamed the street Quai Voltaire. Villette had supported the 1789 Revolution and renounced his nobility. Elected to the Convention in 1792, Charles Villette argued for the banishment of Louis XVI, but died of what was then described as ‘melancholia’ (langeur) aged 57 in July 1793.

Alongside the plaque on No. 27 remembering Voltaire is another recalling the meetings that took place there of the leaders of the national and local police groups of Résistance Libération-Nord. This was initially the name of a clandestine newspaper, established after SFIO and non-Communist CGT trade unionists signed the Declaration of Twelve opposing the Vichy regime and the dissolution of the trade unions on November 15 1940. It became a resistance organisation in November 1941 and in 1943 was one of the eight resistance movements represented on the National Resistance Council.

29, Quai Voltaire is where Daniel Stern (Marie d’Agoult) lived in the Hôtel de Mailly-Nesle after her 1839 breakup with Franz Liszt. She ran a republican literary salon there, and in 1844 Karl Marx used to attend.

No 7 Quai Voltaire is another well-plaqued house (three). It was the home of Hubert de Lagarde, founder and head of the Resistance Eleuthère network of the Forces Françaises Combattantes . A plaque tells how he was arrested by the Gestapo on June 15 1944. This was only a few days after he had protested against the appointment of a Communist to head up the now merged FFI (French Forces of the Interior). He was tortured and then deported to Buchenwald before dying of dysentery on January 25 1945.



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…