From Popular Front to the Spanish Civil War and World War Two

Spanish Republic, International Brigade, Munich, Hitler-Stalin Pact, Phoney War – in progress

A Communist march in 1937 demands (unsuccessfully) that France supplies the Spanish Republic with guns and aircraft
Striking workers at the Samaritaine Department store in Paris at a meeting in June 1936

Rue Bonaparte

Arrondissement 6

Numbers 21, 28, 42 and La Hune Bookshop

The famous La Hune Bookshop after the fire and in the background Sartre’s doorway at 42 Rue Bonaparte

Paris is still changing, and sometimes by accident. Having a meal with Nicole (my father’s partner for over 25 years) in November 2017, we chatted about the big fire that had started near the Saint Germain church.

It turned out to be the cremation of the last mortal remains of the famous La Hune bookshop. This had been set up by former resistance fighters in 1949 and had been a centre of Parisian intellectual life for thirty years. It had closed two years earlier after relocating to the corner of the Place Saint-German and Rue Bonaparte in 2012.

Hazan (WTP) remembers it as one of the key left intellectual meetings places of the 1950s and as a street dominated by ‘realist’ art galleries in the 1960s. When we walked past it the day after the fire and smelt the sad pungent aroma of burnt books and wood, it looked as if the fashion shop with which it shared its premises had mysteriously been largely spared.

Across Rue Bonaparte was where Jean-Paul Sartre used to live in number 42 (third window below the balcony). He moved there to be with his mother after the death of her second husband in 1948, The editorial team of his philosophical journal, Temps modernes, used to meet in the flat.  Simone de Beauvoir, with whom he lived there for a while, Raymond Aron and Maurice Merleau-Ponty were among the many Left Bank intellectuals who made up its editorial board.  

Rue Bonaparte in January 1962 after an OAS plastic bomb exploded in the doorway outside Sartre’s house

Number 42 was the address where Sartre’s political support for Algerian independence was rewarded on January 7 1962 with the signature plastic bomb used by the OAS – the Organisation armée secrete – whose music I had first heard out with my father on the Champs Elysée celebrating New Years’ Eve just a week earlier. The traffic jam of cars blocking the street appeared nearly all to be honking ‘Algerie Française’ – da da da, daa, daa. A week later we were walking home when we heard the huge bang when the Rue Bonaparte bomb went off – targeted along with another 16 other addresses that night.

There were no injuries, but Sartre promptly moved out to the much more public Boulevard Raspail.

The 40-year-old French composer of Spanish origins, Francisco Salvador Daniel (1831-24 May 1871) was summarily shot in Rue Bonaparte

Further down the Rue Bonaparte, at the crossroad with Rue Jacob, another story did not end quite so happily. In 1871 the Commune defenders built a barricade between numbers 21 and 28 in Rue Bonaparte and from 29 to 32 in Rue Jacob. There, on May 24 1871 Francisco Salvador-Daniel, the musicologist son of a Jewish refugee from Spain, who had been defending the barricade was captured, and taken back to the barricade and shot by the Versaillais soldiers. He had taught the violin in Algeria and translated and adapted Arabic songs from North Africa for European musical instruments.


Boulevard de Clichy

Arrondissements: 9, 18

Numbers 4, 6, 11, 20, 36, 62, 64, 82, 104, 122,130

Boulevard de Clichy painted by Van Gogh March-April 1887.

In 1864 Haussmann prolonged the Clichy Boulevard by extending it with the Boulevard des Martyrs and the Boulevard Pigalle. These were the old broad roads that had followed the 18th century tax farmers’ wall around Paris and which had helped lead to the 1789 French Revolution.

When it was still called the Boulevard Pigalle, Daumier lived at what is now 36 Boulevard de Clichy from roughly 1859 to 1863.

Just to the south of the Montmartre hill the Boulevard was the border between a more expensive inner-Paris and a cheaper area for artists to live in and bars serving tax-free booze. Its even numbers on its northern Montmartre side are in the 18th arrondissement, and the odd numbers in the 9th.

Auguste Renoir lived at No. 11 in 1887, when he painted ‘The swing’, featuring his brother Edmond and Norbert Goeneutte, a painter who illustrated Zola‘s novel, Earth.

From 1886 to 1888, Paul Signac‘s studio was at No. 130. He then moved his studio to No. 20 from 1889 to 1891, where Georges Seurat‘s meetings of the Pointilliste artists used to take place on Mondays.

The painting by Vincent van Gogh of the Boulevard de Clichy at the head of this piece was painted when Vincent had just joined his brother Theo in March 1887, staying close by on the Rue de Laval and then from June in the Rue Lepic. Van Gogh was often at No. 62, the Café du Tambourin, where he gave the owner some of his earliest paintings in exchange for meals, and his first exhibition took place. and Seurat, Toulouse-Lautrec and others also used to eat there.

When he first arrived in Paris in May 1901, Picasso lived in the 6th floor studio at No. 130ter until 1904 during his ‘blue period’. He later lived at No. 11 from 1909 to 1912; for the last five years of his life Edgar Degas (1834-1917) lived on the fifth floor of No. 6, where he died aged 83.

No. 4 used to be the anarchist bookshop belonging to Jules Erelbach, the man known as Ducret who was murdered by Léon Lacombe for allegedly betraying Garnier, one of the Bonnot gang in 1912. Victor Serge was later sentenced to five years imprisonment for his journalistic support for the gang.

In 1928 Jacques Prévert and his wife Simone lived at No. 64, the Hôtel le Radio. While there he wrote some of his first poems, and was visited by André Breton.

The Moulin Rouge was built in 1889 at No. 82-90 on the site of the White Queen ballroom, where Georges Clemenceau and Louise Michel both attended a big political meeting at the close of the Second Empire in 1870.

In the mid-1920s the Café Le Cyrano at No 82 became the headquarters of the surrealists around Breton.

In the 1950s, Fernand Léger set up an art school studio at No 104, where he taught with his second wife Nadia.

In the middle of the boulevard outside No. 122 there is the base of a statue of Charles Fourier (1772-1837). The utopian socialist thinker was sculpted by the anarchist Émile Derré but the statue was destroyed by the Germans in 1942 to be melted down for armaments

Fourier by Franck Scurti and a century earlier by Emile Derre. Fourier’s argument was that there was something fundamentally wrong with an economic system that sold an apple in Paris at 100 times the price it was sold in Rouen. The huge apple was erected there in 2011.



Rue Dauphine

Arrondissement 6

Numbers: 1-2, 7, 18, 33, 39, 42

Rue Dauphine from Quai de Conti

Built in 1607 to link the first stone bridge (the Pont Neuf) across the Seine funded from the king’s purse with the Philippe Auguste wall, it was named after the Dauphin (eldest son) of Henri IV. This peculiar name (meaning dolphin in French) dated from 1349 when King Philippe bought land from the Count of Vienna on condition that all heirs to the French throne be named after the dolphin emblem on the count’s coat of arms.

The royal connection didn’t survive revolutionary France. From 1792 to 1814 it was renamed Rue de Thionville to honour the victorious two-month resistance of the town of that name to the 1792 seige by 36,00 Austrian and French Royalist troops. At the next challenge to the Bourbons a barricade thrown up between Nos. 1 and 2, opposite the Pont Neuf bridge, saw heavy fighting with Charles X’s soldiers defending the Louvre Palace on July 27 1830.

On May 25 1871 a barricade in the same place was taken without great difficulty by the Versallais troops.

Outside No. 7 there is a plaque on the wall. This is where in 1937 Picasso painted Guernica in his roof-top studio for the Spanish Republic’s hall in that year’s Paris International Exhibition. In vain Picasso left a will stating that the work would only be returned to Spain when it was again a Republic.

Picasso painted his most famous painting in his studio at the corner of Rue Dapuhine and the Quai des grands Augustins in just a month before the 1937 International exhibition where it was first shown.

A big arms cache of the FTP resistance group on the mezzanine floor of Staircase D of No. 18 was found by the anti-resistance Special Brigade of the Paris Police in June 1943.

Marat, Danton and Desmoulins used to attend the Cordeliers Club meetings at No 18 from 1792-1795. The club was dominated by the Herbertists

Martin Bernard, a typographer and member of Barbès and Blanqui‘s republican ‘Family Association’ (Société des Familles) conspiracy that subsequently became the Société des saisons and staged the May 12 1839 insurrection set up an ammunition workshop at No. 24. He was arrested there on June 2 1836.

In 1864 members of the newly-founded International Working Men’s Association, Eugène Varlin and Nathalie Le Mel, set up the La Marmite association at Varlin’s flat at No. 33. Within a few years it had grown to some 8,000 members.

In 1942 Simone de Beauvoir was staying at the Hôtel d’Aubusson, also at No. 33, when she was forced out of teaching. The left/existentialist intellectual bar, Le Tabou, that had been the Bar vert in the Rue Jacob was reopened in the basement by Juliette Greco for rehearsals in 1946 before opening to the public the following year.

No. 42 was the address of the editorial office of La Vie ouvriére, 1909-1911. The journal was founded with funds collected from supporters and edited by Pierre Monatte, aiming to be ‘the home of syndicalist intellectual cooperation’. Its contributors included the major figures of French trade unionism such as Victor Griffuelhes, Léon Jouhaux, Alfred Rosmer and Alphonse Merrheim.

After his marriage, Jacques Prévert lived at No. 39 on the fifth floor beneath the roof with his wife Simone Dienne in 1931-1932.

A fortnightly, La Vie ouvriére‘s subscribers numbered 550 in the first issue of December 1909  and rose to 1,350 in January 1911, the year its office moved to the Librarie du Travail on the Quai Jemappes, closer to the CGT’s main offices.

Rue Dauphine was Paris’ widest street in the 17th century, No 42 housed the editorial offices of the influential CGT revolutionary syndicalist fortnightly paper, La Vie Ouvriere.

Rue Dauphine (9 metres wide) was the widest street in early 17th century Paris. It also, arguably, holds one of the keys to Paris’ tradition of uniformity of architectural design.

Hazan (IOP) reports Henry IV writing to Sully in 1607:  ‘My friend, following what I have told you that work is beginning on the buildings that are in the new road going from the end of the Pont-Neuf to the Porte de Bussy, I wanted to send you this word to tell you that I would be very happy if you would explain to those who start building in this road that they should make the front of their houses entirely in the same order, for it would be a fine ornament to see from the end of the bridge this road with one and the same façade.’

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Rue Gabrielle

Arrondissement 18

Number: 17, 19, 32, 49

In 1919 , the 18-year-old André Malraux went to the home of the surrealist writer Max Jacob at No 17, the friend of Picasso, Jean Cocteau and Modigliani, and offered him a poem he had written.

Named in 1863 after the first name of a wife of one of the owners the road was first opened in 1840, initially being called the Rue Neuve-Saint-Paul and then in 1843 the Rue Bénédict.

Picasso lived at No. 49 with his friend Carlos Casagemas from October to December 1900. This was Picasso’s first studio in Paris, but after they returned to Spain for Christmas, Carlos returned on his own to Paris where he committed suicide early the next year. Another painter, an American or Bulgarian origins, Jules Pascin took over the studio there in 1909.

La Vie painted by Picasso in 1903 features his friend Carlos Casagemas who committed suicide in 1901 after falling into a deep depression due, it is believed, to his impotence.

Fifty years earlier Paul Verlaine first met his future wife, the 16-year-old Mathilde Mauté de Fleurville at No. 19.

The journal La Revue anarchiste that the exiled Élisée Reclus wrote for in 1893 was based at No. 32.

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Rue Jacques Callot

Arrondissement 6

Number: 16

The very short road was opened and named in 1912 after the engraver, Jacques Callot, who lived for about a year in Paris in 1629. It was built on an old alley-way to the Pont Neuf opened in 1823.

Its principal feature is the Café La Pallette (shown above) whose second back room is decorated with ceramics from the 1930s. Close to the Beaux-Arts de Paris institution the doorway next to it at No. 16 included the office of the review Le Paria edited by Ho chi Minh who, in respone to the police watching him, wrote to the Minister of the Colonies in August 1922 telling him what he was doing there.

No 16

In the early 1920s No. 16 was also the address of the literary review, Clarté, founded in 1919 by Henri Barbusse.

On October 15 1925 Clarte published the surrealist manifesto drafted by Breton called ‘The Revolution First and Always’ in response to French involvement in the Moroccan war. It was also signed by Aragon and Éluard

In the Spring of 1926 Breton and Aragon and Naville opened the Surrealist Gallery in the former office of the Clarté. And in December that year Pierre Naville described Breton bringing Léona Delcourt (Nadja) there at the end of Breton’s relationship with her.


Avenue du Maine

Arrondissements 14, 15

Numbers: 21, 22, 33, 44, 52, 54, 77, 141,198

Avenue du Maine around 1905

In the 1760s the avenue that now runs from the Boulevard du Montparnasse to the Rue de Vaugirard was called the way to Orléans. It only became known as the Maine road in 1791, and finally the Avenue du Maine from 1821. The only connection with one of Louis XIV’s sons, the Duke of Maine, is that in the early 18th century Auguste de Bourbon used to travel down that way from his chateau at Sceaux to his principal town house on the Rue de Varenne.

Close to the heaving left-leaning cultural centre of Montparnasse in the early 20th century, the Avenue was where many artists and writers chose to live and work. Mondrian lived and worked at No. 33 at the end of 1911; Douanier Rousseau was at No. 44 from 1893 to 1905; Diego Rivera lived at No 52 after returning from Mexico where he had feted the centenary of the Mexican Revolution.

The Russian artist Marie Vassilieff opened her first art school in 1908 at No. 54 and after she moved down the Avenue to No. 21 in 1911, Emmeline Pankhurst stayed at No. 54 briefly in 1913.

Marie Vassilieff painted by Modigliani around 1918

During the First World War Vassilieff opened a ‘canteen’ there, providing very cheap meals for often starving artists and their models. Apollinaire, Matisse and dozens of others benefited. Operating as a private club Vassilieff was also able to avoid the curfew, with music and dancing in the evenings.

Marie Vassilieff’s studio at No 21. In January 1917 she and Picasso evicted a drunk Modigliani from an event celebrating Braque‘s release from military service. A Montmartre Museum at No. 21 opened in 1998 but closed in 2015.

Among others known to have attended Vassilieff’s cheap lunches and night club were Trotksy and Rosmer. Lenin according to one rumour also visited. Her studio walls were covered with paintings by Chagall and Modigliani and with drawings by Picasso and Fernand Léger. On May 5 and 9 1913 Léger lectured there on the balance between lines, forms and colours and representation in contemporary art.

Owned by the City of Paris, No. 21 is now the Villa Vassilieff – a contempory art and research centre ‘ded­i­cated to un-explored resources and aims to rewrite and diver­sify the his­tory of art’.

In 1880, after his return from exile after having been joint administrator of the Louvre during the Commune (he had been sentenced in 1874 to forced labour for life), Jules Dalou lived with his wife and disabled daughter at No. 22, near his studio in the nearby Impasse du Maine (now the Rue Antoine-Bourdelle. Dalou’s studio was knocked down for an extension of the Bourdelle Museum in 1961).

It was while Dalou lived at No. 22 that he sculpted many of his most famous pieces, including in 1889 his Triumph of the Republic for the Place de la Nation and in 1890 his Monument to Eugene Delacroix for the Luxembourg Garden.

The Brasserie des Trois Mousquetaires at No. 77 was one of many bars Simone de Beauvoir visited between 1937 and 1939.

On 22 November 1941 three young Communists, Albert Gueusquin (alias Bob), Raymond Tardif and Jean Garreau threw a fire bomb into the Hôtel Océan at No. 100 that had been requisitioned for the exclusive use of German soldiers.

After Léon Jouhaux agreed to set up a new anti-Communist trade union confederation, the Confédération Générale du Travail-Force ouvrière (FO), the funding it received from the CIA allowed it to move into headquarters at No. 198. The Palais d’Orléans the FO took over had been built at the end of the 19th century as a huge house for weddings and banquets. The building has now been transformed into flats.

FO remained at No. 198 until 1996. André Bergeron led the union from there from 1963 to 1989 when he was succeeded by Marc Blondel, under whom FO moved to its newly-built headquarters at No. 141 in 1996.


Rue des Martyrs

Arrondissements 9, 18

Numbers: 19, 34, 65, 79

Photo taken around 1905 looking south

Named because it was an old road that headed towards Montmartre village where, legend had it, St Denis, the first Paris bishop, and his followers were beheaded. It was temporarily renamed the ‘Field of rest’ road (rue du Champ-de-Repos) from 1793 to 1806 at the moment during the French Revolution when the cult of Reason was on the rise.

Béranger‘s friend, the republican Restoration deputy, Jacques-Antoine Manuel, died at No. 19 in August 1827. This was also the address where the Natanson brothers set up la Revue Blanche in 1889.

Victor Schoelcher spoke at a meeting on February 4 1879 at the Paz gym at No. 34 about education reform.

An art gallery at No. 65 was owned by the antique dealer Père Soulier that was a meeting place for Spanish artists. In 1901 Picasso bought a Douanier-Rousseau painting there that he kept throughout his life.

Picasso was also a regular at the Café du Grand Hôtel des Deux Hémisphères at No. 79, along with Appolinaire and many others. The photograph above was taken in the 1900s looking southwards towards where the road crosses the Boulevard de Clichy.


Rue des Mathurins

Arrondissements 8, 9

Number: 10, 26, 38

For centuries before 1881 its name was the New Road of the Mathurins (rue Neuve-des-Mathurins) after a farm that had belonged to Mathurin monks who took the name of the 4th century martyr, Mathurin of Larchant. This Saint was very very popular in the Middle Ages, supposedly because of his prowess in healing madness and anxiety, and was the patron saint of clowns.

Daniel Stern, author of the History of the 1848 Revolution, was Marie d’Agoult. Under the July monarchy (1830-1848) she used to host a salon at No. 10 that was frequented, among many others, by Victor Hugo.

George Sand was living at the Florence private house at No. 26 with Baron Casimir Dudevant when she gave birth to her son, Maurice, on June 30 1823. At the time it was owned by the former head chef of Napoleon. It is now a 3-star hotel called George Sand.

The Michel Theatre founded by Michel Mortier was in the basement of No. 38.

This was frequented by Aragon and Picasso who witnessed a fight there on July 6 1923 when Breton (a future surrealist) broke the arm of Tzara, the leading Dadaist .

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Rue Victor Schoelcher

Arrondissement 14

Number 11bis

The street was opened in 1894 when part of the land owned by the Montparnasse Cemetery was sold by Paris for housing development. It was named in honour of the republican campaigner against slavery who died in 1893. Schoelcher drafted the abolitionist decree of April 27 1848 and then lived in exile throughout the Second Empire.

In 1913 Picasso moved in to No. 5bis, next to the No. 5, now a building classified as an official historical monument. Picasso lived there until 1916. No. 5 is now the Giacometti Institute in Paris, including a recreation of the Swiss sculptor’s studio.

From 1913 to 1916 Pablo Picasso lived in No 5bis. The building next door, No 5 is classified as a Historical Monument and from 2018 hosts the Giacometti Institute.

In 1955, shortly after winning the Concourt prize for literature with her 1954 book, The Mandarins, Simone de Beauvoir moved in to a ground floor flat at No. 11bis with Claude Lanzmann, the left Jewish editor of Les Temps Modernes and film-maker 18 years younger than her. She fell in love with him when he was in his late 20s, and lived there with him until her death in 1986.

The street overlooking the Montparnasse Cemetery only has odd numbers, including No. 11 shown on the right
The plaque honouring Simone de Beauvoir on the wall at 11bis Rue Victor Schoelcher, close to where she and Sartre lie together in the Montparnasse Cemetery.



Gustave Courbet sketched this self-portrait at Sainte-Pélagie prison after the defeat of the Paris Commune in 1871. He was one of many artists who supported the Commune and is in a line of socialist, anarchist and communist artists who lived and/or worked in Paris and contributed their visions of a world transformed

References to include: Eugène Delacroix

In 1895 Toulouse-Lautrec painted one of a series he had begun in 1889 commissioned by the Moulin Rouge at the Place Blanche. In it he inserted (bottom right) tributes to the editor of La Revue Blanche, Félix Fénéon, and to his friend, Oscar Wilde (second bottom left), whom he had met and painted in London the day before Wilde was jailed for indecency.
Portrait of Felix Feneon by his former fellow political prisoner charged with anarchist sympathies Maximilien Luce. This was pained in 1901


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…