Armand Barbès

1809-1870 • France

Republican Insurrectionist

Organiser with Blanqui of the republican Rights of Man society, he was wounded in the 1839 insurrection and sentenced to life imprisonment. Called ‘the scourge of the establishment‘ by Marx , in 1892 perceptions had changed. The 18th arrondissement’s Boulevard Barbès and in 1903 the new Barbès metro station were named after him as a republican icon.

Barbès was one of the many left political prisoners who were jailed in the Sainte Pélagie prison from 1831.

On June 2 1836 several members of the Society of Seasons led by Barbès and Blanqui were arrested in their secret workshop at 22-24 Rue Dauphine where they were making gunpowder.

On May 9 1839 Barbès arranged for a trunk to be left that evening with the 55-year-old Catherine Rouchon, a widow who made trimmings for furniture, at 23 Rue Quincampoix. On May 12 when she wasn’t there some of the Society knocked down her door and collected its contents, ammunition. After the insurrection she identified Barbès to the police in the infirmary at the Conciergerie.

When the Society of Seasons insurrection finally took place on May 12 1839 Barbès and Blanqui took part in the pillaging of the Lepage armoury at 22 Rue du Bourg l’Abbé. Today, after the Haussmann rebuilding of Paris under the Second Empire, this is where the buildings stand at 64-66 Boulevard de Sébastopol.

Blanqui’s headquarters during the insurrection was in a café at 1 Rue Mandar. Barbès led another column to seize the Palais de Justice on the Cité island on the Seine, where they also attacked the police station, killing its commander.

The most important of the barricades erected on that Sunday in May 1839 was across the Rue de St. Martin. The insurrection was able to seize one local town hall at 43 Rue des Franc-Bourgeois.

The insurrectionaries, in the low thousands, including an estimated 200-300 students, occupied the Hotel de Ville. During the attack Barbès was wounded in the head. He was arrested outside 79 Rue des Gravilliers (now 248 Rue St Martin) at about 7 pm on May 12.

In 1848 Blanqui and Barbès were both released from prison, but they were no longer close allies. They did, however, found the Political Prisoners’ club at a meeting in the Salle Valentino at 251 Rue St Honoré  with Barbès as President and Blanqui Vice-President.

On March 21 Barbès founded the Club de la Révolution at a meeting in the Salle Molière at 159 Rue St Martin. At the same time he was meeting Proudhon, Pierre Leroux and Étienne Arago. With Leroux at 12ter Rue Coquilliere Barbes founded the newspaper, The True Republic, whose first issue stated: ‘Without labour reform, there is no true Republic‘. It produced 104 issues before being banned in August by Cavaignac.

On May 15 1848 the Republican left (Barbès, the worker Albert, Louis Blanc, François-Vincent Raspail and others) organised a demonstration in Paris to the Palais Bourbon, the Chamber of Deputies in support of the Polish revolution. While not being planned as an insurrection, Barbès took centre stage in the Constituent Assembly and announced the formation of a new government. Soon after they are all arrested.

The 15 arrested after the May 1848 protests against government inaction over the Polish revolt against the Russian colonisers included insurrectionary revolutionaries like Barbes and Blanqui alongside socialist republicans like Blanc and Raspail.

More info

Le Maitron


Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle

Arrondissements 2, 10

Numbers 20, 38,

A postcard of the Theatre du Gymnase in 1900. In 1848, 28 years after the small theatre was built, a key barricade placed across the boulevard at this location.saw a major contingent of Louis-Philippe’s troops go over to the people.

This is a wide Parisian street built in 1631 on the line of the obsolete 16th century city wall. It was one of what are called the ‘Grands Boulevards’ on the right-bank of the city. Its even numbers are in the 10th arrondissement and its odd numbers in the 2nd.

Named after the local ‘Our Lady Good News’ church (Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle) It is well used to demonstrations. On June 9 1820 Louis XIII’s cavalry charged demonstrators on the Boulevard chanting ‘Long Live the Charter’, killing several of those demanding that the King keep his 1814 promises of acting as a constitutional monarch.

The next time it was King Louis-Philippe’s troops who forcibly cleared the boulevard of republican demonstrators on 15 June 1831.

A major barricade across the boulevard at No. 38 saw the monarchist Odilion Barrot booed by the republican crowd on February 24 1848 when he argued for a regency under Louis-Philippe’s wife to take over from the King. The 2,000 troops sent to demolish the barricade ended up fraternising with the crowd.

On June 23 1848 three of the first barricades in the workers’ insurrection challenging the end of the National Workshops were erected in the short stretch of the boulevard between the Porte St-Denis and the Rue de Mazagran. The flags on the barricades carried the slogan, ‘Bread or Death‘.

After burning down once in 1849, a second time in 1899 and a third time in 1930, a huge post office was built at No 20 on the site of the 1848 Club des Femmes meetings

Many political meetings used to take place during the 1848 Revolution at No. 20, in the concert hall Bonne-Nouvelle. The Women’s Club attended by Désirée Gay and Pauline Roland met there regularly.

On June 13 1849 Ledru-Rollin and Raspail were arrested after organising a demonstration against the government’s decision to besiege the Roman Republic and restore the Pope to the Vatican. Marx, who had observed the demonstration on the Boulevard, was expelled immediately afterwards.

18 months later, 280 opponents of Louis-Napoleon’s coup d’etat of 4 December 1851 were massacred by canon fire at the junction of the Boulevard with the Rue St Denis.

On September 3 1870 it was the police who fired from the police station at No. 23 on demonstrators angry at the announcement of the defeat of Napoleon III at the battle of Sedan.

On Bastille Day, July 14 1941, after Hitler’s invasion of Russia, the Young Communists (Jeunesses communistes) organised a demonstration in the Boulevard that was attacked first by the Paris police and then by the German army.

The Théâtre du Gymnase, also at No. 38, was where Jean Cocteau’s wartime play, The Terrible Parents, was first performed and then banned in 1942.

On 23 August 1927 fighting broke out in the boulevard when the police attacked the demonstration called by the Communist Party against the executions that day in America of the framed Italian migrants Sacco and Vanzetti.

Another street battle between demonstrators and police took place on 16 December 1972, when a protest march against a police murder of a young Algerian man two weeks earlier was broken up, with its leaders, including Michel Foucault, being arrested.


Boulevard Diderot

Arrondissement 12

Numbers 23-25 Prison de Mazas

The 1200-cell Prison de Mazas was built in 1850. Its entrance was at 23-25 boulevard Mazas, which was renamed the boulevard Diderot in 1879.

The location of the Prison Mazas superimposed on a google Map. The Gare de Lyon main station entrance is directly opposite the southern end of the Rue Emile Gilbert.

On April 30 1870 Louis-Napoleon‘s new more liberal government drummed up a red scare and arrested 38 active supporters of the First International just days before a referendum on the latest constitutional moves towards a slightly more parliamentary government system. The ‘reds’ were jailed at the Mazas Prison with its American-style cells. The idea was to keep prisoners isolated at all times from one another.

The cell windows in the Mazas prison shown in an early photograph from the 1850s.

One of the new prison’s earliest political uses was in briefly jailing the republican Assembly representatives and other opponents of Louis-Napoleon’s coup d’Etat of December 2 1851. Among these was the socialist biologist François-Vincent Raspail (1794-1878). His sentence was commuted to exile from which he returned in 1862.

The scientist and republican socialist Francois-Vincent Raspail drawn in the 1850s. Already imprisoned under Louis-Philippe he ran for president in December 1848.

After Louis-Napoleon won the May 8 1870 referendum overwhelmingly by 7.4 million votes to 1.5 million, the republicans believed the Empire was stronger than ever. On July 18 France declared war on Prussia. The Third Republic was declared on September 8.

The 16-year-old Arthur Rimbaud was held at the Mazas prison for a few days from 29 August 1870 on suspicion of being a Prussian spy.

The prison was used to keep many of the hostages taken by the Commune in April 1871 intended (unsuccessfully) to be exchanged for Auguste Blanqui. It was the site of fierce fighting during the Bloody Week of May 1871. After the Austerlitz bridge was taken by the Versaillais on 25 May, the defenders retreated to the prison and fought from there. On 26 May more than 400 Communards were executed there, with their bodies thrown into a well.

Felix Fénéon at the Mazas Prison opposite the Gare du Lyon in 1894 sketched by Maximilien Luce.

In 1894 the 30 anarchists and anarchist sympathisers were imprisoned at the Mazas during their trial for conspiracy to commit bomb attacks and murders in Paris. Felix Fénéon (1861-1944) was sketched here by another anarchist sympathiser, Maximillien Luce , who also produced a lithograph self-portrait of the inside of his prison cell.

Jailed while awaiting the ‘trial of the 30’ in 1894, Maximilien Luce produced this lithograph.

Both Fénéon and Luce and another 24 of those tried in August 1894 were acquitted.


Rue du Four

Arrondissement 6

Numbers 40, 43, 48

Unemployed marchers stole bread from three bakeries here in 1883. In 1943 No. 48 witnessed the first full meeting of the united French resistance under Jean Moulin.

The communal bread oven (four) belonging to the Abbey Saint-Germain was situated at what is now No. 43, and so gave its name to this 13th century road. In 1470 under King Louis XI (‘Louis the Prudent’) all the inhabitants were required to use this oven.

François-Vincent Raspail published his newspaper, L’Ami du Peuple (‘The People’s Friend’) at No 40 between February and May 1848.

On 9 March 1883 the street witnessed the end of the unemployed march led by Louise Michel with a black, anarchist flag. Three bakeries were entered and bread stolen. Michel was later sentenced to 6 years in jail as a result, while Emile Pouget, who supported her and (allegedly) took a pistol away from her before her arrest, was too.

In 1943 Jean Moulin organised the National Resistance Council bringing together the main groups from the Occupied and Vichy halves of France. Its first meeting was in rue du Four in Paris.

On May 27 1943 the National Council of the Resistance met secretly at No. 48 in the flat belonging to René Corbin . Those attending were: Jean Moulin (1899-1943), Roger Ginsburger (Pierre Villon, FN), Roger Coquoin (Ceux de la Libé), Jacques Lecompte-Boinet (Ceux de la Rés), Charles Laurent (Libération-Nord), Jacques-Henri Simon (OCM), Eugène Claudius-Petit (Franc-Tireur) and Claude Bourdet (Combat).


Rue Montmartre

Arrondissements 1, 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plus d’informations


Hôtel de Ville / Paris Town Hall

Arrondissement 4

Number 10 Place de l’Hôtel de Ville

Jean-Victor Schnetz‘s painting of the July 28 1830 battle outside the symbolic Paris Town Hall shows both the Tricolor and a Red flag – with the words’ ‘Long Live the Charter’ on it. The July Revolution was about restoring a semblance of democratic bourgeois rights, with the threat of workers’ rights behind it.

Lamartine rejecting the red flag on 25 February 1848 in favour of the Tricolor representing the Bourbons (white), the Empire (blue) and the Republic (red).

At the next successful insurrection on February 25 1848, Henri Philippoteaux painted the republican Lamartine outside the Town Hall rejecting the Red flag and endorsing the Tricolor.

Citizens, for me, the red flag, I am not adopting it, and I’ll tell you why I’m against with all the strength of my patriotism. It’s that the tricolor has toured the world with the Republic and the Empire with your freedoms and your glory, and the red flag was that around the Champ-de-Mars, dragged into the people’s blood.

Alphonse Lamartine

On March 22 1848 a delegation of women activists from the ‘Women’s voice’ group went to the Town Hall to demand women have full citizens’ rights including the right to vote.

On May 15 1848 demonstrators against French intervention in Poland, including Blanqui, the worker Albert, Blanc, Cabet, Leroux and Raspail occupied the Town Hall and declared a new provisional government before being arrested.

Lamartine went on to order the brutal suppression of the June 1848 workers’ insurrection sparked by the government’s closing of the world’s first unemployment system with national workshops offering work paid by the state.

On September 4 1870, after Napoleon III’s capture at the battle of Sedan, Léon Gambetta stood on the Town Hall balcony and announced the end of the Second Empire and proclaimed the creation of a new Republic.

On 31 October Blanqui and others demonstrated in front of the Town Hall demanding more action against the Prussian army from the new government led by Jules Favre. A supporter on the inside unlocked the doors and the demonstrators occupied it.

On January 22 1871 Louise Michel was one of many who protested outside the Town Hall at the government’s inertia in face of the Prussian siege of Paris. the demonstrators were fired on and Louise Michel later wrote that this was the first occasion that she had fired back with her rifle.

On March 18 1871 the Thiers government first placed a regiment loyal to to it into the Town Hall overnight, and then attempted to seize all the canons in Paris. These events sparked the creation of the Paris Commune by the Central Committee of the National Guard on March 29 1871.

Retreating before the murdering Versaillais troops the Communards carried out their warning that they would burn down several of Paris’ historic buildings, including the Hotel de Ville

More Info / Plus d’informations



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

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

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

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

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

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

Work in progress