Quai de Jemmapes

Arrondissement: 10

Number 96

For a long period before the Second World War this was the libertarian Librarie du Travail bookshop on the side of the Saint Martin canal.

The old Librarie du Travail on the Quai de Jemmapes alongside the St Martin canal is now a hotel bar where one December evening in 2016 I had a really good, if not cheap, glass of wine. At least its name, Hotel Citizen, testifies to a remote leftist memory.

The Quai was first given the name Quai Charles-X in 1824, when that very Catholic reactionary Bourbon king took the crown. In 1830 it was renamed the Quai de Jemmapes, after the first battle of November 6 1792 that was won by the new revolutionary army in Belgium near the village of Jemappes, against the Austrians – one in which the new July 1830 monarch, Louis-Philippe, had taken part on the French government’s side.

This revolutionary syndicalist bookshop was where Pierre Monatte (1881-1960) ran the CGT’s La Vie Ouvrière from 1909 until the monthly review stopped publication in July 1914. It continued to be used as a meeting place. Julius Martov first met some of the few French revolutionary syndicalists who opposed the First World War, and later, in November 1914, Monatte, Alfred Rosmer (1877-1964) and Alphonse Merrheim met Trotksy (1879-1940).

The bookshop was also visited by Ho Chi Minh in 1919, where he made contact with the left socialists who would go on to lead the majority to vote to affiliate to the Third International at the SFIO Tours congress in 1920.

This was also the second location of La Révolution prolétarienne, a ‘revue syndicaliste-communist’ monthly set up by Pierre Monatte in January 1925 after he had resigned from the then Communist Party-controlled daily, l’Humanité. From January to June 1925 it had been first based at 17 rue André del Sarte in the 18th arrondissement.

The journal dealt with practical and theoretical issues. It denounced French imperialism in Indochina, Madagascar and North Africa, and criticised Stalin’s hold over the workers’ movement and the persecutions of the Left Opposition in Russia. In 1927 La Révolution prolétarienne became a fortnightly. From 1930 it described itself as a ‘revue syndicaliste revolutionnaire’.  Contributors included early founders of the PCF such as Alfred Rosmer, as well as Daniel Guérin, Simone Weil, Victor Serge and Jean Maitron.


La Révolution prolétarienne stopped publishing in 1939 but started up again in 1947. In 2018 its strapline simply state ‘Revue fondée par Pierre Monatte en 1925’. It is available online.

PLACES

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.

PLACES

Communism

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…