Alexandre Martin, known to everyone in Paris as the ‘Worker’ Albert, was the first working class man to enter a French Government in February 1848.
Revolutionary and socialist, ‘Worker Albert’ served on the 1848 Labour Commission before being jailed in May 1848.
15, rue Neuve-de-Ménilmontant (now rue de Commines). In 1839 Albert lived here when he was one of the leaders of the Four Seasons Club organised by Blanqui and Barbes, .
131, rue Vieille-du-Temple Albert was arrested in January 1841 after the assassination attempt on Louis-Philippe on 15 October 1840, when he lived at this address. finding communist pamphlets at the house he was jailed for a month for belong to a Communist club.
64 rue Léon Frot. Albert worked in the button manufacturer Batperosses from 1845 to 1848.
11 rue des Bourdonnais. Offices of ‘Reform’ journal and meeting place on 21 February 1848 of republicans about their attitude to the ban on the Paris banquet. Albert attended as did at least two police spies. On 24 February this was where a left list for the government was drawn up. Albert’s name was added when the offices were invaded by a delegation of workers was there along with those of Ledru-Rollin and Louis Blanc.
Luxembourg Palace. On February 28 the Luxembourg Commission was established and moved in. It included Albert and Louis Blanc as well as Victor Considerant, a follower of Fourier. One of the police spies was arrested in Albert’s office in the palace on March 14 1848.
10 place de l’ Hôtel de Ville. Paris Town Hall. On 15 May 1848 among the demonstrators who seized the Town Hall were Albert, Blanqui, Louis Blanc, Cabet, Pierre Leroux and Raspail, Shortly afterwards they were evicted by the still selective (wealthier) National Guard on the orders of Ledru-Rollin and Lamartine. Raspail was arrested at about 6 pm and transferred to the Vincennes Prison.
On March 31 1871 Jean Allemane was present when the Red Flag was raised on the cross that had had its two arms sawn off on top of the Saint Geneviève church which had been turned back into the Panthéon.
The 5th arrondissement’s Committee of Vigilance attended by Allemane used to meet at 17 Rue Pascal during the Commune. This was an old masonic meeting place.
As a 27-year-old printworker wearing a big red belt he was active (and visible) in the 5th arrondissement fighting around the Pantheon in the Bloody Week of May 1871.
There was fighting at most of the barricades in the Fifth arrondissement during the Commune’s final ‘bloody week’. There are reports of Jean Allemane and Maxime Lisbonne being present at those in Rue Cujas, Rue des Fossés Saint Jacques, Rue Malebranche, Place Maubert and Rue Soufflot. When the barricades fell, many of their defenders were shot on the spot or after improvised military tribunals with priority given to serving soldiers and foreigners who had come to support the Commune. Some 400 prisoners were shot after the fighting.
Allemane is recorded as having led the defence of the Quarter on May 24 and having directly commanded a barricade in the rue du Pot de Fer which was also defended by many women.
At the Mairie/Town Hall of the Fifth arrondissement at 21 Place du Panthéon, Allemane had locked Joseph Piazza inside on May 24 1871 to protect him from his men who accused him of sacrificing them in vain. But the Communards forgot to release Piazza when they retreated from the Marie and he was shot by the Versaillais.
Allemane survived and was deported after the defeat of the Commune. A widower, he was living at the bar he ran at 14 rue Maître Albert with his mother and son Charles when he was arrested on May 28 1871.
A week after he returned to Paris after finally being amnestied, on May 15 1880 Allemane married a seamstress, Adèle Quénot, at the 6 Place Gambetta, Town Hall of the 20th arrondissement with whom he had already had two children.
From 1882 to 1889 the couple lived at 11 rue du Pressoir before moving to 14 rue de la Fontaine au roi in 1890.
In 1885, while still working as a typesetter and page designer at the Rue du Croissant printworks, he opened his own small printing shop, the Productrice at 51 Rue Saint-Saveur. Shortly afterwards he turned the business into a cooperative.
In the 1880s he created the Allemanist syndicalist tendency within French socialism. The socialists who remained in the FTSF were called ‘possibilists’ as against the ‘doctrinaires’. The possibilists tended to be federalists while the doctrinaires were more likely to be centralists.
In 1889 Allemane was a founding member of the Société fraternelle des anciens combattants de la Commune (Fraternal society of Former Communards’. He was a regular follower of its meetings at a wine merchants at 133 Rue Saint-Antoine.
Allemane became the leading spokesperson for the FTSF in the 1890s.
From December 6-9 1899 he participated in the first congress of French socialist organisations, along with Jean Jaurès and Paul Lafargue in the Salle Japy in the Rue Japy. This was a huge gymnasium in the 11th Arrondissement set up in 1884 that could seat 1,500 people.
After the second congress in the Salle Wagram (at 37-39 Avenue de Wagram) in September 1900, Allemane was nominated to the Agreement Committee working party of the different organisations. It met regularly at 17rue Portefoin.
Louis Blanc opposed ‘murderous competition’ and stood for a new organisation of work based on workers’ associations.
Educated thanks to a royal grant in his early 20s he got a job as a private tutor for an industrialist and became interested in working conditions in the factories around industrial Arras in Northern France.
Moving to Paris in late 1834 he started to work for a pro-democracy newspaper and became active in left circles. In 1838 he called for the creation of a national railway company rather than dozens of private businesses. He became known as a republican/democrat propagandist.
As editor in chief of the Revue du Progrès politique, social et littéraire from 1839 to 1842 he developed many of the socialist ideas with which he became identified: universal suffrage, a single representative body, strong central control over all collective areas of society, a just distribution of wealth between capitalists and their workers.
It was in the Progress Review that he first articulated the ideas behind his 1839 pamphlet, ‘The Organisation of Work‘. This became the blueprint for most French socialist schools of thought for the rest of the century. Essentially it proposed that the State fund the creation of workers’ cooperatives, whose profits would be returned to a central fund that would redistribute them in social security and reinvest them in new cooperatives.
Between 1841 and 1848 he worked with Pierre Leroux and George Sand on the Revue indépendante. Also, over 1841 to 1844 he published five volumes of a history of the first ten years of the Louis-Philippe monarchy, and then in 1847 a history of the French revolution. This history, highly sympathetic to Robespierre, made Blanc a big attraction in the 1847 pro-democracy Banquets campaign whose banning led in February 1848 to the overthrow of Louis-Philippe.
In 1844 Blanc was one of the many French leftists, including Proudhon and Cabet, involved in discussions with Karl Marx and other German exiles at the office of the fortnightly Vorwarts (Forward!) newspaper in the Rue des Moulins.
On February 24 1848 Blanc was back at Ledru-Rollin’s office putting up left names to be placed on the Provisional Government. The next day he welcomed a march on the Hotel de Ville demanding that the provisional government guarantee work for the unemployed.
On February 26 Blanc was one of the founders, with Albert, François Arago and Ledru-Rollin and others, of the leftist Rights of Man club.
On March 1 1848 Blanc and Albert presided over the first meeting of the Workers’ Commission at the Luxembourg Palace, with other left reformers such as André Savary, Constantin Pecqueur and Victor Considerant, Their meetings, unlike any others before the Constituent Assembly began to meet, were open to the press, allowing their discussions to reach a wide audience.
The Commission introduced two major reforms within days. It initiated an unemployment scheme whereby workers who attended ‘national workshops’ would be allocated work and be paid; and at the same time it funded ‘social workshops’ in the form of cooperatives supplying uniforms for the national guard and saddling and harnesses for the army. The latter, production cooperatives, were profitable and survived until 1850. The former were closed in June 1848 leading to the bloody June days insurrection of working-class Paris.
Elected to the Constituent Assembly on April 23 1848, Blanc was removed from the government. His last report to the new Assembly unsuccessfully proposed that the Workers’ Commission should be replaced by a Ministry of Labour.
It was at Rue Taitbout that Blanc and other leftists met and decided not to participate in the following day’s protest demonstration that ended up occupying the Hotel de Ville and unsuccessfully demanding a change in government.
Blanc had been the honorary president of the Socialist Workers’ Club that met at the Valentino Dance Hall in the Rue St Honore. It was dissolved after the failure of the occupation of the National Assembly on May 15 1848 at the Hotel de Ville when Barbès, Blanqui, the worker Albert, Leroux and François-Vincent Raspail, they tried to change the membership of the government.
Accused of supporting the 15 May protest, even though he had not participated, in August the Assembly voted by 504 to 22 to put him on trial. He defended himself stressing his commitment to socialism as the logical next step of the republican’s tryptique, Freedom, Equality and Fraternity. Without hanging around for the verdict he left Paris on a false passport, via Belgium, for England.
After his return from exile to France at the end of the Second Empire on September 4 1870 Blanc was elected top of the list as Deputy for the Seine on February 8 1871. He voted against Thiers taking power and against peace with the Prussians. But he was also opposed to the Paris municipality, the shortlived Commune, assuming it had a right to govern the whole country, and made repeated unsuccessful appeals for negotiation and reconciliation between the Commune and the Versailles government.
At the end of the Commune, his furniture, papers and library were destroyed in the fire.
He then moved to live above the Café Tortoni at 21 Rue Visconti. He was on the extreme left of the National Assembly with virtually no wider influence. On February 20 1876 he was elected deputy for both the 5th and the 13th arrondissements in Paris and at Saint-Denis. In 1881 he was re-elected by the 5th arrondissement.
On March 3 1879 Blanc (in the National Assembly) and Victor Hugo (in the Senate) successfully passed a law providing an ‘Amnesty-Pardon’ to around 3,500 Communards jailed or exiled after the 1871 Paris Commune.
Louis Blanc died on December 6 1882 and was buried in Père Lachaise next to his art critic younger brother Charles who had died in January. A huge funeral procession followed his coffin to the cemetery.