Lenin (Vladimir Ilych Ulyanov)

1870-1924 • Russia

Communist • Armand • 3rd International

Vladimir Ilych Ulyanov (Lenin) first visited Paris in June 1895 to meet Paul Lafargue, Marx’s son-in-law, the first socialist to be elected to the French parliament and a leader of the French Workers’ Party, the POF, Parti ouvrier français.  On December 3 1911, ironically perhaps given Lenin’s political distance from Lafargue, Lenin was one of those who spoke at Paul and Laura’s joint funeral after their suicides on November 25.

Lenin used his first visit to read about the history of the 1848 Revolution at the City of Paris’s Carnavalet Museum iat 23 rue de Sévignés that was created in 1880.  It will be great to visit it again after its 2018-2019 renovation.

In 1902 and 1903 Lenin gave several university lectures under the pseudonym Mr Illine. He also spoke to Iskra political meetings at various locations in Paris while living most of the time in London. He would be put up by Russian exiles while lecturing in the Rue des Écoles.

Trotsky, also in exile, attended at least one of the lectures he gave on the Russian Agrarian question. On 25 February 1903 Trotsky and Lenin spoke at a conference on Iskra‘s agricultural policy.

In December 1902 Lenin and Trotksy, Krupskaya and Natalya, went together to see a show at the Comic Opera in Rue Favart. Lenin leant Trotsky a pair of shoes for the occasion since his were not presentable. Trotsky later complained they were too small: ‘I suffered awfully, and Lenin kept making fun of me the whole time’.

In 1902 and 1902 Lenin and Krupskaya were put up by a Russian exile in 3, Rue de l’Estrapade.

On December 10 1904 Lenin sat for the Russian Jewish sculptor Aronson in the Rue Vaugirard who produced a bust that won a gold medal at the Liege art show in 1906.

Lenin sat for Naoum Aronson in his studio iat 93 rue Vaugirard on December 10 1904. The bust was subsequently displayed in the Soviet pavilion at the 1937 World Fair in Paris.

A few years later Lenin and Trotsky met again in Paris. In 1910 they are recorded as playing chess together and with Guillaume Apollinaire at the La Closerie des Lilas café restaurant at the eastern end of the Boulevard du Montparnasse.

In May 1905 Lenin is recorded as having spoken at a meeting on ‘Our tasks’ at 8 rue Danton. He was back speaking again in May 1908 and used the Sainte-Geneviève library at 10 Place du Panthéon in research for his book on Materialism and Empirical Criticism.

in December 1908 on their arrival from Geneva after staying a couple of nights at the Hotel des Gobelins (24 or 27 Boulevard St Marcel), where Lenin’s younger sister was living at the time while studying at the Sorbonne, Krupskaya and he moved to a second-floor flat at 24 rue Beaunier with his sister and Krupskaya’s mother.

In July 1909 he and Krupskaya then moved to a 48m2 flat at 4 rue Marie Rose, living there until July 1912. It became the Paris Lenin museum, but was sold by the French Communist Party when it needed the money in 2007. [A plaque on the wall outside was taken down soon after.]

Lenin opened a bank account at the Credit Lyonnais branch at 19 avenue du Général Leclerc soon after arriving in Paris. The Café du Lion, just down the avenue at number 5, was where he used to organise meetings of the Bolshevik faction within the Russian Social Democrats.

Lenin used to regularly cycle the 20 minutes to the National Library in the Rue de Richelieu next to the Palais Royal until the bike was stolen one day. But Lenin’s life wasn’t all Bolshevism and research.

On October 13 1909 the news arrived in Paris that Spanish educationalist, anti-monarchist and anti-Church, Francisco Ferrer had been shot by a military tribunal after September’s bloody suppression of an uprising against Spain’s colonial war in Morocco at which Ferrer had not been present.

Hours later Lenin and Krupskaya (and Jean Jaures) went on a 20,000-strong protest demonstration that surrounded the Spanish Embassy (34 boulevard de Courcelles). When the cavalry were ordered to disperse the demonstrators, pistol shots killing a policeman answered the sabre attack,.

In 1909 the 40-year-old Lenin also quickly fell head over heels in love with the 35-year-old Inessa Armand, the mother of five who was also lecturing at the Russian revolutionary school in Paris. Observers wrote: ‘He doesn’t take his eyes off her’. In 1910 Lenin had organized for her to move into a flat next door to him at number 2, rue Marie Rose [No plaque there either.]

Not surprisingly, in 1910-12 Armand and Lenin used to pop out to the Cafe d’Orléans, at 43 avenue de Général Leclerc, 10 minutes from their flats. But that was knocked down and the current café with that name (on the opposite side of the Avenue) is even closer, but without enough charm to merit a drink when I walked by it.

When Lenin left Paris for the last time (heading towards Poland) in July 1912, his comrades held a farewell meal for him and Krupskaya at the Pavillion Montsouris restaurant at 20 rue Gazan.

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Pierre Monatte

1881 – 1960 • France

CommunismTrade unionism • Trotsky

A highly influential figure in French revolutionary syndicalism from 1905 to 1925, Monatte was an opponent of the First World War from the start. In the 1920s he joined the Communist Party briefly but was expelled after opposing its shift towards Stalinism. He remained a principled socialist throughout his life.

Anti-war activists were few in number in August 1914.

August 2 1914 outside the Gare de l’Est saw a popular mass mobilisation for the war against Germany

Why was the 32-year-old proof-reader, red-haired Pierre Monatte, against the war from the start?

Monatte had become a leftist while reading Les Misérables by Victor Hugo at school at the age of 13. In 1902 after working as a teaching assistant for two years, he moved to Paris. He was just 20. The Dreyfus Affair was sharpening left-right political divisions across France. Working for various left papers as a proof-reader he then joined the proof-readers’ trade union, where his latent libertarianism shifted towards revolutionary syndicalism.

In 1905 he walked alongside socialists and anarchists in the funeral procession of Louise Michel from the Gare de Lyon, where the Communard’s body arrived on a train from Marseille.  Another demonstrator suggested he take up a temporary post editing the 5,000-circulation paper, L’Action syndicale. The four-page weekly focusing on miners’ problems was based in Lens, in France’s northern coalfields.

On March 10 1906 Europe’s biggest ever-mining disaster took place at the Courrières company pits at Lens. 1,099 miners were killed. Then, 17 days after the company had stopped trying to rescue surviving miners and started trying to save its mines, first 13 miners emerged alive and then another three days later, another man emerged unaided.

Europe’s worst mining disaster killed 1,099 miners in Lens, northern France on 10 March 1906. There were only 600 survivors.

Cries of ‘Assassins’ greeted the company directors at the funerals. The shock and the scandal unleashed a wave of strikes by 60,000 miners. Within days Monatte and 40 others were arrested and charged with plotting against the Republic.

Released after a month in jail Monatte attended the Amiens Congress of the CGT (Confédération Générale du Travail) in October 1906. He was one of the 840 (to 8) delegates who voted for the independence of the trade union from the political parties and the sects. He was now less an anarchist and much more a revolutionary syndicalist, believing, through the amazing miners’ actions following Courrières, that social transformation could occur very rapidly.

In 1907 he developed his analysis of revolutionary syndicalism at the Amsterdam conference of the Anarchist International.

In 1908 Monatte, then living in Rue Daubenton narrowly escaped arrest with the other main leaders of the CGT for organizing a huge demonstration for the 8-hour day, where four demonstrators were killed by the army. He went into exile disguised as a clergyman and changed train stations in Lyon thanks to the secretary of the taxi trade union. He lived under a pseudonym in Switzerland until the failure of the case against the other CGT leaders allowed him to travel back to Paris.

In 1909 he married. The same year he founded the fortnightly CGT paper, la Vie ouvrière (Worker’s Life), editing it from his flat in Rue Dauphine. The numbers of its subscriptions rose from 500 in 1909 to 2000 in 1914 before it was banned. It expanded from 64 to 80 pages. It was read widely among the most active and leading trade unionists.

In November 1914 Trotsky and Julius Martov met Pierre Monatte, Alfred Rosmer and a handful of French socialists who opposed the First World War from the very start at the anarchist Librarie du Travail bookshop on the Quai de Jemmapes.

In December 1914 Monatte became the first trade unionist to resign publicly from the Federal Committee of the CGT, in protest against the French union’s refusal to support a meeting of the Socialist international being organized by Swedish socialists. His close friend and collaborator, Alphonse Merrheim, signed the anti-war Zimmerwald Manifesto in 1915.

‘Irrespective of the truth as to the direct responsibility for the outbreak of the war, one thing is certain. The war which has produced this chaos is the outcome of imperialism, of the attempt on the part of the capitalist classes of each nation, to foster their greed for profit by the exploitation of human labor and of the natural treasures of the entire globe.’

1915 Zimmerwald declaration

Lenin, Zinoviev, Radek, Warski and Trotksy were among the 42 delegates from 11 countries who unanimously passed a resolution of sympathy for the victims of the war and of persecution by the belligerent governments. This mentioned the fate of the Poles, Belgians, Armenians and Jewish peoples, the exiled Duma members, Karl Liebknecht, Klara Zetkin, Rosa Luxemburg and Pierre Monatte. In January 1915 Monatte had been conscripted in the 252nd Regiment, and would shortly spend two years at the front.

Demobilised in March 1919, Monatte quickly re-launched La Vie Ouvrière, this time as a weekly. He also organised and then led the left minority at the CGT Congress in September 1919, criticising the Federal Executive for its ‘holy union’ wartime policy and its weak support for the Russian Revolution. In 1920 he was elected Secretary of the Revolutionary syndicalist committees, launched by the left minority, which decided to affiliate to the Communist (Third) International.

Monatte became a leading figure of the workers’ left after the war, challenging both the anarchists and the shift towards Stalinism. He resigned from the CGT’s La Vie Ouvrière and in March 1922 became the labour correspondent for l’Humanité, that had become the new Communist Party’s daily paper. Two years later, having constantly been attacked as a left supporter of Trotksy by Albert Treint, Monatte first resigned from the paper and was then expelled from the PCF in November 1924.

Robert Louzon (1882-1976), who had helped produce the first Arabic language Communist daily paper in Tunisia in 1921, resigned from the PCF when his friends Monatte and Rosmer were expelled. In 1936, aged over fifty, Louzon fought at the front with Republican forces in Spain. And in 1960 with Rosmer, he signed the Manifesto of 121.

In January 1925 Monatte responded to his expulsion with the first issue of a monthly called Révolution prolétarienne including a second letter by him and Alfred Rosmer to Communist Party members.

In January 1925 Monatte responded with a second (equally unsuccessful) appeal signed by him and Alfred Rosmer to Communist Party members to challenge the growing Stalinisation of the PCF. This revolutionary syndicalist journal ran until 1939 and is still in existence today after Monatte relaunched it in 1947 (although he ceased to play an active part in 1951 when he objected to its occasional pro-American positions).

From 1925 to 1952 Monatte worked as a proof reader, but through his RP articles, contacts and correspondence he continued to be a voice on the left attacking both the reformist CGT and the descent into Stalinism. He was one of the few French anti-colonialism campaigners.

During the German occupation Monatte believed it was necessary to struggle against the occupiers, but to guard against nationalism and the idea of a ‘holy alliance’.

The Maitron, France’s national labour dictionary, ends its biography of Pierre Monatte like this:

Few who got close to him were not influenced by his personality. He remained resolutely optimistic about the future of the working class, believing that while the revolutionary flame could dim, it would not go out’.

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Alfred Rosmer/Griot

1877-1964 • USA

Trade unionismCommunism • Trotskyism

Aged 7 Alfred Griot returned with his family from Patterson, New York, where his father was a barber. Alfred spoke good English, a facility that helped shape his revolutionary life as an internationalist. Griot’s father was a Dreyfusard and Alfred Griot attended revolutionary socialist and anarchist meetings as a teenager.

He became a trade unionist in 1899, joining the municipal workers’ union. In 1910 he was asked by his then anarchist friend Amédée Dunois to act as an interpreter for Pierre Monatte, founder of La Vie ouvrière at its office at 42 Rue Dauphine in a meeting with an American IWW member, William Z Foster.

Griot was a keen theatre-goer and in 1911-12 took his pseudonym Rosmer from an Ibsen character, and used this when he replaced Dunois as editor of the daily CGT trade union newspaper, La Bataille syndicaliste, printed at the Union Printworks at 40 Boulevard Arago.

Classified as ‘auxiliary service’ rather than conscripted during the First World War he was one ot the handful of trade unionists most present in Paris. He spent many of his Sundays at Trotsky‘s changing addresses. Trotsky and Martov, regularly attended the continuing La Vie ouvrière meetings that took place even after they stopped publishing it, at 96 Quai de Jemmapes, whose ‘Labour’ bookshop had been closed by the CGT that supported the war effort and the ‘holy union’..

In 1916 Rosmer, reporting back on the Zimmerwald Conference, met the anti-war activist, Marguerite Thévenet, who became his lifelong partner, marrying in 1932.

Having begun work as a clerk in the Paris-Orléans railway company, Thévenet’s experience there, and subsequently working for a Protestant holiday camp organisation (colonies de vacances) led her to become an expert at smuggling subversive literature and revolutionary activists across frontiers.

Thévenet first met revolutionary syndicalists when her childhood friend, Léontine Valette, met and married Pierre Monatte in 1909. When Monatte resigned from the leadership of the CGT she wrote strongly congratulating him. Member of the Rue Foudary pacificist group she met Rosmer at a meeting reporting on Zimmerwald in March 1916.

In May 1919 the French Committee for the Third International decided to send Rosmer to Moscow, where he played a big part in the Second Congress of the Comintern. In February 1921 he spoke at the funeral of Peter Kropotkin.

Still in France, Thévenet may have helped organise the illegal presence of Clara Zetkin at the Party’s founding congress in 1920.

Partners in seeking to change the world for nearly half a century Marguerite and Alfred Rosmer

Rosmer was back in France in 1921-22 where he joined the PCF but did not support the idea of trade unions affiliating to a single Communist international. Back in Moscow in May 1923 he became increasingly disquiet at the direction of the political infighting there, and after circulating Lenin’s Testament in France he, Monatte and others were expelled from the Communist Party.

In 1924 with Pierre Monatte he founded La Révolution prolétarienne, but he became less active in the anti-Stalinist opposition and had doubts about the possibility of creating a ‘Fourth International’.

Rosmer did support the idea of producing a journal to keep the militants together and informed, and he became the editor of the weekly Trotskyist paper The Truth first published by on 15 August 1929 at 23 rue des Vinaigriers. The editorial office of the weekly Trotskyist paper The Truth published by the Communist League on 15 August 1929. In April 1930 it led to the creation of the Communist League with which the Rosmers were involved along with Pierre Frank, Pierre Naville and Marthe Bigot.

Within nine months, however, Rosmer resigned from the editorial committee of The Truth. He had supported the idea of carrying out trade union work without party interference, a view Trotsky considered ‘rightist’ and detested the bullying of the League’s leader, Raymond Molinier. Trotsky then broke all contact with the Rosmers, even when he was in Paris for nearly two years in 1932-33.

The Rosmers survived on Marguerite’s work organising children’s holiday camps, and Alfred’s job as a proof-reader. Alfred was active in exposing the fraudulent nature of the Moscow trials, and working with the Dewey commission in 1937 in the US.

After the murder of his eldest son, Léon Sedov, in Paris in February 1938 Trotsky asked the Rosmers to find his grandson Sieva and bring him to Mexico to join him and Natalia. It took them a year of legal and police action (opposed by Sedov’s partner) before they succeeded – in a trip paid for by the royalties of the sale of the French edition of Trotsky’s book Stalin.

Friends of Trotsky’s assassinated son, Lev, Marguerite and Alfred took Trotsky’s daughter’s (Volkova) son Esteban (Seva) to Mexico to live with Trotsky in 1939. Seva is on the left in this photograph with Marguerite Rosmer and Natalia standing above Trotsky and Alfred Rosmer.

After the declaration of war the Rosmers decided to leave Coyoacan for New York, where Marguerite gave French lessons and Alfred resumed work as a proof-reader (initially on the bible thanks to work passed his way by Max Eastman).

They returned to France in the summer of 1946 and in 1947 resumed writing and supporting La Révolution prolétarienne, struggling for socialism against Stalinism without falling into the American camp.

In 1946 Natalia Trotsky gave the Alfred Rosmer authority to publish Trotsky’s works and he carried out this extremely difficult task for the rest of his life.

Maurice Nadeau (1911-2013), who had helped to organise an International Federation of Independent Revolutionary Artists in the 1930s with the support of André Breton and Diego Rivera gave Rosmer a great deal of support in publishing Trotsky. In 1960 he played a key role in organising the Manifesto of the 121 unequivocally supporting those who refused to fight against Algerian independence.

The Manifesto was signed, naturally, by Rosmer, but also by De Beauvoir, Sartre, Breton and Guerin featured in Left in Paris. His office at Les Lettres nouvelles at 3 Rue Malebranche was searched as a result and Nadeau questioned by the police.

It became easier after the Khruschev revelations of 1956, and the royalties he sent to Natalia became larger. Natalia and Marguerite died a week apart in 1962, and Alfred two years later after a fall in which be broke his femur.

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Victor Serge

1890-1947 • Belgium

AnarchismLiterature • Trotsky

Serge lived in Paris from 1909 and jailed for five years for his writing about the Bonnot gang, he was an independent socialist. His life took him from anarchist, to Bolshevik, jailed under Stalin. and associate of Trotsky. Back in Paris at the end of the 1930s he eventually escapes to the US, and then Mexico. He was a journalist and novelist.

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Albert Treint

1889-1971 • France

Communism • Trotskyism

Albert Treint was one of the first speakers at the Tours 1920 Congress of French Socialists (SFIO) to propose French affiliation to the Communist Third International and proposed the formation of the SFIC (Section Française de l’Internationale Communiste). At 31, he was then head of the Paris Federation of the SFIO. 

The son of a Parisian bus conductor, at 17 Treint won a three-year scholarship to train as a primary school. He then did two years’ military service before teaching for three years near Nanterre from 1910 to 1913. He joined the SFIO in 1914, the year he was called up. In the 21st Infantry regiment he was promoted captain.

Wounded in the Somme in both 1915 and 1917, in 1919 he was teaching again at Belleville’s rue Ramponeau boys’ primary school. From outside the school there is an amazing view all over Paris. Treint did not enjoy it for long.

The view over Paris from the school where Albert Treint taught in 1919-1921 before being fired for his active role in the formation of the French Communist Party

Shortly after his December 30 1920 election to the steering committee of the brand new SFIC he was first arrested in May for a speech calling on French soldiers to disobey orders to fight in Russia, and then fired from his teaching post in September 1921.

A key participant in the internal Communist faction fights between those like Monatte, arguing for greater unity with other revolutionary syndicalists, and those defending the Third International’s anti-unity and disciplinary positions, Treint’s hard-line faction won.

In November-December 1922 at the first enlarged executive meeting of the Third International he defended the United Front in these terms:

We get closer to and then further away from (reformist leaders) alternating in the same way as the hand gets closer to and further away from the chicken it is plucking.

Albert Treint 1922

In 1923-24, on behalf of his left faction he shared the General Secretaryship of the PCF with a centrist, first Frossard (who left the PCF on January 1 1924) and then Sellier.  He then spent four months in jail with Gaston Monmousseau (1883-1960) and others for having attended a conference with German communists calling for opposition to the French occupation of the Ruhr in January 1923.

Albert Treint successfully defended himself in May 1923 after being charged with calling on soldiers to mutiny. He is pictured here with a lawyer advising him.

In Moscow representing the PCF from 1924 to 1927, he transited politically from supporting Stalin to supporting Trotsky and Zinoviev and the Left Opposition. In 1928 he returned to live in Belleville. He was expelled from the Central Committee of the PCF and then from the PCF itself. For the next ten years Treint tried to build left opposition groups in France, before adopting the view of a tiny minority fringe of the communist left that saw the Soviet Union as a form of ‘state capitalism’ rather than as the Trotskyist sects did, as a ‘degenerated workers’ state’.

Treint rejoined the SFIO after the threat of a fascist coup d’etat in February 1934. As a virulent anti-Stalinist he opposed the Popular Front between the SFIO and PCF. Yet with the return of the 1936 Popular Front government headed by Léon Blum, he was reinstated in his teaching post by Jean Zay, the new Jewish minister of Education and Culture.
With the outbreak of the Second World War, the PCF was dissolved by the Daladier government on September 26 1939 for supporting the August 1939 Hitler-Stalin pact. 317 town councils controlled by the PCF were shut down. 2,800 councillors were declared illegal. 620 trade union branches were immediately closed by the now right-wing majority controlling what had been a reunited CGT since 1934.
On 18 November 1939 the government adopted a decree allowing internment of anyone considered dangerous to national defence or public safety. Treint aged 50, was fired again along with tens of thousands of other communists and those suspected of communist leanings.
Treint sought safety about 100 miles south of Paris, and probably (although this is uncertain) joined the resistance. After the war he played no part in political life, dying at the age of 82 in 1971.
Expelled from the giant French Communist Party; far too left-wing for the French Socialists (SFIO and PS); too troublesome for the Trotksyist sects; suspected of allowing three anarchists to be killed while they were trying to break up an early PCF meeting; married with one son born in 1914… it’s perhaps not surprising I can’t much about where this Parisian lived in Paris, except that in 1928, when he was expelled from the PCF he was living at 3, rue Carducci.
But it is a pity that so many socialists who spent their lives trying their best to change the world and achieve international workers’ unity are largely unremembered. So for them, this beautiful red poppy photographed by Ivor Penn in 1968 (and then photographed by me in another Paris museum).

Ivor Penn photographed this wilting red poppy in 1968. It is still beautiful today.

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From one war to another

The Dreyfus affair was the moment that redefined the French Left between the two wars against Germany

Anarchism, Socialism, Paris Exhibition, Dreyfus, Revolutionary syndicalism – in progress

Rue Auguste Comte

Arrondissement 6

Number 3

In 1885 this section of the Rue de l’abbé de L’Epée was given the name of the French mathematician and founder (1798-1857) of the positivist philosophical school

A flat in the imposing No. 3 belonged to the parents of Simone Weil, and this was where she met with Trotksy on 30 December 1933 and hid him for a few days during a clandestine visit to Paris. Trotsky took the decision that night to move to found the Fourth International.

A plaque on the wall states only that Simon Weil lived there from 1929 until 1940 and that she was a philosopher.

The property at No. 3 where Simone Weil’s parents owned a flat now has a plaque commemorating her presence there.


Rue Danton

Arrondissement 6

Numbers: 8, 10

The 1896 Congress of the Feminist International took place in the recently completed Hôtel des sociétés savantes (elite Knowledge Societies – ranging from Sociology to Zoology and Astronomy) at No. 8.

This was also the venue for a thousand-strong meeting to hear Trotsky speak on December 6 1907 about ‘The stages of the Russian Revolution and the Current Political Situation‘.

Lenin spoke more than once at the Knowledge Societies meeting hall. On May 12 1908 he spoke there on ‘Our Tasks’ and on November 29 1909, just after he came to live in Paris, he spoke on ‘Counter-Revolutionary Liberal Ideology’. He gave a lecture on Leon Tolstoy who had died two months earlier on 18 January 1911, and in June that year spoke on’ Stolypin and the Revolution’.

The Italian socialist Pietro Nenni spoke there at an advanced Socialist school on January 8 1935.

On 16 January 1955 Pierre Lambert and Marceau Pivert organised a meeting demanding the release of Messali Hadj in the same huge meeting room.

The building was bought by the Sorbonne in 1985 and since 2005 is the Research Centre of Paris IV – Sorbonne university.

About where No. 10 now stands in 1865 was No 1 Rue Larrey, where Nathalie Le Mel lived with her three children and organised the cooperative kitchens of the Marmite association. This was also an address where the International Working Men’s Association continued to organise after it was banned by Napoleon III.

The short street was only built between 1888 and 1895 and was named after the French revolutionary Danton from the start.

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Rue Favart

Arrondissement 2

Opéra Comique

The fin de sècle Comic Opera theatre in a street named after the early comic opera/vaudeville writer, Charles-Simon Favart, has a lengthy history. Lenin and Trotksy saw a show together there in 1902.

The Comic Opera, set up by Louis IV in 1714, had the first Favart Theatre built for it in 1783, when it was inaugurated in the presence of Marie-Antoinette. Charles-Simon Favart (1710-1792) was a popular playwright who helped inaugurate the comic opera vaudeville style.

Charles-Simon Favart began life as a pastry cook. Aged 24 he produced his first vaudeville theatre.

The first theatre in Rue Favart was destroyed by fire in 1838, and a new one built on the same site in 1840. The building was burnt down again in 1887 with nearly 100 people in the audience killed.

In 1898 the third Opéra Comique theatre was opened in Rue Favart in the presence of the French President, Félix Faure. It was the major work of architect, Louis Bernier (1845-1919).

Four years later Lenin loaned Trotsky a pair of respectable shoes so the two couples (Vladimir and Krupskaya, Natalya and Leon) could go along to a show, but Trotsky kept complaining the shoes were too tight.


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.


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.


Boulevard du Montparnasse

Arrondissements: 6, 14 and 15

Numbers 99, 102, 103, 108, 126, 132, 142, 159, 171

The terrace of Le Dôme reflects the Metro station and La Rotonde café on the uneven numbered side of the boulevard du Montparnasse

The boulevard du Montparnasse crosses three arrondissements. The odd numbers on the north side are all in the 6th; the even numbers from 2 to 66 are in the 15th; and from number 68 onwards the addresses are all in the 14th. It was named with reference to the Greek residence of the muses by 17th century students after a tiny hillock in the area.

One excellent source on the left in Paris, the website Parisrévolutionnaire suggests that both Lenin and Trotsky were at the Dôme in 1905. Hazan (IOP), however, insists the Dôme… should never have been allowed to call itself the café of Trotsky and Kertész.

What is certainly true is that in the early years of the 19th century, the Dôme at No 108 became a major intellectual centre, and attracted many left political and artistic people.

Pablo Picasso as well as Modigliani, Utrillo and Apollinaire all drank or ate at le Dôme (No. 108) and la Rotonde (No. 103). The owner of La Rotonde was denounced by Aragon on July 13 1923 for having been a police informer on Lenin before World War One. Other neighbouring well-frequented intellectual and artist cafes of the interwar years included la Coupole (No. 102-104) and le Select (No. 99) .

The wounded black Foreign Legion corporal, Eugene Bullard, is reported as having decided while at the Coupole in the Spring of 1916, to become a pilot in the French air force.

Simone De Beauvoir lived in a flat above the Rotonde for the first ten years of her life before the father’s family lost most of its wealth in World War 1.

Diego Rivera was also part of this leftish Montparnasse scene in the early 20th century.

Léon Blum moved to the group of artists studios and flats soon after it was built in 1908 at 126 boulevard Montparnasse.

Léon Blum saw himself primarily as a writer before 1914, moving into the artists’ block of flats and studios at No. 126 boulevard Montparnasse. Henri Matisse lived and worked at No. 132 in 1927.

From 1865 to 1866, after the publication of his first novel, Émile Zola lived in a room at No. 142.

In the 1920s Le Dôme became a meeting place for many English-language writers like Ernest Hemingway, Sinclair Lewis and Sylvia Beach. In 1924 John Dos Passos joined other American writers at No. 171 the La Closerie des Lilas bar.

La Closerie des Lilas used to be a cheapish outside bar with dancing visited by lots of poets, artists and philosophers from the first half of the 20th century is now a big pricey restaurant

At the eastern end of the Boulevard near the Port Royal, this famous restaurant is where in June 1941 Simone De Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre organised a clandestine ‘Socialism and Freedom’ meeting of about 50 intellectuals, including Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Yet in the face of increasing repression they did not do much more, and in September 1941 Sartre agreed to take the job of a secondary school teacher who had been fired for being Jewish.

Hemingway was also known to eat frequently in the years 1924-1926 at the Le Nègre de Toulouse restaurant at No 159.

Louis Aragon met Mayakovsky for the first time at the Coupole on November 5 1928. The Coupole was requisitioned between 1940 and 1944 for German-only events

Earlier, under the Second Empire that he satirised so brilliantly, Émile Zola lived at No 142 in 1865 to 1866.


Rue Narcisse Diaz

Arrondissement 16

Number 7

In the 1860s Narcisse Diaz was often at Étretat, partly for health reasons and partly to paint with his friend Courbet.

Originally called the ‘Sentier des Arches’ (the arches pathway) and the ‘Rue de Seine’, it next became a section of the rue Wilhelm before finally in 1894 being renamed in honour of the painter Narcisse Diaz (1807-1876), a friend of Gustave Courbet, next to whom in the 1860s he painted several scenes on the Normandy coast.

Lev Sedov with his father

At No. 7 the street hosts the Clinique Mirabeau founded in 1929 where Trotsky and Natalia Sedov’s activist son, Lev Sedov, showing signs of appendicitis was advised to go in 1938 by his secretary, a secret agent of the Russian NKVD. The clinic’s director an informer for the NKVD was in charge of anaesthetising Sedov. Four days later, on February 18 1938, Sedov (born 1906 in Saint Petersbourg) was dead.

The opened records of the Stalin’s secret police show them congratulating themselves on his death, but some suggest it was not planned, and was due merely the incompetence of the surgeon.


Rue Oudry

Arrondissement 13

Number: 27

Renamed in 1894 after the 18th century animal painter and former director of the Gobelins Tapestry factory, Jean-Baptiste Oudry, the road had been a centre for tanneries for nearly two hundred years.

Trotsky and his family lived and he was arrested at No. 27 in 1916, before being expelled to Spain. His movements were spied upon from a bar round the corner in the Boulevard St. Marcel.


Rue Rambuteau

Arrondissements 1, 3, 4

Numbers: 19, 54, 102, 108

Rambuteau around 1900

The road runs West to East from the Sainte-Eustache church (shown above at 6 am in the morning in 1900 looking up the road from the northern edge of Les Halles) to the Rue des Archives.

Building began in 1838 and in 1839 it was formally named the Rue Rambuteau to honour the Seine department Prefect from 1833 to 1848. Claude-Philibert Barthelot de Rambuteau who initiated its construction with the widening of streets in central Paris to 13m.

The kilometre-long east-west was conceived after the 1832 cholera epidemic had proved the case made by the hygienists to pull down many of the Paris’ narrow medieval streets. Its tearing up a sizeable area of old Paris stimulated one of the first Parisian housing speculation spikes.

One of the original Rambuteau-prescribed street number tiles (white numbers on a blue background) is still above the door at No. 58

One of the streets knocked down and merged into the road was the Rue de la Chanverrerie where, at the junction with Rue Mondétour, at approximately No. 102 Rue Rambuteau, a barricade was built on June 6 1832. This was where Victor Hugo placed the Caberet Corinthe and the death of Enjoiras in Les Misérables.

Several other barricades appeared in the road in the early days of the February Revolution and again during the June days of 1848. Fighting also broke out on December 3 1851 as some tried to resist the seizure of power by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte. 

The cafe on the corner with the Rue du Temple at No. 19 used to be a favourite restaurant of Russian Nihilist exiles in the late 19th century. Trotsky and Lenin met there early in 1903.

On April 28 1848, after the shift against radical republicanism, Armand Barbès held a meeting of the Club de la Revolution at No. 54, the home of Citizen Furet. Barbès had set up as a more ‘moderate’ alternative to Blanqui‘s more insurrectional Société républicaine centrale, and this meeting discussed the election results and set in motion the attempted insurrection of May 15.

A personal interest of mine is that No. 108 was built on the birthplace of the adventurer cum comic poet Jean-François Regnard. On August 10 1779 his name was given to the second shortest-street in Paris next to the newly-built Odéon Theatre. This street was where my father James Jefferys (1914-1996) lived nearly half his life.

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Rue du Temple

Arrondissements 3, 4

Numbers: 63, 79, 106, 158, 191

From the junction of Rue-du Temple and Rue de Turbigo looking at the Place de la Republique

One of Paris’ oldest streets it now runs for 1.3 km from the Rue Rivoli up the the Place de la Republique, with the Square du Temple garden created in 1857 leading off it at No. 158.

The name Rue du Temple comes from the Templars district, a large area of land given to the Knights Templar military religious order around 1170. In 1240 the 50 metre high keep was built within a walled enclosure. It initially housed the king’s treasure, and then became a prison. Its most famous occupants from August 13 1792 were Louis XVI and his family.

On December 18 1795 Marie-Thérèse Charlotte de France, their daughter, was the only Bourbon to leave the Tower alive and without a trip to the guillotine. Louis XVI was guillotined on January 21 1793. Marie-Antoinette on October 16 1793. Elisabeth, the king’s sister, on May 10 1794. Louis, the king’s son, died from tuberculosis in the keep on June 8 1795.

On June 29 2017 the Square’s name was changed to Square du Temple – Elie-Wiesel in honour of the human rights campaigner and Holocaust survivor.

In 2007 the incumbent Socialist mayor from a Jewish Polish family erected a Stele in the Square to commemorate the 85 Jewish children of the Third Arrondissement who, under the age of six, had been arrested by the French police and deported to Auschwitz, never to return.

The Templar Tower was knocked down by Napoléon Bonaparte in 1808 partly to prevent Royalist pilgrimages to the site and partly, some argue, to spare his future wife, the sight of her aunt’s last address. The garden and Square was one of 24 laid down under Haussmann’s plan for giving Parisians a little more air.

On February 27 1871 the Square at No 158 was the meeting point of the National Guardsmen on their way to the Champs-Élysées to try and stop the Prussians from entering Paris. Every Saturday during the Commune the band of the National Guard played there to raise funds for the widows and children of men who had died in the war.

Former soldiers who had joined the Commune and foreigners were the first to be executed in the Square on May 25 1871.

The statue by Amadee Doublemard of the popular anti-monarchist poet Pierre-Jean de Béranger that was placed in the Square at its inception was melted down in 1942, but replaced by one in stone by Henri Lagriffioul in 1953.

Women Communards such as Elisabeth Dmitrieff and Nathalie Le Mel used to meet in a women’s club at the Grand café de la Nation  at No. 79, the 17th century Hotel de Montmor. On International Women’s Day March 8 2007 under the recently elected Socialist Paris mayor, a small triangular square at the meeting point of the Rue du Temple and the Rue de Turbigo was named the Place Elisabeth Dmitrieff. It is just outside the entrance to the Temple metro station.

In October 1870 Blanqui was in hiding at No. 191. The flat belonged to Eugène Cléray, a clockmaker and follower of Blanqui who was deputy mayor of the Third arrondissement during the Siege of Paris. Blanqui stayed in the flat on October 31 before going to the Hotel de Ville to see how the insurrection against the new republican government’s indifferent handling of the war with Prussia was going.

Despite 15,000 demonstrating outside the Hotel de Ville for the resignation of the government and then occupying it, by the early hours of the next day it had failed. Blanqui then returned to No. 191.

Where the rue Rambuteau crosses the Rue du Temple at No. 63 there was a restaurant where the Russian Nihilists met in the late 19th century. Trotsky and Lenin also met there early in 1903.

During the occupation of Paris the Central Telephone Archives at No. 106, built in 1927-1928, was taken over by the Germans, and was one of their remaining strong-holds in August 1944.

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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…