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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Une rue Robespierre à Paris!

by Alexis Corbière

A Robespierre street in Paris!

Translated Wednesday 11 November 2009, by Henry Crapo and reviewed by Henry Crapo

Alexis Corbière, Paris Council member, First adjoint for the 12th arrondissement, and National Secretary of the Parti de Gauche

You have to be pretty naive to believe that the naming of streets and places in a city is something politically neutral. To name a street, or to unname it, is a political act. It is never a question of chance.

It is unacceptable that in the capital, Maximilien Robespierre, a central figure of the great French Revolution, of that founding moment of our Republic, does not have the slightest avenue, rue, nor even an impasse or passage to his name. Yet, already for a long time now, many communes, particularly in the Paris suburbs, and particularly those on the Left, have named streets for Robespierre. But you have to cross the circumferential highway [1] to find a street or metro station named for "The Incorruptible".

It is a historic injustice that he who had such an important role in the drafting of the Declaration of Human Rights in 1793, who was among the first to denounce slavery, who favored giving the vote to actors and Jews, who wished to see the end of colonization, who was for the right of petition, and who even intervened in the National Assembly for the abolition of the death penalty, should thus willfully be forgotten in the principal city of France for over two hundred years.

Even more unjust in light of the fact that many streets in Paris still bear the names of men and women whose political road was more than questionable. To cite only a few names, contemporaries of Robespierre, those responsible for Thermidor have their streets: Carnot, Canbon, Boissy d’Anglas, Cambacérès, François de Neufchâteau... One guilty of high treason, the General La Fayette has an avenue, a sold out politician Mirabeau has a bridge, and I recite not the long list of military men who have caused blood to flow in the colonies, and who still have their names engraved on the walls of Paris.

A certain official history, often written by "counter-revolutionaries", wrongfully presents Robespierre as "the soul of terror". This insistence in fouling his name has for purpose to make disappear the promises of equality and justice of the Great Revolution.

In 1946, after the liberation, the City of Paris attributed the name Robespierre to the place Marché-Saint-Honoré, but their decision was repealed in 1950. So the majority on the Left sitting at present in the Council of Paris should repair this error.

At the session of council last 30 September, a motion prepared by the MRC, supported by the Communist Party and those elected in the Parti de Gauche was presented to this effect. It was defeated, logically and without finesse, by the Right, but also, more disappointingly by some Greens and by the Socialist group, who judged the motion to be too "controversial".

We see no reason to give up. We will continue to demand this, since Robespierre is for us a true "honorable citizen". A petition, at the initiative of the national federation for free thought, is circulating, to this effect. Paris will be greater, for having ceased to forget, for having rendered hommage to Maximilien Robespierre.

[1"le périphérique"

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