Books for changing the world
Marx in Paris, 1871
Jenny's ”Blue Notebook”

An imaginative work of historical fiction places Karl Marx in the thick of the remarkable events of the Paris Commune.

In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Paris Commune, leftist writers Olivier Besancenot and Michael Löwy offer a deeply informed, and eminently enjoyable, imagined history of what might have been if Karl Marx and his eldest daughter, Jenny, had travelled to Paris during the heady weeks of April 1871. In disguise, employing imperfect but serviceable French, Karl and Jenny encounter and debate many important figures of the movement, including Leó Frankel, Eugène Varlin, Charles Longuet, Elisabeth Dmitrieff, and Louise Michel, eventually returning to England with a profoundly changed sense of political possibility.

  • “Far more than most dare admit, history and historians mix fact and fiction. The two were and are always inseparably intertwined. The 1871 Paris Commune – when a proletariat took political power from a bourgeoisie – transformed the social movement to do better than capitalism. Marx assessed the strengths and weaknesses of that transformative moment to advance that movement. Inspired by Marx’s analysis, Lenin did likewise. This book adds to the tradition evolving since Marx and Lenin. Remarkably accessible, it refreshes, provokes, and thereby develops that movement still further.” —Richard Wolff, author of Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism

    “Michael Löwy and Olivier Besancenot ‘discovered’ a manuscript written by Jenny, Marx’s daughter, revealing a secret visit of her father to Paris as it was besieged during the fateful weeks of the Commune. Their book is not an exercise in counter-factual history – a ‘what if...’ – but rather an original and inventive form of history writing. They describe the Commune by emphasizing its greatness, pointing out its limitations, and assessing its historical legacy in a pleasant and vigorous literary account. Thus, Marx dons the habit of a hidden observer who, alongside the voice of his daughter, guides us through the labyrinth of a revolutionary experience in the making. Marx becomes a ‘witness’ and the Commune a living experience. This fictional account is a remarkable piece of historical criticism and revolutionary imagination.” —Enzo Traverso, author of Revolution: An Intellectual History

    “The authors embarked on an imaginary visit to the Paris Commune seen through the eyes of Karl Marx and his daughter Jenny, and the result is as true as real. Readers will learn more – and with great pleasure at that – from reading this well-researched little book of historical fiction than they would learn from reading a thick academic volume.” —Gilbert Achcar, author of Marxism, Orientalism, Cosmopolitanism

Other books by Olivier Besancenot and Michael Löwy

  • Revolutions

    Revolutions is a unique collection of rare photographs documenting some of the most important revolutionary upheavals, from the 1871 Paris Commune to the Zapatista rebellion of the 1990s.

  • Ecosocialism

    Revolutionary ideas and strategies to save the planet.
  • On Changing the World

    Michael Löwy highlights the cultural, “spiritual,” and ethical dimensions of Marxist thought largely neglected by most of the existing literature.
  • The Politics of Combined and Uneven Development

    Drawing on the prescient insights of Leon Trotsky, Löwy explores the contradictions of global economic development.
  • The Theory of Revolution in the Young Marx

    The ideas of Marx's early writings come alive in this important examination of their lasting relevance.

Other books of interest

  • How Revolutionary Were the Bourgeois Revolutions?

    A historical defense of the concept of bourgeois revolution, from the sixteenth century to the twentieth.
  • The Paris Commune

    This comprehensive history—based in primary source accounts—of worker’s control in Paris considers historic and contemporary debates on the Commune's legacy
  • Communist Insurgent

    This book discusses the life and political activity of French Communist Louis-Auguste Blanqui and the problems of his political current.
  • The Spectre of Babeuf

    Gracchus Babeuf has long been recognized as an important precursor of the revolutionary socialist tradition.
  • Ten Days that Shook the World

    A new edition of John Reed’s classic eyewitness account of the Russian Revolution, 100 years since its first publication.