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The BBC's Hugh Schofield
"It was all part of growing up"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 5 June, 2001, 15:15 GMT 16:15 UK
Jospin admits Trotskyist past
French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin
Prime Minister Jospin: Not a case of mistaken identity
French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has admitted he had links with a Trotskyist group in the 1960s.

It was a personal, intellectual and political journey of which I am not in the least ashamed

Lionel Jospin
Mr Jospin was replying to a question in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, during a session of questions to the government.

"It is true that in the 1960s I took an interest in Trotskyist ideas, and I established relations with one of the groups of this political movement," he said.

"It was a personal, intellectual and political journey of which I am not in the least ashamed."


Explaining his allegiance, he said that "in the very different world that was the 1960s, two elements were essential in my political development - anti-colonialism and anti-Stalinism."

It was an extraordinary opportunity to penetrate the country's administrative class

Boris Fraenkel,
OCI co-founder
The confession was intended to take the heat out of growing calls on the prime minister to come clean about his past, and accusations that he has told lies about his membership of the OCI (Internationalist Communist Organisation).

Mr Jospin had previously denied he had been a member of a Trotskyist party, saying the recurring allegations were founded on a confusion with his brother Olivier.

Comrade Michel

But a former member of the OCI, Patrick Dierich, as well as several interviewees quoted anonymously by Le Monde, all said there was no doubt about his identity.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer
Mr Fischer remained popular
Last week Mr Dierich revealed that he and Jospin had been members of the same OCI cell in 1971, in which Jospin went under the code-name "Comrade Michel."

One of the founders of OCI, Boris Fraenkel, told the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur that he had inducted Jospin into the party in 1964.

"Lionel Jospin came regularly to see me... to take part in a revolutionary studies group. This was the necessary training before joining the Trotskyist movement," Mr Fraenkel said in an interview posted on the magazine's website.

Mr Fraenkel said he trained Mr Jospin while the latter was a student at the elite civil service training school, Ecole Nationale D'Administration (ENA).

"I trained him up in secret. A future top civil servant wouldn't want to be known as a revolutionary! At that point we had no ENA graduate in the movement. It was an extraordinary opportunity to penetrate the country's administrative class."

Germany's Fischer

About six months ago, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer found himself in a similar position to Mr Jospin's, when he had to defend his past as a radical activist in parliament.

What's unacceptable is the lying

Right-wing deputy Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres
Mr Fischer apologised for taking part in violent street battles with the police in the 1970s, But continued to maintain that the movement was essential to German democracy.

Conservatives had demanded his resignation, but Mr Fischer remained in office and remained popular.

The truth about Mr Jospin's early political career was becoming increasingly sensitive with the approach of presidential elections next year, in which he is expected to stand as the Socialist Party candidate.

According to Le Monde, the OCI had a policy of secretly infiltrating French institutions and throughout the 1970s its leader, Pierre Lambert, kept in close contact with Mr Jospin at the Socialist Party. The final break only came in 1987.

Right-wing deputy Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres urged Jospin to "take responsibility for his past," and admit he was a member of the OCI. "What's unacceptable is the lying," he said.

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See also:

16 Jan 01 | Europe
Fischer recalls radical past
28 May 01 | Europe
Jospin rejects federal EU plan
18 Apr 01 | Europe
Jospin takes to TV to stop rot
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