Jospin admits Trotskyist past
PARIS, France -- French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has admitted past links to a revolutionary Trotskyist organisation.
Jospin had previously denied any involvement with radical communists but during parliamentary question time on Tuesday said he had done nothing to be ashamed of.
"It is true that in the 1960s I showed an interest in Trotskyist ideas and developed a relationship with one of that movement's groups," Jospin told the National Assembly.
"It was a personal, intellectual and political process ... that I have nothing to be red-faced about."
The 63-year-old, who has steered a centre-left course since becoming prime minister in 1997, said he was drawn to Trotskyism in his youth because of its anti-Stalinist stance.
"I met several remarkable men, and that contributed to my education," Jospin told lawmakers.
"What is important today is what I have done in the past four years, and also maybe what we will do together in the future."
Jospin has been coy about expectations that he will challenge conservative Jacques Chirac in next year's presidential election.
Tuesday's Le Monde newspaper said that Jospin's involvement in the Trotskyist International Communist Organization (OCI) movement was kept secret because he was still a student at the prestigious Ecole Nationale d'Administration, the training ground for France's political elite.
He quietly maintained relations with the movement for over 20 years, the paper said.
The OCI was reputed to be one of the most pure Trotskyist movements in France. Leon Trotsky, a leader of the 1917 Russian Revolution, believed communists should smash capitalism around the world but rejected Stalinism as too authoritarian.
Other lawmakers immediately demanded to know why it had taken Jospin so long to confirm what have been persistent rumours.
"It is not the fact that he used to belong to the extreme left that poses a problem, it is the fact that he hid it," Reuters quoted arch-conservative Philippe de Villiers saying.
Ironically the accusations of a hard-core Marxist past have resurfaced at a time when Jospin's coalition allies, the Communist Party, have attacked him for being too moderate.
Jospin was forced to delay voting last week on a key bill regulating mass lay-offs after the Communists said it was too kind to big business.
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