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LETTER FROM PARIS

the swing left

IT WAS ALMOST LIKE a fairy tale, it happened so quickly. One day France was on the right, and the president of the republic was feeling peevish. The prime minister was getting on his nerves. How could he get rid of him? Hold early elections. Next morning, to everyone’s surprise, France was on the left, as was the new prime minister, Lionel Jospin. Although the French are notoriously fickle when it comes to choosing their leaders, in reality it was neither fairy tale nor whimsy that prompted the swing left but the cumulative effects of a series of workers’ protests, the government’s continued nuclear testing, the rise of the extreme right, and an economic recession.

A socialist government is, in principle, favorably disposed to culture, and Jospin had the good sense to make European deputy and mayor of Strasbourg Catherine Trautmann the new minister of culture and communications. (See “No

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