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BIO-MENDES FRANCE-PORTRAITPierre Mendes France, the leftwing prime minister of France for less than a year (1954-55), was born on this date in 1907 in Paris. He came into office following the Vietnamese defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu and immediately negotiated an armistice with Ho Chi Minh that led to the total withdrawal of French troops — a move that fetched much anti-Semitic abuse from the nationalist and Catholic right in France. He also set in motion negotiations for the independence of Tunisia and Morocco. “After 1958,” reports the Oxford Dictionary of Political Biography, “his implacable opposition to what he saw as the authoritarian nature of [De Gaulle]s] Fifth Republic appealed not only to defenders of France’s republican traditions but to a new generation of political radicals. . . . he was the only established political figure to have the respect of the protesting students [in] 1968 . . .”

“To govern is to choose between two bad solutions.” —Pierre Mendes France