Rochet, ‘Waldeck’ Émile

(b. 1905)

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(b. Sainte-Croix, 5 Apr. 1905; d. Nanterre, 15 Feb. 1983)

French; Communist Party Central Committee member 1936–70, deputy 1936–73, Secretary-General of the Communist Party 1964–72 The son of a cobbler, a market garden worker and then mobilized, Rochet spent most of his life in the Communist movement. He joined the Young Communists at 18, was ‘talent spotted’, sent to the Comintern School in Moscow, and was promoted up the apparatus to become secretary for the Lyons region in 1932. He was, at the time, a hard-line sectarian agitator. In 1934 he became head of the party's farmers' section, in 1934 a Seine councillor, and then in 1936 a deputy for Saint-Denis 12th. In 1939 the Daladier government rounded up those who were opposed to the war and he was interned in North Africa. In 1943 he was liberated and made a member of the Consultative Assembly (1943–5). In 1944 he started editing La Terre, the party's journal for farming interests. In the Assembly Rochet took up farming questions and for a year chaired the agricultural committee (1946–7). Rochet was able to keep on good terms with the leadership despite (it seems) being more inclined to Khrushchev than was Secretary-General Thorez. He became Secretary-General in 1964 and when Thorez died, Rochet soon came to be seen as the ‘modernizing’ impulse. When the Czechoslovak reforms started Rochet went to Prague to try to dissuade the Dubček government from persisting against Soviet advice. The party ‘disapproved’ of the invasion. Although re-elected Secretary-General in 1970 Rochet's health had deteriorated in 1969 and Marchais was in effect secretary-general. Often seen as the ‘John 23rd’ of French Communism, there is little evidence of his personal role. Rochet was vague and otherworldly in dealings so that his real feelings have remained unknown.

Subjects: Politics.

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