A legendary figure of post-war French politics is dead. He actually died 14 months ago but his demise, aged 82, has only just been revealed.
Robert Barcia, aka "Hardy", was leader for more than 40 years of one of France's most secretive movements of the far left. He never addressed a public meeting but was the inventor – some said the puppeteer – of Arlette Laguiller, the drab bank clerk who was candidate for the Trotskyist party, Lutte Ouvrière, in six presidential elections starting in 1974.
Hardy (his code name in the movement) lived a clandestine life and died a clandestine death. His demise in July last year was kept secret, at his request, by his party until revealed this week by the website of news magazine Marianne.
Ms Laguiller, 70, confirmed the death. She said members of the party had been "touched, just as if we had lost a parent".
Lutte Ouvrière (workers' struggle) is not, in fact, the name of the movement but of its newspaper. Everything about the organisation is secretive – even its real name – said to be the Union Communiste Internationaliste (UCI).
Dissident former members have described the party as a "sect", and Hardy as its "guru". When he did give interviews, he sometimes reinforced that image. "We are against marriage," he told AFP in 2003. "A member of Lutte Ouvrière who marries had betrayed our ideas."
Robert Barcia was born into a working-class family in Paris on 22 July, 1928. He was originally a member of the Communist Party but helped to found Lutte Ouvrière in 1968. Arlette Laguiller, a dull-looking woman with a monotonous voice and an inexplicable charisma, became the public face of the party in 1974. She won a creditable 5.72 per cent of the national vote and stood in five more elections, achieving similar results.
Ms Laguiller said this week: "The guru and sect legend was always ridiculous. It was always a press fantasy. It was one of the reasons why Hardy did not want news of his death to be made public."
Even Christophe Bourseiller, a journalist who specialises in the far left and published a book of conversations with Hardy in 2003, was not told of his death. "There were two Hardys", he said this week. "There was Hardy the Trotskyist militant who ruled his comrades with great discipline and had dedicated his life to communism and to revolution. And there was Barcia, the private man, a likeable and knowledgeable man with a great sense of humour."