1904-1976 • Romania
Korner joined the Romanian Communist Party as a teenager, but was converted to Trotskyism as a student in Paris in 1933 and 1934. He returned to Paris in 1936 and was active in the French Trotskyist organisation, the Internationalist Workers’ Party (Parti ouvrier internationaliste).
In October 1939, at the outbreak of war, when the French far left was in disarray, he split to form his own group, the Groupe communiste, later the Union communiste (UC). He considered the rest of the French Trotskyists had become a “a petty bourgeois milieu whose organisational practices were social democratic and not communist”. Barta argued for ‘revolutionary defeatism’
From October 1942 with fewer than a dozen supporters in his renamed organisation the UC, he produced an illegal duplicated publication called Lutte de Classes (Class struggle). It was highly critical of the other Trotskyist currents’ alleged concessions to nationalism. His group gave gave priority to factory organisation. The UC did not therefore participate in the reunification of the other three Trotskyist organisations towards the end of the war.
After the end of the war the group’s membership was tiny, but it had a little support at the giant Renault-Billancourt factory on the Seguin island in the Seine to the West of Paris., where it regularly distributed Lutte de Classes leaflets.
One member inside the Renault factory that was nationalised on January 19 1945 because of Louis Renault’s collaboration with the Germans was the activist Pierre Bois [1922-2002]. For nearly three years after the war the French Communist Party had ministers in the government, and took a position of opposing all strikes. In April 1947 Bois was in the leadership of a strike, initially against the policy of the main union, the CGT.
Korner wrote a leaflet calling for a general strike. As support for the strike spread through Renault, the Communist Party were obliged to switch to support for the action, which led to their exclusion from the government (some months before the onset of the Cold War that would have certainly forced them quit their posts in any case).
The 1947 strike led to the formation of the Syndicat Démocratique Renault (SDR – Renault Democratic Union). But this created difficulties for the small organisation; as Barta put it later “In an extremely complicated political situation the disproportion was far too great between our tasks and the inexperience of our young activists”. In 1950 Barta’s UC collapsed.
Some of the members, however, including Bois and Robert Barcia stayed in contact and came together in 1956 to launch what was to become Voix ouvrière. Although this organisation and later Lutte ouvrière claimed Barta’s heritage, he did not return to activity, though he had some contacts with the new organisation.