Anarchism/Anti-State

Victor Serge and Anarchism: The Russian Years

By Mitchell Abidor

Victor Serge became a propagandist for the revolutionary government almost immediately after arriving in Soviet Russia in 1919. He wrote in praise of the new state and called on anarchists to support the Bolsheviks. However, contemporary reports in anarchist journals and memoirs by his contemporaries reveal that Serge in fact had great reservations about Soviet Russia, which he did not reveal to the public.

Appears in German in Anarchismus und Russische Revolution, Philippe Kellermann editor. Dietz Verlag, Berlin

Serge and the Russian Anarchists

            Serge always made it clear that he went to Soviet Russia in 1919 as an anarchist and joined the Bolsheviks as an anarchist.[1] And it was in order to attempt to synthesize these two traditionally opposing schools of revolutionaries that he wrote some of his most important theoretical pieces for Bulletin Communiste in the first years of the 1920’s. These articles, heartfelt, frank, sincere, and clear-sighted, constitute a critique of anarchist activity, but implicitly of Bolshevik activity as well.  He attempted to draw out the best of both tendencies, and to have the best of each nullify the worst of each. They are also revelatory of Serge’s state of mind in his first years in Russia. The tragic misfortune of these articles, though, is that they were written at the height of Bolshevik repression of anarchism, and published after the brutal suppression of Kronstadt and of anarchist groups. His ideas, which might have been fruitful had they been applied, were moot almost before they were published.

The articles all revolve around a limited but essential group of subjects: what is the current state of anarchism, what are the differences between the anarchists and the Bolsheviks, and can they work together?

The pre-Revolutionary anarchist movement had two important things going against it: its own internal divisions and the harsh repression the Tsarist government exercised against it.   The outbreak of the war in 1914 caused even greater disarray in anarchist ranks, as the central figure of Russian, indeed, of world, anarchism, Peter Kropotkin, came out in support of the Russian war effort, taking a certain number of militants with him.   The result of all this was that “almost all the Russian militants could be found either overseas…in prison, or deported to Siberia.”[2]

The February Revolution gave the movement new life, and from a pre-war total of about 220 members in six groups, their numbers grew to 40,000 adepts in twenty-three cities in 1917. Though still not a large movement, it was nevertheless a vibrant one, containing all the many trends common to anarchism at the time. Expropriation, for example, was not an act specific to the better-known Bolshevik groups, of which Stalin had been a member, and the anarchists had had a strong and influential wing involved in that activity. Among its most prominent figures was the later leader of the Ukrainian anarchist army, Nestor Makhno, who was sentenced to death for his activities at age 19. There were also anarcho-communists, anarcho-syndicalists, individualists… And within each wing there were splits, splits that would grow more important when they had to decide whether or not to support the Bolsheviks. These many trends clearly did not constitute an advantage for the movement, as Serge clearly saw: “The anarchists constituted a scattered, varied movement divided into poorly delineated and short-lived movements”.[3]

At the sight of this badly split movement, Serge made an immediate choice: “It was during the first winter that, seeing that in all of the immense Russia there was only one force – one heroic and unshakeable – alive and capable of defending the revolution at a time when no one saw clearly and even many old militants despaired, I thought it was my duty to rally to it, and I joined the Russian Communist Party as an anarchist, without in any way abdicating my ideas, except for what was utopian about it in contact with reality.” [4]

But for Serge his adherence to communism also represented a continuity with his past activity, for he refused the equation that communism=dictatorship. “I am only a communist – of libertarian philosophy and ethics – because I see no possibility for the future liberation of the individual outside of a communism called on to evolve a great deal (once it has emerged victorious). To claim that communist ideology leaves no room for the individual thus seems to me to be inexact, though there are unquestionably communists who understand it in this way.” We can read between these lines the fear that the first years of Serge had instilled in him, and the hope it would change. But the change could only occur “once it has emerged victorious.” Until then…[5]

But the heart of Serge’s criticism of the anarchists is their lack of contact with reality, their inability to bring their anarchism up to date, to confront the new realties created by a successful revolution. In demonstrating the anarchist isolation from reality he derisively reviewed various of their tendencies, their absurd neologisms (the new group of “interindividualists), the bizarre notion of inventing a language constituted of words of one syllable (AO)…[6] Remaining in the realm of the vague and in which they had long lived, “the lack of a practical program for action – their utopianism –  and their lack of organization have killed the anarchist movement in Russia which has expended a prodigious amount of energy in service to the revolution.”[7]

But he would always feel that the anarchists had something specific to contribute to the Revolution, that their presence would forestall the worst tendencies of Bolshevism. Two decades later he would write that “If the libertarians were to join in with this movement wouldn’t they be enormously useful tomorrow, when it will be a matter of protecting society from bureaucratic sclerosis?”[8]

Writing to his erstwhile French comrades, he pointed out that the Russian anarchists were not alone in this. Victor’s comrades in France had remained stuck in their old ways, and as he piquantly put it, while perusing Le Libertaire he felt the pages “could have been published in 1912.” The changed circumstances of a World War and a socialist revolution appeared to have been passed over by the anarchists. [9]

What then were the issues dividing the Bolsheviks and the anarchists? The principal one was that of dictatorship. What was to be done during the transitional period after the revolution? For the anarchists, any dictatorship at any point was anathema, a violation of their core principles are too great. Serge quotes the anarcho-syndicalists as saying that “The dictatorship of the proletariat, as the expression of the domination of the organized class, leading to the dictatorship of one party and transforming the Soviet system itself into a bureaucratic, police, and primitive machine is inadmissible to the anarchist syndicalists.”   And Serge concedes that this is, indeed an issue of great consequence, for “in all of history there is no example of a dictatorship that died on its own.”  But the anarchists (indeed, the just-quoted anarcho-syndicalists) were far from united on this issue, and Serge riposted to the syndicalists with the words of the Russian anarchists who had been expelled from the US  and settled in Russia, among them Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman: “The principle of dictatorship must be accepted because organized violence is much more rational that chaotic and arbitrary violence;”  because in social revolutions, which are above all the work of “united, convinced, conscious, energetic, and advanced revolutionary minorities” there is no other final recourse than violence. “Precursors of a superior society, the anarchists, in the period of humanity’s great revolutionary struggles, must adopt a realistic and positive attitude.”[10]

And indeed, many anarchists did take such a “realistic and positive attitude.” Some of them were close friends of Serge’s. The American anarchist Bill Shatov was a particular favorite of Serge, and despite his anarchism Shatov was a member of the Revolutionary Military Committee that led the October Revolution and during the Civil War was a Red Army Commander. (It almost goes without saying that he was shot during the Stalinist purges).  And Shatov was not the lone anarchist in the insurrectionary leadership in October 1917. He was joined there by at least three others from various trends in the movement, the anarchist-communist Bleikhman, the independent anarchist Bogatsky, and the anarcho-syndicalist Yarchuk.[11]

The threat of a White victory, for many anarchists, was more dangerous than the Bolshevik dictatorship, which at least had expropriated the capitalists. Anarchists were divided into three groups, those who actively supported the Bolsheviks (and even joined the party, like Shatov), those who were neutral, and those actively opposed, opposition that included acts of terror, like the bombing on September 25, 1918 of the Moscow headquarters of the Communist Party, which caused twelve deaths. Anarcho-syndicalists, though, for the most part, supported the Bolsheviks, either actively or passively.[12]

Indeed, during the Civil War the initial support given the Bolsheviks by anarchists finds no better examples than those of Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, and their explanation of their reasons holds good for their comrades. Emma talks about the moment of her arrival, when her “heart trembled with anticipation and fervent hope;” of “Soviet Russia! Sacred ground, magic people! You have come to symbolize humanity’s hope, you alone are destined to redeem mankind. I have come to serve you.”[13]

The relations between the two movements constituted a kind of hesitation waltz, with the Bolsheviks alternately welcoming alliance with the anarchists and even adopting elements of their program (Lenin’s The State and Revolution, with its promise of an ultimately withered- away state, can be seen as an attempt to use the anarchist program to woo the anarchists). The anarchists acted similarly, at times working with the Bolsheviks, at others totally rejecting them, although it would probably be more accurate to say that at least until 1921 it was more the case that certain anarchists consistently tried to find a modus vivendi with the Bolsheviks, and others rejected them as enemies of all the anarchists stood for.

In 1919 Lenin could praise the anarchists, saying in 1919 that “many anarchists were becoming the most dedicated supporters of Soviet power.”[14] And there were indeed a number of significant figures among the Russian anarchists who supported the Bolsheviks, one, Iuda Roshchin, making the case clearly in 1920: “It is the duty of every anarchist to work whole-heartedly with the Communists, who are the advance guard of the Revolution. Leave your theories alone, and do practical work for the reconstruction of Russia. The need is great, and the Bolsheviks welcome you.” Another group, the Universalists, maintained that a temporary dictatorship was a necessary step on the road to anarchism. [15]  Other anarchists condemned these supporters of the Bolsheviks, of the “social vampires,” as traitors to the cause, sell-outs. “Anarchists,” they proclaimed, “must be purged of this watery mixture of Bolshevism in which it is being dissolved by the Anarcho-Bolsheviks and the Anarcho-Syndicalists.” [16] Kropotkin himself, the doyen of anarchists, maintained a position of nuanced support for the Bolsheviks: “Not only the workers, but all the progressive forces in the civilized world should put an end to the support given until now to the enemies of the revolution. Not that there is nothing to oppose in the methods of the Bolshevik government. Far from it. But all foreign armed intervention necessarily strengthens the dictatorial tendencies of the government.” [17]

The vacillations of Bolshevik policy towards the anarchists are nowhere clearer than in their relations with Nestor Makhno, the Ukrainian anarchist leader.

Before the October Revolution Makhno, after being amnestied for his activities as an expropriator, was the head of the Soviet of Guliai-Polei and assembled a peasant army that expropriated large estates. These activities came to an end with the Brest-Litovsk treaty, which Makhno, like most anarchists, opposed the treaty as a surrender to imperialism.

Makhno went to Moscow in the spring of 1918 and met there with Kropotkin and Lenin, who told the anarchist leader that “if only one-third of the Anarchist-Communists were like you we Communists would be ready, under certain well-known conditions, to join with them in working towards a free organization of producers.”[18] Serge reports that he was later told by Trotsky that the Bolshevik leaders had considered granting the anarchist peasant region autonomy, continuing that “that arrangement would have been just and diplomatic, and perhaps an outlook as generous as this would have spared the Revolution from the tragedy towards which we were drifting.” [19]  It should be noted that just two months before Lenin’s meeting with Makhno, before Brest-Litovsk was even signed, the first serious outbreak of violence between the anarchists and communists had occurred, when on April 11 the Cheka attacked twenty-six buildings occupied by anarchists. The latter, believing their attackers to be Whites, fought back against the Bolsheviks with machine guns. In the aftermath of that fight anarchist organizations were dissolved and the anarchist press banned, though the ban would soon be lifted and then re-imposed and then lifted and then re-imposed… [20]

Upon his return to his native Guliai-Pole, Makhno found the region occupied by Austrian troops and their Ukrainian collaborators and went to war with them, which ended with the signing of the armistice on November 11, 1918.  Makhno and his group seized power and by early 1919 had begun the establishment of a mini-anarchist state, one which the Bolsheviks left in peace, and in March 1919 the Communists even signed a pact for joint action with the anarchists to fight against the White forces under General Denikin. But the friendliness of the Bolsheviks was one of appearance and convenience, and when Makhno called a congress in April the Bolsheviks decreed it to be “counter-revolutionary” and Makhno to be a kulak. The Cheka sent assassins to Gulai-Polei to have done with Makhno, a plot that failed. When In June Makhno called for yet another anarchist conference the Bolsheviks outlawed Makhno and attacked the region with the Red Army.

But in a clear demonstration of the opportunism of Bolshevik policy, when Denikin became a serious threat yet again in the summer of 1919 the Bolsheviks no longer found Makhno a counter-revolutionary and on September 26, 1919 the Makhnovtsi dealt Denikin his first defeat, at Peregonovka, and he then occupied and communized Ekaterinoslav and Alexandrovsk. Makhno, with the support of anarchist intellectuals like Voline, turned Guliai-Pole into a liberated zone, with a free press and free association, and the dissolution of the Bolshevik-run Revolutionary committee.

In late 1919 Trotsky ordered Makhno’s army to the Polish frontier, but his motives were too obvious: remove the Makhnovtsi from their base and destroy their anarchist society, and the batko refused. War broke out between the two revolutionary forces, a war that lasted eight months. Until, of course, the Whites made their reappearance, when Wrangel launched an offensive, and Makhno and the Bolsheviks became allies yet again. Until, of course, Wrangel was defeated, at which point, in November 1920, the Bolsheviks again turned on Makhno, seizing his commanders and killing or imprisoning them, attacking Guliai-Pole, and ultimately crushing the Makhnovtsi. Makhno, himself, had managed to escape the Red clutches, and after a year of wandering, fled Russia and ultimately went to France, where he ended his days as a factory worker.

We can see, then, that as regards Makhno, a potent force in the defeat of the White enemy, the Bolsheviks did not simply dismiss his forces as anarchists. Rather, they made use of them when they needed them, and attempted to destroy them when they didn’t. Serge’s later analysis of this conduct was justifiably harsh: “This fantastic attitude of the Bolshevik authorities, who tore up the pledges they themselves had given to this endlessly daring revolutionary minority, had a terribly demoralizing effect; in it I see one of the basic causes of the Kronstadt rising. The Civil War was winding to its close, and the peasantry, incensed by the constant requisitioning, was drawing the conclusion that it was impossible to come to any understanding with ‘the commissars.’” [21]

A similar back and forth can be found in all of the Bolshevik’s relations with the anarchists. After banning all activity in April 1918 the ban would be lifted, and anarchist activity, which was largely based on factory and union organization, would begin anew. The anarchist’s situation would become exceedingly difficult for the anarchists, with Bolshevik-Anarchist relations reaching their nadir with the bombing the Moscow offices of the Communist Party

Many anarchists, as we have seen, joined Makhno’s anarchist realm, and when his army was broken up and arrested on November 26, 1920, so too were many city anarchists, who were either with Makhno’s forces or attending the conference he had called. Many of the important voices of anarchism, like Voline and Aron Baron were behind bars 1920 ended and the fatal year of 1921 began.

Despite the harsh repression anarchist ideas were still able to make some sort of headway, and Lenin found himself obliged to ban the writings of the French syndicalist Fernand Pelloutier, along with some of the writings of Bakunin and Kropotkin.[22]

Kropotkin, because of the aura that surrounded him, was untouchable through all this, though he had been forced to leave Moscow for rural Dimitrovo.  There he had received a steady stream of visitors, including Berkman and Goldman, who wanted to know why he remained silent as the Bolsheviks warred on his comrades. “Peter smiled sadly. I would know better, he said, after I had been awhile longer in the country. The gag was the most compete in the world.” But Kropotkin continued, and explained in a lapidary fashion the heart of the anarchist dilemma. “The anarchists in particular between two fires. They could not make peace with the formidable power of the Kremlin, nor could they join hands with the enemies of Russia. Their only alternative at present, it seemed to Peter, was to find some work of direct benefit to the masses.”

Serge said nothing different when he wrote that “Most Russian anarchists nevertheless occupy a position that is more or less hostile to the Communist Party, which they have sometimes been in conflict with. Nevertheless, the immense majority of them are Sovietist and consider that any action that would result in disuniting the revolutionary forces would be harmful at the present time. They believe that even criticism will only be fruitful when the existence of the Russia of the Soviets will no longer be in immediate danger.”[23]

But in February 1921 Kropotkin died. The divided anarchists united for a massive funeral, organized by many of those who had been imprisoned in November of the previous year and who were freed for just that purpose.

Serge had never visited Kropotkin, “fearing that any conversation between [them] would be painful,” but he was admitted among the anarchist mourners, the only party member granted this status.   The communists harassed the anarchist attendees, and “the shadow of the Cheka fell everywhere, but a packed and passionate multitude thronged around the bier, making this funeral ceremony into a demonstration of unmistakable importance.” The importance was further underlined when after lengthy negotiations the Communists allowed black flags to be borne by those marching to the cemetery. “The long procession, surrounded by students making a chain of linked hands, set off to the cemetery at Novodevichy, accompanied by singing choirs who walked behind black flags bearing inscriptions in denunciation of all tyranny.” At the graveside Aron Baron denounced “the new despotism[,] the butchers at work in their cellars, the dishonor spread upon socialism. The official violence that was trampling the Revolution underfoot.” Many of those attending would later be arrested and either imprisoned or expelled from Russia. Victor remained torn.

And then, eighteen days after what would turn out to be the final officially sanctioned anarchist demonstration, Serge received a call during the night of February 28-19, 1921. “Kronstadt is in the hands of the Whites.” [24]

 

 

 

 

Kronstadt

By late 1920 the situation in Soviet Russia was critical, and discontent with the Bolsheviks had reached its height. Famine was widespread, and so were revolts: in February 1921 the Cheka reported there were 118 separate peasant uprisings across Russia.[25] Serge, in his novel of an exhausted Petrograd, Conquered City, depicts the popular disgust with their plight and the privileges granted those in power: “The half-empty slums were hungry. The factory chimneys no longer smoked, and when by chance one started smoking, the women, huddling in their rags at the door of a communal store, watched that bizarre smoke climb with bleak curiosity. They’re repairing cannons. They get extra rations… – How much? How much? – four hundred gams of bread a day; yeah; but it’s not for us, it’s only for them.[26]

This feeling of “them” versus “us” would culminate in the most wrenching threat to the Bolshevik regime, the Kronstadt uprising. For if the Civil War was, in its pitting of Red against White a black and white  affair, Kronstadt, in which the revolutionary sailors of the naval base of Kronstadt rose against the state they had helped found posed the revolution a threat both existential and moral. And for Serge, along with many others, the state’s reaction to it would have harsh consequences.

We will not give a detailed history of the event, but the broad outlines of it, and particularly as they affect Victor Serge. For Serge, based in Petrograd, and whose hierarchical superior, Zinoviev, played an important role in the events, was confronted with the most serious of dilemmas: how does a self-proclaimed anarchist Bolshevik react when those same Bolsheviks attack the people?

As the country descended into the famine that the Civil War and their policy of War Communism had given rise to, and as the Bolsheviks wandered increasingly far from their original promise and grew closer to the one-party state they would soon officially become, the sailors revolted on the tail of a series of strikes in Petrograd. Though motivated by legitimate grievances, they also contained an undeniable anti-communist and anti-Semitic element. The sailors, though, rose in the name of free soviets, of a free press and, “the revolt of 1921 was at bottom an effort by the Kronstadters to recapture [the] golden age of spontaneity, and ‘All Power to the Soviets’ was their slogan.”[27]

And there is little doubt that the uprising of March 1921 was spontaneous, though, as could be expected, various elements opposed to Bolshevism joined in, not least among them the anarchists, who distributed leaflets among the sailors saying that “Where there is authority, there is no liberty,” and condemning the militarization of labor imposed by the Bolsheviks.[28] But Kronstadt was not the work of the enemies of the Revolution: it was the work of a population that felt its revolution had been betrayed.

The Bolsheviks didn’t see it this way, and when the revolt broke out on the night of February 28-29 Serge received a call from Zinoviev’s brother-in-law informing him of the uprising and ordering him to his post. And in short order Zinoviev had had posted put up around Petrograd claiming that the revolt was the work of the counterrevolutionary general Kozlovsky, but those around Serge knew this wasn’t the case. “I met comrades, rushing out with their revolvers, who told me that it was an atrocious lie: the sailors had mutinied, it was a naval revolt led by the Soviet…The worst of it all was that we were paralyzed by the official falsehoods. It had never happened before that our Party should lie to us like that. “It’s necessary for the benefit of the public.’”[29]

His French comrade Pierre Pascal confirms that Serge knew the truth of the matter. Pascal spoke of how the French communists in Russia knew that the news being spread about the revolt was false. And “in order to confirm our judgments we had an antenna in Petrograd in the person of Victor Serge. His presence alongside Zinoviev and his relations in all the circles of the former capital made him the best informed of men.”[30]

The government stood firm against the Kronstadt demands, which, based on the thesis that “the present Soviets do not represent the will of the workers and peasants,” called for the establishing of free speech, press and assembly, but only for “workers, peasants, anarchists, and left socialist parties,” peasant control of the land, and the end to privileges for Communists.[31] The Kronstadt program, as Serge would later say, was a program for the renewal of the Revolution.”[32]

The Communists carried out clumsy attempts at negotiation with – or rather, bludgeoning –  the rebels, which were firmly rebuffed, and the situation became increasingly threatening. The revolt couldn’t be allowed to continue until after the thaw, since at that time the rebels’ defenses would be impregnable.

Attempting to forestall a catastrophe, Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, the two deported American anarchist who had gone to Russia supporting the Revolution but had developed second thoughts while there, decided to attempt to mediate between the two parties, mediation which Serge (who Goldman refers to in her memoirs as “Kibalchich”) was aware of and encouraged. In fact, the group of anarchists met at the home of his in-laws, the Russakovs, though Serge did not attend the sessions, “since it had been decided that only the anarchists would undertake this initiative (in view of the influence they exerted within the Kronstadt Soviet) and that, as far as the Soviet Government was concerned, the American anarchists would take full responsibility for the attempt.” [33]

The plea to the Bolsheviks signed by Goldman, Berkman, and their comrades Perkus and Petrovsky, said that they would “fight with arms against any counter-revolutionary attempt, in co-operation with all the friends of the Social Revolution and hand in hand with the Bolsheviki…Resort to bloodshed on the part of the Soviet Government will not – in the given situation – intimidate or quiet the workers. On the contrary, it will only serve to aggravate matters, and will strengthen the hands of the Entente and of internal counter-revolution.”[34]

At the same time that this plea was being composed, though, Leon Trotsky, a particular bête noire of the rebels for his role in War Communism and his implementation of the militarization of labor, as well as a lightning rod for the anti-Semitism that simmered below the surface of the revolt, and indeed of all the opposition to the Bolsheviks, went to Petrograd on March 5 and called for immediate surrender by the rebels. “’Only those who do so,” he stated, “can count on the mercy of the Soviet Republic. Simultaneously with this warning I am issuing instructions that everything be prepared for the suppression of the mutiny by armed force…This is the last warning.’”[35]

Serge, for his part, admits that “After many hesitations, and with unutterable anguish, my Communist friends and I finally declared ourselves on the side of the Party,”[36] a decision he review many times in the future, as we will soon see.

On March 16 the Reds began their attack on the rebels. By March 18, the anniversary of the founding of the Paris Commune, the revolt was all but crushed. The fight was brutal, and though estimates of casualties vary wildly, the figures are probably about 10,000 killed and wounded on the Bolshevik side, and 600 dead, 1000 wounded, and 2500 taken prisoner on the rebel side. Of those captured, hundreds were executed. [37]

At the same time that Kronstadt uprising was occurring, the Communist Party was holding its Tenth Congress, and the Bolsheviks applied the lesson they’d just learned. Lenin said that Kronstadt proved that “the White guards strive, and are able, to disguise themselves as Communists, and even as the most left-wing Communists, solely for the weakening and destroying the bulwark of the proletarian revolution in Russia.” The time had come for “the complete elimination of all factionalism,” and the Congress “hereby declares dissolved and order the complete dissolution of all groups without exception on the basis of one platform or another.” [38]

Serge summed the situation up in his Memoirs: “Emergent totalitarianism had already gone half-way to crushing us… What with the political monopoly, the Cheka and the Red Army, all that now existed of the ‘Commune-State’ of our dreams was a theoretical myth. The war, the internal measures against counterrevolution, and the famine (which had created a bureaucratic rationing apparatus) had killed off Soviet democracy.”[39]

The crushing of Kronstadt was a climacteric in relations between the Bolsheviks and the anarchists, but even more, in the relations between the Bolsheviks and the masses and any elements of society, within the party or without, with any velleities of opposition. For someone of Serge’s libertarian background, for one who had joined the Bolshevik party as an anarchist, the experience of the brutal crushing of a working-class revolt can only have been a wrenching event. His contemporary reaction existed on two opposing levels, the public and the private; and it is a sign of how painful this event was to Serge that even decades after the fact he was still attempting to come to a final judgment.

The article in which he wrote most directly about Kronstadt, “The Tragedy of a Revolution,” appeared in La Vie Ouvrière a year after the event, an article that French anarchists would never forgive him for. [40]

Serge, in this lengthy overview of the difficulties that confronted and continued to confront the revolution, espoused the point of view of Lenin and Bukharin, that the revolt was one of “’The peasant, petit-bourgeois mentality,’ which doesn’t aspire to socialism and whose sole ideal is the peaceful enjoyment of a plot of land  cultivated for the profit of the individual, the lucrative commerce of regional fairs, and the free speech of a rural democracy that, if it were realized, would, through its obscurantism and conservatism be a powerful force for reaction.” Serge also adopts a mildly modified form the opinions of his boss Zinoviev, and sees the rebels demands for free soviets  as being “exploited by the Social-Revolutionaries, the Mensheviks, the anarchists, even by communists carried away by the storm who lacked clear-sightedness or were embittered by even more suspect elements, foreign espionage agents and former officers.”  But these reactionary forces didn’t just “exploit’ the revolt, they were behind it:  “Charnov rushed to Reval, Wrangel telegraphed from Constantinople. The Cadets in Berlin rejoiced. ‘Slaughter the Jews’ was chalked on the walls of Petrograd.” These slogans pre-dated the revolt and were the fruit, not of Kronstadt, but of hatred of the Bolsheviks, viewed by the populace as a band of Jews.

And he then pushes his negative view of the rebels even further, and gives voice to the Bolshevik Party’s substitution of itself for the masses: Kronstadt “expressed the revolt of backward elements, of an exhausted population, against the stoic and inflexible party that was holding on when everyone else was too tired to, when people would have gladly capitulated in order to have white bread.”

And so a year after Kronstadt, after the putting down of the revolt and the repression of anarchists and the attack on the Workers’ Opposition and the banning of factions at the Tenth Party Congress, Serge went public defending the harshest line.

But who was speaking here? Did he truly mean what he was saying, or was he acting as an agent of the government he supported despite it all and which supported him? There is much evidence to suggest that Serge, far from believing what he wrote for a party paper, had great reservations about the event, reservations that appeared in various forums, some authorized by Serge, and some not.

A year after this article another article appeared in the British Communist Review in which Serge repeated some of what he said in La Vie Ouvrière, but now with more than a hint of sympathy for the rebels and the people. [41] Here it is admitted that the revolt was set off by legitimate complaints: “The long winter of famine after the war. Nerves at last stretch. The guns of Cronstadt. Sailors and peasants risen against the Communist Revolution because after such suffering they can do nothing, can understand nothing, and wish for nothing but one thing; cultivate their land and sell what they want to appease their hunger…This peasant people needs repose. It has bled too much.” A year after “The Tragedy of a Revolution” the desire to cultivate land and to be able to eat are no longer condemned. And though he continues by saying that “too much [is expected] from a wavering mass,” he accepts that “a halt is necessary.” This understanding of the causes of the revolt brings us closer to what appear to have been Serge’s true feelings at the time, feelings reported by anarchist comrades during this period.

The French anarchist Gaston Leval, who Serge had first met in Barcelona, to which Leval had fled after deserting the French army,  met with Serge around the time of the revolt, and twice reported Serge’s private sentiments, sentiments he would only express to those sharing his anarchist beliefs. In his first report of their private conversations Leval reports Serge as having said that “The Kronstadt Affair was a revolt of the masses against the dictatorship of the leaders,” and that the party’s actions there “were the last straw.”[42] In his second report he reminds Serge that “during the events at Kronstadt you were in Petrograd with Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman. ‘Something has to be done; we can’t allow those people to be massacred like that; we can’t just stand by and do nothing’” Serge then revealed to Leval the heart of his dilemma, one that serves as a key to so many of the apparent contradictions between Serge’s avowed anarchism, his lifelong belief in liberty, and his propaganda in support of virtually all Bolshevik measures. When Goldman and Berkman asked him to speak out he said, “I can’t do it. I’m known in the party as an anarchist. If I did anything I’d be arrested.” Leval also makes the claim that so strong was Serge’s disgust that “you, Novomirsky, and two other communists decided to resign from the party. Only Novomirsky did so.” [43]  Serge was a prisoner of his past and of his post.  His anarchist comrades would show him little forgiveness and understanding, and he remains a pariah to anarchists. In 2011 a book-length attack on Serge was published by an anarchist press entitled Victor Serge. L’Homme Double, Victor Serge the Double Man.

In later years though, once he had left Russia, was in open opposition to the regime, and was free to say what he truly thought, Serge’s ideas on Kronstadt still remained fluid.

In 1938-39 he wrote several articles on the subject. In these articles, responding to Trotsky’s defense of the brutal suppression of the uprising, Serge now takes the position held by the anarchists at the time, the one he privately expressed in the 1920s.

The event, he said, was not subject to just one interpretation: “Bourgeois liberals, Mensheviks, anarchists, revolutionary Marxists consider the drama of Kronstadt from different standpoints and for different reasons, which it is well and necessary to bear in mind, instead of lumping all the critical minds under a single heading and imputing to all of them the same hostility towards Bolshevism.”  The country was at an impasse, and questions needed to be posed then that have to be posed now:  “Who then was right? The Central Committee which clung to a road without issue or the masses driven to extremities by famine? It seems to me undeniable that Lenin at that time committed the greatest mistake of his life.” And Serge answers the statement made by Trotsky at the time of revolt and in the years since that the Kronstadt sailors of the revolt were not the same Kronstadt sailors who were the pride of the revolution by asking another question: “But the party of 1921 – was it the same as that of 1918? Was it not already suffering from a bureaucratic befoulment which often detached it from the masses and rendered it inhuman towards them? It would be well to reread in this connection the criticisms against the bureaucratic regime formulated long ago by the Workers’ Opposition; and also to remember the evil practises that made their appearance during the discussion on the trade unions in 1920. For my part, I was outraged to see the manoeuvres which the majority employed in Petrograd to stifle the voice of the Trotskyists and the Workers’ Opposition (who defended diametrically opposed theses).” [44]    And yet, he had remained silent, and in 1942 wrote in his notebooks about them he had had “sympathy for the Workers’ Opposition, but feared[ed] that its faculty for falling apart was greater than its capacity for organization and rebuilding.”[45]

Shortly after publishing his reevaluation of Kronstadt in  New Politics, he returned to the subject for the French syndicalist newspaper La Révolution Prolétarienne, and there he discussed the matter of the severity of the repression, and again echoed the theses of the anarchists in 1921: “Living in Petrograd I lived among the leaders of the city. I know through eyewitnesses what the repression was. I visited anarchist comrades at the Chpalernaya Prison, imprisoned, by the way, against all good sense, who every night watched leave for the polygon the defeated of Kronstadt. I repeat, the repression was atrocious. According to Soviet historians, insurgent Kronstadt had at its disposal around 16,000 combatants. A few thousand succeeded in reaching Finland over the ice. The others were massacred in the hundreds, and more likely in the thousands, at the end of the combat or later.” [46]  Again, facts that drove anarchists away from the revolution in its early days and which Serge had denied at the time, were now brought forth.

But Serge was far from finished with his reflections on this event, and in an unpublished document, dating probably from 1943, he once again spoke critically of the rebels, saying that “the sailors’ demands were just, but their rebellion placed the revolution a hairbreadth from its destruction,”  and then goes further, alleging that “while the attack on Kronstadt was being prepared…the party Committee learned that an infantry regiment, arrived from Lithuania, was going to go over to the insurrection under the command of officers were nothing but counter-revolutionaries.” And so again, the rebels were opening the door to counter-revolution.[47]  His final word appeared in his memoirs.

There Serge makes his sympathies abundantly clear. “Kronstadt had right on its side. Kronstadt was the beginning of a fresh, liberating revolution for popular democracy: ‘The Third Revolution!’ it was called by certain anarchists whose heads were stuffed with infantile illusions.”  But Serge recognizing the justness of the Kronstadt cause almost a quarter century after the event, remains steadfast that opposing it was the only way to forestall the worst: “However, the country was absolutely exhausted and production practically at a standstill…The Party, swollen by the influx of power-seekers inspired little confidence….If the Bolshevik dictatorship fell, it was only a short step to chaos, and through chaos to a peasant rising, the massacre of Communists, the return of the émigrés, and in the end, through the sheer force of events, another dictatorship, this time anti-proletarian.” The sailors were right, the anarchist Kibalchich knew, but their timing was wrong, the Communist Serge wrote. [48]

In his autobiographical account he confirms Gaston Leval’s claim that Serge intended to leave the Communist Party at this time, but here provides the explanation for failing to do so: when told by a group of comrades that he couldn’t involve himself in mediation efforts between the government and the rebels because he was bound by party discipline, he responded, “One can leave a Party.  They replied, cold and serious a Bolshevik does not leave his Party. And anyway, where would you go? You have to face it, there is no one but us.” [49]

Finally, what he had once called “a powerful force for reaction” he now, and no doubt then, judged otherwise. “Those defeated sailors belonged body and soul to the Revolution; they had voiced the suffering and the will of the people; the NEP had proved that they were right.”[50]

The massacre of the sailors and Serge’s silence would serve to irreparably envenom his relations with the anarchists in France.

 

 

 

The Anarchists Against Victor Serge

The French anarchist reaction to the Bolshevik Revolution was filled with the same enthusiasm, fears, and confusion as among anarchists all over the world. Here, at last, in the home of the knout, Siberian exile, and fierce repression was a successful revolution, and it deserved at least reserved support.

And so were are told by the Belgian anarchist Rhillon in 1919 that it was “thanks to the libertarian economic program that the revolution won.” (One can only wonder why, in the midst of the famine and economic chaos of 1919 Russia anyone would want to take credit for the economic program of the Bolsheviks.) Rhillon harbors no illusions concerning the Bolsheviks who won “because they were better organized and, even more, because they were devoid of any scruples.” And the anarchists were, of course, angered at the government’s repression of anarchist activities, but “despite espionage, despite denunciations, despite repression, the libertarian idea continues to progress and be put into practice. A clear evolution towards federalism is making itself manifest. From the force of events Bolshevism itself is evolving, and in evolving it is disappearing. It is making way for a more flexible, a more fertile organization.” This cock-eyed optimism, based on no facts and clearly ignoring the reality of the Soviet state, is in clear consonance with the views of Serge. All was far from lost, and the revolution was on its way to fulfilling the anarchist dream. [51]

Even in 1921, after Kronstadt and the dissolution of the anarchist groups, as important a figure as Sebastien Faure, a central figure of French anarchism, could recall the support given the Bolsheviks, who founded their state on a “federalist” basis, a foundation dear to the anarchists. Faure, like Victor, viewed the early days of the revolution as days of promise, despite their evident flaws: “It must be said that this wasn’t the immediate and complete realization of the anarchist ideal, but was it possible with one leap to jump over the abyss separating bourgeois society from libertarian communist society? But it opened the door to all the possibilities for the future.” And whatever negative stories were spread concerning the Soviet state, about “workers’ riots in the cities and peasant uprisings in the countryside”  were subject to caution, being “visibly tendentious and even made unlikely by their obvious exaggeration or their manifest falsehood.”

Eventually, though, it became clear to Faure that many of the falsehoods were truths, and that the comrades who reported the facts “attempted to justify as imperious necessity all the acts, measures, and attitudes that alone could excuse and explain the problems of life or death.”

But it serves to cast a light on Serge’s silence about what he knew that Faure, from the safety of Paris, well-ensconced in his decades-long career as an anarchist, still maintained his silence, still refused to attack Soviet Russia. “Associate myself, even just in appearance, with bourgeois infamies and insults? Never!” Refusing to provide wood for the bourgeois fire was a natural reflex, and though Faure never mentions Serge, this reflex holds good for Serge, living in the heart of Russia, as for Faure.

Faure ultimately found himself forced out of his silence, as the uncontested pro-Bolshevik campaign, took on such a scope that the communists were able to win over large masses of French workers and confuse anarchists, who were left with no weapons to win back the workers. The silence of the most outspoken anarchists left the impression on some that “there were no more anarchists in Paris, and on others that we’d entered the Communist Party en bloc. Finally, others interpreted our reserve…as tacit adherence to the thesis of dictatorship during a revolutionary period.” [52]

In this post-Kronstadt period the anti-Bolshevik, and hence anti-Serge heat could only mount. Gaston Leval wrote of a visit with Alexandra Kollontai, one of the leaders of the left-wing Worker’s Opposition within the Bolshevik party, a faction that had been attacked and banned at the party congress that occurred in March 1921, at the exact moment of Kronstadt. Kollontai spoke of the impossible position of the Oppositionists, saying how “we can’t do anything, not publish a newspaper or organize a single meeting to speak of our theses on the role of unions.”

Serge is attacked for his silence concerning all these events, Leval throwing back at him words they spoke in conversation. In the wake of Kronstadt and the banning of all anarchist groups, thirteen anarchists had gone on  a hunger strike, and Leval claims that Serge said at the time that “their opposition was always perfectly legal and that they are individuals above any suspicion…Aside from Voline none of them have gone beyond the framework of Bolshevik legality.” And as we have seen, Leval reminds Serge that at the time of Kronstadt that “we can’t allow these people to be massacred like that; we can’t just stand by and do nothing…I reproduced in Le Libertaire what you told me about Kronstadt, which is the exact opposite of what you wrote in La Vie Ouvrière.[53]

As the Russian Revolution strayed further and further from deals that were consonant with those of the anarchists, and as Serge became more deeply involved in Bolshevism, increasingly visible as a propagandist for the movement, anarchist hatred, in particular, the hatred of his former French comrades, grew ever fiercer.  The campaign against Serge in France became especially virulent in 1921, after the publication of his articles on anarchism, which attempted to draw more anarchists over to Bolshevism, but also condemning anarchists for their refusal to accept that times had changed. But these articles, and the attacks, also coincided with the crushing of Kronstadt, which definitively alienated many anarchists, leading people like Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman to leave Russia, followed soon thereafter by those Russian anarchists, like Voline, that the Bolsheviks allowed to emigrate. When anarchists were being executed by the government Serge so adamantly defended, no other reaction could be expected. And any anarchist who would have followed his advice now risked imprisonment or Siberia or worse.

The anti-Serge chorus was loud and large, some if its soloists having a long and unpleasant history of relations with Serge.

The Belgian Rhillon, had locked horns with Le Rétif in 1908 over the question of violence and re-appropriation, which Rhillon strongly supported. At that time Victor had criticized his older comrade for his apparent acceptance of the notion that the ends justifies the means, for his advocacy of hatred as part of the revolutionary struggle, and said that, “ An end always implies a morality from which the means to attain it automatically follow.” [54] Rhillon’s response was derisive, referring to Serge as “juvenile” and that his ideas were full of “Tolstoyan resignation and Buddhist passivity.”

Rhillon’s scorn for Serge had only grown over the years, and he would write a scathing attack in Le Libertaire entitled “A ‘Virtuous Revolutionary;’ Victor Serge.”[55] The direct pretext for this article was not Kronstadt or the Bolsheviks, but rather Victor’s article on “Bakunin’s Confession,” which had raised the hackles of many anarchist for its depiction of Bakunin as an erring mortal who, in a moment of weakness, had written a confession of his activities to the Tsar.  For Rhillon, Kibalchich was a nothing more than “a paid liar and slanderer.”

Rhillon presents the French readers of 1921 with a review of Serge’s Belgian life, one they mightn’t have been familiar with, and along the way revises his own, portraying the young Victor as individualist extremist, attributing to Serge the positions Serge had criticized him for a decade earlier.  Rhillon recounts how Serge and a “half dozen of his ‘buddies’” founded a group, took control of the newspaper Le Révolté and turned it towards support of illegalism. As we will remember, Victor and his Belgian brothers did, indeed, convert the newspaper Le Communiste to Le Révolté, but that the newspaper was one they put out, anyway. And that though Serge had written in support of illegalism while in Belgium, Rhillon had done so in far stronger and more brutal terms.

Rhillon tries to establish continuity between the “indignity” of Kibalchich and Serge by describing how Victor left Brussels after the Hartenstein Affair of 1909, “but not until having extorted 50 francs from me on the pretext of providing urgently needed assistance to Hartenstein.” And Rhillon, who in 1908 condemned Kibalchich’s “Tolstoyism” now implies that his opponent was an active illegalist, “never working but living on who knows what and practicing counterfeiting.” And these practices continued in Paris, where at l’anarchie counterfeiting was carried out “in broad daylight on a large scale and openly bragged about.”

Serge was nothing but a swindler and a fraud, cheating a Bulgarian comrade of money and then having his friends pull guns on the latter when he asked for it back.

Rhillon rehearses the history of the Bonnot Gang, but in this new version it is Victor who was the one who led his comrades down the crimson path. None of them had “ever strayed from anarchist principles as we see them in our classics. But from the day these young men left their country to place themselves under the moral rule of the Smerdiakov of anarchy nothing could save them.”

In summary, for Rhillon Le Rétif should have on his conscience the deaths and imprisonments of the members of the Bonnot Gang, “but the Dostoevsky character that is Le Rétif, today Victor Serge, has this particular trait: he has no conscience. What difference are corpses to him?”

In this perfect exemplar of anarchist attacks on Serge, his anarchism and his Bolshevism are consistent: “It is every bit as natural that a Kibalchich be elevated to honors by a regime that owes everything to force and ruse, to violence and lies, as it is understandable that the real anarchists – I mean those of inflexible morals – suffer in the prisons or are murdered by that same regime.”

And the task assigned by the Soviets to Serge, “that of preparing in France a working-class mentality suitable for the exercising of a dictatorship…at least called for it to have been taken up by serious and disinterested spirits, that Moscow’s theses be spread by men who are clean.”   But for Rhillon, in setting Serge to this task the Bolsheviks found “the most cynical and  most rotten” of the rejects of anarchy…What was needed was a Kibalchich who remembers having been “consciously unscrupulous” to unfailingly exercise a profession that was, after all, nothing but the continuation of his former life.”

Rhillon’s vision of Serge is a looking glass version of Serge’s own. For Serge his Bolshevik life is, indeed “a continuation of his former life,” but in a radically different way. It meant the injection of anarchism into Bolshevik statism; an attempt to ensure the growth of freedom under the new state. For Rhillon, Serge had never been sincere in anything he’d done, and now his insincerity had found a boss willing to pay him for it. There was really no way for these two viewpoints to meet.

And Rhillon was far from alone in his visceral and unmeasured, indeed, unhinged, criticism of Serge. For the French anarchists there is no baseness Serge isn’t capable of now, or wasn’t capable of in the past, however absurd.

Maurice Wullens recounted his meeting with a former fellow-prisoner at Melun of Serge’s, a non-political, to all appearances, a man who “neither theorizes nor pontificates,” as Wullens phrases it. Having taken up his old life of crime and feeling the need to get out of France, Wullens suggests to his anonymous source that he go to Russia to meet up with his former fellow-prisoner Kibalchich. The former is horrified: “You see all of this from a distance, with the halo of legend. Kibalchich a theoretician of anarchism? He’s nothing but one more idol to be torn down. He explained to me how in prison Victor Serge would show off to the prisoners, talking to them about his relations in the imperial Russian court and how, less brilliantly, he abandoned all dignity in the face of the guards… Doesn’t this unpretentious little tale fill out the portrait of this sad little man?”  That Serge had no such relations at the court, that he had never in his life demonstrated a tendency to invent such relations and had always proposed not the court, but those most violently opposed to it as exemplary figures, none of this mattered to the editors of Le Libertaire: Serge had betrayed them and there was nothing he wasn’t capable of.[56]

Gaston Leval, draws the widow of Peter Kropotkin into the ad hominem war. Leval proposed to the widow that he publish a rectification to an account Serge wrote of Kropotkin’s funeral, which was the final hurrah of the anarchist movement the revolutionary prince had so nobly represented. She demurred: “No, I beg you, don’t respond. Kropotkin’s name is too great to be placed alongside that of Kibalchich.” [57] And in a footnote to an article Leval on repression in Russia he tells his readers that “in a future issue I will say what we should think of the wretch named Kibalchich.” [58]

And in the introduction to an article by Alexander Berkman on Kronstadt, Louis Lecoin disposes of Serge with disgust: “As for Kibalchich, well-known to his old comrades for his backtracking and thousand acts of cowardice, we’ll talk about him later. We’ll pass the pen to friends who saw him in Russia and who will prove that the protagonist of illegalism, the pre-war anti-communist and anti-revolutionary, is even more abject today.”[59]

No response is possible to such vicious and unprovable attacks, which could do nothing but drive Serge further into the adverse camp.

Serge did attempt to reply to his detractors in the March 11, 1921, issue of Le Libertaire, though the letter was written on February 21, just before the sailors’ uprising.[60]  In this open letter he defends himself against the personal attacks he had been victim of, in which he had even been mocked for his past affectation of a Russian blouse and for living in Russia in a relatively luxurious hotel. The predominant tone of his response, though, is one of hurt and genuine puzzlement.  Never having insulted anyone in any of his articles he asks, “In what way have I deserved being insulted by you, comrades of Le Libertaire?”  He wonders if it was because he said that the recently deceased Kropotkin had died “surrounded by the best of care and the greatest respect.”  But most importantly, he condemns the campaign against him for being “unworthy of anarchists…Your entire campaign against the dictatorship is carried out in a tone that is far from being one of a discussion of ideas and facts.” He condemns the French anarchists for their “false allegations and their many tendentious interpretations,” but renounces correcting them, being certain that his responses “would not be published.”  The timing of his response could not have been worse, for he also write that “a great number of Russian anarchists would not understand your way of posing the question, and many of them accept the principle of proletarian dictatorship.”  Though the last clause was certainly true, by late March, 1921, many anarchists had been executed or imprisoned, and could neither accept nor deny Serge’s claims. Serge was not naïve enough to think this response would put matters to rest or calm anarchist rage, and ended it hoping he would not be insulted.  He was wrong.

The paper’s response appeared directly under his letter, and he was immediately accused of “playing fast and loose with the truth.” He was accused of backtracking on statements he had previously made about anarchist opposition to the Bolshevik dictatorship, about anarchists being counter-revolutionaries. Their final word on Serge was that he was an “acknowledged agent of a government that imprisons and execute our brothers in anarchy…And Victor Serge, who still proclaims himself an anarchist, should blush in shame for enjoying certain favors for certain tasks and for his ability to flood the  Bolshevist press of this country while the anarchists over there are doomed to the cruelest silence.”

Serge could not win, and it was partially because of things he had said in private conversations, conversations that had been leaked to the wider anarchist world.

 

 

 

Victor Serge against Kibalchich

Whatever Serge was writing or not writing for public consumption, we have several accounts by comrades of his that his private sentiments were not the same as his public ones. His libertarian sentiments had not been completely expunged, nor were his eyes closed to the disaster that surrounded him.

Angel Pestaña was a Spanish anarcho-syndicalist from Barcelona who attended the second congress of the Communist International, a congress at which he made three speeches “on the alleged necessity for the existence of the Communist party.”[61]  Unless so many of the attendees, Pestaña was unafraid to play the part of the “heretic,” and “laid out the point of view of the syndicalists of the CNT…[which] had nothing in common with the state system established in Russia by Lenin nor the organizational principles adopted by the Congress for the parties who intended to join the Communist International.”[62]  Serge met often with the anarchist attendees, who included the Italian Armando Borghi and  the Frenchmen Augustin Souchy (representing the Swedes and Germans)  and  the Frenchman Jules Lepetit, a group Serge found “admirable” but who were “ignorant of political economy and had never posed the problem of power,” and so were stuck in their “romantic position of the ‘universal revolution’ as it was represented by the libertarian artisans between 1848 and 1860 before the formation of large-scale modern industry and the proletariat.” [63]  His discussions with these anarchist attendees were to play a vital role in his analysis of the role of anarchists in his “The Experience of the Russian Revolution.”[64]

Installed like most of the delegates at Petrograd’s Hotel International, “Pestaña received an unexpected visit from an old fellow-warrior and friend, Victor Serge…In private conversations the latter told him about the negative aspects of the revolution, showing him, so to speak, the dark side of the moon.”[65]

The Italian anarchist Armando Borghi left a longer account of his conversations with Serge. Borghi was a rara avis in Petrograd, an Italian anarchist, and he was invited to meet with countless individuals, always accompanied, or rather “guarded” by his interpreter.[66]  Borghi and Serge had known each other in Paris, so it was natural that the two would meet privately in Petrograd.

Serge and Borghi made an appointment to meet the next day, and Borghi went to see Serge, accompanied by a Spanish comrade. When Serge opened the door and saw Borghi and the Spaniard he asked what he could do for him. Borghi reminded him of their appointment and Serge explained that “he had misunderstood and that, anyway, he had to leave on important matters.”

Borghi returned to his room, and when his phone rang it was Serge, who repentantly invited Borghi back to see him immediately.

Serge explained that he had told Borghi to come alone, but that he’d been accompanied by the Spaniard. “’But the Spaniard is a comrade,’ I said.” ‘I understand. You come from Europe.’”

Serge then unburdened himself: “The soviets were swallowed up by the Communist Party. The leaders all spy on each other.  Any dissent is treason and any act of treason results in elimination. The factory system is ruthless. Trotsky is a perfect tyrant. What we have is neither communism, nor socialism, nor anti-communism, but Prussianism.”

Borghi wanted to know why Serge maintained his support. “He was and remained an anarchist, but what was the sense of having himself killed for an opposition that was worth less than zero? No one would understand; no one would follow. No one would know.  He’d be taken for a spy and nothing else. This was the horrible logic of totalitarianism” It’s a demonstration of the strength of the revolutionary dream that  despite what Serge had told Borghi, the latter  did not reject the revolution, but rather exercised “prudence” in his observations.[67]

Marcel Body was a French socialist who, after participating in the French military mission in Russia, stayed on and was a founder of the French Communist Group, of which Serge was a member. Body, who would become disenchanted with Soviet Russia and would leave both it and communism behind, was also a co-worker of Serge’s, writing and translating for the Comintern.

He, too speaks of what he calls Serge’s “split personality.” Body recalls that “whenever Victor Serge thought he could express himself freely, he delivered a withering attack on the party and the state system established by Lenin and Trotsky… Which didn’t prevent him from glorifying the party and its actions in his writings.” Serge, as we have seen in these examples, chose who to unburden himself to, and he only did so “if he had before him an interlocutor who contested the party and the Soviet bureaucracy.” Body went further though, finding this split characteristic of Serge until his death. “On one hand there was in him the eternal Le Rétif, and on the other the writer with a fertile imagination.” Body, in fact, credits the bursting forth of Serge’s talents as a writer to his woes under Stalin. “As long as Victor Serge applied himself to sticking to the party line in his writings, he produced nothing interesting. His Bolshevik conformism sterilized him. He only began to find his true literary stature from the moment Stalin’s henchmen deported him. He then found himself, discovered his own literary vein, and allowed it to flow”[68]  There is much to be said for Body’s point of view.

Maurice Vilkens was another French anarchist to whom Serge opened himself up, and who revealed what was said. Vilkens, who spent six months in Russia and sent regular articles to Le Libertaire, said in February 1921 that Serge attacked the Bolshevik’s government policy on foreign concessions, saying that in this system of coming to terms with foreign capital “it’s entirely likely that we’ll lose and we’ll expose ourselves, even if the communists remain in power, to re-establishing in Russia a more or less disguised form of capitalism.” There was a way out though, and that was “allowing the working people to take the initiative, to have the freedom to take production into their own hands and allow them to live under their won responsibility with the cooperation of all revolutionary elements. End the terror and work with the masses to realize their aspirations and initiatives. In truth, in doing so we will expose ourselves to being crushed by the people, who will take revenge for the mistakes and errors they have suffered from.”[69]

The best known of the anarchists to report on Serge’s real feelings was Maurice Vandamme, better known as Mauricius, Serge’s wife Rirette’s former lover and one of the leading figures of individualist anarchism.

During his difficult visit to Russia in 1920, when he was arrested for his alleged activities in France as a police informant, he visited with Victor in Petrograd. Mauricus tells us that when discussing the state of the Revolution “the words that fall from his lips are implacable and ferocious verdicts.” Mauricius asked about the Bolshevik policy regarding the elderly, and received “a surprised look,” and then Serge responded: “The elderly?” he said. “There are no more elderly, they’re all dead.”

Mauricius also reported on a conversation between Raymond Lefebvre and Serge. Lefebvre told Serge that whatever else was the case,

There’s at least one indisputable fact, and that’s that the peasants own the land and are free.

Kibalchich looked at him with an ironic smile on his face and said, in his gentle voice:

“It’s true that the peasants are free, but it’s because there aren’t enough militia to oppress them. They own the land, of course, but that’s because a way of taking it from them hasn’t yet been found.”

I heard this with my own ears. You can draw your own conclusions.[70]

But the most significant third-person account of Serge’s feelings appeared in Le Libertaire in March 1922.[71] It was the result of conversation with Gaston Leval. A member of the Spanish CNT, he was sent by that organization to Soviet Russia in 1921, where he met with Serge on June 1. Twenty years later Serge would write in his notebooks that Leval’s publication of their discussions was an act of “perfidy,” and it is easy to see why. [72] Leval clearly knew that publication of their talks would be controversial and that there was every chance Serge would deny that any such conversations took place, as he begins the article by saying “let him dare to deny me.”  The title of the article sums up Victor’s situation in Russia: “Victor Serge against Kibalchich. Kibalchich against Victor Serge.”

Leval brings out the schism within Serge, as over the course of their lengthy conversation “Kibalchich often again becomes Victor Serge or, more precisely, he was at one and the same time both men. At 2:00 p.m. the implacable demolisher of the Bolshevik state and government, and at 2:15 the ardent defender of the Bolshevik state and government.”  Serge’s conflicted state in the early 1920’s can’t be better or more simply expressed.

Leval asked Serge what he thought of the general situation. “I am very pessimistic. We’ve survived four winters but we won’t survive a fifth. The people are exhausted and the counter- revolutionaries are gaining ground every day.  We’re in retreat.

“And how are things going in the Communist Party?

“The latent argument between the masses and the leaders is only growing worse. The former complain of too much centralization and dictatorship. They demand the right to more initiative, more freedom of thought and action. But since the vote on Lenin’s motion at the Tenth Congress of the party the repression against the left has only increased. Lenin is a veritable dictator: he doesn’t discuss, he punches. He gags the opposition by using all possible means: imprisonment, deportations, mobilization… That’s why I intend to leave here. Maybe I’ll go to Spain.

“But you know the repression we’re suffering under?

“It’s better to have to fight against the bourgeoisie than against revolutionaries.

“So centralization hasn’t been a success?

“Centralization has ruined industry and disorganized production.

“And the unions?

“There are no unions. On paper there are eleven million union mandatory members on paper, threatened with sanctions in the event of refusal….The unions play no role….”

Of course the two key questions of the moment were Kronstadt and the Cheka, and Serge was equally categorical on both subjects:

“What was the Kronstadt Affair?

“The Kronstadt Affair was a revolt of the masses against the dictatorship of the leaders.

“And the Cheka?

“The Cheka has become a counter-revolutionary institution that no one knows how to rid us of….

Leval could hardly allow these obvious contradictions between Serge’s writings and his thoughts pass unchecked, and pointed this fact out. Serge answered: “Everything I wrote was written before the Kronstadt insurrection. I’ve written nothing since, for that was the last straw.”

And in a moment of bravado and shame, Serge told Leval and his comrades that “we’re reaching a moment when it will be shameful to remain at liberty. I’ve reached a point where I want to be arrested.”
The overall tone of Leval’s article is harsh, typical of the articles written by French anarchists about Serge, arraigning him for  “his lies and sophisms,” for his “knowing falsehoods,” and finally condemning him as “the most contemptible scoundrel I met in Moscow,” and then going further and saying of Serge that he was still “the same amoral or immoral man he once was, not caring a whit for those who read him and caring only to attain renown as a writer and to live well.”

But Leval, though he has no sympathy for Serge’s plight, reports him as saying that “if it was known that I told you all this I’d be executed.” Luckily, when this article was published we know of any ill consequences suffered by Serge.  And so we can understand why Serge would consider the publication of these conversations as “perfidy:” Gaston Leval, in order to attack the Bolsheviks placed Serge’s life and freedom at risk. But Serge couldn’t deny what was reported, and Vilkens for his part had named several witnesses to conversation he had had with Serge who could verify that his reporting was exact.[73] Serge considered Lenin a dictator, the Cheka counter-revolutionary, the unions a sham, and Kronstadt legitimate.

There was, however, one anarchist visitor, one to whom one would have expected Serge to have made similar comments but who, at least in her memoirs, gives no hint of this. Shortly after her arrival in Russia she visited “the young anarchist Kibalchich” at the Astoria Hotel, where she complained of the extra perks received by Bolsheviks, like better food, better lodging, better schools. She has also asked an old anarchist comrade from America the same question, as well as Zinoviev, and “all of the repeated the same refrain: ‘what will you, with the blockade around us, the sabotage of the intelligentsia, the attacks of Denikin and Yudenich.’” [74]Though she met with Serge frequently, this is the only mention of him in any of her writings about Russia. She might have remained silent about any comments because at the time Goldman’s memoirs were published, 1931, Victor was in a Stalinist camp, and any further accounts of his anti-Bolshevism would certainly have cost him his life.”

 

 

 

Why?

Emma Goldman’s bitter disappointment in the Russian Revolution when she saw the brutality, mendacity, repression, and hypocrisy that surrounded her, led her to ask an important question: “If the Revolution really had to support such brutality and crime, what was the purpose of the Revolution after all?”[75]  In a sense, there is no other question than this one, for if a revolution is fought to make life better for the people but instead brings the people famine and dictatorship, then it has no reason for being.  And is a revolution successful merely by staying in power if in doing so it has to betray all it represented, and it requires that the individual revolutionary betrays all his most dearly held ideals?   Emma Goldman could pose this question; Victor Serge couldn’t.  This is the matter we must elucidate.

Goldman went to Russia under circumstances remarkably similar to those of Serge, and almost exactly a year after he did. Deported from her beloved America she went to Russia, like so many revolutionaries, expecting to find the new world she’d dreamed all her life of. She was accompanied by Alexander Berkman, whose situation was even more like Victor’s. He, too, had a Narodnik hero in his family, and he, too, had held the Populists up as the beau idéale of revolutionism.  They saw many, if not all, of the same things Serge did, but there came a point for Goldman and Berkman, the point being Kronstadt and the subsequent general repression, when, after seen many horrors,  they could no longer accept Soviet Russia as a valid revolutionary alternative.

What was it that held Serge back? What made a man whose entire past life had been built on individual freedom, and whose future life would return to that theme, unable to say no?

That he sincerely felt love for the revolution despite it all is undeniable. Saying so publicly simply meant fulfilling his function as a propagandist; writing this privately was far more significant. And as he wrote to his friend and comrade Paul Fouchs, “However tragic the things around me, and even more the current moment, might be, I am a fervent, stoically enthusiastic witness of the work of the revolution. And believe me when I say that I remain in all regards a revolutionary, faithful to himself and our common idea.”[76]  It is, of course, possible that he wrote this letter knowing it would pass through the hands of censors and that saying anything other than this was a risky matter. But it is nevertheless safe to assume that Serge was sincere in this letter to his old friend. Serge also wrote in 1920 in his article on the anarchists in Russia that in joining the Communists “I soon realized that this attitude imposed real sacrifices on me from the point of view of my freedom of individual action, and important concessions on principles. With complete clarity of spirit I still to consent to this.  Sacrifices and concessions are imposed on the anarchist militant (if he joins the CP or not) not before a doctrine or an organization, but in the face of the revolution itself, whose interests are the supreme law. For the revolution it’s a question strictly of living and winning.” [77]These notions of party discipline and the need to win are key to understanding Serge’s Soviet dilemma.

But we must still square the matter of, as Gaston Leval called it, “Kibalchich versus Serge.” Why, knowing what he knew, seeing what he saw, saying what he did in private conversations, did he consider this party loyalty the primary, indeed the only, concern and  remain silent?

First of all, there is the inescapable presence of fear. Emma Goldman felt that this was the dominant, perhaps the sole reason for Serge’s unwillingness to go against the party at the moment of Kronstadt.[78] Serge was now a family man and had to protect his wife and son and his extended Roussakov family, who, we will recall, were also returned exiles, family. Had he crossed the party he might not only have lost his job, he might have lost his home, and having no other citizenship than Soviet he would have had nowhere to go.  Gaston Leval phrased Serge’s dilemma crudely and negatively, but perhaps correctly: “He had to play his role, fulfill the functions assigned to him by ‘his boss Zinoviev.’ He was paid for it and lived off it.”[79] And in Soviet Russia, where food and lodging were far from assured, he would have been well paid and well-housed.[80]

 

Secondly, as a party member, as we have seen,  he was bound by party discipline, and if in 1919 it was still possible to dissent within limits, it would soon be impossible to do even that. After the suppression of the Workers’ Opposition and then the crushing of Kronstadt it would have been suicidal. So here again, both practically and politically he was hemmed in. As he told Gaston Leval, he could have been arrested or shot at any moment for sympathizing with or aiding the ‘counter-revolution.’ Like so many other revolutionaries who came to Russia seeking safety he was actually at great risk there: in this sense there is nothing unique in his situation.  His silence spared him the fate of hundreds of anarchists and early oppositionists.

 

Thirdly, despite his sympathies for many anarchist positions, the time was not ripe for such criticisms. We can say that he was guilty of bending the stick of ‘double duty’ too far in the direction of defending the revolution from what the Bolsheviks (and Victor) considered its external enemies, though these enemies for the most part considered themselves critical allies.  Defense of the revolution, we know, was Serge’s primary concern, and if he felt that criticism would weaken it then he would not engage in it. There was enough criticism of the Bolsheviks from outside Russia; joining in made one an objective ally of reaction, and that was simply not an action. And though it’s not necessarily a defense, his views were in harmony with the behavior of other rank-and-file Communists at the time, as attested to by the fact that there were no protests within the Party, and for Serge that was the only place where it mattered. That there were no protests because protesting meant the firing squad or the political isolators in Siberia changes nothing in the matter.

 

Serge was committed to the actually existing revolution, and he saw the only hopes coming a) from within the Party and b) from the revolution in Germany and Europe in general. So when plan b failed after 1923, he courageously and consistently returned to USSR to fight the hopeless battle of plan a. His most egregious defense of the Cheka was written in 1925 in the Okhrana pamphlet, just as Serge was planning to return to Russia. This was an act of great courage, consistent with his duplicity in writing propaganda he didn’t believe. He could have just stayed in Europe, told the truth, joined the émigrés, and lived a good life as a dissident writer on a US campus or whatever.

 

As we have seen, Serge’s unflinching defense of the Bolsheviks in the face of what anarchists considered a dictatorship that had become as harsh as that of the Tsar had led to ferocious ad hominem attacks on Serge, and his responses ultimately became every bit as furious.   That Serge would have felt himself backed into a corner by his former comrades and unable to publicly admit to hesitations is all too natural. Accused of hypocrisy and betrayal, had he written or spoken of the dark side of the Revolution he would have proved his alleged hypocrisy and duplicity. Better to remain silent.

Another reason for his silence concerning the repression in Russia, and particularly that of anarchists is, ironically, his own anarchism. He never ceased to write that he was a Communist and had joined the party as an anarchist and was striving to inject the best of anarchism into Bolshevism. Again, he was not alone in this, and many anarchists died in the Red Army entertaining the same hopes as Serge, that a victorious October Revolution would then be open to more expansive freedoms. His honesty concerning his anarchist tendencies and, more importantly, his anarchist past made him suspect. The French Communist resident in Russia Marcel Body was quite up front about this: “Of individualist anarchist formation, Victor Serge was, if not suspect, at least considered a doubtful element, but also quite useful for the work expected of him. He didn’t delay in rendering the services asked of him.” [81] In order to allay any suspicions Serge was obliged – in public at any rate – to be more Bolshevist than the Bolsheviks. He couldn’t allow the existing suspicions to be confirmed in any way, and if he had supported the Workers’ Opposition, or the Kronstadt rebels, or defended the arrested anarchists, he would have done nothing but confirm the worst suspicions of him. And so, he remained silent

And he could, of course, have tried to leave Russian and join Goldman, Berkman and the editors of Le Libertaire in exposing Bolshevik repression from exile in tiny papers that no one read. In his talks with Leval he did, after all, mention the possibility of going to Spain, and it should be remembered that he left Spain willingly, and was not under deportation order there. But the job of criticizing the Bolsheviks was already being done by the anarchists, SRs, Mensheviks (and the British secret services) so what would be the point? And this is precisely what he said to Borghi during the latter’s visit in 1920. And with the anarchist movement in general in disarray, exile – assuming he’d have found a home for himself and his family – would, for Victor, have meant falling into the old routine of pointless meetings held by pointless groups bragging of their pointless purity. No, far better stay in Russia where something, even if not something perfect, was being done.

Which brings us to what is perhaps the heart of the matter.

Almost all of these reasons for sticking with a revolution he knew had not turned out as he had hoped could have been surmounted. However difficult it is to examine the psychology of a man dead for decades, one can nevertheless hazard a conjecture based on the evidence both from that period and later decades. And there is a phrase he used twice in his writings that perhaps reveals the true reason for Victor’s standing by the revolution he had told his friends was “a disaster,” there was a “new reason for living: to win.”  [82]

Until his arrival in Russia his life was lived under the sign of failure. There was his failed relationship with his father, his failed membership on the youth branch of the Belgian Workers Party followed immediately by the collapse of the anarchist commune he lived on and the failure of the group he helped found. He then moved to France, where he experienced the crushing and resounding collapse of the individualist anarchist milieu of which he was a key figure, and then the ugliness of the Bonnot trial, where his erstwhile comrades disgusted him and he they.

Jail was yet another dreadful experience, and when he came out he had to face both the end of his marriage, which was truly one of love, and the failure of the Barcelona uprising. The next failure in the series was his inability to get to Russia to join the revolution, an act that was as much a result of personal desperation as a political one, a way out of the personal crisis he was going through and whose gravity is clear in his despairing letter of November 10, 1917.

And then he is able to go to Soviet Russia, and on the way there meets the woman he will wed, and falls in love not just with her, but with her entire warm, accepting, Jewish family. Serge, who had had no one, was now part of a family, and when he arrived in Russia was part of a revolution that had, against all odds, first taken power and then was able not only to fight off its enemies, but establish a world center of revolution, the Comintern, which he played a vital role in.   Serge was finally on the winning side.

He was playing his last card, and he wasn’t going to risk losing, to risk his marriage, his new family, when, despite all his reservations, despite all the obvious horrors, the Bolshevik errors could be justified  historically and ideologically. As long as there was a glimmer of hope, though in truth that had been extinguished at Kronstadt and the party congress it coincided with, which put an end to any opposition life, he would stick by it.  He had his reason to live, and he would cling to it until it was no longer possible to hide the fact that the revolution was hopelessly, irrevocably lost.  Then he would take his stand. But until then, against his better judgment, against the attacks of his former allies, he was a Bolshevik, a winner. There was simply no way he could join the anarchists, those losers in the fight, in the trash bin of history.

He spoke of this directly not only in his published writings but also in his correspondence. On May 29, 1921 he would write to the French syndicalist Michel Relenque of the “dreadful, the indescribable failure of the Russian anarchist movement.” mocking their splits into countless tiny groups, as well as the “nuts who invented the language AO.”[83]

Far better, then, to stand by the Revolution and write what he didn’t necessarily believe. His later notebooks contain a passage that explains his conduct during his early years in Soviet Russia. “We, in Russia, invented many things, many harmful things, and it wasn’t our fault. The state’s total control of man was the beginning of our misfortune. Around 1928-30 a new word surfaced in the party, dvouroutchnitchestvo, which the French word ‘duplicity’ doesn’t quite capture.” In the face of a state intent on crushing any opposition, with “internal reservations” the good Bolshevik says what he doesn’t mean “in order to gain time, to serve the party, and to be there (instead of in prison) for history’s next turn.” Though Serge was proud of his stand in the early Stalin years, his “Don Quixotism,” he recognized that “the naked man disarmed in the face of the machinery of the state has only this pathetic and degrading flight.” [84] Though he excepted himself from this syndrome, in fact, it described perfectly his actions and writing during the Civil War and the repression that accompanied and followed it, and even more, after the Kronstadt Rebellion and the elimination of the anarchists. Serge lived in the hope of history’s next turning, one that would salvage the Revolution. Duplicity was a temporary measure, one that would allow him to be there to put the revolution back on the rails, when his “double duty” would be to openly defend the Revolution from its enemies without and within.  That he failed in doing this was not his fault, for history and Stalin were stronger than all. Serge’s position was not admirable, but it is defensible.

 

 

I would like to than the great Serge scholar Richard Greeman for making his extensive files available to me, but even more, for the lengthy discussions we’ve had on this question. He disagrees with almost every opinion expressed here, but his disagreement helped to clarify my thinking. M.A.

 

[1] See in this regard “Les tendances nouvelles de l’anarchisme russe”, Bulletin Communiste, nos. 48-49, 3 Novembre 1921

[2] Alexander Skirda, Les Anarchistes dans la Révolution Russe. (Paris, Editions Tête de Feuilles, 1973)  23

[3] Victor Serge, « Les tendances nouvelles de l‘anarchisme russe », op. cit., 808

[4] Victor Serge, « Les anarchistes en Russie » Bulletin Communiste, 27 Janvier 1921, 57

[5] Victor Serge, « Les tendances nouvelles », op. cit. 812-313

[6] Ibid. 811

[7] Victor Serge,  « Les anarchistes en Russie », op.cit. 58

[8] Victor Serge, « La pensée Anarchiste, » Le Crapouillot, Janvier 1938.

[9] Victor Serge, « Les anarchistes en Russie », op. cit.58

[10] Victor Serge, « Les tendances nouvelles », op. cit. 812

[11] Alexandre Skirda op. cit,  25

[12] Paul Avrich, The Russian Anarchists, Oakland, AK Press, 2005, 161-162

[13] Emma Goldman, Living my Life, Vol II (New York, Dover Publications),  725-726

[14] Quoted in Paul Avrich, op. Cit.., 197

[15] Avrich, ibid 201-202

[16] Avrich, ibid 196-197

[17] Peter Kropotkin, Revolutionary Pamphlets, (New York, Dover Publications, 1927)  253

[18] Paul Avrich, op. cit. ,p. 211

[19] Victor Serge, Mémoires d’un révolutionnaire, in Mémoires d’un révolutionnaire et autres ecrits politiques (Paris, Robert Laffont, 2001) 599

[20] Anatole Gorelik, Les Anarchistes dans la Révolution Russe, in Skirda, Les Anarchistes dans la Révolution Russe, (Paris, Editions de la Tête de Feuilles) 68.

[21] Victor Serge, op. cit.,  599

[22] Gorelnik, op. cit pp 70-77. Avrich, op. cit., 222-227

[23] Victor Serge, « Les anarchistes en Russie », op. cit. 57

[24] Victor Serge, Mémoires op. cit. 602-603

[25] Paul Avrich, Kronstadt 1921, (Princeton, Princeton University Press 1970). 14

[26] Victor Serge Conquered City, translated by Richard Greeman (New York, New York Review of Books, 2011)  7

[27] Paul Avrich, Kronstadt, op. cit 59

[28] Paul Avrich, The Russian Anarchists, op. cit. 229.

[29] Victor Serge, Memoires, op. cit. 603

[30] Pierre Pascal, Mon Journal de Russie, 1918-1921. (Lausanne, l’Age d’Hmme, 1977) 218

[31] Kronstadt Izevestia, Vol 1, March 3, 1921 retrieved from http://www.marxists.org/history/ussr/events/kronstadt/izvestia/01.htm 12/09/2013

[32] Serge, Mémoires, op. cit. 604

[33] Serge, Mémoires op. cit. 605-606

[34] Emma Goldman, My Disillusionment in Russia, (New York, Dover Publications, 2003),198

[35] Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Armed,( New York, Vintage Books, 1965), p 512

[36] Victor Serge, Mémoires, op. cit, 606

[37] Paul  Avrich Kronstadt, op. cit, 213-215

[38] VI Lenin, “Preliminary Draft Resolution of the Tenth Congress of the RCP on Party Unity.” Collected Works vol XXXII (Moscow, Progress Publishers, 1965) 241-244.

[39] Victor Serge, Mémoires, op. cit., 609

[40] Victor Serge, « La Tragique d’une Révolution, » La Vie Ouvrière, 31 Mars 1922

[41] Victor Serge, “Five Years’ Struggle” The Communist Review, May-October 1923

[42] Gaston Leval, « Kibaltchich contre  Victor Serge »,Le Libertaire,  3-10 Mars 1922

[43] Gaston Leval, “Réplique à Victor Serge,”. Le Libertaire, 14 Avril 1922

[44] Victor Serge, “Once More: Kronstadt,’ by Victor Serge. New International, July 1938

[45] Victor Serge, Carnets(1936-1947). (Marseille, Agone, 2012) 151

[46] Victor Serge, « La Defense de Trotsky. Réponse à Trotsky ». La Révolution Prolétarienne, 25 Octobre 1938.

[47] Undated, unpublished document in Richard Greeman Collection of Serge papers

[48] Victor Serge, Mémoires, op. cit. 606

[49] Ibid. 605

[50] Ibid. 608

[51] Rhillon, « L’Avenir de la Révolution Russe, » Le Libertaire, 13 Juillet 1919

[52] Sebastien Faure, « Mon Opinion sur la Dictature » , Le Libertaire, 15 Avril 1921

[53] Gaston Leval, « Réplique à Victor Serge », Le Libertaire,14 Avril 1922.

[54] Le Rétif, « Des Moyens », Le Révolté, No 24, 14 Novembre 1908.

[55] Rhillon, « Un Révolutionnaire Vertueux »,Le Libertaire, 28 Octobre 1921

[56] Maurice Wulens, « Kibaltchitche »,  Le Libertaire, 4 Novembre 1921

[57] Gaston Leval, « Réplique à Victor Serge », Le Libertaire, 14 Avril 1922

[58] Gaston Leveal, « A Propos de la répression Bolsheviste », Le Libertaire, 24 Fevrier 1922.

[59] Louis Lecoin, « La Commune de Paris en Russie », Le Libertaire, 7-14  Avril 1922

[60] Victor Serge, « Quelques mots personnels », Le Libertaire, 11 March, 1921.

[61] Branko Lazich, Lenin and the Comintern, (Stanford, Hoover Institution Press, 1972) 314-315

[62] Marcel Body Un Piano en Bouleau de Carélie. (Paris, Hachette, 1981),  157

[63] Victor Serge, Mémoires, op. cit., 587

[64] Victor Serge,  L’Expérience de la révolution russe, in Mémoires d’un révolutionnaire et autres écrits politiques, op. cit. 132

[65] Branko Lazich, op cit. 315

[66] Armando Borghi, Mezzo Secolo di Anarchia, (Naples, Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane 1954) 234

[67] ibid. 234-235

[68] Marcel Body, op. cit. 295-296

[69] Maurice Vilkens, « Les opinions privées de Kibalchiche », Le Libertaire February 11, 1921

[70] Maurcius, Au Pays des Soviets. (Paris, Eugène Figuière, 1922) 196-197

[71] Gaston Leval, « Victor Serge contre Kibaltchiche Kibaltchiche contre Victor Serge ». Le Libertaire, March 3-10, 1922

[72] Victor Serge,Carnets, op. cit. 151

[73] Maurice Vilkens, « Les Opinions privés de Kibalchiche », Le Libertaire, February 11, 1921

[74] Emma Goldman, Living My Life, (New York, Dover Publications, 1970), 732

[75] Emma Goldman, My Disillusionment in Russia, (New York, Dover, 2003), 118

[76] Letter to Paul Fouchs dated Petrograd, August 23, 1921, Richard Greeman Collection

[77] Victor Serge, « Les Anarchistes en Russie » op. cit.

[78] Goldman quoted in Jean-Luc Sahagian, Victor Serge, l’Homme Double.( Paris, Libertalia, 2011) 82

[79] Gaston Leval, « Victor Serge contre Kibaltchiche », op. cit.

[80] Marcel Body, op. cit. 283

[81] Marcel Body, Les Groupes Communistes Françaises en France 1918-1921. (Paris, Alia, 1998) 35-36

[82] Victor Serge, Lenine 1917. In Memoires d’un Révolutionnaire et autres écrits politques op. cit..167

[83] Letter to Michel Relenque, dated Petrograd May 29, 1921, Richard Greeman Collection

[84] Victor Serge, Carnets, op. cit. 551-552

Leave a Reply