Midnight in the Century


I'm late to note it, but Christopher Hitchens has a nice appreciation of Victor Serge in the December Atlantic. Serge was an anarchist militant in Czarist Russia who joined the Bolsheviks after their revolution and just as quickly turned dissident. "His novels and poems and memoirs, most of them directed at the exposure of Stalinism, were mainly composed in jail or on the run," Hitchens writes. "Some of the manuscripts were confiscated or destroyed by the Soviet secret police; in the matter of poetry Serge was able to outwit them by rewriting from memory the verses he had composed in the Orenburg camp, deep in the Ural Mountain section of the Gulag Archipelago."

NEXT: Segway Goes to War

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  1. jbd,

    Trotsky’s “left opposition” tendencies were greatly exaggerated. He supported breaking the power of workers’ committees in the factories, suppressing the Workers’ Opposition, and consigning anarchists and Left SRs to the gulag.

    Personally, I think the “libertarian” and workerist aspects of Trotskyism were mostly fabricated AFTER his break with Stalin as a sort of “name brand identity” thing.

  2. ever notice that anarchists are libertarians’ favorite totalitarians?

  3. “the Anarchists consistently opposed state terror”

    I wonder which part they objected to.

  4. I laughed like hell when he “played” the sheet music after it had been turned upside dow – what? Victor _Serge_?? Oh. Sorry.

  5. Is it really fair to call the overthrow of the czars “their (the Bolsheviks’) revolution?” Wouldn’t it be more accurate to call it “the populist revolution the Bolsheviks hijacked?”

  6. I don’t disagree with your description of the Bolsheviks’ relationship to the uprising of 1917. But what I was getting at was that Serge joined the Bolshevik government after it took power.

  7. Fair enough. But the conflation of “revolution” and “government” is one of the nastier things imposed on the world by Lenninism (or by Jacobinism, if you think about it), and shouldn’t be aided and abetted here.

  8. Wasn’t Serge more a member of the “Left Opposition” (i.e., a Trotskyist) than an Anarchist? The distinction is important because, although both groups opposed Stalin, only the Anarchists consistently opposed state terror. The Trotskyists had no problem with their leader’s founding of the Red Army and use of terror during the War Communism period, early in Bolshevik rule. They just didn’t like state terror when it was applied to them.

  9. If there’s anything more depressing than Russian history, I haven’t found it.

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