Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
I'm a Serge devotee from way back so least-I-can-do-to-pay-my-respects is some google-searching... ;-)

- Victor Serge's Memoirs of a Revolutionary is on sale at Amazon UK - at £15.15 new - urk! - and at Amazon US, more reasonably priced (at least at current exchange rates( at US$ 18.21 new. Used copies only-naturally cheaper in both cases.

While awaiting delivery, excerpts from various chapters can be read online
here.  Full URL for the excerpt from ch. 1 is http://www.marxists.org/archive/serge/1945/memoirs/ch01a.htm. There's  no "proceed to next chapter" links provided anywhere on the page - the Serge-loving comrades responsible being more romantic than practical-technological??? - but if you change the last digits of the URL - by hand (i.e. rewrite "ch01a.htm" as "ch02a.htm" etc etc)you'll find you  can access chapter after chapter. ;-)  

And here's an excerpt-from-the-excerpt from Ch. 1:

World Without Escape, 1902-1912. Part Two

(on failed revolution in Paris in 1911: the anarchists, Bonnot...)

(...) A positive wave of violence and despair began to grow. The outlaw-anarchists shot at the police and blew out their own brains. Others, overpowered before they could fire the last bullet into their own heads, went off sneering to the guillotine. `One against all!' `Nothing means anything to me!' `Damn the masters, damn the slaves, and damn me!' I recognized, in the various newspaper reports, faces I had met or known; I saw the whole of the movement founded by Libertad dragged into the scum of society by a kind of madness; and nobody could do anything about it, least of all myself. The theoreticians, terrified, headed for cover. It was like a collective suicide. The newspapers put out a special edition to announce a particularly daring outrage, committed by bandits in a car on the Rue Ordener in Montmartre, against a bank cashier carrying half a million francs. Reading the descriptions, I recognized Raymond and Octave Garnier, the lad with piercing black. eyes who distrusted intellectuals. I guessed the logic of their struggle: in order to save Bonnot, now hunted and trapped, they had to find either money, money to get away from it all, or else a speedy death in this battle against the whole of society. Out of solidarity they rushed into this squalid, doomed struggle with their little revolvers and their petty, trigger-happy arguments. And now there were five of them, lost, and once again without money even to attempt flight, and against them Money was ranged -- 100,000 francs' reward for the first informer. They were wandering in the city-without-escape, ready to be killed somewhere, anywhere, in a tram or a café, content to feel utterly cornered, expendable, alone in defiance of a horrible world. Out of solidarity, only to share this bitter joy of trying to be killed, without any illusions about the struggle (as a good many told me when I met them in prison afterwards), others joined the first few, such as red-haired René (he too was a restless spirit) and poor little André Soudy. I had often met Soudy at public meetings in the Latin Quarter. He was a perfect example of the crushed childhood of the back-alleys. He grew up on the pavements: T.B. at thirteen, V.D. at eighteen, convicted at twenty (for stealing a bicycle). I had brought him books and oranges in the Ténon Hospital. Pale, sharp-featured, his accent common, his eyes a gentle grey, he would say, `I'm an unlucky blighter, nothing I can do about it.' He earned his living in grocers' shops in the Rue Mouffetard, where the assistants rose at six, arranged the display at seven, and went upstairs to sleep in a garret after 9 p.m., dog-tired, having seen their bosses defrauding housewives all day by weighing the beans short, watering the milk, wine, and paraffin, and falsifying the labels.

... He was sentimental; the laments of street-singers moved him to the verge of tears, he could not approach a woman without making a fool of himself, and half a day in the open air of the meadows gave him a lasting dose of intoxication. He experienced a new lease of life if he heard someone call him `comrade' or explain that one could, one must, `become a new man'. Back in his shop, he began to give double measures of beans to the housewives, who thought him a little mad. The bitterest joking helped him to live, convinced as he was that. he was not long for this world, `seeing the price of medicine'.

One morning, a group of enormous police officers burst into our lodgings at the press, revolvers in hand. A bare-footed little girl of seven had opened when the bell rang, and was terrified by this irruption of armed giants. Jouin, the deputy Director of the Sûreté, a thin gentleman with a long, gloomy face, polite and almost likeable, came in later, searched the building, and spoke to me amiably, of ideas, of Sébastien Faure[6], whom he admired, of the deplorable way in which the outlaws were discrediting a great ideal.

`Believe me', he sighed, `the world won't change so quickly.' He seemed to me neither malicious nor hypocritical, only a deeply distressed man doing a job conscientiously. In the afternoon he sent for me, called me into his office, leant on his elbows under the green lampshade, and talked to me somewhat after this fashion:

`I know you pretty well; I should be most sorry to cause you any trouble -- which could be very serious. You know these circles, these men, those who are far away from you and those who have a gun in your back, more or less. They are all absolutely finished, I can assure you. Stay here for an hour and we'll discuss them. Nobody will ever know anything of it and I guarantee that there'll be no trouble at all for you.'

I was ashamed, unbelievably ashamed, for him, for myself, for everybody, so ashamed that I felt no shock of indignation, nor any fear. I told him, `I am sure that you must be embarrassed yourself, talking to me like this.'

`But not at all!' All the same, he was doing the dirty job as if he were overwhelmed by it.


I myself received five years' solitary confinement, but I had managed to get Rirette acquitted; two revolvers discovered on the premises of the paper served to justify my conviction, which was provoked, no doubt, by my calm hostility during the hearings.

I found this justice nauseating; it was fundamentally more criminal than the worst criminals. This was incontestably obvious; it was just that I was an enemy, of a different sort from the guilty ones. As I pondered the judgement, its enormity did not surprise me. I only wondered if I would be able to live that long, for I was very weak -- at any rate physically. I made up my mind to live it out, and was very ashamed to be thinking of myself like this, next to others who ...

The obviously innocent Dieudonné was reprieved, in other words given forced labour for life. For eighteen years he fought fantastically against his servitude, escaping several times and spending years in solitary confinement. After his final escape he reached Brazil. Through the good offices of Albert Londres,[7] he was able to return to France.

Raymond was so stolid in the death-cell that they did not keep the date of the execution from him. He spent the waiting period in reading. In front of the guillotine he noticed the group of reporters and shouted to them: `A nice sight, isn't it?'

Soudy's last-minute request was for a cup of coffee with cream and some fancy rolls, his last pleasure on earth, appropriate enough for that grey morning when people were happily eating their breakfasts in the little bistros. It must have been too early, for they could only find him a little black coffee. "Out of luck" he remarked, "right to the end." He was fainting with fright and nerves, and had to be supported while he was going down the stairs; but he controlled himself and, when he saw the clearness of the sky over the chestnut trees, hummed a sentimental street-song: `Hail, O last morning of mine'. Monier, usually taciturn, was crazy with anxiety, but mastered himself and became calm. I learned these details only a long time afterwards.

So ended the second explosion of anarchism in France. The first, equally hopeless, was that of 1891-4, signalled by the outrages of Ravachol, Emile Henry, Vaillant, and Caserio.[8] The same psychological features and the same social factors were present in both phases; the same exacting idealism, in the breasts of uncomplicated men whose energy could find no outlet in achieving a higher dignity or sensibility, because any such outlet was physically denied to them. Conscious of their frustration, they battled like madmen and were beaten down. In those times the world was an integrated structure, so stable in appearance that no possibility of substantial change was visible within it. As it progressed up and up, and on and on, masses of people who lay in its path were all the while being crushed. The harsh condition of the workers improved only very slowly, and for the vast majority of the proletariat there was no way out. The declassed elements on the proletarian fringe found all roads barred to them except those which led to squalor and degradation. Above the heads of these masses, wealth accumulated, insolent and proud. The consequences of this situation arose inexorably: crime, class-struggles and their trail of bloody strikes, and frenzied battles of One against All. (...)

Marxists.org also provides a page with links to various short texts by Victor Serge, plus this unforgettable quote:

"It is often said that `the germ of all Stalinism was in Bolshevism at its beginning'. Well, I have no objection. Only, Bolshevism also contained many other germs, a mass of other germs, and those who lived through the enthusiasm of the first years of the first victorious socialist revolution ought not to forget it. To judge the living man by the death germs which the autopsy reveals in the corpse - and which he may have carried in him since his birth - is that very sensible?" - From Lenin to Stalin, 1937.

"Ignoring moralities is always undesirable, but doing so systematically is really worrisome." Mohammed Khatami

by eternalcityblues (parvati_roma aaaat libero.it) on Fri Feb 29th, 2008 at 09:00:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A magnificent closing quote from the same page - could also stand as an obituary for many more recent struggles?

Of this hard childhood, this troubled adolescence, all those terrible years, I regret nothing as far as I am myself concerned. I am sorry for those who grow up in this world without ever experiencing the cruel side of it, without knowing utter frustration and the necessity of fighting, however blindly, for mankind. Any regret I have is only for the energies wasted in struggles which were bound to be fruitless. These struggles have taught me that, in any man, the best and the worst live side by side, and sometimes mingle -- and that what is worst comes through the corruption of what is best.

"Ignoring moralities is always undesirable, but doing so systematically is really worrisome." Mohammed Khatami
by eternalcityblues (parvati_roma aaaat libero.it) on Fri Feb 29th, 2008 at 09:10:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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