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Book Recommendation

Ronnie I | 05.02.2002 17:31

The Memoirs of Victor Serge 1901- 1941 are compelling reading. If you find yourself fluctuating between various ideologies, you are not alone.

Victor Serge perhaps holds the record for the number of revolutions played a prominent part in, and to have survived them too. His astonishing memoirs (my edition published by Oxford Uni in the 1960s, the days when students read such things) will bring endless insights, warnings, and solace to anyone stuck in the central dilemma.
Namely: join the Communists, and risk centralising your structures to such an extent you destroy it and put a didctator there instead, Or: join the anarchists, and risk DE-centralising your structures to such an extent you can't hold onto power, so it fizzles out in un-co-ordinated riots and some other force sets up a dictatorship anyway.

Ronnie I


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yes, its good but...

05.02.2002 18:13

Yes, Serge's book is important, but it does have its
flaws. For example, he fails to mention that the
"Left Opposition" supported the standard Bolshevik
position of "the dictatorship of the party." This, I
would say, is a significant oversight when trying
to evaluate its politics!

As regards the issue of "centralisation," I would note
that this exposes the authoritarian core of Leninism.
After all, the working class is meant to be in power
under socialism, *not* the party. As such, the idea
that "we" (i.e. the party) centralises power in its own
hands shows the basic confusion of Leninism, namely
the confusion of party power with workers power. This
led to the Bolsheviks arguing that the dictatorship of
the proletariat *was* the dictatorship of the party
(and vice versa). Trotsky was still arguing for party
dictatorship in 1937!

As regards anarchism, the Russian revolution gives a
good example to refute the claim that decentralising
power helps defeat the revolution. The Makhnovists in
the Ukraine managed to defend themselves against
the counter-revolution (both White and Red!) while
encouraging working class self-management in free
soviets. As such, decentralisation of *power* (into
the hands of the working class and peasants) was
combined with co-ordination of struggle.

As such, Serge's work is useful, but don't let it be all
you read. The example of the Makhnovists is essential
to understanding how false are the claims that Bolshevik
dictatorship was the only option in Russia.

for more on the Makhnovists:

for more on the anarchist critique of Marxism/Leninism:

for more on anarchism:

mail e-mail:
- Homepage:

or try 2nd hand shops or ask politico shops

05.02.2002 18:16

('cos i'm not advertising amazon here just giving info)

Memoirs of a Revolutionary, 1901-41
Victor Serge

Hardcover new edition (December 1984)
Writers & Readers Pub, US; ISBN: 0863160719

Amazon Price: £14.95

Availability: We expect to be able to find this title for you within 4-6 weeks. Please note that titles occasionally go out of print or publishers run out of stock.


Th paperback copy is out of print but u may be able to get it from the us amazon - or here's the code number:

Paperback (August 1967)
Oxford University Press; ISBN: 0192810375



Victor Serge

05.02.2002 18:50

Yes, Serge's book is interesting - but compare it with his Year One of the Russian Revolution - a crap, anti-anarchist work if ever there was one.

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