Anarchists Never Surrender : Essays, Polemics, and Correspondence on Anarchism, 1908–1938

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(1890 - 1947)
Victor Serge (French: [viktɔʁ sɛʁʒ]), born Victor Lvovich Kibalchich (Russian: Ви́ктор Льво́вич Киба́льчич; December 30, 1890 – November 17, 1947), was a Russian revolutionary and writer. Originally an anarchist, he joined the Bolsheviks five months after arriving in Petrograd in January 1919 and later worked for the Comintern as a journalist, editor and translator. He was critical of the Stalinist regime and remained a revolutionary Marxist until his death. He is best remembered for his Memoirs of a Revolutionary and series of seven "witness-novels" chronicling the lives of revolutionaries of the first half of the 20th century. (From :


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Meditation on a Maverick by Richard Greeman “ANARCHISTS NEVER SURRENDER!” WHAT AN APT TITLE MITCH ABIDOR HAS chosen for his beautifully translated anthology of the anarchist writings of Victor Lvovitch Kibalchich, aka Victor Serge (1890–1947), who up to the age of twenty-eight wrote and agitated under the pseudonym Le Rétif (“Maverick”). The phrase “Anarchists Never Surrender!” comes from a 1909 Maverick article, written at the age of eighteen, and the anarchists in question, like Kibalchich himself, were Russian exiles, resolute bandits who fought to the death against a whole squad of London policemen. Maverick’s dramatic declaration foreshadowed his own and his comrades’ doom in the ‘Tragic Bandits’ affair a few years later in Paris. Indeed, Victor Kibalchich may be said to have inherited that fate, as he bore the famous name of N.I. Kibalchich, a distant relati... (From :

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EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION: The Old Mole of Individual Freedom VICTOR SERGE IS BEST KNOWN AS AN OPPONENT OF STALINISM, AN ALLY OF Trotsky who was sent to a Soviet prison camp and who, thanks to a western campaign in his favor, was able to leave the Soviet Union, where he carried on his fight against the Soviet dictator. Far less well known is Serge’s anarchist period, which began in an embryonic form in Belgium in 1906 and lasted at least until his departure for the Soviet Union in 1919. The lessons he learned as an anarchist, and more particularly the anarchist defense of individual freedom, would not only play a key part in Serge’s thought and action during his directly anarchist period but would also inflect his Bolshevik activity. The continuity in his thought, the way—to paraphrase Marx—the old mole of individual freedom burrowed through his writings in various guises, means that any attempt to analyze Serge’s lif... (From :

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The Illegalists (Editor’s note: Émile Armand, later to be one of Serge’s closest friends, was a central figure of anarchist individualism.) ARMAND’S CONVICTION IN PARIS FOR COUNTERFEITING HAS BROUGHT BACK the old question of the illegalists. I don’t know Armand or the details of his affair. And so without showing any particular interest in his personality—toward which I only feel that sentiment of fraternity that binds all the militants of the idea—I will simply pose questions of principle. What should our attitude be toward illegalists (in the economic sense of the word, i.e., people living off illicit labor) and particularly toward the comrades in that category? The answer seems so clear to me that if I hadn’t heard numerous discussions on this subject—and even in our circle—the idea of writing this article would never have... (From :

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Émile Henry I THINK THAT ACTS OF BRUTAL REVOLT STRIKE THEIR TARGET, FOR THEY awaken the masses, shake them up with the lashing of a whip, and show the real face of the bourgeoisie, still trembling at the moment the rebel climbs the gallows. To those who say to you that hatred doesn’t engender love, answer that it is living love that often engenders hatred. First, a few words to the comrades. Let them not reproach me for glorifying a man, making him into a banner. We want neither tribunes nor martyrs nor prophets. But in order to be strong you have to know yourself, and in order to better support the struggles of today you have to know the joys and fears of past hours. And then it is so good, in this world governed by so many crooked interests, among the base masks that surround us, to once again see the clear profiles of those who were able to be honest in a humanity of brutes. I w... (From :

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Apropos of the Congo THE CONGO IS ON THE ORDER OF THE DAY. EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT IT. There are those who want it and those who don’t. I am among the latter. Those who want it have some good arguments: fatherland, brave Belgium, colonial power, expansion, outlets for trade, civilization … I know we need outlets where we can send our spoiled preserves, our cardboard shoes, and the scoundrels we don’t know what to do with at home and to whom we confide the great mission of civilizing the blacks. I also know there are peoples guilty of being Negro and who must be inoculated with our genius, syphilis, and religion. I know that gunning down people who don’t resemble us is a beautiful and noble task, but I’m a sentimental type and none of this really convinces me. Those who don’t want it talk about millions: it’ll cost us this much or this much or that much—zero, zero, comma,... (From :

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Anarchists! ANARCHY, ANARCHISM, ANARCHIST!!! HORRIFYING WORDS THAT FREEZE WITH fright and make those ignorant of their meaning tremble. Anarchist! The bourgeois shudders, a mute anger in his eyes. For him it’s the irreducible enemy, the man upon whom neither palliatives, contracts, nor promises have any effect. The bourgeois is stupid: he reads little, doesn’t study at all, and less than anything shows any concern for anarchist theory. He only knows of it from the blows delivered by its supporters. When you speak to him of anarchism he recalls violent strikes, expropriations, bombs, Ravachol … And he fears for his skin, for his property, for all his happy parasitism that he sees is threatened. Anarchist! The worker looks at you flabbergasted and slightly frightened. Ah, yes … dynamite, direct action, the implacable war on exploiters, but also the war on the gutless, on... (From :

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Anarchists—Bandits (Editor’s note; On January 23, 1909, two anarchist illegalists carried out a robbery at a factory on Chestnut Road in Tottenham, in the course of which two people were killed, including a policeman. In the course of their flight, both anarchists shot themselves rather than surrender, one of them fatally. This event—popularly known as the Tottenham Outrage—prefigured the 1911 Siege of Sidney Street and the crime spree of the French Bonnot Gang, where all of the participants were anarchists, and all of them bandits.) LAST WEEK THE DAILIES RELATED IN DETAIL A TRAGIC INCIDENT OF THE SOCIAL struggle. In the suburbs of London (in Tottenham) two of our Russian comrades attacked the accountant of a factory and, pursued by the crowd and the police, held out in a desperate struggle, the mere recounting of which is enough to make one shiver … After almost two hours of resist... (From :

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The Athletic Aberration … A FACE. GRIMACING HORRIBLY. LOOKING LIKE IT’S STRAINED WITH EXCESSIVE suffering. Pain twists the muscles, deforms the expression. The mouth is writhing, the eyes look mad. Is it some torture victim dying at the hands of a sadistic executioner? Is it a martyr? Some unfortunate suffering the torments of an attack of madness? Is it …? The monstrous photograph that inspired these questions was found in a prominent place on page one of one of the most popular sporting reviews, La Vie au Grand Air (December 19, 1908). It showed a runner making the supreme effort to reach the finish line. Photos like this one are not at all rare. Who among you hasn’t more than once seen in a newspaper the dizzying swerving of autos competing for a trophy? Or a dangerous motorcycle race? Or simply some imbecile (Dorando, for example) fainting after having run forty kilometers? Or a boxi... (From :

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Hatred HATRED HAS FOUND FERVENT APOLOGISTS IN OUR MILIEU. Since the time of Bakunin, proclaiming the strength and the beauty of the destructive desire, too often, in the daily fight against all forms of oppression, the anarchists have appealed to hatred. It has given rise in our groups to interminable discussions; in our newspapers there are endless polemics. Young people, as enthusiastic as they are impulsive, have called for and ferociously defended it. Even here, in the columns of l’anarchie I recall having read a series of articles signed Olivine rehabilitating hatred which, according to Libertad, “alone creates acts of will.” This is a lovely theme for literature, but from the point of view of logic, of reason, and anarchist education, not at all! We need more than the sonorous assertions of a poetic enthusiasm: we need detailed, exact, and scientific arguments and logical, co... (From :

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The Festival of Lies and Weakness MEN ARE INAUGURATING THE NEW YEAR WITH AN APOTHEOSIS OF HYPOCRISY and weakness. The earth begins its life again. It has traced one more circle in luminous space. One cycle of life ends and another begins. The enigmatic future, with its mysteries of joy and suffering, stands before man. And I would like it if man on this day looked life in the face and felt serene, determined, and strong. But no, he lies. He lies and his plaintive weakness is exhaled in timid murmurs. “Happy New Year, good health, happiness …” These wishes are on all lips and fly around the world in the millions of letters written by millions of unconscious and lying hands. For these men who universally congratulate each other and exchange wishes of happiness and longevity are brutes who will ferociously slaughter each other the next day. And even this evening, murmuring affectionate words,... (From :

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Our Antisyndicalism TODAY, IN LIGHT OF THE UPCOMING ANTIPARLIAMENTARY CAMPAIGN, THE anarchists are divided into two apparently irreconcilable groups: the syndicalists and the antisyndicalists. The comrades on the other side, in a brief declaration that it is only right to recognize has the dual merits of clarity and honesty, have said what they want and who they are. Their antiparliamentary campaign will serve as the basis for syndicalist-revolutionary agitation. It is thus on this plane that we meet up with them. After Lorulot spelled out our antiparliamentarism I think it is right to spell out what our antisyndicalism should be. This theme has already been discussed and re-discussed thousands of times among us, and we must recognize that the arguments of both sides have often been of a disconcerting puerility. No later than last week did I not hear friends reproach unions for establishing fixed dues and co... (From :

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The Revolutionary Illusion “HUMANITY MARCHES ENVELOPED IN A VEIL OF ILLUSIONS,” A THINKER—MARC Guyau—said. In fact, it seems that without this veil men aren’t capable of marching. Barely has reality torn a blindfold from them than they hasten to put on another, as if their too-weak eyes were afraid to see things as they are. Their intelligence requires the prism of falsehood. The scandals of Panama, Dreyfus, Syveton, Steinhell, etc; the turpitudes and incapacities of politicians, and the rifle blows of Narbonne, Draveil, and Villeneuve have, for a considerable minority, torn away the veil of the parliamentary illusion. We hoped for everything from the ballot. We had faith in the good faith and power of the nation’s representatives. And that hope, that faith prevented us from seeing the fundamental idiocy of the system, which consists in delegating one to look after the needs of all. But... (From :

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The Religious or the Secular? AFTER THE OBSCURANTISTS OF THE CHURCH, HERE COME THE STUPEFYING charlatans of the secular. What we see going on around kids is an ignoble dispute between parties and sects. They hold the future in their frail little hands, and people are afraid they don’t want to keep to the straight and narrow road and stay within the routine. And everyone attacks them in a dispute to see who will mold their nascent intelligent to his profit, so that tomorrow they’ll be the sustaining herd, the docile herd of slaves to be sheared and killed. In the end this is nothing but a fight to exploit this source of wealth. Who will these children be the slaves of? Which dogma, which party will exploit them? Who will they expend their strength and energy for, who will they spill their blood for in the impending slaughterhouses? This is the question. Will it be in the name of God,... (From :

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A Good Example (Editor’s note: Jean-Jacques Liabeuf was an apache, or member of a Parisian street gang, who, upon his release for his unjust imprisonment as a pimp, sought out the policemen responsible for his arrest and killed a policeman attempting to detain him. His became a cause célèbre of the Left. Despite a campaign that involved socialists, syndicalists, and anarchists, Liabeuf was executed on July 2, 1910.) THE OTHER DAY A “TERROR” OF THE CITY BARRIERS, WHO THE COPS WERE arresting for some misdeed I don’t know a thing about, rightly wiped the floor with four of them. Four cops taken down like that by a guy they were getting ready to quietly rough up—now that’s a job well done. It took a few hundred of Ferrer’s avengers on the October 13 of glorious memory to take down just one! For having done his job so well I find this Liabeuf quite sympa... (From :

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I Deny! ABOVE ALL, THE ANARCHIST CHALLENGES EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING THAT was affirmed and admitted by his predecessors, everything that is believed and held sacred by his contemporaries, he examines and discovering the lies, the nothingness, the childish errors, feeling the weight of universal stupidity on his shoulders, he denies. Nothing resists his criticism, neither ideas nor institutions nor men. No one has been able to answer him, and though certain gloomy individuals are happy to announce every two weeks the bankruptcy of anarchism, none have refuted it, and with every passing day life confirms our thought. Anarchism is essentially individualist. Properly speaking it isn’t a doctrine and all those—and they exist—who wanted to turn it into a dogma collided with the mocking denials of their own friends. And so despite numerous attempts at this, attempts likely given rise to by psychological remembrance of the auth...

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A Head Will Fall NOTHING IS MORE REPUGNANT THAN THE MACABRE JUDICIAL COMEDY THAT all too often ends in a new exploit of the guillotine, one which is contrary to vulgar common sense, revolting to feelings and, from the social point of view, as unjust as it is immoral. Vulgar common sense clearly demonstrates in vain that a wound isn’t healed by amputation; that one crime—and a murder coldly decided on and prepared by the official representatives of society is a crime par excellence—doesn’t make right another, and in no way prevents the future crimes that contemporary illogic render inevitable. Logic and common sense! Only a few eccentrics—the anarchists—timidly attempt to conform to them. Revolting? Yes, the death penalty is as revolting as can be. In a few tragic pages of his Mêlée Sociale Clemenceau related the horror of executions. He then hurried to forget them... (From :

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Religiosity and Individualism A METAPHOR TO DESIGNATE THE SOCIALIST PARTY HAS GAINED COMMON USAGE. In opposition to the black church formed by the disciples of the Nazarene Christ, it is called the red church. Ordinarily this term serves only as an image, but, if we think about it a bit it can be taken literally. No metaphor is as exact. Just as there is a Roman Catholic and Apostolic church, there exist socialist and syndicalist churches. We are here giving the word “church” its exact meaning: an institution perpetuating the rites of a religion. In truth, the ideas, the formulas, and the routines varied and vary every day. But at the very least, among most mortals the atavistic sentiments and instincts upon which ideas are grafted do not change, or change with an appalling slowness. If religions fall into desuetude; if the daily growing sum of human knowledge wipes out the absurd beliefs of the... (From :

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By Being Bold DANTON’S FAMOUS PHRASE, “BOLDNESS, MORE BOLDNESS, FOREVER BOLDNESS,” has lost nothing of its synthetic value. It remains a great truth that we must never lose sight of; it remains the sole motto for those not content to vegetate in the marshes. I thought of this the past few days upon reading of the tragic death of a young man who yesterday was obscure and part of the mass of young idlers and is today famous because he was bold. An aviator: Chávez. It was necessary to be strong to conceive the mad dream of traveling through space above the white peaks that only eagles can reach. And how much determination and boldness did the aviator need to attempt this perilous flight? But having reached these heights, gliding over the snowy Alps, he lived minutes that were worth more than many lives. He felt himself to be a man par excellence, valiant, strong, the risk-taker, through the ardent ef... (From :

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Two Russians RUSSIA … WE KNOW WHAT IT IS, ENCOMPASSING THE EAST OF EUROPE AND the north of Asia, an immense empire where the killings never stop. It is said that it’s a country of limitless plains, which legend affirms are white with eternal snows. People know almost nothing other than this, and yet they talk about the country often. Few subjects of conversation come up as often as does that of Russia and the Slavic character, the famous character that learned gentlemen dissect in just a few words: mystical, religious if not fanatical, as well as cold and impulsive (see the terrorists). None of this holds together very well. Nevertheless, people’s opinions are set, and the least occurrence in Russia becomes the theme for commonplaces. I think it is desirable that at the very least the anarchists take an interest, a more serious one, in the painful life of the Slavic race. Firstly from simple human solidarity toward t... (From :

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The Individualist and Society THE WORD “SOCIETY” IS SYNONYMOUS WITH A GROUP. TODAY MOST MEN CONSTITUTE an immense grouping that, though subdivided into an infinite number of subgroups—races, nationalities, social classes, ideological groups—can nevertheless be considered as a whole. It is this whole, this formidable collectivity that we designate with the word society. To consider society as an assemblage of individuals and to deny this any importance, as some do, is simplistic, too simplistic. It means failing to understand social psychology, the psychology of crowds and, what is most surprising, the results of the most elementary observations. In truth, observation shows us and study confirms that from the fact that they find themselves brought together through interests, aspirations, or similar heredity, men are modified. A new psychology is created, common to all the members of the association. From this poi... (From :

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A Revolutionary Experience JUST FORTY YEARS AGO THE PARIS COMMUNE—EMPHATICALLY BUT ACCURATELY called by Jules Vallès “the great federation of suffering”—was born and died in blood. Forty years and yet we still have to combat the deplorable errors that inspired it; and the same interests, employing the same methods seem to be leading us toward a renewal of that tragedy. History is a perpetual return of deceptions and butcheries; the one never goes without the other. Today, as in 1869, while secret intrigues are being hatched in chancelleries that will perhaps result in war tomorrow, the people, the sovereign people, infinitely credulous, infinitely naïve, prepare all unawares the arms that will serve to slaughter them. And the generals of the syndicalist and workers’ army, foreseeing the war of tomorrow, prepare the Commune of tomorrow. What do the consequences matter to them? By playing this sa... (From :

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Impressions of the Holidays FOR FOUR FULL NIGHTS MY NEIGHBORHOOD, ALAS, WAS AFFLICTED WITH POPULAR festivals. For the custom is, on fixed and traditional dates, to organize public rejoicing. A custom that all parties, without distinction as to class or aspiration, respectfully accept, so true is it that human cretinism is located beyond any quarrels among churches. Through solemn drinking bouts, every year believers commemorate the birth, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension to heaven of the Galilean rebel who their predecessors murdered. Through fabulous feats of imbibing and the countless exploits of the procreating beast, the atheist believers in the idol of the Fatherland commemorate the capture of a Bastille that has since been more solidly reconstructed. And the proletarians who are the future of the world—you certainly don’t doubt this, do you?—also wanted their holiday. At the beginning of each spring they... (From :

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The Mona Lisa Was Stolen THE PORTRAIT OF MONA LISA WAS STOLEN, THE LADY WITH A PEERLESS SMILE. A crook, perhaps one of those crooks with whom revolutionaries are embarrassed to be confused, dared to put a profaning hand on da Vinci’s painting. In the same way someone would take money from a cash register or take shoes from a cobbler, a thief took the Gioconda and fled for an unknown destination. Unanimous and international desolation. I’m not terribly sorry about this, though I’m not insensitive to the charm of a work of art. But I’m one of those who didn’t have the time to go see it very often, and I have more compassion for the living Mona Lisas, whose smiles are withered every day by honest, legal, and honorable thieves who no one is searching for in order to punish. It’s said that it was a great crime to steal this portrait of an enigmatic and beautiful woman. Do people invoke the s... (From :

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Against Hunger WHILE WE WAIT FOR WAR, HUNGER HAS ARRIVED. Hunger comes, insidiously, in no great hurry, settling in among the people like an old friend. It seems impossible that in our time it is able to extend its ravages over the entire population. We were used to seeing it kill a few hundred ragged indigents every winter. This winter hunger, ever bolder, will attack workers and farmers as much as wandering beggars. The price of food continues to rise, to such a point that people are angry. Hundreds of exasperated women can be found in the markets standing in front of merchants strong in their right to steal, since they pay for a license from the state. Anger blinds the slaves driven to desperation, an anger born in women who are usually opposed to any agitation. And we’ve seen them press on, protesting, employing force to impose reductions in prices on merchants and, if need be, preventing markets from operating. (From :

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Demagogy and Anarchist Action PEOPLE HAD SPOKEN OF AN ACTION GROUP. Since that evening it was supposed to lay out its principles and through the authorized voices of its six orators say what its action would consist of, we went to see them. Action is so rare! We listened to the orators of the Anarchist Communist Club with the greatest attention. They had previously vituperated against the democratic lie and made short work of “pseudo-educational” and “pseudo-psychological” discussions. Having thus destroyed with a flick and a pejorative what we think is one of the most interesting forms of anarchist activity—education in camaraderie—what were they going to construct? They spoke for almost three hours and said two varieties of things: criticisms of an acerbic irony but of little difficulty addressed at us, and inevitable repetitions of the theories of traditio... (From :

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Revolutionaries? Yes, but in What Way? DISCUSSION IS DIFFICULT, DEMANDING KNOWLEDGE AND FORCING YOU INTO argumentation. This is why our usual enemies prefer slandering, mocking, and declaiming to refuting our theses. One of the epithets they like to apply to us without discussion is that of nonrevolutionary, if not antirevolutionary. To hear them speak, we individualists profess a profound aversion for everything revolutionary. Some so well feign belief in this that, in contrast to us, they have baptized themselves revolutionary anarchists. Well then, let’s talk about this one more time. Do we not have to ceaselessly reexamine these questions so that they are finally clear to a few people of good faith? Every anarchist is, by definition, revolutionary. In the realm of philosophy we say we are for free investigation. In these times of faith and dogmatism, is this not already something bold... (From :

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The Bandits (Editor’s note: On December 21, 1911, there was a holdup on the Rue Ordener in Paris, the thieves shooting the messenger carrying the receipts of the Société Générale as well as his bodyguard. They fled in a car, the first time an auto was used in a robbery. It was also the first crime of the anarchists of the Bonnot Gang.) M. ERNEST LA JEUNESSE, A JOURNALIST WHOSE USUAL SPECIALTY IS THE PRAISING and interring of Academicians, has become alarmed at what he calls his red Christmas presents. In truth, we’ve had a not very happy end of year for the potbellied gentlemen who have money in their pockets and the bank. Barely had the deplorable story of the stolen postal trunk fallen into discreet oblivion than the same day some wretches, some evil wretches, opened the tomb of Mlle. Lantelme, while other wretches attacked a messenger boy carrying funds on the Rue Ordener. (From :

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Expedients A COLLABORATOR OF THE DÉPÊCHE DE TOULOUSE, M. EUGÈNE FOURNIÈRE, recently commented on the prose of M. Ernest La Jeunesse and the article in response to it that appeared here. M. Eugene Fournière, analyzing my defense of the “bandits” writes that “the murder of a messenger carrying receipts or the violation of a grave” will not “put a stop to the culpable regime.” He adds that if, like me, his sympathies are with “those who fight,” he distinguishes between those who fight to satisfy their hunger, like a wolf, and “capital’s oppressed and exploited, who are uniting and learning in order to attain to collective leadership.” This is more or less how they answer us every time we legitimize the rebellion of the criminal, that economic rebel. And M. Eugene Fournière exclaims in conclusion: “And I&r... (From :

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The Real Criminals THIS WEEK A MOB LYNCHED TWO CRIMINALS WHO, WHILE FLEEING, HAD FIRED on it. I imagine that after hiding under their counters at the sight of the brandished revolvers the shop owners must have felt a heroic pleasure in lynching the disarmed man. They’re brave men who are only brave when the enemy is lying on the ground. Little medals of gold, silver and vermeil were their reward. This is perfectly normal. But allow me to regret that the criminals were such bad shots. They should teach the courageous citizens how to really earn their amusement. They are enthusiastic in the hunt for rebels while in the face of the other bandits, the real ones, the perfidious and invincible ones, they are oh so servile. O! You thieves, you who have begun the game, when you lose see to it that they pay for their cowardice! For there are workers in the mob that ferociously lynches rebels, the kin... (From :

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Anarchists and Criminals FOR THE HUNDRED THOUSANDTH TIME THE QUESTION HAS BEEN POSED TO us without any ambiguity by policemen in search of conspiracies, by journalists in need of copy, by judges, by passersby who set themselves up as executioners. What should the attitude of anarchists be toward criminals? Reserved? Hostile? Sympathetic? We will attempt to answer. There are criminals and there are criminals. There are those who live on the margins of society’s laws because their nature is different from that of good citizens. And there are the others, those who didn’t become—or who didn’t remain—honest men, simply because they were weak or pursued by misfortune. The former are those who don’t fit in: rebels, anarchist temperaments. The latter often end up going straight and later in life become squealers, pimps, barkeeps, shopkeepe... (From :

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Two Lectures (Editor’s note: These are the outlines of two lectures Serge delivered in the heat of the Bonnot affair, just days before his arrest. The first was given within the framework of the Popular University, the second at the Causeries Populaires founded by Albert Libertad.) The Individual against Society January 28, 1912 1) It’s rather the contrary that should be said. 2) Society is the enemy of any individuality An association is not a simple adding up of individuals; it has its own psychology and vitality. It thus wants to last, to live. 3) In order to live a society necessarily conforms to two laws A—Law of social preservation; society preserves what created it = traditional = enemy of movement B—Law of social conformism. It wants all individual... (From :

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The Communards MARCH … AND NOW RETURNS THE ANNIVERSARY OF MAD HOPES, OF THE furious impulses and butcheries of the Commune, our last attempt at revolution. Forty-one years after the frightening experience the same illusions give rise in the same people to the same dangerous hopes. For if, as the proverb says, we live on hope, it also happens that we die of it; that for his dreams man gambles with his life—and loses. One of the hopes most deeply rooted in the popular soil is that in the magic virtues of insurrection. This is only natural. It is derived from the feeling of confidence inspired by force. What is force not capable of? The people, who suffer its rigors, upon whom the privileged and adventuress minorities daily exercise their power, learn in this way the immeasurable value of the solid fist, the saber, and ruse. These are the means by which they are tamed and they count on these things alone to have its day and t... (From :

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Letter to Émile Armand on the Bonnot Trial WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 22, 1913 My Dear Armand: I have before me your letter of … and the information I asked you for. I love the frankness with which you discuss our defense. I’ve never taken offense at any criticism that might be made of me concerning my words and acts as long as they’re friendly and cordial, as is the case here. But how difficult it is to avoid misunderstandings! And how wrong you and the comrades are concerning our sentiments. Of course we want to live again soon, have the passionate desire to see the end of this imbecilic and undeserved nightmare if ever there was one. But it seems to me that everything in our previous attitude must tell you that in order to reach a good end we will do nothing and will not allow anything to be done that is contrary to our sentiments. What do I have to say? I admit that I find all this infi... (From :

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Egoism IT CONSTITUTES THE BASIS OF EVERY ANIMAL MENTALITY. BEING NECESSARY, it is legitimate. “Legitimate”—such picturesque language. In truth, our language is poorly adapted to reality. I mean to say that, primordial and indisputable, it is beyond our good and evil; it is. We glimpse it in various forms that can be reduced to two essential forms, and this has allowed us to imagine a conflict between altruism and egoism: egoism of the weak, altruism of the strong. The weak man is greedy, self-interested, narrow minded. What is a weak man? A being poor in strength. Can the poor man give? Offer himself the luxury of being generous, spendthrift, and prodigal? No. He watches over his every penny, he watches out for every occasion to increase his tiny hoard. He is—and he is doubtless right, retreating constantly into himself and taking advantage of all he can in order to survive—at antipodes from altru... (From :

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Letters to Émile Armand PARIS, FEBRUARY 12, 1917 For insertion My dear Armand, I have just left prison. I spent five years there. The comrades know why and under what circumstances. I had to answer for the triple crime of being a foreigner, an anarchist, and not wanting to become a fink. But that’s all in the past now. I return to life with the same ideas that formerly guided me. I was harshly struck—unjustly, but does social prosecution ever do otherwise? I was tortured for years. Experience thus confirmed me in our criticisms and resolutions. And yet my concept of our fight has changed quite noticeably. I no longer believe that the anarchist formula can be contained in one formula alone; I grant much less importance to words than realities, to ideas than to aspirations, to formulas than to sentiments and acts. I am thus ready to collaborate with all those who will show a frate... (From :

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Individualism, a Factor of Progress INDIVIDUALISM IS A FACTOR OF PROGRESS, AS LONG AS WE TAKE IT TO BE AN improvement for man to obtain new fields of activity that will allow him to identify and diversify his activity. Wherever individual autonomy has assumed its legitimate place there can no longer be stability in institutions: ancient theocracies’ dream of social immobility soon loses all its prestige. If there was need of it, history could provide us with a multitude of examples that demonstrate this assertion. In the Egypt of the Pharaohs art reached its apex with the decline of the ancient empire, when tradition had not yet mummified it. And it was in pantheist Greece, broken up into a multitude of barely federated small cities, that the human spirit took wing. The century of Augustus in Rome, which would better be called that of Horace, Virgil, and Lucretius, was a century of dissolution and error, so much so that the wise Imperator had... (From :

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A Critical Essay on Nietzsche 1. A Philosopher of Violence and Authority Dead are all the gods: now do we desire the Superman to live. The State is the death of people. Companions, the creator seeketh not corpses—and not herds or believers either. Humanity’s goal can only be reached with the most elevated types. —Thus Spoke Zarathustra It is through these words that this creator became dear to us. We singled him out from among the heroes of life, legend, and dreams, for in conceiving human existence as an endless ascent to a future of freedom and grandeur he showed us the way. Some chose him as teacher, saying that the poet who created Zarathustra could not have served any other ideal than anarchism. An oeuvre based on a love of life viewed as being beyond beliefs, and revealed through the thought of a bold free investigator in whom vibrates such free and liberating thoughts, coul... (From :

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Letter from a Man behind Walls For Pierre Chardon DECEMBER 29, 1918 Here, dear comrade, is my final “Letter from a Man behind Walls,” since after a total of sixty months of imprisonment I am going to be FREE in that place where so many living ideas, so many wishes, so many high hopes attract me: Russia. I am called on to (voluntarily) leave at the beginning of January in a convoy that will be handed over to the Soviets. And so, until the reestablishment of postal communication, I can no longer take any interest in any way in your efforts. But as soon as it’s possible I promise to send you news and, however far away I may be, to assist you in your labors as much as I can. I can’t find the words to express my joy at going to take part in the sufferings and labors of all those in Russia who are continuing the immense enterprise of social transformation. I thin... (From :

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Bakunin’s Confession Our comrade Victor Serge, who has for some time been subjected to the insults of French anarchists, who do not forgive his loyal and sincere adherence to communism, was recently attacked with slanders and insults under the following evil pretext: Victor Serge wrote an article on November 7, 1919, concerning the “Confession of Bakunin,” a document unknown to the public to this day and whose existence we only know of through the allusions made to it by James Guillaume in his biographical notice (volume II of the Oeuvres de Michel Bakunin, Paris, 1907). Victor Serge’s commentaries, respectful to the memory of Bakunin and historical truth alike, in no way presented the sacrilegious or iconoclastic character that unworthy adversaries later attributed to them, as the reader now, thanks to us, can judge. Under what circumstances was this article translated, defor... (From :

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The Anarchists in Russia Victor-Serge (Kibalchich), one of the best known anarchist individualist militants, who rallied to communism during the proletarian revolution, addressed a letter to his anarchist comrades in France which they refused to publish. We reproduce it here according to our confrere the Soviet, which published the complete text. To the comrades of Le Libertaire, the Fédération Anarchiste, and anarchist militants of various tendencies AUGUST 30, 1920 Dear Comrades, During my eighteen months in Moscow and Petrograd I greatly deplored the absolute impossibility of my corresponding with you. Several times I tried to send you brief letters by whatever means I could, but I have reason to believe they never reached you. I finally have the opportunity to write you today, and I have so many things to tell you, important things related to ou... (From :

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Letter from Russia PETROGRAD, SEPTEMBER 1, 1921 Petrograd on a beautiful August day. On Michael’s Square, under the windows of a palace and a theater that is packed every night, three strange carriages are stopped. They’re low carts, covered with tarps and pulled by small horses whose ribs sorrowfully stick out under their taut, dusty skin, worn out with sweat. The weary drivers, old bearded muzhiks, ask the way. All around there’s the coming and going of trams, the dual river of (in fact) well-dressed passersby of the great city. Under the tarps, upon which a river of sun falls, there are tiny tousled blond heads and the grimy old faces of the sick consumed by hunger. “Where are you from, little father?” “From Samara.” From the country of hunger. And they’ve traveled more than a thousand kilometers, driven by the desire to live, to live despite i... (From :

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New Tendencies in Russian Anarchism SEPTEMBER 4, 1921 We know that the Russian Revolution was the cause, first within the Russian socialist parties and then the international ones, of a definitive split. In the face of the reality of the social revolution, men used to calling themselves revolutionaries had to takes sides for or against violence, for or against the immediate expropriation of the rich, for or against dictatorship. And the old Russian Social Democracy founded by Plekhanov had an abyss dug within it between the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks. The Social-Revolutionaries divided into a categorically reactionary right and a Sovietist left. The Russian Jewish parties evolved in the same way. As for the anarchists … The anarchists constituted a scattered, varied movement divided into poorly delineated and short-lived movements. And yet, from March to October 1917 it demonstrated great activity and great vita... (From :

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Call for an Alliance with the Anarchists in Spain (Editor’s note: This letter was sent to the International Secretariat of the Fourth international via Trotsky’s son, Leon Sedov. It was never acted on.) AUGUST 8, 1936 Dear L.L. [Sedov] This letter is addressed to the IS [International Secretariat] At this moment a serious conflict is in preparation in Spain between anarchists, syndicalists, and Marxists. The first group has enormous influence over half the Spanish working class (the most active half) and has a considerable superiority in Catalonia, a region with a decisive strategic importance. The persecution of the anarchists in the USSR, the fact that for some time they—as well as the syndicalists—have been deprived of any freedom of thought and even of existence, has created a poisoned psychology in the Spanish anarchists and syndicalists. Many... (From :

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Once More: Kronstadt (Editor’s note: This article was written in April 1938 and appeared in the July 1938 issue of the magazine New International, then published by the Socialist Workers Party.) I receive your review with great pleasure. It is obviously the best revolutionary Marxian organ today. Believe me that all my sympathies are with you and that if it is possible for me to be of service to you, it will be most willingly rendered. I shall someday reply to the articles of Wright and L.D. Trotsky on Kronstadt. This great subject merits being taken up again thoroughly and the two studies that you have published are far, very far, from exhausting it. In the very first place, I am surprised to see our comrades Wright and L.D. Trotsky employ a reasoning which, it seems to me, we ought to beware of and refrain from. They record that the drama of Kronstadt, 1921, is evoking commentaries at once from t... (From :

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Kronstadt 1921 Trotsky’s Defense, Response to Trotsky In a note published in America at the end of July, Leon Trotsky has finally spelled out his responsibilities in the Kronstadt episode. The political responsibility, as he has always affirmed, belongs to the Central Committee of the Russian CP, which took the decision to “reduce the rebellion by force of arms if the fortress couldn’t be brought to surrender first by peaceful negotiations, and later by an ultimatum.” Trotsky adds: “I never spoke of that question [Kronstadt 1921], not that I have anything to hide but, on the contrary, precisely because I have nothing to say…. Personally I didn’t participate at all in the crushing of the rebellion, nor in the repression that followed.” Trotsky recalls the differences that separated him from that time on with Zinoviev, the chairman of the Petrograd Soviet. “I remained,” he writ... (From :

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Anarchist Thought The Origins: The Industrial Revolution of the Nineteenth Century The most profound revolution of modern times, carried out in Europe in the first half of the nineteenth century, is almost unnoticed by historians. The French Revolution cleared its path, and the political upheavals that for the most part occurred during the period between 1800 and 1850 contributed to hastening it. The significance of the historic development of that period can be clearly seen: a new mode of production was established equipped with a new technique. In truth, the Industrial Revolution under the First Empire began with the first steam machinery. The locomotive dates from 1830. Looms, which appeared at the beginning of the century, had already led to the formation of an industrial proletariat in centers like Lyon. In a few decades the bourgeoisie, armed with machinery, transformed—often literally—the surface of th... (From :

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Serge in English FICTION Men in Prison (Les hommes dans la prison, 1930). Translated and introduced by Richard Greeman. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1969; London: Victor Gollancz Ltd., 1970; Middlesex: Penguin Books Ltd., 1972; London and New York: Writers and Readers, 1977; Oakland: PM Press, 2014. A searing personal experience transformed into a literary creation of general import. Birth of Our Power (Naissance de notre force, 1931). Translated by Richard Greeman. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1967; London: Victor Gollancz Ltd., 1968; Middlesex: Penguin Books Ltd., 1970; London and New York: Writers and Readers, 1977; Oakland: PM Press, 2015. From Barcelona to Petersburg, the conflagration of World War I ignites the spark of revolution, and poses a new problem for the revolutionaries’ power. (From :

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The Life of Victor Serge 1890 Victor Lvovich Kibalchich (Victor Serge) born on December 30 in Brussels to a family of sympathizers with Narodnik terrorism who had fled from Russia after the assassination of Alexander II. 1908 Photographer’s apprentice and member of the socialist Jeunes-Gardes. Spends a short period in an anarchist ‘utopian’ community in the Ardennes. Leaves for Paris. 1910–1911 Becomes editor of the French anarchist-individualist magazine, l’anarchie. Writes and agitates. 1912 Serge is implicated in the trial of the anarchist outlaws known as the Bonnot Gang. Despite arrest, he refuses to turn informer and is sentenced to five years in prison. Three of his co-defendants were guillotined. (From :

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Translated and introduced by Richard Greeman (Oakland: PM Press, 2014). Translated and introduced by Richard Greeman (Oakland: PM Press, 2014). Later named Leningrad and now again St. Petersburg. Translated by Ian Birchall in Serge, The Revolution in Danger: Writings from Russia, 1919–1921 (Chicago: Haymarket, 1997). All the Right Enemies is the title of Dorothy Gallagher’s biography of another political maverick, Serge’s comrade Carlo Tresca, assassinated in New York by Fascists, Communists, Mafiosi, or all three in 1943. It would have suited Serge’s biography just as well. See Richard Greeman, “Victor Serge and Leon Trotsky,” in Greeman, Beware of Capitalist Sharks! Radical Rants and Internationalist Essays (Illustrated) (Moscow: Praxis Center, 2008). See Richard Greeman,... (From :


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