Victor Serge 1912

Two Lectures

Source: Jean Maitron, De Kibaltchiche Victor Serge, in Le Mouvement Social, no. 47, April-June 1964;
Translated: by Mitchell Abidor for;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2008.

These are the outlines of two lectures Serge delivered in the heat of the Bonnot affair. 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 conform itself 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 individuals to act in consideration of this goal – be in conformity with a type – which it forges by force. Ex. The subject of monarchies, the citizen of democracies

thus=enemy of originality

individual independence.

4) In order to be (originally free)

The individual must thus struggle against society.

A. Against imposed social obligations.
Ex: military service
Wage labor
Respect of laws
Morality and respect of conventions.

B. and what is most difficult:
against the deformations produced in him by the social milieu
ex: hypocrisy
proprietary instinct (including sexual)
authoritarianism, etc...
imposed solidarity
(Le Dantec’s book “L’Hypocrisie indispensable)

5) This was, this is. Will it always be?

Alas, yes.
The laws that preside over the lives of societies are natural laws.
Let us imagine a communist paradise:

– Where there will not be a state of society; the end of all industry, complete and perpetual war against individuals.
– Where there will be collective religiosity

* Morality
* economy

– Where in this the original will be at the very least frowned upon.
Moral constraint

6) Where then does social progress reside?

In a displacement of the field of struggle
We will perhaps no longer fight for bread<
Constraint will no longer be physically violent
Even so!

7) But what is the utility of these conclusions?

A – We should have no illusions about the social future
B – we should be sociable without being the dupes of sociability; no spirit of the coterie.

* * *


Current events offer us this subject
It’s a fact; criminality is on the rise.
People kill, steal, engage in fraud
Let us profit from this occasion to say what we think of this.

2) What do we think of this?

We think this is logical

The social organization produces crime<
Everything is sold, everything is stolen
See how institutions and crimes are coordinated
Property – theft
Authority – rebellion
Law – fraud

Poverty – banditry

On one hand society, on the other a few individuals

3) Among the criminals we distinguish

the unlucky, bourgeois souls
the clumsy, unemployed

and the refractory

draft dodgers, deserters, thieves

because un-adapted to slavery

Are distinguished by daring


As much as I despise the former

That’s how much I love the latter.

4) Along with us, they are the only men who dare demand life.