Victor Serge 1912

Two Lectures

Source: Jean Maitron, De Kibaltchiche à Victor Serge, in Le Mouvement Social, no. 47, April-June 1964;
Translated: by Mitchell Abidor for;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2009.

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
    1. Law of social preservation; society preserves what created it
      = traditional
      = enemy of movement
    2. 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.
    1. Against imposed social obligations.
      Ex: military service
      Wage labor
      Respect of laws
      Morality and respect of conventions.
    2. 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:

    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?
    1. We should have no illusions about the social future
    2. we should be sociable without being the dupes of sociability; no spirit of the coterie.

* * *


  1. 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
            Repression – reprisals
    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.