Victor Serge

Five Years ...

(20 October 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 96, 7 November 1922, pp. 742–743.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

20th of Oct., 1922

Let us recall what the workers of Russia have suffered and accomplished in live years. No other contemporary people has suffered more or accomplished more for the cause of humanity.


For three years Europe was only a field of death and an immense factory for the production of death. Men were creating silence. Silence in the trendies as in the cemeteries. And in this silence was heard the crash of a collapsing Empire. Tsarism gave way, a Tsarism seven centuries old, the heritage of the emperors of Byzantium, and of the Mongolian Khans, built upon serfdom, consolidated from century to century by the blood which flowed from its gallows, ruined slowly by a succession of monsters and imbeciles, placed at the head of a stupid nobility of landed proprietors, this Tsarism crumbled at last.

Days of exultation at Petrograd and at Moscow. Crowds, beflagged and adorned with red, chanting the Marseillaise. The ascent from the peaceful and powerful suburbs towards the palaces. Financiers, wise parliamentarians, large manufacturers, for whose profit the slaughter existed, who wished to possess the Dardanelles, now thought: “We are the government of the Republic.”

And the chorus of the two great Socialist parties echoed, “Yes, you are the government of the Republic.”

Democracy. War to the end. Until complete victory. Order. Property. Social Reforms. Citizen Kerensky makes a big speech ... This great cry which rises from the throats of a hundred and thirty million peasants and workers: Bread and peace! It will be stilled by the machine-guns. The artillery makes itself felt against the Soviet of Kaluga. Lenin, “German agent”, awaits his hour. Kornilow proclaims himself dictator on the basis of the death penalty in the armies ... The Social-Revolutionary Party is governing!

Enough. These workers and soldiers’ assemblies, this party of dishonoured sectarians – this stuff good only for work, this food for cannon, and its brain – desire bread, land, peace and still more: the liberation of all those who labor. In them lives the consciousness and the will of a class. They rise. On the 2tth of October, the date fixed in advance by the Bolshevik Party, a new crash is heard in the silence of the trenches of Europe, in the heavy murmur of the canon: and it is a capitalist democracy which has crumbled ...


Will this country now be able to apply itself to work, to peace, to liberty, and set itself up as a sinning example? No. Five hundred thousand intellectuals are undermining by sabotage the daily vital task. – All the chancellories of the world are disturbed. Ambassadors, military missions, in the capitals are intriguing, spying, plotting, destroying. In all parts of Russia, whatever there remains of strength in the bourgeoisie and in the nobility, is preparing to re-establish order. Kornilov, Kaledin, Doutov, Alexeiev, Denikin, Koltchak, Skoropadsky, – and in turn, the Germans, the French, the English, the Greeks, the Americans, all the machinery of the old regime, all the military of the international bourgeoisie are getting ready to cut the throat of a revolution.

But what defiance! The land – socialized. The factories – expropriated without indemnity. The secret treaties – divulged. The loans – repudiated. The banks – nationalized. The Jew, the Woman, the Child, the Soldier, the Convict – free, all free! Finland – free, Poland – free, peace declared to all peoples without annexations or indemnities. The red flag over the cities, the red flag over the trenches.

The Constituent Assembly. Eloquence: “Democracy, representation of the people, socialization, fidelity to the Allies." The sailor Jelezhiakov leans gently over to the president: "My men are tired, go away"” – and there is no more parliamentarianism in Russia.

– These are criminals, dreamers and fools! – says the fat bourgeois, folding up his paper, – Thank God, we shall soon them all hung!

For the German armies are tightening their vice. Brest-Litovsk strips Russia of the Ukraine, with its abundant wheat fields, and of the Don basin with its precious coal. For the Czecho-Slovaks cut off the road to Siberia. For Democratic Socialism shoots down the proletarians of Samar, Saratov, Kazan. For the revolutionary Socialists of the Left are revolting against their brothers. For the torch kindles Yaroslav. For the English are at Archangel, the French at Sebastopol, the Japanese at Vladivostok, the whites everywhere. For a discontented “revolutionary” has just lodged two bullets in Lenin’s chest.

“Bolshevism is going to pieces!”

Do you think so? Do you think that one can kill an entire class, conscious of itself as a class, standing on its feet? So much the worse for you, if you do.

The revolution which was progressing without hate, comes back, armed with a double edged sword: The Red Terror, The Red Army. Blood has not ceased to flow: but that of the poor is not the only blood being shed – and does not flow to the further enrichment of the rich! As another revolution in 1792 threw the head of a king to the Monarchist Coalition, so the Russian Revolution throws the head of the last Tsar to the capitalist coalition.


A year of war, of famine, of fabulous possibilities. Horses dying of hunger on the streets, passers-by white and swollen, scrofula, typhus, cold, hunger. – Treachery. – The causes for hope: Soviets of Bavaria, Soviets of Hungary, the International sung by two thirds of Europe. The blockade, untold misery, – nothing matters. Will there still be frontiers tomorrow?

The work of hate is however accomplished. 13 states – all great powers among themselves – are in league against the barbarous Bolshevik, as Lord Churchill declares. Eleven thousand workers have just been massacred in Finland. In Berlin, Rosa luxemburg, Liebknecht, Yoguiches, have been killed. Léviné is shot in Munich. Cervin is hung in Budapest. Jeanne Labourbe is killed at Odessa. Koltchak, supreme governor – with General Janin, reigns over Siberia. Denikin holds the South. Youdenitch – with General March – is at the gates of Petrograd. An iron circle is locked around the Russian Commune. From the Caucasus to Finland, from the Arctic Ocean to the Crimea, from the Ural to the Baltic, not one outlet! The International reaction stretches its barbed wire, sets up its instruments of execution, puts in motion its universal information dispensers, to spread the insane lie which is to dishonor the Russian Proletariat, about to have its throat cut.

Communist commissars, red commanders moulded in six months after leaving the factory, dreamers – yesterday’s apprentices – sailors, lads, students, workers in red caps, no one doubts any longer of what stuff you are made, of what feats you are capable, of what force lies in your fists. We learn suddenly that you are invincible when the Revolution – of which you are the soul and body – crushes at one time, in these October days of the second year, three armies of reaction.

You remain the only revolutionists standing on their feet in ravaged Europe over which the hangmen are the masters. And you invite your brothers of all lands to found the Third International of Workers ...


Shall peace come at last? The old world has understood that it will not succeed by killing off this people. The call issued from Smolny and from the Kremlin has resounded to Paris, to London, to Buenos Ayres, to Tokio, to San Francisco, to Sidney, to the Cape, Anarchists, Syndicalists, Socialists, all schools, all sects, all workers, all Humanity with the future in its heart, understood that this is truly the birth of a new world in the greatest pain and the worst agony.

The terror is ended. The treaties of peace are signed. The blockade is broken. A World Congress sits at Moscow. – The Communist edifice is about to be built. Communes of provisioning revive, factories are going to take new life. Money is abolished. Everything is for everybody. A united rational plan of production Workers’ universities. Proletarian culture. Electrification. Handing over of production to the unions. The International.

No, comrades, we are not so near to the end. Those who should bring to a successful conclusion the work which you have commenced are paralyzed yet by too much indifference, too great a lack of consciousness: You are still alone, in spite of the great enthusiasm which millions of workers show for you.

And since you are alone, a new attempt is to be made against you. Bring back the terror, be again the Red Army – not the Army of Work – France has recognized the Crimea of Wrangel the Poles have entered Kiev ....



The harsh winter of want after the war. Nerves at the end of their force. The canon of Cronstadt Sailors and peasants set up against the Communist Revolution because they are at the end of their power, they no longer understand, they only desire one thing after so much suffering: to work their land and to sell what they produce to assuage their hunger ... The peasantry needs rest. It has bled too much. Too many of its most clear-sighted sons have deserted it either dead or advancing too far for the groping masses. A halt is necessary. And with the nightmare passed, Lenin gives the signal.

Yes, a halt is necessary! Nothing moves in Europe. Two Socialist Internationals, one Trade Union International mark time there, following with tiny steps old, old courses and ruts. Now after the ups and downs of civil war, a dry hot summer has burned the plains of the Volga. Thirty million peasants – five million of whom are children – are going to die slowly of hunger, unless some mighty effort is made to save them ....

Thus it is. The revolution will make concessions. Without renouncing anything. Keeping all its power. Remaining the Proletarian State, ready to help the workers, of whatever country they may be, to rise in their turn and accomplish their historic task. Retaining its schools, its libraries, its great socialized factories, its Red Army. Penetrating each day more profoundly into the awakened country with a higher form of life. Keeping its militant parly ready for all developments. Remaining the home of the International.

Last updated on 4 January 2021