Victor Serge

Five Years’ Struggle

Source: The Communist Review, August 1923, Vol. 4, No. 4.
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2006). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

I. 1917

DAYS of exaltation at Petrograd and Moscow. Crowds adorned with red, singing the Marseillaise. Ascending from the peaceful outskirts and pushing towards the palaces. Financiers, wise politicians, fat factory-owners, to whom killing is a profit, and who long for the Dardanelles, resolve: “We are the Government of the Republic.”

“You are the Government of the Republic,” echo in chorus two great Socialist Parties.

Democracy. War to the finish. Until complete victory. Order. Property. Social reforms, Citizen Kerensky pronounces a great speech. . . That clamour from a crowd of a hundred and thirty millions of workers and peasants-wafting up: Bread, the land, Peace! We’ll keep ’em quiet with machine-gun fire. Artillery in action against the Kalouga Soviet. Lenin; “German agent,” black with coal in the stokehold of a cruiser, awaits the hour. Korniloff proclaims himself Dictator in the name of penalty of death to the Armies. . . The Socialist Revolutionary Party is governing!

Enough. These assemblies of workers and soldiers, this Party of shamed sectarians—their bodies for toil, their flesh for the cannon, and their brain—invincibly desire bread, the land, peace, and yet more: freedom for all those who toil. The consciousness and will of a class live in them. They rise up. On the 25th October, date fixed in advance by the Bolshevik Party, a new crash of collapse in the silence of the European trenches, in the deafening roar of the guns, and it is Capitalist Democracy that is ending.

II. 1918

Will the country revive for labour, peace, and liberty, and to remain the shining example? No. Five hundred thousand intellectuals cunningly sabotage the vital daily task. The chanceries of the whole world are active. The embassies and military missions in the capitals intrigue, spy, plot, and sap. From all parts of Russia what remains virile in the bourgeoisie and nobility is preparing to “restore order.” Korniloff, Kalédin, Dutoff, Alexéieff, Denikin, Koltchak, Skoropadski—and in turn, the Germans, French, British, Greeks, Americans, the whole clamjamfry of the old régime, all the soldiery of the International Bourgeoisie get ready to throttle the Revolution.

But what defiance! The land socialised. The factories—expropriated without indemnity. The secret treaties divulged. The loans—abolished. The banks—nationalised. The Jew, the woman, the child, the soldier, the prisoner—free, free! Peace declared to all peoples without annexations, without indemnities. Finland free, Poland free. The Red Flag on the cities, the Red Flag in the trenches.

The Constituent Assembly. Eloquence:

“Democracy, representation of the people, socialisations, fidelity to the Allies . . .” The sailor Jelesniakoff leans gently towards the president: “My men are weary, clear out of it!—“and there is no more parliamentarism in Russia.

“. . . They are criminals, dreamers, and lunatics!” says the pot-bellied bourgeois folding his newspaper. “Thank God we’ll soon see ‘em’ hanged!”

For the German armies tighten up their vice. Brest-Litovsk amputates from Russia the corn-abounding districts of the Ukraine, and the precious Donetz coal. For the Czecho-Slovaks cut the Siberian roads, for Democratic Socialism shoots the Proletariat of Samara, Saratoff, Kazan. For the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries rise against their brothers. For the flames of Yaroslav are burning. For the British are at Archangel, the French at Sebastopol, the Japanese at Vladivostok, the Whites everywhere. For a miserable “revolutionary” has just landed a couple of bullets in Lenin’s chest.

“ . . . Bolshevism is tottering!”

You believe so? You believe that one can kill a whole class-conscious, standing up? The worse for you!

The revolution which proceeded without hate, has returned with a double-edged sword: Red Terror, Red Army; blood has not stopped flowing? but that of the poor is not running alone, and has not been shed to enrich the rich! Just as another revolution in 1792 threw the King’s head to the Monarchist Coalition, so the Russian Revolution casts to the Capitalist Coalition the corpse of the last Tsar.

III. 1919

Year of war, of famine, of fabulous possibilities. Horses dying from hunger in the roadway, pedestrians wan and inflated, scurvy, typhus, cold, hunger—treason—expectation. Soviets in Bavaria, Soviets in Hungary, the Internationale sung by two-thirds of Europe. The blockade and no miseries matter. Will there remain any frontiers to-morrow?

Yet the work of hate is progressing. Thirteen states, all the great powers among them—declares Churchill—are leagued against Bolshevik “barbarity.” Eleven thousand workers have just been massacred in Finland. Rosa Luxemburg, Liebknecht, and Joguichès have been killed at Berlin. They’ve shot Léviné at Munich. They hang Korvin at Budapesth. Jeanne Labourbe is killed at Odessa. Koltchak, supreme ruler—with General Janin—reigns over Siberia. Denikin holds all the south. Yudenitch—with General March—is at the gates of Petrograd. Around the Russian Commune is formed a circle of steel. From the Caucasus to Finland, the Arctic Ocean to the Crimea, the Urals to the Baltic, not an outlet! International reaction uncoils its barbed-wire, raises its gallows, vibrates throughout the world its Hertzian waves, spreading absurd lies that are to dishonour the Russian proletariat—on the point of being strangled.

Communist commissars, Red commanders, trained in six months on leaving the factory, midshipmen, sailors, young lads, students, workers in red caps, no longer does one doubt that there is breath in your lungs, thought in your brains, force in your fists. One learns suddenly that you are invincible, when the revolution—of which you are the body and soul—smashes underfoot in the October days of the second year, three victorious armies of reaction at the same time.

You are the only revolted remaining standing in ravaged Europe, where reign the hangmen. And you convene your brothers of all countries to found the Third International of the workers.

IV. 1920

Will there be peace at last? The old world has understood that it will not succeed in, killing this people. The appeal issued from Smolny and the Kremlin has resounded in Paris, London, Buenos Ayres, Tokio, in San Francisco, Sydney and the Cape. Anarchists, syndicalists, socialists; all schools, all sects, all workers, all men devoting themselves to the future, have understood that although in the greatest of pain and direst of throes, it is really the birth of a new world.

The terror has ended. Peace treaties are signed. The blockade is broken. A world congress is sitting at Moscow. The Communist edification is about to commence. The food communes recuperate, the factories are reviving. Money is abolished. All is for all. Rational unified plans of production. Workers’ Universities. Proletarian culture. Electrification. Transferring of production to the Trade Unions. International.

No, comrades, we are not so near our goal. Too, much indifference and not enough consciousness are still paralysing those who should finish the work you have commenced. You are still alone, in spite of the great enthusiasm millions of workers show towards you.

And since you are alone, they are going to try and beat you once more. Start the terror again, become once more the Red Army—not the army of labour! France has recognised the Crimea of Wrangel, the Poles have entered Kieff.

V. 1921

The long winter of famine after the war. Nerves at the last stretch. The guns of Cronstadt. Sailors and peasants risen against the Communist Revolution because after such suffering they can do nothing, understand nothing, and wish for nothing but one thing; cultivate their land and sell what they produce to appease their hunger . . . This peasant people needs repose. It has bled too much. Too many of its most clear-sighted sons have gone, dead, or expecting too much from a wavering mass. A halt is necessary. Another nightmare having passed, Lenin gives the signal.

Yes, a halt is needed. Nothing is moving in Europe. Two Socialist Internationals and one Trade Union International vegetate there, following the old, old tracks with short paces. Moreover, after the flux and reflux of the civil war, a torrid summer has burned the Volga plains. Thirty million peasants, including five million children—will die slowly of hunger if some prodigious effort is not accomplished in order to save them.

Be it so! The revolution will cede ground, without renouncing anything. In preserving all its strength. In remaining the Proletarian State, ready to support the workers of whatever State it may be who will rise up in their turn to fulfil their historic task. In retaining all its libraries, its schools, great socialised factories, its Red Army. In penerating each day into the fields, awakened to a higher life. In guarding its militant Party, ready for any devotion. In remaining the centre of the International.