Victor Serge 1936

Letter to Leon Trotsky

Source: Victor Serge, La Lutte contre le stalinisme. Maspéro, Paris, 1977;
Translated: for by Mitch Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2005.

August 10, 1936

Dear Leon Davidovich

Excuse me for not yet having responded to your letter of July 30. I've twice started to and had to stop. I'm overwhelmed with work and don’t know what is what.

And given the fact that despite it all there are no essential disagreements between us (our appreciation of the personal qualities and work capacities of the comrades of RP[1] can’t be considered essential) we can put these subjects off for later. It’s not you that I accuse of sectarianism, but our entire movement. Alas, I think I can prove this very convincingly. But work now permits us to escape from sectarianism! What a shame and even how disgusting it is to see how much paper is blackened concerning the personal chicanery of Molinier, when we haven’t found the means to publish even one pamphlet on our comrades thrown into Stalinist prisons! What! Hundreds of French proletarian comrades know of the disputes about Molinier, but they don’t know the names of Iakovin and Pankratov! This is truly monstrous. But the rising wave of the revolutionary movement will sweep away these monstrosities. Right now something very comforting is occurring. Everyone is rushing to Spain. I just received a desperate letter from Ver[eeken]: all his young people are leaving, they're all en route! He asks that I intervene so that some remain here. I'll try. In Paris it’s the same thing. Two Italian comrades from Marseilles were killed near Saragossa. (And it is again impossible to work; what a filthy article La Lutte Ouvrière dedicated to them.) Rosmer has left. And among the Socialists close to us Collinet. Louzon, too. Anarchists from all over are going there en masse.

It was only after long conversations that I was able to hold back my son (sixteen, he’s quite young). I sent a proposal to the International Secretariat on the subject of the anarchists and the syndicalists. We must ward off the serious conflict which those Spanish Stalinist canaille are mixed up in. Here’s the declaration Hernandez [2] made to the press: “This revolution will be a bourgeois revolution. In no way will it be a social revolution (sic). We'll manage to have done with the anarchists.” (sic, newspaper of August 8). In Barcelona the anarchists killed the Socialist bureaucrat Trillas. Among them those who say: “We're not going to let the Stalinists do whatever they want, we'll kill them first,” are very strong. It’s possible that a civil war will break out in the proletarian ranks! The Spanish anarchists are uncontestably in the majority in Catalonia, an industrial region of decisive importance. Here is the line I propose to choose and the appeal I propose to make:

1. We revolutionary Marxists, considering the reinforcement of the revolution’s rear indispensable, proclaim that the dictatorship of the proletariat must and will mean true freedom for the workers. We will fight along with you in order to assure the freedom of thought and tendencies within the revolution, and solemnly vow to do everything to ensure that no bureaucrat of any color transforms the revolution into a prison of the Stalinist type for the workers.

2. We are partisans of total democracy, and at the same time of total discipline in combat and in production.

3. We consider you anarchists and syndicalists class brothers and devoted revolutionaries and propose to you the maximum collaboration, and at the same time implacable criticism and an ideological struggle in a fraternal atmosphere.

In the name of the IVth International we are the only ones able to speak in this way to the anarchists and the syndicalists. Neither the Socialists like Caballero nor the Stalinists can act in this way. In this we have an immense superiority, which could play a salutary role.

Our press must adopt this line. (The anarchist Ascaso met an exemplary death. Why was our press silent on this! I tried to the best of my ability to repair this error.)

Your last letter leads me to believe that you didn’t receive one of my letters, written by hand in Russian, in which I announced to you that my Soviet citizenship (as well as that of my family) was taken from me, which for the moment prevents me from going to Paris. It would be quite “strange” if this letter were to not reach you. Keep me up to date on this.

I'll go to Paris when I receive the papers allowing me to move around. And I'll come to see you without delay. I'll write you expressly on this subject.

In connection with the events in Spain I proposed to the comrades that they energetically launch the slogan of worker’s control of the army:

1. As a propaganda slogan instituting the duality of powers in the heat of events;

2. And most of all as a propaganda slogan which will permit the unmasking of the adversary and will have the following practical application: every worker will consider himself in the army as a representative of worker’s control and demonstrate a maximum amount of vigilance.

The editor wants me to send him the translation[3] little by little. (I'm pleased by the completely novel way with which you pose the problem of the state. This is a great contribution on the theoretical plain.) I'll wait for your remarks before sending my first batch to the editor.

I strongly and cordially shake your hands, you and N.I.[4]


1. La Révolution Prolétarienne, revue founded and Pierre Monatte and edited by Robert Louzon.

2. Jesus Hernandez, leader of the Spanish Communist Party.

3. Translation of the revolution betrayed.

4. Natalia Trotsky.