Victor Serge


Again, Riazanov and Sneevliet


From New International, Vol. VIII No. 8, September 1942, p. 255.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Dear Max Shachtman:

The July number of The New International having come to my attention by accident, I read there with emotion your article on Riazanov and Sneevliet. I knew Riazanov, followed closely the drama of his end, and Sneevliet was my friend. I can contribute some additional information about them which may also be of interest to your readers.

Riazanov was arrested in 1931, following a very lively altercation with the secretary-general ... He was accused of having hidden in the strongbox of the Marx-Engels Institute some documents relating to alleged negotiations of the Mensheviks with the Socialist International concerning ... a Franco-Polish intervention in the USSR! In reality, he had protested in various ways against the preparation of a monstrous frame-up trial and more particularly against the use that was to be made at the trial of the “confessions” of one of his collaborators, Sher, who was neurasthenic to the point of being obviously half-irresponsible.

On May 11 or 12, 1940, being in Paris, I received a letter from Sneevliet, who had just taken refuge in Antwerp. By the time the letter arrived in my hands, Antwerp was already threatened. Sneevliet asked me to get him a French visa. I found no support from anybody. I received nothing, my only friends in a position to intercede with the authorities, socialists, no longer having any real influence. So Sneevliet did not succeed in finding asylum in France. I received a similar request from a courageous Italian anti-fascist, a friend of Bordiga, Perrone, who, fleeing from Brussels, was blocked with his family at the frontier. Up to the very moment when the Nazis crossed the Franco-Belgian frontier, the French gendarmerie refused to let “the foreigners” pass (it let the Belgians pass), thus turning over to the enemy a certain number of Italians, Spaniards, Russians and others. At the last moment, the Belgian authorities began to intern all the foreigners, starting with the anti-fascist refugees. Perrone, like Sneevliet, disappeared in the tumult of the invasion. For a while I hoped that Sneevliet had succeeded in getting to England; everything leads me to believe that he tried it without success. For him to remain in occupied territory was to commit a sort of suicide and he was well aware of it. He tried to escape, he failed, he fulfilled his duty as a militant on the spot and to the very end.


Victor Serge
Mexico, D.F.

Last updated on 12 January 2015