Victor Serge 1943

On the War in Russia and Prospects for the Future

Source: Carnets (1936-1947). Agone, Marseilles, 2012;
Translated: for 2015 by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2015.

October 3, 1943 – All summer the Wehrmacht has beaten a retreat in the face of an exhausted and malnourished Red Army supported by a starving rear with weak lines of communication. It’s not impossible that the explanation for this is a secret or tacit accord between the two belligerents. Why wouldn’t totalitarians negotiate while they are fighting each other? The usage of not doing such a thing dates to the times of chivalry and is reinforced by the parliamentary control of democracies. The realistic cast of mind calls for negotiations while on the offensive. It’s also possible that a grand political maneuver is in in the works for when the German lines have been shortened. Hitler no longer had any interest in occupying destroyed territories from which he can’t profit at present while inflicting on his troops the torture of winter in the heart of Russia, with long and execrable lines of communication. The hypothesis of the Nazi regime’s internal disintegration can also not be excluded. (Remember that we don’t know how totalitarian states die.) The Stalinist system is certainly much more impoverished, more damaged, materially weaker. But it has the moral advantage of the defense of its territory, the memory of the revolution, of collectivism, of a victorious resistance. The advantage as well of climate and geography.

Hitler lost the war on Russia in two phases: having failed in the attack against Moscow in 1941 and then in his attempt to cut off Russia from the Caucasus. He erred concerning the solidity of the regime and the Russian popular spirit. He aimed at the dismemberment of the USSR and a materially profitable rapid victory (“Victories are hungry,” I wrote in July 1941). Stalin lost the war in a different way, by opening to invasion and destruction territories that are so vast and so rich that Russia had not suffered a similar disaster since the Mongol Invasion. But he then held out, magnificently held out. Today he has two series of problems are posed for the saving of a regime crushed under frightful responsibilities: 1. How to regain popularity by giving the country a feeling of security? – 2. How to reconstruct?

Totalitarian collectivism is economically incompatible with a different entourage. If Stalin doesn’t dominate his neighboring countries – and Germany is henceforth of neighboring country for Russia – it has no security or assured reconstruction, and he will need to isolate himself behind a continuous Wall of China along with the need to arm itself. If new democracies emerge in the center of Europe their influence on Russia, shaken by the monstrous shocks of the war, they will be an agent for disintegration of the totalitarian regime. All the more in that the economic and spiritual reconstruction of these democracies could be much more rapid than that of Russia. No illusions: Stalin’s salvation lies in the domination of Central Europe.

Who will help him reconstruct? The Americans are far away. They'll have to participate in the reconstruction of all of Europe and continue the war against Japan perhaps for years after the fall of Nazism. What is more, they'll favor the regimes most suitable to them. Nothing could be more natural than this. They probably won’t participate in the reconstruction of the USSR without posing conditions.

On the other hand, industrial Germany is near. Russian Marxists have always considered its economy as complementary to the Soviet agricultural economy. German industry will be greatly damaged, but not destroyed. In eighteen months of work Germany could very well reconstruct new factories, more modern than the old ones. With a planned economy it will accomplish real prodigies. Thus for Stalin: laying hands on this economy of tomorrow. This can’t be done without a conflict, today or tomorrow, with the Anglo-Saxon powers. In reality, this conflict has begun, it’s simply a matter of camouflaging it, attenuating it, of avoiding any sharp and brutal forms by gaining time. To this end, the adoption of the following schema: no “Bolshevization” of Germany (but is it still a question in Russia itself of the Bolshevism of Lenin and Trotsky?); the maintaining of the facade of a “capitalist democracy,” “parliamentary,” capable of according some satisfaction to Anglo-American capitalism and fooling international democratic opinion; the establishment there of planning, with the cooperation of the current leaders of the German economy; having ministers who are in their pocket holding the levers of command; placing in charge of censorship, the security forces, the army, and all the secret services men they trust, communists or the people of “Free Germany,” – in a word, taking control of the apparatus of a pseudo-democratic state, as the Stalinists succeeded in doing in Spain after the elimination of Largo Caballero. Recall in this regard the experience of the Republic of the Far East founded in 1920 by the Bolshevik CC in order to give substantial satisfaction to Japan and to avoid a massive Japanese intervention between Baikal and Vladivostok. This was a parliamentary republic, with semi-capitalism, a legal opposition, a certain freedom of the press, etc., and Japan recognized it. The democratic republic lasted only two years, completely governed in any case by Moscow. As soon as the international situation allowed it, it was Sovietized (1922).