A blog post

The course is set on hope

Posted on the 02 February, 2011 at 9:41 pm Written by in Books, Research

I am reading Susan Weissman’s Victor Serge – The course is set on hope (Verso, London 2001), a remarkable book on many accounts, not least showing more of the Stalinist purge in Russia and abroad. Serge was a Russian Bolshevik who was also a relative free-thinker, barely escaping Stalin’s purges, publishing a lot of comments and experiences. Serge documented what was possibly the first holocaust, or the overlooked twin of the holocaust of the Jews later –  the systematic large scale death campaign against “rival” revolutionary factions, especially Trotskyists, but in  fact everyone daring to gainsay Stalin.

Serge was sympathetic to Trotsky, but developed doubts, and characterizes the authoritarian tendencies of Stalin’s opponents also. A main matter is the documentation regarding the purge of the revolutionaries in Russia. Serge wrote that there was scarcely an “old” comrade left – they had all been imprisoned or killed by Stalin. Serge did not use the word holocaust, but he did argue that Stalinism created perhaps the bloodiest counter-revolution in history, killing off all the opponents.

This book is mainly about Serge’s biography, with limited citations from his writings, but very valuable nevertheless. Especially interesting is Serge’s portrait of the way that the Stalinist pressure increased authoritarian tendencies even within the opposition.

Highly recommended.