Victor Serge

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Victor Serge (before 1940)

Victor Serge, real name: Wiktor Lwowitsch Kibaltschitsch ( Russian Виктор Львович Кибальчич , scientific transliteration Viktor Lʼvovič Kibalʼčič ; born  December 30, 1890 in Brussels ; † November 17, 1947 in Mexico City ), was a left-wing journalist and writer and revolutionary .


Kibaltschitsch's parents were political refugees from Russia who belonged to the revolutionary organization Narodnaya Volya . At first, the young Viktor Kibaltschitsch joined the Belgian socialist youth organization Jeunes Gardes , which he soon left because of his aversion to reformism . At the age of 19, Kibaltschitsch moved to Paris , where he joined the anarchist scene and became co-editor of the magazine L'Anarchie . For his support of the so-called Bonnot gang , an anarchist group that also carried out expropriations and attacks, he was sentenced to five years in prison in 1912.

After his release in 1917, he moved to Barcelona (here he took the name Serge ), where he worked for the anarcho-syndicalist newspaper Tierra y Libertad and participated in the uprising in July 1917.

After the Russian Revolution

After Serge found out about the outbreak of the Russian Revolution, he tried to get to Russia, but on the way there was imprisoned for over a year in France , in the colonie de Précigné , an internment camp for undesirables, as a "suspicious foreigner" and only came free as part of a prisoner exchange. Arrived there in January 1919, despite great skepticism and concerns about the actions of the Bolsheviks , he joined the Communist Party in support of the revolution . He assumed that the circumstances ( Russian civil war , in which the White Guards were supported by Great Britain and France) on the one hand generated objective pressure, but on the other hand did not justify everything (such as the establishment of the Cheka and repression against other leftists). In the next few years, Serge participated primarily in the development of the Communist International , working closely with Zinoviev .

Serge considered the demands of the Kronstadt rebellious sailors in March 1921 to be justified and reasonable (especially since his father-in-law was one of the participants), but on the other hand he also feared that a defeat of the Bolsheviks would mark the beginning of the (white) counterrevolution . After these events, Serge withdrew from politics disaffected and tried together with his father-in-law, Alexander Rousakov, to establish an agricultural commune on an abandoned estate near Petrograd , but this quickly failed due to the hostility of the local farmers. Serge then went to Germany for the Comintern and was involved in the planning of the failed uprising of autumn 1923 .

In the left opposition

Back in Russia, Victor Serge joined the Left Opposition around Trotsky , the most important intra-party opposition group in the CPSU. After it was broken up and banned by the Stalin group , Serge was expelled from the party in 1927 and initially arrested for a few weeks. After a solidarity campaign by French friends, he was initially released.

Serge spent the next five years writing several novels and historical essays and studies that were smuggled into France and some of which were published there. The period from 1928 to 1933 was marked by constant harassment by the secret police , which led to a mental illness in his partner Liuba. In 1933 Serge was sentenced to three years' exile in Orenburg / Urals on the basis of a confession extorted from his sister-in-law . There he built an opposition group with his son and other exiles. In 1936, Serge was able to leave the Soviet Union after another solidarity campaign by his supporters (including the writers Romain Rolland and Magdeleine Paz ) , which saved his life in view of the beginning Great Terror in the Soviet Union. He and his family were granted political asylum in Belgium , but they soon moved to Paris.

In exile

From there he first made contact with Trotsky, who was also exiled, but quickly fell out with him. The main reasons for this were Serge's criticism of Trotsky's position on the Kronstadt uprising in 1921 and differences of opinion on the Spanish Civil War . In 1940, after the defeat of France, Kibaltschitsch first fled to Marseille , from there he managed to obtain an entry visa to Mexico , where he arrived in 1941.

Victor Serge in the studio of the artist Wolfgang Paalen (1942)

There he was exposed to constant hostility up to and including assassination attempts by the local Stalinists. He spent the last years of his life there in relative political isolation and material poverty. His closest friends included Trotsky's widow Natalia Sedova and former POUM chairman Julian Gorkin . He associated with the German writer Gustav Regulator and the renegade surrealists Wolfgang Paalen , Alice Rahon and Gordon Onslow Ford . The Paalen couple helped him financially and temporarily hid him in their home in San Angel. Paalen's philosophical criticism of the Marxist dialectic ( dialectical materialism ), which he made public a little later in his journal DYN , grew in close exchange with Serge, who was writing his memoirs at the time, and in it the thinking errors of dialectic became one of the cardinal problems of the faltering Revolution declared. His writings, in which he now mainly devoted himself to a new draft of anti-authoritarian socialism , have hardly been published. In November 1947, Victor Serge died of a heart attack ; Rumors that he was poisoned could never be completely dispelled.

Victor Serge is the father of the Mexican murals painter Vladimir Kibaltschitsch (1920–2005).

Works in German translation

  • The great disillusionment. The Tulaev case . EVA, Hamburg 1950; Edition Büchergilde / Büchergilde Gutenberg, Frankfurt am Main 2012. (Novel about the repression in Stalinism, published posthumously)
  • The class struggles in the 1927 Chinese Revolution . Frankfurt / Main 1975 (New Review). (Contemporary criticism of the Chinese Communist Party's policy of surrender to the Guomindang)
  • The sixteen shot dead: unknown essays II . Hamburg 1977 (association) (texts from around 1936 on Stalinism and the Moscow show trials)
  • Profession: Revolutionary. Memories 1901-1917-1941 . S. Fischer, Frankfurt 1967
    • Again as: Memories of a Revolutionary 1901–1941 . Nautilus, Hamburg 1991 (autobiography, French first edition 1951)
  • Conquered city . Verlag Freie Gesellschaft, Frankfurt 1977 (novel from 1932, about life in revolutionary Petersburg 1918–1919)
  • For a Renewal of Socialism: Unknown Essays . Association, Hamburg 1975 (political texts from Serge's last years)
  • Birth of our power . Trikont, Munich 1976 (autobiographical novel from 1931 about the 1917 uprising in Barcelona)
  • Years of no mercy . Europe, Vienna 1981 (novel about the Second World War, completed in 1946)
  • Leon Trotsky. Life and death . dtv , Munich 1981 (biography written with Natalja Sedowa in the 1940s)
  • Writers and proletarians . New Critique, Frankfurt 1976 (pamphlet against the administrative control of literature in the Soviet Union, around 1930)
  • Black water. Translated by Eva Moldenhauer . Rotpunktverlag, Zurich 2014 ISBN 978-3-85869-610-6 (A novel about revolution, love and exile, 1936–1938)
Shorter texts by Serge are included in
  • Klaus Eschen , Sibylle Plogstedt , Renate Sami, Victor Serge: How to keep your nerve against the police and the judiciary . Rotbuch, Berlin 1973 (contains a Serge text on the work of the tsarist secret police)
  • Kronstadt . ISP-Verlag, Frankfurt 1981 (contains a. Serge text on the uprising there)
  • Achim von Borries , Ingeborg Weber-Brandies (Ed.): Anarchism. Theory, criticism, utopia. Nettersheim 2007 ISBN 3-939045-00-4 , pp. 161-170.

Secondary literature

  • Susan Weissman: Victor Serge. A political biography. Verso, London 2nd edition 2013, ISBN 9781844678877 .

Web links

Commons : Victor Serge  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. La colonie de Précigné. Camp d'internement pour «indésirables». Ed .: Association Passé simple. Petit Pavé, Saint-Jean-des-Mauvrets 2009, ISBN 2847122257 . The book is based on studies in the archives of the Sarthe department
  2. Andreas Neufert, On Love and Death. The life of the surrealist Wolfgang Paalen, Berlin (Parthas) 2015, p. 472 and 532