Victor Serge: The Course is Set on Hope

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Synopsis: Revolutionary novelist and historian, erstwhile anarchist, Bolshevik, dissident, Left Oppositionist ... Victor Serge is one of the most compelling figures to have emerged from the history of the Soviet Union. A lucid observer and a great writer, his is the story of a course set on hope, a pursuit of truth, dignity and human justice set against some of the most momentous events of the twentieth century.

Born Victor Kibalchich, the son and nephew of Russian revolutionary populists, Serge spent his first fifteen years in Belgium and was twenty-eight before he set foot in his homeland in 1919. Within months he had joined the Bolsheviks, and went on to participate in the first three Congresses of the Comintern, fight in the siege of Petrograd and work on various party assignments, both at home and abroad. In 1925, after the defeat of the German October, he returned to the Soviet Union to stand with the Left Opposition. A sort of permanent political oppositionist, Serge’s refusal to side with either capitalism or Stalinism assured his marginality and consigned him to a life of persecution and poverty: after years of frequent and vicious arrests, he was expelled from Russia in 1936; four years later when the Wehrmacht arrived in Paris he was forced to flee to Marseilles; finally he was granted an exit visa and went to Mexico, where he died in poverty in 1947.

Throughout his life, Serge wrote prolifically and tellingly of his times: novels, short stories and novellas as well as biographies of Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky and an enormous archive of unpublished work including correspondence, polemics and essays. Susan Weissman’s appreciation of these works and understanding of Serge’s life reveal the extraordinary commitment and hope of a great political writer and activist whose views so often reflect the significant historical struggles of our own time.

About the Author: Susan Weissman is Professor of Politics at Saint Mary’s College of California. She is an award-winning broadcast journalist, sits on the editorial boards of Critique and Against the Current, and is the editor of Victor Serge: Russia Twenty Year After and The Ideas of Victor Serge.

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