From The Party to The Person: The Example of Victor Serge

Those banished from a church are always its elite. They are ahead of their time.  ERNEST RENAN  I In the eyes of many, Victor Serge, the Belgian-born writer and anti-Stalinist militant, has come to stand for political probity in a time of cowardice and falsehood. The child of exiles from Tsarist Russia, from whom he inherited an admiration for lone fighters against oppression, Serge’s political evolution saw him travel large distances: a young socialist, then a fervent individualist anarchist, then a revolutionary syndicalist, and then, with the Russian Revolution, an orthodox Bolshevik. With Lenin’s death, Serge sided with Trotsky against Stalin, before ending his days in exile in Mexico City as an independent socialist of an eccentric type. His ideological shifts were not a demonstration of political fickleness, but rather of his recognition that no fixed ideology can meet changing circumstances, that it is necessary for ideas and people to evolve politically as the world situation itself evolves. He paid dearly for the transformations of his beliefs, living in almost constant exile and statelessness. He was imprisoned twice in France and twice in the Soviet Union, before being expelled from the latter in 1936 after spending three years in forced internal exile. He faced political isolation and poverty, and at the end of his life, in his final exile in Mexico, his poverty was so bleak that when, in 1947, he died in the back seat of a taxi in Mexico City, the soles of his shoes were found to be worn through.  Writing on the margins of politics and history, a citizen only of what he called “the invisible international,” Serge’s independence and foresight have earned him the recognition that he lacked in his lifetime. After languishing in oblivion in the English-speaking world, he was rescued by the scholar

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