Martyn Hudson thinks that Trotsky and Trotskyism have been unfair to Victor Serge.
One of the claims he makes I haven’t read enough about to judge. Did Trotskyists really accuse Serge of being an accomplice to the murder of Ignace Reiss? Or was it that they saw him as being mixed up in Dutch quasi-Trotskyist leader Henricus Sneevliet’s mishandling of the affair?
Serge shared Sneevliet’s sympathy for the Spanish POUM (the Unified Marxist Workers’ Party, an anti-Stalinist, verbally revolutionary but in fact centrist formation), defending it against Trotsky’s political criticisms. What does Martyn think of those criticisms? Isn’t it true that, by joining the bourgeois government in Catalonia, the POUM squandered the opportunity to lead the Spanish workers to victory, and handed over the revolution to its Stalinist hangmen? Wasn’t Serge’s defence of the POUM (against Trotskyist criticism, not against bourgeois-Stalinist repression) a serious lapse in political judgement?
And while Serge was right to insist that, by the late 1930s, the Russian workers had lost power to a new ruling class, was he right about the roots of Stalinism in the pre-Stalin period?
Serge objected to the rise of the Cheka? But how could a revolution, plunged into civil war and encircled and invaded by a dozen imperialisms, do without special police? He accepted the repression of the Kronstadt uprising as necessary, but thought it was symptomatic of the revolution entering a blind alley? Rhetoric aside, is that really so different from Trotsky’s position? None of this seems very substantial.
It is one thing to accept that the Bolsheviks made mistakes, and that these mistakes eased the way for the growth of the Stalinist counter-revolution. Such questions are an entirely proper subject for discussion among pro-October, anti-Stalinist revolutionaries. But it is another thing to erase or even blur the sharp political and social line which existed between the Bolshevik regime and the Stalinist dictatorship which replaced it.
I’m not sure that’s what Martyn wants to do.