Serge's differences with Trotsky

Submitted by Matthew on 5 October, 2011 - 10:57

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.

Comments

Submitted by guenter on Fri, 07/10/2011 - 02:42

sacha, all the arguments u include in ur new article i wrote down before as my remarks below the article about victor serge, where nobody replied to me. now u represent them here as ur own ones; but be it. i agree with ur article and dont understand how M. in his reply can quote alexandra kollontai as a good witness against trotsky, when he himself has to admit, that kollontai later "bloced" with stalin (she served his regime till her death as an diplomat in norway.not exactly an anti-authoritarian "workers opposition".)

Submitted by guenter on Fri, 07/10/2011 - 13:46

the fact that Serge opposed trotsky on some significant issues does not mean that he should be treated as someone outside the ranks of the revolutionary movement

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this sentence i agree with (serge´s "memories of a revolutionary" are an important book), but that does not mean that all his critics on trotsky have been right.
if i understand it right, u share the old position of the "workers opposition", that trotsky was another bonarpartist in waiting.
leaving aside, that he had his errors during his bolshewik period (example: his militarist position about trade unions), and that i also find his endless comparisings to the french revolution difficult ("did we already pass the thermidor or not"?), i dont think that he as such, as a whole person (sorry 4 my english- u may get my point) was a stalin by another time. for example, he once was asked why he didnt try a military overturn of stalin as long as he was influental in the red army. he said something like, that this would have been an undemocratic, rather stalinist method. also the fact, that after lenin´s death, he didnt work more offensively 4 hisself (holding a copy of lenin´s last will, where lenin asked 2 replace stalin), dont look like, that he was only out for his personal power and to become another bonapartist.

Submitted by guenter on Fri, 07/10/2011 - 20:52

iam afraid i cant continue, cause 2 maintain such an complicated subject in english, is a lil´difficult for me.
in short: i think i can agree with most of what u say in ur last statement, and i hope that some1 else may continue here.
1 sentence i dont agree with, is the following:

all he can do to explain the phenomenon is racial slurs against Stalin's 'eastern'ness. Even at the end of his life he couldnt really understand why he had been defeated.
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i think, in some points, something like a collective racial behaviour does excist (see, how similar the behaviour is in islamic societies- even if the various islamic countries may have a different history and different economic circumstances). having known hundreds of oriental people since decades, i know very well, what trotsky means with stalin´s easternness. he was like an islamist, although not being muslim.

Submitted by guenter on Fri, 07/10/2011 - 20:54

iam afraid i cant continue, cause 2 maintain such an complicated subject in english, is a lil´difficult for me.
in short: i think i can agree with most of what u say in ur last statement, and i hope that some1 else may continue here.
1 sentence i dont agree with, is the following:

all he can do to explain the phenomenon is racial slurs against Stalin's 'eastern'ness. Even at the end of his life he couldnt really understand why he had been defeated.
------------------------------------------------------
i think, in some points, something like a collective racial behaviour does excist (see, how similar the behaviour is in islamic societies- even if the various islamic countries may have a different history and different economic circumstances). having known hundreds of oriental people since decades, i know very well, what trotsky means with stalin´s easternness. he was like an islamist, although not being muslim.

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