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Saturday, November 19, 2005

Everywhere and every time, I have encountered fear of thought, repression of thought, as an almost universal desire to scape or else stifle this ferment of restlessness. During the dictatorship of the proletariat, when Red posters proclaimed that 'the reign of the workers will never end', no one would admit any doubt as to the eternity of a rĂ©gime which was quite clearly exceptional, formed in the course of siege. Our great Marxists of Russia, nurtured on Science, would not admit any doubt concerning the dialectical conception of Nature—which is, however, no more than a hypothesis, and one difficult to sustain at that. The leadership of the Communist International classified as a moral lapse, or as a crime, the slightest doubt as to the triumphal future of their organization. Later, in the heart of the Opposition, with all the integrity of its ideals, Trotsky would not tolerate any point of view different from his own. I say nothing of other sorts of men, victims to waves of mob-hysteria, to the blindness of private interests or the inertia of tradition. In 1918 I was nearly torn to pieces by my French workmates because I defended the Russian Revolution at the moment of the Brest-Litovsk negotiations. Twenty years later, I was nearly torn to pieces by the same workers because I denounced the totalitarism which has sprung from that Revolution.

I have seen the intellectuals from the Left, responsible for editing reputable reviews and journals, refuse to publish the truth, even though it was absolutely certain, even though they did not contest it; but they found it painful, they preferred to ignore it, it was in contradiction with their moral and material interests (the two generally go together). In politics I have observed the appalling powerlessness of accurate prediction, which brings boycott, slander or persecution on him who predicts. The role of critical intelligence has semed to me to be dangerous, and very nearly useless. That is the most pesimistic conclusion to which I have felt myself drawn. I am careful not to state it finally; I blame the feeling on my personal weakness, and I persist in regarding critical and percipient thought as an absolute necessity, as a categorical imperative which no one can evade without damage to himself and harm to society, and, besides, as the source of immense satisfactions. Better times will come, and perhaps soon. It is a matter of holding fast and keeping faith until then. (Victor Serge, Memoirs of a Revolutionary)

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