Victor Serge: “Anarchism swept us away completely…”

“Anarchism swept us away completely because it both demanded everything of us and offered us everything. There was no remotest corner of life that it failed to illuminate; at least so it seemed to us. A man could be a Catholic, a Protestant, a Liberal, a Radical, a Socialist, even a syndicalist, without in any way changing his own life, and therefore life in general.  It was enough for him, after all, to read the appropriate newspaper; or, if he was strict, to frequent the cafe associated with whatever tendency claimed his allegiance.  Shot through with contradictions, fragmented into varieties and sub-varieties, anarchism demanded, before anything else, harmony between deeds and words (which, in truth, is demanded by all forms of idealism, but which they all forget as they become complacent).  That is why we adopted what was (at that moment) the extremest variety, which by vigorous dialectic had succeeded, through the logic of its revolutionism, in discarding the necessity for revolution…

Individualism had just been affirmed by our hero Albert Libertad.  No one knew his real name, or anything of him before he started preaching…Violent, magnetically attractive, he became the heart and soul of a movement of such exceptional dynamism that it is not entirely dead even at this day…

His teaching, which we adopted almost wholesale, was: ‘Don’t wait for the revolution.  Those who promise revolution are frauds like the others. Make your own revolution, by being free men and living in comradeship.’ Obviously I am simplifying, but the idea itself had a beautiful simplicity. ..From this point there were naturally many deviations.  Some infinferred that one should ‘live according to Reason and Science,” and their impoverished worship of science…led them on to all sorts of tomfoolery, such as a saltless, vegetarian diet and fruitarianism and also, in certain cases, to tragic ends.  We saw young vegetarians involved in pointless struggles against the whole of society.  Others decided, ‘Let’s be outsiders. The only place for us is the fringe of society.’ They did not stop to think that society has no fringe, that no one is ever outside it, even in the depth of dungeons and that their ‘conscious egoism,’ sharing the life of the defeated, linked up from below with the most brutal bourgeois individualism.”

– Victor Serge, “Memoirs of a Revolutionary” (1953)

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