Victor Serge: Three Writings on the Jewish Question and Antisemitism, 1943-47

Translated and edited by Paolo Casciola, with an introduction by Claudio Albertani

By Way of an Introduction: The Middle Ages Chasing Us by Claudio Albertani

– Let us be allowed to laugh, madam, about this demented undertaking, the universal extermination of the Jews,

They won’t succeed, they are too many, and besides, the Rich will always be saved, and they’ll say: we are Aryans,

They will be believed because they will pay,

And the poor, madam, Jews or Aryans, are nothing.

– Victor Serge, ‘Marseille’ (1941)


This piece is being made available as a preprint edition of the double-volume Marxism and the Critique of Antisemitism special issue of Historical Materialism. Further additions will still be made before then. The final published version of this text will be made available on the Brill website in the coming months. We ask that citations refer to the Brill edition.All Illustrations are by Natalia Podpora.


Towards the end of the 19th century, the well-known German socialist August Bebel defined antisemitism as ‘the socialism of fools’. Today the situation has changed. If it is true, in fact, that there are only a few of us left to be socialists – or libertarians, in my case – the fools have reproduced themselves in geometric progression. We live in a sick society and, among the many forms of sterile resentment that corrode it, racism – of which antisemitism is an expression – continues to occupy a significant place. So-called social networks, which in fact have very little social about them, overflow with stereotyped images of foreigners bearing who knows what evil essence supposedly marking them apart from other human beings. Sometimes, the clueless who say and write such nonsense call themselves ‘leftists’.

At the same time, we are witnessing the spread of the paradigm of antisemitism, now used against any individual or social group that is considered ungovernable. In the West, the ghetto and the pogrom – a word of Russian origin, indicating the massive lynching of Jews and the plundering of their property – are treatments historically reserved to Jews, as well as gypsies and revolutionaries. Today, walls, barriers, barbed wire, fences and enclosures have multiplied all over the world. These are so many ominous signs of the new Middle Ages, the warning signs of which Victor Serge (Brussels, 1890-Mexico City, 1947), the author of the texts we present here, observed in the 1930s and 1940s.

A dreadful mixture of irrationalism, cult of hierarchy, tradition and modernity, fascism was the axis around which the history of the 20th century turned, and remains one of the key facets of the first twenty years of the new millennium. Like in its classic variant, the current fascism exploits the never completely extinguished impulses of nationalism, intolerance and xenophobia. With one difference. Discrimination now no longer concerns mainly the Jews, but is directed above all against the populations that Capital fears for different reasons, but of which it has a terrible need.

There are, first of all, immigrants, now subjected to various forms of segregation ranging from forced residence to actual concentration camps. But there is much more. In a mocking replication of history, Israel has built an immense ghetto in Gaza where it locks up Palestinians just for being Palestinians, in the same way as the Nazis segregated Jews just for being Jews. In Turkey and elsewhere those afflicted by this plague are the Kurds, and in the Americas the blacks or the indigenous, guilty, like the Maya of Chiapas, of living in territories rich in oil and natural resources. The list is long and could continue, but it would take us off-topic.

It is worth asking why this brief selection of writings on the Jewish question and antisemitism is being published here. Besides the fact that, to our knowledge, these three texts have never appeared before in English, this is not just an exercise in historiography. It is also this, but perhaps it stems even more from the need to shed light on our present, on the particularly insidious forms of totalitarianism that characterise the society in which we live and that were only in its infancy in the 1940s.

An attentive observer, Victor Serge belonged to the scattered groups of intransigent militants – libertarian Marxists, anarchists, Trotskyists, councilists, Bordigists and independent socialists – who, despite the great differences that separated them, had managed to maintain an admirable lucidity in the midst of the ‘midnight of the century’, when the revolutionary cycle was over and so-called bourgeois civilization showed its true murderous face.

Each in their own way, those militants had understood the essential features of the great transformation underway, showing the convergences, as well as the differences, between fascist totalitarianism, Stalinist totalitarianism and the so-called ‘Western democracies’. It should be remembered that in a 1933 letter, written shortly before his last arrest, Serge had been one of the first to characterise the Soviet Union as a totalitarian country.

These three articles are each occasional in character — something which, far from limiting their interest, increases it. In fact, besides being a historian, a novelist and a poet, the author of Memoirs of a Revolutionary – a cult book, translated in dozens of languages and still indispensable to understanding the epic of the betrayed revolutions of the first half of the 20th century – was also a great chronicler, a scrupulous narrator of the tragic events that took place before his eyes. Unlike many other intellectuals and militants of that time, he perceived the deadly consequences of Nazi antisemitism, so to speak, in real time.

The first text, undated but certainly written in the first months of 1943, brings together brief notes, probably intended to be part of a larger essay, and treats antisemitism, as a general problem of counterrevolution, within the framework of the Russian 1905 and especially of Nazi totalitarianism. The reaction, Serge writes, is about destroying the dignity of the human person and creating deadly psychoses in the context of social warfare.

‘The Jewish Question’ offers Serge’s answers to a questionnaire sent him in 1944 by Babel, a splendid Chilean magazine edited by Enrique Espinoza – pseudonym of Samuel Glusberg –, a Jew by birth and a Trotskyist sympathizer. Faced with the spread of antisemitism, Serge felt compelled to mount a real apologia for Jewish culture by mentioning Marx, Freud, Einstein, Zweig and others, all authors of universal stature. Antisemitism, he concludes, anticipating Hannah Arendt’s studies, demands a psychological and social analysis and must be considered in the context of the destruction of humanism that was, and still is, one of the characteristic features of our time.

‘Opinions and Facts on the Jewish Question’ – undated (and we do not know if it was ever published), but undoubtedly drafted after 17 August 1947, the day of publication of Arthur Koestler’s ‘Letter to a parent of a British soldier in Palestine’ that Serge reviews, and prior to 17 November, the date of his sudden death –, although showing disagreement with the opinions in favor of Zionist terrorism expressed by Koestler, also displays, it must be admitted, an insufficient sensitivity to the incipient Palestinian question and an excessive severity towards the Muslim cause in the Middle East.

These are, it seems to me, all themes of tremendous topicality.

Mexico City, November 2021 (Year II of the healthcare dictatorship)

*     *     *


[early 1943 ca.]

Nazi antisemitism heightens, with all the abominable violence of a crime of historically unique magnitude, the new character of this war and its aspects of civil war.

During the imperialist war of 1914-18 there was no antisemitism because European humanism, which did not exclude either wars between states or class wars but did tend to impose its own laws upon them, was not itself put into doubt. Today this humanism is struck at its foundations: in totalitarian systems the Christian spirit, the scientific spirit and the socialist spirit are destroyed or mortally disfigured.

Contemporary antisemitism was born in the social struggles in Russia at the time of the first revolution (1905). The pogroms were then organised by the imperial authorities and the monarchical leagues in order to offer a diversion to popular violence. The old regime wanted scapegoats and, in order to better subjugate mankind through the repression of the revolutionary movement, sought to accustom the masses to collective crime, perpetrated against a defenseless religious minority.

In 1918-21, during the Russian civil war, the monarchist and nationalist gangs started the extermination of the Jews. The victory of the revolution put an end to Russian antisemitism.[2] The Protocols of the Elders of Zion[3] were fabricated in Russia by visionary mystics and policemen. They constitute one of the ideological elements of Nazi antisemitism.[4]

The motives behind the antisemitism of the Third Reich are those of the counterrevolution itself. It is, once again, a question of directing the violence of the masses against an unarmed minority of the nation. In order to better destroy the dignity of the human person, it is necessary to accustom society to the humiliation, spoliation, and extermination of a social category arbitrarily chosen precisely because it is defenseless. This means unleashing and fostering the murderous psychoses most indispensable to the social war waged by reaction (even despite the fact that they are clearly contrary to the interests of Nazi neo-imperialism in the world war). From the economic point of view, this means expropriating a wealthy minority of the nation without, however, directly threatening the capitalist classes as a whole, and irrevocably binding a large number of executors to the Nazi system, through their criminal complicity.

A multitude of testimonies tells us that the German people, as a whole, are unaware of most of the crimes of antisemitism, and that when they do know them they are not at all complicit in them. These crimes are those of the Nazi system. They will one day bring down dreadful and deserved punishments on their perpetrators, for which we count first of all on the German people themselves. Born out of the civil war, antisemitism remains a factor for civil war.

According to the incomplete information in our possession, the extermination of the Jewish population in occupied Russia is more or less complete. Belarus and Ukraine had over two million Israelite workers. The fact that this population bound to martyrdom was not completely evacuated during the invasion, when there could be no doubt as to its fate, we consider a real crime. In Poland the systematic extermination of the Jewish population – over three million inhabitants – began in 1942; the extermination of the 400,000 inhabitants of the Warsaw ghetto began in July 1942 and, in December, the ghetto had no more than 40,000 survivors. Most of Poland's Jews would have been killed by asphyxiation trucks.

These nameless horrors attest to the fact that elementary human sentiment, acquired over long centuries of civilisation, was deliberately trampled upon by Nazism. They would be sufficient to demonstrate an essential difference between this war and all those that preceded it. Since antisemitism and racial discrimination were, in all countries of the world, the prerogative of reactionary movements, these crimes stand as a condemnation of the international reaction.



(12 October 1944)

We posed the following questions to some writers from different countries:

1. Could you summarise for us some of your significant personal experiences pertaining to your fellow citizens of Jewish descent?

2. Do you accept any racial discrimination against or in favour of the so-called sons or grandsons of Israel?

3. What do you think about antisemitism and its consequences in today’s world?

Here are some of the answers we received:


1. My experience has led me to regard the Jewish nation as one of the most gifted. In the modern world, divided by social struggles, it has produced great capitalists, skilled merchants, high quality intellectuals, a multitude of socialists and revolutionaries, thinkers whose contribution to civilisation has been essential. This is to say that, though it is socially divided like all other nations, it has distinguished itself in every field. If one considers the masters of thought of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th, one is struck to see that the Jews have provided incomparable figures, whose influence has been and remains immense: such as Karl Marx, founder of scientific socialism; Sigmund Freud, one of the founders of modern psychology; Albert Einstein, innovator of modern physics and scientific philosophy; Leon Trotsky, man of thought and action... Other names also deserve mentioning here, such as the French philosopher Henri Bergson, the socialist Lévy-Bruhl, the writer Stefan Zweig, the critic Georg Brandes... It is unfair to mention only a few names; we realise that the contribution of the Jews to the intelligence of our time has been powerful and fruitful.

I personally met many Jews belonging to every social condition. I met some who were heroes and other who were more than unpleasant; but, after all, all of them were intelligent and active.

2. It seems to me that with regard to the Jews it is more appropriate to use the term nation or people rather than race, because today there are no pure races (unless we are satisfied with broad divisions of the human species into white, black, yellow and red races). The Semitic family includes Arabs, Bedouins, Ethiopians, and Jews, but from its origins it has undergone endless mixing; Ethiopians are black or nearly so, Arabs, Bedouins, and Jews are white. A historical and religious tradition has maintained the Jewish people for millennia through many conquests and much mixing. In the early Middle Ages there was in Russia, on the Volga, a Khazarian empire, probably Mongolian, who converted to Judaism. There are Chinese, Tartar and other populations that practice Judaism. Finally, after the disbanding of the kingdom of Israel, in the first century of our era, the Jewish colonies of Europe, the Middle East and America have undergone so much ethnic mixing that there are blond, red, brown and black Jewish types, sometimes recognizable and sometimes indistinguishable from other European types. In this case, to speak of racial discrimination is to fall into reactionary absurdity by adopting an anti-scientific attitude.

Perhaps it would not be superfluous to remind that the spiritual and social revolution that has left the deepest trace in the whole development of European civilisation started from Judea, originally stirred by great Jews, the more famous of whom is Jesus of Nazareth… To say it schematically, the origins of our civilization are Greek-Roman and Jewish.

Another important consideration arises in favour of the Jews and tends to explain their great intellectual quality. They are the only white people who have, like the Hindus and Chinese, a tradition of civilisation going back to 4,000 years. The white peoples who founded the earliest civilizations of the Middle East and the Mediterranean left no direct lines of descent. At the time when the Jews were already an old cultured people, endowed with a long history and religious thought that was arriving at a monotheistic philosophy, the Indo-European peoples were still but primitive peoples.

3. Antisemitism requires a psychological and social analysis that I cannot outline here. In practice, it arose in Russia during the revolution of 1905, as a pretext of the royalist reaction concerned to divert the violent instincts of ignorant and destitute masses against a defenseless religious minority. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion were deliberately fabricated by Russian police with the help of some visionaries (this story has been reconstructed in all its details). The function of Nazi antisemitism was the same: at a time when German capitalism was going bankrupt, it worked to redirect against Jewish capitalism the anti-capitalist sentiment of the masses; to divert the sadistic instincts of part of the disorientated masses into aggression against a defenseless minority; to create an irrational psychology at a time when rational thought was becoming dangerous to governments; to create through violence, spoliation and massacres the terrible bond of criminal complicity between all participants in antisemitism (in order to cement its ability to resist); to degrade mankind in general in order to more easily break its opposition to the totalitarian regime. It goes without saying that after humiliating and murdering the Jew in the street, it becomes easy to humiliate and murder anyone; the precedent is set, a feeling of powerlessness and degradation has set in,humanism is destroyed. The politically utilitarian aspect of Nazi antisemitism also flows from the fact that Hitler’s racism, by concluding an alliance with Japan,[6] abandoned the yellow peril doctrine that had been the doctrine of the beginnings of Germanic racism and, notoriously, of Wilhelm II. The counterrevolutionary (anti-socialist) character of antisemitism stems from the fact that in Russia, after the bloody pogroms of 1905-06 and the massacres of the Jews of Ukraine at the hands of reactionary gangs in 1918, the victorious revolution put a definitive end to antisemitism, without real effort and almost without repression.

In Russia, Poland and occupied Europe, the Nazis have exterminated several million Jews, i.e., skilled and hardworking Europeans, with scientific organisation, by means of asphyxiating trucks, etc. (As long as they could, the Nazis concealed from the German people the extent of this crime.) In this way, they caused irreparable harm to Europe and to the entire civilised world for an extended period of time. By cultivating an irrational ideology based on murder, they managed to awaken and mobilize in the whole world those sadistic instincts that Christian civilisation, scientific culture, European humanism and socialism seemed to have tamed. The psychological and social consequences of this degradation of modern man will certainly persist long after the liquidation of Nazism and the punishment of the guilty. This means that in the struggle for the greatness and liberation of man, for a new humanism, the battle against conscious or unconscious antisemitism will be long, difficult, unceasing, and will constitute one of our most imperative duties.


[August 1947]

The Statesman and Nation, London

The Socialist Leader, London

The New Leader, N[ew] Y[ork]

Arthur Koestler does not figure on the roster of the contributors to the old English liberal weekly The Statesman and Nation. Koestler’s position on totalitarianism is well known; on the other hand, the liberal weekly is full of indulgence and sympathy for the likes of Tito, Bierut and Vyshinsky...[8] So, we are surprised to see in The Statesman [and Nation], by way of an exception, a remarkable ‘Letter to the father of a British soldier stationed in Palestine’ signed by Koestler.[9] In a few columns, the Palestinian question is dealt with thoroughly, forcefully and clearly, by a masterful writer who offers us a fresh demonstration of civic courage. Today, courage is not such a common commodity that we are not at least a little heartened to see it at work. Koestler, a Hungarian Jew and naturalised Englishman, and moreover a former communist who has become – by this very fact – anti-Stalinist, could express himself in London, on such a subject, without the slightest reticence, and his beautiful prose is being published by liberals who, as far as international politics are concerned, are his adversaries! Freedom of opinion and intellectual loyalty occupy a place of honor... Koestler declares himself an advocate of terrorism in Palestine and emphasises its irrefutable, passional motivation. We believe that on this point he is wrong, and his own wiser leanings lead him to advance reservations ‘on the way terrorism is being applied’. In this case everything depends on the nature of the acts, that is, on the ‘way’ of doing things and not on the principle. Today no one will be outraged by the street execution of an executioner or a military brute guilty of the death of some Dachau survivors. But does Jewish thought, Jewish ethics, the cause of the Jewish people and all the oppressed of the world justify the hanging of two young British soldiers who were not personally responsible for anything? Koestler is careful not to assert this, and neither do we. The Jewish cause is too important to be so ill-served…

Koestler highlights the fact that the ruling Labour Party is failing in all its commitments to the Jewish people. It must be noted that the LP, while intelligently and firmly supporting the most arduous struggle for the salvation of devastated, weakened and threatened England, shows, by its foreign policy, a singular mediocrity in a variety of serious circumstances and thus alienates much sympathy in the world. Its attitude toward the Palestine issue, in reality determined by old colonialist interests and aggravated by a military and bureaucratic personnel of the worst kind, is scandalous. We will note, moreover, that the British military authorities in Italy have recently handed over to the Russian political police several groups of Russian refugees guilty only of fleeing tyranny.[10] We will note, finally, that the LP’s political incapacity caused the failure of the international socialist conference in Zurich, foolishly favoring the manoeuvres of the pseudo-socialist, subservient, police-state regimes of Poland, Yugoslavia, Romania...[11]

The Socialist Leader, organ of the Independent Labour Party (London), soberly points out that the Muslims of India have forced the partition of the country into two states, and that such partition weakens them and even risks pitting them against each other. They got Pakistan. In Palestine, on the contrary, the Muslims oppose a territorial division! Inconsistency? This word would be indulgent. Let us note that from Karachi to Casablanca the Islamic world, governed by reactionary elements whose mentality seems to have stopped in the tenth century of our era, provides the most striking demonstrations of a political immaturity that is all too dangerous... Pakistan’s independence is being inaugurated with the massacres of Hindus and the kidnapping of Hindu women (by the tens of thousands). And let's turn to the information published by N[ew] Y[ork]'s The New Leader.NL correspondent M[ark] Alexander summarily reports his impressions of a trip from Istanbul to Cairo. He notes the extraordinary propaganda effort of the USSR in the Muslim countries and the strangulation of the freedom of press in the Arab countries which are members of the U[nited] N[ations] and in Turkey,[12] where one must nevertheless note a slight improvement in the situation... In Iraq some twenty newspapers have been suppressed during the last two years, including three Communist sheets, but no one of the fascist sheets! In Syria the director of the Reuter Agency has been sentenced to six months in prison and a heavy fine for disrespecting the president of the republic! In Lebanon, half of the newspapers in Arabic, French and Armenian have just been suppressed, and the correspondents of the Reuter Agency and the Palestine Post have been expelled. What a happy republic! In Egypt eleven journalists have just been arrested for criticizing the attitude of the Egyptian delegation to the UN, and persecution of the press is constant. What a happy kingdom! In Palestine there is a censorship of the press in the most insidious form. Every newspaper has a censor in its editorial office and incurs various penalties if it allows itself to publish anything about ‘debatable subjects’, e.g. about the Nazi Mufti in Jerusalem and the British regime. It is forbidden to call a Nazi war criminal, antisemite, proven accomplice of Hitler-Himmler-Streicher, by his proper name! In Saudi Arabia there is only one newspaper, that of the government.[13] Thus everything is going on very well...

[1] ‘L’antisémitisme’, a two-page French-language typescript, undated and unsigned. It is kept in an untitled dossier containing other short texts on anarchism, Trotskyism, etc., that remained at the draft stage. The French original was published for the first time in V. Serge, L’extermination des Juifs de Varsovie et autres textes sur l’antisémitisme, Paris: Joseph K., 2011, pp. 89-91.

[2] On 25 July 1918 the Council of People's Commissars of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic adopted a ‘Decree on the Struggle against Antisemitism and Anti-Jewish Pogroms’, appearing in Izvestiya No. 160 of 30 July. That struggle, however, was partially unsuccessful insofar as antisemitism periodically resurfaced in Soviet Russia, particularly in the Red Army during the Civil War and the Russo-Polish War. See especially Nicolas Werth, ‘Dans l’ombre de la Shoah: Les pogromes des guerres civiles russes (1918-1921)’,Revue d’Histoire de la Shoah, No. 189, July-December 2008, pp. 319-57; Oleg Budnitskii,Russian Jews Between the Reds and the Whites, 1917-1920, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012; and Brendan McGeever,Antisemitism and the Russian Revolution, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019. A new and more substantial wave of ‘Soviet’ antisemitism gained momentum again in the 1930s, during the Stalinist period.

[3] Besides the classic work of Norman Cohn, Warrant for Genocide: The Myth of the Jewish World Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion [1967], London: Serif, 2005, on the history and worlwide impact of that book see in particular Hadassa Ben-Itto,The Lie that Wouldn’t Die: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, London: Valentine Mitchell, 2005; Stephen Eric Bronner,A Rumor About the Jews: Reflections on Antisemitism and The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000; Esther Webman (ed.),The Global Impact of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion: A Century-Old Myth, London: Routledge, 2011; and Michael Hagemeister,The Perennial Conspiracy Theory: Reflections on the History of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, London: Routledge, 2022.

[4] On this specific aspect, see Pierre-André Taguieff, Hitler, les Protocoles des Sages de Sion et Mein Kampf: Antisémitisme apocalyptique et conspirationnisme, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2002; and Randall L. Bytwerk, ‘Believing inInner Truth’: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in Nazi Propaganda, 1933–1945’,Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Vol. 29, No. 2, Fall 2015, pp. 212-29.

[5] ‘La question juive’, a two-page French-language typescript from the Victor Serge’s archives in Mexico City, now in the Victor Serge Papers at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository, New Haven (Connecticut), Box 5, Folder 260, Call Number GEN MSS 238, Series II. It was translated into Spanish and published in Babel. Revista de arte y crítica, Vol. 6, No. 26, Santiago de Chile, March-April 1945, pp. 61-4. These are the answers to a questionnaire that the magazine had sent to various writers ahead of the publication of that issue, specifically devoted to the Jewish question. The three questions devised by Babel are reproduced here in italics. The French original of Serge’s answers has been published in V. Serge,L’extermination des Juifs de Varsovie…, cit., pp. 84-8, but the editor of that book (Jean Rière) was unable to reproduce the questions as he did not find that issue ofBabel. That Chilean magazine was edited, under the pseudonym of Enrique Espinoza, by an Argentinian leftist intellectual of Russian origins, Samuel Glusberg (1898-1987). He had visited Trotsky in Mexico in 1938, became a Trotskyist sympathizer, and subsequently started a correspondence with Trotsky himself and with Jean van Heijenoort (see Nicolás Miranda,Historia del trotskysmo chileno 1929-1964, Santiago de Chile: Ediciones Clase contra Clase, 2000, pp. 29-37). On Serge’s collaboration with the magazine, see Claudio Albertani, ‘“A la sombra de los nopales crueles”’: Victor Serge, América Latina y la revistaBabel, Revista de Humanidades de Valparaiso, Vol. II, No. 4, 2nd semester 2014, pp. 7-20.

[6] On 27 September 1940 Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and imperial Japan had signed in Berlin the Tripartite Pact, a military-political agreement that established the so-called ‘Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis’. In the midst of World War II, it recognized their respective spheres of influence within the framework of the ‘new world order’: Europe to Germany and Italy, and the Far East to Japan. As far as the latter was concerned, the pact utterly clashed with Hitler’s original racist dogma of the inferiority of all non-Aryan peoples.

[7] ‘Opinions et faits sur la question juive’, a two-page French-language typescript, undated and signed ‘S.’, so far unpublished in any languages, from the Archives of the Centro Vlady at the Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de México, in Mexico City, Fondo Victor Serge, file 10, dossier 106. Another copy is to be found in the Victor Serge Papers at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository, New Haven (Connecticut), Box 4, Folder 234, Call Number GEN MSS 238, Series II.

[8] The Stalinophilia of that journal had already surfaced during the second half of the 1930s, e.g when its editor Kingsley Martin refused to let one of his journalists review Trotsky’s The Revolution Betrayed and to publish George Orwell’s famous article ‘Spilling the Spanish Beans’ because he harshly criticized of the Stalinist repression of the anarchists and thePartido Obrero de Unificación Marxista carried out by the Stalinists after the May Days of 1937 in Barcelona. See Bashir Abu-Manneh, Fiction of the New Statesman, 1913-1939, Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2011, pp. 167-71. Such orientation softened during the Nazi-Soviet pact (August 1939 to June 1941), but was resumed immediately after the German attack against the Soviet Union, when Stalin became a military ally of Great Britain.

[9] A. Koestler, ‘Letter to a Parent of a British Soldier in Palestine’, The New Statesman and Nation, 16 August 1947, pp. 126-27.

[10] A reference to the highly controversial Operation Keelhaul, which, on the basis of the 1945 Yalta agreements, provided for the forced repatriation to the USSR of the Russian POWs interned in various Italian prison camps after the end of World War II. Beginning in August 1946, the operation ended in May 1947. See Julius Epstein, Operation Keelhaul: The Story of Forced Repatriation from 1944 to the Present, New Greenwich: The Devin-Adair Company, 1973; Nicholas Bethell,The Last Secret: Forcible Repatriation to Russia 1944-7, London: André Deutsch Limited, 1974; and Nikolai Tolstoy,Victims of Yalta: The Secret Betrayal of the Allies 1944-1947, New York: Pegasus Books, 1977. Since the overwhelming majority of these Russian prisoners had fought in the ranks of the Nazi army or collaborated with theWehrmacht, it is clearly wrong to argue – as Serge did – that they were merely refugees ‘guilty only of fleeing tyranny’.

[11] At that conference, held from 6 to 9 June 1947, the British Labour Party had supported the German social-democracy’s ‘nationalist’ refusal to enter a ‘united front’ with the German CP. Having been invited to attend the conference as observers, SPD delegates met a fierce opposition from Eastern European socialists, especially the Poles, on that specific point. Although backing the SPD, the LP acted behind the scenes in the opposite sense for fear of a final break with the Easterners. The Labour delegation ‘appears to have pressured the Swiss to abstain on the vote, helping to deny the SPD a two-third majority’, thus objectively favouring the pro-communist Eastern European socialists. Moreover, while approving in principle the idea of rebuilding a socialist International, LP representatives had opposed its immediate proclamation as ‘premature’. See Talbot C. Imlay, The Practice of Socialist Internationalism. European Socialists and International Politics, 1914-1960, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018, pp. 286-88.

[12] The United Nations was set up in San Francisco on 24 October 1945. The following Arab countries joined it from the beginning: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria. When Serge drafted these lines, the UN had received Iraq’s adherence on 21 December 1945. Pakistan and Yemen became UN members on 30 September 1947. Turkey had joined right from the start.

[13] For a survey of the situation of the press in Arab countries between the mid-19th century and the mid-20th century, see Ami Ayalon, The Press in the Arab Middle East: A History, New York: Oxford University Press, 1995, pp. 109-37.