By Victor Serge
Birth of Our Power is an epic novel set in Spain, France, and Russia throughout the heady progressive years 1917–1919. Serge’s story starts off within the spring of 1917, the 3rd yr of mass slaughter within the blood-and-rain-soaked trenches of global struggle I, while the flames of revolution by surprise erupt in Russia and Spain. even if the Spanish rebellion finally fizzles, in Russia the staff, peasants, and customary squaddies may be able to take strength and carry it. Serge’s “tale of 2 towns” is made out of the competition among Barcelona, town “we” couldn't take, and Petrograd, the ravenous, beleaguered capital of the Russian Revolution besieged by means of counter-revolutionary Whites. among the romanticism of radicalized staff awakening to their very own energy in a sun-drenched Spanish city to the bleak fact of employees clinging to energy in Russia’s darkish, frozen progressive outpost. the unconventional used to be composed a decade after the revolution in Leningrad, the place Serge used to be residing in semicaptivity as a result of his declared competition to Stalin’s dictatorship over the revolution.
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Spain entered the twentieth century, after its stunning defeat by the United States in 1898, as a backward, corrupt, priest- and soldier-ridden monarchy. The anarchism of the Russian Bakunin caught the imagination of the peasants and of the workers in the new industrial centers like Barcelona, and their revolt took the form of jacqueries and individual terrorism (a situation quite similar to that in Czarist Russia). The government’s response to social unrest was the establishment of a new Spanish Inquisition that was responsible for wholesale arrests and executions, and for the brutal torture of anyone even remotely connected with the revolutionary movement.
Our voices would suddenly drop off, when, at a bend in the path, the stark, grass-covered corner of the citadel’s ramparts loomed up before us. 1 We used to stop at certain places from which we could see the narrow confines of the dungeons. Somewhere within these fortifications, men like us, with whom each of us at one time or another identified ourselves, men whose names we no longer remembered, had undergone torture not long ago. What kind of torture? We did not know precisely, and the very lack of exact pictures, the namelessness of the victims, the years (twenty) that had passed, stripped the memory bare: nothing remained but a searing, confused feeling for the indignities suffered in the cause of justice.
We often climbed the paths which led upward toward the fortress, leaving below the scorched boulevards, the old narrow streets gray and wrinkled like the faces of hags, the odor of dust, cooking oil, oranges, and of humanity in the slums. The horizon becomes visible little by little, with each step, spiraling upward around the rock. Suddenly the harbor appears around a bend: the clean, straight line of the jetty, the white flower of a yacht club, floating in the basin like an incredible giant water lily.