Continuing my series of posts on the novels of Victor Serge at my personal blog site For the Desk Drawer, I focus now on what Richard Greeman has recognized as the “cycle of resistance” in the second informal trilogy comprising Midnight in the Century , The Case of Comrade Tulayev , and The Long Dusk . If earlier novels in the “cycle of revolution” capture the conquest of space, notably Conquered City, then the later novels in the “cycle of resistance” convey the statification of space. This refers to the production of political space through meaningful architectural forms; symbolic representations of state power; the organisation of territory and geography; and state strategies to shape, reproduce, and control production through industrial development, land use, transportation, and communication. The novel Midnight in the Century reflects the defeat of revolution and how the Soviet state bound itself to space: how state control is extended, shaped and reshaped by the production of space. The spatial dimension is therefore intrinsic to understanding the contradictions of state action and struggles for survival within this rendering of life at the hands of the Soviet machine.
Following on from my previous posts, one of the most striking features of Victor Serge’s writings has to be the way he captures spatial arbiters that shape the practices of empowerment and containment within the territorial form of the city. Flowing across his documentary or witness novels, his political writings, his poetry, or his memoirs as a revolutionary is a sense of the political processes shaping urban society, the space of the city, and the possibilities of revolution rising up from the streets. Nowhere is this more evident that in his novel Conquered City  set in the years of the Russian Civil War (1919-1921) in the frontline city of Red Petrograd. Written just prior to his years of captivity in Soviet Russia at the hands of Stalin’s purges (from imprisonment in the Lubianka to exile in Orenburg on the Ural River) and completed in concise fragments that could be despatched abroad hastily, Conquered City is a masterwork on the conquest of space.
Recently, in a blog post entitled “Monumentalising Revolution,” my commentary argued that the Monument to the Revolution in Mexico City stands as an ambiguous carrier of utopian promise, which links past and present generations of struggle. Specifically, my concluding point was that this architectural space stands as a possible symbol of “the effective participation of the present generation in shaping the utopian desires of the oppressed, linked to ongoing past and present social struggles.” Written in April, there was no anticipation in this piece of the events to come that have swirled around the student movement #YoSoy132 in contesting the presidential election process in Mexico.