Victor Serge, anarchist, syndicalist, libertarian, Trotskyist, was born in Brussels in 1890, the child of Russian refugees. During the Russian Civil War he served in the military, in the Communist Party and as a commissar in charge of ""czarist secret police archives."" He was a committed revolutionist though a critic of Stalinism. For his outspokenness, he was treated as an exile within his own country and finally expelled in 1936. This novel, written under surveillance by the secret police, takes place during one year of the Civil War, The setting is the besieged city of Red Petrograd--St. Petersburg, Russia's ""Window on the West""--where now the red flags have turned grimy over the doors of the old palaces. We are given, in episodes, the spectacle of a city threatened from within and without. Red armies are laying down their weapons in exchange for bread, workers are striking, factories are dying. There are betrayals, arsons, the rooting out of counterrevolutionary forces, executions, and inevitably, special privileges for those in charge. Serge, incapable of overlooking the excesses and the corruption, loathing the ""vermin"" which the revolution--like the ancien regime before it--must utilize, is tom but steadfast. ""It is necessary."" Though its characters are merely shadows passing through a landscape, Serge's work has a fervor and intensity fully up to the task of relating the painful truth as he saw it.