Defeatism (was: Re: Building a broad mass movement

LouPaulsen LouPaulsen at
Sat Jan 4 22:27:11 MST 2003

----- Original Message -----
From: "David Schanoes" <dmsch at>

> Or... to be more democratic about it.... I would b e less suspicious of
> former cops, clerics, congresspeople, if they or anybody on the speakers'
> rostrum will forthrightly advocate the defeat of the US/UK when it invades
> Iraq;

I honestly don't see what your point is.  The people you are referring to
are not dragging the movement rightward.  They are roughly representative of
the forces that are actually participating in the movement.  If you are
wondering whether someone is going to get up on January 18 and lay down an
explicitly Marxist-Leninist rap from the stage, I wouldn't bet on it.
However, I expect many explicitly anti-imperialist raps.  Actually, I think
many speakers take a defeatist position, in the only sense that is
meaningful.  The whole ANSWER coalition advocates the defeat of the Bush
administration's plan to invade and conquer Iraq.  It calls for the
withdrawal of the troops, an end to the sanctions, respect for Iraq's
sovereignty, and the elimination of U.S. weapons of mass destruction.  What
is the difference between that and the position of "defeatism"?

The position of "defeatism" put forward by Lenin during World War I is that
revolutionaries do not support any portion of their governments' war
efforts; they renounce all the annexations by their imperialist governments;
they stand for abandonment of all the imperialists' war plans whether
"aggressive" or "defensive".   It means not compromising with the
imperialist government. That is what 'defeatism' means in its essence - not
some ritual declamation.

If you think that the line taken by ANSWER falls short of this, then I
suspect it is because you want to stretch the term "defeatism" to mean
something that Lenin never intended.  It does not mean that you have to do
things that unnecessarily isolate yourself from the masses, like cheering
U.S. combat deaths for example, or get yourself prosecuted unnecessarily for
"Defeatism" is not calling on Iraq to shoot down U.S. planes or kill U.S.
infantry, or 'advocating' their victory.  This is not that I don't think
Iraq has a right to defend itself, quite the contrary.  But there is no
sense in our calling
on Iraq to do anything, or 'advocating' their defeating the U.S. militarily.
Saying "Go, Iraq! Defeat the U.S.!" is not a matter of principle.  Surely
Lenin never suggested that Bolsheviks "forthrightly advocate" a military
victory by the
Triple Alliance.  (I recognize the difference between a conflict among
imperialists and a war between an imperialist power and an oppressed
country, but still.)   Furthermore, despite my recent argument with
Flanders, I am not entirely devoid of an appreciation of realism, and how
realistic is it to call on Iraq to defeat the United States militarily?

"Defeatism" means that we fight our own government's war
plans tooth and nail, and defend the oppressed country. And when our
sister and brother workers are killed as cannon fodder in the imperialist
war, our job is not to scandalize and infuriate their neighbors and
relatives by shouting "Bravo, Saddam!"  We grieve with them, and we explain
to our class that the way to prevent tragic losses like that in the future
is to get the troops the hell out of there.  From the bourgeois point of
view, the technical term for 'getting the troops the hell out of there' is

Lou Paulsen

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