Defeatism (was: Re: Building a broad mass movement

Tom O'Lincoln suarsos at
Sun Jan 5 15:48:42 MST 2003

I agree with those who think it would be divisive and ultra-left to carry on
about "revolutionary defeatism" in the forthcoming anti-war campaigns. In Australia,
Worker's Power do this - they talk about the need for "Australian boys to come
home in body bags". I can't think of a surer way to make sure the anti-war movement
never gains mass influence.

However on historical issues, I have a different recollection of Lenin's position
than Lou Paulsen does. Lou writes:

>>The position of "defeatism" put forward by Lenin during World War I is that
rvolutionaries 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.<<

I would say this was Trotsky and Luxemburg's position. Lenin made a specific
point of defeatism -- "a defeat for our own country is a lesser evil" because
he was trying to construct a clear alternative to the majority of the Second
International (who had voted for war credits) and he thought people like Trotsky
were leaving them too much wiggle room.

I leave aside who was right back then. The point is that the split in the International
was a matter of immediate concern to hundreds of thousands of worker militants
across Europe, so it made sense for Lenin to focus on it. He could realistically
look to building mass Communist parties in a few years. (Even so, the Bolsheviks
made the revolution on the slogan of PEACE bread and land, not "defeat in the
war".) Today such issues at best concern a handful of activists. Leninism today
means what Lou advocates.

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