Reflections on Revolutionary Defeatism — "Lefty" Hooligan

The Thinking or "hmmm" emoji with Lenin mustache and beard

Three 2024 columns from Lefty Hooligan reflecting on his views on Revolutionary Defeatism. He considers the tactic in the historical context of Russian and German Revolutions, the Vietnam War, the current Russian invasion of Ukraine and more. Lefty Hooligan wrote a column for Maximum RocknRoll from 1991 until 2020.

Submitted by Comrade Motopu on March 2, 2024

“Thank you for your service”: “Lefty” Hooligan, “What’s Left?”, January 2024

Thank you for your service. Catchphrase of the day

The world was in upheaval in 1968. I identified with the anti-Vietnam War movement at the time and even considered myself a pacifist for a minute. I helped with the Quaker-run draft counseling held at the Ventura Unitarian Church and joined the War Resisters League. And I attended local anti-war demonstrations every chance I got, affiliating with a community group called Ventura County Committee for Peace. That was when I was a junior in high school. In September, 1969, my senior year teachers and administrators herded the males of our school class in small groups into a classroom where we were confronted by a man dressed in full Army uniform. After introducing himself, the recruiter got right to the point.

“You owe six years of your life to your country in military service. Two years active duty, two years ready reserve, two years inactive call-up, or some combination thereof. You will need to register for Selective Service within thirty days of your 18th birthday to fulfill this obligation.”

The Army recruiter was matter-of-fact, and I was freaking out. How dare he claim I owed any of my life to the government!? What about becoming a Conscientious Objector to all war? When’s the next bus to Canada?

I was almost a year away from having to register for Selective Service and acquiring my student deferment (1-S) in 1970. But I was already compiling evidence for my intended Conscientious Objector claim (1-O), having no desire to end up in the rice paddies of Indochina. Terrified as I was by that possibility, the process of putting together a file to defend my case for refusing to comply with serving in the military was both an act of resistance and intoxicating. One stipulation of the rules governing conscription allowed me to put anything in my file that I considered as influencing me in my anti-war convictions. So once registered I could walk into my draft board and insist that they put in the latest Jimmy Hendrix album or part of a highway sign graffitied with peace symbols or a rotting fish carcass that revealed the plight of the world and my commitment to peace and my CO status.

Thus my fear of being drafted was counterbalanced by my excitement over “sticking it to the Man” through my anti-war activism. But things quickly got complicated once Nixon took office. America’s war in Indochina had sparked the broadest, most persistent anti-war movement in US history. The movement rapidly spreading in terms of consciousness, activism and resistance to other parts of society, and which Nixon attempted to quell at all costs. In addition to an extensive law and order campaign that unleashed the FBI, state and local police against The Movement, he promised to relieve the class and racial inequities built into conscription by first introducing a lottery draft system (12-1-1969) and then by moving to an all-volunteer military (AVM, 1973). Nixon’s other measures—withdrawing US troops, Vietnamization of the ground war, expanding and intensifying the air war, negotiating the Paris Peace Accords—didn’t amount to crap. By 1970, and my birthday’s high lottery number, I gave up my CO claim because it was just too much trouble. By 1973 the anti-Vietnam War protest movement had been decimated. By May 1, 1975 the Vietnamese people had won their war against the greatest military power the world had ever known.

I grew my hair long, started smoking dope, talked big about The Revolution and continued participation in anti-war activities. But I was also a middle-class happy-go-lucky college student, first at Ventura Community College and then at UC Santa Cruz. That’s where I met Walter Goldfrank, a junior professor who taught Sociology, specifically World Systems Theory. When I told him my rather petty travails of getting out of military service he told me that being drafted into the US Army was the best thing that ever happened to him. Wally was an upper middle class Jewish boy from Brooklyn who graduated from Harvard and whose first real encounter with people of different races, in particular black and brown folks, was in the military. He considered the Army a profoundly democratic and democratizing experience. Now, at the time I attended UCSC, Wally was a full-on Maoist, an admirer of Red China, Mao’s Cultural Revolution and the People’s Liberation Army. So, there was some affinity between his politics and his evaluation of his military service even as he became a full professor, department chair and eventually professor emeritus.

What we in the Long 60s called The Movement had plenty of elements dedicated to toppling the United States of America. There were New Left groups committed to armed struggle and overthrowing the government—Weather Underground, Black Panther Party, May 19th Communist Organization, etc. And there were countercultural groups ardent about dropping out and moving back to the land—Drop City, the Diggers Kaliflower Commune, the Farm, etc. But Wally and I, and most of us in The Movement, were “Summer soldiers and Sunshine patriots” in the words of Tom Paine. We considered ourselves revolutionaries but in truth we’d essentially made peace with “The System.”

I became a member of the Winter Soldier Organization of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War in 1975. VVAW/WSO was the vanguard of the GI/Veterans Movement during the Vietnam War, a practical example of revolutionary defeatism. After the Tet Offensive the US was losing the war although few citizens realized it and almost none admitted it. There were nearly a half million American troops in-country by 1967. Whereas Black Americans constituted just 12% of the population, they occupied 31% of the ground combat positions in Vietnam and suffered 24% of the casualties. Martin Luther King called Vietnam a white man’s war but a Black man’s fight. It was also a rich man’s war but a poor man’s fight, in that high school grads had to go off to fight in Vietnam while the children of the educated got college deferments.

American soldiers were considered a horror and an abomination who killed babies, perpetrated genocide, and promoted imperialism. Drug use among the troops—from marijuana to heroin—was rampant, as was racial unrest. What followed was the near-collapse of the US Military with murder, riot, beatings, arson and mass refusal to deploy or follow orders. Troop casualties rose annually, reaching nearly 17,000 in 1968, at which time Nixon’s multilayered strategy went into effect. A growing number of US military bases in this country and abroad were host to anti-war GI coffee houses off-base where propaganda, support and organizing was available. And veterans were returning to the burgeoning mass Anti-Vietnam War Movement in the streets spearheading creative protests like Operation Dewey Canyon III in 1971 where Vietnam Veterans Against the War threw back their medals, awards, ribbons and commendations onto the US Capitol building.

VVAW pioneered some of the more imaginative tactics known to The Movement. It advanced veterans rights and health advocacy, fighting to recognize the dangers of Agent Orange and the disabilities of PTSD. After 1973, it pursued a more and more explicit anti-imperialist line, and opened its membership to civilians with the Winter Soldier Organization auxiliary. But by the time I started volunteering for VVAW/WSO’s Vets Coop in Santa Cruz in the beginning of 1975, participation in The Movement and membership in VVAW/WSO had declined precipitously. The Maoist Bay Area Revolutionary Union (BARU) started infiltrating the organization, seizing control of the National Office through which it removed members, expelled chapters, disbanded the WSO and placed the organization under ideological conformity. VVAW was integrated into the RU which—with the Revolutionary Student Brigade, Unemployed Workers Organizing Committee, National United Workers Organization and Wei Min She—reconstituted itself as the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) under the pro-Gang of Four leadership of Bob Avakian.

Vietnam veterans were a minority of American veterans in 1975 yet their problems—homelessness, indigence, drug addiction, suicide, physical disabilities, mental illness—became the default face of all veterans. What’s more they were accorded no sympathy because they were supposed to have served their country out of patriotism, nationalism and loyalty, yet had rebelled and mutinied to the point of crippling the US military.

Military mutinies among conscripts have been common throughout history. The first World War was nearly scuttled by waves of revolutionary defeatism—mutinies and rebellions of enlisted and drafted soldiers and sailors on both sides of the conflict. Leaving aside dubious notions of “honor” military conscripts are duty-bound to serve, forced in fact by law. They’re not told “thank you for your service.” That phrase came into vogue after the advent of the All-Volunteer Military as sport stadium’s full of lazy entitled civilian spectators gave standing ovations to thank volunteer troops for serving in the military. I’d rather honor the Vietnam-era soldiers, sailors, marines and pilots—draftees all—whose greater service to humanity nearly broke the American empire with acts of revolutionary defeatism.

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National liberation: “Lefty” Hooligan, “What’s Left?”, February 2024

Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh! The NLF is gonna win!

The chant rang out from certain quarters of the Anti-Vietnam War Movement during marches and rallies. It was voiced by anti-imperialist components of the movement, a minority element comparable to the pacifist portion that believed in nonviolence and called themselves “the Peace Movement.” Most of the rest of us were neither anti-imperialists nor pacifists, and while some of us considered ourselves revolutionaries few of us were sycophantic cheerleaders for Third World national liberation movements.

Last column I discussed how the GI organization Vietnam Veterans Against the War was a stellar example of revolutionary defeatism during the Long 60s. The concept of revolutionary defeatism arose with the first World War, the near global conflict between the Allied and Central European powers and their colonial empires. European Social Democratic Parties—all avowedly Marxist and internationalist, some like the Social Democratic Party of Germany extremely popular, and none in power prior to 1914—split when the war began. The majority of these parties went pro-war, and defended their respective countries involvement in the war effort. Hence the term revolutionary defensism and the epithet social patriotism.

The social democratic minority—Luxemburg, Lenin, Liebknecht, Kautsky, Jaurès, et al—called themselves genuine internationalists, defended radical class struggle, and espoused revolutionary defeatism. The ruling classes of nations at war send their working classes to fight and die in battle against each other, so workers can never win when fighting capitalist wars. Workers need to turn these nationalistic conflicts into civil war and then international proletarian revolution to overthrow their national bourgeoisies. The imperialist ruling classes are the only true enemy and workers of the world need to turn their guns against them.

The VVAW attempted to do just that and caused the near collapse of the US Military in the process. But there are limitations to considering the GI revolt during the Vietnam War as unalloyed revolutionary defeatism. First, the concept had its ascendency during and soon after the first World War which experienced dozens of troop mutinies and a half dozen mostly-failed social revolutions. Revolutionary defeatism was a real option, as was the potential for international socialist revolution. In the Long 60s however, and despite our wishful thinking that revolution was imminent in America, the VVAW and the larger 60s social movements didn’t have any real opportunity for overthrowing the US government or Western imperialism.

Second, while the VVAW arguably practiced a form of revolutionary defeatism, the Vietnamese side of the war was not practicing revolutionary defeatism but rather revolutionary defensism. Right off, I’ll get blowback contending that the Vietnamese fight was not revolutionary defensism but a genuine “socialist struggle for national liberation.” To understand why the distinction is not so clear-cut, start with the preamble of Marxism’s retreat into nationalism.

When Social Democracy split into a “social patriotic” majority and a newly-minted Communist minority, the latter’s internationalism was short-lived. After the Russian Revolution, Lenin and the Bolsheviks were keen advocates of anti-imperialism and self-determination for all peoples, demanding freedom from colonial oppression for the Third World. Marxist-Leninists insisted they stood for international socialism, yet they also insisted that national liberation movements were not about chauvinism but about revolutionary democracy. Stalin took power in 1924 and declared his doctrine of “socialism in one country.” Mao then insisted that “Chinese Communists must therefore combine patriotism with internationalism.” These are the cornerstones of Third World national liberation struggles, including the Vietnamese one.

Imperialism and colonialism were also defining characteristics of Third World national liberation struggles, starting with the small elite of the colonized class that emerged during the colonial period known as the national bourgeoisie. This Third World national bourgeoisie was Western educated and organized with the consent of and by the imperial interests of the colonial powers. (Regarding Vietnam, Hồ Chí Minh traveled extensively throughout the West, gaining his political education and commitment to socialism while living in France. Võ Nguyên Giáp studied at the French Indochinese University at Hanoi.) The native bourgeoisie in the Third World possessed limited capital and so cooperated in the exploitation of their nations with their colonial overlords. Their commitment to nationalism was an article of blind faith, and their national liberation struggles were an uncritical replica of European modernity, born of the successful bourgeois revolutions starting in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Their commitment to socialism was frequently born of Leninist vanguard party politics and Stalinist “socialism in one country” ideology. This national bourgeoisie, once in power, administered imperialism, decolonization, capital accumulation and the restoration of ruling class power. The national bourgeoisie claimed to be revolutionary and benefit “the people,” but in fact they underdeveloped certain sectors of their national economy while developing the whole economy to assist imperialist exploitation, and thus made the people dependent on global capitalism through hegemonic practices like national debt. (Vietnamese sweatshops mercilessly exploited native/child labor and indebted the country to the World Bank as Vietnam ostensibly became a mixed “socialist-oriented market economy.”) Ultimately, this native bourgeoisie prevented their people from achieving their full potential and maximizing their wealth by separating the working classes from direct ownership and control of the means of production, specifically the land. This is classic substitutionism; of the vanguard party substituting in power for the working classes, and of the central committee or the chairman substituting for the vanguard party. This national bourgeoisie was relentless against workers and people holding resources coveted by that bourgeoisie, insisting once in power that they were presiding over the end of colonialism, the birth of socialism, and the achievement of true national liberation. Rather than helping the people and the workers however, they only helped themselves and often the imperialists of a global capitalism.

National liberation struggles in the Third World attempted to mimic Europe in virtually every way, and not just its sometimes virulent nationalism. The contradictions between the French Revolution’s “Rights of Man” with its supposed humanism, freedom and autonomy and the increased exploitation, slavery and even mass murder of European history are paralleled in the Third World as it decolonized. (Vietnamese “re-education camps,” forced labor and economic relocations, brutal treatment of national minorities like the Hmong, Montagnards and Khmer Krom, expulsion of boat people, atrocities and massacres committed during Vietnam’s invasion and occupation of Cambodia, all while professing the ideals of “international socialism.”) Third World national liberation struggles attempted to “overcome” racism by instigating their own, often more relentless racism within the racist framework inherited from Europe. Much as European racism was initiated and fueled by Spanish, Portuguese, English and other colonialist powers through “primitive accumulation” against native peoples in the Americas and the rest of the world, Third World national liberation recapitulated both Europe’s “primitive accumulation” and racism. The national/racial/ethnic identities constructed by these struggles were in turn joined to the alienation, fragmentation, and consumerism fostered first by monopoly capitalism and then late-stage capitalism.

Third World national liberation movements, once in power, had numerous other problems beginning with failing to stem the flow of capital out of their country despite efforts at decolonization and anti-imperialism after political liberation. This is partly due to false decolonization and anti-imperialism. According to Franz Fanon, “if the native bourgeoisie takes over power, the new state, in spite of its formal sovereignty, remains in the hands of the imperialists.” But it’s also due to rampant corruption, and not just state capture where private interests significantly influence a state’s decision-making processes to their own advantage. Widespread systemic political corruption, the corruption of politicians, bureaucrats and civil servants as well as the commodification of everything, including the integrity and conscience of the leadership, accounted for the flight of capital. (Vietnam’s rates of political/party corruption, bribery, etc stand second only to India, with foreign direct investment lagging at barely $28.5 billion, far below its ASEAN neighbors, due to mistrust.)

Third World national liberation struggles had hazy definitions of “democracy” that separated political from economic democracy, adulterated participatory democracy with Leninist faux democratic centralism, and postured that one-party dictatorships were actually European-style social democracies. Similarly, imprecise applications of “socialism” and “Marxism” were often insufficient, usually cultural formations disguised as economic, and denying the importance of economic democracy, workers’ self-management and community control against state ownership and bureaucratic control. The national bourgeoisie pretended to usher in democracy and socialism while actually incorporating itself within and entrenching the global capitalist system of imperialism. Thus national liberation movements seamlessly coalesced with new, anti-colonial forms of imperialism. Third World national liberation struggles, their politics and manifestations, became reified. György Lukács in History and Class Consciousness called reification “the structural process whereby the commodity form permeates life in capitalist society.” Since all is capitalism these days—from the inner workings of individual consciousness to external corporatist economic structures, from “socialist” China and Vietnam to Campist so-called anti-imperialist regimes—we live in a totally reified world. The distinction between revolutionary defeatism versus revolutionary defensism I initially expressed by comparing the Vietnam Veterans Against the War to Vietnam’s national liberation struggle remains. Sanctifying national liberation is fraught at best, lethal at worst.
– – – – –

Half of this column was stolen from Idylls, Imitation, Ideology and Imperialism: A Fanonian Critique of National Liberation by Seshadari Jesse Moodley,  Picasso said mediocre artists borrow, great artists steal. I’m not a great writer, but I do know when someone is. This University of Cape Town MA thesis is brilliant.

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Defeatism: “Lefty” Hooligan, “What’s Left?”, March 2024

I had an unquestioned moral certitude early in life. I was a pacifist for a New York minute in 1968. To create a peaceful world I believed you needed to practice nonviolence. I was a left anarchist for some two decades. To realize an anti-authoritarian society I believed you needed to use anarchistic organizational methods. I was an anti-state communist for another two decades. To implement a revolutionary defeatism I believed you needed to demand no war but the class war. I subscribed to a kind of political homeopathy, a theory of treating “like with like.” It was the classic “ ends and means” discussion from a purist perspective.

Those who pursue political purity rarely attain their goals however. Mahatma Gandhi played a part in the horrific intercommunal riots between Muslims and Hindus when India and Pakistan sundered the subcontinent thanks to British colonial disentanglement in 1947. Spanish anarchists perpetrated repressive massacres in seeking revenge against the autocratic Spanish clergy, aristocracy and bourgeoisie during the 1936-39 civil war. The mutinous troops and largely failed social revolutions from the first World War continued the process of reducing much of Europe to rubble. Given humanity’s violent history I’m prone to see pacifism, anarchism and revolutionary defeatism as half-baked forms of idealism, misplaced theories that never become reality beyond a year or two of blood and slaughter.

My last three columns focus on the strategy of revolutionary defeatism that emerged from the near global conflict between the Allied and Central European powers and their colonial empires from 1914 through 1918. Defeatism was embraced by the minority international socialist tendency of the disbanded social democratic Second International that espoused true internationalism, anti-militarism and radical class struggle. They opposed social revolution to war and advocated fighting against “one’s own” bourgeoisie and nation, turning their guns against their leaders. The OG Zimmerwald defeatists asserted the international proletariat could not win in a capitalist war. The true enemy of the proletariat were the imperialist leaders who send their lower classes into battle. Workers gained most from their own nation’s defeats if the war could be turned into civil war and then international revolution. Today, revolutionary defeatism is being touted by class war anarchists, anti-state communists and revolutionary internationalists.

According to Hal Draper per his The Myth of Lenin’s “Revolutionary Defeatism” however Vladimir Lenin abandoned defeatism early on due to sectarianism, correct Marxist analysis, Russian feudal history, and a consistent revolutionary anti-war position. Draper further argued that even the non-Bolshevik anti-war socialist-internationalists like Leon Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg were not defeatist, but rather Third Campist. They insisted that the international working class remain opposed to either side of any imperialist war and constitute itself an independently organized, autonomous Third Camp seeking  not defeat but “the victory of their own working class struggle for socialism.” For Lenin, Luxemburg and Trotsky the goal was winning socialism for the working class. Lenin put forward a “variety of shifting and inconsistent formulations on ‘defeatism’ at various times,” but we’re interested in “the canonical form of ‘defeatism’” codified as Leninism and adopted by defeatists today.

The history of revolutionary defeatism is at best one of Pyrrhic victories. The Russians lost 1,500,000 civilians and 1,811,000 military casualties during the first World War. After two revolutions the Bolsheviks forced Russia to withdraw from the war, but the revolutionary defeatist wave of the working classes across Europe did not stop the war. It contributed to the collapse of the Central Powers’ war effort, but the Allied Powers continued fighting unabated. The rebellions were all brutally crushed by their respective ruling classes, eventually giving rise to Fascism in their stead. Sadly, the failed troop mutinies and aborted European social revolutions are socialist heroes and martyrs minus the socialist victories. Most occurred only at a horrific cost to the working class itself. This hasn’t stopped the current crop of revolutionary defeatists from converting the dubious history of defeatism into a transhistoric principle, a new orthodoxy and an old myth: “Then of course we remember that at the start of the First World War, the revolutionaries were a tiny minority. Yet four years later they stopped the war.”

Buenaventura Durruti, the revolutionary anarchist-syndicalist member of the CNT/FAI and workers’ militia leader once commented that:

We have always lived in slums and holes in the wall. We will know how to accommodate ourselves for a while. For you must not forget that we can also build. It is we who built these palaces and cities, here in Spain and America and everywhere. We, the workers. We can build others to take their place. And better ones. We are not in the least afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth; there is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world here, in our hearts. That world is growing in this minute.

First, consider the death toll. As the Red Army battled the combined White Armies during the civil war from 1917 to 1923 Russia experienced a loss of 7 to 12 million mostly civilian casualties. Forty million civilians and military personnel died during the first World War, fifty-three million perished during the second World War and twenty-five million expired during the Cold War.  Given another fifteen to twenty million snuffed out since the collapse of the Soviet Union and we’re still left with a planet overwhelmingly dominated by capitalism and the bourgeoisie. Durruti’s “new world in our hearts” promised by the Russian Revolution, Soviet bloc, and attendant Third World national liberation movements never materialized. Most in the present internationalist, anti-militarist, revolutionary defeatist bloc would consider that vision flawed from the start, a faux utopia betrayed by vanguardism and nationalism. And what does it mean if Durruti’s ruins are ultimately radioactive, infectious or poisonous?

I started by relating my naive youthful commitment to principles, purity and moralism through my involvement in pacifism, left anarchism and anti-state communism. Libcom, RevLeft, Insurgent Notes and similar forums are replete with essays, articles and declarations insisting that defeatism requires a commitment to principles, purity and moralism and is the only true revolutionary political strategy. Certainly their conflation of means with ends is similar. Yet in my opinion the need for an effective radical praxis remains. I’ve talked in the past about a disingenuous “diversity of tactics” that nevertheless fails to square the circle of means and ends or assuage the brutality of realpolitik. The Long 60s developed a pragmatic baseline politics of survival that countered oppression based on Malcolm X’s catchphrase “by any means necessary.” Ultimately, its become my go-to stance for politics beyond equating means with ends.

If revolutionary defeatism during its prime (1917-1922) is considered a success by its present-day proponents, we unfortunately know what failure looks like.  There are two mid-sized wars (Russia/Ukraine, Israel/Palestine) and dozens of spot conflicts (Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Burma, Mali, Burkina Faso, Myanmar, et al) around the globe today. No major wars, no regional conflicts, and no world wars. Yet the advocates for revolutionary defeatism adhere to their orthodoxy and treat every conflict as if Lenin were declaring the April Theses. Civil war not civil peace! Revolutionary defeatism against all bourgeoisie! Not one tank for Ukraine!

I openly support the Ukrainian people against Russian imperialism and I’m unapologetically pro-Jewish, anti-Israeli state, pro-Palestinian, and anti-Hamas armed party in the Israel/Palestine conflict. I’m also against US imperialism and NATO expansionism. I’m not concerned with political purity or finding a politically correct algorithm for revolutionary demands. In part that’s because of the sectarianism that such pursuit of principles engenders even among die-hard class war leftists. It’s been eighty-seven years after the Condor Legion of Nazi Germany’s Luftwaffe and the Italian Aviazione Legionaria bombed the town of Guernica into oblivion to demonstrate the effects of total warfare. The destructive power and genocidal potential of modern warfare has only multiplied exponentially. The capacity to proliferate a Nazi Holocaust or Cambodian genocide has never been greater. Little wonder that Ukrainians and Palestinians are worried about being annihilated by an enemy that will not be fazed by their attempts at revolutionary defeatism.

But Class War/Třídní Válka in Milan, Italy reveals how skewed the revolutionary defeatist orthodoxy is. “We support the need for defeatism in the ongoing war in Ukraine, against Russian imperialism and against the US/Europe/NATO imperialist bloc, against the prospect of a global, inter-capitalist war, starting from this war.” Yet Třídní Válka stands “on the side of the Palestinian masses” and “against the ethnic cleansing of Palestine,” in that the “Western ‘democratic world’ is collaborating in the erasure of the very existence of the Palestinians.”

I argued last column that national liberation struggles, while ostensibly independent and socialist, share most of the same features of bourgeois nationalism and empire. Both consider the nation-state the be-all-and-end-all in its founding, defense, and expansion; both suppress or conceal class divisions beneath nationalism and nationality; both lend in the formation of the national or global bourgeoisie; and both serve the interests of the ruling class. These common features of all nationalisms are precisely what left anarchists, anti-state communists and revolutionary internationalists—our present-day defeatists—should categorically reject. Either the international working class is united and one and it’s “no war but the class war.” Or special dispensation is made for the most ethnically oppressed among the proletariat.

Politics based on pragmatism, contingency and the practical details of any given scenario are par for the course. I’m much more interested in revolutionary socialist strategy, but unfortunately this discussion has been singularly bereft of both successful revolution and socialism. The “like treats like” political homeopathy I began with is looking more like magical, ineffectual thinking. That usually means I have a lot more analyzing to do. More to the point, what needs to be considered is the suicidal consequences of defeatism as a strategy, best exemplified by the routed German Revolution of 1918-1919. That’s when on January 15, 1919 Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were assassinated and martyred by the proto-Fascist paramilitary Freikorps. This was typical of the fate of the defeatist efforts to stop the war in general. Far from “blaming the victims” I hope to challenge what I consider to be a losing anti-militarist strategy. We need to take seriously the task of winning the revolutionary struggle for socialism.

Comments

westartfromhere

3 months 1 week ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on March 3, 2024

Troop casualties rose annually, reaching nearly 17,000 in 1968...

There are two mid-sized wars (Russia/Ukraine, Israel/Palestine) and dozens of spot conflicts (Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Burma, Mali, Burkina Faso, Myanmar, et al) around the globe today.

In 2021, 54% of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. were suicides (26,328), while 43% were murders (20,958), according to the CDC.

Who needs inter-national or civil war when we have a homegrown self-inflicted massacre?

I openly support the Ukrainian people against Russian imperialism and I’m unapologetically pro-Jewish, anti-Israeli state, pro-Palestinian, and anti-Hamas armed party in the Israel/Palestine conflict. I’m also against US imperialism and NATO expansionism. I’m not concerned with political purity...

Purity is one thing but putting your support behind the "Ukrainian people", the Jewish people, the Palestinian people... indiscriminantly with no reference to social class ends up in a quagmire. Why not lend your support to the working class and damnation on the ones that are profiting from our misery?

If, by "people", you refer to "those with no special status within civil society", I agree wholeheartedly. Long live the people!

I hope to challenge what I consider to be a losing anti-militarist strategy. We need to take seriously the task of winning the revolutionary struggle for socialism.

Agreed. Anti-militarism just sounds like an anarchist catchphrase with no basis in reality and no chance of achieving what it professes to.

Třídní Válka ("Class Struggle") reveals how skewed the revolutionary defeatist orthodoxy is. “We support the need for defeatism in the ongoing war in Ukraine, against Russian imperialism and against the US/Europe/NATO imperialist bloc, against the prospect of a global, inter-capitalist war, starting from this war.” Yet Třídní Válka stands “on the side of the Palestinian masses” and “against the ethnic cleansing of Palestine,” in that the “Western ‘democratic world’ is collaborating in the erasure of the very existence of the Palestinians.”

The inter-national war between Ukraine, and its proxy allies, and Russia, and its proxy allies, is just that, an inter-national war for imperial gains. The war on Gaza, and its environs, is not properly speaking a war. It is a massacre of the regional working class of Gaza. There is only one belligerent nation, the State of Israel, with its supposed opposition, the Hamas power structure within Gaza, acting as policeman behind the lines, in a similar way that the Nazi-created Judenräte (“Jewish Councils”) acted as policeman of the Warsaw Ghetto. What position can one take to the Ukraine-Russia war and the War on Gaza other than a skewed one?

Ironically, Hooligan, in attempting to criticise the position you describe above you have shown readers—myself included—the only possible classist position that is true to our class struggle. All other positions are classist positions in defence of the bourgeois classes.

westartfromhere

3 months ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on March 9, 2024

It seems that we are faced with a stark choice. Either we find some means of actively opposing the ongoing slaughter between the defacto EU forces and the Russian forces, or we lament the war and utter vagaries such as, I "support the Ukrainian people".

Guerre de Classe

3 months ago

Submitted by Guerre de Classe on March 10, 2024

The positions of Class War/Třídní válka regarding the "War in Gaza" is clear - it stands neither with "Israel" nor with "Palestine", but only with the struggle of our class against the class of our exploiters and their wars they want to impose on us.

Class War/Třídní válka expressed this position clearly in its leaflet published on its blog on October 8th, 2023 here: https://www.autistici.org/tridnivalka/from-gaza-to-tel-aviv-and-to-the-whole-world-no-war-but-class-war/ and by publishing since then revolutionary defeatist materials of other groups on the topic of "War in Gaza".

Class War/Třídní válka did not participate in any sort of meeting or gathering in Milan that you are referring to, where it would express the positions you are accusing it of.

Perhaps you are confusing it with the action call by the group "Centro di documentazione contro la guerra", that Class War/Třídní válka have published here: https://www.autistici.org/tridnivalka/noallaguerra-against-the-war-strikes-and-demonstrations-on-friday-october-20-and-saturday-october-21/

If you read the presentation as well as the editorial note, Class War/Třídní válka's position will be clear to you.

Cheers!

Submitted by westartfromhere on March 10, 2024

Guerre de Classe wrote: The positions of Class War/Třídní válka regarding the "War in Gaza" is clear - it stands neither with "Israel" nor with "Palestine", but only with the struggle of our class against the class of our exploiters and their wars they want to impose on us.

For more detailed analysis of class relations within the State of Israel, see Gaza: An Extreme Militarization of the Class War, Emilio Minassian interviewed by Serpents de la mer.

Reddebrek

2 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by Reddebrek on March 17, 2024

I don't think combining these three essays together helps with the clarity of what point you're trying to get across.
Defeatism is a flawed strategy and I too was surprised to see so many latch onto it and the myths over WWI, but don't see whatever project you're advocating in response is and since it apparently includes the lessons of Lenin and Trotsky who carried out multiple wars of conquest and led their country back into the fold of the world order I doubt there's much merit in it. Were you even aware that much of the Soviet Union joined the revolution by military occupation? You cite Lenin on his stance on minorities and critique it on grounds of bourgeois nationalism, but I didn't see anything about annexation, which to me is the greater issue than Draper's documentation of theoretical sliding.

Don't know why you've included Durruti and Spain here either, that conflict was started by the Spanish military launching its campaign with the opposition scrambling to oppose them, the revolutionaries such as they were, played the role of counter-reaction. It also demonstrated for a time a class based response to the conflict, the majority of the early militants were workers and the majority of the fighters for the rebels were career soldiers, with both sides reinforced by domestic and foreign partisans, and the conflict largely moved into democracy vs dictatorship. Do you wish to see the Spanish Civil War as an alternative model? Your commentary is hostile, but it appears to tick most of the boxes you've set for it.

And you're referring to Liebknecht and Luxemburg's death as an example of the failures of defeatism just confuses things further. When they were murdered, the situation had developed into a civil and social war in much of Germany. They were murdered as potential ringleaders of dissent. I have my criticisms of the strategy of German revolutionaries in general and those two in particular, but they were at least trying to promote a social revolution.

I think, reading between the lines, you want a fighting international force. Well, Against NATO and the Warsaw Pact was the sketch of a potential way for such a force to exist. There was also the First of May group and its network of sympathetic action groups in the 1970s.