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The Myth of Lenin’s ‘Revolutionary Defeatism’

Hal Draper

This study was first published in New International, theoretical journal of the US Independent Socialist League. It appeared as a 3-part series in Vol.XIX No.5 (September-October 1953), Vol.XIX No.6 (November-December 1953) and Vol.XX No.1 (January-February 1954). We are grateful to Barry Buitekant for providing us with copies.


The Content of the Myth • What Does Defeatism Mean? • Lenin’s Combination

I. The Marx-Engels–Second International Tradition
Marx’s Criterion in the Pre-Imperialist Epoch • The "Special Position" on War Against Tsarism • How Zinoviev Makes a Defeatist Out of Engels • How Zinoviev Invents a "Defeatism" for Plekhanov • Summary

II. Defeatism in the Russo-Japanese War
The Peculiarity of Zinoviev’s History • Zinoviev’s Fake Examples • Anti-War Moods in Russia • Pro-Japan Defeatism • Lenin’s Pro-Japan Position • Guesde and Hyndman • The 2nd International • The Mensheviks’ Position • The "Special Russian" Character of Lenin’s Line

III. Lenin’s Defeat-Slogan 1914-16
Formulation No.1: The "Lesser Evil" Formula • Rejection of Defeatism in the Bolshevik Ranks • Whittling Down the "Lesser Evil" Formula • Formulation No.2: "Defeat Facilitiates ... • Formulation No.3: "Wish Defeat in Every Country" • The Baugy Group’s Attack • Formulation No.4: "Don’t Halt Before the Risk ..." • Summary: The 4 Formulas • Trotsky’s Attack on the Defeat-Slogan • Lenin’s Polemic Against Trotsky on Defeatism • The Rest of the Record: Aug. 1915 to Nov. 1916 • When Defeatism Was Not Put Forward

IV. First World War: Zinoviev, Trotsky, Luxemburg
On the "Lesser Evil" • The "Methodology of Social-Patriotism" • Defeat and the Interests of the People • Pseudonym for Revolution • The Social-Patriotic Version of Defeatism • Trotsky on "Neither Victory nor Defeat" • Rosa Luxemburg on Victory and Defeat

V. The Abandonment of Defeatism in 1917
"We Were Not Defeatists" • Bath in Social-Patriotism • Political Freedom and "Conscientious Defensism" • A Non-Defensist Program for the Defense of the Nation New Attitude to Defeat • Summary

VI. After Lenin: Revival and Reinterpretation
The First Five Years of the C.I. – No Defeatism • How Zinoviev Revived Defeatism in 1924 • Trotsky Sidesteps • Trotsky’s Formula in 1934 • How Trotsky Hung on to the Term Defeatism • Exegesis in the Trotskyist Movement • Shachtman’s New Line • How Shachtman Explains Lenin’s Defeatism • What Does Shachtman’s Position Mean? • On Lenin’s Motivation • "One-Way" Defeatism?


"All of Marx is contained in the Communist Manifesto, in the foreword of his Critique and in Capital. Even if he had not been the founder of the First International, he would always have remained what he is. Lenin, on the contrary, lives entirely in revolutionary action. Had he not published a single book in the past, he would nonetheless appear in history as that which he is now, as the leader of the proletarian revolution, as the founder of the Third International." Leon Trotsky

"When Vladimir Ilyitch once observed me glancing through a collection of his articles written in the year 1903, which had just been published, a sly smile crossed his face, and he remarked with a laugh: ‘It is very interesting to read what stupid fellows we were!’"1

Since the First World War, more than one generation in the Marxist movement has been brought up, in good part, on a close study of Lenin’s anti-war position.

Lenin was not the only Marxist of the time who reacted to the war with a policy of consistent and thorough opposition to all varieties of "social-patriotism" or "social-chauvinism". But even in comparison with the other anti-war socialists, his writings on the war have a special force because of the exceptionally clear fashion in which he did one thing: he analyzed the political character of the war in the context of the new epoch of capitalism-imperialism.

Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg (to take these as the best examples of the non-Bolshevik socialist-internationalists) did so also; the difference is in degree, not in kind; but no one so successfully hammered this home as sharply as did Lenin, and on so well thought-out a theoretical basis. His study of imperialism as a stage of capitalism, together with the political approach to the war question which flowed from it, was Lenin’s chief theoretical contribution to the arsenal of Marxism.

In most other respects, as Lenin rightly saw it himself, his role was to revive and reanimate the revolutionary substance of Marxism that had been overlaid by the creeping reformism of the Second International. In this respect, however, he did not merely revive: he had to, and did, readapt Marxism and its ideas to a new epoch. From that time on, the Marxist analysis of war had a new starting point.

The old starting point, the starting point of Marx and Engels and the old Second International, was one that had befitted the previous epoch of capitalism, the pre-imperialist era when progressive wars by the young, rising bourgeoisies of Europe were not only possible but of great historic significance. In this epoch of struggles between bourgeoisies engaged in progressive tasks and outlived classes seeking to block the road of capitalist progress, Marx and Engels had asked themselves typically: The victory of which contender will be of the greatest advantage to the working class and the possibilities of socialist revolution? Which is more progressive and which more reactionary? Whose victory is the lesser evil? Whose victory will help to widen the road down which the working class can march to intervene in the name of its own interests? And conversely: whose defeat will help to eliminate an important force which blocks the road to progress?

By 1907 the anti-war resolutions of the Second International had already implicitly broken with this approach, but only implicitly. The world war that all saw looming ahead was imperialist on all sides. The 1907 Stuttgart and 1912 Basle resolutions of the Second International did not pose the question in the old way: namely, the victory or defeat of which war coalition will be best for us? Instead, the political attitude which they recommended was dictated by the facts of life, the reality of the imperialist era and its manifestations, pointed out in detail in the resolutions; but there was no consistent and conscious realization that a great change had occurred in theory. When the war broke out and the wave of chauvinism and patriotic hysteria swept over the belligerent nations, it was easy for the social-democratic parties, rotted from within by reformism, to snap back to the standpoint of the past, from which they had never consciously broken, and which afforded them the rationalizations they needed to justify their betrayal of their anti-war pledges.

In 1914, Lenin, like the other "orthodox Marxist" leaders of Second International parties, had not yet really worked out the foundations of the new standpoint on war. But unlike them he reacted to the war on the political bases already implied by the Basle and Stuttgart resolutions – and proceeded to go beyond them, to make explicit and theoretically founded the viewpoint there contained, and to Work out the political tactics that followed. The thinking of the Second International snapped back to the old bases as if on the end of a rubber band which had been stretched far beyond its normal scope-but only stretched; Lenin reacted by breaking the old bond.

But the old Marx-Engels-Second International tradition was strong, stronger than Lenin knew. It was deeply embedded in the thinking of all them, Lenin included, and had only been overlaid by the impress of events. Lenin too retained more of it than he was aware.

This was the fundamental reason why there remained with him an idea which constituted, in truth, an alien intrusion into the body of his politics – better still, a fossil remnant. It was this, we shall show, which gave rise to the notion which later came to be called "revolutionary defeatism".

The Content of the Myth
At a certain time after Lenin’s death, and for reasons which we shall see, this "defeatism" became a fixed part of the Lenin-canon; to question it was to question a "fundamental principle" of Leninism. That it is any principle at all is part of a myth. The rest of the myth includes the following:

(1) During the war Lenin alone adopted a completely consistent and uncompromising policy of opposition to the war, all others among the anti-war socialists being guilty of some "centrist" deviation or other or of some unclarity tending in such direction.

(2) In this "defeatist" principle was contained the very heart of Lenin’s anti-war, position; or as it has sometimes been put, this "defeatism" of Lenin’s "summed up" his anti-war politics.

(3) Such "defeatism" is the necessary alternative to defensism – these being the only consistent choices. To reject "defeatism" means to make some degree of concession to social-patriotism.

(4) This "defeatism" had a whole historical tradition and was not merely invented by Lenin. Its historical precedent was particularly to be found in the "defeatism" which permeated all classes of Russian society in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5, this experience being the reason why the Bolsheviks so readily came to the "defeatist" position in 1914.

So goes the myth. [Note 1]

When we look at Lenin’s writings themselves we will find a variety of shifting and inconsistent formulations on "defeatism" at various times, but the part which has entered into the canonical form of "defeatism" includes the following.

(1) In a reactionary war, you must wish for the defeat of "your own" government, desire defeat, be in favor of defeat, nothing less than defeat.

(2) It was not enough, then, merely to be against the war, against voting the war credits for example; it was not enough to organize or be in favor of organizing mass struggles against the war; it was not enough to organize or be in favor of organizing mass struggles against the war; it was not enough to denounce "defense of the fatherland" and its social-patriotic proponents; it was not enough, certainly, to denounce the consequences of military victory by "one’s own" government, since there were "centrist" positions which were "against both victory and defeat". In fact, an anti-war position which fell short of avowed defeatism was either "left-centrist" or tinged with pacifism, or, at the very best, it was an "unconscious" defeatism which could not be carried out consistently and fearlessly in action until the "slogan of defeat" itself was embraced.

Lenin’s claims during the 1914-16 period, and he counterposed them in polemic to the anti-war views of Trotsky and Luxemburg. The latter two (to continue to use them as examples of the non-Bolshevik opposition to the war) held the same analysis of the war and of what-is-to-be-done as did Lenin, straight down the line on all essential questions which were moot among the socialist left, including the need for breaking with the Second International and forming a new revolutionary international. [Note 2] But Trotsky specifically attacked Lenin’s "slogan of defeat", and Luxemburg (who possibly never even heard of it during the war) wrote along a line which precluded any sympathy for it. What exactly would have been added, supposedly, to their anti-war clarity or effectiveness if they had proclaimed "For defeat in the war", in addition to the position they held?

In the later exegesis of the Trotskyist movement, Trotsky (for example) was retroactively admitted into the ranks of the wartime defeatists on the ground that this term is "really only a synonym" for an internationalist opponent of imperialist war. If it is only this synonym, as has been often stated, then most of what Lenin actually wrote on the subject, even abstracting the polemical heat, was a congeries of nonsense; whereas in truth it was merely a congeries of confusion. In any case we have to find out what Lenin meant by his "slogan of defeat", as distinct from the later reinterpreters who confounded his confusion with their own.

For this purpose the test question is not what Lenin meant as against the pro-war defensists, but what he meant as against the other anti-war socialists who held the Third Camp point of view, like Trotsky and Luxemburg, but who were not "defeatists".

What Does Defeatism Mean?
Our study of what Lenin meant by his "defeatism" will begin with the historical sources of his conception, rather than by trying directly to take hold of the tangled threads of his 1914-16 formulations and shifts. This means beginning some distance away, with the Marx-Engels-Second International period, and then with the period of the Russo-Japanese War.

In doing so, however, we shall have to refer often to the attempts which were made in 1914-16 by Zinoviev, as Lenin’s righthand collaborator on the editorial board of Sotsial-Demokrat, to invent an historical tradition for their "defeatism" in precisely these two periods. Part of Zinoviev’s stock-in-trade in this strenuous endeavor is a systematic confusion of their "defeatism" with entirely different political viewpoints which might be called defeatism too.

(1) The most obvious and, at first blush, painfully unnecessary point to make is that there is another word, also spelled "defeatism", in various languages, which means a mood of pessimistic, despairing or hopeless resignation to admitting defeat. We think it can be shown that this other meaning enters into Zinoviev’s 1915-16 articles on "defeatist" moods among the Russian people during the Russo-Japanese War, and also into the writings of bourgeois historians on the same "defeatist" moods, the latter being under the doubled disadvantage of not understanding anything about political defeatism in the first place.

(2) Not less elementary but more important: Obviously not everyone who is for the defeat of some government in a war is a "defeatist". Every pro-war patriot is for defeat – of the enemy government. In the First World War, it was the pro-war socialists who were most enthusiastically for defeat – of the enemy government. In a just war which we support, we are for defeat-of the enemy government. Is it really necessary to point this out? Well, we find Zinoviev making a point of the fact that even Engels was a "defeatist" – because he called for the defeat of tsarist Russia in a war with Germany which Engels was then ready to support as a German revolutionist!2 If Engels thus becomes a proponent of "defeatism" and a predecessor of Lenin’s war line, then Scheidemann and Ebert have an equal right to be denominated "defeatists", and it does not matter that Engels may have been correct in his time and the German social-patriots wrong in theirs.

This serves to give some example of the sort of thing of which Zinoviev’s "historical precedents" are full, reflecting on the fearful entanglement of thinking behind his articles, which were written under Lenin’s editorial eye.

In another case, Zinoviev cites as a predecessor in "defeatism" the views expressed by the French Marxist leader Jules Guesde, in 1885, about the looming conflict between England and Russia over Afghanistan.3 Guesde explains that whichever of the two governments is defeated, it will be a good thing "for us", for socialism, since both are "equally, oppressive although in different ways". His words were merely an expression of refusal: to support either war camp. But in any case he was not talking about the defeat of "his own" government.

(3) Then defeatism means desiring defeat of one’s own government, as Lenin indeed often stressed [Note 3] (Zinoviev too, for that matter!). But there is still a very notable ambiguity which this phrase covers up.

To take an example from our own day first: In the Second World War many German liberals and radicals were violently pro-war – in favor of the Allies. They were for the defeat of "their own" government. Aside from the difference in national origin, their political position was identical with that of pro-war socialists and non-socialists in the Allied war camp.

As a matter of fact, there were such "defeatists" also in the First World War, and Lenin was well acquainted with them. There were Russian socialists who were for the defeat of Russian tsarism, "their own" government, and by the same token for the victory of Germany, this being the lesser evil for them, since they took their stand not as admirers of Prussian junkerdom but as enemies of tsarism. The political position of these Russian "defeatists" was the same as that of the German social-patriots, who also were for German victory as the lesser evil.

There were also analogous tendencies among the socialists of the nationalities in the Hapsburg Empire, who were for the defeat of "their own" government – i.e., the government which oppressed them – the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. They were pro-Allied.

These were pro-war defeatists. They were defeatists because they were pro-war, "pro" the war of the imperialist camp aligned against their own rulers.

Lenin was, of course, well aware of these tendencies. He never looked upon them as defeatists, never called them defeatists, never thought of them as fellow defeatists. He classified them as social-patriots along with the other social-patriots of the Second International who ranged themselves with one or the other of the imperialist camps. In recognizing no political kinship with these defeatists, he was of course entirely correct: they were social-patriotic defeatists.

A terminological hassle ensues: according to the myth, defeatism and social-patriotism are opposites; a pro-war defeatist is something like a red blackbird. Very well then, we must re-define: a defeatist is not only one who desires the defeat of his own government but one who also does not wish the victory of the enemy camp. As a "definition" of defeatism, it is perfectly arbitrary and ad hoc, but if it is insisted on as a definition of Lenin’s special variety of defeatism, then we will find out some very peculiar things about the Lenin-myth.

Lenin’s Combination
To sum this up, then, we have the following:

(1) On the one hand, we have the leading anti-war internationalists like Trotsky and Luxemburg who were against both camps of imperialism in the war; against voting war credits; for irreconcilable class struggle during the war; for transforming the fight against the war into a fight for socialist power; for breaking with the International of the social-patriots of both camps. They counterposed, to the military victory of their own government’s imperialism, the victory of their own working-class struggle for socialism. To the military victory of their own government, they did not counterpose a desire for its military defeat. They counterposed their own socialist solution to any military outcome, victory or defeat, on the plane of the inter-imperialist conflict.

These anti-war socialists were not "defeatists".

(2) On the other hand, we have tendencies which were for the defeat of their own government and at the same time pro-war on the basis of a position politically identical with that of their fellow social-patriots across the state lines.

But in the case of the position peculiar to Lenin, we have an attempt at a different kind of "defeatism" – one which sought to combine some variety of "defeat of your own government" with the anti-war policy of opposition to both war camps.

Lenin attempted to combine defeatism and an anti-war line.

Note that this is put in a manner precisely opposite that of the Lenin-myth, which has come to paint "defeatism" as the inescapable and necessary expression of anti-war line, which cannot see any problem at all in making such a combination.

We will get a good idea of how great indeed the problem is as we follow (a) Zinoviev’s efforts to find Marxist historical sanction for his "defeatism", and (b) Lenin’s efforts to settle on a precise meaningful content for his anti-war "defeatism".

I. The Marx-Engels–Second International Tradition

The Marxists of our day are accustomed to thinking of the "lesser evil" theory in war as being characteristic of the reformist social-patriots. This is historically conditioned. The question has to be thought of in the context of the difference between the progressive period of capitalism and the imperialist stage of capitalism.

1. Marx’s Criterion in the Pre-Imperialist Epoch
When Marx and Engels, in their time, asked "The victory of which nation (i.e., which national ruling class) would have the most advantageous consequences for the working-class movement?" and decided support or non-support on this ground, this also obviously based itself on a kind of lesser-evil choice, though they did not use the term. But this approach had two fundamental historical premises:

(1) The difference between the two belligerents was not basically one of "lesser" or "greater" evil, but of the difference between the historical roles which they played. Marx and Engels’ "lesser evil" was essentially an historical category, not at bottom a matter of eclectically reckoning up "consequences" on two pans of a balance-scale. This is why Lenin was still using their method when he made his great contribution in drawing a sharp dividing line between the progressive wars of the young bourgeoisie against feudal reaction and the modern wars among bourgeoisies all of whom were gripped in a world-wide imperialism which decisively conditioned the politics and consequences of these wars. But this replaced Marx and Engels’ "lesser evil" criterion.

(2) Throughout his world-war polemics against the social-patriots, Lenin always emphasized another accompanying difference between the two epochs: Today, he argued, unlike yesterday, the struggle for socialist power is on the order of the day in Europe. The socialist working class is on the scene as a contender for power itself. This means: There may still be "lesser" and "greater" evils (there always will be) but we do not have to choose between these evils, for we represent the alternative to both of them, an alternative which is historically ripe. Moreover, under conditions of imperialism, only this revolutionary alternative offers any really progressive way out, offers any possibility of an outcome which is no evil at all. Both war camps offer only reactionary consequences, to a "lesser" or "greater" degree.

In this context, any number of quotations can be found in Marx and Engels in which they come out for the defeat of one side in a given war on the ground of the progressive consequences which would thereby be facilitated. By the same token this meant for them: preferring or desiring the victory of the other side, on the ground of the same progressive, revolutionary consequences. Their "defeatism" in these situations was the pro-war defeatism which we have discussed.

It is therefore simply quotation-mongering to utilize such expressions by Marx and Engels to "prove" that they believed that "defeat facilitates revolution". Of course they did, in given historical wars. In the same way it is just as possible to prove that "victory facilitates revolution", and this proposition was just as true in the same historical contexts.

In 1915-16 Zinoviev, the only Bolshevik propagandist who stood at Lenin’s side in support of the "slogan of defeat", specialized in such historical arguments. When we find him appealing to the authority of Marx and Engels in support of "defeatism", what he is doing in linking up this policy with the methodology of pro-war defeatism. He does not give the slightest sign of being aware of what he is doing.

Thus Zinoviev4 quotes Engels’ position on the threatened Austro-Prussian war (letter to Marx, April 2, 1866):

"Although every man who bears any part of the responsibility for this war if it breaks out deserves to be hanged, and with absolute impartiality I do not exclude the Austrians from that, yet I wish above all that the Prussians should get a monumental drubbing."5

For, says Engels, then one of two things would happen: either (1) the Austrians would dictate peace in Berlin in two weeks, thus avoiding intervention by Bonaparte, and the Berlin regime’s position would become impossible and a movement against "Prussianism" would start; or else "(2) a change-over would take place in Berlin, before the arrival of the Austrians, and the movement would begin all the same".

So in this case Engels was "for the defeat of his own government", but what this meant for him was desiring or preferring the victory of the enemy government. For Zinoviev even to use this as a "Marxist" precedent for his brand of "defeatism" is a give-away.

2. The "Special Position" on War Against Tsarism
But this methodology of Marx and Engels was directed by them, most of all and most vigorously, against tsarist Russia. To them, Russia was the prop and inciter of all reaction on the Continent, the center and fortress of counter-revolution, the inspirer and supporter of every vestige of the old regime in Germany particularly. Behind every manifestation of reaction loomed the tsar and his diplomats and the threat of his armies. Once the Russian autocracy was destroyed, all the forces of democracy in Europe (in Germany first of all) would bound forward with seven-league boots, and the proletarian revolution would not be far behind. "Down with tsarism!" therefore, smash it by any means possible, revolutionary war against tsarism!6

Just as Marx and Engels saw a special role being played by Russia in the configuration of European politics, so they advocated a special position by revolutionaries against this threat, through demands which they did not direct against any other state.

This special position on Russia was bequeathed to the Second International at its foundation, and ingrained in it. It was an axiom of the Marxist movement for decades: "For the defeat of tsarism!"

It was this axiom which became the rationalization of the German Social-Democrats for its collapse before the war hysteria on August 4, 1914. True, in 1914 Russia was no longer the monolithic society of feudal barbarism that it had appeared in the days of Marx’s Neue Rheinische Zeitung. A modern working-class and socialist movement had developed strongly. In 1905 this Russia had gone to the head of the European revolution. Tsarism could no longer hope to play the old role in Europe; now it had the revolution at its own back. The political bases of the "special position" had radically changed. But the "special position" and its tradition was still there, still ingrained. It was not the cause of the collapse of the German Social-Democracy but it was strong enough to act as its effective ideological cover.

Just before the black day of August 4 when the Reichstag group stood up to vote for the kaiser’s war credits, the Social-Democratic press snapped back into the groove:

"The German Social-Democracy has always hated tsardom as the bloody guardian of European reaction; from the time that Marx and Engels followed, with far-seeing eyes, every movement of this barbarous government, down to the present day, when its prisons are filled with political prisoners, and yet it trembles before every labor movement. The time has come when we must square accounts with these terrible scoundrels, under the German flag of war."7

So wrote the Social-Democratic Frankfurter Volksstimme on July 31. The press filled with such evocations of the old outlived tradition (not unmixed with a new note of simple chauvinism): "fight first against the Russian knout" ... "Shall the Russian tsar ... who is the worst enemy of the Russian people themselves, rule over one man of German blood?" ... "War against tsarism ... worst enemy of all liberty and all democracy" ... "Poor devils, really creatures without a fatherland, these downtrodden subjects of bloody Nicholas. Even should they desire to do so, they could find nothing to defend but their chains" ...

Rosa Luxemburg commented: "Long-forgotten chords that were sounded by Marx in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung against the vassal state of Nicholas I, during the German March Revolution of 1848, suddenly reawakened in the ears of the German Social-Democracy in the year of our lord 1914, and called them to arms, arm in arm with Prussian Junkerdom against the Russia of the Great Revolution of 1905".8

Or as Zinoviev himself wrote in 1916: "For 60 years the vanguard of the revolutionists of Germany preached justified hatred of tsarism to the German people. Since the time of Marx’s Neue Rheinische Zeitung, the call to struggle ‘against tsarism’ has not ceased to resound in the ears of the German workers. And now, when the war of 1914 has broken out, the German social-chauvinists, who have passed over into the camp of imperialism, have consciously exploited this revolutionary hatred borne by the German workers against bloody tsarism. They have cynically utilized the old slogan ‘against tsarism’ in order to cover themselves and to force the German workers to spill their blood in the interest of German imperialism."9

And not only at the beginning of the war. To the last the social-patriotic leaders insisted that by supporting the kaiser’s war they had been carrying out the behest of Marx and Engels, and when the March Revolution took place in Russia they pointed to it as their handiwork, their justification, their "progressive consequence". Paul Lensch claimed: "as a matter of fact, the Russian Revolution is a child of the German victories!" – for does not defeat in war facilitate revolution, and did they not "facilitate" the defeat of tsarism? In October 1917 Dr David defended the party’s war record at the first wartime party congress where the leadership had to give an accounting of its policy, at Würzburg:

"The justification of our attitude has still another strong argument. A policy is best judged by its successes. What success has it had? The one immense fruit of this war, which we all greeted with jubilation, is the collapse of the tsarist system, is the Russian Revolution, the Russian democracy, and with it an of the perils which the tsarist system meant to Europe. But this event would not have occurred if we had acted as Haase and his friends wanted us to on August 4, 1914."10

By 1914 the old "special position had been totally emptied of its political and historical content, but it still echoed hollowly in the thinking of the Second International. We will see its echoes in Lenin’s "defeatism".

3. How Zinoviev Makes a Defeatist Out of Engels
In one of his most tortuous articles of 1916,11 Zinoviev attempted to refute this "anti-tsarist" rationalization of the social-patriots and at the same time to wrap the authority of Engels around his own variety of "defeatism". The result is revealing.

To pull off this tour de force, he goes back to Marx and Engels’ line of "revolutionary war against Russia" and seeks to prove that, in putting forth this position, they advocated first the overthrow of the German government and then the carrying out of the "revolutionary war" by a workers’ government. This is necessary for him since he wants to (a) rebut the social-patriots and (b) secure Engels’ authority for "defeatism", but without admitting that this precedent requires equating such "defeatism" with support of the victory of enemy government.

How does he try to do it? In than one place (especially in the ’90s) Engels took up the question of what German socialists should do if Russia (or even Russia in alliance with France) attacked Germany. Zinoviev describes Engels’ reply as follows – but using his own words, not Engels’:

"What then should the German proletariat do, what should the German Social-Democracy do? defend the Prussian junkers, support its ‘own’ government? No, that is inadmissible ... Engels proposes an entirely different solution: the German proletariat should overthrow its own government and lead a revolutionary war against tsarism, uniting with the French workers for the common struggle."

What authority has he for claiming that Engels considered it was "inadmissible" in this situation for socialists to support a non-socialist German government which was fighting against Russian attack? What authority has he for claiming that Engels proposed: first overthrow the government and then lead a revolutionary war against Russia?

He has a quotation, from Engels’ article of the ’90s, "Socialism in Germany". Here, speaking of the same hypothetical situation, Engels wrote:

"In this struggle our country can save its national existence only by applying revolutionary measures.... We have a very strong party.... It is the Social-Democratic Party. And we have not forgotten the great example which France gave us in 1793 [the example, that is, of ‘Jacobin’ tactics] ...."

Zinoviev then challenges: "We will not insist on the fact that today’s war is not at all the one that Engels envisaged. [This is exactly the main thing he has to insist on, but he has other fish to fry in this article – H.D.] We ask only: Why then didn’t the German social-chauvinists overthrow their government? Why didn’t they have recourse ‘to the most revolutionary measures’?"

But all of this is a falsification of Engels’ viewpoint. Engels left no doubt whatsoever that he was thinking of supporting a defensive war under a government still led by the old class. His reference to "revolutionary measures" meant that the socialists should demand that this government take such measures – just as earlier Marx, during the American Civil War, had advocated that the Lincoln government of the North take "revolutionary measures" against the South, e.g., free the slaves. Engels also looked to the victory of this government as preparing the way for the socialists to come to power eventually, soon or late, possibly even during the war itself; but he did not advocate, "overthrow the government" as a precondition for supporting its defensive war against tsarism.

In a letter to Bebel (October 24, 1891), Engels wrote on exactly the same theme: "... If Russia is victorious we shall be crushed. Therefore if Russia begins war – go for her! go for the Russians and their allies, whoever they may be. [Engels has France in mind – H.D.] Then we have to see to it that the war is conducted by every revolutionary method and that things are made impossible for any government which refuses to adopt such methods...."12

The same day Engels wrote to Sorge: "If Germany is crushed, then we shall be too, while in the most favorable case the struggle will be such a violent one that Germany will only be able to maintain herself by revolutionary means, so that very possibly we shall be forced to come into power and play the part of 1793."13

It is clear that Engels is not thinking of the war as being conducted by a socialist government, necessarily. This was part and parcel of his and Marx’s mode of approach in this pre-imperialist epoch. The social-patriots tried to utilize such quotations for their own purposes. But in this case, once Zinoviev has announced that he will not argue against this sleight-of-hand of the social-patriots on the only ground where their fundamental mistake showed up, he has taken up the gage with them on their own ground.

He then argues himself onto thin ice, because he himself is trying to preserve a remnant of the same tradition on which the social-patriots based themselves. He is led to distort Engels because he is trying to retain the old methodology (only in connection with defeatism!) without accepting the conclusions. He is trying to claim Engels as a "defeatist" without revealing that Engels’ call for the defeat of Russia meant support of "his own" government.

4. How Zinoviev Invents a "Defeatism" for Plekhanov
From the "defeatist" Engels, Zinoviev goes on to the "defeatist" Plekhanov. He approvingly quotes the position taken by Plekhanov at the 1893 congress of the International in Zurich. There, reporting for the Russian socialists, Plekhanov had said:

"When the German army crosses our border, for us it will be a liberator, as the French in the time of the Convention, a hundred years ago, were liberators when they came into Germany to bring liberty to the people after having vanquished the kings."

Zinoviev actually quotes this as an "authority" in the year 1916, when the German social-patriotic theoreticians are reveling in like quotations. Though he himself does not make this point, he could not have hit on a clearer example of how the "special position" on Russia was involved, in Marx’s view, with a different period of capitalism, typified by the French Revolution, the progressive days of a young rising bourgeoisie fighting against feudalism. Why does Zinoviev do this? He is quoting Plekhanov enthusiastically because, in this context, Plekhanov naturally came out for the defeat of tsarism:

"The more our German friends attack Russian tsarism [the quotation from Plekhanov continues], the more grateful we are to them. Bravo, my friends, beat tsarism, drag it onto the judgment dock as often as possible, strike at it by every means at your command!"

Plekhanov was for "defeatism" against Russia, you see – Q.E.D. So are we Bolsheviks in this war. We have precedent on our side.... And Zinoviev apparently does not suspect that he is giving the show away as to the political methodology of this "defeatism".

"We have cited the declarations by Plekhanov at the Zurich congress which are ‘defeatist’ in their way" [winds up Zinoviev triumphantly].

But to cover the traces, here again as in the case of Engels he falsely claims that Plekhanov Was thinking only of a "revolutionary war" led by a workers’ government. With that ambivalence which his double-barreled aim imposes on him, he hastens to add that, of course, it would be improper to make those same declarations today in 1916 that Plekhanov did in 18931 No Russian socialist today, he says, would issue such an invitation to the Germans, the situation is different, etc. But then, what remains of the point of citing Plekhanov as a "defeatist in a way"? Of course Plekhanov was then a "defeatist in a way", but it was precisely the "way" which was used by the German social-chauvinists to justify their betrayal in 1914.

The same methodological shuttle sticks out in a couple of quotations which Zinoviev fishes out of Marx. For example, in the Russo-Turkish war, Marx, wrote (September 27, 1877) that the "gallant Turks have hastened the explosion [in Russia] by years with the thrashing they have inflicted" on the autocracy. He does not mention that Marx was not simply commenting on the frequently revolutionary consequences of defeat in war. Marx was in favor of a Turkish victory in that war.14

To sum up:

(1) We will see the echoes, in Lenin’s position on "defeatism" in 191416, of the Marx-Engels-Second International "special position" on the defeat of Russian tsarism, as the "lesser evil" in a certain sense.

(2) In going back to this tradition, Lenin’s specialist in historical precedents. in the course of specific polemics in defense of "defeatism" during the World War itself, Zinoviev betrays at all points the reliance of the defeat-slogan on the methodology of the old tradition, and most particularly –

(3) Zinoviev implicitly identifies the political viewpoint of his "defeatism" with the political approach of pro-war defeatism. He has found no precedent in Marx and Engels for any combination of "defeatism" with an anti-war policy against both war camps. He cannot even see the difference between a "defeatism" which is for the victory of the enemy government, and his attempt to invent a "defeatism" which is not.

Before going any further, we could be quite sure at this point that we are dealing with a political viewpoint which is rife with confusion about its own ideas, even if those ideas were after all correct.

II. Defeatism in the Russo-Japanese War

According to the myth, the most solid historical precedent for "defeatism" is supposed to be Lenin’s "defeatism" in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5. Lenin’s "defeatism" of 1914-16 was only the continuation of the line he developed for the earlier war, and indeed, we have been told, in 1904-5, not only Lenin but even the Mensheviks and large sections of the liberal bourgeoisie were pervaded with "defeatism". Lenin’s line for the First World War grew out of this experience. In 1916 Zinoviev wrote15 along these lines: "Germany today does not possess the tradition of 1905; it could not have any clear ‘defeatist’ tradition" – whereas we Bolsheviks, happily in possession of the 1905 tradition, were ready to come to the "defeatist" position easily in 1914.

This is not true. Lenin’s position on the Russo-Japanese war was fundamentally different from his position on the First World War, and precisely with respect to defeatism.

The true story of Lenin’s real war policy in 1904-5 has never been told in any literature familiar to our movement [Note 4] – indeed, as far as we know, it has not been told anywhere. It has to be exhumed from his writings of the period, where it is plain enough.

One might have expected that in 1914-16, when Lenin was hotly arguing for his defeat-slogan of that time, he would have referred (if only in passing) to the phenomenon of defeatism in the previous war and his position on it. He never does, not even in passing. Zinoviev, however, was a horse of a different color. The latter deliberately concealed and falsified the truth, and it was his account which served to miseducate the movement,

1. The Peculiarity of Zinoviev’s History
Let us start, again, with Zinoviev’s version of the history of "defeatism" – rather, his attempt to invent a history for Lenin’s brand of "defeatism".

The work by Zinoviev which was the main source of this miseducation was his History of the Russian Communist Party (1925),16 which in turn on this question was in good part based on an article he published in 1916, entitled "‘Defeatism’ – Then and Now",17 in which he dealt in detail with the "defeatism" of the Russo-Japanese War.

In both his History and the 1916 article, Zinoviev correctly relates that defeatist sentiment was common in Russia not only among socialists but also among bourgeois liberals. (As a matter of fact, defeatism had also appeared earlier in Russia in the Crimean war.) This is a solid fact. The peculiarity of Zinoviev’s version of history is this: that in not one line of his extensive discussion does he permit himself to use any of the plentiful evidence which proves this fact; we will have to do that ourselves later, and the reason why Zinoviev does not will be all too clear.

None of the examples of "defeatism" which Zinoviev selects is an example of the real defeatism which existed.

To be sure, even his examples show the widespread scope of anti-war feeling in the country; but by this time we should be aware of the gap between being merely against a war and being for defeat of one’s own country in that war. In fact, when Zinoviev wrote his 1916 article he was vociferously insisting on the difference.

He certainly does show that the Russo-Japanese War was unpopular; that the people were against it; that there were "defeatist" moods (in the other sense) which expected defeat, and linked this expectation of (or in some cases, resignation to) defeat up with coming revolutionary changes. He does show that large sections did not look to victory in the war, and even were afraid of the prospect of victory for tsarism. But we have already made clear that a point of view which says "Against victory" does not yet add up to a "desire for defeat", though it can go over to it. Lenin and Zinoviev were well aware of this, since in the First World War they polemized against the viewpoint which they called "Neither victory nor defeat" as "centrist". In 1904-5 a point of view which rejected both the desire for victory and defeat was even more of a definite tendency. We have already stated that real defeatism existed, but a good deal of the anti-war opinion of the time deliberately stopped short of defeatism. This tendency did so either (a) in uncertainty or ambivalence, (b) where more thought-out, in a wish for a war of exhaustion and stalemate, which was a not-infrequent perspective also. [Note 5]

2. Zinoviev’s Fake Examples
Keeping this in mind, let us look at Zinoviev’s examples, before raising the question of the motive for his peculiar omissions.

(1) Boris Chicherin:

This is Zinoviev’s prize example, in both writings mentioned. In his 1925 History, he tells us that Chicherin, who was a prominent liberal though a monarchist, wrote as follows:18

"The consequences of this war will, finally, help to solve the internal crisis. It is difficult to say what outcome of this war is more to he desired to this end.

That is all! It does not seem to express a desire for defeat. But Zinoviev immediately adds:

"These words, which declare with little ambiguity the defeat of tsarist Russia to be more desirable than its victory, were written under the Russian censor."

Well, that puts a new face on it. Zinoviev is telling us that Chicherin was using Aesopian language to get by the censor, and that what he really meant to convey was that he desired defeat.

But this is untrue. The witness against Zinoviev is himself, namely, his 1916 article, in which he had detailed the case of Chicherin a little more fully.19 There we learn, still from the same Zinoviev, that Chicherin’s statement was not "written under the Russian censor--- at all. In fact, it was not written. It was a remark made by Chicherin a few days before his death, and was quoted by another man (who vouched for it as coming from a reliable source) in Struve’s organ Ozvobozhdeniye. But perhaps this other man, M. Zemetz, was writing "under the Russian censor"? No, he was not; Struve’s organ was published in emigration.

In other words, this prize example, Chicherin’s statement, meant exactly what it said: this liberal-monarchist did not know what outcome of the war to desire. Nothing strange about that! It was a common state of mind among bourgeois liberals who did not like the war at all.

This quite understandable frame of mind was also very prevalent during the world war, but we would like to see Zinoviev citing such indecisive, soul-torn characters as fellow defeatists in 1914-16! Elements in Chicherin’s frame of mind were then a good deal to the right of the "centrists" that Zinoviev was attacking because they rejected "defeatism"! But for the purposes of historical precedent, Chicherin became a "defeatist"!

It seems amazing: why on earth does Zinoviev have to drag this ringer in, and falsify it to boot, when there were real defeatists to be cited?

(2) The S-R leader Gershuni:

In the 1925 History Zinoviev makes a long and garrulous to-do about this. Gershuni is in prison. His lawyer informs him that the war has broken out, tells of its unpopularity, and the defeats that have taken place. And Gershuni remarks: "A second Crimean campaign? And Port Arthur=Sebastopol [where tsarism had suffered a heavy defeat]?" Then Gershuni relates in his memoirs:

"... everything suddenly seemed to become clear. I felt that something infinitely terrible, infinitely menacing, and infinitely sorrowful was rushing upon us, which would hit the state like a thunderbolt, arousing the sleepers, and rending asunder the veil which conceals from the majority of the people the true essence of the autocratic system."20

The thing that was "infinitely terrible", etc., was, of course – defeat. If Gershuni desired defeat, he neglected to mention it in his memoirs so that Zinoviev could quote it. Later in his memoirs, when Gershuni writes after the fall of Port Arthur, "We trembled. Port Arthur had fallen – the autocracy would fall too". Zinoviev quotes this and comments, "Clearly a defeatist state of mind".

Clearly, indeed! The one thing certain about this "Gershuni" example is its ambiguity. It becomes twice as suspect when we add the information that the S-R Party’s organ came out against the viewpoint which desired the defeat of Russia by Japan!

(3) The above are Zinoviev’s two first and longest examples. Next he cites a novel, The Pale Horse by Savinkov, whose fictitious hero, a terrorist, hears of the Russian naval disaster at Tsushima and "is seized by the most contradictory feelings". In his 1916 article Zinoviev adduced other examples: Struve, etc. Without exception, they are even less likely examples of "defeatism" than the above; he proves that liberals were anti-war, and then tags them with the "defeatist" label, gratis, with an appropriate assertion.

(4) Plekhanov:

Finished with examples of bourgeois defeatism, Zinoviev claims that "The Mensheviks, albeit not without some hesitation, had also adopted the defeatist position". His example is Plekhanov. At the Amsterdam congress of the Second International, held during the war in 1904, opening addresses were given by both Plekhanov for the Russian delegation and Sen Katayama for the Japanese socialist delegation. On the stage they embraced amid the enthusiastic applause of the assemblage. They were vigorously anti-war. But Zinoviev says that Plekhanov’s speech was "defeatist". In point of fact, he quotes Plekhanov as going so far, in a peroration, as denouncing the prospect of Russian victory. It is this that Zinoviev automatically equates with "defeatism", entirely without justification. (We will see later that the Menshevik party was not for defeatism.)

3. Anti-War Moods in Russia
So we still do not have from Zinoviev a single clear example of anyone who came out as desiring defeat. If one judged only by Zinoviev, a critical reader might be led to the conclusion that this alleged "defeatism" that was supposed to have existed in 1904-5 was only another myth created by this fertile writer.

And that would be quite wrong. It existed. It even obtrudes into Zinoviev’s own History in the form of a couple of real examples – when Zinoviev attacks Martov for giving these examples!

Here he goes from concealment to falsification. Zinoviev, having ceased to drum up examples, has turned his attention to the position of the Mensheviks on the war. He writes:21 "But today, Martov, reviewing the past in his History of the Russian Social-Democracy, endeavors to disown the defeatist position of the Mensheviks during the war."

He gives the following quotation from Martov’s history: "As soon as, following the failures of the Russian army [Martov wrote], a typically defeatist attitude developed among liberal society and in revolutionary circles, and the hope grew stronger that continued military disaster would deal a mortal blow to tsarism almost without any new effort upon the part of the Russian people; as soon as there commenced to be manifested a certain ‘Japanophilism’ and idealization of the role that Japanese imperialism was playing in the war – Iskra [Menshevik organ] came out against defeatism, and in defense of the position that it was to the interest of the people and of the revolution that the war should not end by imposing heavy sacrifices upon Russia, and that freedom would not be brought to the Russian people on the bayonets of the Japanese."

And Zinoviev complains:

"Martov is obviously beclouding the issue ... attempting to exculpate his revolutionary sins in the eyes of the bourgeoisie.... The pro-Japanese position had absolutely nothing in common with defeatism."

Let us see who is beclouding the issue. What Martov referred to is a fact. The real defeatists of 1904-5, the elements who really did come out with a "desire for defeat", tended to merge this sentiment into its obvious consequence: a wish for the victory of Japan, pro-Japanism.

Naturally this was not true of those anti-war elements who were for neither-victory-nor-defeat, who were either ambivalent on that score or who consciously held the view that the favorable outcome would be a stalemate of mutual exhaustion. But for those, especially bourgeois-liberal, elements who were indeed for defeat, the obvious corollary was also to be for Japan’s victory as progressive. This was a widespread feeling not only in Russia but throughout the world, where, particularly in England and America, Japan was looked on as a civilizing agent as compared with Russian barbarism. (The "Yellow Peril" had not yet overwhelmed the US.)

The strength of the Russian liberal bourgeoisie’s feeling on the war was not hard to explain. The rising bourgeoisie wanted political reforms and concessions; the tsarist government froze them out of all participation in the state power. They knew that a victory in the war would only consolidate the autocracy’s attitude, make it feel its oats, and strengthen its obstinacy. The bourgeoisie wanted a division of power with tsarism, and knew that it would be aided insofar as tsarism was weakened and had to yield. Many felt further that the aims of this war were dynastic, and did not bear upon the "national interest", i.e., their own class interests. Many considered it merely a tsarist adventure. There were also divergences on whether Russia’s imperialist drive should turn face to the Far East or to the west.

For example, Struve’s organ Ozvobozhdeniye wrote on the outbreak of the war:

"The occupation of Manchuria and the outlet to the sea were economically nonsensical for Russia.... The loss of Manchuria and the Kwantung Peninsula [to Japan] will be no loss at all but will be to our advantage, for, in the pursuit of our own interests, we should long ago have abandoned this awkward adventure. And our enemies will ask no more than that from us."22

The last sentence is important from the point of view of the going-over of liberal sentiment from anti-war feeling to outright defeatism. For the bourgeois liberals felt that defeat by Japan would be no skin off their back, since there was not the remotest possibility that Japan would carry the war to attack Russia at home, but that a Japanese victory would only mean the loss of Far Eastern outposts that were a white elephant anyway and not of interest to their own class, while a definitive tsarist defeat would weaken the autocracy and make it amenable to internal compromise. "The Japanese", said a Russian liberal, "will not enter the Kremlin, but the Russians will."23

Moreover, the bourgeoisie knew that one reason why the autocracy had gotten into the war was to use pro-war enthusiasm against revolutionary stirrings. Prime Minister Plehve had said, "We need a small victorious war to stem the tide of revolution",24 and Prince Urussoff wrote in his memoirs that "the members of the government expressed a hope, after the first battle, that the war would evoke a wave of patriotism, and that it would thus arrest the anti-governmental propaganda, and render it easier for the local authorities to preserve order and public tranquillity".25

4. Pro-Japan Defeatism
But reasons aside, the fact is the evidence shows that the existence of a real "desire for defeat" was in association with a wish for the victory of Japan. Zinoviev is forced to cite some cases in polemizing against Martov:26

During the war, when the Japanese were battling with the troops of the Russian tsar, certain circles of liberal society (the students in particular) went so far, it was rumored, as to send a telegram to the Mikado of Japan.

(A.G. Mazour’s history Russia Past and Present states this as a fact. The students "wired the Mikado their best wishes for victory".)

But, continues Zinoviev, we revolutionaries came out against Japanophilism.

"And from this point of view [Zinoviev writes], we condemned every excess [!] on the part of the liberal bourgeoisie and the superficial student revolutionaries, who, if they did not actually send, doubtless intended to send, the telegram to the emperor of Japan. In this sense Martov was correct: yes, we were against ‘Japanophilism’, but we did stand for the defeat of the tsarist armies...."

Zinoviev is then asserting (in 1925) that the Bolshevik position was for defeat of tsarism but not for the victory of Japan. If that were true, we would finally have here an anti-war defeatism. (We will see that it was not true.)

Zinoviev continues with another involuntary example of the real defeatism of 1904-5, in the same peculiar form of an attack on Martov for bringing up the subject:

"... Martov is deliberately mixing up the cards when he writes as follows: ‘The leader of the Finnish "Activists" [nationalist group], who later headed the Finnish government in 1905 – Konni Zilliacus – openly proposed to Plekhanov as well as to the foreign representatives of the Bund, that they enter into negotiations with the agents of the Japanese government in regard to aid for the Russian revolution in the form of money and arms.’"

Very interesting – we have defeatists here. Boris Souvarine, in his Staline, recounts that

"The Japanese government ... offered money and arms to all the subversive parties; the only ones that accepted were the Finnish Activists, the Georgian Socialist-Federalists and the most nationalistic faction of the Polish Socialist Party whose leader Pilsudski even went to Japan to discuss terms with the enemies of the oppressor Russia."27

But why is Martov "mixing up the cards" when he brings out this not irrelevant fact? Zinoviev says:

"Martov adds that this proposal was rejected. This is true. When the Russian revolutionaries, and even a section of the Russian bourgeoisie, came out definitely as defeatists, the Japanese and some of their agents tried to hook us with the following bait: Since you are in favor of the defeat of the tsar, we will be glad to support you with money and arms. It goes without saying that a proposal of this nature met with indignant refusal on the part of our organization and of all honest revolutionaries, as well as on the part of Plekhanov and the Mensheviks."

This does not tell us why Martov was "mixing up the cards". Zinoviev merely asserts that "The pro-Japanese position had absolutely nothing in common with defeatism". It would be more convincing, even at this point, if he himself had been able to trot out one real defeatist who was not for the victory of Japan.

A contemporary magazine article (in the London Fortnightly Review for February 1, 1906) described the state of affairs in Russia:

"No sooner did the news of the Japanese war spread through the country than, with the one exception of the peasants, the Empire unanimously declared that should the Russian aims succeed, Russia herself would be ruined. From the first, the Russians prayed for Japanese victories. . . .

"When the first batch of Japanese prisoners reached Kalouga, everyone turned out to witness their arrival, flowers were showered on them, and at a dinner given at the best club in town, members and also officials of the provincial council were present, and the speeches were of a very liberal, not to say revolutionary character. It was at that dinner that the memorable phrase, "They are fighting for Russia’s freedom", was uttered for the first time. In consequence of these proceedings, the club was shut up...." 28

Souvarine writes: "Defeatism, which had already appeared in the Crimean war, showed itself this time very widely in the liberal bourgeoisie, the oppressed nationalities, and among the workers and peasants. As against imperial Russia, which was undergoing defeat after defeat, the young Japanese imperialism took on almost the aspect of a champion of civilization."29

This was the real face of the defeatism of 1904-5. It can come as a surprise only to those who have been nurtured on the Lenin-myth of the First World War. What else in fact could have been expected? It took a couple of highly skilled political theoreticians even to make an attempt, in 1914, to develop a "defeatism" which did not mean desire for the victory of the enemy’s government – and they did not succeed. For liberals, workers or oppressed nationalities whose hatred of tsarism led them from "mere" anti-war sentiment to a desire for defeat of tsarism, this automatically meant (in their case) defeat by Japan.

If Zinoviev denies this, it is simply out of ex-post-facto embarrassment, embarrassment which he takes out on Martov in the form of round abuse. This is why, in 1916 and 1925, Zinoviev casts around vainly – for "examples" of defeatism in 1904-5 which do not reveal the truth that defeatism in the Russo-Japanese War meant pro-Japanism – and more often than not, not merely pro-Japanism in the sense of desiring the victory of Japanese imperialism but also in the sense of "idealizing" Japan as a progressive force.

Perhaps the above is only true of the politically unsophisticated elements who were against tsarism and the war – raw workers, raw students, raw liberals, etc.?

No. Among those who most enthusiastically carried their anti-war anti-tsarism to the point of pro-Japanism were:

(1) Some of the most outstanding leaders of the Second International, and (2) Lenin.

5. Lenin’s Pro-Japan Position
The picture painted by Zinoviev’s "history" is a fairy tale from beginning to end. By the same token, so is the picture held by the Marxist movement of Lenin’s position in the Russo-Japanese War, specifically the meaning of his defeatism.

Lenin was for the victory of Japan in the war, as the standard-bearer of progress versus tsarist reaction.

We have to turn to Lenin’s writings of 1904-5 for this.

First of all, all during the year 1904, Lenin scarcely even mentions the fact that there is a war on. The party is in the after-throes of the Bolshevik-Menshevik split at the 1903 congress, and Lenin’s absorption in the internal situation is virtually complete.

All through 1904 there are only two references to the war in his collected works.29a First mention comes in April: it is not an article, thesis or resolution discussing the war but simply a May Day manifesto which Lenin wrote for distribution as a leaflet, signed by the Central Committee and editorial board of the party-three months after the war broke out in February. Its content: against the war, overthrow tsarism, demand peace, etc. There is no mention of defeat, defeatism, or any related idea.

Second mention of the war comes in a document addressed "To the Party", on the split crisis (July-August), which refers to the war in order to make the point that revolutionary ferment is growing with its continuation. There is nothing on defeat or defeatism.

As the year 1905 began, the big military debacle, the fall of Port Arthur, was in plain sight, but had not yet occurred. An article by Lenin in Vperiod, January 4, made the point that

"The development of the political crisis in Russia depends ... on the course of the war with Japan .... Absolutist Russia is henceforth defeated by constitutional Japan.... The military fiasco is inevitable, and with it a redoubling of the discontent, ferment and indignation."30

There is as yet, however, no more explicit statement than this on the desirability or necessity of defeat, which comes 10 days later, with the news of the military disaster at Port Arthur.

Now (January 14) for the first time Lenin writes a full-scale discussion of the war and the defeat, and of his line on the war – "The Fall of Port Arthur".

This, and subsequent articles, are full of political characterizations of Japan as the progressive side of the war. We have already seen his remark, in the previous issue of Vperiod, that "Absolutist Russia is henceforth defeated by constitutional Japan". The idea which is already implicit in this political counterposition is developed explicitly:31

"Progressive, advanced Asia has struck an irreparable blow against reactionary and backward Europe.... The criticism of the autocracy formulated by all advanced Russians, by the Russian Social-Democracy, by the Russian proletariat, is now confirmed by the criticism of Japanese arms...."

He refers to Russia’s war as a "conflict with a progressive people".

"The war of an advanced country with a backward country has once again played a great revolutionary role, as has happened many times in history. And the class-conscious proletariat, resolute enemy of war, which is the inevitable result of all class rule, cannot conceal from itself this revolutionary work that has been accomplished by the Japanese bourgeoisie in its victory over the autocracy. The proletariat is hostile to every bourgeoisie ... but this hostility does not relieve it of the necessity of distinguishing between the representatives of a bourgeoisie that is playing a progressive role or a reactionary role in history."

Japan, he writes, is playing an "historically progressive role".

But while fighting free competition, we cannot forget that it represents progress with relation to semi-serfdom. While fighting: all war and every bourgeoisie, we must in our agitation distinguish with care between the progressive bourgeoisie and the feudal autocracy; we must stress in all circumstances the great revolutionary role of the historic war in which the Russian worker is taking part despite himself.

What we see is that in this, the first big inter-imperialist war of the 20th century, Lenin is continuing to apply the Marx-Engels-Second International criterion of "progressive bourgeoisie" versus "reactionary regime" which was the old approach with respect to the earlier epoch of progressive, rising capitalism. He is asking the question: In this given war, the victory of which nation, which national ruling class, carries with it the progressive consequences for social and revolutionary development?

Theoretically speaking, what we find in Lenin’s position on the Russo-Japanese War is the analysis which, on August 4, 1914, became the theoretical rationale of the German social-patriots. Lenin puts this theoretical approach forward most clearly in an article written later on April 5:

"... it is necessary, when a war sets exploiting nations against each other, to distinguish between the progressive and the reactionary role of the bourgeoisie of each given nation. The Russian Social-Democracy has had to apply these general principles of Marxism to the war with Japan." [In the same context, Lenin immediately refers back to the article "The Fall of Port Arthur".]32

Nothing could be clearer as to the methodology, which underlay his defeatism in this war.

In line with this view of the role of Japan and in line with his sympathy for its victory, his articles are full of sympathetic, even enthusiastic, references to Japan’s armed might, etc. Thus, in "The Fall of Port Arthur":33

"And along comes little Japan, up to now despised by all, and in eight months it seizes this citadel [Port Arthurl while France and England allied together took a whole year to take Sebastopol [in the Crimean war]. "

He catalogs Japan’s military strength, crowing with delight at the statistics, as if glorying in its military and naval power. He exults over "the Japanese fleet, magnificently armed and equipped with the most modern means of defense ... the growing power of young, new Japan".

In "The Fall of Port Arthur", he even seems to defend Japan’s imperialist expansion and gains as progressive. In the Sino-Japanese war, Japan had defeated China, but when the treaty of Simonoseki came in April 1895, Russia, supported by France and Germany, ganged up on Japan to force her to give up all annexations in China, though she did get the whole Liao-Tung peninsula. Here is Lenin’s reference to this fact that Japan’s burgeoning imperialism had been done out of its "rightful" spoils:

"Progressive, advanced Asia has struck an irreparable blow against reactionary and backward Europe. Ten years before, this reactionary Europe, headed by Russia, was worrying about the defeat inflicted on China by young Japan, and it combined to snatch the finest fruits of its victory away from the victor.... The return of Port Arthur to Japan is a blow struck against all of reactionary Europe. "

But this is not all: he dots the i’s and crosses the t’s, in a passage defending the views expressed on the Russo-Japanese war by Jules Guesde and H.M. Hyndman.

6. Guesde and Hyndman
A French socialist monthly Le Mouvement Socialiste, had, in its March 1904 issue, carried a symposium on the war by a gallery of the most prominent Second International leaders of various countries. The general line expressed was that of support of Japan in the war in order to defeat Russia, especially by Guesde, the leader of the "orthodox-Marxist" wing (God save them!) of the French Socialist Party, and by H.M. Hyndman, leader of the Social-Democratic Federation in England.

The Russian S-R organ, Revolutsionnaya Rossiya, in its May 18 issue, had attacked these two. The S-R organ was, of course, strenuously against Russia’s war, but it criticized Guesde and Hyndman for being for Japan. It rejected Guesde’s injunction to be "against Russia and for Japan". It noted, quite truly, that "Hyndman’s answer [in the symposium] is nothing but a dithyrambic eulogy of Japan". And it said:

"We think the question . . . is posed in a radically false way. We are of the opinion that all socialists must and can be only for the working-class and people’s Japan against the imperialist Japan."34

Lenin comes to the defense of Guesde and Hyndman’s pro-Japan position, and attacks the S-R criticism as "confused". After one of his formulations about distinguishing between a progressive and a reactionary bourgeoisie, he goes after the S-Rs:35

"... One understands therefore why the most determined and intransigent representatives of the international revolutionary social-democracy, Jules Guesde in France and Hyndman in England, have expressed without any circumlocution their sympathy for Japan, which is battering the Russian autocracy. Naturally there has been found among us, in Russia, socialists who show that they are confused in their ideas on these questions. The Revolutsionnaya Rossiya has censured Jules Guesde and Hyndman, declaring that socialists could sympathize only with the Japan of the workers and people, not with bourgeois Japan. This censure is as absurd as if one censured a socialist for recognizing the progressive character of the free-trade bourgeoisie as compared with the conservative bourgeoisie. Guesde and Hyndman did not defend the Japanese bourgeoisie and its imperialism but, dealing with the conflict between the two bourgeois countries, they correctly noted the historically progressive role of one of them. The confusion in the ideas of the Socialist-Revolutionaries is naturally the inevitable result among our radical intellectuals of a lack of comprehension of the class point of view and of historical materialism."

This passage continues with an attack upon the Mensheviks, to be discussed later. In this passage Lenin, labeling the Mensheviks confused also, attacks their "platitudes about the impropriety of ‘speculating’ (!!?) about the victory of the Japanese bourgeoisie and about the war which is a calamity ‘whatever may be’ the result – victory or defeat – for the autocracy".

In his later article of April 5, he calls this "only sentimental phrases alien to the class point of view and to an analysis of the existing social forces".36 The class point of view, it would seem, was represented by the policy of being for the victory of imperialist Japan, not by a policy which fought tsarism and its war but refused to become an advocate of Japan’s military victory.

To get a close-up of the views which Lenin was defending, let us see what Guesde and Hyndman had actually written. In fact, the entire symposium in Le Mouvement Socialiste37 gives a valuable insight into (1) the thinking of the Second International on the war question, in which the full-blown social-patriotism of 1914 can be seen in the bud, and (2) specifically, the meaning of defeatism in the RussoJapanese war from the point of view not only of socialists but of the most prominent leaders of the socialist movement.

In the preceding issue of this magazine, M. Beer had painted the historical background as follows: "... in the course of the last 30 years, Japan has undergone a development diametrically opposite that of Russia. In 1868 Japan abolished feudalism and founded the national state; the absolute monarchy was abolished in 1889, to give way to a constitutional government, which opened the way to a liberal development. During the same period, Russia set aside all the liberal measures taken around 1860, and about 1880 returned to the old Russian policy, to become, in 1890, an Asiatic cultural and political force."38

In the symposium in the following issue,39 Jules Guesde wrote: "In order to see which side, in the conflict which is reddening the Far East with blood, should receive the sympathies and best wishes not only of socialists but even of the most vulgar democrats, it is enough to examine the consequences (1) of the defeat, and (2) of the triumph of those who are improperly called "our allies" [i.e., France’s allies – Russia] ...."

If Russia is beaten, he argues, the Russian people would suffer no organic damage in losing Manchuria and Korea. As a necessary first step toward the social revolution, the backbone of European reaction must be broken.

"So no hesitation is possible. In the interests of and for the peace of France and the world; in the interests of and for the liberation of Russia itself, it is necessary to be against Russia and for Japan. Long live Japan!"

"Long live Japan!" cries this "intransigent representative of the international revolutionary social-democracy", but it is nothing compared with Hyndman’s contribution. Hyndman does exactly what Lenin denies he does: whitewash Japanese imperialism. Wrote Hyndman:

"What Japan is demanding is nothing less than reasonable. It is demanding, in effect, that Manchuria, which Russia seized without any scruples, be recognized as belonging again to the Chinese empire.... [Geography shows] the importance, for the future of Japan, of not leaving Manchuria any longer in Muscovite hands.

"For Russia, the possession of this part of Chinese territory is assuredly one more step in its long career of annexation and expansion.

"For Japan, it is nothing more nor less than a question of life or death.

"All who, like us, recognize the Asians’ right to work out their own destiny ... all who, like us, consider that the extension of the infamies of the Russian regime in China ... would be ... harmful to humanity, all such must necessarily wish the triumph of the Japanese."

Forty years ago, Hyndman goes on to say, Japan was considered barbarous but today it combats "the black beast of Europe". One must "admire its progress and its policies" though they have great defects. In Japan "we have seen a display of patriotism in its most noble aspect". The assault by Japan on China was merely "the result of bad judgment", but now Japan is not only fighting for its own existence but also for the independence of China! "I hope it will be victorious, not only for our own cause, but for the consequences which will flow therefrom".

All socialists must aspire to see the exhaustion of Russia. If the Muscovite despotism is weakened either by a defeat or by a costly victory, we will see a new era open up for this great country and its neighbors.

He also hopes that the war will wake up China, and that China, "encouraged and enlightened by the example of the Japanese", will clean out the Russians, Germans, French and English.

Thus, Hyndman. One is tempted simply to assume that Lenin must have read this very important symposium (Le Mouvement Socialiste was an outstanding journal of the international socialist movement and Lenin was in Switzerland) and that he was not merely going by the S-R organ’s quotations. Perhaps he did not actually get a full dose of it. In any case, if the S-Rs erred, it was only in the direction of mildness.

7. The 2nd International
Let us continue with the articles in the symposium in order to get a fuller cross-section of social-democratic thinking on the Russo-Japanese War. Lenin was not alone; he was, alas, in the deep current.

The contributions by Kautsky and Franz Mehring were more circumspect. Kautsky says:

"Never, in my opinion, has the problem been posed in terms so simple, and never has there been greater unanimity in international socialism, than on this question. The struggle against tsarismthat is the central point of the foreign policy of the socialist parties of all countries...."

But Kautsky does not take up an attitude on Japan’s side of the war. [Note 6]

Mehring’s article is one of the vaguest. He makes the cloudy distinction that the revolutionary party can never have an interest for war, but it can have an interest in certain wars. The nearest he gets to the moot point is in the statement that the working class is not indifferent to the question whether Russia or Japan will win; if Japan wills, tsarist despotism gets a mortal blow; if Russia triumphs, tsarism will be consolidated; etc.

Vandervelde wrote: "One can state that, on this question, the socialist democracy is unanimous. It is with the Russian socialists and with the Japanese socialists when they denounce the capitalist influences which have unleashed the war; it has no more sympathy for the imperialism of the Mikado than for the imperialism of the tsar; but, in view of the inevitable repercussions of the conflict on the international and external politics of Europe, it cannot fail to take sides and wish for the defeat of the more dangerous of the two adversaries, whose victory would constitute the most fearful menace for the militant proletariat. And so from this point of view, hesitation is not possible: tsarism, that is the enemy!

Note that more than any of the others, more than Lenin too, Vandervelde "criticizes" the imperialism of Japan as well as the imperialism of the tsar; but only to introduce the plainest formulation of a "lesser evil" policy: we "wish for the defeat of the more dangerous of the two adversaries", i.e., we support the less dangerous imperialism against the more dangerous imperialism.

The editor of Le Mouvement Socialiste, André Morizet, sums up the symposium in the same vein, equally delighted in the "unanimity" of socialist opinion. The unanimity was an illusion; all were opposed to tsarism’s war, but other political questions were glossed over. The International Socialist Bureau of the Second International limited itself to urging all socialist parties "to struggle with all their strength and combined efforts to prevent any extension of the war, so that their countries, far from participating in it, will seek to re-establish and maintain peace".40

How much was glossed over we see when we get to the position taken by the socialist party which forthrightly came out against Japan in the war. This was the young Socialist Party of Japan itself, led by Sen Katayama. But before we quote Katayama, let us hear from one later contributor to the symposium, the leading figure among the Russian socialists, Plekhanov.

Plekhanov is very cautious. Writing in a later issue of Le Mouvement Socialiste,41 he says that he has little to add after the articles in the March issue. He does not ascribe the war to imperialism: war came, he explains, because tsarism wanted war for internal reasons, to counter revolutionary sentiment; that is all. He spends much space on the incompetence and stupidity of the Russian military leaders. He predicts more defeats for the autocracy, which will thereby be weakened; if tsarism falls or gets very much weaker, socialists would rejoice....

There are two passing references to Japan:

"... whereas in Japan the government and the nation are one, the socialist movement being only at its beginning, with us an abyss already exists between the rulers and all the best elements among the ruled...."

Who told him that in Japan "the government and the nation are one"? When he wrote this, he had already read a first article by Katayama on the anti-war position of the Japanese socialists, not to speak of Katayama’s attacks on the anti-working-class policies of the Mikado’s regime generally. We can recall that Hyndman had seen in the Japanese people a "display of patriotism in its most noble aspect". No doubt this English Japanophile would have denounced the Japanese socialists as "unpatriotic".

The second reference to Japan by Plekhanov is not due to him, but is very interesting. Plekhanov quotes at length two resolutions which had been adopted by social-democratic workers’ groups in two Russian towns. Both express solidarity with the anti-war stand taken by the Japanese socialists against their own government; indeed the first says further that the war is "of benefit only to our governments and harmful to the working class without distinction of language or nationality". This occurs in the course of the quotation but Plekhanov does not comment on it or point to it.

The position taken by Sen Katayama was apparently partly based on pacifism and partly on a general feeling of class hostility to the Mikado regime, not on any reasoned-out analysis of the war question. Indeed, in an article42 of his written just before the war broke out but when it was clearly on the way, he seems to whitewash the Japanese regime’s policy even though he is opposed to war against Russia. The Japanese people (he says in this article) are indignant at the arrogant and unfriendly attitude of Russia, especially because Russia and its allies deprived Japan "of the fruits of our victories in the Sino-Japanese War". The attitude of the people is hostile to Russia. "Japan’s policy with regard to Korea and China has always aimed at opening these countries to civilization and developing them along the lines of modern culture. Russia has always blocked these beneficent efforts of Japan." The principal cause of the way crisis is the fact that Russia has ignored its pledges to withdraw its troops from Manchuria. Among the people there is a peace-faction and a war-faction, but "The attitude of the government is rather ambiguous; but it does not seem to want war.... "

Then, after all this, Katayama sets forth the anti-war views of the Japanese socialists. They are "opposed to war against Russia". The war would only be a war in the interests of capitalists, for whose profit thousands would die. "If Japan is beaten, we would have to pay a heavy war indemnity to Russia – we, that is ... the proletarian class. If we are victorious, the result does not seem bright for the workers." The workers got no benefits from the victory over China; they just had to pay new taxes to maintain the armed forces, and militarism intensified. "I myself do not believe that the occupation of Manchuria by Russia is a question of life or death for Japan. Very far from it: the Japanese workers have no vital interest in it."

He goes on to describe the oppressive character of the Japanese regime: conscription; militarism; police state; no laws to protect the working class; meetings broken up by police; the workers have no right to vote. He says he is sure that the great majority of the Japanese people are opposed to war with Russia, and the working class certainly is.

In a subsequent article43 after the outbreak of war, he says more or less the same thing:

"The position taken by the Japanese socialists in the present conflict with Russia has been very clear and very frank from the very beginning. They were and remain hostile to war, not only to the war with Russia but to all war in general – . . . the protest of the Japanese socialists against the war has been courageous and energetic."

The Japanese party organized many anti-war meetings, very successful ones too. The government harassed them, and also suspended socialist publications.

8. The Mensheviks’ Position
Was the Japanese Socialist Party alone in the Second International in specifically opposing the war by Japan? We have already mentioned the position taken by the S-R organ Revolutsionnaya Rossiya, which was the central organ of the S-R Party itself. In addition, the Menshevik party too rejected the pro-Japanese defeatist line.

The position of the Mensheviks leads us back to the views expressed by Lenin. We have already seen, quoted by Zinoviev, what the Menshevik leader Martov said about it in his later History of the Russian Social-Democracy. Zinoviev pretended that this was an ex-post-facto revision by Martov of the "defeatist" line which the Mensheviks too held during the war itself. He accused Martov of "obviously beclouding the issue ... attempting to exculpate his revolutionary sins in the eyes of the bourgeoisie".

Were the Mensheviks really for defeatism during the war, and was Martov concealing this in his later History? It appears not. It seems to be a case of literary "Zinovievism" again.

We have already seen that Lenin not only criticized the S-Rs as "confused" on pro-Japanism but he linked this with an attack on the Mensheviks for the same sin. The reason is that the Menshevik organ had polemized against Lenin’s article on "The Fall of Port Arthur", the article in which Lenin’s pro-Japanese defeatism had blossomed. The Mensheviks had inveighed against "speculating on the victory of the Japanese bourgeoisie", and Lenin had ridiculed this caution as a "sentimental phrase".

A very interesting example of the Mensheviks’ views on the war is afforded by a document which the editors of Lenin’s Collected Works quote, in a footnote, to explain Lenin’s attack on them. This was a Menshevik statement, distributed as a leaflet and signed by the editors of Iskra (undated):

"If Russia is victorious in the present war, the tsar and his accomplices will have won a victory over all of Russia, over the working class and likewise over the bourgeoisie. If Japan inflicts defeat on Russia, the bourgeoisie will have won over the imperial government, after which it will unite with it and both will turn their combined forces against the working class. Complete victory of Russia or defeat of Russia will have only disadvantages for the working class, although in truth no defeat can do more evil in Russia than is daily done to it by the existence of the autocracy. But the working class does not have to choose between the victory of democracy and the defeat of Russia. Although defeat is the lesser evil, it would, we have seen, bring enough calamities. What does the working class need, what result would be of advantage to it? First of all, it needs the end of the war. It needs peace at any price."44

It is clear that this is a pronouncement "against both victory and defeat". The Mensheviks are trying to work out an anti-war position which will eschew the error of supporting Japan’s victory. They are trying to get away from the alternatives of victory-or-defeat. We will later see how Trotsky and Luxemburg did this in the First World War, in a revolutionary, Marxist fashion. But the Mensheviks are Mensheviks: they are not capable of doing so. (The anti-war Mensheviks of the First World War were to fall into the same pattern.)

In attempting to avoid the dilemma of victory-or-defeat, they fall into the slogan of "peace at any price". And Lenin tears them apart on this. He shows how a socialist cannot possibly be for "peace at any price" – peace, yes, but not peace at any price, as Lenin emphasizes at one point.

In Lenin’s article45 of April 5, his polemic against this slogan is especially vigorous. He notes with justified glee that the Menshevik Iskra had started backwatering in an editorial on March 16 which modified the position. "One cannot limit oneself", said the new Menshevik editorial, "to demanding peace because peace combined with the maintenance of the autocracy would mean the ruin of the country." That is very good, comments Lenin; one cannot in truth speak of peace at any price but only at the price of the overthrow of the autocracy. [Note 7]

In other words: fight for peace, yes, but this fight for peace must be indissolubly linked with the continuation of the revolutionary struggle to overthrow the autocracy.

Furthermore (and here we are not paraphrasing Lenin): it is an error to call for the defeat of Russia by Japan; but it is an opposite error to make an entirely false estimate of the objective effect of military defeat on the tsarist regime and internal politics. The Menshevik analysis denied that the weakening of the autocracy by the war debacle would open up revolutionary opportunities for the working class and other enemies of tsarism. They drew no revolutionary perspective from the war.

The Menshevik conception of "neither victory nor defeat", then, was one of a return to the status quo ante bellum. They did not know how to avoid the dilemma of victory-or-defeat without falling into this centrist and pacifist pattern, which flowed from their fundamental politics, not from their rejection of support to Japan.

But in polemizing against the Mensheviks on "peace at any price", Lenin writes as if a refutation of their position on this slogan was also, and automatically, a refutation of their position on pro-Japanism. And this is not true.

We note another interesting thing in the Menshevik statement quoted above. To anticipate a discussion which will arise when we get to the First World War period, we note that it contains a kind of "lesser evil" formulation: "Defeat is the lesser evil" as compared with tsarist victory, says the statement, though it refuses to choose the "lesser evil" by advocating the defeat of Russia by Japanese imperialism.

Let us grant that, in the tsarist despotism, and under the conditions of this tsarist despotism, defeat of tsarism is the lesser evil as compared with its victory. But the whole point is that a recognition of the existence of a greater and lesser evil does not necessarily obligate socialists to support the lesser against the greater. We do not remain within the confines of the choice between lesser and greater evil, as if these unequal evils were the only alternatives. We propose our own socialist alternative to the victory or defeat of either government by the other.

In this political sense, it is entirely possible to speak of defeat in a given war as being a lesser evil" as compared with one’s own government’s victory without thereby becoming "defeatists", since one puts forward a third road to take. But when we come to meet the "lesser evil" formulation in Lenin in September 1914, it will not be this approach that will be embodied in it. The 1905 Menshevik use of the phrase "defeat is the lesser evil" is, therefore, by no means an anticipation or precursor of the same phrase in Lenin-1914, as might appear on the surface or out of context. The political idea is quite different. It is useful to have this example of the formulation that "defeat is the lesser evil" in the course of a position which dissociates it from defeatism.

9. The "Special Russian" Character of Lenin’s Line
The key idea is that the socialist approach in such imperialist wars does not base itself on the perspective of a military decision between the imperialist contestants. But in the Russo-Japanese War, Lenin explicitly, looked to an end of the war by the military power of one or the other government. Thus, writing on June 9, 1905 after the destruction of the tsar’s fleet at Tsushima, Lenin, rejoicing over this crushing defeat, points out the significance of the event by writing: "Everybody understood that the definitive outcome of the war depended on the naval victory of one of the belligerents."46

Lenin here writes "naval victory" because he wants to show that with the debacle of the fleet, the tsar is done for; but in passing, his methodological approach is made crystal-clear. The outcome of the war to which he looked was the "victory of one of the belligerents".

Finally, it is important to take note of another over-all aspect of Lenin’s position on the Russo-Japanese War. At no time did Lenin generalize it into a "defeatism" as a matter of general socialist policy. It was a policy for this war, between these contenders, in this concrete situation. He never gave the idea of defeat the "principled" character which he and Zinoviev were to give it later in 1914-16. It obviously could not be "internationalized". In no way could this defeat-concept be applied to any other country, except Russia or some other backward, semi-feudal reactionary despotism at war With a "progressive" capitalist state.

While this is obvious from the position itself, Lenin’s argumentation brought it out from still another angle. This was his reiterated analysis that Russia’s defeat was due to, and necessitated by, not merely the reactionary, character of its war aims (imperialism, etc.), but by its rotten, outlived, un-modern, backward social structure as compared with "progressive" Japan – which, we must remember, may or may not have been "progressive" as compared with Russia but was hardly so in comparison with Western Europe.

Thus in his June 9 article, he wrote: "The autocracy ... now faces the end it deserves. The war has revealed all its running sores, brought to light its whole rottenness showed how it is divorced from the people.... The war has been an implacable judgment."47

This he does at even greater length in "The Fall of Port Arthur":

"[The autocracy’s collapse in war is] a symptom of the collapse of our whole political system.... War is now made by peoples, and that is why one sees an essential characteristic of the war brought out in particularly bold relief: the manifestation in action ... of the incompatibility of the people and the government....

"The fall of Port Arthur draws one of the greatest historic balance-sheets on the crimes of tsarism.... The military and civil bureaucracy has been revealed as being fully as venal and parasitic as in the days of serfdom.... The ignorance, lack of culture, illiteracy and extremely oppressed state of the peasant masses were manifested with terrible clarity in the conflict with a progressive people, in the course of a modern war which requires human material of high quality as imperiously as does contemporary technology.... Tsarism is revealed as an obstacle to modern organization, an obstacle to attaining the high level of present needs.... The connection between the military organization of the country and its whole economic and cultural structure has never been as close as at the present time. Therefore the collapse could not fail to be the beginning of a deep political crisis."48

Lenin connected defeat with revolution, to be sure, but even more basically he connected defeat with the un-modern, pre-capitalist social structure of tsarism, the social divorcement between the despotism and the people – in comparison with which Japan was "modern", "young", "fresh", and "progressive". The historical basis of his defeatism was, therefore, the type of situation which belonged to the youthful epoch of capitalism, which could not be carried over into the new imperialist era which had already begun. His position on the war was a case of "political lag" (on the analogy of the famous "cultural lag"): socialist theory had not yet caught up with political reality. More than anyone else, Lenin caught up with it in the First World War, but without throwing off all the remnants of the past which weighed on the socialist movement.


Part 2. "Defeatism" During the First World War

In the first two chapters (Part I) of this article, we discussed two myths: (1) that some kind of precedent for Lenin’s world-war defeat-slogan can be found in Marx, Engels or the tradition of the Second International; and (2) that Lenin’s world-war defeat slogan was first applied in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-5. We have seen that there is no precedent whatsoever for a slogan of "defeat" combined with opposition to both sides in a war.

III. Lenin’s Defeat-Slogan 1914-16

When the First World War broke out in August 1914, defeatism had a real past history, and the idea of defeat had a definite meaning in the socialist tradition; but this history and this meaning were quite different from what it later became in the Lenin-myth. First of all, it meant defeat by the enemy government ("pro-war defeatism" we have called it). Secondly, it was not a formula for international application, but the given policy on one side of a given war between a despotic, backward state and a "progressive" capitalist state.

As we raise the curtain on Lenin in August 1914 preparing a document to state the position of the Bolshevik party on the imperialist war, it is this tradition and this meaning which is in his consciousness. Shocked and appalled by the collapse of the whole Second International all around him, he sees the line of blood which has been drawn between the leaders who are whipping the working class into capitulation to the imperialist chauvinism of their own ruling class, under the slogan of "civil peace" and "defense of the fatherland", and the socialists who maintain the class struggle against the war and for the overthrow of this murderous capitalism which is setting worker against worker to cut each other’s throats.

He reacts in the fashion which is characteristic of Lenin the man, and not merely Lenin the Marxist.

For example, over a decade before, he had had to raise a great hue and cry in order to bring together the atomized Russian social-democratic groups and circles into a modern centralized party with a central organ; that at the time was the great next step which had to be taken, it was "what is to be done". It was the key; it had to be pounded home into the consciousness of every militant; everything had to be subordinated to emphasizing it. How do you emphasize it? By repeating it a thousand times, in every conceivable way? Yes. By explaining it patiently over and over? Yes. By piling up argument after argument, seizing every fact, every problem, and converting it into, turning it toward, a lesson on centralization? Yes. But that is not all. The problem is greater centralization, as compared with the present looseness. Then put "Centralization!" on a banner, on a pedestal, emphasize it by raising it to a principle. But the opponents of this elementary need cover their political objections demagogically by yelling "Bureaucratism!" "Lenin wants more bureaucratism, while we are for democracy!" – How does Lenin react? Yes, he replies: "Bureaucratism versus democracy"49 – that is what we need now. He makes perfectly clear what he means, but that is how he seeks to underline, with heavy, thick strokes, the task of the day, by exaggerating in every way that side of the problem which points in the direction it is necessary to move now. Tomorrow he will recapture the balance, but today that is the way he puts the weight on the side which needs it. [Note 8]

In 1914 the traitors to international socialism are yelling "Civil peace!" No, says Lenin, civil war!

In 1914, the traitors are yelling "Defense of the fatherland!" No, says Lenin, defeat of your own fatherland!

Defeat? The concept has lain fallow since 1905. Not once in the interval has Lenin recalled it in his writings. What was it we said about it then? It was our policy against tsarism, against tsarism only...

1. Formulation No.1: The "Lesser Evil" Formula
In early September 1914 Lenin presents his draft thesis to his comrades in Berne. In it – in a subordinate place, to be sure, but still included – is the statement:

"From the point of view of the working class and the laboring masses of all the peoples of Russia, by far the lesser evil would be the defeat of the tsar’s armies and the tsar’s monarchy, which oppresses Poland, the Ukraine, and a number of other peoples of Russia, and which inflames national hatred in order to increase the pressure of Great-Russia over the other nationalities and in order to strengthen the reaction of the barbarous government of the tsar’s monarchy."50

What role does this statement play in the thesis? It is not in the point (No.7) which presents the line and slogans on the war. It is in the section (No.6) which relates the war to the national question in the tsarist prison of the peoples, which argues that Russian socialists must "conduct a merciless and ruthless struggle against Great-Russian and tsarist-monarchist chauvinism". In this connection, Lenin argues, for the oppressed nationalities under Moscow "the lesser evil is defeat".

Lenin has remembered the idea and stuck it in at this point. It is the starting point of a development which we will now have to follow step by step, as it evolves, changes and shifts. It can be done only step by step because, as we have indicated, we are not dealing with a clear political idea which can be easily discussed pro and con, through "examples" and "illustrative quotations", but with a theoretical snarl which has to be disentangled.

We get a hint of what was working in Lenin’s thinking, as he remembers the concept of defeat, by his rough notes for an unfinished article which he jotted down later the same month (perhaps, as we shall see, after already getting objections to the formulation).

"If everywhere [on both sides, there are] the bourgeoisie and the imperialists, everywhere the infamous preparation for war, if Russian tsarism [is] especially infamous and barbarous (more reactionary than any), then [it is likewise true that] German imperialism is also monarchist – feudal-dynastic aims – big bourgeoisie less free than in France. The Russian Social-Democrats were correct in saying that for them the lesser evil [is] the defeat of tsarism, that their immediate enemy [is] more than anything Great-Russian chauvinism; but the socialists (not the opportunists) of all countries should see their main enemy in ‘their’ (own ‘fatherland’s’) chauvinism."51

It is clear how he is trying to think it through. Note the criteria with which he is comparing Russian tsarism and German kaiserism. Tsarism is the most reactionary regime. But – a shadow of the "progressive" Mikado crosses the page – is not the enemy government, Germany, also dominated by precapitalist reaction? It is "monarchist", it is dominated by "feudal-dynastic aims". In this comparison, it is not the imperialist role of Germany, capitalist Germany, which is the criterion. "The big bourgeoisie in Germany is less free than in France" – why is this brought up in this context? It is no mystery because we can understand that in these notes he is not thinking as the Lenin who wrote Imperialism but as the Lenin who wrote "The Fall of Port Arthur".

The emphasis limiting the concept to the Russian socialists is brought out very sharply in Lenin’s next mention of defeat, in his letter to Shlyapnikov of October 17:

"In order that the struggle may proceed along a definite and clear line, one must have a slogan that summarizes it. This slogan is: For us Russians, from the point of view of the interests of the laboring masses and the working class of Russia, there cannot be the slightest doubt, absolutely no doubt whatever, that the lesser evil would be, here and now, the defeat of tsarism in the present war. For tsarism is a hundred times worse than kaiserism. We do not sabotage the war, but we struggle against chauvinism.... It would also be erroneous both to appeal for individual acts of firing at officers, and to allow arguments like the one which says: We do not want to help kaiserism."52

It is now a slogan. And when Lenin writes that "there cannot be the slightest doubt, absolutely no doubt whatever" about it, it is his way of reacting vigorously to the fact that it has already been attacked in the Bolshevik tanks.

But mainly what the letter makes clear is that by "defeat" Lenin plainly means defeat by the enemy government, by the German armies. It is this that is the "lesser evil". (Later reinterpretations sometimes pretended that it meant defeat by the workers’ revolution; but in the first place, this is no "evil", at all, and in the second place the whole business about defeat would be totally incomprehensible if that was all it intended to say.)

When Lenin writes "here and now" ... "in the present war", there can be no doubt about it, even if we did not know that, at this stage, defeatism has no other meaning than military defeat by the enemy camp. In this connection, when Lenin reverted to this same formulation in November 1916 (quotation given below), it is again perfectly clear.

This is what gives the "lesser evil" formulation the sense it has: defeat by Germany would be an evil, yes, but the greater evil would be the victory of the tsar’s army; and we choose between these two evils.

This is what makes sense of the reason given here for the slogan: "For tsarism is a hundred times worse than kaiserism." This slogan of defeat depends for its rationalization not merely on opposition to both camps, but on a "lesser evil" distinction between the two camps. Tsarism is the worst. It obviously could not apply in Germany, where kaiserism is a hundred times better than tsarism. It can apply only for "us Russians".

Moreover, Lenin never did apply this "lesser evil" formulation of the defeat-slogan to any other country. When he tried to "internationalize" the concept, it became something else.

The slogan of defeat begins, therefore, as a special Russian position on the war. Like the motivation for it, it has its roots only in the "special Russian policy" of the Marx-Engels-Second International period of development. Without this background, the very idea of a "special Russian position" on the war would be strange. Here is a general world war, where in every other respect Lenin is driven to emphasize the inextricable entangling of all the threads of world imperialism, and yet he proposes that the socialists of one of the belligerents must adopt a position which he does not even propose for the others.

But the question leaps to the eye: If the slogan of defeat means defeat by Germany (whose victory is the lesser evil), doesn’t this mean preferring the victory of Germany? Naturally, this conclusion has already been excluded by Lenin – after all, the bulk of his writing at this time is devoted precisely to marshaling the arguments against the social-patriots, the German social-patriots above all – but then this means that the slogan of defeat cannot have the simple, clear meaning that it did in 1904-5. How shall this contradiction be resolved?

Out of the attempt to resolve this contradiction came the wavy course of Lenin’s defeatism in 1914-16.

2. Rejection of Defeatism in the Bolshevik Ranks
For the defeat-slogan was the one aspect of Lenin’s war position which immediately met with the widest opposition in the ranks of the Bolshevik party itself. In his letter to Shlyapnikov, Lenin had asked him to send "more details of Russian voices and reactions". Others reported also.

Shlyapnikov recounted, in his memoirs, that the defeat-slogan provoked "perplexity" in Russia. He was apparently being mild. Baevsky’s memoirs relate that it raised objections in Russia and that there was a tendency to eliminate the word defeat "as a very odious one". The Moscow organization adopted the later theses of November 1 (quoted below) with the exception of the paragraph on defeat.53 The Moscow Bolsheviks wrote, via Stockholm for transmission to Lenin, that "notwithstanding all respect to him, his advice to sell the house [code-word for the defeat-slogan] has not struck a responsive chord".54 Later on in 1915, at the trial of the Bolshevik members of the Duma, the Bolshevik deputies refused to take responsibility for the defeat-slogan although generally they defended an and-war view. Bukharin and Piatakov criticized it in the emigration. [Note 9] In fact – outside of Lenin’s immediate co-workers on the Central Organ in Berne, particularly Zinoviev in his own peculiar way – we cannot cite any known Bolshevik who defended it, or any section of the party which came to its defense against its critics; though there must have been such, to various degrees, since at different times different formulations of the idea were approved or compromised on.

The Geneva section of the Bolshevik émigrés wrote in their objection. A letter to Lenin by Karpinsky (September 27) criticized the draft thesis as follows, putting the finger on the bedeviling contradiction:

"The text of paragraph 6 should be changed in order not to give rise to a misinterpretation of this passage: that the Russian Social-Democrats wish for the victory of the Germans and the defeat of the Russians. Note here the possible connection: the German Social-Democrats struggle against Russian tsarism and the Russian Social-Democrats greet the victory of German arms. This idea should he formulated so as to explain what would be the meaning of the victory of the Russian troops and what would be the meaning of their defeat objectively."55

The passage had meant to the Geneva Bolsheviks exactly what it had meant in the whole past of the socialist movement: wish for the victory of the enemy government. But if we Russian Bolsheviks see reason to wish this, why attack the German social democrats for wishing the very same thing? ... So they propose that the only statement that should be made is about the objective consequences of defeat. What they have in mind is merely the idea that "defeat facilitates revolution". They want to strip the passage down to this.

3. Whittling Down the "Lesser Evil" Formula
But when the Bolshevik Central Committee adopts its thesis on the war for publication as the position of the party on November 1, this change is not made. The "lesser evil" formulation goes in. Only now it is not merely tied up with the nationalities problem but directed more generally. And it is preceded by a sentence (whose idea had already been somewhat indicated in the rough notes of September) which doubly underlines that this is a notion for Russian socialists only, which warns that it can not be applied for the internationalist socialist movement as a whole:

"Under given conditions, it is impossible to determine from the standpoint of the international proletariat which is the lesser evil for socialism: the defeat of one or the defeat of the other group of belligerent nations...."

And it continues more or less along the lines of the letter to Shlyapnikov which we have seen: "... For us Russian Social-Democrats, however, there cannot exist the least doubt that from the standpoint of the working class and of the laboring masses of all the peoples of Russia, the lesser evil would be the defeat of the tsarist monarchy, the most reactionary and barbarous government oppressing the greatest number of nations and the greatest mass of the populations of Europe and Asia."56

This "special Russian position" now becomes the public and open position of the party. Once again there is repicated the tell-tale emphasis that Russia is "the most reactionary and barbarous government" in order to justify this, special Russian policy as such, echoing the thought that "tsarism is a hundred times worse than kaiserism".

What follows politically from this statement of the "lesser evil"? Surely,it cannot remain simply an interesting thought in a thesis. Obviously, though the thesis does not yet say so in so many words, what follows is that we wish for this "lesser evil". Otherwise, why bring up the subject in this way?

We find Lenin putting this down in black and white in his next mention of the defeat-concept, December 12: "... it is impossible for the Great-Russians to ‘defend the fatherland’ otherwise than by wishing defeat for tsarism in every war, this being the lesser evil for nine-tenths of the population of Great-Russia...."

So we now "wish defeat"; and this certainly follows from the formula; for if it is so important to emphasize that it is the lesser evil, how can we avoid the conclusion? But the "lesser evil" notion has depended for its political motivation on nothing else than the idea that tsarism is worst, "most reactionary", "most barbarous". This motivation is really inseparable from the formula. But when Lenin now states the reason (to continue the quotation where we broke it off) it is watered down to a statement which could apply to any of the imperialist powers and not only Russian tsarism:

"... since tsarism not only oppresses these nine-tenths of the population economically and politically, but also demoralizes, degrades, defiles and prostitutes them by developing in them the habit of oppressing other peoples, by teaching them to cover up their shame with hypocritical quasi-patriotic phrases."57

But this is agitation; it is no longer a motivation for the special position; the motivation has disappeared (it will shortly be specifically repudiated, We shall see), leaving only the formula, which will soon be changed too.

4. Formulation No.2: "Defeat Facilitiates ...
The big contradiction remains: If the Russian socialists can wish the military defeat of tsarism (everybody understands: by German arms), what is so terrible about the German socialists wishing for the same outcome?

No doubt Lenin confronted this abundantly in the objections that arose within his own ranks, as from Karpinsky and the Geneva section. But we do not find him taking note of it until February 1915, in a polemic against – the Menshevik Axelrod, whom he accuses of being an apologist for the German social-chauvinists. And, as his critics had tried to warn him, he finds this apologist utilizing his own methodology:

"Axelrod’s assertion [writes Lenin] that ‘the defeat of Russia, while unable to hamper the organic development of the country, would help liquidate the old regime’, is true when taken by itself, but when used to justify the German chauvinists it is nothing but an attempt to curry favor with the Südekums. [Südekum was an especially crude representative of German Social-Democratic pro-war fervor – H.D.] To recognize the usefulness of Russian defeat without openly accusing the German and Austrian Social-Democrats of betraying socialism means in reality to help them whitewash themselves, extricate themselves from a difficult situation, betray the workers. Axelrod’s article is a double bow, one before the German social-chauvinists, another before the French."58

No doubt Axelrod is in effect whitewashing the Germans with his arguments, but what is wrong with this argument which can be used so? Lenin replies in effect: "No sir, Axelrod, you can’t get away with it, because when the Germans say what we say, it’s because they merely want to find a pretext for their betrayal of socialism."

No doubt. But is it a cogent pretext? Is the "pretext" justified politically? Has not Lenin lent color and strength to this pretext with his insistence, as an important political concept governing policy on the war, that "tsarism is a hundred times worse than kaiserism – or at any rate "most reactionary" – and with his formula of the lesser evil? He cannot and does not reply to this.

Faced with the other side of his formula as it looks from the German angle, he does not repeat it against Axelrod. Instead, he runs for defense to precisely the line which the Geneva Bolsheviks had recommended in its stead, which he had refused to accept: he writes as if all he had said was that Russian defeat had its "usefulness". ("Objectively", as Karpinsky had written.)

And so we get the first mention of what we may call Formula No.2 – the idea that "defeat facilitates revolution" (objectively). As will, typically happen again on this question, it is a shifting of ground in the face of the insoluble contradiction.

Now there is a positive element in this Formula No.2 which will necessitate discussion and analysis in another article, not under the head of "defeatism", but for our present purposes we must note the following:

(1) At the very least, this new formula, of which we will see several other examples in Lenin’s writings of the period, is different from the defeat-slogan with which he started out. Different political arguments and concepts would be marshaled in defending the two. They do not enforce the same conclusions.

(2) The tremendous difference between them is shown by a simple consideration. The "lesser-evil" formula (No.1), we have seen, was sharply, emphatically and repeatedly limited by Lenin to Russian socialists only. The thesis had gone out of its way to proclaim that it did not hold "from the standpoint of the international proletariat." It was not capable of "internationalization". But the notion about the "usefulness" of defeat, its objective effect in "facilitating revolution", came not from any special Russian consideration or experience but from the experience of all history. It obviously can be applied as much or as little to any and all countries as to Russia. And from this point on, Lenin drops all the previous talk about the special Russian applicability of defeatism and does try to arrive at "international" formulas.

If all the defeatist-talk amounts to is an objective recognition of a connection between defeat and revolution, then it is certainly not a slogan, not even a "slogan" in quotation marks. There is also a connection between economic crisis and revolution – let us say that economic crisis facilitates revolution – but that will lead no educated Marxist into expressing a "wish" for depressions ("the worse the better"). Wage cuts and massacres have been known to facilitate revolutions too....

As mentioned, an analysis of the relation between defeat and revolution has to be made under another head, but we must point out that even at best, when Lenin tears down "defeatism" to Formula No.2, which is no kind of "defeatism" by itself, he is emphasizing only one side of the relation. When later59 we find him making this connection absolute, with the statement that revolution is impossible without defeat, we must understand that he is driven to this historical absurdity by the polemical, need to find a content for something called "the slogan of defeat" or "defeatism", not by any course of political reasoning.

(4) With these things in mind, it is plain that if the idea "defeat facilitates" had been all there was in Lenin’s thinking, he could never have launched such a thing as a "slogan of defeat", nor would the polemics on the question have taken the course they did,

5. Formulation No.3: "Wish Defeat in Every Country"
As we have seen, Lenin’s formula No.2 is, in fact, internationally applicable and not special to Russia. So it is that at this same time. (February, 1915) Lenin, for the first time, explicitly launches his "defeatism" as an international policy.

Modern democracy [i.e., socialism] will remain faithful to itself only if it does not join one or the other imperialist bourgeoisie, if it says that "both are worst", Tit wishes the defeat of the imperialist bourgeoisie in every country. Every other decision will in reality be national-liberal and entirely foreign to true internationalism.60

This is the end of the road for the politics which gave birth to Lenin’s defeatism. Lenin is specifically repudiating in so many words the whole motivation which had brought it on in the first place: "Both are worst." Only a few months before, the basic thought had been that "tsarism is a hundred times worse than kaiserism", he had had to emphasize that tsarism is "the most reactionary barbarous government", "more reactionary than any", etc. [Note 10] Not only has the original motivation been abandoned, but now the formula itself is changed. The "slogan of defeat" remains as the smile without the Cheshire cat. What remains is a running polemic but not a political line.

The formula that we now have is "wish the defeat of the imperialist bourgeoisie in every country". Superficially it sounds as if he had said it before, and he had indeed used the phrase "wish defeat". But that was only as part of the "special Russian policy", as a conclusion from the lesser-evil formula; it was only Russian socialists who were supposed to "wish defeat" because of the uniquely reactionary character of their own government.

The phrase is the same but the political content is now entirely different. "Wish defeat" was a consistent conclusion from the lesser-evil formula. But what does it now mean once it is internationalized? Again, something different at any rate, and it is, in fact, a new Formula No.3.

Let us now see how the insoluble problem of what it means gave rise to the fourth and last switch in the formulas of defeatism.

"Wish defeat" is, as a matter of fact, the historical and necessary kernel of any defeatism which is properly so called. It was the working meaning of defeatism which we used in the previous historical sections. One may say anything one wants about "defeat", but not every statement about defeat is a "defeatism". Defeatism means favoring defeat, desiring defeat, calling for defeat, working for defeat, or something akin, or else one is simply inventing misleading and useless terminology.

Now before 1914 there was no difficulty at all in understanding the meaning of "wish defeat." Nobody could misunderstand it either. With Marx and Engels, in the Second International, with Lenin in the Russo-Japanese War, it meant defeat by the enemy government, whose victory we support. And when it was reborn in Lenin’s thinking in 1914, it still meant defeat by the enemy government. This is what we called (redundantly, it is true) pro-war defeatism.

Entirely unawares of what he is getting into, Lenin is now trying to work out a way of preserving the sharp anti-war flavor of the term defeatism on the basis of a political position which leaves no room for this meaning. A new one has to be invented from scratch.

6. The Baugy Group’s Attack
This – at precisely this point – was raised by a section of the Bolshevik emigration led by Bukharin.

On February 27-March 4, 1915, the Bolsheviks convened a Conference of the Foreign Sections of the party in Berne. The Bolshevik group from Baugy (Switzerland) presented a document with a number of criticisms of the war thesis. Point II of the Baugy resolution dealt with the slogan of defeat. Although stating opposition to any form of the slogan, it balks particularly at the formulation "wish defeat", more than at the "lesser evil" formula:

"Il. The group denounces positively any advancing of the so-called slogan ‘the defeat of Russia’, particularly in the manner in which it has been advanced in No.38 of the Central Organ.

"In the manifesto of the Central Committee as well as in the reply to Vandervelde, the defeat of Russia is described as being the ‘lesser evil’, after an objective evaluation of the other issues of the war. The editorial of No.38, on the other hand, says that every revolutionary is obliged to desire ‘the defeat of Russia’.

"Such a consideration of the question, in the judgment of the group, is not only devoid of practical sense but also introduces into the question an undesirable confusion. If a revolutionary is obliged merely to ‘desire’ the defeat, then there is no use in writing leading articles about it in the Central Organ of the political party; but if he is obliged to do more than merely ‘to desire’, then this would be not simply an objective evaluation but the preaching of an active participation [i.e., taking of sides – H.D.] in the war, which participation would hardly be approved by the editorial board of the Central Organ.

"Still more unsatisfactory, according to the opinion of the group, is the consideration of the same question in the third and concluding paragraph of the article, when the desirability of the defeat is explained by the revolutionary uprisings which may follow. The absolute impossibility of practical agitation in this sense compels the rejection à limite of such agitation for the defeat. We record that in the article referred to, the boundary line between the objective, fully admissible, and correct evaluation of the situation and the agitation for the defeat has not been traced at all; the group believes that it is an urgent necessity to have all confusion and obscurity in this question removed in a most decisive manner."61

The challenge is plain: If you really "desire" it, then you work for it. (Especially if it is so important to "desire" it that you write resolutions about it, articles and editorials about it, and polemize about it!)

But what does "work for defeat" mean?

It must be borne in mind that, in spite of the tentative "internationalization" of the defeat-slogan in one passing article so far, "wish defeat" still carries the meaning of "wish military defeat by the enemy government". More than once Lenin will have to stress that he does not mean "blowing up bridges", helping the enemy, etc. The reason he has to insist that he does not mean this is simply because the slogan he is using does mean this to the movement.

His comrades know what it means to "work for revolutionary action", but "work for defeat" in this war in which we do not support either camp – what is that? True, say Bukharin and the Baugy comrades, revolutionary action may objectively be related to defeat, but what we work for is not "defeat" but the socialist aim.

There is no recorded answer by Lenin. Not in connection with this Berne party conference, and not at any other time – not in his collected works for this period and not in any of the manuscripts (down to rough notes) published supplementary to it at a later time. He simply never faced up to it.

7. Formulation No.4: "Don’t Halt Before the Risk ..."
Even more important: in the face of the Baugy criticism, he dropped the formulation which they had attacked. The resolution adopted says absolutely nothing about "wish defeat". Instead -

For the second time, confronting a difficulty with the formulation of the defeat-slogan, Lenin abandons the formulation which is criticized and invents a new one. The Berne resolution, which he wrote, reads on this point:

"The struggle against the government that conducts the imperialist war must not halt in any country before the possibility of that country’s defeat in consequence of revolutionary propaganda. The defeat of the governmental army weakens the government, aids the liberation of the nationalities oppressed by it, and makes civil war against the ruling classes easier.

"This proposition is especially true in relation to Russia. The victory of Russia will bring with it a strengthening of world reaction, a strengthening of the reaction inside of the country, and will be accompanied by a complete enslavement of the peoples in the regions already seized. In view of this, the defeat of Russia appears to be the lesser evil under all conditions."62

It seems to be a compromise. A kind of "lesser evil" formula is still in. To be sure, its "special" motivation is still dead and will never be disinterred; to be sure, it is rather peculiar to read that defeat of Russia "appears to be" the lesser evil, and one wonders how that note of uncertainty got in. But this formula No.1 is there.

. No.2 is there also: "defeat facilitates."

But instead of No.3, precisely the one which had been vigorously attacked, we have a totally new formulation of the "internationalized" defeat-slogan: the class struggle must not halt before the possibility of defeat in consequence of revolutionary propaganda. Or, as it will read when we meet it again: do not halt before the risk of defeat. (Formula No.4.)

It is one of the most curious features of the history of the defeat-slogan that this last formula has been so widely accepted as simply the equivalent of, a restatement of, or a variant of, the "wish for defeat" or even of the "special Russian formula", of the lesser evil. Not only is it completely different but its implication is precisely the reverse of a "wish for defeat."

"Do not halt before the risk" implies that we do not wish defeat itself, but that what we wish is a continuation of the class struggle to socialist victory, and that we pursue this in spite of the fact that it may have an objective effect on the military plane.

This is especially clear when the word "risk" is actually used, as Lenin does more than once. Then it specifically repudiates Formula No.3. Otherwise the thought is only implied, and the repudiation is by implication. Yet it is possible to find in the movement, in one and the same "educational" article, that both are quoted indiscriminately as equally "illustrative" of Lenin’s defeatism, plus – more often than not – the special Russian formula of the lesser evil thrown in for good measure.

There is surely no other question in Marxist literature where quite such a tangle of confusion reigns. The source of the confusion, however, is in Lenin, not in his confused exegetes.

In this formula too (which is not of itself a form of defeatism) there is a positive element which we shall discuss in another article as already mentioned. But let us apply the comparative test again, taking the formula at face value:

We do not wish to halt the socialist struggle before the risk or possibility of defeat: Very well. But we also will not halt the struggle before the risk or possibility of-say, personal injury or loss; or before the risk or possibility that an intensified class struggle will stimulate fascist elements to organize, or before the risk or possibility that the socialist struggle will lead to persecution by the government; or before a number of other contingencies which we certainly seek to take into account, but which we do not "wish", which we do not turn into a slogan or an "ism" or a new political "principle".

Nor would Lenin ever have done this except for the specific impasse into which he had pushed himself, and from which he refused to extricate himself by dropping the whole business. He was in any case seeking the sharpest ways to demarcate the sheep from the goats, and "defeatism" became a point d’honneur of the Bolshevik war line. Some time afterward it became a shibboleth.

8. Summary: The 4 Formulas
By this time, March 1915, we have the four formulas of "defeatism" created out of the attempt to meet the insoluble contradictions without solving them. Before going ahead, let us summarize them:

No.1: The special Russian position: defeat of Russia by Germany is the "lesser evil".

No.2: The objective statement that "defeat facilitates revolution".

No.3: The slogan: wish defeat in every country.

No.4: Do not halt before the risk of defeat.

These are four different political ideas. Only three of them are meaningful for the international movement. Only two of them involve any wish for defeat (1 and 3). Only one of them can actually be put forward in the form of a "slogan" (3).

Which is the meaning of Lenin’s position, even assuming that all of them have some self-consistent meaning of their own? The truth is that from this point on, Lenin juggles all four depending on polemical aim and convenience. Let us see what new aspects are introduced up to the very last gasp of Lenin’s defeatism in November 1916.

9. Trotsky’s Attack on the Defeat-Slogan
We now come to the only article written by Lenin solely in exposition of his defeat-slogan (all his other references to it are in passing paragraphs). This article, "Defeat of ‘Our’ Government in the Imperialist War"63 is itself the biggest muddle of all, compared with which the previous passages were models of clarity. Because it is a whole article discussing "defeatism" and therefore appears to be the authoritative statement on the subject for handy reference, it has undoubtedly played a major role in disorienting more than one student of Lenin. It must be said, without the slightest exaggeration, that in it Lenin simply goes hog-wild, throwing clear thinking to the winds.

To understand the reason for that, and to understand the article itself, it is necessary to present the immediate background of the article, which fortunately is known. The background is the clash between Lenin and Trotsky on issues which did not involve defeatism.

Trotsky was at this time the leading spirit of Nashe Slovo, published in Paris as a Russian daily for the revolutionary emigration. On the paper collaborated also a number of dissident Bolsheviks, a number of internationalist-Mensheviks (including Martov, up to almost the Zimmerwald Conference), and a number of non-affiliated Social-Democrats (this includes Trotsky himself). Its technical spark-plug was Antonov-Ovseyenko; a partial list of its collaborators and contributors would be in part an honor roll of later leaders of the Russian Revolution. It was the leading anti-war organ of the Russian movement.

At the beginning of 1915 there were tentative efforts made between the Nashe Slovo group and Lenin to collaborate in anti-war propaganda. One such opportunity seemed to arise with the announcement of the London Conference of Inter-Allied Socialists (i.e., the social-patriots in the Allied war camp). Since Russia was an ally too, the anti-war Russian socialists thought to seize the opportunity for a bit of education. Nashe Slovo sent invitations to both the Bolsheviks and the centrist Menshevik "Organization Committee" to get together to prepare a joint statement against the war, for presentation in London. Lenin agreed, and drew up a draft statement. The joint action never took place, with some accompanying hard feeling, but we can note here that it was not because of the question of defeatism for the good and sufficient reason that Lenin’s draft did not include a wisp of the idea, not in any of its protean forms.64

Yet Nashe Slovo had been taking pot-shots at the Bolsheviks’ defeat-slogan ever since it had been launched. As Alfred Rosmer writes: "The polemic [on defeatism] developed between Lenin and Nashe Slovo, most particularly Trotsky."65 (Rosmer was himself a Nashe Slovo contributor at the time and a collaborator of Trotsky’s.)

The rock on which the joint project had foundered was mainly the question of the participation of the Menshevik 0.C., but Trotsky himself was more or less recognized as the left wing of the Nashe Slovo group. His position on the war was a thoroughgoing internationalism, and the Nashe Slovo group as a whole took the attitude that their two main differences on war line with the Bolsheviks – the peace slogan and defeatism – were subordinate questions. The big difference that divided Trotsky and the Bolsheviks, at this time as before, was not on political line at all but on the "organizational question", in which regard Trotsky acted as a "conciliator" for Bolshevik-Menshevik unity.

At the Berne conference, the Bolsheviks had decided to launch a new magazine to be called Kommunist. Showing a faith in Trotsky’s internationalism which should be kept in mind, Lenin invited Trotsky to become a collaboratoron the magazine.

And Trotsky rejected the invitation with an Open Letter to the Editorial Board of Kommunist, printed in Nashe Slovo of June 4, 1915, which was a slap in the face.

Trotsky declined, not on grounds of any political differences whatsoever, but on his "organizational" grounds: the Bolsheviks’ "factional" methods, etc. His Open Letter emphasizes very carefully that whatever political differences exist are not any bar to collaboration. In the course of doing so, he mentions these differences and comments on them. The following was his comment in passing on the defeat-slogan, in this context:

"... under no conditions can I agree with your opinion, which is emphasized by a resolution, that Russia’s defeat would be a ‘lesser evil’. This opinion represents a fundamental concession to the political methodology of social-patriotism, a concession for which there is no reason or justification, and which substitutes an orientation (extremely arbitrary under present conditions) along the lines of a ‘lesser evil’ for the revolutionary struggle against war and the conditions which generate this war."66

Trotsky hits the nail on the head. He points to the fundamental identity in methodology between the "lesser evil" formulation of defeatism and that of the social-patriots. Nashe Slovo had pointed out that this defeatist concept was simply defensism turned inside-out (in somewhat the same sense that in our time we have called the Stalinist line on the Negro question "Jim Crow in reverse"). He pointed precisely to the social-patriotic potential which resides in the defeat-slogan, and of which we shall see more evidence later.

Lenin’s only public notice of this rebuff was his article in which he assailed, with unparalleled venom and bitterness, the passing comment in the Open Letter on defeatism. But it is not defeatism that he is exercised about! Trotsky has preferred to collaborate with suspect left-Mensheviks and dissident Bolsheviks and not with him. As usual with Lenin’s fiercest attacks on Trotsky, it is the "organizational question" which provides the steam. But the broadside which he fires is a political one, on a peripheral political difference. And alas, he fires this broadside with damp powder.

10. Lenin’s Polemic Against Trotsky on Defeatism
Following are the most important things to be noted about the article, "Defeat of ‘Our’ Government in the Imperialist War".

(1) Toward the very beginning, Lenin quotes the criticism of defeatism made by Trotsky in the Open Letter as the butt of his attack. But his quotation is not complete, and a very important part is left out. This is how Lenin put it:

"To wish Russia defeat, Trotsky says, is ‘an uncalled-for and unjustifiable political concession to the methodology of social patriotism ...’ [and so on with the rest of the quotation from Trotsky, which is here given in a different translation]."67

Now the fact is that Trotsky’s criticism had been specifically directed at the "lesser evil" formula. Lenin does not show this in beginning the quotation where he does. Without quote marks, he substitutes "to wish Russian defeat" as the formula which Trotsky is presumably attacking.

And this is important because, although it is the "lesser evil" formula which has been attacked, nowhere in the whole article does Lenin even mention the existence of this formula, let alone defend it.

Perhaps because he is through with it himself? This would not excuse such a gambit in his polemic, but as a matter of fact he is going, to recur .to it in other writings. But not in this one, where he is replying to a criticism that was made against it and it alone!

(2) Instead of the "lesser evil" formula (No.1), the version which Lenin uses for the most part in this article is "wish defeat" (No.3). This is precisely the one formulation of the defeat-slogan that was not in the Berne Conference resolution of the Bolsheviks, which had just been held! Of course, the Berne Conference resolution was not the product of a congress, with binding power on the Central Committee, but of a consultative conference; still, as we have seen, the "wish defeat" formulation had not been pressed by Lenin in the face of the opposition of the Baugy group. If it had been dropped at the conference as a compromise, the compromise did not mean very much.

In any case, what is interesting is the pattern: for the third time, Lenin meets an attack on the defeat-slogan not by defending the formulation which has been attacked but by substituting one of the other formulations. We saw that, against Axelrod, he resorted to inventing a new formula, (the objective "usefulness" of defeat, or "defeat facilitates"), without discussing the difficulty raised by Axelrod’s remarks; we saw, secondly, that against Bukharin and Baugy, he again inserted a new formula (No.4), dropping the one that was under fire; and now again, against Trotsky, he does not meet the criticism that is made but resorts to the very formulation which had been dropped in Berne when it was under attack from Baugy.

This is not the picture of a Lenin who knows what he believes and is ready to stand up and slug for it; this is the picture of a Lenin who is confused and muddled on this question and cannot really defend it – although he "feels" that there is something terribly fundamental about it as a shield against defensism, as a sharp way of separating the sheep from the goats.

(3) In spite of this fact, we find Lenin appealing to the Berne Conference resolution! This he does as a substitute for taking up the question which, he has avoided – the meaning of the "lesser evil" formulation with regard to Germany’s victory. This is what he actually writes:

"In using phrases to avoid the issue, Trotsky has lost his way amidst very simple surroundings. It seems to him that to wish Russia’s defeat means to wish Germany’s victory.... In this Trotsky also repeats the ‘methodology of social-patriotism’! To help people that do not know how to think, the Berne resolution (Sotsial-Demokrat, No.40) made it clear that in all imperialist countries the proletariat must now wish the defeat of its government."68

This is precisely, what the Berne resolution did not "make clear"; in fact, this is the formulation which the resolution abandoned!

Besides: suppose the Berne resolution had included it: this is no answer to Trotsky’s criticism. Lenin writes that "it seems to him [Trotsky]" that to wish defeat for Russia means defeat by German arms, as if this were a deviation or misunderstanding of Trotsky’s. But we have seen that this is what it had always meant to the whole movement. This is what it had meant to Lenin himself in 1904-5, and this is what it had meant to Lenin only a few months before in September. Moreover this is what it had meant to his own closest comrades who criticized it within the ranks of the Bolshevik party (like Karpinsky). And Bukharin-Baugy too, only a couple of months before, had based their objection to "wish defeat" on the ground that it meant taking sides in the war. Because of this very objection, the formula had not been included in the Berne resolution.

When Lenin merely replies that he applies the defeat-slogan to all warring countries, he is only asserting that he refuses to apply the "lesser evil" formula in its consistent and established sense. Surely Trotsky knew that Lenin did not actually "wish Germany’s victory". He had shown that the methodology of the defeat-slogan pointed in that direction. Lenin’s feeble "you too" retort is peculiarly out of place.

(4) In this unhappy article, Lenin does not even limit himself to the formulation "wish defeat". At Berne, the Baugy group had indeed raised the question whether the "wish" could remain a mere wish. In this article – and only in this wild article – Lenin writes down "working toward military defeat" as a variant on the formula. His slogan, he says, is one "calling for" defeat. He exults that "the tsarist government was perfectly right in asserting" that the propaganda of the Bolshevik Duma deputies "aided its defeat". To deal blows against one’s own war government, he writes, "means helping to defeat one’s own country". Helping whom? What wide-open writing, at the best! (Note also that on this occasion Lenin slips into "defeat one’s own country", instead of "government".)

Three times he repeats that we cannot fight the war "without contributing to the defeat" of the government. And at, one point even the word "defeat" is not sharp enough, not "hard"’ enough, for him: a worker, he says, cannot unite with the proletarians on the other side of the lines "without contributing to the defeat, the dismemberment of ‘his’ imperialist ‘great’ power". We are now for dismemberment? No doubt Lenin used the word with the idea in mind of the breaking up of a colonial empire, or the liberation of Russia’s oppressed nationalities, but it is written down in no such context.

And he writes: "We indisputably mean not only the wish for its defeat, but practical actions leading toward such defeat." Practical actions toward defeat? What does this mean? It is at this point that Lenin adds in parentheses:

"For the ‘penetrating reader’: This does not at all mean to ‘blow up bridges’, organize unsuccessful military strikes, and, in general, to help the government to defeat the revolutionaries."

So we are assured of what the phrase does not mean. What does it mean? The Baugy group and other comrades had asked the same question. We can understand "practical actions" leading toward an anti-war fight and revolution, which may or may not entail military defeat on the front, as a by-product, but even this idea (Formula No.4, more or less) does not appear in this wild polemic.

Fortunately the slogan "work for defeat through practical actions", or something of the sort, never took root even in the later myth, and we can understand why.

(5) On none of the questions that we have raised, or that his critics have raised, does Lenin’s article present any reasoned political discussion. Instead hollow categorical assertions substitute , for arguments. The first three sentences are, for example:

"A revolutionary class in a reactionary war cannot but "wish the defeat of its own government". This is an axiom. It is disputed only by the conscious partisans or the helpless satellites of the social-chauvinists."

This is simple bluster. Even if the defeat-slogan were correct, the last thing in the world it was, was an "axiom" of the socialist movement or anybody else, at any other time or place. And in view of the widespread rejection of the slogan by Bolsheviks, including leading Bolsheviks, the third sentence merely registers uncontrolled fury.

The article is full of such assertive bluster: "we indisputably mean ..." when the point is far from indisputable and, in fact, it is precisely disputation that is called for; "this slogan alone means a consistent appeal to revolutionary action ..." where the italicization of alone carries the burden that should have been shouldered by a political demonstration; and it is here that we are virtually told that revolution is "impossible" without defeat.

Under this head should also come the "amalgam" that Lenin makes throughout this article between Trotsky’s views and those of everyone else in the political spectrum down to the rabid social-chauvinists of the German Social-Democracy (like David). By the time the article gets through in a crescendo of rage, Trotsky and others are "in fact on the side of the bourgeoisie and the opportunists, since they ‘do not believe’ in the possibility of international revolutionary action of the working class against its governments, and since they do not wish to help the development of such actions...."

It is in this article, also, that we get the most extreme statements about the role of the defeat-slogan in an anti-war position. For example: "To repudiate the defeat slogan means to reduce one’s revolutionary actions to an empty phrase or sheer hypocrisy."

(6) The only passage which even sounds as if Lenin is trying to present an argument is the following:

"He who wishes earnestly to dispute the ‘slogan’ calling for the defeat of one’s own government in the imperialist war would have to prove one of three things: either (1) that the war of 1914-15 is not reactionary; or (2) that a revolution in connection with it is impossible, or (3) that coordination and mutual aid of the revolutionary movement in all belligerent countries is. impossible."

He then proceeds to argue that the war is reactionary, that a revolution is possible, and that international action is possible also. But this is a begging of the question. The three conditions. add up to revolutionary anti-war opposition, to be sure, but (to not even begin to bear upon the objections to the defeat-slogan which have been so abundantly made within the framework of revolutionary anti-war policy. He makes the connection after a while only with a final assertion: "It is impossible, however", unless ... "Such growth is impossible without...."

His comment on the third of the three conditions is interesting: "The last reason is particularly important for Russia, because this is the most backward country, where an immediate socialist revolution is impossible. This is why the Russian Social-Democrats had to be the first to advance the theory and the practice of the defeat ‘slogan’."

This is a weak echo of the political motivation which had led Lenin to introduce the defeat slogan in 1914 in the first place-as a special policy limited to Russia. Now he is using it gingerly only to explain why the Russian Bolshevik group alone has seen fit to raise it, among all the anti-war internationalists.

(7) In this article we also get Lenin’s polemic against the slogan "Neither victory nor defeat". We will later take up the views of Trotsky and Luxemburg on this question. At this point it is enough to note the following:

No such slogan was raised by Trotsky (or by Luxemburg). Although Lenin never quite says that Trotsky did so, there are perhaps few readers who have not gotten the contrary impression from his polemic. [Note 11] As a matter of fact, it is the Menshevik Semkovsky who alone is actually quoted to this effect by Lenin. The Menshevik leadership did in fact raise this as a slogan, at least in the form "Neither victory nor vanquished!" as recorded by T. Dan.69 It is against them, dragged into this amalgam, that Lenin is right in pointing out that such a conception presupposes a return to the status quo ante bellum as against a revolutionary outcome of the imperialist war. We saw the same thing happen in the Russo-Japanese War with the Mensheviks: they did not avoid, but merely straddled, the dilemma of victory-or-defeat within the framework of the existing governments. This had nothing in common with Trotsky’s approach to the question of victory-or-defeat.

11. The Rest of the Record: Aug. 1915 to Nov. 1916
From this point on, let us complete the record by noting Lenin’s subsequent references to the defeat-slogan, pausing only at new points of special interest. All four formulations are used indiscriminately, now one, now another.

(1) In the pamphlet Socialism and War (written August 1915) by Lenin and Zinoviev, Lenin wrote the passage on defeatim:70 we must "wish defeat" of our government, we must "see the’ connection between the government’s military reverses and the increased opportunity for overthrowing it ... the socialists of all the belligerent countries should express their wish that all ‘their’ governments be defeated."

This would "coincide with the hidden thoughts of every class-conscious worker", he says. The last remark should be kept in mind when we come to see Lenin in 1917, on his return to Russia, finding out what were the "hidden thoughts" of the class-conscious workers.

(2) In the long article "The Collapse of the Second International" written about the same time (summer 1915), there is a passing reference to "wishing defeat".71

(3) In a private letter to Shlyapnikov of August 23, 1915, Lenin writes:

"The events in Russia have completely confirmed our position which the blockheads, social-patriots (from Alexinsky to Chkheidze) have christened defeatism. Facts have proved that we were right!! Military failures are helping to shake tsarism and are facilitating the union of revolutionary workers of Russia and the other countries. They say, what will ‘you’ do, if ‘you’ revolutionaries defeat tsarism? I reply: (1) our victory will cause the movement of the ‘Lefts’ in Germany to flare up a hundred times more strongly; (2) should we overcome tsarism completely, then we would propose a peace on democratic conditions to all the belligerents, and in case of a refusal would wage a revolutionary war."72

The most interesting thing about this is the shift that takes place between one sentence and the next. At the beginning of the paragraph, the position that has been "completely confirmed" is the easy Formulation No.2, "defeat facilitates ...". Naturally this means, and can only mean, defeats inflicted by Germany. Without transition, Lenin swings into the question of the defeat of tsarism by the revolutionaries, that is, the victory of the revolution. Naturally there is a connection between the two, but in the defeat-slogan itself, the "wish for defeat" refers to defeat by the enemy government, which in turn is necessary to facilitate the victory of the revolution. (It was only in the post-Lenin period of reinterpretation that the slogan of "wishing defeat" was made out to mean only "wishing for defeat by the revolution alone" and not by victories of the enemy camp.)

Also: it seems that only blockheads and social-patriots have "christened" the position defeatism. This will not prevent Lenin (and even more often Zinoviev) from subsequently calling it "defeatism" himself, usually in quotation marks but not always. In the later Comintern, the term defeatism became standard in spite of this passage.

(4) In October 1915, Lenin wrote an article (which was not published and remained among his papers) entitled "The Defeat of Russia and the Revolutionary Crisis."73 In it he notes that the defeats being suffered by the tsar’s armies are leading to revolutionary ferment. Here we get his only reference in this connection to the Russo-Japanese War, but not to his position on it. He merely notes that "Again there is military defeat and the acceleration of the revolutionary crisis caused by it". In fact, there is the following curious passage referring to the present war (1915):

"Equally clear is the position of the liberal bourgeoisie: to take advantage of the defeat and the growing revolution in order to wrest compromises from a frightened monarchy and to compel it to share power with the bourgeoisie. Equally clear, too, is the position of the revolutionary proletariat, which is striving to consummate the revolution by taking advantage of the vacillations and embarrassments of the government and the bourgeoisie."

Here it is the liberal bourgeoisie (in 1915!) which is painted as recognizing the principle that "defeat facilitates" – which would make them "defeatists" if we took seriously some of Lenin’s previous formulations! – whereas, counterposed, the revolutionaries are not pictured as striving for "defeat". Make of it what you will. As a matter of fact, the article goes on to crow over the fact that the Mensheviks have issued a call for "revolt" in the rear of the German army – "this after a whole year of fighting the slogan of civil war!" he exclaims. The muddle is really breath-taking since, obviously, a call for revolt in the rear of the enemy government is hardly in contradiction with opposition to civil war (or any other fight) against one’s own government.

But somehow, Lenin concludes out of this muddle that the defeat-slogan is once more confirmed, because of the Mensheviks’ call and the liberal bourgeoisie’s sentiment:

"... in face of the revolutionary crisis in Russia, which is being accelerated precisely by defeat-and this what the motley opponents of ‘defeatism’ are afraid to admit.... The lessons of the war are compelling even our opponents really to recognize both the position of ‘defeatism’ and the necessity of issuing ... the slogan of ‘a revolt in the rear’ of the German militarists, in other words, the slogan of civil war. The lessons of the war, it appears, are driving into their heads what we have preached from the very beginning. The defeat of Russia has turned out to be the lesser evil, for it has advanced the revolutionary crisis on a vast scale and has aroused millions, tens and hundreds of millions."

(5) In a polemical article entitled (and against) "Wilhem Kolb and George Plekhanov", in February 1916, Lenin mentions that "both accuse the revolutionary Social-Democrats of ‘defeatism’, using the favorite expression of the Plekhanovists...."74 In this article the social-chauvinists’ fear of defeat of their own government is counterposed to the slogan of wishing defeat: Kolb "is right when he says that they [the tactics of the German Left] mean the ‘military weakening’ of Germany, i.e., desiring and aiding its defeat, defeatism."

(6) For the first time Lenin put the defeat-slogan forward for a vote before the internationalist Left in his theses presented at the Kienthal Conference (the second Zimmerwald conference). It had not been presented at Zimmerwald itself.

In an extant first draft of these theses, Lenin wrote the following, apparently referring approvingly to a statement made in Bulletin No.3 of the Zimmerwald commission, though it is not contained in the Zimmerwald Manifesto or resolution:

"... if we call the masses to struggle against their governments ‘independently of the military situation of a given country’, we thereby not only deny in principle the admissibility of ‘defense of the fatherland’ in the given war, but we admit the desirability of the defeat of every bourgeois government, for the transformation of the defeat into a revolution. And this must be said openly: the revolutionary mass struggle cannot become an international one unless its conscious representatives unite openly in the name of defeat and overthrow of all bourgeois governments."75

To struggle against the government "independently of the military situation – that is, regardless of the consequences of the class struggle on the military situation – is a version of Formulation No.4. It does not involve a wish for defeat, of course. It most certainly does involve carrying on the anti-war fight "in the name of defeat".

But whereas this first draft seemed to hail it, the theses as they were finally presented referred to this very same idea as "not sufficient":

"It is not sufficient to say, as the Zimmerwald Manifesto does [this is a mistake – H.D.], that ... the workers in their revolutionary struggle must not take into account the military situation of their country; it is necessary to say clearly what is here merely hinted at, namely ... that revolutionary action during the war is impossible without creating the risk of defeat for ‘one’s own’ government; and that every defeat of the government in a reactionary war facilitates revolution.... "76

In our own day, this formula of "continuing the class struggle regardless of its effect on the military situation" was to become a most frequent watered-down version of the defeat-slogan as reinterpreted, being embodied in these words in the founding program of the Socialist Workers Party. "It is not sufficient", says Lenin, and he is right from his point of view, though he fails to say that what is really missing is the "wish for defeat". This he does not put forward himself, in spite of his bluster in the anti-Trotsky polemic.

(7) In his criticism (August 1916) of Rosa Luxemburg’s "Junius" pamphlet on the war, Lenin relegates the question of the defeat-slogan to a footnote. It is obvious to the naked eye that the approach taken by "Junius" is quite incompatible with the defeat-slogan of Lenin’s, but Lenin does not make a great fuss about it. In his footnote he says that the questions must be raised -

(1) Is "revolutionary intervention" possible without the risk of defeat? (2) Is it possible to scourge the bourgeoisie and the government of one’s own country without taking the risk? (3) Have we not always asserted, and does not the historical experience of reactionary wars prove, that defeats help the cause of the revolutionary class?"77

These are his two most watered-down versions. Luxemburg’s pamphlet, incidentally, does have some comments on the connection between defeat and revolution, though these comments do not at all commit Lenin’s error in viewing this connection from a starkly one-sided view; and though she does not take up the "risk" question in the same form, there could not be any slightest doubt in the mind of a reader what her reply would be: we do not hold back because of the risk of defeat of the German armies.

(8) In an article written August 1916 for the Jugend-Internationale, Lenin mentions "wish for the defeat of ‘its own’ government" in passing.78

(9) The last gasp of the defeat-slogan comes in November 1916 with an article "On Separate Peace" in tones that we have already heard:

"Whatever the outcome of the present war may be, it will prove that those who said that the only possible way out of it is proletarian civil war for socialism were right. It will prove that the Russian Social-Democrats who said that the defeat of tsarism, the complete military defeat of tsarism, is ‘at any rate’ a lesser evil were right.... [Even] if the proletariat of Europe is unable to advance to socialism at the present time.... Eastern Europe and Asia can march with seven-league strides towards democracy only if tsarism meets with utter military defeat and is deprived of all opportunity of practicing its semi-feudal imperialist policy."79

Here, as always in Lenin, the "lesser evil" formula occurs only in connection with tsarism and the perspective of the Russian socialists. Here also, as clearly as ever before, it is made plain without the shadow of a doubt that Lenin is talking about the military defeat of Russia by Germany, and not its defeat by the socialist revolution. With this return to the very first formulation of 1914, the circles closes and the defeat-slogan will not be put forward again while Lenin is still alive.

12. When Defeatism Was Not Put Forward
A certain interest can also be attached to another aspect of Lenin’s writings during 1914-16: the occasions on which he did not put forward the defeat-slogan. Naturally this could be pressed to an absurd point, and there is no reason to expect him to put forward the defeat-slogan in every discussion on the war question. (As a matter of fact, in only 11 articles published during the years 1914-16 did Lenin mention the idea; to which we can add only seven other documents of the period that figure in his collected writings: unpublished articles, letters, notes, etc.)

Obviously it would be easy to draw up a long list of articles in which the nature of the questions discussed might lead us to ask: Why didn’t Lenin bring up defeatism here? – especially if we take seriously some of his statements about the crucial importance of the slogan. But we shall mention here only a few special cases, where the presentation of the defeat-slogan would seem to have been most clearly called for.

(1) We have already mentioned that, in February 1915, Lenin drew up a draft of a joint statement80 against the war to be presented to the London Inter-Allied Socialist Conference, in response to the proposal for common action made by Nashe Slovo. In this draft he systematically set out to list the ideas which were essential to a complete, consistent internationalist war policy. It was by no means intended as a "compromise" draft in any sense, but as a complete position.

There is no hint of the defeat-slogan, or of anything like it, in any of its versions.

(2) The projected joint statement fell through, but in March 1915 the Bolsheviks did send their own representative (Litvinov, then living in London) to present a statement to the conference in the name of the Bolsheviks alone.81 Again, it would be easy to show that this statement was not intended to be "conciliatory". It was, furthermore, written by Lenin himself.

In this statement by the Bolsheviks alone, there is no mention of the defeat-slogan in any form.

(3) Also in March 1915, a Bolshevik delegation attended the International Socialist Women’s Conference in Berne. The resolution on war policy82 which they introduced had no mention of the defeat-slogan in any form. [Note 12]

(4) In the October 13, 1915 issue of Sotsial-Demokrat, the editors presented a document entitled "A Few Theses" on slogans and attitude on the war.83 (It was written by Lenin.) We mention this particularly because later, in 1917, these Theses were going to be repeatedly referred to, reprinted and quoted by Lenin as the position of the Bolsheviks. They were not intended as a complete summary of war policy but as statements on a number of especially important points.

The defeat-slogan was not one of these.

(5) At the Zimmerwald Conference in September 1915, the Bolshevik position was put forward in the documents of the "Zimmerwald Left", which formed in support of Lenin’s views on the war as distinct from those of the other anti-war elements at the conference. While Lenin voted for the majority resolution after his own was rejected, the resolution and manifesto of the Zimmerwald Left84 were intended to put on the record what he considered to be the complete anti-war position. In an article in Sotsial-Demokrat on the Zimmerwald Conference (October 11), Zinoviev wrote that the Zimmerwald Left "defended, alone, a complete and definite prograni".85

This complete and definite program had no mention of the defeat-slogan in any form. (We have already pointed out that it was not until the Kienthal Conference in April 1916 that the defeat-slogan was put forward in any version before an international group.)

Even these five outstanding cases would be very strange if Lenin really did regard the defeat-slogan as a sine qua non for anti-war policy. In point of fact, however, they are not strange at all; they stand in contradiction only with the myth. Lenin became a fierce proponent of defeat mainly in counterpunching against an attack, or in factional polemics of his own.

(6) Related to this question are the cases where, in 1917 and later, including during the first years of the Comintern, Lenin harks back to the 1914-16 period in order to summarize in retrospect the different tendencies on the war question in the socialist ranks. The three tendencies are described: the social-chauvinist right, the centrists of various shades, and the internationalist left. There are numerous passages of this sort in the writings of Lenin and the documents of the Comintern from 1917 through 1923. [Note 13]

The defeat-slogan in any form never figures in this summary, neither its rejection by the "centrists" nor its advocacy by the Bolsheviks.

(7) But the biggest case where Leniin did not put forward the defeat-slogan, but rather abandoned it completely, is the whole period of 1917 between March and November. This will be the subject of the chapter after next.

IV. First World War: Zinoviev, Trotsky, Luxemburg

Special attention to Zinoviev is necessary because, during the period that has been under discussion, it was Zinoviev who was virtually the only close colleague of Lenin in the formulating and propagandizing of the Bolshevik war policy, working with Lenin in Berne. And among the leading Bolsheviks it was Zinoviev alone who, under Lenin’s immediate supervision, attempted to defend and expound the defeat-slogan. His role during this period is preserved in the volume Gegen den Strom (Against the Current) which was later published by the Bolsheviks as the collection of published writings by both of them during these years of the world war.

Zinoviev played no independent role in the formulation of the defeat-slogan. He tried to follow Lenin’s lead. Whereas Lenin never mentioned supposed precedents for his defeatism, it was Zinoviev who specialized particularly in giving it an historical tradition, as we have discussed in the first two chapters. The only article by him which is specifically on defeatism, included in Gegen den Strom, is the historical "‘Defeatism’ Then and Now"86 already referred to. There is a long passage on defeatism in another article,87 and references in a couple of others.88

When, however, Zinoviev himself wrote a big book on the war question in 1915-16 (not published until April 1917), The War and the Crisis of Socialism, it did not have a line in it raising the defeat-slogan. [Note 14] This was not due to its restricted scope, which included an encyclopedic array of topics! – nor was it due to restricted size, which is no less than 652 pages in the German edition. For Lenin’s closest collaborator, this is something of an oversight, in terms of the myth that defeatism was and is the heart of anti-war policy in an imperialist war, or at any rate an essential ingredient.

In his articles, Zinoviev tried to follow Lenin’s lead on defeatism, no doubt as best he could. But how could anybody follow successfully when the lead was so confused and shifting? Here is Lenin’s right-hand collaborator on the same question, and his staggering course is a picture of confusion worse confounded. The last point under this head that we will discuss was not merely a question of confusion: it was the outstanding evidence, even in this world war period, of the social-patriotic potential inherent in the defeat-slogan.

1. On the "Lesser Evil"
Outside of his historical excursions en the subject, Zinoviev’s longest discussion of the defeat-slogan is in his extensive article "The Russian Social-Democracy and Russian Social-Chauvinism", written in the summer of 1915. Like Lenin’s anti-Trotsky polemic, it is written under the impress of Trotsky’s attack in his Open Letter. Zinoviev does not even quote Trotsky’s criticism. His direct reference to Trotsky is a snide sideswipe: On the question of defeatism, he writes –

"... the following march against us in a closed Phalanx: the direct social-chauvinists ... the right center ... and the "left-center" (see the rather unenlightening remarks on this point by Trotsky in his Open Letter to the editors of Kommunist). We are firmly convinced that the unity of the center with the social-chauvinists on this point is not at all accidental. Everything has a reason.89

Outside of this "amalgam" Zinoviev is not very enlightening himself. He does not discuss the "lesser evil" formulation that Trotsky had criticized. In this he perhaps shows discretion. When, later in the article, he himself presents the "lesser evil" idea, he blunders in where Lenin did not tread.

We have made clear that Lenin never applied the "lesser evil" formulation to any other country but Russia. This fine point, apparently, was never explained to Zinoviev, who says:

"... the internationalists can pursue a consistent struggle against their governments and their chauvinists in none of the warring countries if they do not defend in their agitation the principle that the defeat of the imperialists of their ‘fatherland’ would he the lesser evil from the standpoint of the interests of the proletariat."90

This is flatly in contradiction with the November 1914 theses of the Central Committee that "Under given conditions it is impossible to determine from the standpoint of the international proletariat which is the lesser evil for socialism: the defeat of one or the defeat of the other group of belligerent nations. For us Russian Social-Democrats, however...."

It is to be doubted whether Zinoviev knew he was doing anything different than loyally repeating the "line". If the line was too muddled, that was hardly Zinoviev’s fault; he couldn’t make it out either.

2. The "Methodology of Social-Patriotism"
Zinoviev’s most extended course of argumentation is on the "safest" version: we must not halt the class struggle for fear of defeat. In addition to what we have already discussed about this formulation (No.4), there is an extra point to be made about Zinoviev’s use of it.

It bears precisely on the "methodology of social-patriotism" that is embodied in the thinking behind the defeat-slogan. It was the social-patriots who insistently tried to pose the whole question of socialist war policy in terms of "For or against defeat?" This way of posing the question was and is properly a hallmark of social-patriotism. And what is interesting is that, in so many words, Zinoviev puts the stamp of approval on this way of posing the question:

[The social-patriots argue, says Zinoviev:] "Shall we continue the class struggle in the country ... would this not mean weakening the military strength of our government? And this will surely be of benefit to the external enemy. It follows that you are for the defeat of your country? Say, yes or no? If no, then you must grant us that temporarily ... the class struggle must be halted and replaced by a policy of civil peace."91

So he paraphrases the social-patriots. And his comment on it? It is: "Decidedly there is a logic in this way of putting the question."

And since the social-patriotic methodology is correct, we must take our stand on the same ground as they, but with the sign reversed: we are for defeat.

Although he had found Trotsky’s remarks "unenlightening", could he possibly have more crudely illustrated their validity?

Yet Zinoviev had just been inveighing against predicating socialist policy on the fear of defeat. That way lies social-patriotism. Just as invalid is the idea of predicating socialist policy on the desire for defeat. That way lies social-patriotism-in-reverse, social-patriotism standing on its head. The Marxist does not take off from the question of defeat in either direction; to the whole dilemma of military victory-or-defeat of the governments he counterposes the struggle for socialist victory against the governments. In terms of such a Marxist methodology, it makes sense to add that we do not halt this struggle for socialist victory out of fear of military defeat of "our own" government; in terms of the methodology which Zinoviev approves, the methodology represented by the social-patriots’ dilemma, this statement does not make sense. For if you have already told the social-patriots that we must wish for defeat, it does not make sense to add that we must not halt for fear of the defeat, which we wish!

3. Defeat and the Interests of the People
Zinoviev puts some stress on an argument which is not used by Lenin in connection with defeatism, though Lenin brought it out in other contexts. This is the, argument that military defeat by the enemy army does not really affect any true national interest of the people but only the imperialist interest of the bourgeoisie:

"The bourgeois ‘fatherlands’ – this becomes more and more obvious in the course of the war -are threatened by nothing but the loss of one colony or another, one border area or another, as far as the bourgeoisie is concerned. The bourgeoisie aspires to nothing but a diplomatic regroupment of powers, nothing but new secret treaties and conspiracies."92

This too is an echo of the feeling during the Russo-Japanese War, when the war was taking place in the Far East, in the colonial and border area itself, and no one (including the Japanese) even dreamed of an attack on and subjugation of the homeland.

When it is brought forward in connection with a wish for defeat (and not merely in connection with an analysis of the imperialist springs of the war, as Lenin did elsewhere), it raises an implication. Granting for the sake of argument that this was so regarding Russia’s participation in the First World War, it certainly is not necessarily so in every imperialist war or even with respect to every nation in the First World War. Suppose defeat of one’s own government in an imperialist war does mean important hardships for the people-as indeed Germany’s defeat in the war did mean, under the Treaty of Versailles-do we cease to wish for defeat? And if furthermore it is argued that defensism and "defeatism" are the only consistent alternatives, then the door is opened for social-patriotic conclusion – once any doubt is cast on the argument for defeatism.

Now as a matter of fact this argument for defeatism is demonstrably false, in the light of the actual consequences of the First World War. It turned out that it was not true that "The bourgeois ‘fatherlands’ ... are threatened by the loss of one colony or another, one border area or another, as far as the bourgeoisie is concerned". For the defeated bourgeoisies of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy, etc., defeat had far more serious consequences, consequences which intimately concerned the lot of the people too.

The revolutionary Marxist can recognize this fact without drawing pro-war conclusions. It is precisely the. reason why he may speak of continuing the socialist struggle in spite of the risk of defeat, because for him the alternative to defeat is not the victory of his own imperialist government but a third alternative which has to be pursued and which alone will have progressive consequences.

Not so for one who raises the slogan of "wish defeat". The proof of this comes further along in Zinoviev’s article (unrelated by him to the quotation just given), when he admits:

"The chauvinists paint the horrors which await the workers in the event of a defeat of their fatherland. For the masses of people, the horrors, deprivations and sufferings of a defeat are in fact monstrous, unimaginable, colossal."

How does he reply? As follows: "Well, but how about in case of victory? Do not the same masses pay for it – to the benefit of the imperialists? And if they stand on the basis of internationalism, can the workers of one country wish for themselves victory and for the workers of the other country defeat, when defeat would have even more suffering connected with it?"93

Zinoviev does not notice that, from the point of view of the defeat-slogan, he has refuted himself. As internationalists (he argues) we cannot wish victory for our own government because this means we are wishing defeat and the colossal sufferings of defeat for the workers on the other side of the lines. Very well, but then why wish defeat for the workers on our side of the lines, as Lenin’s slogan does?

He is entrapped in the vicious circle of victory-or-defeat, just as the social-patriots are, and he cannot extricate himself, except by implicitly shifting to a viewpoint which is not that of defeatism.

4. Pseudonym for Revolution
It must be said that Zinoviev’s attempt to work up a refutation of the critics is more conscientious than any made by Lenin, who never faced up to the problems posed. This is also the reason why Zinoviev is forced to set down in black and white ideas which are not met with in Lenin.

Thus Zinoviev tries to meet the question: "If you are talking about the defeat of all the warring governments, what does this mean? Who then will be the victor?"

It is a perfectly legitimate question given the fact that Lenin’s formulations on defeatism made clear time and again, if not always consistently, that he was thinking of defeats inflicted by the enemy camp. The question had not been any embarrassment in the Russo-Japanese War, because there Lenin was openly in favor of the victory of the enemy camp.

In his anti-Trotsky polemic,94 Lenin had quoted this embarrassing question from the pen of the Menshevik Semkovsky, and had indignantly replied that this showed that Semkovsky was thinking of the military outcome solely in terms of the imperialist governments. (A curious example of a "You too" reply since the question could be asked in the first place only because Lenin’s use of the defeat-slogan was itself obviously based on this kind of thinking.) But in hitting back at Semkovsky, Lenin did not draw the explicit conclusion from his retort. Zinoviev does. The latter replies, in effect: the defeat of all the governments makes good sense if it is understood to mean the defeat of all of them by the revolution.95 Here, quite clearly, defeat is equated with the European revolution.

But if all the slogan of defeat meant was a pseudonym for the revolution, then the obvious question is: Why on earth should we christen this revolution by the name of "defeat"? It would be an incomprehensible choice of slogan formulation if such were really the case.

But of course, Lenin’s defeat-slogan did not at all mean "we wish defeat of our own government by, our own proletariat only". Zinoviev is pushed into this interpretation only because he has pushed himself into a corner.

5. The Social-Patriotic Version of Defeatism
We have been pointing out the relationship between the defeat-slogan and the methodology of social-patriotism. We have pointed out how easily the former can turn into the latter. Now, finally, we can show how it does turn into a clearly social-patriotic idea – in the hands of Zinoviev.

This we can show, not by some single quotation from Zinoviev which might have been a passing slip of the pen, but by an idea which he repeats a number of times and in three different articles. In its own way, it is the most amazing facet of the defeat-slogan as put forward by the Bolshevik spokesmen during the war.

It is simply the fact that, in these multiple cases, Zinoviev slips a single word into the formulations on defeat – a single word whose effect on the political meaning is as devastating as the insertion of a "not" in a clause.

It is his repeated limitation of his argumentation to despotic governments.

For example, in his historical article on "’Defeatism’ Then and Now", Zinoviev writes the following when he finally gets to formulate the principle:

"All other things being equal, [Note 15] the defeat of a despotic government in foreign war always helps the people to overthrow the government. It is absolutely impossible to seriously deny this principle.... The whole modern history of Russia admirably illustrates this truth that the defeats abroad of reactionary governments redound to the benefit of the democratic movement inside the country."96

Is it possible for a politically-educated polemist to write this without understanding that it means the principle does not apply, to a democratic capitalism?

Similarly in another article: "Yes, we are for the defeat of ‘Russia’ [i.e., tsarism], for this would further the victory of Russia [i.e., the Russian people], its breakaway from slavery, its liberation from the chains of tsarism. Where are the cases in the recent history of Europe where the victory abroad of a reactionary government led to democratic freedom within the country?"97

The counterposition is clear: "reactionary" versus "democratic". In immediate illustration of it, Zinoviev gives the quotation from Wilhelm Liebknecht which we will cite below.

In his long article "The Russian Social-Democracy and Russian Social-Chauvinism", where he gives his most elaborate polemic in favor of defeatism, the same thought abounds in the course of his argumentation.98 The first occasion comes when he attacks Plekhanov:

"Plekhanov maintains that only the liberals were given to desiring a defeat of their despotic government, in the hope that this would broaden the possibility of political freedom, while they themselves had neither the strength nor the inclination to fight for it."

And Zinoviev replies: "Of course, Plekhanov is completely wrong. That the defeat of a despotic government in war can further a democratic transformation in the country, this idea is not in the least peculiar to the liberals."

In proof of this, he brings a couple of "defeatists" onto the witness stand, citing their words triumphantly. One is, Wilhelm Liebknecht, who had written: "Has anyone ever heard of a despotic government that became liberal after it won a victory? With defeated governments this has happened on occasion for a short period."

He hails forth August Bebel as a "defeatist", quoting him: "It is my opinion that for a nation which lives in an unfree condition, a military defeat is more a help than a hindrance for its internal development."

Bebel was referring to Prussia as distinct from bourgeois democracies like France or England.

We are now quite a distance beyond the mere "methodology" of social-patriotism. If the formulas of defeatism are to be limited to "despotic" governments, to "reactionary" governments which need a democratic transformation, to nations "in an unfree condition", then defeatism cannot be internationalized, it cannot be the policy of socialists in all the belligerent countries. And if, simultaneously, it is insisted that defeatism is the only consistent anti-war policy, that the only consistent alternative is defensism, then it is scarcely a step to draw social-patriotic conclusions for the socialists of non-despotic governments. "Democracy versus despotism", "progress versus reaction", become the governing criteria. And this is too familiar.

Furthermore, we must note that Zinoviev (as well as his "authorities" W. Liebknecht and Bebel) applies the "despotic" limitation not even to the formulation "wish defeat" but to the idea "defeat facilitates revolution". The muddle is raised to the second power. Whatever qualifications we might ourselves make to the formulation "defeat facilitates", it is clear that there is no reason for limiting its application to "despotic" governments only.

Now historically speaking, there is no mystery as to why Zinoviev falls into this formulation, even if it remains amazing that he does not catch himself. His thinking is a reflection of Lenin’s in the Russo-Japanese War; he is reproducing it in toto. He is transplanting it to the First World War. For Lenin in 1904-5, it was a question of "despotism versus progress", and defeatism was the other side of a wish for Japan’s victory. But Lenin’s defeatist position of 1904-5, transplanted to the world war, is – social-patriotism.

P>What is the significance of Zinoviev’s "mistake"? He finds himself, perhaps unawares, playing with a "defeatism" which would apply to only one side of an imperialist war. It is not thought out, it cannot be thought out, it teeters on the edge of political debacle. It is not a "position" in reality except insofar as a man can be said to be in a certain "position" when he has retreated to the edge of a cliff and is swinging his arms wildly to recover his balance.

Needless to say, neither Lenin nor Zinoviev was in actuality "teetering cm the brink" subjectively. Their anti-war position was too solidly tied to a quite different analysis which kept them firmly on the ground even in the course of occasional gyrations on the defeat-slogan. It was not fatal, for them. It is a warning for others.

6. Trotsky on "Neither Victory nor Defeat"
The defeat-slogan led Lenin and Zinoviev into a swamp. In positive contrast is the analysis of the victory-or-defeat dilemma which was made by the two outstanding leaders of anti-war socialist opinion outside the Bolshevik ranks. These were Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg, whose views on the question we have already referred to.

In his anti-Trotsky polemic of July 1915, Lenin had seemed to ascribe to Trotsky the slogan "Neither victory nor defeat". It was the Mensheviks who had actually raised as their slogan "Neither victors nor vanquished", which they coupled with "Peace without annexations". As put forward by the Mensheviks, the perspective was one of a return to the pre-war status quo as the outcome of the war crisis.

Far from being an advocate of this perspective of "Neither victory nor defeat" in the sense which Lenin had attacked, Trotsky leveled powerful attacks on it, from his own point of view. And he was able to do it in a thoroughly Marxist fashion without in any way falling into the "defeatist" trap.

He did this through a consistent attack on the whole notion of posing the question in terms of victory-or-defeat by the belligerent governments, and, breaking out of that vicious circle, counterposing the socialist victory to both as a third alternative. Thus he simultaneously undercut the "defeatist" approach as well as the Mensheviks. The difference in "methodology" goes to the root of the whole war question, and not in the First World War alone.

This type of analysis can be seen in a work of Trotsky’s during the 1915-16 period which specifically takes up the question of victory-or-defeat. It was published as a series of articles in Nashe Slovo, directed against the Mensheviks. Under the title of "What Is a Peace Program?" it was later republished in pamphlet form after the November revolution.99

He shows in detail how the total consequences of the victory of either side (and that means also the defeat of either side!) would be reactionary from the viewpoint of the socialist aims. He devotes special attention to the slogan "Peace without annexations" in order to show that this aim can be realized neither through the victory (or defeat) of one side nor the victory (or defeat) of the other side of the war camps.

He poses "three typical possibilities" for the outcome of the war: "(1) A decisive victory by one of the camps. (2) A general exhaustion of the opponents without the decisive dominance of one over the other. (3) The intervention of the revolutionary proletariat, which forcibly interrupts the development of military events."

On the first: "Only charlatans or hopeless fools can believe that the freedom of the small nations can be secured by the victory of one side or the other", he summarizes. "A like result", he argues, would follow if the war ends in something like a draw, as envisioned by the Menshevik slogan "Neither victors nor vanquished".

"The absence of a pronounced preponderance by one of the combatants over the other will only set off, all the more clearly, both the dominance of the strong over the weak within either one of the camps, and the preponderance of both over the "neutral" victims of imperialism. The outcome of the war without victors or vanquished is no guarantee for anybody....

"The second possible outcome of the war, which is mainly depended upon by those who try to promote the narrow program of ‘peace without annexations and nothing more’, presupposes that the war, exhausting as it does all the resources of the warring nations, will end in general lassitude, without victors or vanquished, without being interrupted by the third power, the revolutionary power. To this very condition where militarism is too weak to effect conquests and the proletariat is too weak to make a revolution, the passive internationalists of the Kautsky type adapt their abbreviated program of "peace without annexations", which not infrequently they present as a return to the status quo ante bellum."

But, he continues, this is only "apparent realism", for under the conditions of imperialism, for the reasons given in the first paragraph quoted, this outcome "does not at all exclude annexations but on the contrary presupposes them".

To the negative peace perspective of "Neither victory nor defeat", he counterposes the only way out which we call for and wish: the intervention of the proletarian revolution, in this war crisis itself, against the alternatives of victory or defeat for either war camp.

"A powerful movement of the proletariat is thus a necessary prerequisite for the actual realization of a peace without annexations. But again, while presupposing such a movement, the foregoing program [of the Mensheviks] remains quite inadequate in that it accepts the restoration of the order which prevailed prior to the war and out of which the war broke out. The European status quo ante bellum, the resultant of wars, robbery, violations, bureaucratism, diplomatic stupidity and the weakness of peoples, remains as the only positive content of the slogan ‘without annexations’.... It is possible to overcome this regime only by means of the proletarian revolution."

What is the guiding line? "We say that ... the line of direction to be followed by the international proletariat and its national fighting corps [the socialist parties] must not be determined by secondary political and national features nor by problematical advantages in military preponderance by one side over the other (whereby these problematical advantages must be paid for in advance with the absolute renunciation of the proletariat’s independent policy) but by the fundamental antagonism existing between the international proletariat and the capitalist regime generally."

It is easy to see why, from this standpoint, Trotsky rejected Lenin’s "lesser evil" formula.

So Trotsky, to be sure, wished neither victory nor defeat for either of the war camps, but this was not and could not be his slogan. He rejected the disjunction that it posed.

7. Rosa Luxemburg on Victory and Defeat
Rosa Luxemburg took up the identical approach to the victory-or-defeat dilemma – quite independently, of course. It is worthwhile quoting her at more than our usual length.100

"Victory or defeat? This is the slogan of all-powerful militarism in every belligerent nation, and, like an echo, the Social-Democratic leaders have adopted it.... And yet, what can victory bring the proletariat?"

She argues that either alternative, victory or defeat, will mean, for the working class and for the people of the nation, impoverishment, economic ruin, an intensification of militarism, etc. In the course of this argument, some of her polemical points are sometimes exaggerated (in hindsight) but what we are concerned about here is the line of her analysis. Thus:

"... even before any military decision of victory or defeat can be established ... the result of the war will be: the economic ruin of all participating nations.... This, in the last analysis, neither victory nor defeat can alter; on the contrary it makes a purely military decision altogether doubtful and increases the likelihood that the war will finally end through a general and extreme exhaustion." [Note 16]

After her examination of the reactionary consequences of either victory or defeat as such, she writes:

"Under the circumstances the question of victory or defeat becomes, for the European working class, in its political exactly as in its economic aspects, a choice between two beatings. It is therefore nothing short of a dangerous madness for the French Socialists to believe that they can deal a deathblow to militarism and imperialism, and clear the road for peaceful democracy, by overthrowing Germany. Imperialism and its servant militarism will reappear after every victory and after every defeat in this war. There can be but one exception: if the international proletariat, through its intervention, should overthrow all previous calculations.

"The important lesson to be derived by the proletariat from the war is the one unchanging fact, that it cannot and must not become the. uncritical echo of the ‘victory or defeat’ slogan, neither in Germany nor in France, neither in England nor in Austria. For it is a slogan that has reality only from the point of view of imperialism, and is identical, in the eyes of every large power, with the question: gain or loss of world political power, of annexations, of colonies, of military supremacy.

"For the European proletariat as a class, victory or defeat of either of the two war groups would be equally disastrous. For war as such, whatever its military outcome may be, is the greatest conceivable defeat of the cause of the European proletariat. The overthrow of war and the speedy forcing of peace by the international revolutionary action of the proletariat alwie can bring to it the only possible victory. And this victory alone can truly rescue Belgium, can bring democracy to Europe.

"For the class-conscious proletariat to identify its cause with either military camp is an untenable position. Does-that mean that the proletarian policies of the present day demand a return to the status quo, that we have no plan of action beyond the fond hope that everything may remain as it was before the war? [No, she answers, that is impossible.] ... The proletariat knows no going back, can only strive forward and onward, for a goal that lies beyond even the most newly created conditions. In this sense alone is it possible for the proletariat to oppose, with its policy, both camps in the imperialist world war."

Her "methodology" excludes the slogan of wishing defeat. And her methodology is clear: it is, in contemporary terms and almost in her own terms, the methodology of the Third Camp. For this is indeed a methodology in the sense which we have been using; and it is equally hostile to both social-patriotism and its bisymmetric opposite, the swamp of "defeatism".

V. The Abandonment of Defeatism in 1917

In a real sense, this is the payoff on the whole question of the meaning of Lenin’s slogan: With the March Revolution in Russia and the overthrow of tsarism, Lenin dropped defeatism and the defeat-slogan completely. The fact itself speaks volumes. A closer examination will underline the essential points we have already made. This period provides a test.

1. "We Were Not Defeatists"
The first words preserved from Lenin’s pen, after the news of the March revolution, are a letter to Kollontai, in which he wrote: "We, of course, retain our opposition to the defense of the fatherland, to the imperialist slaughter directed by Shingarev plus the Kerenskys and Co. All our slogans remain the same ...."101

"All our slogans" did not remain the same. The Bolsheviks remained consistently opposed to the war, even now when it was being conducted by a democratic republic of the capitalists; in fact, they had to re-emphasize their opposition to defensism twice as energetically. But on point after point where the Bolsheviks had differed from the other left-wing Marxist internationalists, Lenin revised his distinctive position: the peace slogan, the slogan "turn imperialist war into civil war", and the defeat-slogan.

Lenin’s explicit statement on his abandonment of defeatism in this period did not come until exactly a year later, in March 1918, after the revolution. Let us record it now. The subject came up almost accidentally, at the special Congress of Soviets called to ratify the Brest-Litovsk treaty of peace with Germany. The S-Rs were against peace and for continuation of the war in spite of the complete exhaustion of the country. In reply to a speech by the Left S-R Kamkov about disrupting the army, Lenin remarked in passing:

"He [Kamkov] heard that we were defeatists, and he reminded himself of this when we have ceased to be defeatists.... We were defeatists under the tsar, but under Tseretelli and Chernov [i.e., under the Kerensky regime] we were not defeatists."102

Lenin uses "under Tseretelli and Chernov" (S-R ministers in the cabinet) to denote the period from March to November 1917 because of the context of Kamkov’s speech, not for any special reason which need concern us. But he never explicitly discussed the reasons for this change, any more (for example) than he ever discussed the simultaneous revision of his opinions on Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution. [Note 17]

The abandonment of the defeat-slogan, in any case, is a clear fact even without this categorical statement. It remains to see (a) why, and (b) what took its place. The latter is an especially interesting question. During this period, the Bolsheviks were what they had denied was possible: consistently anti-war without being defeatists.

2. Bath in Social-Patriotism
Insofar as comrades in the movement have thought of this question, it is probable that the change has been viewed as solely an accompaniment of the phenomenon of dual power. That opinion does not quite stand up.

First of all, we must not underestimate the fact that Lenin had spent the war years in Switzerland, a neutral country: here there were no war atmosphere, no war hysteria, no climate of patriotism, no clouds of social-patriotism of the sort that swirled about the head of Trotsky in Paris or the German Left.

It was not until he returned to Russia on April 16 that Lenin for the first time got a bath in the atmosphere of the social-patriotism of the masses. Read his works from 1914 through 1916 and it is evident that, in his thinking, this, the social-patriotism of the rank and file appears simply as a consequence of betrayal from above. It does not play a conditioning role in his formulation of slogans. Lenin’s main emphasis is constantly to draw the hardest, sharpest line against the pro-war leaders and anyone who makes concessions to them. Only rarely does he seem to pay attention to a task which is different: how to bridge the gap between the intransigent line of opposition to the war and the thinking of the masses of workers who are under the spell of defensism, how to present his ideas to them. One of the big differences in tone between Lenin’s writings on the war and those of (say) Luxemburg or Trotsky is conditioned by this fact.

With Lenin back in Petersburg, many Bolshevik memoirs speak of his eagerness to talk to workers, get a feeling of how the people were thinking and talking. He needed it. He was going to find out the "hidden thoughts" about which he had once written so confidently.

What struck him with a fresh and new impact? It was not in the first place the phenomenon of dual power, which looms so much bigger in historical perspective.

The day after his return, he presented theses and made a speech at a caucus meeting of the Bolshevik membprs of the All-Russian Soviet Congress.103 Here he began to sound the keynote which ran through his speeches and writings from then on, up to the, July days:

"What strikes one particularly is that here in Russia the situation in the socialist movement is the same as in other countries: defensism, ‘saving the fatherland’. The difference is that nowhere is there the degree of freedom we have...."

And another thing: "The masses approach the question [of the war] not from a theoretical but from a practical viewpoint. Our mistake lies in our theoretical approach.... Before the representatives of the soldiers the matter must be put in a practical way, otherwise nothing will come of it."

What was this new "practical" approach? "In view of the apparent existence of a defensist sentiment among the masses who accept the war only as a necessity and not as an excuse for making conquests, we must explain to them thoroughly, persistently, and patiently [that the war can be ended only by overthrowing capital].... When the worker says he wants to defend his country, it is the instinct of an oppressed man that speaks in him."

A backlight is cast on the approach which he had pursued up to this enlightenment. This was obviously a personal revelation for him. But it was not new or startling for the anti-war socialists in various countries who were immersed in the tidal wave of social-patriotism that had swept over their people. Lenin is "struck" ("hit between the eyes", says another translation) by the fact that there is defensism in Russia too – not just in, the writings of Plekhanov or Semkovsky or some other politico who should have known better-deeply among the masses. The "Practical" problem is how, to reach them, not by Modifying one’s intransigent opposition to the war but making it comprehensible to them, making it march with their own thinking. He criticizes his previously too "theoretical" approach, but that is not just or accurate. He means his previously too abstract approach, which is not at all the same thing. It was this abstract insistence on hard formulations (not merely on "hard" ideas) which had shown itself in some of his strictures on the slogan of peace, on Luxemburg’s "Junius" pamphlet, on the slogan of defeat, in his insistence on counterposing "civil war" as a slogan to the masses’ yearning for peace and an end to war.

Now he emphasizes and scolds his followers: "We Bolsheviks are in the habit of adopting a maximum of revolutionism. But this is not enough. We must study the situation."104

3. Political Freedom and "Conscientious Defensism"
In this whole period this is a repeated note sounded by Lenin, ostensibly with regard to a "peculiarity" of the Russian situation in 1917. This peculiarity is not merely the existence of dual power, which, to be sure, is "what has made our revolution so strikingly unique", as he says in one place.105 It is something else which, in Russia, was an accompaniment of the dual power and a consequence of the revolution, but which is not merely dual power.

This, Lenin emphasizes on occasion after occasion, is the political freedom, which now obtains. Is this any reason for supporting the war of this "free" capitalist country? Of course not. Its impact on Lenin is rather this: it means that if the masses are defensist, they are so not because of constraint by the government but, as it were, of their own free will. They cannot be cured of this by "a maximum of revolutionism", or by slogans which are designed merely to demarcate, or by appeals to the Basle and Stuttgart resolutions. Slogans which previously seemed to him to be dangerous concessions to social-patriotism now take on a new color as a necessary bridge to the social-patriotism of the masses, as a "practical" approach.

The acquisition of capitalist "freedom" in Russia, then, does not provide any reason to modify views on the war. It is reason to modify how one approaches the masses in seeking to tear them away from their defensist illusions. He comes back to it time and again for months. He tells the Bolshevik caucus on April 17: "Russia at present is the freest, the most advanced country in the world."106

He writes in his April 10 theses that the revolution has stalled "not because of outside obstacles, not because the bourgeoisie uses force ... but simply by the unthinking confidence of the masses".107 And again on April 27: "Complete political freedom, we have not of course. But nowhere else is there such freedom as exists in Russia."108

Now he is emphasizing this in connection with the problem of how to deal with the defensist sentiments of the mass of workers. Because the picture impressed him as unique, this "conscientious" ("sincere") revolutionary-defensism of the masses seemed to him a new phenomenon, peculiar to Russia. Thus he writes in a passage which well represents this course of thought:

"When I spoke of the ‘conscientious’ mass of revolutionary defensists, I had in mind not a moral category, but a class definition. The class represented in the Soviets of Workers and Soldiers Deputies is not interested in a predatory war. In Europe it is different...."

We interrupt the quotation to ask: What! in Europe, then, the working class is interested in a predatory imperialist war? But no: Lenin has just jumped the track to a different line of thought, and goes straight on into the following:

"... There the people are oppressed, the most opportunistic pacifists are not infrequently baited even more than we, the Pravdists. Here the Soviet of Workers and Soldiers Deputies carries its policy of revolutionary defensism into effect, not by violence, but because the masses trust it. Europe is one large military prison. Capital rule cruelly there. All over Europe the bourgeoisie should be overthrown, and not argued with. In Russia the soldiers are armed; they allowed the bourgeoisie to beguile them peacefully when they agreed ostensibly only to ‘defend themselves’ against Wilhelm. In Europe, there is no ‘conscientious’ revolutionary defensism, of the sort we have in Russia, where the people have handed over the power to the bourgeoisie, because of ignorance, inertia, the habit to suffer the rod, tradition."109

Now this portrait of the rest of Europe is a caricature even for the year 1917, when anti-war feeling was already germinating all over the Continent and was held back among other things by "sincere" "conscientious" defensism. Qualitatively, the situation which Lenin thinks is a Russian peculiarity was true of the working class of most of Europe in 1914-15. In Germany, Austria and France most particularly, the governments had put their war policy through not by violence but by deceiving the masses (it goes without saying, with the indispensable help of the social-democratic leaders). There too the masses were "peacefully" beguiled into believing that they had to "defend themselves" against a foreign oppressor or would-be oppressor. There too, "conscientious" defensism was based on misconceived class interests.

What Lenin is unwittingly explaining is what he had not really grasped about the problem up to now – the problem, that is, not of whether to support or oppose the war, but the sometimes even more difficult problem of how to present an uncomproinising anti-war line to the masses.

So again on May 10, in his speech oil the war resolution at the "April Conference", he speaks of "... the peculiarity that distinguishes Russia from the other capitalist Western countries, and from all the capitalist democratic republics. For it cannot be said of those countries that it is the confidence of the ignorant masses that chiefly makes it possible to prolong the war. There the masses are in the iron grip of military discipline."110

Even in May 1917 this was not true in France and England and not even in the Central Powers, let alone its arrant absurdity as a picture of Europe in 1914-16. But it serves the role of allowing Lenin to adopt a new policy without having to face up to what was wrong in the old. For it is on the basis of this new line of thinking that Lenin drops the defeatist formulas.

Clearly this step was not just a matter of reluctance to use "strong" language, that is, it was not just a matter of tactically dropping the term. His new approach left no room for it.

4. A Non-Defensist Program for the Defense of the Nation
Thus, it is impossible to "wish defeat" and at the same time to project the idea of transforming the imperialist war into a revolutionary war. At the same time that Lenin was vigorously fighting defensism under this government, he was offering a program of how to defend the country:

"The example of France tells us one thing and one only: to make Russia capable of defending herself, to achieve ‘marvels’ of mass heroism here, all the old must be swept away with ‘Jacobin’ ruthlessness. Russia must be rejuvenated, regenerated economically. And this cannot be done in the 20th century by merely sweeping away tsarism....

"It is impossible to render the country capable of defending itself without the greatest heroism on the part of the people in courageously and decisively carrying out great economic transformations. And it is impossible to appeal to the heroism of the masses without breaking with imperialism, without offering to all the peoples a democratic peace, without thus transforming the war from a war of conquest, a predatory, criminal war, into a just, defensive, revolutionary war.

"Only a decisively consistent break with the capitalists both in internal and foreign politics can save our revolution and our country, held in the iron grasp of imperialism."111

At this point, we must take a flashback. We have just seen Lenin urging revolution in order to be able really to defend the country. He had also run into this question in 1915, when he denounced "the revolutionary chauvinists, who desire revolution in order to defeat Germany", whereas (he continued) we "desire the revolution in Russia for the sake of the proletarian revolution in the West, and simultaneously with that revolution."112 It was a false dichotomy. Again in a letter of September 1915 he had drawn a line against the "chauvinist revolutionaries" (among whom he names Kerensky and some Mensheviks) or "revolutionary-patriots", who "want to overthrow tsarism so as to defeat Germany, whereas "we are working for the international revolution of the proletariat".113

A false dichotomy, indeed. Lenin had missed the point about "revolutionary chauvinism" and understood it only in 1917, when in a sense he too became a "revolutionary-patriot". The point was that the "revolutionary chauvinists" still based themselves on imperialism, that is, their only condition was the overthrow of tsarism while the war would still be conducted on a purely capitalist basis and in capitalist-imperialist interests. Lenin’s condition in 1917 was "breaking with imperialism" – really breaking with imperialism, and not only in words but in class terms. And in this difference everything is included.

Without ceasing for a moment to oppose the imperialist war being waged by the new democratic government of the capitalists; without ceasing for a moment to concentrate all fire against any kind of defensism under this government, Lenin recognized that the working class had a stake in the defense of the nation. His program for the defense of the nation was a thoroughly revolutionary program: the real interests of the people can be defended, not by supporting the war, but only if capitalism is overthrown and a fundamental break with iniperialism takes place.

It is superfluous to point out how utterly alien to this viewpoint is the slogan "wish defeat". No Wonder it disappeared as thoroughly as an icicle in fire. It can also be understood why, far from "wishing defeat" any longer, Lenin and the Bolsheviks repudiated the related idea of wishing to disintegrate the army. (Fraternization, yes; but fraternization as a means of bringing about peace from below, not as a means of disintegrating the army.)

Lenin’s clearest expression on this point, it happens, came (later, after the revolution, in 1918) in the same passage that we have already quoted in the dispute over Brest-Litovsk with the S-R Kamkov.114 The S-R debater had referred to "disrupting the army" in 1917. Lenin replied:

"But how did we disrupt the army? We were defeatists under the tsar, but under Tseretelli and Chernov we were not defeatists. We came out in Pravda with a proclamation which Krylenko, then still persecuted, published in the army: ‘Why I Go to Petersburg.’ He said: ‘To revolt we do not call you.’ This was not the disintegration of the army. The army was disrupted by those who declared this great war [i.e., by the imperialists who had brought the war on].... And I assert here that we – beginning with this proclamation by Krylenko, which was not the first and which I mention because I especially remember it – we did not disrupt the army but said: Hold the front – the sooner you will take the power, the easier you will maintain it ...." [Note 18]

In May 1917 Lenin, calling on the peasants to take the land, added that they should do so "using every effort to increase the production of grain and meat, for our soldiers at the front are suffering terribly from hunger". He told them to take the land themselves and work it well because: "This is necessary in order to improve the provisioning of the soldiers at the front."115

In September 1917 he wrote that the historic significance of the Kornilov revolt was that it showed people

"... that the landowners and the bourgeoisie ... are now ready to commit, and are committing, the most outlandish crimes, such as giving up Riga (and afterwards Petrograd) to the Germans, laying the war front open, putting the Bolshevik regiments under fire, starting a mutiny, leading troops against the capital with the ‘Wild Division’ at their head, etc – all in order to seize all power and put it in the hands of the bourgeoisie...."116

Trotsky in September 1917 (now a leading spokesman for the Bolsheviks) wrote in the same vein in a pamphlet:

"The people and the army, if they felt and were convinced that the Revolution was their revolution, that the government was their government, that the latter would stop at nothing in the defense of their interests against the exploiters, that it was pursuing no external aims of oppression or conquest, that it was not curtsying to the ‘Allied’ financiers, that it was openly offering the nations an immediate peace on democratic foundations – the toiling masses and their army would, under these conditions, be found to be inspired with an indissoluble unity; and if the German revolution would not come in time to aid us, the Russian army would fight against the Hohenzollerns with the same enthusiasm that the Russian workers showed in defending the gains of the popular movement against the onslaughts of the counter-revolution. The imperialists feared this path as they feared death...."117

5. New Attitude to Defeat
All this is highlighted from another angle by the attitude of the Bolsheviks on the "July offensive". We have seen how Lenin had begun by emphasizing the democratic freedom that obtained in Russia after March. But his line on the war was not directly produced by this factor, even though this was what had "struck" him. What motivated his new line on the war, directly, was rather the accompanying phenomenon of "conscientious" defensism – that is, the necessity of shaping a policy of revolutionary anti-war opposition which would mesh with the thinking of the masses.

Proof: After the "July days", when the Kerensky government began to persecute the Bolsheviks and drive them underground, Lenin openly proclaimed that the freedom he had spoken about was now no more:

"The counter-revolution ... has actually taken state power into its hands.... Fundamentally, state power in Russia is at present actually a military dictatorship.... All hopes for a peaceful development of the Russian revolution have definitely vanished...."118

The dual power was no more, also. So the slogan "All power to the Soviets" temporarily went too.119

Now this analysis may have been an exaggeration, but the point is that with this analysis, Lenin’s new line on the war did not change back, with respect to defeatism. It was not decisively based on the phenomenon of dual power.

The fact that the new line continued as before is best shown by the Bolsheviks’ reaction when the Kerensky government carried through its new offensive on the front beginning July 1 and met with a resounding defeat.

The Bolsheviks said the defeat was a catastrophe for the country and that the offensive had been a crime. In the pamphlet of September 1917 by Trotsky, quoted above, he refers to it strongly as "a fierce catastrophe at the front". The offensive, he wrote, had set new goals for the army and

"... in the name of these goals it was demanded that the army, exhausted, hungry and unshod as it was, should put forward superhuman efforts. Can there be any doubt of the result when we remember, in addition, that certain generals of the staff were consciously working for a Russian defeat."120

The Bolsheviks had declared warningly in the Congress of Soviets (Trotsky recalled) "that in the present state of the army an offensive was a military adventure, which threatened the very existence of the army itself. It transpired that we had seen only too clearly".

It is consequently quite clear that the "glorious page" of the offensive of the 1st of July has no relation whatever to national defense, for the military efficiency of Russia, as the consequence of the offensive, had simply been made worse. If the bourgeoisie nevertheless speaks of the offensive in terms of approbation, it is for the simple reason that the cruel blow inflicted on our army as a result of Kerensky’s policy created favorable conditions for the spread of panic and for counter-revolutionary schemes.121

Yes indeed, "defeat facilitates" ... many things. Lenin, during this period, had to make the point that military defeat at the front was dangerously facilitating ... Bonapartism. He made this point precisely in the situation created by the "July Days" at the same time that he was announcing the end of dual power, democratic freedom, etc. In his article "The Beginning of Bonapartism", he showed how a state of balanced equilibrium in the class struggle produces the classic soil of Bonapartism, and went on:

"Add to this the fact of military defeat brought about by a foolhardy offensive, when phrases about saving the fatherland are bandied about (concealing the desires of the bourgeoisie to, save its imperialist program), and you have before you a perfect picture of the social and political setting for Bonapartism."122

It turns out, naturally, that the formula "defeat facilitates revolution" – quite apart from the fact that it is not even any version of a real defeatism is not the suprahistorical principle that Lenin’s polemics had made it out to be. What defeat facilitates is various, and is conditioned by the "social and political setting" in which it occurs.

As a matter of fact, while we are at it, let us get another view of how, in 1917, Lenin was using formulas of the type "defeat facilitates revolution". In September Lenin wrote, for example:

"Needless to say, the approaching famine, economic ruin, military defeat, are capable of extraordinarily hastening this turn towards the transition of power to the proletariat supported by the poorest peasantry."123

At first blush, this sounds as if it is ill contradiction with the previously quoted remark about defeat facilitating Bonapartism. But there is no necessary contradiction at all. Military defeat, by itself, facilitates breakdown of the status quo, and that is all, but what will replace the status quo depends on other factors. Together with famine and economic ruin, it can quicken the pace of a revolutionary development which is taking place – just as it can quicken other things. [Note 19]

But the most biting comment that this makes on Lenin’s old Formula No.2 of "defeatism" in 1914-16 is this: Previously, Lenin had deduced from the fact that "defeat facilitates revolution" the conclusion that we therefore "wish defeat". It was an "axiom". He could not see how anyone could fail to see the unanswerable logic. Now – as was just as clear before – "famine" and "economic ruin" are also acting as "facilitators" of revolution. It was an objective fact, put by Lenin with rigorous correctness. And it would plainly be mad to conclude from this objective fact that we therefore "wish" famine and ruin! On the contrary, Lenin was fighting for the only program to avert the "threatening catastrophe".

There was only one little catch in this program as far as concerns the defensists – "revolutionary" defensists, "conscientious" defensists or any other kind of defensists: Lenin’s program to defend Russia, to avert the catastrophe, etc. was not any rationalization why workers should be defensists in the present under the imperialist government, but was a revolutionary program for the overthrow of imperialism and capitalism.

And this program was incompatible with any variety of defeatism.

6. Summary
To sum up:

It is not enough merely to point out that Lenin dropped defeatism after the March Revolution. Why he did so, and the program that took its place, is even more illuminating about the mistake of 1914-16.

Lenin dropped defeatism, first of all, in the face of the realization, made vivid to him for the first time, that the defeat-slogan broke all links between the sentiments and interests of the masses and the program of the consistent revolutionaries. In this sense, it was sectarian; and in our opinion the defeat-slogan deserves to be recorded as a classic example of a sectarian shell built around an opportunistic (i.e., in this case social-patriotic) theoretical core, in line with the oft-repeated Marxist truism of the dialectic relationship between the sectarian-opportunist opposites.

Secondly, Lenin discovered in practice that the defeat-slogan was incompatible with a living Marxist approach to the problem of the defense of the nation, conceived not in the social-patriotic sense of the "defense of the fatherland" but in the light of a Marxist class understanding of, and a dynamically revolutionary program for, the nation.

Thirdly: Lenin’s change of line after the democratic (but not socialist) revolution in March reflects the fact – which we have already seen – that the defeat-slogan had a meaning only in terms of a war by the tsarist feudal despotism against a progressive capitalist revolutionary force. This was the situation which Lenin thought obtained in 1904-5, and though he was wrong even then, the defeat-slogan had a clear meaning for him, at least. It was this same arrière pensée which had led Zinoviev to write the qualification "despotic" into his defeatist formulations. The March democratic revolution erased the rock-bottom motive which had led to the defeat-slogan in the first place – the "special Russian" consideration of tsarism as the unique menace, the greatest evil. Naturally, this does not bear on conscious motivation but only on the real theoretical underpinnings, which have their effect despite consciousness.

Fourthly: Lenin’s course proved that defeatism is not any necessary element in a consistent revolutionary anti-war position.

It remains now to follow the history of "revolutionary defeatism" after the First World War, and, most especially, after Lenin. In fact, it is from the reinterpretation that took place in this period that the recent couple of generations of Marxists have taken their ideas on the subject. We have to see why and how this re-interpretation took place.

VI. After Lenin: Revival and Reinterpretation

While Lenin abandoned the defeat-slogan in 1917, we have pointed out, he never himself set down his motivation for this change, and even outside his collected public and private writings it is not recorded that he ever explicitly re-examined his positions of 1914-16. The question of defeatism is not peculiar in this regard; the same thing is true of his position on the peace-slogan, and on the theory of permanent revolution. But for the six years of his life following the November Revolution, the defeat-slogan remained a dead letter, even in historical retrospect.

During this whole period we find only three mentions of the defeat-slogan in his writings and speeches. One is in his 1918 reply to the S-R Kamkov, which we have already quoted, where he mentions the defeat-slogan only in order to point out that it had been dropped "under Tseretelli and Chernov". A second, also in connection with the Brest-Litovsk dispute, is the one we have quoted in the footnote on page 259 (Sept.-Oct., 1953 issue) [see Note 3 below]. The third is the ambiguous remark in passing, in his "Notes on the Question of the Tasks of Our Delegation at the Hague", December 4, 1922, in which he jots down notes for the guidance of the Bolshevik delegates to the Hague Peace Conference. Among these notes is the remark – "... first, explanation of ‘defense of the fatherland’. Second, in connection with the latter, explanation of the question of ‘defeatism’".124

That is all, and the "Notes" are then concerned with quite other matters.

But during these six years, in his writings, speeches, reports, etc. there were numerous occasions when he harked back to the world-war period to summarize and re-analyze the position on the war taken by the different socialist tendencies – the social-patriotic right, the centrist shadings, and the internationalist left. In places too numerous to list, he revives "Turn the imperialist war into civil war", "The main enemy is in your own country", etc. But precisely in these contexts, there is no hint of recollection of the defeat-slogan.

But we know that defeatism was destined to become a prominent and oft-repeated "principle" of the Communist movement, continued as such by the Stalinists in their own way, and also continued as such by the Trotskyist movement. Obviously it was given a real revival at some point. When? where? how? why? and by whom?

1. The First Five Years of the C.I. – No Defeatism
This revival of defeatism did not take place while Lenin was alive, that is, during the first five years of the Comintern.

We are not in a position to state categorically that up to Lenin’s death, defeatism is never mentioned in the documents of the Comintern. The elimination of all possibilities in that tremendous bulk of material is a research task we have not been in a position to perform.

But a check of the resolutions and theses, major documents, and publications of the Comintern permits us to say very confidently: if anyone referred to defeatism at all, it certainly played no role in the program, policy and principles of the Communist International under Lenin.

The first four congresses of the Comintern (1919-1922) adopted a large number of long, detailed, analytical theses on all the major (and any number of minor) questions of revolutionary policy. These "theses" are not infrequently marked by discursive historical sections, moreover.

Especially at the Second Congress in 1920, the aim of these theses was not to make it "easy" for individuals or groups to adhere to the new revolutionary international but on the contrary: one of the main dangers, as the Bolsheviks saw it, was the tendency of all kinds of centrists and dubious elements to flock to the new banner, since the Second International was thoroughly discredited (even in the eyes of elements who fundamentally agreed with its politics!) and there were too many who were only too anxious to cover their pasts with present acceptance of the most "revolutionary" slogans, provided only they didn’t have to act like Communists. This was indeed the reason for the adoption by the Second Congress of the famous "21 Points" of admission to the C.I.

Yet there is not a hint of any kind of defeat-slogan in any of the documents of the first four congresses of the Comintern.

By 1924 the International and many of its parties were considering the question of new over-all programs. Even at this date (which is after the period we are now discussing, as we shall see) the draft program for the C.I. presented by Bukharin ignores defeatism. Even at the Fifth Congress in 1924 the reports on the Program Question delivered by Bukharin and August Thalheimer ignore defeatism under the head of the war question. At the same time the Young Communist International, the German party and others were also developing new draft programs – without defeatism.

From the revolution up to Lenin’s death, books and pamphlets were issued which contained discussions of the war positions of the world-war period and Lenin’s ideas. Checking many of these, including a number by Zinoviev, we find no recollection of defeatism.

There was the monthly organ of the International, the Communist International. There is no lack of articles from 1919 to 1923 inclusive which review the war question, the world-war period, Lenin’s distinctive ideas, etc. Of these we have been able to check all but eight numbers, including all of the first year (1919) when the war question was freshest and all of 1923. Defeatism is not raised. [Note 20]

Even allowing for the hiatuses, then, one thing is perfectly clear: defeatism does not have the role which was later assigned to it. The modern myth has not yet been started.

2. How Zinoviev Revived Defeatism in 1924
The suspicion which this is bound to awaken in the minds of all who know the history of this period can be given strong documentary evidence to confirm it.

Defeatism was revived as a "principle of Leninisin" in the beginnings of the Stalinist counter-revolution, most specifically by Stalin’s partner in the "troika" which succeeded to Lenin’s leadership – Zinoviev.

The sign under which this "troika" of Stalin-Zinoviev-Kamenev took over was the struggle against Trotsky and "Trotskyism". Defeatism was revived as one lever among others in this struggle. The ideological cover under which this anti-Trotsky coalition worked, created by Zinoviev, was the slogan of "Bolshevization" of the cadres of the Comintern. Defeatism was revived as one of the elements in this anti-Trotskyist "Bolshevization".

By the time of Lenin’s death in January 1924 Stalin was already in control of the main levers of the party apparatus and Zinoviev, his accomplice, was the boss of the Comintern and public ideological mentor of the anti-Trotsky cabal. They were ready to go into high gear before Lenin’s body was cold. They had, in fact, had a rehearsal in the factional "literary discussion" over Trotsky’s Lessons of October.

The first time that we find defeatism recalled as a "principle of Leninism" in the pages of the Communist International is in the very first issue of that organ published after the death of Lenin! This number is, of course, mostly made up of articles on Lenin, his ideas, his role, etc. One of the most prominent articles among these is by Martynov on "The Great Proletarian Leader". In it Martynov, yesterday a Menshevik and now a hatchetman for the troika who had joined the Bolshevik bandwagon with the NEP wave, loads his gun with the defeat-slogan and fires its shot openly and by name – straight at Trotsky.

This is what he wrote:

"Lenin was not the only one to protest against this treason [support of the war] at the very outbreak of the war; a similar attitude was taken by the internationalist minorities of the various socialist parties. But the slogans launched by Lenin at that time were so daring, I should say so defiant, that they contained a challenge not only to the social-patriots but also to all the internationalists.... He said: ‘In order to put an end to the imperialist war, it should be transformed into civil war. Those who will start the civil war may be menaced by defeat in the imperialist war, but we have no fear about that. Particularly to us Russian Social-Democrats, defeat in the war is the lesser evil!’ This ‘defeatism’ aroused the protests not only of social-patriots but even of all the internationalists, including the most Left ones, as for instance Comrade Trotsky. He [Lenin] was told: ‘You want Russia to be defeated, consequently you want Germany to win, and in this case it is social-patriotism inside out! You reason the same way as the social-patriots, but for another country, not your own!’ This accusation, as everyone can now see, was quite beside the mark.... Lenin knew and did not disguise the fact that if we start the revolution during the war, it will lead directly to our military defeat. But he knew more than that; he knew that the revolution started by us will spread also to Germany and that our defeat like the German victory will be short-lived. He therefore said: ‘Dare!’ and he was fully vindicated by history.... Lenin could see farther than his nose, and he therefore launched such slogans as appeared rather unreasonable to the other socialists."125

There can be little doubt why, all of a sudden, after six years of silence, this article gives more space to the defeat-slogan than to any other idea in Lenin’s war position. [Note 21] A few issues later Zinoviev himself picked up the refrain which he had put Martynov up to launch, in an article on "War and Leninism". Here too the sharp point of the reference is turned against Trotsky, anonymously this time, but the dig was lost on no one:

"Leninism was much taken to task for its ‘defeatism’. Even some of the internationalists, on reaching this point, would turn their backs on Bolshevism and their faces to social-chauvinism. Nevertheless, Leninism, remaining true unto itself, said ... [and here Zinoviev quotes the sentence on defeatism from Socialism and War, which just happens to be the pamphlet which he signed together with Lenin. The meaning is: This is how I, Zinoviev, stood at Lenin’s side while Trotsky was attacking him .... ]."126

This was the beginning.

It was not until the Sixth Congress that defeatism was canonized as an article of program for the Stalinist movement (by the Fifth Congress in 1924 the sly references were only getting under way). The resolution on "The Struggle Against Imperialist War and the Tasks of the Communists" at the Sixth Congress (1928) put defeatism almost at the head of "the political program of the Communists in an imperialist war": "Defeatism, i.e., to work for the defeat of the home imperialist government in the war."

We need not follow its further progress in the Stalinist movement as an article of faith. The more interesting question that comes up is the reaction to the revival of defeatism by Trotsky himself, who was its butt.

Obviously, the whole point of Zinoviev’s resuscitation of this old difference between Lenin and Trotsky was as a part of what he later confessed to be the "invention of ‘Trotskyism’" as an instrument in the power struggle being developed by the Stalin-Zinoviev group to oust Trotsky from the party leadership in spite of the fact that Lenin’s death left him the single most popular and authentic leader of the Russian Revolution. Every difference that Trotsky had ever had with Lenin was revived, and if defeatism has the distinction of being the very first one to be given the treatment after Lenin’s death, it was not the most important. As is well known, the theory of the permanent revolution, the peasant question, the dispute over the trade-union question, Trotsky’s "organizational" criticisms of the Bolsheviks before 1917, the conflict over Brest-Litovsk, etc., etc – all of these were systematically recalled. Trotsky was not an "old Bolshevik" but a comparative newcomer to the Bolshevik ranks, in spite of his already pre-eminent position; and the leaders of the Thermidorean reaction struck the pose of "old Bolsheviks" who were defending historical Leninism against an old foe. Thus they threw up a smokescreen of old outlived differences in order to press forward their new revisionist line of national-socialism and bureaucratization.

On these artificially revived historical questions, Trotsky’s approach was quite rightly to minimize the significance of the differences. On some he openly admitted that he had been wrong and Lenin right, as on his pre1917 "organizational" differences. On others, as on the theory of permanent revolution, he fought back vigorously in defense of his views, while seeking to prove that the difference had never been as fundamental and irreconcilable as the Stalinists made out. But on defeatism – he "passed", as they say in poker.

When Zinoviev and his henchman Martynov hastened, on the day after Lenin’s death, to bring up defeatism as their maneuver in this process, and openly direct it against Trotsky, they were hoping that Trotsky would bite. Trotsky did not. The conspirators had to go on to other red herrings.

3. Trotsky Sidesteps
But for himself, if not only for polemical purposes, Trotsky had to face the question in his own mind. He had always been against the defeat-slogan; when he joined the Bolshevik party in 1917 it was dead; for the next six years it remained virtually buried. He certainly had no reason to change his opinion on the issue. Now, along with the rest, its disloyal revival was tactically embarrassing, even though all political logic and truth was on his side. We have already said that he sought, within the limits of honesty and political clarity, to minimize his differences with Lenin. On this point, it would seem, he managed to convince himself, under the difficult circumstances, that there was no real difference at all.

We say "it would seem" so, because Trotsky nowhere has discussed this change of view through which he obviously went. In his book The Stalin School of Falsification (which consists mainly of documents from the late ’20s), the question of defeatism comes up only in one place, Trotsky’s speech of August 1, 1927 on "The War Danger and the Opposition", at a joint plenum of the Central Committee and Central Control Commission in the midst of the Stalinists’ drive toward his expulsion. The reference is enough to show that the "defeatism" question is being thrown at Trotsky’s head and that he is dodging it. Trotsky opens his speech with this point:

"Your theses assert that the Opposition allegedly holds some sort of Trotskyist formulation on the questions of war and defeatism. New fictions! Paragraph 13 of your theses is entirely devoted to this twaddle. So far as the Opposition as a whole is concerned, it can in no way be held accountable for my former differences with Lenin, differences which, upon these questions, were altogether secondary in character. So far as I am personally concerned, I can make here a brief reply to the silly insinuations."127

But his brief reply turns out to be merely a citation of facts showing that since the revolution he, Trotsky, has often been assigned to write the war position of the party (he does not refer to the differences on defeatism of 1914-16). And then he continues:

"Now it suddenly appears, after my rejection of ‘economic defeatism’ in 1926 – an absurd and illiterate slogan advanced by Molotov for the English workers – that I had presumably parted company with Leninism. Why then did Molotov hide his silly slogan in his back-pocket after my criticism of it? ... Why then was it deemed necessary to exaggerate rudely old differences which, moreover, were liquidated long ago? For what purpose? For the purpose of covering up and camouflaging the actual palpable and current differences."128

That is all. In the same book, Trotsky’s "Letter to the Bureau of Party History" (October 21, 1927) takes up some dozens of examples of the Stalin clique’s falsification of his political biography. The first two pages deal with the world-war period. "The organs of the Bureau of Party History", he writes, "are trying at this late dl to describe my work during the war as bordering on social-patriotism."129 As we have just seen, the Stalinists’ theses had devoted a whole paragraph to the "defeatist" difference in substantiation of this slander. But Trotsky does not mention it here. He cites various general testimonials to the fact that Lenin and the movement considered him to have taken a clear-cut internationalist position during the war.

Did, then, Trotsky come to agree with Lenin’s defeat-slogan? We have to judge by what he wrote in formulating the defeat-slogan in the ’30s, as theoretical leader of the Trotskyist movement. From this we must conclude that he convinced himself to accept the term – but that he never did accept it in the sense given to it by Lenin or anyone else. What happened is that he sought to reinterpret it in a peculiar fashion which not only deprived it of Lenin’s content but sometimes of any content whatsoever. If the history of defeatism has been one of confusion and muddle up to now, with this period of Trotskyist reinterpretation the muddle reaches awe-inspiring proportions.

4. Trotsky’s Formula in 1934
Trotsky, under the pressure of the Stalinist campaign against his Bolshevik bona fides, wishes to be "orthodox", but he also wishes to write nothing that he does not believe. None of his defeatist formulations, therefore, comes within a mile of "wishing defeat". Of Lenin’s four formulas, he sometimes paraphrases the one which is furthest away from "wishing defeat", namely, No.4: do not stop before the risk of defeat. But in addition, and mainly, he developed for his purpose an ingenious formula of his own which had the advantage of sounding like the "lesser evil" formulation.

We find the latter in his theses War and the Fourth International (1934), under the heading "‘Defeatism’ and Imperialist War". This is what he works out:

"Lenin’s formula "defeat is the lesser evil" means not that defeat of one’s own country is the lesser evil as compared with the defeat of the enemy country but ...."

Pausing at this point for a moment, what we have is already rather peculiar. This meaning which is "not Lenin’s" is also not anybody else’s: whatever it might mean, which is moot, the counterposition was not "defeat of one’s own country" against "defeat of the enemy country", but rather this: "defeat of one’s own country" is the lesser evil as compared with "victory of one’s own country". And this was so indubitably Lenin’s conscious and explicit idea that it would be quite impossible to deny it. The peculiar thing that Trotsky does here is to invent a brand-new set of words in order to deny that Lenin ever said it – in which he is undeniably right since he has just invented it himself. Why? Perhaps because the necessary conclusion from Lenin’s actual formula is "wish defeat", and this is the last thought that Trotsky even desires to suggest. [Note 22]

"[But, Trotsky continues, Lenin’s formula means] that a military defeat resulting from the growth of the revolutionary movement is infinitely more beneficial to the proletariat and to the whole people than military victory assured by ‘civil peace’."130

Of course, we have seen that Lenin never indicated that he meant any such bowdlerized version at all. This is what Trotsky wants to mean, and he is trying to convince himself that it has some relation to Lenin’s slogan because he has managed to use the word "defeat" and the words "lesser evil" in close association. But let us see how Trotsky has juggled the words to get his effect.

"Military defeat resulting from the growth of the revolutionary movement is better than military victory assured by civil peace." The italicized qualifiers are what do the trick. To see how little it actually says, let us put other terms into the same algebraic formula and note the effect:

"Hunger due to continuing a hard strike is better than getting a raise which is conditioned on the capitulation and destruction of the union." This is obviously the analogous slogan of "hungerism", which proves that "hunger is the lesser evil". And there is no doubt that hunger is a lesser evil, as compared with an astronomical number of other evils. If this is all that is proved about "defeat", then an open door is being kicked into splinters. But above all, the exercise in words does not convince us to "wish" hunger any more than to "wish" defeat. The case is, at it were, that we "continue the strike even at the cost of hunger". [Note 23]

Secondly, however indubitable Trotsky’s well-qualified version may be in itself (in the case of defeat as in the case of anything else), such a formulation is no positive guide whatsoever on the war question, and this is fundamentally because it poses the question in terms of a defeat or victory of the government. For this reason it is not itself a "formula of proletarian policy` but, at best, a warning against a bad one. Trotsky here has fallen precisely into the methodological error of putting the question in the form of a choice between military outcomes on the government plane – the error which he saw so clearly in Lenin before he started to find "orthodox" formulations.

Thirdly, Trotsky limits his formula to "military defeat resulting from the growth of the revolutionary movement". Lenin never did. Lenin was thinking in precisely the reverse terms: growth of the revolutionary movement resulting from military defeat at the hands of the enemy government. The hollowness of Trotsky’s attempt at a paraphrase could not be more apparent.

Therefore, also, this limitation of Trotsky’s does not make sense when we try to apply it to the formula "defeat facilitates revolution". What defeat "facilitates"? – only that defeat "which results from the growth of the revolutionary movement"? Of course not.

Fourthly, and finally: Trotsky presents this set of words as a formula for defeatists. Yet it clearly applies also to situations in which we are defensists! Take, for example, Trotsky’s position on the Spanish civil war, in which he was for revolutionary defensism in the Loyalist camp against Franco. Yet, as a defensist he would have to say – and it would be politically important to say – that "military defeat which results from the growth of the revolutionary movement" is, at any rate, the "lesser evil" as compared with "military victory which is assured by" the Marxists’ abandonment of their revolutionary role and support to popular-frontism and the bourgeois-Stalinist government.

What this illustrates is that the truth which is contained in Trotsky’s formula is of so general a nature, in(Iced so fundamental a nature, that it applies not only in situations where we oppose war but even where we are supporting a progressive war. It is not a formula for "defeatism"; it is not even a formula for an anti-war policy without defeatism; it is a general formula for proletarian class independence.

It simply has nothing to do with defeatism. [Note 24]

5. How Trotsky Hung on to the Term Defeatism
In his 1938 theses on "The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International", Trotsky limits himself to a pious quotation in referring to defeatism:

"In this struggle [against imperialism and war] the basic principle is: ‘the chief enemy is in your own country’, or ‘the defeat of your own (imperialist) government is the lesser evil’."131

But further down Trotsky is so intent on getting that "lesser evil" formulation in, that he commits an instructive boner. He takes up socialist policy in an imperialist war against a workers’ state and says:

"The defeat of every imperialist government in the struggle with the workers’ state or with a colonial country is the lesser evil."132

But in this case he wishes the victory of the workers’ state on the other side of the lines, which is not any evil at all. [Note 25] But the phrase "lesser evil" has to be used somehow, as the badge of defeatism.

In 1939 Trotsky engaged in a particularly interesting exchange of views on defeatism with a group of Palestinian Trotskyists. His article "A Step Toward Social-Patriotism"133 was a polemic against the idea being advanced by this group (just before the Second World War broke out) that defeatism would apply in the fascist war bloc but not in the democratic camp, even though the latter was considered imperialist too. In both we oppose the war, they said, but only in one of them are we "defeatists".

Apart from Trotsky’s reply, this position of the Palestinians has great interest for us in itself. It is the first case we know of where serious thinking about Lenin’s concept of defeatism led a group in an objectively social-patriotic direction; where, so to speak, the social-patriotic potential in it was acted out in politics.

Their document said: "The general schema is defeatism in all imperialist countries.... Defeatism, according to Lenin’s definition and as it has been generally understood, signifies a desire for defeat and giving aid to the latter. Is that slogan applicable in any imperialist country in any war?"

No, they answered, it is not applicable in every war. These Palestinians are thinking specifically of the coming war with Nazi Germany. "Do we really desire the defeat of the democratic camp which is at war with Hitler?" they no doubt asked themselves, and they could not find it in them to say yes – while accepting the "generally understood" meaning of defeatism. There can be little doubt that the course of thinking through which they were going was "a step toward social-patriotism", but the form it took with them was the development of a "theory" of one-way or one-sided defeatism (so to speak) – a "defeatist" anti-war line in one camp, a "non-defeatist" but still presumably anti-war line in the other camp.

Given the fact that this distinction was being drawn on the basis of accepting the defeatist methodology itself, and not through an emancipation from it, it could mean only that they were saying: Let us be completely against the war in the Nazi camp, but in the democratic camp we are against the war only in part, or only in a certain sense, or only with certain reservations. The latter part was naturally not thought-out, as it never could be, since it was essentially a mood of uncertainty poised between social-patriotism and a Third Camp line.

But, we see, they posed the question: Defeatism means we desire defeat – well, do we?

Trotsky’s reply sidesteps on this, the crucial point in meeting the real train of thought of the Palestinians.

"... they have in our opinion [Trotsky replied] given far too nebulous, and especially far too equivocal a definition of "defeatism" as of some special and independent system of actions aimed to bring defeat. That is not so...."

That is the only comment he makes on the formulation "desire defeat", which, as he must have known, was Lenin’s standard formula. It was not the Palestinians only who were being equivocal or nebulous.

The rest of this passage from Trotsky’s reply continues as follows:

"... Defeatism is the class policy of the proletariat, which even during a war sees the main enemy at home, within its particular imperialist country. Patriotism, on the other hand, is a policy which locates the main enemy outside one’s own country. The idea of defeatism signifies in reality the following: conducting an irreconcilable revolutionary struggle against one’s own bourgeoisie as the main enemy, without being deterred by the fact that this struggle may result in the defeat of one’s own government; given a revolutionary movement the defeat of one’s own government is a lesser evil. Lenin did not say nor did he wish to say anything else. There cannot even be talk of any other kind of ‘aid’ to defeat."

Certainly Trotsky in this period is no authority on what Lenin said or wished to say on defeatism. Ad hoc, while assuring the reader that he knows just what Lenin wished to say, he rings in an entirely new qualification, italicized to boot, "given a revolutionary movement", which was no qualification in Lenin’s formulations. Otherwise Trotsky presents the claim (this time, anyway) that defeatism is merely the idea which we met under Formulation No.4.

6. Exegesis in the Trotskyist Movement
Trotsky’s course of dealing with the defeatist orthodoxy by "interpreting it away" is reflected in all the literature of the Trotskyist movement, which interprets it in virtually every conceivable fashion. [Note 26] About 1935-6 James Burnham’s pamphlet War and the Workers (signed "John West", published by the Workers Party) gave a version which had been hovering on the fringes as the "authoritative" one:

"The Marxists fight, but within each country they fight not for the victory but for the defeat of their own government – not for its defeat by the opposing capitalist powers but for its defeat by its own working class."134

This was a very "acceptable" formula since it obligingly made defeatism mean nothing special – nothing, except "the revolution". The term is retained only as a ritualistic bow to the memory of Lenin and to the myth that no position on war is completely "revolutionary" without something called defeatism.

On the other hand, C.L.R. James’ World Revolution, written by a more conscientious ritualist, writes of 1914:

"Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg had early called for the new international, but Trotsky refused to accept Lenin’s uncompromising demand that each socialist should fight for the defeat of his own country."135

It is amusing that, only a few pages before, James had devoted a long passage to summarizing Lenin’s position on the war – and had not even mentioned defeatism at that point! As is not uncommon in references to defeatism, he "remembered" the slogan only when it was a question of showing how much more "revolutionary" Lenin was than the other anti-war socialists, in line with the myth. In a sense, indeed, this reflects the role which the defeat-slogan actually did play with Lenin, who "forgot" it himself on more than one occasion.

In 1937 the program adopted by the foundation convention of the Socialist Workers Party formulated defeatism (without the term itself being used) as follows, as a variant of Formulation No.4:

"The SWP will advocate the continuance of the class struggle during the war regardless of the consequences for the outcome of the American military struggle...."136

A good part of the movement, especially that part which had entered about this time and later, came to regard this formula as if it were the classic and canonical meaning of defeatism, or at least as particularly "authentic" in some sense. As mentioned before, the political concept embodied in this formulation and its like will be further discussed in another article; but as a definition of "defeatism" it was only one of the numerous tries.

The "defeatism" confusion came in for another working-out in 1939 when the outbreak of the Second World War, and Russia’s role in it, precipitated a fiercely fought political conflict in the SWP, a split, and the formation of the Workers Party (now ISL). The majority led by J.P. Cannon stuck with, and was stuck with, the "defense of the Soviet Union" in response to Moscow’s invasion of Poland and Finland. The minority led by Max Shachtman reacted to the war crisis with a Third Camp policy, rejecting the line of defense of Russia in the war.

"You are against the defense of the Soviet Union?" said the Cannonites. "Then that means you are defeatists in Russia. That means you wish the defeat of Russia by reactionary Finland and Poland. It means you wish the victory of imperialism against the ‘workers state’."

This faced the anti-defensist minority with the task of defining defeatism. The situation was ironic. The Cannonites knew well enough that they had never considered defeatism to mean favoring the victory of the opposing side. Yet out of sheer demagogy – which was their main stock-in-trade as a substitute for political theory – they began to insist that defeatism meant just that. And little as they knew it, it happened to be basically true, as we have seen, in the sense that the defeatist tradition arose in this way. Yet – and such things were possible only in the Babel of ideas known as defeatism – these same Cannonites considered themselves to be defeatists with respect to American imperialism, and nevertheless indignantly rejected the idea that this put them in favor of the victory of an opposing imperialist camp.

In reply, the minority sought to make clear its belief that being a defeatist did not mean favoring the other side’s victory. In a document summarizing the minority’s position, "War and Bureaucratic Conservatism", a new term was even coined to make the distinction: the kind of defeatism where you do wish the other side’s victory was tagged "military defeatism"; the kind of defeatism where you don’t, was left at "revolutionary defeatism". The newly minted term thereupon entered into the labyrinth of ideas on the subject.

As for the meaning of "revolutionary defeatism", the document asserted:

"Does revolutionary defeatism mean the defeat of ‘our’ army by the ‘enemy’ army – the American army by the Japanese, the British army by the German, the Italian army by the French? Not at all. It means the defeat of one’s ‘own’ government by one’s own proletariat."137

In point of fact, from here on, at least in the Workers Party formed by the minority, more and more "defeatism" began to mean nothing more than "non-defensism". Indeed, with the development of the movement’s Third Camp position on the Second World War, all reference to the term pretty much died out, since in this case the term was somewhat worse than useless. So thoroughly had the term been peeled of all significance, in the process begun by Trotsky.

It may be that in the minds of some comrades who thought about it at all, this may have been considered "tactical" – that is, "defeatism" was a "horrid word" (as Cremo cigars’ ads said about spit in those days). But in 1941-42 when the present writer gave a number of talks presenting the viewpoint of this article – namely, that defeatism was a jumble of political confusion in Lenin’s ideas and should be conscientiously buried – there was next to no dissent and certainly no suspicion of "softness" on the war question. [Note 27]

In September 1941 an article by Max Shachtman in Labor Action recommended, at any rate, dropping "the word out of our vocabulary":

"Finally, it is necessary to have a little more clarity on the question of defeatism. You remember in the SWP dispute, the gifted Marxist, Cannon, explained to us that the Leninist theory of defeatism means that you PREFER the victory of the enemy to the victory of your own government. That is, you PREFER the defeat of your country by the enemy country, to the defeat of the enemy country by your country. Of course, Lenin never had such an idea, but trifles like that never bothered Cannon in his theoretical flights. I personally think that so much confusion has been introduced in the concept of defeatism that I doubt if we would be losing too much if we dropped the word out of our vocabulary."138

And all in all, for the reasons mentioned as well as the actual line of attack on the war which the movement engaged in (to be touched on in our next article), this is just what happened. "Defeatism" fortunately played no part in our consideration of war policy all through the Second World War – not even as watered down, reinterpreted, emasculated or diluted by the reduction-process it had already gone through. And it stayed that way after the war was over.

7. Shachtman’s New Line
The picture seems to have changed recently in response to problems raised by the looming Third World War of the Western capitalist powers against the Russian empire. Most particularly, two articles in the New International for 1951 on "Socialist Policy and the War", by Max Shachtman,139 have served to revive the old exegeses on "what Lenin meant" by defeatism in 1914-16, and this precisely in connection with the question: Will this "defeatism" apply in the next Third World War?

Obviously, from the point of view of the present article, this re-raising of the old confusions from their grave (or, if you will, suspended animation) cannot serve any useful purpose or make for clarity. That is the lesser concern. More than that, inherent in any such approach to the problems of the Third World War is an ambiguity which obtrudes despite the most flawless presentation of the issues of the war in every other respect.

This fundamental ambiguity arises from the following dual characteristic of Comrade Shachtman’s treatment of defeatism in his articles: He presents Lenin’s defeatism as the correct and necessary policy for 1914-16, but rejects it for the Third World War. (Likewise, for Lenin’s insistence on defeatism in 1914-16 as compared with his abandonment of defeatism after the March revolution.)

Now we have tried to show in this article that defeatism had no valid place in a consistent, thoroughgoing anti-war policy throughout the First World War, and it goes without saying, as a consequence, that it only disorients consideration of a concrete Marxist anti-war policy for the present war crisis. Contrariwise, there is a certain meaning (though an incorrect one) in the view that defeatism is just as valid today as in 1914-16 provided only that we "reinterpret" it properly, etc., etc. One view is to throw it out for both periods; one is to accept it for both periods.

But what is the meaning of the alternative, split position which Comrade Shachtman proposes, and which puts forward a brand-new variant on the whole defeatist confusion? Let us consider (a) his discussion of Lenin’s views in the First World War, and (b) his application of this discussion to today.

Comrade Shachtman devotes a relatively large amount of space to expounding Lenin’s defeatism during the war, and presumably this aspect of Lenin’s policy is included when he remarks (at the end of his first article) that there is no need "of adding anything to the justification of Lenin’s policy which was so richly supplied by the living events".140 If, on the other hand, this particular remark is intended only to apply to Lenin’s position of 1917, it is still perfectly clear that his acceptance of Lenin’s defeatism is entirely uncritical and approving. Indeed, at the beginning of his article he asserts that "We will dwell mainly upon Lenin’s position ... because the method he employed in arriving at his views remains the model for Marxists today".141 We have, on the contrary, seen that with regard to method above all. Lenin’s defeatism bears within itself a serious social-patriotic potential.

8. How Shachtman Explains Lenin’s Defeatism
What is Comrade Shachtman’s understanding of Lenin’s defeatism? He gives it, at one point, as follows:

"What if prosecution of the class struggle imperils the military position of the government, even to the point where it may be defeated by the enemy and lose the war? No matter. The class struggle must be continued in all countries regardless of the cost to the existing governments. This was Lenin’s famous (but not always very clearly understood) theory of ‘defeatism’ or ‘revolutionary defeatism’."142

At this point, then, to Shachtman, defeatism is Formulation No.4: continue the class struggle despite the cost of defeat. (Shachtman adds: despite "the cost to the existing governments", which is an excellent addition in many respects but which was not a qualification that was or could have been made by Lenin from his viewpoint.)

This defeatism, continues Shachtman, applied to all the warring governments.

Yet we find that the next solid page and a half of his article is devoted to quoting, in the same apparently approving vein, five passages in which Lenin.put forward the quite different version No.1 of the "lesser evil" formula – which Lenin never applied to all the governments, but only to tsarist Russia.

This "lesser evil" formulation, Shachtman thus emphasizes, was at bottom based on the conception of the specially reactionary role which was "a hundred times worse than kaiserism" or the other governments, which therefore merited a "special Russian" policy by the socialists which could not apply in the other countries. We have seen the contradiction that this entailed and which Lenin never resolved except by abandoning the original motivation and shifting, from time to time, to other formulations.

But in the world of today this must remind us of what is going on today, when so many disoriented socialists (not to speak of others) are thinking of Stalinist Russia in precisely the way which formed the heart of the old Marx-Engels-Second International methodology on the war question of the pre-imperialist era. It was this same methodology which gave rise to Lenin’s "lesser evil" formula.

Comrade Shachtman’s treatment of this methodology is exactly as "split" in its thinking as Lenin’s, which he is following. He explains143 that Marx and Engels used to ask: "The success of which bourgeoisie is more desirable?" He quotes Lenin’s analysis that this approach can no longer apply today in the imperialist epoch. (He could have added that the Marx-Engels approach, mechanically transplanted to a different epoch, had actually become the theoretical rationale of "Marxist" social-patriotism.) Yet, a couple of pages later, Comrade Shachtman writes the following:

"He [Lenin] was not blind, either, to the question raised in millions of minds: Whose victory will be the lesser evil from the standpoint of the working class? This question he answered, as it were, on two levels which were closely connected with one another."144

The "two levels", we find out in effect, refer to Lenin’s contradiction: the old "lesser evil" criterion does not apply "from the standpoint of the international proletariat" but it does apply to one country and one country alone, tsarist Russia. With this reference to "two levels" Shachtman accepts both sides of the contradiction, and therefore devotes the space he does to the "lesser evil" methodology

And so, like Lenin, he must contradict himself. Thus Comrade Shachtman introduces one of Lenin’s "lesser evil" passages with the remark that Lenin was "still making it clear that he was speaking not simply of the defeat of tsarism by the socialist proletariat but of its military defeat by Germany...".145 This, of course, is perfectly true, even though it is what most of the movement, including Comrade Shachtman, have denied for many years. Lenin’s "defeat is the lesser evil" meant defeat by the enemy camp. Yet we find Comrade Shachtman writing in a later article (reply to letter by Gordon Haskell in the September-October New International):

"The ordinary citizen, who can think only in terms of his present government winning the war or being defeated and crushed by the arms of the enemy – Russia, the Stalinists – comes to the conclusion that if the socialists are not for the victory of the government in the war, they are for its defeat by the enemy. And so, we regret to note, are some radicals who have misread Lenin badly and misapplied him worse."146

The ambivalence is striking, above all in the context of the present war crisis. On the one hand, the idea is suggested (if not by Shachtman, then inherently by his course of argumentation): Stalinism is "a hundred times worse" than American capitalism, its rival; [Note 28] therefore its defeat is the "lesser evil", and by its defeat we make clear that we are "speaking not simply of the defeat of [Stalinism] by the socialist proletariat but of its military defeat by [America]".

And the "lesser evil" formula means we are for this defeat. Then we are for the victory of the war camp opposed to Russia? At this point Lenin used to protest indignantly, in all outraged sincerity, without ever discussing what is wrong with this perfectly necessary conclusion from his confused methodology. Comrade Shachtman does likewise in his reply to Haskell, just as cogently pointing out that all his other ideas leave absolutely no room for this conclusion.

This is one reason for what Shachtman describes as the "completely unexpected and just as completely unwarranted conclusion that some readers of my articles seem to have drawn".147 We can point out that he is in somewhat the same boat as Lenin, whose contradiction he duplicated; and we saw that Lenin was amazed, indignant or furious when the social-patriotic potential in his approach was pointed out to him by Karpinsky, Bukharin and others among his own comrades, by Trotsky and other anti-war political opponents, by Mensheviks and other pro-war political opponents. The first chided, the second attacked, the third sought to cover their own social-patriotic inclinations by gleeful exploitation of his mistake.

9. What Does Shachtman’s Position Mean?
But such a mistake today can be more serious than it was for Lenin. This is especially true when the duplication of Lenin’s confusion of 191416 is complicated further by the view that, while this defeatist confusion was correct for the First World War, it must be rejected in a war against Stalinist Russia.

This is Comrade Shachtman’s conclusion: "Socialist policy in the coming war, then, does not put forward any such slogans as ‘revolutionary defeatism’...."148

He makes the counterposition explicit: "We are not for suspending the class struggle of the toilers.... We are not for subordinating that struggle to the military triumph of imperialism, to the ‘victory’.... But because we take this view, it does not follow for us that we are for the defeat of the American bourgeoisie and its arms by Stalinism. It is right here that we emphasize the difference between the first world war and the third. It is in this connection that I cited Lenin’s position in 1914 to show why it could not simply be repeated by socialists today, and his position in 1917 to show the extent to which it should be repeated today."149

But when Comrade Shachtman formulates his "different" line for the Third World War, we find that every essential formulation in it should have held good in 1914 – if we look not at Lenin’s distinctive mistakes but at the anti-war line pursued by internationalists like Trotsky and Luxemburg. For example, Shachtman writes:

"We are not indifferent to who defeats Stalinism, because that involves how it is being defeated and what are the consequences of such a defeat; therefore we are not for support of capitalist imperialism in the war. By the same token, we are not indifferent to who defeats capitalism (in general) or our own bourgeoisie (in particular): therefore we are not for support of Stalinism in the war."150

This is absolutely correct. Its analogue was absolutely correct in 1914 also, as Trotsky and Luxemburg always saw and Lenin did not. It was impossible for Russian socialists to "wish for the defeat" of their own oppressive regime by the imperialist enemy, Germany. It was equally impermissible for the German anti-war fighters to wish for the defeat of their own Prussianism by the imperialist enemy, tsarism. We add: just as it was impermissible for either to politically stand for the victory of their own bourgeoisie over the enemy imperialist. The Marxist alternative is to reject the whole victory-or-defeat dilemma with its "lesser evil" trap, in the consistent Third Camp fashion which characterized Trotsky and Luxemburg’s approach.

The same applies to Comrade Shachtman’s summary formulation (in his reply to Haskell) which he apparently considers to be peculiar to the Third World War:

"We do not for a moment suspend the class struggle, even in wartime. But, not being Stalinists and not being cretins, we do not prosecute it in such a way as to produce a defeat of the government by Stalinism. We are for the working class defeating the bourgeoisie in the class war and that is all we work for. We do not work for it in such a way as assures the defeat of the bourgeoisie by a reaction that would crush the proletariat itself.... Our position is: ‘The class struggle during the war must be "subordinated" not to the victory of capitalism, and not to the victory of Stalinism, but only to the victory of the independent working class over them both’."151

Again, absolutely correct. Analogously, this was also the only consistent Marxist line in 1914-16, as far as it goes – and of course, in both cases it is primarily a warning against what not to do, and is not intended as a full positive statement on war policy such as is to be found in the ISL resolutions.

If "some readers" of Comrade Shachtman’s articles reacted differently, their reaction has to be understood in the light of this train of thought: (1) Defeatism, we "know" from Lenin, is the full, undiluted, uncompromising policy of anti-war opposition in un imperialist war which we do not support; (2) Shachtman admits this for 1914-16 but rejects this for the war against Stalinist Russia; (3) it is clear therefore that, somehow or other, he is developing a position which is not a full, undiluted, uncompromising anti-war position. QED.

10. On Lenin’s Motivation
This whole confusion of errors (on both sides) is given reinforcement by certain other points made by Comrade Shachtman on defeatism. Thus, he gives the reason why, he believes, Lenin abandoned defeatism in 1917 after March. The passage purports to paraphrase Lenin’s thought as follows:

"Precisely because the working class is now so organized that it can take all the power into its hands peacefully, it is necessary to abandon all talk of civil war, all talk about transforming the imperialist war into civil war, all talk about defeatism."152

It is true that the slogan of "civil war" was dropped as a direct consequence of the opinion that a "peaceful" transfer of power was possible under the dual power of the Soviets. But not so for defeatism. Notwithstanding Lenin’s claims, which were no clearer on this aspect of the "defeat" question than on others, the connection he had seen between "wishing defeat" and "facilitating revolution" cannot automatically depend on whether the "revolution" is seen as peaceful or violent. We saw, indeed, that even in the period of 1917 when Lenin specifically gave up the hope of a peaceful transfer of power, his line on the war and defeatism did not change. Also, we saw the immediate influences which caused Lenin to give up defeatism, and more important, we expressed the view that he dropped defeatism not because of any thought-out deduction from any new set of conditions but because the fundamental errors of defeatism made the policy impossible when politics had to be acted out before the masses, and not just in polemical articles against political critics.

But what may it suggest to a reader when Comrade Shachtman claims (unwarrantedly) that the decisive motive was the possibility of peaceful assumption of power? In contemporary terms, it tends to establish a "principle" that defeatism (i.e., the "full" anti-war position) is valid only under a totalitarianism, whereas under "democratic" capitalism we must not hold a "full" anti-war position. It seems to suggest a kind of "one-way defeatism" such as was proposed in 1939 by the Palestinian Trotskyists, and which Trotsky quite rightly called "a step to social-patriotism".

In another passage Shachtman purports to explain why Lenin originally adopted the defeat-slogan. "It was motivated by two considerations", he writes, and he is entirely wrong on both counts.

"One was that it had to be and could be applied to all the warring countries. To dispute the ‘slogan’, wrote Lenin, it would be necessary to prove ‘that a revolution in connection with it [the war] is impossible’, or ‘that co-ordination and mutual aid of the revolutionary movement in all belligerent countries is impossible’."153

This one is simply blankly irrelevant as a "motivation". Lenin did not adopt defeatism because he was looking for something that would apply to all warring countries. The quotation from Lenin is one that we have already discussed, from the latter’s deplorable anti-Trotsky polemic, and it is somewhat more irrelevant here than it was there. In his article, at least, Lenin did not present these points as motivation: he said that "He who wishes earnestly to dispute the ‘slogan’ ... would have to prove" three propositions, of which Shachtman quotes two. (The remaining one is the proposition "that the war ... is not reactionary".) But agreement with Lenin on all three propositions, and a dozen more for good measure, would not even get near motivating the specific defeat-slogan; it motivates only opposition to the war.

The other was that the proletarian classes could follow a policy of intensified class struggle against their own governments as the main enemy – a struggle that would be facilitated by military defeat and would at the same time contribute to military defeat of their own country – because even if such a defeat were to occur the country would not run the risk of being subjugated by the enemy.154

This "motivation" for defeatism was surely not Lenin’s, who does not present any such argument for defeatism, let alone any such motivation. This idea – that the warring countries themselves do not run the risk of being subjugated by the enemy since the war is really being fought over who shall rule over other peoples – occurs in Lenin only in connection with the argument that the war is imperialist in nature. Also, we ourselves referred to this idea in the Russo-Japanese War as supplying part of the reason why liberal-bourgeois elements were willing to embrace defeatism then. Finally we can add: although Lenin himself never linked this idea up with defeatism, and although it certainly was not his motivation, one can argue speculatively that it must have constituted an unrecognized precondition for his position. Zinoviev had come pretty close to making it explicit.

But, given all that, "some readers" may be led to wonder what conclusions are supposed to be drawn from this "motivation" as far as the present situation is concerned. Is it bound up with reasons for rejecting defeatism now while approving it for 1914? Does it suggest to them the idea that the U.S., being democratic and all, would not "subjugate" a defeated Russia, whereas a victorious Russia would "subjugate" a defeated United States – and that therefore "we have something to fight for" whereas the slaves of Stalin do not, for which reason they might as well go all-out against war and be "defeatists" while we cannot? And what relationship does this course of thinking have to another one, very well-known indeed, which uses the same methodology, but which comes to the conclusion not merely that there must be a difference in attitude toward the two war camps on the fine point of defeatism but that – for the same reasons – "we" must support war on this side while "they" must oppose the war on their side?

11. "One-Way" Defeatism?
The proposal for a "one-way" or "one-sided" defeatism raises another question: What exactly is the difference between a "defeatist" anti-war policy and a "non-defeatist" anti-war policy? We have already quoted Comrade Shachtman’s suggestion on this point, in his summary formulation: a "non-defeatist" policy means that we do not wish (seek to produce) the defeat of our own government by the enemy, specifically, by Stalinism. Now it is no wonder that "some readers" are confused, since virtually every comrade in the movement has been under the impression that this was also true of the defeatist position! True, Comrade Shachtman had casually remarked earlier in his article, in a participal phrase, that Lenin’s lesser-evil formula had involved defeat-by-the-enemy, but this passing mention of a basic point (even if noticed) could hardly be expected to outweigh some years of contrary "education" in the movement.

In view of this fact, in the context of an article where Lenin’s defeatism of 1914-16 is given a premier place as a component of his intransigent anti-war policy, it is not at all surprising that suspicions are awakened that this new talk of a "non-defeatist" policy entails more serious changes than the article seems to admit.

We wish to repeat and re-emphasize that all of this is an inherent and objective consequence of the confusion which is ineradicable from the defeat-concept of Lenin’s, and was not due to the otherwise excellent explanation by Comrade Shachtman of the bases of a socialist anti-war policy today. But we cannot afford to nourish the ambiguity and ambivalence which the defeat-slogan enforces. It is an untenable position, and like many another untenable position it gives rise to opposite errors as a way out. On the one hand it may encourage a tendency, in reaction, to cling to Lenin’s defeat-formulas in all their crudity, since at least these will "guard against social-patriotism" like a blessed medallion (which they will not); and on the other hand, as an equal and opposite reaction, it may encourage a tendency to push the objectively indicated conclusions from a "one-sided" defeatism to their politically disastrous end.

Bury the dead. The tradition of Lenin’s defeatism was born in a political mistake in 1904-5; it was revived in confusion in 1914, to be shelved without stock-taking in 1917; it was revived again in malice and reaction in 1924; it was turned into a hollow phrase by "explaining away in the ’30s; it was ignored in the ’40s; and now in the ’50s any war policy based on it can only be disorienting or worse. It can only stand in the way of a clear, "full", uncompromising Marxist anti-war position, the position of the Third Camp.


1. That is, the myth as it is accepted among those who consider themselves Leninists. Confusing as defeatism has been for the latter, we can imagine what it does to the bourgeois professorial "authorities" on Bolshevism. One such expert has recently published a book entitled A Century of Conflict: Communist Techniques of World Revolution with a whole section on "The Theory of Revolutionary Defeatism". According to the erudite scholar Prof. Stefan T. Possony, "In July 1915, eleven months after the outbreak of World War I, Lenin outlined the doctrine of revolutionary defeatism for the first time", whereas Zinoviev had written about it in February; therefore this savant finds it "interesting to note that Sinovyev [sic] rather than Lenin seems to have been the originator of revolutionary defeatism". The trouble seems to be that this devotee of learning and truth did not even bother to check Lenin’s Collected Works before announcing his historical discovery; he is obviously going by the selected articles of Lenin and Zinoviev to be found in Gegen den Strom. The rest of his pages on the subject are just as illuminating as this pearl of academic profundity, up to and including his sole word of political analysis: "treason". [Back to text]

2. The outstanding qualification to this statement, if it is considered an "essential question", was Trotsky and Luxemburg’s difference with Lenin on the question of raising the slogan of peace. Lenin was never very clear on whether he criticized any use of the peace-slogan or only its use without tying it up with the socialist class struggle and the aim of revolution (a pacifist deviation of which Trotsky and Luxemburg were not guilty in any case, in spite of the picture which might be gained from some of Lenin’s polemics especially against the former). [Back to text]

3. Lenin made it explicit that he did not consider anything else defeatism in only one passage, an Incidental mention in 1918 in the course of his "Theses" on the Brest-Litovsk peace, in answer to an argument that the German left socialists do not want the Bolsheviks to sign the treaty with the kaiser’s government. He said in passing: "They say that the German Social-Democratic opponents of war have now become ‘defeatists’ and ask us not to give in to German imperialism. However, we have always considered defeatism as an attitude toward one’s own bourgeoisie." CW 22 (Russ. ed.), pp.195-6. [Back to text]

4. Qualification [added by author to later article in series]: In Bertram Wolfe’s Three Who Made a Revolution, the author includes a quotation from Lenin’s article on "The Fall of Port Arthur" which would itself be enough to convey to the informed reader that Lenin’s position was one of support to Japan’s side of the war, or at least that Lenin considered Japan to be fighting a "progressive" war.

However Wolfe’s own text does not indicate that he understood what he was quoting. In fact he states that "[Lenin’s] words are worth pondering ... because they contain within them the germ of his future ‘revolutionary defeatism’ in World War I ...". This is precisely what is not true as I have tried to make clear. Lenin’s position was merely a continuation of the then-orthodox approach to the war question and particularly to Russia’s participation therein, and was the near-unanimous line of the whole International.

Wolfe also comments that Lenin "expected Japan to win, and thought that this would be an aid to the progressive forces in Russia ...". Again, this formulation quite misses the point, which is that Lenin desired Japan to win. Wolfe comes closest with the remark that Lenin’s article was "a scarce-concealed cry of exultation that ‘progressive Japan’ had defeated ‘backward and reactionary Europe’ ...".

However, all in all, Wolfe’s passage on this point (pages 27-9) is better informed than any other I have yet seen. [Back to text]

5. For this tendency, see remarks by S.A. Korff in Autocracy and Revolution in Russia (1923), pp.67-9. [Back to text]

6. But in 1907 at the Essen congress of the German Social-Democratic Party, August Bebel said in passing: "The Japanese were the aggressors beyond doubt; we rejoiced over that; we wished victory for them...." His point at the moment was that socialists do not base their attitude on who is the aggressor; when he refers to socialist support of Japan’s side of the war, he is obviously assuming it as being well known and beyond the need of discussion. [Back to text]

7. The same notes by the editors of Lenin’s Collected Works state that the slogan "peace at any price" was also at that time put forward by Trotsky in his pamphlet Our Political Tasks. They quote him as writing: "It is necessary to cover Russia with proclamations which are as clear, simple and short as possible, all of which must aim, in the present period of agitation, at the same goal: peace at any price." Without an independent check, it is impossible to take this at face value, given the falsifications of Trotsky’s views that fill the Stalinist notes. The position of the Mensheviks is attested by Lenin’s articles, not only by the notes. [Back to text]

8. It was undoubtedly with relish that Lenin wrote in 1915, using a quotation which obviously had impressed him: "A French philosopher wrote: ‘Dead ideas are those that appear in an elegant cloak, without roughness, without daring. They are dead because they enter into general circulation, forming a part of the usual intellectual equipment of the great army of philistines. Strong ideas are those that give impetus and create scandals, that provoke indignation, anger, irritation among one kind of people, enthusiasm among others.’" (CW 18, p.327.)The other side of this virtue is shown by the large number of passages in Lenin in which he resorts to exaggerated one-sided generalizations simply in order to give emphasis, temporarily seeing only the one-sidedness. Whatever benefits there are in this method, his contemporaries got; the same cannot be said for the generation or two that tried to learn from his writings Without understanding that, in reading Lenin, it is as important to know what he is polemically concerned about at the moment as it is to understand what he is saying. If there ever was a case where "authority by quotation" is misleading, it is the business of matching texts from Lenin. Both the Stalinist and bourgeois falsifiers have naturally round that this gives them all sorts of opportunities to ply their trade; but more important is the fact that it is a pitfall for students too. [Back to text]

9. "There is other evidence of reluctance to adopt the defeatist point of view by party workers in Russia and outside, not only at the beginning of the war but even up to the revolution of 1917", says Bolsheviks and the World War by Gankin and Fisher (p.151), citing Russian sources. [Back to text]

10. It is significant that this statement, "both are worst", which so directly repudiates the previously given motivation for the defeat-slogan, occurs right after a passage in which, arguing against Potresov, Lenin gets into a vigorous analysis of the difference between Marx’s approach to war in the previous epoch of progressive capitalism, and the approach to be taken by Marxists today. With the difference sharply in mind, his pen follows out the consequences and writes "Both are worst" – that is, we cannot base a policy on a choice of which to worst. He sees that defeatism can be retained only in an internationalised form. [Back to text]

11. Including a scholar like Boris Souvarine, who wrote in his biography of Stalin: "Between the two extremes, defensism and defeatism, there were numerous intermediate opinions. Trotsky and Martov, with the majority of the outstanding personalities of revolutionary internationalism, Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht, Franz Mehring, Rakovsky, Riazanov, etc. came out against national defense but for a peace without victors or vanquished and did not intend to break with socialists like Kautsky...." (p.135, French ed.). [Back to text]

12. But later, in 1925 (at the time, we shall see, when Zinoviev was reviving defeatism in the Comintern), Olga Ravich, who had been a delegate to this conference, said that the delegation had declared: "In the struggle against the war the proletariat must persevere to the end and must not fear a defeat of the fatherland. Such a defeat would only facilitate the revolutionary struggle and civil war of the proletariat." (Gankin & Fisher, Bolsheviks and the World War, p.294). If such a statement was made in a speech (embodying Formulations Nos.2 and 4 but not the "wish for defeat"), it was not included in the Bolshevik document. [Back to text]

13. For the first of these, see CW 20, I, pp.147-8.[Back to text]

14. This is underlined by the fact that there is a mention of defeatism – in a footnote. Here Zinoviev refers to Jaurès as a "defeatist" in the free-wheeling fashion we saw earlier. [Back to text]

15. Note this qualification, incidentally; it covers a tremendous amount of territory. It mainly plays the role of a hedge on the statement which Lenin made so categorically. A moment’s thought about it serves to show that it tends to turn the thesis "defeat facilitates revolution" from a "principle" into a historically conditioned possibility, operative or not operative in a given context. Zinoviev seems to be sensitive to this point (he does it more than once) whereas Lenin never wavers in the unqualified assertion. This qualification alone automatically disbars the "facilitate" formula per se as a formulation of any kind of defeatism. Actually, we would suggest, for Lenin the formula "defeat facilitates revolution" is a truncated form of "wish defeat in order to facilitate revolution". [Back to text]

16. During the war, Trotsky also once expressed the opinion that this was the most likely military outcome. [Back to text]

17. Yet he must have been baited by enemies about the previous defeatist line of the Bolsheviks. In an article published in September, Lenin mentions that a campaign has been started against Chernov, the S-R leader and right-wing Zimmerwaldist, "for his alleged ‘defeatist’ articles abroad". (CW 21, I, p.111.) Needles to say, Chernov was not guilty. But if this smear campaign was launched against him, we can conjecture that Lenin’s authentic defeatist declarations must have been used too. If so, Lenin never riposted or tried to clear the question up. Unless the above-mentioned article, entitled "Political Blackmail", was a sort of backhanded way of striking back. [Back to text]

18. A distinction has to be made at this point between two concepts: (1) the progam of revolution and break with imperialism in order to defend Russia; and (2) even before that revolution, the slogan of "Hold the front" now. The second aspect is, without any doubt, uniquely a reflection of the dual power, in the sense that Trotsky explains in his History of the Russian Revolution apropos of the defense of Petrograd against the Germans. The previous remark we made, above, that the abandonment of defeatism was not conditioned on the dual power, does not apply to this feature of Bolshevik policy. [Back to text]

19. Cf. also: "... war and economic ruin will hasten the process [of revolutionization] tremendously. These are such ‘hasteners’ that a month or even a week with them is equal to a year otherwise." (CW, 21, I, p.48.) And: "That the present imperialist war, by its reactionary character and the hardships it entails, revolutionizes the masses and accelerates the revolution, is true and should be emphasized." (CW 21, II, p.82.) [Back to text]

20. With one exception which can be considered to "prove" the rule: in issue No.25 of 1923, the magazine reprinted a polemical exchange of articles that had appeared in the German organ Die Internationale between Thalheimer and a critic named Sommer, on policy with respect to the French invasion of the Ruhr. In this situation (which also evoked the notorious "Schlageter" speech by Radek heavily tinged with a sort of "national-Bolshevism") Thalheimer’s articles did all but take a defensist position. In this context, one of the articles by Thalheimer which is reprinted mentions the defeatism of 1914-16 – in order to reject it now!

Not an exception to the rule but an example of it is an article by Karl Radek in the April-May 1921 issue, where the consequences of defeat are not painted as too happy. Radek wrote: "Not a proletarian revolution but Wilsonianism was the slogan of the working masses in the victorious countries. In the defeated countries on the contrary the thirst for peace and quiet predominated over all other proletarian feelings: a morsel of bacon was of more value than dreams for the liberation of mankind ..." and so on along the same lines. We do not cite this distorted picture, reflecting Radek’s tendency to journalistic subjectivity at its worst, as a contribution to history; but in order to point out: How far were Lenin’s formulas about defeat. [Back to text]

21. Incidentally, this same Martynov, just six months before in the July 1923 issue of the Communist International, had written another article with a section on the world-war period. In this earlier article, not only is there no mention of defeatism but one of its main points is quite contrary in implication: during an imperialist war, as the Russian and German Revolutions proved, he says, "the widening of the scope of a revolution does far more in the long run to protect the country from foreign domination than does strengthening the old military apparatus, which, at any moment, is prepared to serve as an instrument of the foreign and native bourgeoisie against the working class". If anything, it is the bourgeoisie which is being accused of a sort of "defeatism" here! [Back to text]

22.There is also the minor point that Lenin never spoke of "defeat of one’s own country", except in one slip. We should also remind the reader at this point that Lenin never proposed the "lesser evil" formula for international use. But in the attempt to be "orthodox", Trotsky is here combining the well-known "lesser evil" phrase with the equally well-known fact that Lenin internationalized the defeat-slogan – perhaps without being aware of the fact that these two well-known features never come together in Lenin. [Back to text]

23. Or try this: "Defeat of a socialist party [in an election] resulting from a revolutionary program is better than its victory assured by compromising deals, class collaboration, etc." Then call this the principle of "electoral defeatism", and you have Trotsky’s formula. [Back to text]

24. In another section of War and the Fourth International (point 25), Trotsky has another mention of defeatism which is tell-tale: "In reality no possessing class ever recognized the defense of the fatherland as such.... Overthrown privileged classes always become ‘defeatists’; that is, are ready to restore their privileged position with the aid of foreign arms." Note that here, in the most casual sort of way, Trotsky is identifying defeatism with support to the victory of the other side. Without going into the possible explanations that Trotsky might have given, we must admit that it is bound to be a little confusing.... [Back to text]

25. It happens that this very same point is made (in a different connection, not as a criticism of Trotsky’s theses) by the article of W. St., "Principles and Tactics in War", written the same year (New International, May 1938, p.146). The author was the then secretary of the Fourth International. [Back to text]

26. As a curio, we mention the formulation used by the sect which split off from the Trotskyist movement, the "Oehlerltes", in a pamphlet called The Workers’ Answer to Boss War. It is the one and only place where the full enormity of the defeatist concept is to be found set down in black and white: defeatism means "to work for the military de[eat of their ‘own’ army by the ‘enemy’ army".

On the other hand, this is as good a point as any to pay respects to Alfred Rosmer, who, in his great historical work Le Mouvement Ouvrier Pendant la Guerre, has a short passage which stands out in post-war Marxist literature as one of the few (if there are any others) that Indicates the hollowness of the defeat-slogan as used by Lenin. As mentioned, Rosmer was a collaborator with Trotsky on Nashe Slovo during the war and his point of view no doubt stems from that period, "unreconstructed". His first point is that there is no validity to Lenin’s claim that defeatism is necessary to a fearless and thoroughly consistent anti-war fight. Besides "I see clearly the dangers which it involves. The word ‘defeatism’ is very widely used during war. The press utilizes it unceasingly to scare and frighten. It is useless to reinforce this if it is not absolutely necessary. I will recall here a retort by Noah Ablett that I mentioned in 1915. When the Welsh miners went out on strike, all of chauvinist England rose up against them, crying: ‘You are helping the enemy! You are Germanophiles!’ And Noah Ablett, in the name of the miners, calmly answered, ‘We are not Germanophiles; we are the working class’. I believe that is the best basis, a sure and sufficient basis to carry on the working-class struggle against war and justify it in the eyes of all workers. ‘Defeatism’, even though preceded by the qualification ‘revolutionary’, puts the accent on defeat while we ought to put it on revolution". (Pages 478-9.) [Back to text]

27. At any rate, such was my impression at the time, and it is certainly a fact that I did not feel sufficiently exercised about the question to publish an article about it then. In retrospect, it would seem that the question hung on in a sort of suspended animation. [Back to text]

28. This idea is emphasized by Comrade Shachtman: "Without hesitation or ambiguity, we can say that the only greater disaster that humanity could suffer than the war itself, which would be disastrous enough if it broke out, would be the victory of Stalinism as the outcome of the war." (Page 198.) And again: "We repeat: no greater disaster can be expected in connection with the Third World War than the victory of Stalinism." (Page 200.) The question, of course, is not whether this statement is true in itself, but whether it plays the same role in a political line as was played by Lenin’s motivation that "tsarism is a hundred times worse than kaiserism." [Back to text]

Reference Notes

CW stands for Lenin’s Collected Works and refers to the English edition unless otherwise noted: it is followed by the volume number, book number if any (in the case of Vol. 20 and 21), and the page number. References to the Russian edition are to the second or third edition. The French edition was used for Vol. 7 only, and the German edition for Vol. 6 only. Page references to Gegen den Strom (a collection of wartime articles by Lenin and Zinoviev) are of course to the German edition, but in point of fact all translations from the second half of this book were made from the French edition (Contre le Courant, v.2).

Emphasis within all quotations follows the original; no italics added.

Grateful acknowledgements are due to four comrades for translating and checking passages from Russian and German: Jack Maxwell, Elizabeth Frank, Max Shachtman, and Gordon Haskell.

1. From articles by Trotsky and Radek published in Current History magazine for March 1924, translated from Pravda, there noted as "written shortly before Lenin’s death".

2. In Zinoviev’s article "The Second International and the Problem of War – Are We Renouncing Our Heritage?", pub. in Sortsial-Demokrat, Oct. 1916, collected in Gegen den Strom.

3. In Zinoviev’s "‘Defeatism’ Then and Now", Oct. 1916; in Gegen den Strom, p.440-1. For this aspect of Guesde’s views, see also Charles Rappoport, Jean Jaurès, l’Homme, le Penseur, le Socialiste, p.371.

4. In his article "Russian Social-Democracy and Russian Social-Chauvinism", pub. in Kommunist, Nos.1-2, 1915; in Gegen den Strom, p.243. Zinoviev quotes the passage from Engels very incompletely.

5. Here translated from the French edition of the Marx-Engels Correspondance, tome IX, p.39.

6. For Marx and Engels’ position on war against tsarism; see the collection The Russian Menace to Europe by Marx and Engels, ed. by Blackstock and Hoselitz, Free Press, 1952.

7. Quoted by Rosa Luxemburg in her "Junius", pamphlet, The Crisis in the German Social-Democracy, 1915.

8. In The Crisis in the German Social-Democracy.

9. Op. cit. (note 2).

10. Quoted by Shachtman in New International, June 1939, p.181.

11. Op. cit. (note 2).

12. Marx-Engels, Selected Correspondence (International Pub.), p.492. See also letter to Rebel of Sept. 29, 1891, pp.489-90.

13. Ibid., p.494.

14. Ibid., p.357.

15. Op. cit. (note 3) ; in Gegen den Strom, pp.441-2.

16. Translated into English serially in The Workers Monthly, Sept. and Oct. 1925 and following issues; but the whole book was not published here, the series ending before it got to 1914. Considering the great space which Zinoviev devotes to defeatism in the Russo-Japanese war, it is strange that his section on the World War does not mention the defeat-slogan at all (cf. the French edition, Histoire du Parti Communiste Russe, Paris, 1926).

17. Op. cit. (note 3) ; in Gegen den Strom, pp.427-442.

18. Workers Monthly, Sept. 1925, p.518.

19. Op. cit. (note 3); Gegen den Strom, p.432.

20. Workers Monthly, Sept. 1925, p.519.

21. Ibid., Oct. 1925, p.569-70.

22. Quoted in Dallin, The Rise of Russia in Asia.

23. Quoted in Pares, A History of Russia, p.428.

24. Op. cit. (note 22), p.79.

25. Quoted in G. Alexinsky, Modern Russia.

26. Workers Monthly, Oct. 1925, p.570.

27. Staline (Leiden, 1935), p.70.

28. Article, "The Revolutionary Movement in Russia", by Alinar and Jayare.

29. Op. cit (note 27), p.69.

29a. CW 6 (German ed.) pp.449-53 for first, and pp.461-2 (final draft p.472) for second.

30. CW 7 (French ed.), pp.45-6, "The Autocracy and the Proletariat".

31. CW 7, pp.58-66. "The Fall of Port Arthur", from Vperiod, No. 2, Jan. 14, 1905.

32. CW 7, 205, "European Capital and the Autocracy", from Vperiod, No.13, April 5, 1905.

33. Op. cit (note 31).

34. Quoted in editors’ note to CW 7, p.63.

35. Op. cit (note 31).

36. Op. cit (note 32).

37. The main body of the symposium was carried in the March 1904 issue of Le Mouvement Socialiste (Paris), A second article by Sen Katayama followed in the April issue, and Plekhanov’s contribution in the May issue.

38. Ibid., February issue, p.180.

39. Ibid., March issue.

40. Quoted in the contribution by André Morizet, March issue.

41. May issue.

42. Included in the March issue; originally published in L’Aurore of Jan. 11, 1904, i.e., before the war started.

43. April issue.

44. Quoted in editors’ note to CW 7, 64; statement titled "Who Must Win?"

45. Op. cit. (note 32).

46. CW 7, 389, "The Debacle", from Proletarii, No. 3, June 9, 1905.

47. Ibid., p.392.

48. 0p. cit. (note 31); p.61.

49. Lenin, Selected Works (International Pub.), v.2, p.447, "One Step Forward, Two Steps Back".

50. CW 18, p.63, "The Tasks of Revolutionary Social-Democracy in the European War". Not published; circulated as internal discussion document.

51. CW 30 (Russ.), p.223, "The European War and International Socialism". Not published; rough notes for an article. Words in brackets are interpolated by myself.

52. CW 18, pp.74-5. Not published; private letter.

53. Gankin and Fisher, The Bolsheviks and the World War (Hoover Library Publication), p.151.

54. Trotsky, Stalin, p.168.

55. Gankin and Fisher (note 58), p.148.

56. CW 18, p.81, "The War and Russian Social-Democracy", theses signed by the Central Committee; pub. Nov. 1, 1914 (written October).

57. CW 18, p.101, "On the National Pride of the Great Russians"; pub. Dec. 12, 1914.

58. CW 18, p.117, "Russian Südekums"; pub. Feb. 1, 1915.

59. CW 18, pp.199-200.

60. CW 18, p.124, "Under a Stolen Flag"; not published (until 1917).

61. Gankin and Fisher (note 53), pp.190-1.

62. CW 18, pp.149-150, "Conference of the Foreign Sections of the RSDLP"; pub. March 29, 1915. (The conference itself took place Feb. 27-March 4.)

63. CW 18, pp.197-202, "Defeat of ‘Our’ Government in the Imperialist War"; pub. July 26, 1915.

64 . Gankin and Fisher (note 53), pp.164-167.

65. Alfred Rosmer, Le Mouvement Ouvrier Pendant la Guerre (Paris, 1936), p.478.

66. Gankin and Fisher (note 53), p.170.

67. CW 18, p.197.

68. Ibid., pp.197-8.

69. Martov and Dan: Geschichte der Russische Sozialdemokratie, p.276. This section was written by Dan.

70. CW 18, p.234, "Socialism and War"; pub. as pamphlet in 1915 (written in August).

71. CW 18, p.304, "The Collapse of the Second International"; pub. in Kommunist, Nos.1-2, 1915 (written during summer).

72. Gankin and Fisher (note 53), p.206. Another translation in Letters of Lenin, ed. Hill and Mudle, p.373. Not published: private letter.

73. Lenin, Selected Works, v.5, pp.149-153. Not published.

74. CW 19, pp.45-6, "Wilhelm Kolb and George Plekhanov"; pub. Feb. 29, 1916.

75. CW 30 (Russ.), 247. Discarded draft of theses for Kienthal Conference; not published; written beginning of April 1916.

76. CW 19, p.74, "Theses for Kienthal Conference"; pub. June 10, 1916. (The conference itself took place April 24-30.)

77. CW 19, p.212, "The Pamphlet by Junius"; pub. Oct. 1916 (written August).

78. CW 19, p.370, "The Military Program of the Proletarian Revolution"; written August 1916 but not published till Sept.-Oct. 1917 in the Jugend-Internationale.

79. CW 19, p.321, "On Separate Peace"; pub. Nov. 6, 1916.

80. See note 64.

81. CW 18, pp.142-4.

82. Text of resolution in appendix to CW 18, 472-3.

83. CW 18, pp.356-8.

84. Text in CW 18, pp.447-80, appendix.

85. Article on the Zimmerwald Conference, Oct. 11, 1915, collected in Gegen den Strom.

86. See note 3.

87. See note 4.

88. See note 2 and note 97.

89. Zinoviev, op. cit. (note 4); in Gegen den Strom, p.243.

90. Ibid., p.245.

91. Ibid., p.245.

92. Ibid., p.246.

93. Ibid., p.247.

94. See note 63.

95. Op. cit (note 4); in Gegen den Strom, p.248.

96. Op. cit. (note 3); in Gegen den Strom, p.438.

97. Article "The War and the Fate of Our Liberation", pub. Feb. 12, 1915; in Gegen den Strom, p.56.

98. Op. cit. (note 4), pp.243-4.

99. L. Trotsky, What Is a Peace Program? Petrograd, February 1918; pamphlet, in English translation, of a series of articles which had been originally published in Nashe Slovo during 1915-16. The English is very awkward and foreign; I have taken the liberty of polishing it a bit.

100. The Crisis in the German Social-Democracy (the "Junitis" pamphlet), 1915.

101. CW 20, I, p.19, "Two Letters to A.M. Kollontal". Not published; private letter.

102. CW 22 (Russ.), pp.404-5, "Concluding Speech on the Report on the Ratification of the Peace Agreement of March 15, at the 4th Extraordinary All-Russian Congress of Soviets"; pub. March 19, 1918.

103. CW 20, I, pp.95-7, "Speech at Caucus of Bolshevik Members of the All-Russian Conference of Soviets", April 17, 1917. Not published (till 1924); notes by a participant.

104. Ibid., p.99.

105. CW 20, I, p.115.

106. CW 20, I, p.98.

107. CW 20, I, p.135, "The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution".

108. CW 20, I, p.203, "Report on the Political Situation".

109. Ibid., p.202.

110. CW 20, I, p.296-7, "Speech on the War Resolution".

111. CW 21, I, p.214-6, "The Threatening Catastrophe and How to Fight It"; pub. Oct. 1917 (written September 23-7).

112. Lenin, Selected Works, v.5, p.150.

113. Letter to Shlyapnikov of September 19, 1915, in Letters of Lenin (see note 72), pp.376-7.

114. See note 102.

115. CW 20, II, pp.56-7, "Open Letter to the Delegates of the All-Russian Soviet of Peasant Delegates"; pub. May 24, 1917.

116. CW 21, I, p.160, "Draft Resolution on the Political Situation". Not published (till 1926); written September 16, 1917.

117. L. Trotsky, What Next?, a pamphlet published in Petrograd in September 1917. Included in L. Fraina, ed., The Proletarian Revolution in Russia, by Lenin and Trotsky (a collection), p.257.

118. CW 21, I, 36-37, "The Political Situation". Not published (till 1926); written July 23, 1917.

119. Ibid., p.37.

120. In L. Fraina (see note 117), p.258.

121. Ibid., p.261.

122. CW 21, I, p.77, "The Beginning of Bonapartism". Pub. Aug. 11, 1917.

123. CW, 21, I, p.147, "From a Publicist’s Diary"; pub. September 1917.

124. Lenin, Selected Works, v.10, p.316, "Notes on the Question of the Tasks of Our Delegation at the Hague", written Dec. 4, 1922, not published.

125. Communist International (Eng. ed.), No.1. New Series; n.d. (c.February 1924); p.41.

126. Communist International (Eng. ed.), No.5, New Series; n.d. (c.June 1924); pp.6-7.

127. Trotsky, The Stalin School of Falsification, p.162.

128 Ibid., p.165.

129. Ibid., p.2.

130. War and the Fourth International, Pt.58, p.26.

131. The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International, p.32.

132. Ibid.

133. New International, July 1939, pp.208-9.

134. John West, War and the Workers, p.13.

135. C.L.R. James, World Revolution, p.74.

136. Declaration of Principles and Constitution of the SWP, 1938, p.24.

137. Mimeographed document, War and Bureaucratic Conservatism.

138. Labor Action, Sept. 1, 1941, "A Letter to a Comrade: On Some Aspects of the Russian Question".

139. New International, for May-June 1951, p.164, and July-August 1951, p.195; followed in the Sept.-Oct. 1951 issue, p.294, by an exchange between Gordon Haskell and Shachtman on the subject of the latter’s article.

140. New International, May-June 1951, p.174.

141. Ibid., p.165.

142. Ibid., p.169.

143. Ibid., p.186-7.

144. Ibid., p.168.

145. Ibid., p.170.

146. New International, Sept.Oct. 1951, p.300.

147. Ibid., p.296.

148. New International, July-Aug., 1951, p.205.

149. New International, Sept.-Oct., 1951, p.300.

150. Ibid., pp.300-1.

151. Ibid., p.301.

152. New International, May-June 1951, p.172.

153. Ibid., p.169.

154. Ibid.