Defeatism is acceptance of defeat without struggle. In everyday use, defeatism has negative connotation and is often linked to treason and pessimism, or even a hopeless situation such as a Catch-22. The term is commonly used in the context of war: a soldier can be a defeatist if he or she refuses to fight because he or she thinks that the fight will be lost for sure or that it is not worth fighting for some other reason. Again in connection with war, the term is used to refer to the view that defeat would be better than victory. The term can also be used in other fields, like politics, sport, psychology and philosophy.

Revolutionary Defeatism

Revolutionary Defeatism is a concept made most prominent by Vladimir Lenin in World War I. It is based on the Marxist idea of class struggle. Arguing that the proletariat could not win or gain in a capitalist war, Lenin declared its true enemy is the imperialist leaders who sent their lower classes into battle. Workers would gain more from their own nations’ defeats, he argued, if the war could be turned into civil war and then international revolution.[1]

Initially rejected by all but the more radical at the socialist Zimmerwald Conference in 1915,[2] the concept appears to have gained support from more and more socialists, especially in Russia in 1917, after it was forcefully reaffirmed in Lenin's April Theses and Russia's war losses continued.

Revolutionary defeatism can be contrasted, using Lenin's terminology, to ‘revolutionary defencism’ and to social patriotism or social chauvinism.

See also


  1. ^ Appignanesi, Richard (1977) Lenin For Beginners, p. 118. Writers and Readers Cooperative, London. ISBN 0906386039.
  2. ^ Pipes, Richard (1991). The Russian Revolution, p. 382. Vintage Books, New York. ISBN 0679736603.

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