The Worker

Down with Defeatism

By Xavier. Originally published on April 10, 2022.

A prevailing problem within the left-wing sphere of America is the cult of defeat. “We face such strong enemies, how can we ever win?” “Americans are so apathetic, how can they be motivated?” “The struggle has been happening for so long, what hope do we have?” This attitude is incredibly harmful, destructive, and must be actively rooted out and addressed.

While these ideas carry with them some level of legitimacy (the US state is no doubt powerful and there is indeed a problem with apathy) they carry those true statements to an untrue conclusion: that we cannot win.

The only way that these various obstacles could mean failure is if we do not fight. An uphill battle is not a lost battle, and as Comrade Mao said, “All reactionaries are paper tigers. In appearance, the reactionaries are terrifying, but in reality, they are not so powerful. From a long-term point of view, it is not the reactionaries but the people who are powerful.” All power comes from the people, and once we organize, we will win.

Indeed, defeatism is its own consequence. What better way to ensure the failure of a revolutionary movement, or any movement, than to not participate and to actively encourage others to do the same? By convincing ourselves and others that we cannot win, or telling ourselves to hold out hope and limit our expectations, we are simultaneously guaranteeing that fact. The belief in victory is not an option. It is not only a tool of motivation; it is a necessity. 

Not only is it a necessity, it is the truth. Our economy–our society–functions because of the working class. Through our organization, through our militant resistance to the functions of bourgeois exploitation and oppression, and through our consolidation of the working class, we can and will break the shackles of capitalism that bind our hands and feet.

A common argument is that we cannot build a revolutionary movement in the US because “We must wait for the chain of imperialism to break where it’s weakest.” This line of thinking is worse than incorrect: it shifts the burden of our necessary labor to the already super-exploited global south. Should we simply rest on our laurels, waiting for our comrades brutalized by imperialism to pull our weight while we patiently wait for the right time? As Communists, we must reject that and instead strive to maintain the correct position and a revolutionary outlook at all times. We must work to both support our comrades internationally and build up a movement at home.

Another common argument is that “we are not organized or united enough yet; we do not have the necessary momentum.” But is that a reason to give up? Should we simply look at the unfavorable conditions, throw up our hands, and resign ourselves to subjugation under the bourgeoisie? The fact that people recognize our unfavorable conditions means that people also, to some extent, recognize the cause of those unfavorable conditions, which means that it is well within their ability to focus on struggling against those obstacles. Do people hold incorrect, anti-communist ideas? Then struggle against those incorrect ideas. Are people apathetic? Then struggle against apathy and work to motivate people and bring people in. The task of a Communist is to recognize what work must be done to build a working-class movement with a strong vanguard of cadre at the forefront, and then do it.

Throughout history, we have been faced with “unwinnable” circumstances, and then won. The divine right of kings seemed unassailable under feudalism, and then the kings were toppled and replaced with liberal democracy. Even within more recent history, did the Bolsheviks and Red Army not also face extreme obstacles that could give the illusion of assured defeat, just for them to proceed to victory? Did the Việt Minh not also face a Sisyphean task in overthrowing French and American imperialism to establish socialism in Vietnam? So too will we overcome that which at times seems unovercomable, defeat that which seems undefeatable, and build that which seems unbuildable. The prize of victory is our lives and liberation; the cost of defeat is our extinction. Until the last person on Earth draws their last breath, we will move forward.

Down with capitalism! Down with defeatism! Down with the bourgeoisie! Long live the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat!

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