The Reason for Revolutionary Defeatism

The development of the imperialist war between Russia and Ukraine has once again placed, in a meridian way, the importance of the invariant and traditional slogans of the revolutionary movement in the face of the war of capital: fraternization among the proletarians in uniform on both fronts, against all the homelands for proletarian internationalism, to direct arms against the bourgeoisie itself, revolutionary defeatism and the transformation of the imperialist war into a class war. In the notebook that we publish here we publish a series of texts that we have been bringing out as a group in the heat of the upsurge of the imperialist war and other materials, that we think it is important to bring out also on paper, from comrades who place themselves on the same terrain of class and internationalist intransigence. Numerous communiqués have circulated defending a perspective analogous to ours. The comrades of the magazine Controverses have published most of these communiqués in French, English and Spanish and they can be consulted on their web page [1]. Also the Argentine comrades of Panfletos subversivos or the Czech comrades of Tridni Valka have developed a very important work to make known the internationalist reactions to the war that minorities from all over the world are carrying out in a clear and complete way [2].

Most of the groups that have defended these positions are located in a programmatic terrain, which is that of the communist left or other currents influenced by it[3]. We refer to the revolutionary minorities who, in an intransigent way, from the decade of the 20’s of the 20th century, defended class autonomy and proletarian internationalism in the long night of the counterrevolution, in those years that were midnight in the century, to take up Victor Serge’s metaphor. It is very important how, in that counter-revolutionary context, they defended against the tide a revolutionary perspective against all the bourgeois factions: from Stalin’s capitalism to the democratic powers, from fascism to the anti-fascist currents. This is what made it possible, moreover, to defend a class and internationalist perspective against the two bourgeois camps during World War II[4]. In addition, some anarchist and internationalist groups have manifested a clear and significant position against the imperialist war. We wish to highlight, in the first place, the communiqué of the Russian comrades of KRAS-AIT Against the war, a communiqué which we publish in this notebook because of the importance of the defense of internationalist and revolutionary positions in one of the protagonist states of the imperialist war. As the comrades of KRAS-AIT say:

“We call on the soldiers sent to fight not to shoot at each other and even more so not to open fire on the civilian population.

We urge them to refuse en masse to carry out the criminal orders of their commanders.



We call on the people in the rear on both sides of the front, the workers of Russia and Ukraine not to support this war, not to help it, on the contrary, to resist it with all their might!

Do not go to war!

Not a single ruble, not a single hryvnia from our pockets for the war!

Strike against this war if you can!”

We should also highlight communiqués such as those of the Serbian anarcho-syndicalist group IWA-AIT with the expressive title Let us turn the imperialist war into workers’ revolution[5]. This type of position also supposes an internationalist critique of other anarchist groups which are participating in the imperialist war as part of the Ukrainian army[6].

Now, the defense of these internationalist positions are an important example, but very much a minority and against the current. There are sectors which allude to the fact that the defense of internationalism would make no sense because its practical effects today would be null. They make a criticism not because revolutionary defeatism is not just, but because it would not be operative. There are two criticisms to be made of this type of approach. In the first place, on a small scale and in an obviously weak way, examples are being given of positioning against the war and of desertions in both armies[7]. And secondly, a more fundamental critique is that revolutionary communists do not operate simply on the basis of the present moment, the instant and the capacity we have to act on a moment. Revolutionaries, in the society of capital, are normally minorities who operate in unfavorable situations. That is why our theory, as Bordiga said, is above all a doctrine of counterrevolution. Defending internationalist positions now is essential so that the class as a whole can make them its own in the future. We revolutionaries have to maintain the line of the future in the present: that is our essential task.

Another very different position is that of those who maintain that we revolutionaries should defend the right of the Ukrainian people to the defense of their territory and that there would be no independent existence of the proletariat without this elementary content. Something which is affirmed even if it assumes that, in a non-ideal way, the Ukrainian proletariat will do so organized by the Ukrainian army and the Ukrainian state. Not to defend this position, they argue, would be a sign of a dogmatism which would subject the spirit of proletarian emancipation to the dogma of abstract and soulless positions. All this, however, evokes the letter and meaning of past discussions:

“Formulas adapt themselves to events, but to pretend to adapt events to formulas is a sterile onanism, it is something banal and crazy. It is a ridiculous enterprise. If tomorrow – by a complex play of circumstances – it should be shown that the intervention of Italy could hasten the end of this horrendous carnage, who – among the Italian socialists – would want to unleash a general strike to prevent the war? [Intervention] would save hundreds of thousands of proletarian lives in France, Germany, Austria, etc. Would it not be a supreme proof of international solidarity? Is it not in our interest, as men and as socialists, that this state of abnormality should be brief and liquidate all the old problems? […] We cannot confine ourselves to a formula if we do not want to condemn ourselves to immobility. Reality is moving and at an accelerated pace. We have the privilege of having lived in the most tragic hour in the history of the world. Do we want to be – as men and as socialists – simply the spectators of this great drama? Do we not want to be, in some way, its protagonists? Socialists of Italy, take a good look: sometimes the letter kills the spirit. Let us not save the letter of socialism if that means killing its spirit!”[8]

The tone and meaning of these same words we have heard these days in the face of our internationalist positions. It would be enough to eliminate the references to Italy and to the contenders of World War I and to speak of the Ukraine to see how word for word their meaning is repeated in some supposedly anti-capitalist sectors. We would be dogmatic doctrinaires who would live enclosed in formulas that pretend to adjust reality to our desires. Through their mouth, in reality, speaks the opportunism of all life, which is incapable of maintaining the line of the revolutionary future in the present, because it adapts itself to the immediate. They are the counter-revolutionary conservatives of the instant, of the capitalist catastrophe. The fact that the author of the words quoted above is Mussolini should give food for thought. Whoever defends any of the sides in an imperialist war places himself on the terrain of the bourgeoisie and of capital for life. There is no turning back. That is why revolutionary and internationalist intransigence is so important in these moments of acceleration of the crisis of capital and imperialist war. Communism is a real and historical movement that implies ends and means. We must prepare the means already from the present to be able to achieve the ends of proletarian and human self-emancipation. Communism, a society without classes, merchandise and State, implies, as a prerequisite, autonomy and class antagonism against the bourgeoisie, internationalism that is concretized in the constitution of a world proletariat that constitutes itself as a class and, therefore, as a party directed towards the ends of communism. Whoever denies the class independence and autonomy of the proletariat against all the bourgeoisies now, denies it forever. There are no half-truths in these questions. It means raising insurmountable class barriers. And as revolutionaries, as the anarchists of KRAS-AIT have said against the “anarcho-patriots”, we have the duty not to forget. Or as other revolutionaries have said in the past, our duty is to never betray the revolutionary and emancipatory perspective of the proletariat. This is what our critics forget when they attack us as doctrinaire.

Obviously our repulsion and hatred of the massacres of all imperialist wars is complete. Our hatred for all the sides in conflict and for the massacres of Russian imperialism is unshakable. What we affirm is that the Ukrainian proletariat, and the entire world proletariat, can only defend its existence and its living conditions if it opposes the imperialist war, its own bourgeoisie and all the bourgeoisies in conflict. The Ukrainian proletariat does not defend its existence in the imperialist war, but becomes cannon fodder for interests which are not its own: they are those of the Ukrainian bourgeoisie and those of the Western imperialist bloc which is behind it. This affirmation, at present in the minority, will become more and more evident as the imperialist conflict becomes entrenched. The war is not the result of a bad bourgeoisie opposed to a rational bourgeoisie. There is no lesser evil. War is born from the entrails of the logic of the society of capital.

We have examples in the past during the first imperialist slaughter: the division along class lines of “anarcho-patriots” like Kropotkin against internationalists like Malatesta, for example; or within the camp of the Second International, when social democracy definitively acquired its class nature as the left of capital, calling on proletarians to kill each other in defense of the fatherland. Its arguments are repeated now. It was a momentary slaughter, then class solidarity would return. After the massacre in the trenches, the International would have to be placidly rebuilt in the salons of bourgeois politics. What mattered was not to be doctrinaire, to be concrete, to react in the face of the immediate. These arguments were not only of Mussolini, who was coherent in bringing the defense of the fatherland to the development of the Fascist movement. German social democracy defended German civilization, more progressive than Russian tsarism, and war credits had to be defended. Also today the sending of arms to Ukraine from above is upheld or, in a more leftist perspective shared by many anarchists and Trotskyists, the arming from below of the Ukrainian militias is called for. These are the same ones who later defended the bourgeois state of the Weimar Republic. Those who hated revolution as sin like Ebert, the chairman of the German SPD and of the democratic Republic. Those who offered to be the bloody dogs against the revolution like Noske, the one who was the democratic minister of the Interior and who murdered Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, as well as tens of thousands of revolutionary proletarians. That is what it is about, the historical thread, that of revolution and communism, or that of counterrevolution and the left of capital.

Against this, we defend the revolutionary traditions of the internationalist oppositions to the Second International, those which defended the revolutionary defeatism of the Bolsheviks and the German-Dutch left (Pannekoek, Gorter…) at the meetings of Zimmerwald and Kienthal. The enemy is always our bourgeoisie and the entire international bourgeoisie. It is necessary to transform the imperialist war into class war. The positions of Rosa Luxemburg in The Junius Pamphlet: the affirmation of the class struggle against the sacred family of patriotic unity. Those who call to defend Ukraine are affirming that there are no classes or class antagonism, in that arcadia outside history which would be the Ukrainian nation. Imperialism is not a reality that is peculiar to some states. All states are imperialist, some dominant and others subaltern, as Rosa herself said, because imperialism is nothing but the political and international expression of world capitalist competition. Just as companies compete among themselves, the States, incarnation of national capital and its interests, compete among themselves. Hence war is intrinsic to capitalist dynamics. To defend Ukraine is not to defend the proletariat and the population, but to fight to make us cannon fodder for the world bourgeoisie. As the Iranian comrades of the Haft Tappeh factory strongly affirm, this war, like all wars between nations, is against the international proletariat[9].

We can also think of World War II and the weak internationalist position which, in the midst of the counter-revolution, the revolutionaries of the third camp defended[10]. On that occasion, for example, Trotskyism passed to the left camp of capital by defending one of the blocs at war (the democratic) against the other (the fascist), with the notable exception of those who defended a position of revolutionary defeatism and opposition to all the bourgeois camps. We refer to comrades such as the internationalists around Munis (Benjamin Péret, Natalia Sedova, Esteban Bilbao or Jaime Fernández)[11], the Greek revolutionary Agis Stinas[12] or the revolutionary communists of Austrian origin of the RKÖ[13]. That is why it should not surprise us that today the different Trotskyist groups place themselves directly or indirectly on the side of one of the blocs at war, or that they give more importance to the struggle against NATO and, therefore, Putin is either not imperialist or is a representative of a lesser imperialism, or that they support the other side with the convenient excuse of defending Ukrainian self-determination: arms for Ukraine, they shout: that is, arms for the imperialist war.

And the defense of the imperialist war is always presented with the same arguments: defense of democratic civilization against barbarism, the (poor) nations attacked against the invader (as if the nature of a slave owner who owns 100 slaves were better than one who owns 1,000) or in the name of the sacrosanct right of nations to self-determination[14].

Then, and as we said at the beginning of this introduction, the imperialist war in course supposes the invariant support of the internationalist strategy and tactics. This is expressed in the defense of proletarian revolutionary defeatism and in the transformation of the imperialist war into class war, all this against an opportunist immediatism that destroys our historical perspective in the name of the complexity of the moment, or of being concrete and being able to intervene more effectively in the reality of the moment: Mussolini speaks through his mouth.

That is the purpose of publishing the texts that can be read or reread below on paper. As Barbaria we have published four texts. The first, Russia, Ukraine and the importance of questions, speaks of the importance of not getting bogged down in bourgeois discourses on the war. The second, War in Ukraine: the cat and mouse, was written in the heat of the outbreak of the war, defending a clear internationalist perspective. In the third, as its title says, we try to return to some fundamental positions of proletarian internationalism. In the last one, The economic war, the war that already is, we observe the economic consequences of the war as an attack against the proletariat. We also publish other texts which also defend proletarian internationalism in a clear and uncompromising way. The already mentioned communiqué of the Russian comrades of KRAS-AIT against the war, an initial text of the comrades of Tridni Valka that stops to explain in a clear way the reason for revolutionary defeatism, a brief and excellent denunciation of the imperialist war written by a comrade who signs as Internationalist wage slave, who recalls Liebknecht’s phrase that the enemy is always in your own country, and finally, the explicit and firm denunciation of the Argentine comrades of La Oveja Negra to the imperialist war.

We publish these pages not as an analysis of a punctual war or a conjuncture analysis, but from the conviction that we are living a historical acceleration of the crisis of capitalism as civilization. War is only one of the signs of this crisis originated by a system that has reached its internal limits. In the first place, because capitalism lives by exploiting people (proletarians) and not machines. The expulsion of labor force implies stagnation and regression in the production of value, as well as the same ecological crisis, which also manifests itself in pandemics such as COVID[15]. And how, all this, expresses the loss of energy[16] that a system as entropic as capitalism lives… In this context, imperialist war appears as an increasingly palpable reality on the horizon. War in capitalism is not the punctual result of some crazy rulers, but of the same competitive reality of a capitalism which, moreover, is in crisis. For that reason, these pages do not speak from the vindication of an eternal and catastrophic present, but they do look to the past to open the only possible horizon for the future: communism. A community without money, without the State and without social classes. And therefore, without wars. But for this we must transform the wars of capital into a class war against this rotten society. We are convinced that there will be no lack of situations that will make this possible.


[1] You can consult their web site

[2] In Spanish the first ones: and in many languages the comrades of Tridni Valka (Class War):

[3] On the communist left see on this subject our booklet The past of our being:

[4] The French comrades of the digital archive Fragments d’Histoire sur la gauche radicale have uploaded an introduction on this moment of our revolutionary history against the tide: They have also published texts from the time of these minorities that we encourage you to read and take on board:

[5] See their communiqué at

[6] Cf. on this subject this booklet:

[7] Cf. the report of the comrades of KRAS-AIT published at

[8] Benito Mussolini: For an active and operative neutrality, quoted in Renzo di Felice: Mussolini il rivoluzionario, pp. 259-260.

[9] The comrades of the ICT have translated on their page two communiqués of these Iranian comrades of a sugar factory who have led intransigent struggles in the last years from class autonomy:

[10] See

[11] See above all Volume III of Munis’ Complete Works available online at

[12] See his impressive book Un révolutionnaire dans la Grèce du XXe siècle.

[13] We recommend the memoirs of one of his comrades, George Scheuer, Seuls les fous n’ont pas peur.

[14] See in this regard the text by Bordiga: Pacifismo e comunismo

[15] See our book The Pandemics of Capital

[16] On this subject the comrades of N+1 have repeatedly returned, for example in