“The Defeat of One’s Own Government in the Imperialist War”

Too many Marxists in the imperialist countries are concerned with their own situation to give any real concern to those of the global proletariat who are oppressed by their countries. There is a prevailing trend to place concern of their militaries over those which they slaughter in the tens of millions. First worldists often argue in favour of their own imperialist troops as some kind of tactic to promote anti-war sentiment. This position is wholly incorrect and flies in the face of Leninist theory, which nearly all of these First Worldists claim to adhere too.

Often we hear sad songs about how the imperialist soldiers are supposed oppressed by their governments and their “duty” to imperialist conquest. In the minds of such first worldists, the soldiers of imperialism are victimized by their own governments by being sent to war. Such a sentiment is completely false. As should be obvious to any Marxist, first world people, including imperialist soldiers are beneficiaries of imperialism. They actively fight for the empire which is in their material interests to maintain. These first worldists would have you believe they are workers, that they are being exploited by their own bourgeoisie.

Such people would scoff at being told to ally with the police against the capitalist class. The police, as they say, are their oppressors. If that is unpalatable to them, then why is it possible to do it with the oppressors of the global proletariat? The hypocrisy here is astounding.

We get notions about being able to “support the troops” by not “supporting the mission”. Such is utter nonsense. They are the perpetrators of imperialist murder. If one is opposed to imperialism, then how can they support those who commit the crimes? Another tactic is to lament the suffering of the imperialist troops and tell the first world society how they have been victimized by the war. This thinly veiled patriotism of the imperialist countries only forwards the idea that the imperialist troops are the victims. Their bleeding hearts for the murders of the global proletariat is only a manifestation of the disdain they have for the troop’s victims. They really only care about their own society, the exploiters of the global proletariat.

Lenin makes the way clear: “During a reactionary war a revolutionary class cannot but desire the defeat of its government.” This certainly does not commit to the pampering of the imperialist murders. Of course, Lenin writes of a different time, not of our modern more developed capitalist-imperialist system. This line, however, remains wholly relevant today. If anything, imperialism has become even more intense that it was during Lenin’s time.

“During a reactionary war a revolutionary class cannot but desire the defeat of its government.” An idea that terrifies the first worldist, because it calls upon him to act radically against his own government which he has already demonstrated that he refuses to do.

Defending one’s own country as they carry out imperialist conquest is not a new phenomenon. Lenin spoke of such opportunists:

“During a reactionary war a revolutionary class cannot but desire the defeat of its government.

“This is axiomatic, and disputed only by conscious partisans or helpless satellites of the social-chauvinists. Among the former, for instance, is Semkovsky of the Organising Committee (No. 2 of its Izvestia), and among the latter, Trotsky and Bukvoyed, and Kautsky in Germany. To desire Russia’s defeat, Trotsky writes, is “an uncalled-for and absolutely unjustifiable concession to the political methodology of social-patriotism, which would replace the revolutionary struggle against the war and the conditions causing it, with an orientation—highly arbitrary in the present conditions—towards the lesser evil” (Nashe Slovo No. 105).”

Lenin asks the question as to what does this “revolutionary struggle against the war” mean? It certainly does not mean doing nothing by pandering to the so-called victims in the imperialist army. It means taking the fight to the government to abolish the war itself, the opposite of what first worldists do. Lenin says, “Wartime revolutionary action against one’s own government indubitably means, not only desiring its defeat, but really facilitating such a defeat.” Instead, the first worldist laments the suffering of the imperialist soldier and demands more programs and spending from the government to take care of the “wounded warrior”. All this accomplishes is allocating more of the plunder from the third world into the hands and to the benefit of those who carried out the atrocities.

Why should the global proletariat pay for the rehabilitation and funerals of those that kill them?

Other first worldists contend that you must support the imperialist troops because refusing to is defacto support for the opposite side. To make such an assertion is to promote the idea that genuine revolutionaries want the Taliban to conquer the mighty NATO forces! Such a way of thinking is false, the choice is not limited to one or the other. To quote Lenin once again:

“The phrase-bandying Trotsky has completely lost his bearings on a simple issue. It seems to him that to desire   Russia’s defeat means desiring the victory of Germany. … But Trotsky regards this as the “methodology of social-patriotism”! To help people that are unable to think for themselves, the Berne resolution (Sotsial Demokrat No. 40) made it clear, that in all imperialist countries the proletariat must now desire the defeat of its own government. Bukvoyed and Trotsky preferred to avoid this truth, while Semkovsky… blurted out the following: “This is nonsense, because either Germany or Russia can win” (Izvestia No. 2).”

Lenin has a much different view where he calls upon the people of the imperialist countries to sabotage the bourgeoisie governments they live under. The people should use the opportunity of wartime to collectively act against the capitalist class.

“A revolution in wartime means civil war; the conversion of a war between governments into a civil war is, on the one hand, facilitated by military reverses (“defeats”) of governments; on the other hand, one cannot actually strive for such a conversion without thereby facilitating defeat.”

To oppose the defeat of one’s own imperialist country is to side with the imperialist conquest. Revolution is a war between social classes. Allying with your own imperialist government and support the protection of it, is to be nothing but reactionary. To do anything less is a “class true” while the imperialist war rages on. In a way, we see this as “neither victory nor defeat”.

To return to Lenin:

“Whoever is in favour of the slogan of “neither victory nor defeat” is consciously or unconsciously a chauvinist; at best he is a conciliatory petty bourgeois but in any case he is an -enemy to proletarian policy, a partisan of the existing ·governments, of the present-day ruling classes.”

Source: https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1915/jul/26.htm