Some notes on “defeatist theory”

Also in response to a Marxist:

On defeatist theory

Not only was Lenin an advocate of defeatist theory, but actually Marx and Engels themselves were advocates of such a theory; Marx's advocacy of a transitional form of government, or what he called "the dictatorship of the proletariat" is a poor concept that justifies a hierarchic structure with different masters at the top. Little does Marx talk about the possibility that this could in fact (and has in all cases of such alleged "proletarian revolt") establish a permanent order of things, with the old masters being the subjects and the old subjects being the new masters. This is actually where most anarchists disagree with Marxists. Another relevant concept is the concept of long-term planning, and this is of course another form of defeatism. It is defeatism because it subjects the conditions of the workers and the proletariat to the alleged "realities" of a revolution. In other words, there is the claim that there needs to be extensive planning for a "one-strike" revolution that would forever change the face of things. There is always the argument that this is in contradiction with Marx's advocacy of a transitional form of government, but let us assume that it does not contradict it. The core issue is not whether it contradicts pure Marxism, the issue here is whether or not there is the possibility that it can fail. This of course is not addressed by these Marxist defeatists. Failure is always ruled out, and this is one of the problems of Marxism and Leninism. There is virtually no "airbag" that would prevent total annihilation in case of a head-on crash… Short-term planning on the other hand allows for some moving and manoevring space, and it also explains why anarchism has sustained constant levels of growth in terms of supporters whereas Marxism, which has had a living example (however unrepresentative of pure Marxist ideology), has an unstable support base.

March 14 and the "bourgeoisie" overthrow

The assumption that March 14 is a bourgeoisie overthrow is fallacious. You have to look at the leaders of this so-called overthrow, because the masses do not necessarily explain the ideological bulk of the movement. As such, the March 14 "overthrow" was not bourgeoisie, it was a feudal-feudal battle for control. There is of course a clear difference between the bourgeoisie and the feudalists. And I quote from the Manifesto of the Communist Party: "In order to arouse sympathy, the aristocracy were obliged to lose sight, apparently, of their own interests, and to formulate their indictment against the bourgeoisie in the interest of the exploited working class alone. Thus the aristocracy took their revenge by singing lampoons on their new master, and whispering in his ears sinister prophecies of coming catastrophe. In this way arose feudal socialism: half lamentation, half lampoon; half echo of the past, half menace of the future; … The aristocracy, in order to rally the people to them, waved the proletarian alms bag in front for a banner. But the people, as often as it joined them, saw on their hindquarters the old feudal coats of arms, and deserted with loud and irreverent laughter."

So my friends, do you see, the Lebanese are still at stage one, feudal socialism… Did you ever wonder what Walid beik was talking about? This guy is the true representative and spokesperson of feudal socialism. He stands for what it stands. Walid Jumblatt is feudal socialism, and the Lebanese unfortunately did not "[desert] with loud and irreverent laughter". On the contrary, they rushed – like serfs – to line up behind their feudal leader. Of course, Walid beik is not the only example. You have less obvious examples of feudal lords, clans like Hariri, Gemayel, and so on. That is not to say that all are equally powerful, but they are the ruling class and they tend to help each other out whenever their struggle is against the proletariat and even the bourgeoisie. The gravest danger at the moment to these feudalists is the bourgeoisie. Unfortunately we are not yet at a stage where the proletariat is organized and conscious of the road that lay ahead.

HezbAllah, sect hegemony, and welfarism

That HezbAllah has established hegemony over its sect is not very accurate. Despite the immense popularity of HezbAllah and the fallacious reasoning employed by its leaders to gain support from the Shi'ites, Amal still has some support within the sect, although it is definitely less than it used to be. This means that HezbAllah is less hegemonistic within its community (although I am sure its leaders would certainly want to have complete monopoly over the sect) compared to other sectarian groups. One example is the Hariri clan and its nearly absolute command over the Sunni sect. Another is the PSP. Sure, Talal Arslan (another feudal lord) has some followers but they are infinitesimal compared to the suppport Walid beik has (for one reason or another). Furthermore, while these one-man-show "parties" have only a political platform and virtually no social and economic achievements, HezbAllah has been able to implement a mini-welfare-state. How it has been able to do that, i.e. where did it get the money from, is not important for this discussion. The important thing is, HezbAllah has so far been the only example of welfare in Lebanon, and a successful (albeit sectarian) one at that. That one is against the weapons of HezbAllah should not make one blind to its positive contributions. In fact, despite the fact that HezbAllah is a sectarian party, it is the most likely (if not the only) supporter for secularization of the political system. Again, reasons and hidden intentions do not interest me. For one, I do not think that the FPM, despite its supposedly secular platform, would really want to see a secular system when it comes to serious talk about it. It is clear that HezbAllah is in no position, legally speaking, to form a majority by political blackmailing, unlike the largest group among its opponents, namely the Hariri clan. As such the best that HezbAllah can do is play on the needs of groups that are in desperate need for an ally, for example FPM, to achieve a rough balance of power. The probability, nay, the possibility that HezbAllah would become the ruling power in Lebanon like the Hariri clan is at the moment is almost null.

Back to square one: What future for the defeatist left?

It is defeatist to associate all hopes with the existence of a communist party or a worker's party. This is in fact the problem with Marx; he never took into account the circumstances in which a proletariat revolution would have to come to light in the non-European, non-Western world. His Euro-centric and Westernized perspective has clearly failed in this part of the world. This does not mean, however, that one should work within the limitations of this system. Quite the contrary; I am criticizing exactly that. The limitations of the system should be transcended rather than submitted to. The problem with Marxists, Leninists, Marxist-Leninists, communists, and other leftists in Lebanon is that they feel they need to take a position on March 8 and March 14. Most in fact feel the need to be pro-March 14, simply because it is the "patriotic" (or "more patriotic") thing to do. I call this "the juggling act". You simply cannot juggle patriotism and Marxism or patriotism and anarchism… It's like jugging with one hand behind your back, with both objects being double-edged knives. Now if you can imagine that, you have imagined the future of the defeatist left.

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5 responses to “Some notes on “defeatist theory”

  1. First: Necessary vituperations:

    1) So you are espousing a paranoid left? We can’t do this because it might FAIL: “Oh my god! I might lose a priveledge or a cosy bed in a 5-star squat” – type of logic you easily find in “anarchist” groups all over Europe. Fortunately the sqats are being closed down and the anarchists are getting very good jobs.

    2) If you don’t understand something, then say so. Don’t say that one should not take a position on March 8 and 14, just because you can’t take one yourself.

    3) The failure of the anarchists is their failure to organize based on egoism (I will not be part of a group, because Aishti only sells clothes to individuals).

    4) Why don’t you tell the truth and say that you are against the dictatorship of the proletariat because you are bourgeois. Are you afraid to be killed by the revolutionaries? Here, I think you have a good point. It is very unfortunate, but Robespierre was right.

    5) Since when did “transcendence” become a political act? Or are you reading reading Maryam Nour?

    I will not comment about your confusion regarding the economic system in Lebanon. WAKE UP! Feudalism died in 1860. What you have here is a capitalist system where marxists and other leftists are so detached that they cannot see a reality that is not packaged in a western manner. (If the workers don’t wear Renault uniforms, they are still workers – mish heik?).

    Anyway, great site and don’t worry too much about March 8 or 14. As they say in the Lebanese language: بطّيخ يطحبش بعضو

  2. 1) I am? Not really, I am not saying that it shouldn't be done because it MIGHT fail, but it shouldn't be done because it will definitely fail. But that doesn't mean that NOTHING should be done. That is my point. Something should be done, and that thing can be done either "in one strike" or in many strikes. I am an advocate of slow but DIRECT action, striking at the heart of corporations instead of waiting for those corporations to do "enough damage" to "allow for a revolution". In fact, that is exactly what Marx advocated: that colonialism was a necessary stage that should be put up with.

    2) What does this have anything to do with taking a position on either March 8 or March 14???? It has nothing to do with it. I am dissecting an entry about March 14 by a Marxist who seeks to "debunk" the claim that March 14 was a worker's revolution. I said that there is nothing to "debunk" really, because March 14 is not a revolution to begin with, let alone a worker's revolution.

    3) Uhh? Egotism? Aishti? What? What on earth are you talking about? And anarchists don't really need to "organize" in the regular sense of the word, because there are no central decision-making structures.

    4) I am against the dictatorship of the proletariat because I'm from the bourgeoisie????????????? You seem to have picked the wrong "bourgeoisie" person, my friend, because I can assure that I am nothing close to a bourgeoisie and would never want to be part of the bourgeoisie. I am not afraid of revolutionaries, because that would mean that I'd be afraid of myself. 😉 On the contrary, had I been afraid of the revolutionaries I would not have received a beating on their behalf by the defenders of the bourgeoisie.

    5) You have an interesting if crude sense of humour. But who's Maryam Nour? 🙂

    Feudalism (economic and political) is still very much alive in Lebanon. So you are quite wrong. But I suppose you believe it doesn't exist because Maryam Nour said so. 😛

  3. And of course, if you care to read the other entries on my blog you would know what my position on March 8 & March 14 is. I will leave that to you to discover. Isn’t that better than reading Maryam Nour? 😛

  4. Pingback: A response to critics « Blogging the Middle East

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