I first encountered this term in the title of a recently discovered manuscript by Georg Lukács, A Defence of History and Class-Consciousness: Tailism and the Dialectic. Tailism was actually coined by Lenin. He first used tailism (khvostism) to describe the ‘Economists’, those who argued that the communist party should not take the lead in a revolutionary situation, but should allow economic events – crises, strikes, unrest – to unfold on their own. The party would then pick up on the tail of these events. No way, argues Lenin; the party is the vanguard, educating, agitating, watching for opportunities. After that, anyone who slacked off was a tailist, if he or she wasn’t an opportunist.
Great word; definitely needs to be recovered.