Regeneration represents an attempt to begin to synthesize the various perspectives and strategic orientations which have emerged from the organizing efforts of over a dozen independent, citywide communist and revolutionary socialist collectives in the United States. As our name suggests, we exist as both a product of and an effort to contribute to furthering the regeneration of the US left — the revolutionary left in particular.
The collectives which have gathered together to establish this journal and cohere a Marxist center within the socialist movement are united in two positions above all: rejecting the sectarianism of the past and the reformism of the present. We believe that only through pursuing a revolutionary political line which avoids both of these errors can we hope to construct institutions of counter-power capable of both opposing capitalism today and building a revolutionary society tomorrow.
Sectarianism represents the legitimate revolutionary impulse seeking to forcibly overthrow all existing social conditions. Although it cloaks itself in the raiments of scientific socialism, in our time a great deal of Marxist theory — intended as a guide to action — has hardened into dogma. Our failure to turn away from long-established but outmoded methods of organizing threatens to throttle our movement from unfolding into its greater potential.
The sectarians in our movement held onto the precious kernel of truth after the collapse of the Soviet Union; during the long reactionary winter of neoliberalism, they doggedly refused the reformist’s appeals to abandon revolution in the name of political convenience. Their obstinance paid off; they kept alive the beating heart of revolution and provided our movements a rich mélange of revolutionary theory. At the same time however, many of the once-vital organizational forms of the previous generation now hang around the movement’s neck like a deadweight.
In the past few years, the sect system has been thrown into crisis. Every day we read of mergers and fusions, splits and dissolutions. For most, if not all, of the revolutionary left, this has meant their complete and utter liquidation into reformist parties. But another path lies open: revolutionary regroupment from the ground up. Our generation has no interest in attempting to instigate socialist unity by appeals to leaders of a dozen dogmatic micro-parties, who have presided over decades of failure. Instead, we have attempted an end run around them through the establishment of independent revolutionary socialist collectives at the local level. Federating these collectives on the national level, beginning at our Colorado conference in 2018, and launching this platform represent a small but enthusiastic move forward for our collectives and a leap forward for our movement.
This is the practical political challenge we have chosen to undertake. But such organizational regeneration cannot take place while simply importing whole cloth the ideology of a previous historical juncture. Just as we vigorously attempt the reconstitution of socialist organization outside of the “sect mode of organization,” we must similarly undertake a recomposition of socialist theory and ideology on the basis of present conditions. We will seek to apply revolutionary Marxism to a technologically-advanced and politically-backward capitalist society in the 21st century. To do so requires us to study, learn, reflect on our history, share our experiences, and engage in vigorous debate with every school of thought within the socialist movement.
Probably the most visible manifestation of the rapid reemergence of socialism as a mass politics has been the all-pervading influence of reformism. Reformism as a trend in the working class movement denies the possibility of overarching transformation, or else defers it to an impossibly far future in effect turning revolution into a powerless symbol.
Reformism accepts as a given the necessity of class collaboration, and attempts to spin class compromise as a necessary good. One of the more popular strategic proposals of the reformist camp is the promotion of candidates for elected office running in a capitalist party; a clear instance of encouraging class collaboration. The reformist camp is divided between those who would “realign” the Democratic Party and presto change-o transform a capitalist party into a party of the working class, and those who hope to leverage popular interest in reformist social democracy as a gateway drug to full-blown socialism. But both factions are united, in practice, around the need to make electoral intervention a top priority, and specifically to corral broader social movements into electing progressive Democrats.
Reformism finds a powerful echo in — and is indeed, amplified by — capitalist mass media. Every step our movement haltingly takes down the path of reformism is loudly applauded by mainstream pundits. We are told (even by some in our own movement!) that we must pander to the existing consciousness of the working class (i.e. “meet people where they’re at”) or risk irrelevance and political marginalization. This is a false dichotomy. The reformists ignore the possibility of mutual transformation which can emerge out of the fusion of revolutionary socialism and the actual lived existence and struggle of the working class and the oppressed.
What the reformists attempt to disprove in theory revolutionaries repudiate in practice — by building powerful revolutionary organizations deeply rooted in the working class, capable of intervening in mass movements, winning concessions from class enemies, and directly meeting working people’s immediate needs. But we cannot rely solely on such “propaganda of the deed.” We must be able to articulate a comprehensible worldview and guide to action, not only to our fellow socialists, but to the working class more broadly. In our era, lapsing into sectarianism and/or reformism is the path of least resistance for all activism. A constant struggle against these tendencies is necessary in the movement as a whole; even in our own organizations, which are not immune from objective pressures and subjective errors.
Our trend is still very young in comparison to the rest of the left, we lack national infrastructure and immediate political antecedents. Nevertheless, in a short amount of time we have been able to make profound interventions in discussions on the left, especially through the popularization of base-building as a political methodology. But — crucially — reforging links between the socialist movement and the working class and oppressed can only be the first step on the journey to freedom. The obvious follow-up question is: Where do we go from here?
Over the coming months and years, we will attempt to answer that question for the here-and-now, and continue the dialogue on the pressing question of strategy. We will attempt to incorporate an analysis of new political developments while revisiting our theory and practice based on our own experiences as well as larger social phenomena.
We recognize our current within the movement (and this project in particular) only represents one of many new initiatives. Initially our contributions will exhibit a certain amateurishness. This merely reflects our emergence as thinkers growing out of the trenches of the class struggle; a necessary side effect of our revolutionary experimentation. What we lack in resources, revolutionary pedigree, and academic credentials we vow to make up for with clear-eyed vision and an intimate connection to on-the-ground organizing. The prospect of failure does not frighten us; it is simply a mark of our ambition.
Our strategies, our struggles, our inner turmoil, and ultimately our achievements need to be shared and widely broadcast. Socialism only rarely appears as the result of a neatly worked out theory, rather it grows out of the righteous, sometimes contradictory desires of the masses. Only through direct conversation between our aims, values, and the living struggle of our movement can the working class come to understand ourselves and change our world.