Why the Mid Atlantic Revolutionary Socialists? [FAQ]

We want to address a short and incomplete list of concerns regarding who we are and what we do. The Mid Atlantic Revolutionary Socialists collective has been working for nearly three years, and we want to report on our activities and what we want to accomplish.

“Who are you?”

We are Revolutionary Socialists, Marxists who aim to overthrow capitalism and replace it with an egalitarian society. The origins of the collective are mixed, from both Trotskyism as well as Left Communism. We feel that the representatives of both tendencies, while providing much to learn, mostly seek to recycle or reimpose strategies and interpretations from the past rather than understanding communism as it can be applied in the present. As Marx and Engels put it in the Communist Manifesto:

“Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence.”

“The present state of things,” while having some similarities with movements of the past, is also quite different. It is here where we are attempting to rework and understand how to organize and theorize under contemporary circumstances in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States as a stepping stone to a national and international organization.

“Why have another socialist organization?”

Our view is that the existing socialist organizations simply are not carrying out the necessary work to organize the working class and develop socialists and revolutionaries. We have collectively worked in or with many of the notable leftist groups, and consistently found them to be locked into organizational patterns, and in some cases fixated on retrograde political issues internal to their own interpretations of socialism. Because sectarians and opportunists have kept to the same habits for so long–through a period of working class defeat–we have lost the knowledge and ability to organize working class socialists. As Revolutionary Socialists, we seek to engage with workers and experiment with different approaches to regain this knowledge for a new era.

“So are you Trotskyists?”

Not exactly. Some of us are Trotskyists, some not. We all think that we have to use the best of revolutionary Marxism from multiple sources, and that is what defines us.   While we do feel that Leon Trotsky and the political tendency known as Trotskyism has provided important and invaluable insights, we have some key differences with the approaches taken by Trotskyist groups, which vary between submerging revolutionary socialism to fixating on historical and sectarian specificities. Historically, we feel that the struggle of the Left Opposition in the Soviet Union against Stalin and his cronies was correct, and that the Fourth International did come under immense attack from both capitalists as well as Communist parties the world over.  But Trotskyism has not yet found a way to come to grips with the present yawning gulf between Marxist and Leninist ideas and the actually-existing U.S. working class. Trotskyism in isolation has not succeeded in discovering how the revolutionary vanguard will come together from the US, and global, working class.  You can read a more thorough explanation of where we stand in relation to Trotskyism in one of our core documents entitled “The Revolutionary Party of the Working Class and the Tasks of Socialists“.

“Do you claim to be the vanguard party?  Do you support vanguardism?”

No to the first, yes to the second. First, the vanguard as we conceive it is the most advanced layer of class-conscious workers who understand that a global socialist revolution is possible and must come into action in order to truly defeat capitalism and the imperialist world order. This comes through the organization of a vanguard party, built from experience confronting the capitalist class and their state. The vanguard party in this sense does not exist right now and we do not claim its mantle. As Revolutionary Socialists, we do advocate for one to eventually form in order to advance the revolutionary socialist movement.

“Are you just another socialist sect which exists online?”

No. Although like other groups we value the importance of online interaction, as Revolutionary Socialists we are directly involved in various organizing projects in which we at present find ourselves in the minority. We seek both to work in organizing on the basis of a principled united front, and to learn better how the working class can organize itself through testing the possibilities.  We mainly operate in New York and in New Jersey. It is from our practical experiences we feel that the existing Trotskyist movements and ultraleft grouplets are insufficient, although we do not hesitate to conduct united front work with them.

“Are you sectarians?”

No. Marxists.org provides a cogent definition of what sectarianism as well as its opposite, opportunism, is:

“The Sectarian emphasizes the absolute truth of its principle over any other, finds in every small disagreement the seeds of fundamental difference, see the most deadly foe in the closest rival, puts purity of dogma over tactical advantage, refuses to compromise or modify their aims and is proud of being against the stream. Simply put, sectarianism is the breakdown of solidarity.

“The Opportunist is always ready to adapt its principles to circumstances, minimizes the significance of internal disagreements, treats even opponents as ‘the lesser evil’, puts tactical advantage ahead of being true to its principles, is too ready to make compromises and is all too ready to follow the current of the stream.”

It is worth reading the short piece on its own, but to summarize, we do not shy away from comradely critique of each other, of other organizations, nor even of workers when appropriate. Even if this does put us in the minority, we do not feel that this inhibits our ability to conduct principled united front work.  We stand for navigating between the twin dangers of opportunism and sectarianism.

“What have you been up to?”

The Mid Atlantic Revolutionary Socialists has existed for nearly three years now, based on discussions that went on for some time before that. In the first year, we focused on writing basic documents to introduce socialist ideas.  We approached workers in Philadelphia and New York and discussed socialism within political circles. The circles in which we were in contact did not persist, and the group was less active for a period. We attempted to intervene by presenting a socialist opposition to the Sanders campaign in the Democratic Party, but got little response. Since the election of Donald Trump, we have had greater success getting interest and have worked within organizing circles in New Jersey and New York, while writing new articles and analyses that have appeared in Left Voice and on our website.

“What are your current projects?”

At the moment we have two key areas of activity: intervening in politics and the class struggle as it presently exists, and building a revolutionary socialist party to advance that further on the national scale. First, we are working in unions, organizing circles and protests in New York and New Jersey through the united front strategy — building the struggle while advocating revolutionary socialism as the best way to succeed. The united front is also a starting point to develop connections and political agreement with other socialist organizations in the area, with the medium-term objective of  providing a functioning, robust and revolutionary socialist party of the working class. We are interested in organizing conventions and conference with workers who are currently mobilizing or are rethinking their politics, along socialist lines and organizations that seek to help develop and engage with them.

“Why should I join?”

If you want to see a world that moves beyond capitalism, you should join M.A.R.S.  We strongly believe, and are prepared to defend, that the future of humanity is socialism, and it will take a revolution to get there.  Beyond that, we think the best methods and theories for revolution will be settled by open discussion and democratic resolution of differences. Our collective is absolutely committed to promoting a revolutionary political line on the job, in the streets, and at home. We are strongly anti-imperialist, and that while we are named for a key region in which to organize, we recognize that working-class revolution must be worldwide. Capitalism is exploitation leading to a crisis that will erupt in revolution–the question is how we can ensure our success. While we are not a resurrection of the parties or organizations of the past, there is a vast amount we can learn from the revolutionary Marxists who came before us to help us overcome capitalism.

“What would I do as a member of M.A.R.S.?”

For new members, we stress that we all must be prepared to participate actively in the class struggle, as well as learn from, critique and debate the stances and politics of the socialist movement and the left. We are not arbiters of the absolute truth, but a collective of revolutionaries who are committed to finding out how to expose and exploit the weaknesses of the capitalist class and their allies. This is not done by reading a bunch of texts and then figuring out a formula that should be successful at all times and all places. We focus laser-like on the issues of today and, from them, begin to form a strategy and a theory to help us better navigate the obstacles with which capitalist society confronts us.

“Is this like being a member of any other group?”

Membership is based on a commitment to organizing working class politics, in addition to participating in meetings, writing, planning, and democratic decision-making. We model ourselves on the revolutionary organizations in which every member could become a leader, so that when we get to socialism ‘every cook can govern.’ A lot of groups have ‘paper members’ by which the organization is able to boast fictitious numbers and simply collect their dues. We do not yet have a dues system, but we are striving towards one in order to better fund our organization and take on bigger projects. If you are not up for organizing and for arguing a revolutionary line, we are not the organization for you. We suggest that you meet with existing members of the collective in order to see if M.A.R.S. is the organization you wish to participate in on the basis we have outlined. We work together to make our efforts stronger, and our commitment to the organization allows us not only to realize our own potentials, but to benefit from the full efforts of others.