WHAT IS SOLIDARITY AND WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
Solidarity was founded in 1986 by revolutionary socialists who stand for “socialism from below,” the self-organization of the working class and oppressed peoples. We are feminist, anti-racist, and democratic. Within our group, we try to foster cultural diversity, flexible practice, and straight-forward socialist politics. We include activists from many long-standing socialist traditions, as well as younger members from newer movements. We rely on the richness of our traditions and our creativity and newer experiences to develop a forward-looking socialist thought.
We are activists in many grassroots movements. We are members of unions, where we oppose corporations as well as bureaucratic “business unionism.” We see racism as central to U.S. history and culture and seek to build an alternative to the violence of capitalism. In these movements, we seek to build broad coalitions, organize the unorganized, develop ties between movements and strengthen the rank-and-file democracy. We are internationalists, in solidarity with the people of Palestine, Ukraine and the Global South, where we oppose aggression and imperialism.
We reject participation in the Democratic Party, which has been the graveyard of radical movements, and promote the idea of a party independent of the corporate elite. In the face of a rightwing Republican Party, enormously costly elections, and attacks on voting rights, we realize many vote for Democrats simply to stop the erosion of our rights. We see independent campaigns at a local level providing the basis for the working-class party we need.
We see Solidarity as a contribution to a new U.S. left, neither sectarian nor reformist. We advocate a new, creative politics with an attitude of openness and collaboration. We work to build social movements because we believe only when people understand both our strength and the dead-end of the capitalist system can we build an alternative, egalitarian and sustainable society. If you find that vision compelling, we encourage you to join us.
HOW DO I JOIN SOLIDARITY?
Joining Solidarity is fairly simple. First of all, any one who meets the following four criteria is eligible to be a member of Solidarity:
- General agreement with Solidarity’s politics as summarized in the Basis of Political Agreement at the back of the Founding Statement
- Commitment to building social and/or labor movement activism
- Commitment to building a socialist organization as a means to renewing a socialist alternative in the U.S.
- A commitment to a monthly contribution based on what you can afford.
To join, tell a member of the branch near you. A branch is a local group of five or more members of Solidarity. The branch organizer or executive committee will make arrangements for a member to meet with you and answer any questions you have about Solidarity. Every branch has its own procedure, but generally you would be proposed for membership at a branch meeting and voted in.
If you do not live near an existing branch, you should contact the Solidarity National Office and tell them you wish to become an “at-large” member. At-Largers are accepted by the Solidarity Steering Committee and relate to directly to the National Organization. The National Office will put you in touch with at-large members in your area and help connect you with others in the organization who are doing similar political work to yours.
Sometimes new at-large members will have the opportunity to build a branch. If this is your situation, you should discuss the possibilities with the organizer or other staff at the National Office. We want to encourage and assist branch building in whatever ways we can.
FORMAL SYMPATHIZER STATUS
For a variety of reasons some folks become formal sympathizers instead of members. This is done generally because they want to support Solidarity but are not able to make the commitments of full membership. Some do this because it offers them a way to test the waters before becoming full members. Others do it because they may have a specific issue with an element of Solidarity’s politics. Yet others become sympathizers because they have a security concern about becoming a full member of Solidarity.
For whichever reason Formal Sympathizer status is an option open to you. Sympathizers pay $5/month in contribution and may participate in the political life of Solidarity with the exception that their voting rights are limited to being “consultative” (that is, as opposed “decisive” votes).
Dual membership is possible in Solidarity. If you are a member of another socialist organization (generally of a national or regional sort) and wish to maintain your membership in that group you may apply to the Solidarity National Committee to become a dual member. Contact the Solidarity National Office about this if this applies to you.
IF I JOIN, HOW DO I PARTICIPATE IN THE POLITICAL LIFE OF SOLIDARITY?
Solidarity is organized so that is fairly easy for new members to participate in the political life of the organization.
- National leadership structure:
The Convention is the highest decision making body of the organization, and meets biennially. The Convention elects a National Committee which meets several times between conventions to make decisions and carry out the decisions of the National Convention.
A subcommittee of the National Committee, the Steering Committee, meets more frequently to deal with the week-to-week tasks and decisions of the group.
- Communication systems:
There are several horizontal communication systems which allow rank-and-file members to discuss issues, make proposals and generally participate in the political life and democracy of Solidarity.
Any member or sympathizer may submit documents, proposals or reports to the Solidarity Discussion Bulletin, often called the “DB”. The DB is produced in the National Office in Detroit and comes out every month or two. Submissions are limited to 15 pages in length.Solidarity also has a listserve email discussion group. Presently all members and sympathizers are eligible to participate. Contact the National Office to get included on this discussion list. Other discussion lists pop up from time to time to meet other communication needs in the organization.
- Working Groups, Commissions, Fractions, Caucuses:
Members and Sympathizers involved in similar areas of work often form “Fractions” or “Working Groups” to coordinate and discuss their work. Some examples include the Auto Fraction, the Labor Party Fraction and the Prison Issues Working Group.
Standing Commissions and Caucuses, such as the People of Color Caucus, the Anti-Racism Commission, and the Labor Commission, also provide focus on specific areas of work or of concern.
Political minorities also have the constitutionally protected right to form caucuses to advocate for their perspectives.
All of these formations provide members with venues to participate in the life of Solidarity in addition to the formal leadership structures described earlier.