The Hows and Whys of Joining Solidarity
WHAT IS SOLIDARITY AND WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
Solidarity is an independent socialist organization dedicated to forming a broad regrouping of the U.S. left. We include activists from many long-standing socialist traditions, as well as younger members from newer movements. We do not attempt to put forward a monolithic platform which we all have adapted to; rather, we rely on the richness of our traditions and the creativity and newer experiences of our younger members to foster and develop a forward-looking socialist thought.
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 are trying to foster cultural diversity, flexible practice, and straight-forward socialist politics.
We are activists in many grassroots movements. We are members of unions, where we oppose corporations as well as bureaucratic "business unionism." We are involved in solidarity with the people of Central and South America, Indonesia Iraq, the Balkans and Palestine, and many other countries, where we fight against U.S. aggression and imperialism. We work for reproductive rights and other feminist demands. We fight for an ecologically balanced society. We support the struggles of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender activists. We include activists of color and we work in solidarity with people of color organized independently fighting for dignity and power and self determination.
In these movements, we try to build broad coalitions, organize the unorganized, activate the apathetic, develop ties between movements and strengthen the rank-and-file democracy.
We argue against participation in the Democratic Party, which has been the graveyard of radical movements, and promote the idea of a new, independent political party.
We see Solidarity as a contribution to a new U.S. left, one neither sectarian nor reformist. We advocate a new, creative politics with an attitude of openness and collaboration.
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 dues. Dues are on a sliding scale based on what each person can afford, but general guidelines are: $40/month regular, $20/month low income, $5/month hardship rate. Note: some branches, like Detroit, also have a monthly local dues. Detroit's is $5/mo. (Membership is activated upon receipt of your first month's dues.)
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 Political 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 dues 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 Political Committee, meets more frequently to deal with the week-to-week tasks and decisions of the group.
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.