Solidarity Records, 1986-1997


Solidarity is an independent socialist organization founded in 1986, with a commitment to regrouping the revolutionary socialist left, which at the time was fragmented into many disparate groups, all with varying political and organizational perspectives. Solidarity sought to outline the general principles of revolutionary socialism in a U.S. context. They saw their political perspective as fluid, able to ebb and flow in debate over issues. The organization never sought to fuse all the fragmentary groups into Solidarity, but rather to develop coalitions with them and amongst them, working at a grassroots level for social change.

The organizational structure of Solidarity could be viewed as consisting of membership and leadership components, with the national staff providing a uniting element. Solidarity membership consists of activists from many long-standing socialist traditions, as well as younger members from newer movements. They are socialist, feminist, anti-racist, and democratic.

The early membership consisted of dues paying branch members and sympathizers. In 1987, Solidarity had 5 main branches, 222 members and 41 sympathizers throughout the country. The branches were and are the basic organizational unit of Solidarity. They work within a framework set by Solidarity but are self-governing with respect to their activity. The Madison, Wisconsin branch of Solidarity, for a time, was organized by Roger Horowitz. Mr. Horowitz was a member of the Solidarity National Committee (1986-1992), the Political Committee (1986-1991), and at various times, held posts as financial officer, staffing committee chair, and chair of the Nominations Commission. Although a member of Solidarity, he was also a member of the local socialist group, The Collective for Socialist and Feminist Alternatives, which was a member group of Solidarity.

Sympathizers are part of the membership, but choose not to enter into full membership with Solidarity. Often they belong to socialist groups which are also not members of Solidarity, but which work in coalition with them. Sympathizers are welcome to the materials produced by Solidarity and can come to the annual Solidarity National Convention (SNC), but cannot participate in the decision-making process. The SNC, as the highest national body of the organization, represents the entire organization and sets the political agenda and elects the national leadership committees. Other organizations are sent invitations to the SNC to foster regrouping among socialist organizations. By the 1990s, membership was expanded to include members-at-large. They were individuals who joined Solidarity but lived in an area where there was no branch. These future branches, known as “twigs,” consisted of a smaller cluster of at-large members who did not meet regularly, but maintained contact through the national office or Solidarity publications.

The early leadership consisted of the policy-making National Committee, Coordinating Committee, and Commissions, which were assigned to work on specific areas of interest to the organization. The National Committee (NC), a body of elected members, was convened at the first SNC in 1986. They were assigned the responsibility of setting political policies and the national budget; discussing and launching national campaigns, political discussions and debates; and reviewing articles for publication in Solidarity Discussion Bulletins and other publications. They were also empowered to bring in new member groups to expand the policy of regroupment and oversaw the work and composition of the Coordinating Committee and Commissions. By the 1990s, the NC was also assigned discussing political work with membership Work Groups, and discussing priorities and local activities with branches.

The Coordinating Committee (CC) consisted of NC members, charged with developing and implementing organizational integrity and outreach. They dealt with organizational problems, kept up regular communications with branches, and oversaw the production of Discussion Bulletins, coordinated marches, tours, and other outreach events. By late 1987, the duties of the Coordinating Committee were incorporated into the duties of the newly established Political Committee.

The Political Committee (PC) is the engine of the organization; its duties, in addition to those inherited from the CC, include setting policy for actions and preparing the agenda for NC meetings. With the revision of the Solidarity constitution in 1989, the responsibilities of the PC were expanded to include: implement and follow up on policies, decisions, motions and resolutions made by the SNC and the NC; monitor, develop and evaluate the infrastructure of Solidarity, such as staff, finances, publications, and national education programs; organize and initiate political discussions of key issues and practices facing the organization; and assist in shaping the political perspectives and work of the branches.

Commissions were originally created to coordinate work on high priority issues, and to develop perspectives and activities for the subdivisions of the organization (e.g. Fractions, Caucuses, Work Groups), based on the area of work or constituency. At the 1987 SNC, the Constitution, Labor, International Solidarity, Feminist, Oppressed Nationalities, and Political Education Commissions were all authorized by the NC. By the 1990s, the Commissions' work was divided between those issues of high priority, those that could benefit from further investigation, and those that could be developed into proposals for action. The number of Commissions continued to expand throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, with additions as diverse as the Finance Commission and the Environmental Commission.

The national staff has always been responsible for maintaining organizational cohesion. They work as liaisons among the leadership bodies and between the leadership and membership of Solidarity. They are hired, take assignments from, and are accountable to the PC, although one of their main duties is to implement the decisions of SNC, NC and PC. The staff has fluctuated over the years due to organizational financial hardship, occasionally operating the national office with only half the workforce needed to accomplish their assignments. The national staff in the later 1990s stabilized and presently assists the organization's 36 branches, over 1000 members, and various leadership and membership bodies. Their outreach endeavors have expanded to include the use of a Solidarity website, through which they continue their discussions, debates and actions on issues pertinent to U.S. socialism.