Solidarity (UK)

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Solidarity was a small left group in Britain which folded in the early 1990s. One of its members was Paul Anderson who is now active on the pro-war left. Here is his account of the history of Solidarity[1]:

Solidarity was never very big: even at its height in the late 1960s and early 1970s it had hundreds rather than thousands of members, making it a minnow by comparison with the main Trotskyist groups, let alone the Communist Party or the Labour Party. And the group has not been around for ages: it disintegrated as a national organisation in the early 1980s and became no more than a magazine, the last issue of which was published way back in 1992, by which time the byline Maurice Brinton had not appeared for the best part of a decade.
In its time, however, Solidarity was a key player on the British left, notable both for its exuberance and for its originality. It played an important role in the direct action wing of the early 1960s peace movement (it was the inspiration behind Spies For Peace in 1963, which blew the gaffe on the regional seats of government at the heart of the state’s preparations for nuclear war), was instrumental in reviving the squatting movement later on in the same decade and was influential in the wave of shopfloor militancy that swept Britain in the 1960s and 1970s. In the early 1980s, the group played an major part in the creation of the Polish Solidarity Campaign and came close to being prosecuted for distributing what the right-wing press called a “do-it-yourself abortion guide”. (It was actually nothing of the kind, but the story is too complex to relate here.)
Most crucially, Solidarity had something different and relevant to say. While the rest of the far left was recycling the tired old platitudes of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, Solidarity, inspired by the French group Socialisme ou Barbarie (led by Cornelius Castoriadis, whose writings, written under the pseudonym Paul Cardan, were first translated into English by Brinton), carved out a political space for a revolutionary libertarian socialism, opposed to the cautious bureaucratic reformism of Labour and the trade unions, hostile to the police-state “socialism” of Soviet-type societies and dismissive of the deluded authoritarianism of latter-day Leninists.
Its magazine and, particularly, its dozens of pamphlets shaped the thinking of a generation of libertarian socialists. Among the pamphlets were several by Brinton: the group’s manifesto As We See It; Paris May 1968, his brilliant eyewitness account of the near-revolution in France in 1968; The Bolsheviks and Workers’ Control, his classic debunking of Lenin’s hostility to workers’ self-management; and The Irrational in Politics, a restatement and development of the early work of Wilhelm Reich. Some of the pamphlets are still in print; many more have been republished on the web.