Solidarity (Australia)

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Founded1971; 50 years ago (1971), (as Marxist Workers' Group)
2008; 13 years ago (2008), (as Solidarity)
International affiliationInternational Socialist Tendency

Solidarity is a Trotskyist organisation in Australia. The group is a member of the International Socialist Tendency[1] and has branches in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane and Perth.[2] The organisation was formed in 2008 from a merger between groups emerging from the International Socialist tradition: the International Socialist Organisation, Socialist Action Group and Solidarity.

Solidarity argues they are "committed to building social movements and the wider left" and "throwing [themselves] into struggles for social justice."[3] They publish a monthly magazine, Solidarity.[4]


The Marxist Working Group formed in 1971, then as the Socialist Workers' Action Group (SWAG), and finally the International Socialists (IS), becoming the official representative of the International Socialist Tendency in Australia. The IS expanded from its initial base in Melbourne until it had branches in every major Australian city. The organisation published a paper until 2008 called Socialist Worker.

The IS saw a breakaway faction in the 1980s called Socialist Action led by Tom O'Lincoln and Carole Ferrier which later rejoined the IS. At this point, in 1990, they changed their name to the ISO.[5]

A faction fight beginning in 1993 led to the expulsion of leading ISO members in 1995, mainly but not exclusively in Melbourne, who went on to form Socialist Alternative (SA).

Another period of internal crisis beginning in 2001 led to a loss of members and a further split in 2003 when another grouping of members around former leader Ian Rintoul left to form a group known as Solidarity.[citation needed] Somewhat prior to this O'Lincoln also left, eventually joining Socialist Alternative.[6]

The ISO was a founding component of the Socialist Alliance which grouped together a number of Australian socialist organisations. In 2007, the ISO voted to withdraw its involvement at its national conference, criticising the failure of the project to achieve its intended goals and the role of the Democratic Socialist Perspective in that failure.[7]

On 3 February 2008, the ISO, the ISO splinter group Solidarity, and the Socialist Action Group agreed to merge, with the new organisation to be named Solidarity and based in Sydney. The new Solidarity replaced the ISO as the official representative of the IST in Australia.[8]

Campaign activity[edit]

During the ISO[edit]

The organisation had around 300 members at its peak[9] and built a history of supporting militant direct action. It was active in the Right to March campaigns in Brisbane under the Joh Bjelke-Petersen government.[citation needed] The ISO was involved in actions against the rise of the nationalist One Nation party led by Pauline Hanson.[citation needed] They participated in the S11 demonstrations in Melbourne[10] that disrupted a meeting of the World Economic Forum.[11] And some of its own members, including Mick Armstrong, Jill Sparrow and Jeff Sparrow were labeled the Austudy Five after being arrested at a National Union of Students demonstration in Melbourne against the Paul Keating government's proposed abolition of Austudy.[citation needed]

The organisation's main priority from 2003 was to build opposition to the Iraq War and oppose the Australian government's involvement. The group also identified the need to fight Islamophobia and work alongside the Islamic community in Australia.[citation needed]

The ISO argued that the anti-war movement needed to build a broad-based united front against the war. It identified building locality based peace groups, in Brisbane Southside,[citation needed] Moreland,[citation needed] Newtown[citation needed] and Leichhart[citation needed] and the Just Peace group in Perth,[citation needed] as a way of building networks of anti-war activists.

During 2006, the ISO helped organise a national anti-war conference named "Unity for Peace" in an attempt to broaden the anti-war movement's base of support.[citation needed] The conference was the culmination of a speaking tour of the US anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan and Dr. Salem Ismael from Doctors for Iraq and was attended by approximately 60 organisations and attracted 350 people.


Refugee rights[edit]

Solidarity is involved in the refugee rights campaign, and active in organisations such as the Refugee Action Coalition in Sydney that organise demonstrations, meetings and work in trade unions to end mandatory detention and offshore processing. Solidarity is opposed to any form of refugee detention[12] and supports open borders.[13] Solidarity endorsed the 2011 World Refugee Day demonstrations.[14] Ian Rintoul of Solidarity is a spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition. Rintoul controversially described Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard as a "racist" in response to the announcement of the Malaysia solution.[15]

Solidarity has argued that the refugee campaign must engage with supporters and members of the Australian Labor Party and organisations such as Labor4Refugees.[16]

Along with Mark Goudkamp, Sunil Menon, Peter Murphy and John Morris, Ian Rintoul's house was raided by the Australian Federal Police in 2004 in relation to allegations of aiding refugees to obtain "false passports" to avoid deportation. The charges were later dropped due to lack of evidence.[17]

Solidarity student members are involved in campus-based refugee campaign groups, including the Sydney Uni Anti-Racism Collective, the UTS Anti-Racism Club and the Melbourne University Campus Refugee Rights Collective.

Education cuts[edit]

In 2012, Solidarity student members at the University of Sydney actively participated in a mass campaign against proposed staff cuts, playing a central role in initiating the Education Action Group.[citation needed] At its highpoint, the campaign mobilised 1500 students and staff on campus. Solidarity students argued for an escalation of the campaign through walk-outs, student occupations, a blockade of a University Senate meeting and proposed a student strike. As a result of the campaign, the number of proposed academic redundancies was eventually reduced from 100 to 55.[citation needed]

In the months leading up to the announcement of the major cuts, Solidarity members were involved in successful campaigns to prevent staff redundancies and course cuts in the School of Political Economy and the School of Geosciences.[citation needed] The group has also been involved in a campaign to prevent rent-increases at the Sydney University Village (SUV), the campus student housing provider.

In 2005–2007, members the pre-fusion Solidarity - then involved in a broad-left student grouping called 'Keep Left' - had participated in the campaign to prevent the implementation of Voluntary Student Unionism (VSU) at Sydney University.[citation needed]

Northern Territory Intervention[edit]

Solidarity is involved in campaigns to end the Northern Territory Intervention. Solidarity members were involved in a split from the Aboriginal Rights Coalition to the Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney, after a debate over Aboriginal control and identity politics. Solidarity argued that the campaign needed "open, democratic campaign meetings" of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal activists.[18] The Aboriginal Rights Coalition has now folded.[citation needed] The Stop the Intervention Collective has been involved in campaigning against income management, and calling for jobs with justice for Aboriginal people.[19]

Solidarity member Paddy Gibson is a spokesperson for the Stop the Intervention Collective and a researcher with the Jumbunna Institute of Learning at UTS.[20][21]

Solidarity has taken the position that the Northern Territory intervention is not primarily driven by a drive for uranium mining in the Northern Territory, but by a government policy of "assimilation", arguing in a debate that the Intervention "is part of a neoliberal, assimilationist ideology that says the only communities that are 'viable' are those that can establish links with the 'real economy'... mining companies gain no greater rights through the "hub towns" policy or the intervention."[citation needed]

Climate action[edit]

Solidarity has been active in the climate change movement[22][23] and groups such as the Sydney University Climate Action Collective.

Solidarity is opposed to Labor's carbon tax plan. In a factsheet about the carbon tax package released in August, "The truth about the carbon tax", Solidarity argues "the carbon tax package will not cut emissions" and has "given Tony Abbott an enormous free kick" and that there is an "alternative approach taxing the polluters to fund government investment in renewable energy.".[24]

Solidarity has come under some criticism for its arguments against the carbon tax, and their argument that production, rather than lifestyle change, should be the focus of the movement.[25] They initiated and signed a letter in response to comments by Australian Labor Party Member of Parliament Kelvin Thompson that population was responsible for climate change, arguing that "the planning and environmental disasters of our cities are due to government neglect, not population."[citation needed] They have critiqued the Climate Camp protests' focus on coal exports and the model of consensus decision-making used at the camps.[26]


International socialism[edit]

Solidarity is part of the international socialist tradition and the International Socialist Tendency. The tendency originated with the ideas of Tony Cliff, who split from orthodox Trotskyism by developing a state capitalist critique of the Soviet union. Cliff also developed an analysis of the post war boom called the permanent arms economy and the theory of deflected permanent revolution which took some issue with Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution in relation the revolutions in China in 1949 and Cuba in 1959, which Cliff argued were not socialist revolutions. Cliff formed what was to become the British Socialist Workers Party and similar organisations spread throughout the world.

United front as strategy[edit]

Solidarity believes that socialists should unite with broader forces beyond the far left in campaigns for social change and subscribe to an interpretation of Leon Trotsky's idea of the "united front". They hold that the united front is a strategy informing basic assumptions about relating to reformist forces, not an organisational tactic that can be selectively applied.[27] The late Bob Gould, described the "common orientation as ... electoral support for the Greens and then Labor under the preferential system and a broader united front tactic towards the ranks of the Greens, the trade unions and the Labor Party," in an article describing the formation of Solidarity.[28]


Solidarity opposes nationalism, racism and all forms of homophobia and sexism. They stand for self-determination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Solidarity claims to stand up for Muslims and Middle Eastern people against the rise in anti-Muslim racism[29][30] they see as associated with the War on Terror.


Reportedly, Solidarity has engaged in entryist tactics within the Australian Greens.[31]

Notable members[edit]

  • Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for Refugee Action Coalition
  • Paddy Gibson, anti-Intervention activist, researcher at UTS Jumbunna Institute and associate producer of John Pilger documentary 'Utopia'[32]
  • Phil Griffiths, academic and author[33][34]
  • Chris Breen, climate change and union activist[35]
  • Anita Creasey, 2013 President, National Union of Students Western Australia
  • James Supple, Editor of Solidarity publication

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Forging Unity For the Struggle Ahead Archived 18 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine", Socialist Worker, 13 February 2008. Retrieved: 14 July 2009.
  2. ^ "Upcoming Solidarity Meetings " Solidarity. Retrieved: 26 July 2010.
  3. ^ "About Us" "Solidarity". Retrieved 28 February 2011.
  4. ^ "Solidarity forever?". Labor Tribune. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  5. ^ "Marching down Marx Street: The International Socialists in Australia, 1972-92". Tom O'Lincoln's Red Sites. 1992. Archived from the original on 16 February 2011. Retrieved 1 September 2010.
  6. ^ "About Tom O'Lincoln". Tom O'Lincoln's Red Sites. Archived from the original on 21 October 2009. Retrieved 21 October 2009.
  7. ^ "ISO leaves Socialist Alliance". Ozleft. 2007. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 1 September 2010.
  8. ^ "Forging Unity For the Struggle Ahead". Socialist Worker. 13 February 2008. Archived from the original on 18 February 2008. Retrieved 20 February 2008.
  9. ^ "The origins of Socialist Alternative: summing up the debate". Marxist Left Review. Spring 2010. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  10. ^ "World Economic Forum has police bracing for biggest operation in years". Lateline. 6 September 2000. Retrieved 1 September 2010.
  11. ^ "Whose Streets? Our Streets! Activist Perspectives on the Australian Anti-Capitalist Movement" (PDF). Tom Bramble of the School of Business, University of Queensland and John Minns of the School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Australian National University. Retrieved 1 September 2010.
  12. ^ Rintoul, Ian. "No need for any refugee detention at all". No need for any refugee detention at all. Solidarity. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  13. ^ Supple, James. "Racism, Immigration and border controls". Racism, immigration and border controls. Solidarity. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  14. ^ "44 organisations endorse World Refugee Day". Refugee Advocacy Network. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
  15. ^ "Refugee advocate labels Gillard a racist". ABC. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
  16. ^ Goudkamp, Mark. "Refugee movement must relate to Labor". Solidarity. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  17. ^ "Victory for Drop the charges campaign". RAC Qld. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
  18. ^ Rintoul, Ian. "New Sydney committee campaigns against the Intervention". Solidarity. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
  19. ^ "Stop the intervention". Stop the intervention.
  20. ^ Gibson, Paddy. "Return to the ration days" (PDF). Jumbunna. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
  21. ^ Robinson, Natasha (27 November 2009). "Court win paves way for camp upgrades". Court win paves way for court upgrades. The Australian. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  22. ^ "Building a climate movement that can win (June 2009 National Committee plenum)" Democratic Socialist Perspective, 2009. Retrieved: 14 September 2010.
  23. ^ "The Governor becomes a far-Left activist", Herald Sun, 6 February 2010. Retrieved: 26 August 2010.
  24. ^ "A step backwards for climate action: The truth about the carbon tax". Solidarity. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
  25. ^ Manning, Paddy (3 April 2010). "Climate is not a class issue". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  26. ^ "Learning from Climate Camp". Learning from Climate Camp. The Change Agency.
  27. ^ "Socialists and the united front" Solidarity, April 2010. Retrieved: 14 September 2010.
  28. ^ Gould, Bob. "Socialist unification in Australia". Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  29. ^ "About" Solidarity. Retrieved: 17 September 2010.
  30. ^ "Anti-Muslim racism at play in Camden" Solidarity, June 2008. Retrieved: 17 September 2010.1
  31. ^ Seccombe, Mike (2 February 2019). "Greens split by factional war". The Saturday Paper. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  32. ^ "Why the Stop Bush, Make Howard History protest was a success" Labor Tribune, 2007. Retrieved: 17 September 2010.
  33. ^ "Who’s who on this site" Marxist Interventions. Retrieved: 17 September 2010.
  34. ^ "Home" Australian history: Towards a Marxist analysis, 7 June 2003. Retrieved: 17 September 2010.
  35. ^ "After the Firestorm: Bushfires and Climate Change" Friends of the Earth Melbourne, 2010. Retrieved: 14 September 2010.

External links[edit]