The Importance of Solidarity
I’ve been meaning to write this blog post for a couple of weeks, spurred on by several different events, the most recent of which has been the Conservative Party’s use of the UNITE Union’s strike against British Airways to attack the Labour Party. To myself, Solidarity is a hugely important concept, and goes far beyond what the much-paled image amongst the Labour Leadership. In fact, it ought to be considered a part of our humanity, or of being civilised.
I want to start by saying that I don’t consider Labour to be the party of the Unions. This is to say that I consider Labour to have consistently failed Unions – from the miners strike to the fire-fighters strike, Labour have given the Unions very little return on their money, plus the occasional slap to the face. But Labour are still officially the party of the Unions and it is much more honourable to be taking money from the hardworking individuals in unions than from Lord Ashcroft. (I realise I have yet to say anything new whatsoever, bare with me).
But Solidarity is about more than Unions. Its about working with people on the things that matter to them. It is also about removing the boundaries that prevent us from working together. It is about believing that what hurts my neighbour also hurts myself, that when I need a neighbour I have no right to expect help if I have not first helped others. It is both an emotion and a goal, a process and a state of being. I try to tear down the fence that prevents others from experiencing the wealth and opportunities I experience, but I also act for them here and now.
Its certainly true that when Solidarity goes wrong, it usually ends in patronisation or some kind of corruption. If I say I’m acting in Solidarity with the First Nations most directly affected by Tar Sands, by way of an example, am I first and foremost asking them what they think the priorities are? There is room for initiative, but to show solidarity, one must meet as equals and listen. There is Solidarity with those closest to me, but this is merely helping out my friends; to misquote Jesus, even the Tories do that!
These boundaries that get in the way can be race, nation, gender, wealth, indeed anything upon which a segregation can be created. These walls create several effects. First, that people on one side cannot experience the privileges that are largely arbitrarily awarded to people on the other side. Second, that those on the latter side cannot appreciate life on the first side, and therefore feel they are justified in their current position. Third, it creates resentment, often both ways. So Solidarity can flow from communication, but it requires action to become a real and present force.
Sometimes that action needs to be confrontational, to improve the lot of one group relative to another, and sometimes it needs to be conciliatory, taking down the walls and bringing people together as equals. I can’t claim to be an expect in deciding which is which. What I do know is that without Solidarity, without considering the needs of the other, without looking at what I have and realising there are few valid reasons that I should have so much when others have so little, is a necessary step towards creating a more civilised world. The endless pursuit of profit at the expense of others, or the maintenance of these divides simply prevents us from relating to each other properly as humans. As such, they prevent us from experiencing life in all its fullness.