There a is rather passionate community debate about the merits of Markos' personal boycott of AZ, and, therefore, not allowing his business to participate in an event taking place there. This is a good opportunity to have a discussion about what solidarity means. How we practice solidarity, what builds solidarity and what erodes it. It's not always simple because solidarity is about strength of social networks. None of us have just one network. We have overlapping ones and completely disparate ones. So, how do we navigate solidarity with that?
First, why do we need solidarity? Well, solidarity is the best tool for combating oppression. The members of an oppressed group have very little effective power as individuals and only gain power when they stand as one group and can gain allies in defense of their liberation.
Whether you're a member of the specific oppressed demographic or an ally, there are moments when the question of solidarity can be confusing due to conflict. When fighting oppression, there will always be conflict. It's the nature of the best. So, learning how to navigate during conflict is key to solidarity. I have some thoughts on this and would love to have people join in and explore this topic so that we, as a community, might become better and better at solidarity, over time.
Here's my take on our current potential for solidarity:
The Foundation of Solidarity
The first rule of solidarity is that you allow those who are members of the demographic targeted by the specific oppression you are standing against to lead the way. That is, they determine how to fight the oppression and allies follow their lead. Overriding their judgement is taking away their agency in their own liberation. You don't liberate someone by telling them how to liberate themselves. You aide in their liberation by respecting that it is their battle and they will find their own way and you will support their way.
Solidarity within DailyKos
As a white member of the DailyKos community, then, I stand with Markos' determination to boycott AZ. It doesn't really matter what my assessment of this tactic is. I stand in solidarity with him because he is of my community. My community will build cohesiveness and power with each individual who strengthens their own liberation.
I would hope that, as a woman, if we women in the DailyKos community said that we had a tactic for standing up to something, say, the recent buffer zone ruling, we wouldn't have men here mocking us or being angry with us and demanding that we change our plan. You don't have to agree. You simply need to stand in solidarity. It's our liberation and you determining how we get there is patronizing and diminishes the autonomy we need to gain in order to feel that we've really won the battle.
What if you also belong to another community?
Of course, many here are also part of other communities, with other Latino contingents, who may have other perspectives. Those of us who live in AZ likely have Latino friends and neighbors and/or do political organizing work with groups who have Latino members. What if those groups have a different perspective on the Markos' boycott? What if they strongly desire solidarity from DailyKos? How do you navigate that? Who do you stand with? And how do you articulate your stand? All of these choices make a difference in whether we are building or destroying solidarity.
The first choice is "which group do I need to stand with on this issue?" That's always going to be subjective. Each of us has to determine which community is a priority for us. It makes perfect sense to me that those living in AZ would find it a priority to ally, on this particular situation, with the Latino community they live with over DailyKos. That's fine. That alone doesn't hurt solidarity. It's the "how" we do that which can make or break things.
Conflict within an Oppressed Community
First, as a non-Latino, I must realize that the greater Latino community has an internal conflict. They have their own solidarity issue to address on this one specific tactic. It is not my place to tell them how to resolve that. I must accept this conflict. I must let them determine the path to resolution or non-resolution. This is a matter of respect for them as an autonomous community. It would be oppressive for me to try and make them do anything other than what they find they are capable of doing at this time. My own opinion on the matter really has no relevance whatsoever.
As an ally, when I decide to speak to the question of which tactic is best, I can do that with a care which maintains respects for people on both sides of the conflict. I can make it clear that I am standing as an ally with the Latinos with whom I work the closest and make no judgement about the stance of other Latinos. Our work is to stand with them against their oppression by others, not to take sides in their internal community dissonance.
Meta-Solidarity With Internal Conflict
Maintaining a greater solidarity amongst multiple overlapping groups requires that allies use care and respect when articulating the view of the community they are standing up with, in the moment. If you are empathizing with your local community and want to express their concern about the DailyKos boycott, for instance, there are ways to say this with passionate support for those with whom you are standing, without being disrespectful to DailyKos and fomenting a breakdown in solidarity here.
As an ally, you can say, "I must stand in solidarity with my local community and, therefore, I want to help communicate their dismay over this choice .... " It would be helpful to acknowledge that you respect that different people can have different perspectives and that you have no dog in this particular fight. You are simply choosing solidarity as an ally.
Those of us who are choosing solidarity with Markos might express dismay at the choice that the Netroots Nation board made. The single most distressing aspect of this who situation to me, is that Netroots Nation has not stood in solidarity with one of it's prominent members. I have no idea whether they have other Latino members on the board or with as prominent a relation as Markos. Perhaps there was an internal Latino split over this subject and they opted to stand in solidarity with a larger Latino contingent or "more important" members. Choosing to override his concerns, though, brings up questions about their commitment to and understanding of the fundamental value of solidarity. I would hope to learn more about their process before passing judgement.
We can also reiterate Markos' point of view when speaking to those who are questioning it or expressing their disagreement. We can make it clear that, as allies, we are not judging the supremacy of either point of view, but are choosing to stand in solidarity with the person whose community we are most bonded with.
By doing this, we all make solidarity the priority. We also recognize and acknowledge that a group we're allying with may have internal conflicts and this makes it challenging for us to know how to maintain solidarity as allies. With respect, we ally with those to whom we are the closest in the name of keeping community strong. If we are in two communities where members of the oppressed group have different stand in the two communities, we can maintain our respectful relationship with each by being clear that as allies, we take a neutral position on the specific issue at hand and are doing our best to maintain community cohesiveness and be supportive until the demographic in question resolves their internal differences.
Avoid Eroding Solidarity
Here's what you don't do: you don't mock members of the oppressed group. You don't tell them they are wrong. You don't berate them and you don't accuse them of sowing division. Erasing oppression from our midst requires respecting that those who are of an oppressed group have a unique standing on the question at hand and that you cannot possibly judge what it's like to live with all the history, the abuses, the stress and the erosion of agency that comes with their particular form of oppression. Yes, perhaps all of us belong to some oppressed group. In that sense, we can understand the need to stand together and fight for liberation. But, it is presumptuous to assume that anyone else's experience of oppression is just like yours and therefore, you can know better what they ought to be doing and not doing and how they should feel and see things.
Solidarity: The Antidote to Oppression
Solidarity is not about always agreeing. It is about always honoring the will of those who are oppressed. It is about tending to them, as they see fit. It's not about being sure they are "right" or that the tactic they choose will win the day. It's about absolutely reversing the dynamics of oppression by letting them make the choices themselves and standing with them regardless of the outcome. Liberation is as much about letting people make their own mistakes and live in their own confusion and wend their own way toward self-respect as it is about winning anything else.