Offering Solidarity

Published in the Scottish Left Review (Responses to #GE2019).

It feels like the start of a dystopian film. Foodbanks. Rough sleepers. Children curled up in hospital corridors. Elderly and disabled people dying in freezing flats. Refugees dying at sea. There’s a climate emergency brewing, but it seems abstract and far away. Everything looks bleak.

As we enter the third decade of the 21st Century, things are about to get much worse.

The Tories have consolidated their power. They’ve established lying and corruption as acceptable in public life. They’ve facilitated eye-watering levels of inequality. They’ve spread instability, division, suspicion. They’ve empowered the far right.

It’s slash-and-burn politics, and it’s terrifyingly efficient.

How do we take down such a monolith?

On the left, there’s a tendency to look for the One Right Answer, and become evangelical about it. But what if the concept of One Right Answer is itself part of the problem?

We know that ecosystems need diversity to thrive. How can we restore our political ecosystem with a single movement or party or ideological position? We can’t take down a monolith by building a bigger monolith – or a small one in the same image.

Whatever answer we think we’ve got, it hasn’t worked. We need to stop expecting someone with a red flag to come over the hill and save us. Equally, we need to stop deluding ourselves that we’re the ones with the red flag.

Too often, we worry about winning people over. We chap doors when we want votes. What are we actually offering, aside from promises? What are we contributing to people’s lives?

Instead of thinking about how to take people with us, let’s think about how to stand with them. Instead of asking for their support, let’s consider how to provide support and mutual aid.

It doesn’t need to be complicated. We don’t need instructions or permission from on high. But as the Tories continue to break their promises, we need to be the ones who show up, follow through, and get shit done. We need to rebuild trust and solidarity.

Look around your neighbourhood, see what needs doing, and do it. Get to know people who don’t attend political meetings. Build relationships. Strengthen what the Tories are trying to destroy. Volunteer at a library, foodbank, or community centre. Perhaps take inspiration from groups like Living Rent, Better Than Zero, the Unemployed Workers’ Network, or hundreds of small organisations working on local issues. Where can you put your skills or money or time to good use?

Destruction is easy. Rebuilding is hard.

Now is the time to set aside ideological certainty. We need to stand together, protect what can be saved, heal what’s been damaged, and prepare the ground for new growth.

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