In struggles for justice, how we think, learn and act shapes real solidarity
0n May 4th, Comhlamh hosted a first Wednesday debate under the theme ‘What does migrant solidarity look like?’
The panel was composed of migrant justice activists Neltah Chadamoyo, Lucky Khambule, Razieh Nikoomanesh and Caoimhe Butterly, and chaired by Gavan Titley.
“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Lucky Khambule kick-started the evening with these words of indigenous Australian activist Lilla Watson, underscoring that solidarity is not about charity or pity but finding common cause in struggle.
Solidarity, echoed a fellow panellist, is not something that you ‘do’ for others but rather it emerges out of the social relations you have with them. These relations don’t have to be ‘intimate’; they are about connection at a basic, human level. Solidarity, said another, is about being shoulder to shoulder with people, back to back, meaning that if you are in solidarity with someone you will feel their pain. From this flows a preparedness to take risks with them, whether that be challenging everyday instances of racism or the policies of a fortressed Europe.
‘What does migrant solidarity not look like?’
This question (posed by the Chair) proved as illuminating as the first. For the panellists, solidarity is not about two people attending a protest together, with one being hauled off by police and the other leaving them there and heading off home.
Solidarity is not about speaking on behalf of somebody either; such pretence of solidarity is harmful because it diminishes the possibility of real solidarity.
When you’re in the street and you see an injustice and you say it’s not your business, that is not solidarity. Lastly, solidarity goes beyond exalting the attributes of another (as ‘resilient’, ‘resourceful’, ‘brave’); it’s about meeting people in all their humanity and moving forward together on the basis of equality and dignity.
The evening wrapped up with a focused discussion on the direct provision system. How to build a movement that can effectively challenge this system, and one based on the principles of solidarity?
It’s a question that many activists have been trying to work through for some time now. Some were present and shared their experiences. They spoke of organising and campaigning to date as well as future plans that people could get behind.
by Sive Bresnihan