Sunday, September 29, 2013

A French bishop and the failure of leftist solidarity

I've been thinking through the way that the leftist understanding of solidarity fails.

I noted that the leftist exchange of solidarity fails because it is not mutual. The leftist extends solidarity to the group that he thinks is othered or oppressed. So he is the active partner in the exchange. But if solidarity means identifying with the oppressed or othered, then there is no reason why the group getting the gesture should reciprocate. Why should they make a gesture of solidarity with the group that is considered mainstream or privileged? That would go directly against the reigning liberal understanding of solidarity.

In fact, it is logical for the group getting the gesture of solidarity to be encouraged in the idea that they are underprivileged or oppressed. So they are more likely to respond to such gestures with a growing sense of anger, resentment or grievance.

So what exactly are the parties getting out of the exchange? A commenter in the previous post explained it this way:
The victim is morally exalted just for being a victim.

You become morally exalted by expressing solidarity with them.

This is the Leftist version of a "win-win" scenario...

But there's a problem here too. As we saw in the case of the University of Sydney women's collective, leftists might experience a feeling of moral exaltation at first, but it's soon followed by a loss of moral status, which then leads to being held in contempt by those occupying the "victim" role.

Which means that the leftist approach to solidarity works best when the leftists and the victim group don't actually have to have dealings with each other, but can maintain a suitable distance.

This "solidarity from a distance" is illustrated by a recent incident in France. A group of Roma gypsies had set up an illegal camp which the authorities dismantled. A French bishop, Jean Luc-Bronin
made a vigorous appeal on regional television for solidarity with the Roma..."Be careful, let us not turn our backs on fraternity."

What happened then is that some of the Roma gypsy families decided to take up the Bishop on his offer of solidarity. They went to live in his front yard. The Bishop then denounced the Roma's use of "force" and demanded that their camp be dismantled:
"I cannot accept this use of force...The Church alone cannot be made to settle the question of these families."

Solidarity is one of those concepts (like justice and freedom) which it's important to get right. The current understanding is unworkable. Solidarity can't be based on otherness and oppression - that doesn't give rise to mutual loyalties or to love of and service to a real human community, whether it be family, ethny or nation.


  1. The Bishops's initial expression of solidarity was evidently not genuine otherwise he would have been quite happy to accommodate the Roma Camp in his yard and otherwise help them in any way he could. His initial statement was public rhetoric designed to display liberal sentiments but his subsequent behaviour revealed his true beliefs.

  2. The real purpose of the Left's elevation of the "Other" is to enable Leftists in the dominant group (Europeans or, in Israel, Jews) is to assert moral superiority over non-Leftists members of the dominant group. The effect on the "Other" (particularly, on genuinely disadvantaged members of the "Other" group) is not really important.

    1. Yes, there is that aspect of it. But it's important that we understand that the left is presenting this is in particular terms as an act of solidarity, or, as the bishop put it, fraternity. Once the concept of solidarity is allowed to be defined this way, then society is put on an opposite course to the one we want.

    2. Yes, I agree that the effect is to destroy the social utility of the concept of solidarity - with the proviso that Leftists of all backgrounds are able to maintain political solidarity among themselves in their struggle for control of institutions and of the rest of the society. At least, that is the case in the US, where I live. The political discipline demonstrated by the Democrats (our party of the Left) and their various constituency groups is frightening.

    3. Anon, agreed that the left has so far been able to (mostly) maintain political solidarity. But there are some exceptions to this. For instance, for a long time I wondered how leftist men could put up with the loss of moral status they experienced under the rules of feminism. Well, it seems that quite a few leftist men really did feel discomfort and they broke away to form part of the men's rights movement. They didn't challenge the leftist system as such, but they have challenged the role assigned to men within this system (i.e. they reject the idea that men are to be treated as the oppressor group which has to defer to everyone else).

    4. "with the proviso that Leftists of all backgrounds are able to maintain political solidarity among themselves in their struggle for control of institutions and of the rest of the society"

      The system works as long as you know your place on the victimhood status ladder. Eg heterosexual white women Leftists generally accept that they're at the bottom of the pole. Problems come when groups dispute which is higher on the status ladder - eg blacks vs gays in the US - or when a higher status group clearly abuses a lower status group. Usually the lower status group accepts this, eg a black man murdering a white women will not prompt cries of outrage from white feminists. I've seen them have some problems when eg transsexuals abuse feminist women. Some (eg) lesbian femnists aren't happy with the idea that a heterosexual white man can leapfrog them on the status ladder just by claiming to be a woman, especially when he's "pre-operative"! Autogynophyliac men claiming to be women are valuable weapons vs normal society because of the heavy 'ick' factor - they're so disgusting - but allowing them onto the victimhood ladder at a high status point has also been disruptive.

  3. Even if the Bishop had been sincere in his fraternity, the point is that his solidarity was not reciprocated. (Except in an exploitative way.) Unilateral fraternity is not fraternity. Unilateral solidarity is not solidarity.

    Progressives talk as though real fraternity, real solidarity, was their sort. It isn't.

    The politically correct talk as though real, sincere, non-exploitative, non-self-seeking togetherness meant an imagined "rainbow race," without genuine connections of race, culture and interests. Leaving aside the deception in this, it's just wrong.

    If "family values" means that "everyone is family" then that politically correct interpretation of "family values" means that real families mean nothing. Precisely, they mean nothing more than the relationships between random strangers.

    Imagine a child who, due to the politically correct promotion of casual sexual relationships, has no real parents, going around to random strangers, saying, "family values means we are all family. I'm your family. You have to take me in." It doesn't work like that. You only have that relationship with real family. Progressive "family values" mean that kids lose what they need, which is real family, and they get instead worthless words.

    Progressives talk about real nations as "imagined communities", to which they oppose their legally privileged "communities" such as "the gay community".

    A real nation extends beyond the face to face daily interactions of all its members, but by definition it implies mutual descent, race (which is just "family" writ large), culture, and thus a deep commonality of interests. (I may never know that some other white Australian is putting on Punch and Judy shows in Perth or doing amateur Gilbert & Sullivan in Darwin, but nevertheless they're still advancing my culture, which benefits future generations highly related to us both.) Politically correct "communities" such as "the gay community" or "the immigrant community" (of all races and backgrounds) are thinner "communities" of interest on specific topics. That's not the same thing at all.

    1. "Progressives talk as though real fraternity, real solidarity, was their sort. It isn't."

      I think in some ways Classical Marxist solidarity worked better than the New Left version. It primarily meant solidarity among the Workers. The intellectual leadership class had to pretend to be Workers*, or to show solidarity with them. Now the intellectual leadership class can often claim to be at the top of the totem pole itself, depending on which 'victim' groups the intellectual can claim membership of. This leads to a lot more infighting, especially when there are high-ability intellectuals from high--Victim-status groups. As long as the leaders of the New Left were mostly still straight white men sacralising Victim groups it worked ok, but now you have straight white men claiming to be Aborigines, Transsexuals, Native Americans, et al, and fighting among themselves for status; also fighting with high-ability South Asians etc.

      *Sometimes "Workers and Peasants", but if you were a Peasant you soon learned to keep your head down if you wanted to stay alive....

  4. A correct understanding of fraternity, of solidarity, of family, of community and togetherness has to be positive.

    A negative understanding is inadequate. If we see through the politically correct tricks, if we're smart and won't be taken advantage of in "mutual" validation arrangements that aren't mutual, that's valid, but if your understanding of solidarity is nothing more than that it's hollow.

    People don't seek real relationships, real fraternity, authentic solidarity, out of shrewdness and with an attitude that "you won't put one over on me".

    Real mutual solidarity and justified mutual trust is a special sort of adventure. There is always something surprising about another human being. There is always another aspect to them, or a card you didn't know they had in their hand. Fraternity works when the roots of solidarity go equally deep, so that for every trick you didn't see coming and that might potentially undermine togetherness, there can be new reasons to keep faith. This is always interesting. It's a positive thing, and not at all like a dead tree merely not happening to fall over.

    Some of these roots of connectedness spread wide in space and deep in time. They can be contested politically. Under political correctness they are undermined politically, and they have to be defended and renewed politically.

    If people are going to fight politically so that their widely extended kin in future generations can have real fraternity, they need to have positive and elaborated ideas of what it is, and why it matters to you that it should be held in continuing trust by people you will never get to meet.

  5. The New Left concept of solidarity, the cultural Marxist totem pole of victimhood with solidarity to those above you on the pole, without reciprocity, certainly fails at creating a happy or cohesive society.
    But cultural Marxism was developed to destroy society, without reference to what would come after. It's good at this - it tears apart bonds. By its own lights it's successful, not a failure.

  6. "What happened then is that some of the Roma gypsy families decided to take up the Bishop on his offer of solidarity. They went to live in his front yard."

    That was certainly poetic justice.

  7. I have been saying for years that real solidarity requires mutuality. Every leftist I have encountered has mocked me for that position.

    I suspect that they would not give up that position even were their world crashing around them and, still, they would just blame the "bad people" they hold responsible.

  8. Real connections, like marriage, have consequences that fake, politically correct connections do not.