Anti-Racism Culture Gender & Sexuality Labor

Why solidarity is necessary – but it’s not just about class

By Geoff

“An injury to one is an injury to all”. This IWW slogan characterizes the solidarity necessitated by class struggle. It characterizes the idea that it’s necessary for the working class to cooperate and work together towards their individual interests, as these are also class interests. The interests of gaining control over economic, social and work decisions which affect the working class directly is made necessary due to the odious nature of our current global economic conditions.

But this slogan really goes further than just class. It is also an embodiment of the solidarity necessitated by intersecting forms of oppression which divide the working class and hinder their ability to fight back in the global class war. Intersectional, meaning, issues concerned with intersections between forms or systems of oppression, domination or discrimination. These issues also create various social hierarchies which marginalize and disempower people. Examples of these issues include, but are not limited to, racism, sexism, queerphobia and gender essentialism. For instance, sexual harassment in the workplace, workplace discrimination on bounds of race or gender, and gender essentialism when it comes to the dignity of transgender folks who often experience terrible cruelty from others when they need to use public restrooms.

To quote Bakunin, “I am truly free only when all human beings…are equally free…”. This means that a worker in the USA who gains freedom and control over their own work isn’t truly free while other workers in, say, China and Africa continue to be brutally repressed and exploited. But it also means that, so long as social hierarchies characterized by intersectional issues are not addressed and dissolved, that the working class as a whole cannot be free. In other words, there cannot be real liberty, equality and solidarity where some workers are discriminated against or otherwise disempowered by social hierarchies.

So, for instance, there is no real solidarity expressed by people who are only interested in their particular craft’s labor fights (because it has no real class characteristic)…for instance, IBEW workers crossing USW’s picket line during the recent refinery strike. But additionally, there is also no real solidarity expressed by people who are only concerned with freedom, for instance, for white, male, heterosexual, cisgender workers, as these are folks who are not subject to marginalization like other workers are, including people of color, women, queer and transgender folks. Because different workers are subject to various social hierarchies (like patriarchy, racism and queerphobia) and they experience a lack of freedom differently than others of the working class.

As a result, it is critical for those of us who believe fighting for another world characterized by human dignity, liberty and equality, to understand that such a thing is necessitated by solidarity. But also that this solidarity must be characterized by both class struggle as well as the recognition of the need to combat and resolve intersectional issues and dissolve all their associated social hierarchies. Because these issues ultimately disempower and marginalize people, prevent the liberation of the working class and throw a wrench in the spokes of libertarian solidarity.

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