Next Sunday's topic ought to take us into history as much as into
philosophy. Some of us still remember the historical events; how time
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The ethics of solidarity
If it wasn't for a group of Polish shipyard workers the word
would certainly not have become so popular in any language.
You will remember how towards the end of the 1970's and the beginning
1980's Lech Walesa started the union in Gdansk shipyard to protest against
the increase in food prices. Eventually this evolved into a political
protest against the communist government. The call for solidarity with
Polish workers did elicit support and did bring about fundamental changes.
By the end of the decade the Soviet Union did not exist anymore.
Of course, today, we look at those events and probably think how
and exhilarating everything must have been. Those events united the
of the world against an oppressive government, and eventually brought it
down. Surely these were great events in history? It is, of course, ironic
that the workers of the world were being asked to unite against a
Before we consider the ethics of solidarity, however, we still need some
more historical context.
Some would argue that the solidarity that made a difference came from
quarters that really mattered. I have in mind five particular events, and
three specific historical figures, that contributed towards bringing the
House of Lenin down. 1)The election of a Polish pope at the Vatican.
Thatcher's stand against the coal miners' union in Britain. 3) The British
decision to fight over the Falklands. 4)The deployment of cruise
Europe by President Regan which was fully supported by the British and
European governments. 5) The rest of history!
The significance of these events is that when put together they created a
critical mass that decisively contributed to bring down the communist
system. It is argued that the cruise missiles created a mini arms race
the Soviet Union couldn't sustain economically. The defeat of the coal
miners union gave Thatcher the courage and support to fight the Falklands
conflict. And the subsequent victory encouraged western governments, in
particular the US, to believe that they could win wars after the
defeat in Vietnam. The Pope, as we all know, galvanised world opinion
against the communist system.
Without the concerted efforts by Western governments against the Soviet
Union, the chances of success of the Polish movement would have been
as those of the French resistance in WWII.
Having established the historical context for solidarity, let's look
philosophical implications. Based on the above historical context I submit
that the meaning of ''solidarity'' comes in two parts. 1) People giving
moral and active support to those who are trying to remove or fight the
oppression they are being subjected to. The word oppression is itself
negative in a moral context. 2) Given this support and a just cause,
is a real possibility. If we offer solidarity to a just cause, we really
believe things will change and can change.
Distilling the above into a formula we can say:
victory against oppression = justifiable cause + self help + (influential
moral & active support from outside)
We can now consider the ethics of solidarity. A great deal of morality
centres on what is a justifiable cause, but this, in my opinion, has