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Solidarity, or free (dis)association?

+1 vote
Let's say someone you would normally stand with in solidarity does something you feel is very wrong.  Let's say others agree it's wrong, so much so that courts get involved.  

Do you continue to show solidarity with that person by supporting them in their legal trouble, or do you stop associating with them because of their actions?  Or another solution?

More generally, how do you resolve conflicts between your own principles?

*Edit to add a hypothetical example. Dot also suggested some real examples.

Andy and Bobby met at a letter writing campaign, and through their work discovered they share deeply felt anarchist ideas, like favoring direct action and distrusting schools.  Later, Bobby is harassed and assaulted by cops.  Bobby chooses to retaliate by throwing Molotovs at the school where the cops' kids go.  Andy doesn't specifically disagree with retaliating against cops, using firebombs in some situations, or hindering conformity training.  Andy does feel that this specific action was very wrong, because it tries to frighten or injure the cops' children instead of addressing the harassment Bobby suffered.  Bobby is arrested, and asks for support from Andy and other friends.  

What should Andy do, support Bobby, or disassociate from Bobby?  To keep it personal, let's say "support" is personally identifiable, like being a character witness or starting a "Free Bobby" petition.
asked Apr 27, 2015 by k.lin (460 points)
edited Apr 28, 2015 by k.lin
what do you mean by "support"?
Can you rephrase this so that it's not completely vague?

1 Answer

+3 votes

there are various scenarios that could fit into the vague outline that you draw.

one would be that you have an anarchist friend who is accused of something bad and you want to support them even though you think they might have done the bad thing. how do you negotiate that?

another would be that there is someone you agree with even though you don't know them, and you want to support them, and then someone says they did something bad and you don't want to support them if they did do this bad thing, but you do want to support the things that you know about them (ie, the things that made you interested in them in the first place).

there are probably other scenarios but i think starting with those is fine as they are common enough experiences to be worth talking about.

i will start out by saying there is a slogan that could have been made specifically for your question, which is:

solidarity means attack!

ie, if you want to be in solidarity with someone, rather than only focusing on the person who is having hard times, you attack what they were attacking that got them in trouble made them interesting. there are multiple benefits to this strategy, including a de-emphasis on the personal behavior of individuals, and a decentralization of targets for our enemies, etc.

for the more personal conflict, which is actually more what it sounds like you're asking about, it would depend on your relationship with this person. brandon darby is one example of someone who was supported by his friends while he was in the process of snitching people out. so that's one negative example. but there are plenty of daily, mundane examples of people just bailing on friends when the rumors start, which i would argue is at least as bad. 

i guess my bottom line, per usual, is that it would depend on context. sigh. ;)

edited briefly to address FA's point...

second edit:

to say a minute more about the "bailing on friends" thing -- loyalty is important to me (although how to express that loyalty can be complicated, even contradictory), and my understanding of how u.s. culture is moving is away from committed relationships and working things through with friends. so my knee jerk is to emphasize the importance of that.

answered Apr 28, 2015 by dot (50,780 points)
edited Apr 28, 2015 by dot
interesting paragraph (right after "solidarity means attack!"), dot.

attacking what someone else was attacking (as a show of solidarity) might be similar to a "my friend's enemy is my enemy" approach, which - for me at least - is definitely not *necessarily* the case. also, i don't follow why "de-emphasis on personal behavior" would ever be something desirable - though i'm open to hearing of scenarios where i might rethink that. "decentralization of targets for enemies" - now *that* i get, and agree with strongly.

as always, your deference to context is something i am in strong agreement with.
yea, i think i under-explained.

there are people who "stand in solidarity" with someone they've never met. for example some icon of righteous behavior they know through other people (we can talk about the issues with that also, obviously!).

i'll use van jones as an example. jones was the leader/initiator of a group in the bay area called STORM. it was very exciting for some people at the time because he was a savvy political black young man. so people used him as an icon of political righteousness. then he was accused by an ex-girlfriend of intimate violence. in this case, solidarity means attack would involve working on the struggles that made van jones interesting to you in the first place (racism, etc).
and you could also be in solidarity with the ex-girlfriend by working at a domestic violence shelter...
The example I added to address lawrence and ricksantorum666 concerns wasn't there when you answered.  Based on your answer, it seems like you would think Andy should support what Bobby should have done, not Bobby specifically or what Bobby did.  Andy should protest against police violence generally, or work to aid other victims of police violence.  Is that accurate?
i think decleyre's response to czolgosz's assassination of mckinley is an excellent example for this scenario...

http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/voltairine-de-cleyre-mckinley-s-assassination-from-the-anarchist-standpoint

in other words, support the reasons for the action, if not the action, and (since as anarchists none of us think that prison is helpful, even when we hate people's actions) support someone's efforts not to go to prison, and to maintain themselves as anarchists and people if they do go.
...