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Howard Clark (ed), 'People Power: Unarmed Resistance and Global Solidarity'

Pluto Press 2009; ISBN 978-0-74-532-901-7; 256pp; £17.99

What does it really mean to “demonstrate in solidarity” or “support a solidarity campaign”, or to go to a country and join a solidarity project or action?

People Power brings together some answers from those involved in international nonviolent solidarity action – supporting conscientious objectors in Turkey (War Resisters International) – as international observers or in transnational accompaniment (Peace Brigades International) – and in global solidarity and transnational campaigns (World Social Forum).

In sometimes very honest evaluations, like Voices in the Wilderness’ on their anti-sanctions work inside and outside Iraq, People Power asks – and in some cases answers – the question: does international solidarity provide appropriate and wanted political, individual or financial support, or are local needs subsumed within international agendas - and by international funders?

Can international solidarity have negative consequences for the recipients of such solidarity? Most contributors are positive about their own engagement. However, as Angie Zelter of International Women’s Peace Service observes – in a series of essays examining international solidarity in Israel/Palestine – while local people bear the consequences of resistance, internationals are merely deported.

Indeed, writing from Zimbabwe, Chesterfield Samba notes that international solidarity for Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe initially reinforced the attitude that homosexuality was a western import. Solidarity from elsewhere within Africa, though it took longer to organize, was the turning point. Even in more positive examples, global solidarity seems less tangible than, for example, accompaniment programmes.

As Cynthia Cockburn suggests in her contribution on the international Women in Black network, such international solidarity will always be an aspiration, our global solidarity is more often limited to a sense of empathy or an implicit partnership with those we are showing solidarity with. People Power, however, lacks the voice of the recipients of such solidarity. In chapters on unarmed resistance (except perhaps that on Serbia’s Otpor movement), contributors focus more on descriptions of the nonviolent struggles in Colombia, Burma, India and Zimbabwe, with little space given to analysis of the impact of transnational interventions.

Though some testimonies of some “solidarity recipients” are included in some other essays, I’d like People Power to have made their voices more clearly heard.