Solidarity. What springs to mind when you hear the word? Perhaps, like me, you think of it as a left-wing buzzword more than anything else. The Cuba Solidarity Campaign, the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, and the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign. While these are all little more than support groups for assorted socialist dictatorships which are busy starving and oppressing their people, the notion of solidarity is an important one.

Solidarity gives the left a feeling of greater purpose, of a worldwide struggle for their vision of justice and equality. And it’s something that they’ve always been very good at, from Trotsky’s campaign for a worldwide revolution to #HandsOffVenezuela today. 

The left has on the whole been more skilled at creating a sense of fraternity than the right has, and it is that fraternity which sharpens the sword of socialism against freedom. Those of us committed to liberty need to respond in kind.

Neoliberals now appear mainly interested in cases of overseas oppression in order to tiredly say “I told you so. Socialism doesn’t work.” This is undoubtedly an important point. These cases, whether it is hyperinflation in Zimbabwe or state brutality in Nicaragua, do indeed provide live examples of how socialist policies invariably lead to poverty, misery and oppression. The suffering of the people of those countries helps us avoid a similar fate – if we can get our own populations to understand those basic examples.

However, this is activity that requires little effort – it is purely domestically focused and, frankly, selfish. Where is the right-wing solidarity with the oppressed? When the Soviet Union still existed, there was plenty of activity on the part of conservative and libertarian individuals and groups to help dissidents and opposition movements in those countries. That support did, in fact, help to undermine regimes and contributed to their eventual collapse. The activity of the Federation of Conservative Students in the 1980s included smuggling opposition material out of the USSR and even distributing anti-communist leaflets on the Moscow subway. Some leaders were arrested in the process.

Today, we don’t see much comparable activity on the right. Helping the oppressed is left to the expatriates of the countries involved, as well as a small number of human rights groups. Now is the time to set this right.

The truth is that once neoliberalism began to dominate policy and governance across the western world, it invariably began to lose its appeal as a fresh, revolutionary approach. And almost 40 years later, we see the effects. The left decries the “failure” and “corruption” of a system designed “for the few”. And there are, indeed, problems: corporatism is a significant issue to be tackled, and meaningful reform is undoubtedly needed to further personal liberty in economic and social spheres. It is for this reason that neoliberals can still be a refreshing and inspiring force on the political stage.

Those of us committed to liberty need to band together, set ourselves apart from stale government bureaucrats, half-hearted liberals, and alt-right conservatives. We must inject energy back into the cause for freedom, and that can’t be done just by distributing articles to the converted – a more active approach must be taken. Solidarity with those oppressed by socialism, along with fraternity with other neoliberals around the world can revitalise the push for freedom. 

The Venezuela campaign is a good example. Set up by two Bristol university students, it publicises the horrors of the Chavista regime and lobbies the government to take a tougher approach towards Venezuela. Last week, it sent an information pack to MPs with a list of demands for action, which were taken up by some MPs.

If two students can have this level of influence, it’s clear that action like this on a larger scale can have a huge effect. When socialism rears its head, wherever that may be, action must be taken. Lobby the government, distribute leaflets, set up talks with relevant speakers, start an online campaign, make contact with those fighting against socialism in a foreign country, travel to that country, contradict the lies put out in support of dictatorships. Ultimately, it’s safer for British students to demonstrate against communism in Cuba than it is for Cubans themselves.

Whatever form it takes, those of us who believe in a free society must take action. It’s time to make liberty sexy again, and giving it back its heart is the first step.

Written by Max Young

Max Young is studying at Brighton College and attended the ASI & IEA’s Freedom Week 2018.