“Es un Milagro!” is -quite inderstandably – the shout of friends and families of the trapped Chilean miners as rescue becomes a reality. And – yes – it is a “miracle”, but not in the supernatural sense. It’s a “miracle” only in the sense that this is what human beings, freed from the constraints of profit and the dog-eat-dog rules of capitalism, will do for each other, given the opportunity. Socialism is predicated on a belief in human solidarity and the fundamental goodness of human nature. Episodes like the Chilean miners’ rescue have borne out our faith in the capacity of ordinary working class people for human solidarity, time and time again.
The heroic efforts of the rescuers and the solidarity of the miners themselves put me in mind of the US Trotskyist James P. Cannon’s 1951 essay,To the Men Who Gave Their Skin. This was a true story gleaned from a report in the New York Herald Tribune about how the victim of a terrible industrial accident, suffering from burns over 70 percent of his body and given three days to live, was saved as a result of fellow workers who gave skin grafts : “This was the skin that made the difference, ” wrote Cannon:“the skin of co-workers taken off their own bodies twice in 8-by-4 slabs for the benefit of another whom some of them at first didn’t even know. They merely knew that he was hurt and needed help, and they gave it.”
The rest of Cannon’s piece could have been written today (apart, perhaps from his use of “man” and “his” throughout and his reference to William Faulkner rather than Liu Xiaobo), about the San Jose mine rescue operation:
“What better story can a man read these days for the good of his soul and his faith in the future than a true story like this: true as a factual report of something that really happened and no less true as a representation of the deep and indestructible impulse of people, given a fair chance, to cooperate with each other and to help each other unselfishly? All those who hope for a better world are bound to believe that this is the real nature of people, which will assert itself in spite of everything and become a mighty power to change the world and make it a better and fairer place for everybody.
“All the great leaders and teachers of our socialist movement have firmly held this faith in the people: and we must hold it too, if we are to be true to their heritage and worthy of the mission we have undertaken. In a time of doubt and fear this faith in people is the light to steer by. William Faulkner spoke with profound insight in his Stockholm speech, when he said: ‘Man will not only endure: he will prevail.’ For that utterance alone he deserved the Nobel prize.
“The class society of the present day, founded on fraud and deception, puts great emphasis on competition and rivalry and acquisitiveness and brutal disregard of the rights and lives of others – even mass killers are lauded as heroes: and the holy office of science is prostituted to destructive ends. But human nature as it really is at bottom, and as it will finally assert itself and prevail, speaks out for co-operation and solidarity, as the men who helped…demonstrated with the beautiful simplicity of action.
“I’ve been around and seen a lot, and I know very well that this jungle of a class society we live in is full of the tricks and dodges and angles of the self-seeking, and loaded with traps and deadfalls for the trusting. But I know, too, that this is not the whole story, or even half of it. The great majority of people everywhere want to live honestly and help each other. The friendly (Chilean rescuers) are shining examples of this majority.
“When it comes to choosing representatives of the human race as it wants to be and will be, I’ll put my chips down on the likes of these people who will give (so much time, effort and personal risk) for a friend, or for a co-worker who may not be a friend or even an acquaintance, but just a man and therefore a brother.
“They are the heralds of the future and represent its spirit, the spirit of socialist cooperation, whether they know it or not. They and others like them, harnessing their natural impulses to social goals, will do away with the social system which distorts and cripples human nature. They will change the world and make it fit for all people and all nations to live together in peace and fraternity.
“It’s coming yet for a’ that, as Robert Burns affirmed. ‘Then Man to Man, the world o’er shall brothers be for a’ that.’ And there’s going to be a great day.”