The Progressive International is founded. A New Workers’ Internationalism?

by Miguel Lamas

On Monday 11 May, the official launch of the Progressive International (PI) took place, a worldwide political movement that claims to fight “for democracy and equality” and brings together important political and social organisations and intellectuals. The best known among the participants of the PI is Bernie Sanders, a former “socialist” candidate within the U.S. Democratic Party… although he retired last April and now supports the imperialist Biden.

According to several publications, they state that the PI “was born with the commitment to promote the union, coordination and mobilisation of activists, associations, unions, social movements and parties to stand up for democracy, solidarity, equality and sustainability.

According to the philosopher Srećko Horvat, “the aim is to create a planetary political subject, a common political vision to prevent the deterioration of the environment and other existential threats to humanity and the planet”. 

The leaders of this new international political organisation agree that the health and economic crisis resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the need for all progressive actors to row together to defend universal health care, protecting labour rights and international cooperation.

Who are they?

The Progressive International, led by Yannis Varoufakis (former finance minister of Syriza, the Greek centre-left government, although it later broke with this grouping) and Sanders, also has the backing of a council made up of over forty advisors, including political leaders, writers and activists such as American Noam Chomsky, Canadian journalist and researcher Naomi Klein, Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Argentina’s Minister of Women, Gender and Diversity Elizabeth Gomez Alcorta, former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa Delgado, Brazil’s Fernando Haddad, the Workers’ Party (PT) candidate for the 2018 elections won by far-right-winger Jair Bolsonaro; Former Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, former Bolivian Vice President Álvaro García Linera, Croatian philosopher Srecko Horvat and the young German activist Carola Rakete, a ship captain and symbol of the rescue of migrants in the Mediterranean.

The unity of international action

First, the call to form the PI is in tune with a feeling that is spreading among the workers and oppressed of the world: the need to unite to defend life and rights.

Today one only has to look at the news to see how workers, women, young students of the working class and other oppressed sectors all over the planet have similar social dramas, while the transnationals take billions of dollars of “aid” from governments and bankers and continue to collect fraudulent state debts incurred to help billionaires or the banks themselves.

The IWU-FI appeal

From the International Unity of Workers – Fourth International we made the “Call for a global workers’ and people’s emergency plan. May the capitalists pay for the crisis of the coronavirus”, where we support all these expressions of struggle in each country and call for continuity and unity in a broad international movement so that the capitalists pay for the crisis and not the workers and peoples. We propose to fight for a workers’ and people’s emergency plan in each country and internationally. All over the world money is needed for health, wages, work and food. The coronavirus pandemic is not over. And we also have the social pandemic that imperialism, the multinationals and their governments want to impose. For all these reasons it is necessary to fight for imposing non-payment of foreign debts. For a front of debtor countries, like the one promoted by various African countries, to not pay, and high progressive taxes on the multinationals, the banks and the landowners of the world. To devote, in each country, these funds to combat the Covid-19, to prohibit layoffs or salary reductions, to give an insurance or a quarantine salary to the unemployed (unemployed) and to give food to millions of needy people.

Any international initiative to fight for these points, undertaken by the PI or any of its sectors, would be a positive channel of common action.

But what did and are these leaders doing?

But we cannot see that, those who lead this international, sometimes already governed countries, like Rafael Correa, former president of Ecuador; or Álvaro García Linera, former vice-president of Bolivia; or Fernando Haddad, of the Brazilian PT. They are no longer rulers. But, when they were, before the pandemic, they ruled with the transnational oil and mining companies and with the bankers. García Linera, with his so-called “Andean capitalism,” supported the Santa Cruz agribusiness that led to the environmental disaster of the destruction of the Chiquitania forests. His pro-big capitalist policies led Ecuador, Bolivia and PT-ruled Brazil to deep crises before the current pandemic.

In Brazil, faced with the catastrophe of the pandemic, the PT is betting everything on the presidential elections of 2022, calling for a “broad front” and refusing to mobilise, showing the CUT (Unified Workers’ Central,  led by the PT) in a traitorous role as never seen before, letting the deeply anti-worker measures of Bolsonaro and Guedes (Minister of Economy) and the real genocide that the insane Brazilian president promotes by ignoring the pandemic.

With Bernie Sanders, he was the most popular candidate of the Democratic Party, he concentrated the support of millions of workers, women and youth who saw him as a “socialist” option and in favour of the people because he defended free universal public health and free public education. And precisely when the pandemic began, in which public health in the U.S. was in total crisis, Sanders withdrew his candidacy and gave his support to Joe Biden because of imposing the bourgeois-imperialist Democratic apparatus. 

But in addition, by supporting Joe Biden, Sanders’ group not only abandoned his candidacy, but gave up giving a “socialist” or progressive option to the workers and youth. The Democrats are one of the two major imperialist parties that dominate the U.S. political system. Recently they voted in Congress on a $2.1 trillion “stimulus package,” the bulk of which is for the big multinational corporations and banks. And it was voted on by the Democrats, almost unanimously (231 out of 232 seats), with the support also of Sanders’ pro-Sanders legislators.

The PI and the need for a revolutionary socialist international

The PI seeks to position itself politically in the crisis as a centre-left option with certain progressive demands. But the facts show that, even before the pandemic, the capitalist crisis leaves little room for the big capitalists to agree to give any concessions to the workers. And, in fact, the leaders of the current PI accommodated to this, agreeing with big capital and upholding the regime of democracy for the rich.

The current extreme worsening of the crisis makes all the economists, including the IMF, predict tens of millions of layoffs (in the US alone it exceeds 40 million!) and the destruction of all labour rights. Nor will the bourgeois governments be willing to put money into health care or education. And as all the financial rescue plans show, the priority will be to save the profits of the big multinationals. Unfortunately, Sanders, as has been said, is complicit in this. That’s why the “internationalism” of the PI hardly goes beyond some common statement.

The “prognoses” of economic disaster, which are plans of capitalism to recover its profits at the expense of the workers, will not prevent the workers from fighting for their rights and against hunger. For that, yes, the solidarity and unity of the workers’ struggles on an international scale is needed, because it is a very hard fight, even to defend the most elementary rights.

And only by building a world organisation with the revolutionary perspective of the Third and Fourth Internationals, of conquering workers’ governments, and true socialism, ending the world domination of imperialism and its multinationals that are leading us to catastrophe, will we be able to achieve victory.