Never before has international solidarity been more necessary—and more absent.
The COVID-19 crisis is deepening everywhere, hitting hardest among the world’s poor. Meanwhile, disaster capitalism is on the rise, as financial speculators and transnational corporations seek to profit from the pandemic. Standing behind them are the forces of the far right, who exploit the crisis to advance an agenda of bigotry and xenophobia.
And yet, at this historic juncture, internationalism has gone missing in action.
The pandemic has laid bare the fatal flaws of “hyper-globalization”: the breakdown of just-in-time production—coupled with diminished state capacity and a public sector eroded over a half-century of privatization—has ravaged domestic responses to the health crisis.
Yet the widely heralded return of the nation-state will neither end the pandemic nor prevent its political fallout from strengthening the hand of the far right. After all, most countries around the world not only lack basic medical equipment; they also lack the currency to acquire it. Internationalism, for the vast majority of humanity, is not a privilege, but a basic necessity. “The most dangerous illusion,” writes Mike Davis, “is the nationalist one: that a global depression can be avoided by a simple sum of independent and uncoordinated national responses.”
Only a common international front can match the scale of our crises, reclaim our institutions, and defeat a rising authoritarian nationalism.
That is why, on 11 May, we are launching the Progressive International, a global initiative with a mission to unite, organize, and mobilize progressive forces around the world.
In December 2018, the Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM25) and the Sanders Institute issued an open call to form a common front in the fight against the twin forces of fascism and free market fundamentalism. “It is time for progressives of the world to unite,” proclaimed the open call. The year that followed has been described as a ‘Wave of Global Protest.’ From Delhi to Paris, Santiago to Beirut, citizens rose up to defend democracy, demand a decent standard of living, and protect the planet for future generations.
2020 is the year that we unite these disparate protests in a Progressive International, bringing together activists and organizers, trade unions and tenant associations, political parties and social movements to build a shared vision of democracy, solidarity, and sustainability. The May launch brings this platform to life, inviting individuals and organizations around the world to become members of the PI and build the movement together.
At launch, the Progressive International is supported by an interim Council of over 40 advisors, including Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Fernando Haddad, Aruna Roy, Noam Chomsky, Vanessa Nakate, Vijay Prashad, Carola Rackete, Yanis Varoufakis, Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta, Pierre Sané, Naomi Klein, Varshini Prakash, and many others. In September, the Council will meet for the inaugural Summit of the PI in Reykjavik, Iceland, hosted by the Prime Minister of Iceland and the Left-Green Movement, to analyze the challenges of the 21st century and consider proposals from the PI membership for its strategic direction.
In the meantime, the activities of the initiative are divided across three pillars. The Movement aims to forge a global network of activists and organizers that can coordinate the work across borders. The Blueprint convenes activists, thinkers, and practitioners to develop a policy blueprint for a progressive international order. And the Wire [of which Africa Is a Country is a part] offers a wire service to the world’s progressive forces, partnering with publications around the world to bring grassroots perspectives to a global audience.
All of this work aims to build from past efforts at international organization—and to learn the lessons from both their successes and their failures.
Unlike past internationals, the PI is not restricted to any one kind of organization, or any one kind of struggle. Political parties do not have a monopoly on political organization, and a 21st century international must reflect the diversity of associations in our lives. That is why the PI aims to bring together all progressive forces—from trade unions and tenant organizations to liberation movements and underground publications—to contribute to a common front.
Unlike past forums, the PI is founded on the premise that a social network is not enough. Just as past internationals advanced the demands for a shorter working week and an end to child labor, the PI aims to develop a pragmatic policy vision to transform our institutions.
And unlike past movements, the PI aims to build a lasting infrastructure for internationalism. Rather than relying on temporary campaigns and petitions, the PI strives to be a durable institution that can bind progressive forces together and support them to build power everywhere.
The ambitions of this initiative are undoubtedly high—no higher than the present crisis demands. But the Progressive International is only as powerful as its membership, and to reclaim the world after COVID-19, we will need a powerful movement of progressive forces. So join the Progressive International and work with us to build this common front.