The Progressive International (PI) is a broad alliance of left-wing activists, organizations, trade unions, and publications. The first announcement identifying PI as an initiative that would soon be unveiled was made on November 30, 2018, at a Sanders Institute event attended by progressive luminaries like anti-capitalist author Naomi Klein, Ivy League professor Cornel West, Lebanese-Brazilian Marxist Fernando Haddad, economist Jeffrey Sachs, Canadian democratic socialist Niki Ashton, and Spanish political figure Ada Colau. In December 2018, the Sanders Institute and the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25) — the two organizations most responsible for PI’s formation — issued an open call exhorting leftists of all stripes to form a common front as a means of actualizing their “shared vision of a world transformed”: “It is time for progressives of the world to unite.” As investigative reporter Daniel Greenfield subsequently noted: “The slogan is a tip of the hat to the Communist Manifesto‘s ‘Workers of the World Unite.’”
PI reprised the theme of “unity” at its formal inception in May 2020, declaring: “The time has come for progressives everywhere to form a common front” in “the fight against the twin forces of fascism and free market fundamentalism.” Some of the nascent alliance’s promotional videos were produced by Means TV, the studio that in 2018 had created a major campaign ad for the socialist congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
PI was officially launched on May 11, 2020, by Senator Bernie Sanders and DiEM25 founder Yanis Varoufakis, a Greek Marxist academic and politician who had once written an introduction to Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto, and had stated that Marx “was responsible for framing my perspective of the world we live in, from my childhood to this day.” PI, said Varoufakis, would aim “to mobilize people around the world to transform the global order and the institutions that shape it.”
From the moment of its founding, PI made it clear that it aspired to help create a world that was, among other things:
PI’s original Council of Advisors, whose task was to set the alliance’s strategic direction, consisted of 64 members hailing from numerous countries around the world. The Council members included such notables as the famed linguistics professor Noam Chomsky; pro-socialist author Naomi Klein; Indian writer Arundhati Roy; John McDonnell, described by the Financial Times as “perhaps the most famous living Marxist in Britain”; the Lebanese-Brazilian Marxist Fernando Haddad; Alvaro Garcia-Linera, a former Bolivian Marxist terrorist leader who had once declared, after winning an election, that “the general horizon of the era is Communist”; and Áurea Carolina, a Brazilian federal deputy affiliated with the Socialism and Liberty Party.
When PI became an active entity in May 2020, countries worldwide were struggling to deal with the ravages of a deadly coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic that had originated in a virology laboratory in Wuhan, China. Lamenting that “disaster capitalism” was “on the rise” as “financial speculators and transnational corporations” sought “to profit from the pandemic” which had “laid bare the fatal flaws of ‘hyper-globalization’” and “privatization,” PI accused those capitalist opportunists of doing the bidding of “the forces of the far right, who exploit the crisis to advance an agenda of bigotry and xenophobia” as well as “a rising authoritarian nationalism.”
At its founding, PI identified 3 major priorities that it planned to tackle right away:
1) Debt Cancellation: “We are campaigning with Bernie Sanders, Ilhan Omar, and representatives around the world for total debt forgiveness and an emergency injection of finances to the Global South,” said PI. “COVID-19 … has not only posed a major threat to our health and safety. It has also provoked a sudden depression across the global economy. Countries in the Global South have been hit hardest by this compound crisis.… But international creditors are demanding that governments in the Global South pay their debts before they protect their own citizens.”
2) Building Tenant Power: “As a result of illness and precautionary lockdown,” PI stated, “millions of people have lost their jobs, and millions more have suffered a loss of wages that prevents them from making rent each month. Still, landlords are demanding rent, often employing tactics of intimidation and violence to get it.” To address this matter, PI’s website promoted a downloadable toolkit, developed by the Kansas City-based organization KC Tenants, that featured “guides for conducting research on your landlord, convening organizing conversations with your fellow renters, forming a tenants union, or even escalating towards a rent strike.”
3) Organizing for the International Green New Deal: Lamenting that “fossil fuel industries are driving us into climate catastrophe — and the world’s working class will be forced to pay for their greed,” PI claimed that “our future has been held hostage by a handful of oil and gas executives” whose “incredible wealth means their families will be fine, but the rest of us won’t.” The best remedy for this situation, said PI, would be to follow the Sunrise Movement‘s lead in agitating for the enactment of a ‘Green New Deal.’”
Bernie Sanders Joins Marxists to Launch “Progressive International”
By Daniel Greenfield
May 15, 2020