Current Affairs

(How) Should Class War Go Global? Building an Anti-Corporate Left Internationalism

In the last century or so, global solidarity has all but dried up. As each day holds new injustices, its revival is our best hope.

In a 2008 interview, the historian Perry Anderson diagnosed the tragic predicament of the 20th century left in words which I haven’t quite managed to get out of my head since I first heard them. He said, 

At least for a century between the 1840s and 1940s, the capacity to transcend one’s national limitations and interests for a wider set of interests and to translate this transcendence into organized action…belonged on the whole to the labor movement, to the left. It didn’t belong to businessmen, capitalists, and others. Since the 1950s, that has very dramatically changed. We have seen in the postwar order a high degree of coordination, an ability to take a more than national viewpoint on/for the interests of the system on the part of the privileged. Whereas those who are less privileged become more and more confined to local, regional, and at best national frameworks of actions. 

Things are, of course, not all bad for the global left. Our ideas and organizations have enjoyed a recent resurgence in the industrialized world. Local, regional, and national scales of action increasingly seem available in ways that they haven’t been for the past few decades, and many thousands of people are participating. This is certainly cause for celebration. However, my own experiences within this left resurgence—organizing with my labor union, making Zoom calls to town halls, protesting for abolition in nearby cities, chipping in to DSA National campaigns, and virtually supporting comrades globally—all still suggest the truth of Anderson’s observation. Although meaningful, the sum total of these efforts still does not add up to the kind of globally coordinated movement that once existed.

But even as the left strives to find new footholds, businessmen and capitalists are continuing to wield their “high degree of coordination” which Anderson describes as “an ability to take a more than national viewpoint” of their own interests—that is, the ability to make global common cause in pursuit of their goals. Not only have U.S. billionaires sailed through this recession over half a trillion dollars richer as a result of coordinated lobbying, they’ve also been working together with their foreign counterparts. In mid-2020, India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, and America’s richest man, Jeff Bezos—two people routinely cast by the media as being in constant competition —announced that they’re in talks to team up for a “mega deal” in Indian e-commerce, which is predicted to be a “win-win” for both of their monopolistic, anti-worker, public-subsidy guzzling companies.

At a time when the portents of doom—crushing inequality, a raging pandemic, an economic collapse, growing fascism, a dying planet—are being produced in every part of the world all at once, can we really afford to only fight doom piece by piece? In a recent interview, left intellectual and organizing titan Mike Davis said, “What I find missing in the left as a whole, is the solidarity for the poor, ex-colonial world that was so defining for my generation.” Davis, Anderson, and others might disagree on exactly when the U.S. left lost its capacity to transcend the national frame and act in global solidarity, but they agree that the left did once exercise true internationalist capacity. So why can’t we do it once more? How can we build back the capacity to tackle injustice, not only on the local scale that’s most easily available to us right now, but on the global scale at which it’s so often produced—on the scale where our greatest adversaries operate? 

Internationalism Isn’t About Foreign Policy, It’s About Making Common Cause

The word “internationalism” is occasionally thrown around on the U.S. left, but true internationalism—as a project of making common cause globally to act together against one system of power—is currently not part of mainstream left discourse. Political theorist Michael Walzer’s 2018 book A Foreign Policy for the Left is a good example of the shallow uses the concept of “internationalism” is now put to. Walzer discusses the left’s internationalist dilemmas, but only in relation to official diplomatic or military relations between bounded nation states. The questions he attempts to tackle include: is the military necessary in diplomacy? Are there ever just wars? Should there be internationalist organizations like the U.N., or is a completely isolationist approach better? Although Walzer is certainly not its best representative, the American left, by and large, does tend to see the global whole as no more the sum of its many national parts. From this standpoint, left “internationalism” means securing better interactions between different countries, and especially for better U.S. interaction with other countries. Insofar as any political action is actually taking place around this vision, its preferred target tends to be foreign policy—i.e., formal political relations between sovereign governments. 

The rise of the global far right (especially since 2016) has infused quite a bit of enthusiasm into the quest for a progressive foreign policy: no war with Iran, no coup in Bolivia, no sanctions on Cuba, no deportations to Central America, no weapons for Israel, no trade war with China, etc. But although anti-imperialist foreign policy is undoubtedly important, not bombing other countries is a far cry from a global movement where one transcends one’s specific position to identify with the wider interests of the world’s working class. In addition to framing itself around the boundaries between an imperial “us” and an oppressed “them” suffering elsewhere (the opposite of making common cause), a foreign policy focus actually narrows “internationalism” into a vague commitment to respecting national sovereignties and avoiding military conflicts, paradoxically hemming all global action into nationalist imaginaries. 

The foreign policy approach also fails to take account of the enormous economic system of injustice—global capitalism—which is not governed by foreign policy as such but dictates conditions of life in every part of the world. Sure, imperialist foreign policy is often directly tied to corporate profit, as was evident in the 2019 lithium coup in Bolivia where Silicon Valley tycoons and U.S. diplomats colluded to oust a democratically elected president in order to simultaneously open up access to lithium ore and depose a “dangerous socialist regime.” However, even though all imperialist foreign policy is tied to global capitalism, global capitalism also operates far outside of imperialist foreign policy. In approaching all international injustice only from the vantage point of foreign policy imperialism, we lose track of the much more widespread and diffuse capitalist imperialism—which, after all, does not have specific government ministries devoted to it, is not discussed as a burning bilateral concern in presidential foreign visits, is not brought up in global summits as an urgent shared threat, and is not reported on in the “Foreign” section of newspapers. As a result, the global capitalist order—the very thing which should constitute the main target of the global left—is rarely addressed by left social movements and left politicians. 

And yet it is precisely this corporate internationalism that has shifted the world’s political axis towards the right since the mid-20th century. Wages have gone down in all countries, as have tax rates for the ultra-rich, as have barriers to accumulation, as have public protections and social safety nets within countries. This startling global shift did not begin with any formal foreign policy agenda in any single country, but was the product of “private” corporate machinations, implemented and enforced by intellectuals, think tanks, lobbyists, and institutions. All these entities operated in class collaboration across the world, but well outside the public consciousness. As a result, while each of America’s wars abroad has been generation-defining, the late-20th century global war on the poor—and its perpetrators—has been much less visible. To the extent that most people even believe that there is a “war on the poor,” they tend to think of this as a domestic problem caused by domestic policy, rather than a global assault perpetrated by actors who operate internationally. 

Clearly, the problem isn’t merely that “international issues” or “U.S. imperialism” aren’t discussed, but that certain kinds of international issues and U.S. imperialisms are discussed and others are not. While presidential candidates may have to answer questions about their thoughts on NATO, they are never asked about the World Bank. Politicians are expected to have opinions on foreign policy hotspots like Iran and Cuba, but never about Equatorial Guinea or Indonesia, where American capital reigns supreme. The Paris Agreement is discussed as a matter of international concern, but rarely the Investor Dispute Settlement Mechanism, which allows corporations to sue governments for any loss in profits. 

Globalizing Worker Power

Bernie Sanders’ two presidential campaigns made some effort to move away from this singular focus on internationalism as a military and diplomatic issue. In 2017 Sanders noted that the United States seems to have only one foreign policy platform—indistinguishably shared between the two major parties—and tried to articulate an alternative. Strikingly, he argued that the continuing expansion of corporate power across the world needed to be treated as a foreign policy concern, thus including the economics of international injustice into the domain of foreign policy. This begins to approach Anderson’s description of left internationalism, where the American worker is able to actually make common cause with workers elsewhere in the world, advancing shared goals and recognizing shared enemies. But still, the technocratic, top-down domain of foreign policy is not an ideal vehicle for worker solidarity. Clearly realizing this, Sanders went on to state that “the task is to build an international movement of our own against capitalist elites.” This is much more like it: an international movement of our own against an international movement of theirs, targeting not just U.S. military and diplomatic levers, but production and distribution worldwide. 

So far, so good. But if “left internationalism is the solidarity of leftists,” as Walzer puts it, what does this really mean? To reimagine left internationalism as more than military foreign policy or ephemeral calls for solidarity, the global origins of people’s day-to-day problems need to be made clear. Aziz Rana has cogently argued that we must counter the false dichotomy between “domestic” issues, which are characterized as “bread-and-butter issues of jobs, health care, and social provision” and “international” issues, which are characterized as highly remote and “not really about the material interests of working people,” and thus often left to experts. This is a false separation. Corporations cheapen labor, avoid taxes, and lobby governments globally; investors borrow cheap and lend dear globally; thus, workers toil for low wages globally. Bread and butter issues exist globally, and more importantly, have causes that are global in scale. They require solidarity, defined not as support for parallel yet disconnected struggles, but as an identification of truly shared interests: solidarity as making global common cause.

What this brings us to, of course, is global worker organizing in the form of powerful international unions. Global union activity has a rich history which needs to re-enter public discussion. As Jedediah Purdy notes, there has been a long and rich legacy of international union activity such as “the International Workingmen’s Associations in the 19th century [which] were alliances of unions fighting for factory safety and shortened work-days in national parliaments and coordination of labor strength toward the possibility of international actions, such as solidarity strikes.” But 19th century union struggles were, of course, never fully global, excluding as they did the world’s enslaved and colonized majority. Today’s global unionism must transcend the Western worker much more fully if it means to aim for real success. As anti-WTO protestors in Seattle realized in 1999, including other places in our social justice movements isn’t about “diversifying” the struggle: it’s actually essential. How well workers in the Global South are paid actually determines the horizons for union activity in the North, which means that minimum wages in Mexico are already a bread-and-butter issue for factory workers in Washington state. 

The Global South’s poor need to be brought into socialist narratives of change not as objects of charity (e.g., poverty relief) who need “us” to “speak on their behalf,” but as fellow organizers against corporate rule. This is not just a change in language; it’s a change in strategy. It’s a pivot away from the high politics of foreign policy advocacy and towards the grounded terrain of labor action. Solidarity organizing is one example, and it’s already happening: the Communications Workers of America are fighting alongside call center employees in the Dominican Republic and Philippines, just as the United Electrical Workers are working alongside Mexican and Canadian unionists to resist NAFTA 2.0. But as successful actions targeting logistics infrastructures (e.g., indigenous people’s early 2020 blockades of Canadian rail networks) have reminded us, we can do even more. 

Profit today is produced in delicately balanced global supply chains. What if there were coordinated strikes up and down the iPhone supply chain, including salespeople in Paris, component assemblers in China, and cobalt miners in Bolivia? In addition to international labor strikes targeting specific companies or sectors, there could also be general strikes which target global circulation writ large. Many of us don’t know this, but capitalists are terrified that people might realize that they could start making big, audacious global demands—such as a worldwide minimum wage, or a free-of-cost universal COVID-19 vaccine—by organizing to target key bottlenecks in global supply chains where circulation is uniquely vulnerable, such as ports, coal and gas supply, and electric companies. And the labor strike is just one tool of global leverage we can use here: with enough organizing capacity, we can also throw in boycotts, disruptive civil disobedience, mass street action, people’s moratoria on interest payments to big banks, and much more. 

And yes, right now this is a pipe dream; to turn it into a real possibility requires its own kind of organizing. It means pushing unions to talk to each other globally. It means exchanging notes on strategy with people elsewhere in the world who are working to enrich the same people you are working to enrich. It means training leaders in globally networked organizing. It means joining and boosting current left organizations who are doing this work, such as Global Labor Justice, Asian Floor Wage Alliance, Manquila Solidarity Network, and others. It means making common cause between grassroots demands across Global North and South. It can be done. We just have to really accept that we need to do it.

Domesticating Corporate Power 

Clearly, reviving global union militancy is the first and foremost challenge for creating a true left internationalism. But if Anderson’s analysis is correct—if we haven’t merely forgotten our global solidarities but actually ceded them to the capitalist class—then reclaiming internationalism for the left involves a second urgent task: that of directly targeting the institutions that allow corporate power to consolidate. Efforts to strengthen labor globally at least have some history in the form of transnational unions, but there is hardly any similar history of organized efforts to attack corporate consolidation globally. Here, we really would be attempting the unprecedented.

In the United States, we have seen domestic demands for limiting corporate power, such as a wealth tax or decommodifying public goods through Medicare for All and free public college. But while these sorts of ideas are well and good, they remain limited by the national frame. Claims like “this is the richest country in the history of the world, so we should guarantee healthcare” or “free public education is needed so that Americans can get ahead in a global labor market” serve to undercut internationalist visions of de-commodified public goods and a common social democratic floor for all workers as the key way to challenge the stranglehold of global capital. These kinds of left versions of “America First” are not new: they have long bedeviled efforts at global solidarity. Indeed, even today labor unions sometimes explicitly align with Trumpian protectionism, as if it were possible to protect workers at home while exporting unregulated capitalism abroad. (It is not!)

Corporations do not operate exclusively within one country’s national borders, and their actions do not have ramifications only for one country’s electorate. Once you close down the U.S. health insurance industry, where do you think those companies will go next to extract profit? Similarly, if there’s a huge wealth tax in America, where will corporations set up shop and bank accounts? Always the Global South, the perennial backyard. And as we already know from COVID-19 and much more besides, exporting injustice—apart from being a morally bad thing in and of itself—isn’t even a long-term solution for the general population of wealthier countries, because sooner or later, the consequences of injustice will find ways back home. No border can stop the quest for profit: jobs will always escape back to the unregulated South, and poor wages there will always depress worker power back in the United States. Depressed worker power in the United States will further push the floor down for everyone. The cycle will continue.

Unless: we learn to meaningfully challenge corporate power on a global scale. To do this, we need to know three things first: 1) How does global corporate power actually operate? 2) Which institutions maintain it? And 3) How do we organize against those institutions?

To answer the first question, let’s look at the actual mechanisms which have amplified corporate power globally in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. For starters, there is the simple fact of massive wealth transfers from public coffers (of poor nations) to private wallets (in rich ones). Anthropologist Jason Hickel points out that between 1980 and 2012, developing countries have sent “an eye-popping total of $26.5 trillion” back to the developed world, much of it as interest payments on foreign debts which have already been repaid many times over. Crucially, this is not just a story of nation-state imperialism but of private corporate might. Most of the Northern creditors collecting money from Southern taxpayers are private individuals, corporations, and banks. 

In addition to making exorbitant interest payments to Wall Street at the cost of providing for their own citizens, indebted governments also have to gut their economic and social protections and their public spending budgets to become eligible for these loans in the first place. When public budgets shrink, public utilities and services are sold off and placed in corporate hands: these corporations then promptly begin to extract profits from citizens. For example, when post-Apartheid South Africa began borrowing from the World Bank, it had to make itself “creditworthy” by selling its public water utility to companies like the French multinational Suez. Naturally, upon taking over Cape Town’s water provision, Suez hiked up prices for basic water services by 600 percent. 

Privatizations of public utilities are also accomplished outside of loans, through what are called “development projects.” For example, the World Bank carries out development projects in Africa which aim to privatize the education system piece by piece and bring profit-seeking companies in to provide an essential service to extremely poor people. In addition to profiting from privatization, corporations also profit from each and every worker or resource protection law repealed as a result of corporate lobbying or loan conditionalities. Evading taxes on this money (whether through tax havens or mis-invoicing or reporting in low-tax countries) is another perpetual way corporations get richer. There is also speculative profit, stock and bond profit, and profit from patent fees on all sorts of intellectual property from pharmaceuticals to seeds. Multilateral and bilateral free trade agreements are another mechanism of corporate profit, since they undo worker and environmental protections in the signatory countries, and get rid of tariffs on imports and other costs of selling abroad. 

Importantly, these ways of extracting workers’ life and labor for corporate profit are not always “forced” upon Global South governments at gunpoint. Many institutional conditions make Southern governments actually keen to adopt these conditions. In addition to lobbying by domestic capitalists who perpetually want to cheapen labor, Southern governments cut back their labor laws and sell off their energy grids in the hope that, if they do so, they can get better rankings on the World Bank’s “Doing Business” indicator. This, in turn, can help them get cheaper credit and more investment, which can fund more shiny and useless megaprojects, which can then boost the government’s profile at home in time for crucial elections. 

That’s the carrot. But there’s also the stick. Capitalists enjoy international legal protections as well—such as the World Bank and IMF’s legal immunity under U.S. law, and even more egregiously, under the Investor State Dispute Settlement Mechanism which enables investors to sue governments for intervening in their profiteering (rather than the other way around). For example, when an Enron-Bechtel-G.E. electricity plant was shut down in India due to concerns about human rights violations, nine lawsuits were launched against India by the companies involved, citing lost profits caused by the closure. Surprise, surprise: the companies won $160 million in compensation. 

This jargon-laden, head-hurting story matters. It really matters. However much we may cry out against U.S. military and diplomatic interference around the world, however much we may stand in solidarity with pro-democracy protests or even worker unionism and social movements in other countries, these global mechanisms are already one step ahead. They are a manifestation of a global class solidarity at the very top of the wealth hierarchy. They operate stealthily, out of view, largely uneventfully. They work as machinery to systematically unbuild all the things we painstakingly try to build piece by piece. Our strikes, marches, protests, and candidates for office appear haphazardly, one by one: they are combated systematically in invisible debt payments and tax evasions, in deals to privatize public hospital systems, in court settlements in favor of companies. To beat this machine, our resistance needs to scale back up and become as systematic and institutionalized as the violence we seek to undo.

New Targets

In this story of the dizzying array of global arrangements which have enhanced the wealth and power of corporations over the past half century, some institutions come up over and over again. One is the World Bank, which facilitates the entry of poor countries into debt-traps and then gives them the economic knowledge and metrics to follow in order to repay the loans and screw over their citizens. Another is the IMF, an economic Weapon of Mass Destruction which proudly declares that it has privatized “well over a trillion dollars’ worth of state-owned firms” since 1980, in the process increasing the numbers of the global poor by one billion. Together, the Bank and the Fund—lovingly nicknamed the “Bretton Woods institutions” after their New Hampshire origins—have managed to reduce crucial social systems  such as health, nutrition, education, and housing to tatters across the postcolonial world, just in time to generate a pandemic and a Depression amid climate catastrophe. Naturally, both institutions follow a “one dollar, one vote” model, meaning that the United States alone holds more power within them than the entire Global South combined. And these two organizations aren’t the only culprits. In the United Nations, power was literally moved from the General Assembly (one member, one vote) to the Security Council (where five superpowers hold veto power) after the Algerian socialist president Houari Boumediene started talking about building a just world economy. The World Trade Organization was set up to ensure that corporations get their fair share of intellectual property extortion from the world’s poor. All these institutions were established after the Second World War specifically to entrench U.S. military and corporate power, and all have dutifully followed their mandate. 

No amount of “progressive” foreign policy can help us nullify these organizations’ pro-corporate agendas. Rather, as Yanis Varoufakis and David Adler have clearly outlined, they need to be taken over and reclaimed by an internationalist left. This means seizing the IMF and using it to rectify global trade imbalances; tasking the World Bank with enacting a Global Green New Deal; directing the International Labour Organization to fight corporate lobbying; creating a people’s United Nations that builds consensus on ecological transition; and setting up a new Tax Justice Authority to shut down tax evasion. In addition to taking over these global organizations, the left could also use trade deals to institute mandatory worker and environmental protections worldwide; global accords to institutionalize a commitment to increasing global union density; an international court to step in when workers’ and elected governments’ rights are violated by corporations; and so forth. Organizations like the Public Services International, Jubilee South, Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt, UNI Global Union, and International Trade Union Confederation are already leading this fight, pushing the upper branches of IMF, World Bank, ILO, U.N., and G20 from the left. What we need to do is grow grassroots energy which can support and extend that fight.

New Strategies

Now I know how this reads: as another one of those “the left must” arguments addressed to no one in particular and charging the reader with nothing concrete at all. For us as organizers and everyday people, changing anything about these massive, invisible global systems can feel daunting, if not impossible. Because they are neither domestic nor foreign, and because they have the illusion of being unconnected to the day-to-day experiences of working people, global corporatist organizations have always operated outside of scrutiny. There are no simple tactics with which to oppose them: we can’t vote our way out of corporate lobbying, we can’t knock on doors to end IMF loans, we can’t hold the streets protesting the Doing Business indicator. 

So how do we do something? It seems that to even begin working against these organizations, we will need to bring them into the realm of public deliberation and democratic control in the first place. Left movements have succeeded in directing public debate towards these institutions in the past, such as in the aftermath of Seattle 1999. This can happen again, but only with people power. “Unless alternative goals have the power of mass democratic pressure,” writes Aziz Rana, “it is hard to imagine that new ideas on their own will miraculously win the day.”

The left’s base needs to return to agitation around global economic injustices. For this, we need broad-based programming from organizations like Progressive International, the DSA’s International Committee, Global Justice Now and others aimed at convincing unions, social justice organizations, and socialists at large that local and global economic problems are not separate. Austerity is everywhere, wage theft is everywhere, the race to the bottom is everywhere, and so our organizing should be everywhere. In concrete terms, this means:

  1. Coordinated global labor militancy, as mentioned earlier.
  2. Anti-corporate actions on all scales. No action is too small if it’s part of a larger strategy: boycotts, public shaming campaigns, consumer activism against shady corporate practices, shareholder activism (e.g., pension funds refusing to invest in sovereign debt), pushing for institutional divestment from sovereign debt, etc. 
  3. Coordinated electoral pressure across countries for common goals like a global minimum wage and a global corporate tax floor. 
  4. Better global thinking in local actions. The recent wave of abolitionist protest across the United States has been absolutely heartening, but its internationalist dimensions can be strengthened. For example, when fighting for a local police department to be disbanded, few think of the question of where all that military-grade equipment might then go (hint: abroad, either in the hands of the U.S. military or through sales to foreign warlords). Keeping those questions in mind from the get-go could help formulate demands which do no harm to other places (e.g., destroy, not sell, the equipment). It can also help U.S. organizers make common cause with abolitionists elsewhere by, for example, including defunding military bases abroad as a key demand of the broader abolitionist movement.
  5. Be as ready to act in public solidarity with struggles taking place outside the United States as activists in many other parts of the world were ready to demonstrate in solidarity with the most recent wave of BLM protests here.

This list of actions obviously needs to grow in conversation with comrades in the global left, but an internationalist U.S. left, with all its experiences and resources, could be well poised to begin intensifying those connections. 

Another strategic advantage an internationalist U.S. left could bring to the table is the possibility of wielding electoral power. Socialists here have gained elected office in ways that are hard to fathom in many other countries. This provides an immense opportunity. Seeing as most institutions of global governance are headquartered in Washington, D.C. and operate in explicit service of American strategic and corporate interests, U.S. leftists in office are ideally positioned to target them. 

Let’s remember that there was a time, not that long ago, when global organizations were under scrutiny, not only in the streets of Seattle but also in the halls of the United States Congress. In the late 1990s, Bernie Sanders himself lambasted the IMF for loan sharking and asked, “who does the IMF represent?” The question has remained relevant, but few in high office are still asking it. Continuing to elect progressive Congresspeople is critical, but pushing them to raise these issues in legislative debate is equally important. Ilhan Omar has argued that poor countries’ IMF debts should be forgiven during the pandemic; this is an example that needs to be built on. Leveraging public funds to make international institutions (most of which are funded in part by U.S. taxpayers) behave themselves is one simple option. If Trump can cut funding for the World Health Organization during a pandemic, progressive lawmakers can push to cut funding for the IMF during a Depression, and make World Bank money contingent on pursuing a Global Green New Deal. Legislators can also think of ways to make U.S. corporations to pay all their workers fairly and pay all their taxes worldwide, regardless of jurisdiction. If Woodrow Wilson was able to find creative ways to use U.S. producers as examples in raising worker protections worldwide, AOC certainly should be able to do as much or more.

So let’s bring this issue back into the elected-left’s agenda. Let’s push the next progressive Democratic candidates for office to answer town hall questions, not just about Iraq and Afghanistan, but also about Bolivia and Chad; not just about NATO, but also the IMF; not just ICE, but also the CIA, not just the Iran deal and NAFTA, but also SAPs (Structural Adjustment Programs). Aziz Rana again says it best: “As new centers of power develop within the party, whether Our Revolution or Reverend Barber’s Poor People’s Campaign, the resurgent DSA or the many offshoots of BLM, they must make clear that they cannot back national politicians without non-imperial and genuinely left answers to [international economic] questions.”

During this global pandemic, when it is clear that even those living under well-funded universal healthcare systems are not safe unless all countries provide the same social protections, there really are no national solutions to global problems. There never have been, of course. The coronavirus has spread across the world in 2020 because comorbidities like poverty and unaffordable healthcare spread across it first; the virus has gone global with ease in 2020 because low wages went global first. Even though there are efforts to nationalize this crisis (e.g., closing borders, blaming specific countries, trying to privatize the vaccine), international connections keep manifesting themselves. Neoliberals have used the insistent globality of the crisis to highlight the need for strong internationalist institutions and partnerships. But in truth, that low bar of “international” collaboration—listening to the WHO, aiding ally governments—will not actually save us from the coronavirus, since the crisis itself is a reaping of what liberals and conservatives, globalization-gurus and isolationists, have together sowed for decades: cuts to people’s power, wages, public healthcare, and social protections worldwide. The left must instead fight for a truly global social democratic floor, worker control and the nationalization of key enterprises, transnational union activity such as solidarity strikes, as well as an effort to immobilize capital by overtaking the very institutions which have for so long secured its mobility. COVID-19 starkly showcases what was always true: working people worldwide are all on the same sinking ship. It’s time for left internationalists to once again build power in recognition of that common cause.

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