Organization Trends

The Progressive International: The “Left of the Left” Goes Global

The Progressive International (full series)
The “Left of the Left” Goes Global | Israel the Enemy
Members | Leadership

Summary: A persistent problem in contemporary sociopolitical commentary is that groups that aren’t especially radical are nevertheless regularly portrayed as such (often for political expediency), while those that truly exist on the ideological fringes aren’t sufficiently exposed as the extremists that they are. The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) issued a reprehensible response to the October 2023 terrorist attacks upon Israel, finally revealing the group’s true nature to many, but the DSA is itself a member of a far-left global coalition called the Progressive International. The Progressive International’s leadership and membership should be considered every bit as radical as the DSA, and this should invite public scrutiny of both them and their institutional affiliates and funders.

The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has received much richly deserved criticism since October 2023 and its reprehensible response to the Hamas-led terrorist attacks upon Israel. This has overshadowed some other interesting news about the DSA, which is that the group has been formally admitted to the Progressive International.

A relatively new coalition, the Progressive International gathers together the radical fringes of global leftism—the ideological outskirts where authoritarian communism is praised, terrorism is justified, Israel’s legitimacy is denied, and the United States is portrayed as the malignant font giving rise to all the world’s evils.

That the DSA would join such a coalition is perhaps unsurprising, given the group’s hard left turn toward radicalism, but it is not the only American activist group affiliated the Progressive International. Notably, its membership includes several nonprofits that are funded by some of the largest and most prominent foundations and other grantmakers in the country. The Progressive International’s leadership also consists of some notable names, both in the United States and globally. This makes the group well worth close examination.

The “Left of the Left” Goes Global

As with many developments on the American far-left over the past decade, the story of the Progressive International begins with the 2016 presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders—the unexpected success of which led to the establishment of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit think tank called the Sanders Institute. In late 2018, the Sanders Institute teamed up with a similarly new European political association called the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25) to issue a joint call for all “progressives of the world to unite” in the face of what they claimed was humanity’s greatest collective threat from the ideological right since the 1930s.

From this call was born the Progressive International, which as of January 2024 counts more than 70 organizational members worldwide. The Sanders Institute, which shut down in 2019 amid Sanders’ second presidential campaign but has since re-opened, is not among them. Indeed, the 25-point declaration adopted at the Progressive International’s inaugural summit in 2020—which serves as its core manifesto—espouses a far more radical vision than anything that had been publicly promoted by Bernie Sanders.

Couched in language that borders on the apocalyptic, the declaration asserts that “capitalism is the virus” that must be eradicated—alongside white supremacy, which it calls “an organizing principle of the world system.” It supports “revolution” to “transform society and reclaim the state,” while ominously warning that “winning elections is not enough to fulfill our mission.” The Progressive International wants a global “planetary mobilization” and asserts that decolonization “is not a metaphor.” It will be satisfied with nothing less than “full reparations for past crimes and the immediate restoration of land, resources, and sovereignty to all the dispossessed peoples of the world.”

This is some truly radical stuff, which is perhaps what induced the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)—the “Left of the Left” in the United States—to apply for membership. At a recent event in Chile that the Progressive International helped organize, DSA national political committee member (and self-described communist) Luisa Martinez claimed that “no matter where we live in the world, under capitalism we will be poor.” Material published on the Progressive International’s website broadly advocates for a planned socialist economy, with an emphasis on redistributing wealth from richer societies to poorer ones, including through mechanisms such as an international Green New Deal. Much of what the Progressive International supports is similar to the DSA’s own domestic political platform, just on a global scale.

Also like the DSA, deep and abiding anti-Americanism permeates virtually everything the Progressive International does. The group describes the United States as “the lynchpin” of a malevolent system of imperial capitalism that serves only to perpetuate “psychotic, unconstrained violence” upon the rest of the world. It charges America with scheming to “strangle countries that do not fall in line with its global political and economic agenda.” In late 2023—to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the Monroe Doctrine—the Progressive International launched what it called a “global campaign against US militarism,” while making the outrageous claim that the United States has “destroyed nation after nation, leaving a trail of violence and sorrow in [its] wake,” all in order “to expand and sustain the US-led capitalist system and force nations and peoples to contribute to their own exploitation.”

On the other hand, entities whose interests are generally perceived to be at odds with those of the United States are praised by the coalition. This extends most strikingly to some of the world’s most brutal authoritarian regimes, past and present. For instance, the Progressive International maintains a collection of material on socialist construction called “Building the Future.” The collection’s introductory text lionizes the Russian Revolution of 1917 and quotes multiple prominent Soviet personalities from the era, including Lenin. It laments “the collapse of the socialist project in the Soviet Union” and the way in which “capitalist ideology” has been “tainting our theories and strategies.” Indeed, the Progressive International has elsewhere described the Soviet Union as having been “an important constraint on US power.”

Other material posted on its website lauds the “just cause and heroic struggle” of the North Vietnamese communists against “US imperialist aggression” and notes how military aid from the Soviet Union and China “was essential to the Vietnamese people’s resistance to US aggression.” The Progressive International is likewise effusive in its praise for Cuba and has published speeches by the communist country’s president Miguel Díaz-Canel. It has called upon the United Nations to take action against the United States over sanctions it has levied on the country, in addition to those targeting Venezuela and Iran.

The Progressive International dismisses the possibility of military aggression by China as an “invented narrative” and a product of “anti-China hysteria” in the United States—part of what it characterizes as a long line of fabricated enemies created solely to justify America’s “de facto military occupation of the world.” Another recent article posted on its website argues that “the main reason why China was able to finally eradicate absolute rural poverty was because the Communist Party of China relied on its political advantage of unifying society and strongly integrated its political commitment to poverty reduction across all sectors of government and society, breaking the constraints of interest groups and administrative bureaucracy and achieving a redistribution of wealth and opportunities.”

Functionally, the Progressive International primarily serves to connect and support like-minded activists worldwide—organizing and promoting campaigns, developing what it calls a “blueprint” for “the principles and policies of a progressive international order,” and sharing news and opinion about issues of importance to its members. Legally, it consists of two entities: an “unincorporated association with members” simply called Progressive International and a private company called Progressive International (Services) Ltd., which is located in the United Kingdom. It solicits donations on its website and claims to rely entirely on its members for funding.

In the next installment, the Progressive International harbors a unique, conspicuous, and vitriolic hatred of Israel.

Robert Stilson

Robert runs several of CRC’s specialized projects. Originally from Indiana, he has a B.A. from Hanover College and a J.D. from University of Richmond School of Law, where he graduated…
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