Organization Trends

The Progressive International: Leadership


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


Leadership

The Progressive International is led by a Council, which determines the group’s “strategic direction,” a Secretariat, which is responsible for day-to-day operations, and a Cabinet, which draws its membership from the other two bodies and is the group’s main executive organ. Current and former members of the Council include some household names, depending upon the country in which one’s household happens to be located:

Current Leadership. Current Council members include:

  • Mariela Castro Espín. Member of the National Assembly of People’s Power—the unicameral legislature of Cuba, in which the Communist Party is the only legal political party—and director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education. She is the daughter of former Cuban president Raúl Castro, making her the niece of the country’s longtime dictator Fidel Castro.
  • Jeremy Corbyn. Left-wing member of Parliament in the United Kingdom. He was most famously the leader of the Labour Party from 2015 until stepping down in the aftermath of the Conservative Party’s landslide victory in the 2019 general election. Under Corbyn’s leadership the Labour Party was accused of harboring a culture that tolerated antisemitism, which was later substantiated by an independent commission. In 2023 the Labour Party voted to ban Corbyn from standing as one of its candidates for the next parliamentary election.
  • Tom Morello. American guitarist most widely known for his work with the leftist rock band Rage Against the Machine. The band members’ communist aesthetics and revolutionary lyrics famously conflicted with their embrace of corporate capitalism in the music industry in order to sell millions of records and ensure that they themselves became quite wealthy.
  • Gustavo Petro. President of Colombia since 2022 as leader of the left-wing political party Humane Colombia, Petro spent a decade as a member of a rebel guerrilla group called M-19. He was imprisoned for over a year (and was reportedly tortured) upon being captured by the Colombian government during the 1980s.
  • Annie Raja. Leader of the Communist Party of India and general secretary of the National Federation of Indian Women.
  • Pierre Sané. Senegalese founder and president of the Imagine Africa Institute, he was formerly assistant director-general for social and human sciences at UNESCO and the secretary general of Amnesty International.
  • Yanis Varoufakis. Co-founder of the Democracy in Europe Movement 2015 (DiEM25), he was briefly Greece’s minister of finance in 2015 amidst the country’s national debt crisis, when it became the first developed country ever to default on a loan from the International Monetary Fund.

Former Leaders. Former Council members include:

  • Kali Akuno. The co-founder and co-director of a nonprofit called Cooperation Jackson, he served in the administration of Chokwe Lumumba, former mayor of Jackson, Mississippi. Akuno is affiliated with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, a group that aims to establish an independent black separatist nation called “New Afrika” in the American deep south. A proposal he wrote on behalf of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement entitled The Jackson-Kush Plan became the direct inspiration for Cooperation Jackson. In the proposal, Akuno refers to “the struggle for Afrikan or Black Liberation in the European settler-colonial project called the United States” and denies the legitimacy “of the settler colony known as the state of Mississippi.”
  • Celso Amorim. The former foreign minister (1993–1994 and 2003–2010) and defense minister (2011–2014) of Brazil, he is currently serving as an official advisor to the country’s leftist president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
  • Noam Chomsky. A well-known left-wing academic and activist since the 1960s, Chomsky is famously controversial as a vociferous critic of the United States and its foreign policy. He has also been particularly outspoken in his criticism of Israel—which he has called “the leading issue of my life since early childhood”—and has expressed regret that he didn’t start publicly talking about “the criminal nature of Israel’s actions” until after the Six-Day War in 1967.
  • Rafael Correa. Leftist president of Ecuador from 2007 to 2017, he was subsequently convicted of corruption relating to his time in office and (having gone into exile in Belgium) sentenced in absentia to eight years in prison. In October 2023, seven Republican U.S. senators wrote a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to help “hold Mr. Correa accountable for his involvement in acts of significant corruption and violations of internationally recognized human rights in Ecuador.”
  • John Cusack. American actor and outspoken left-wing activist.
  • Alvaro Garcia Linera. Vice president of Bolivia from 2006 to 2019 under the country’s socialist President Evo Morales, he was imprisoned during the 1990s for his involvement with a Marxist guerrilla group called the Tupac Katari Guerrilla Army.
  • Naomi Klein. Canadian left-wing activist and author. Her books include This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate and On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal. She is a contributing editor at The Nation and formerly served on the board of the environmental group org.
  • Varshini Prakash. Until recently the executive director of the Sunrise Movement, Prakash is a major advocate for the Green New Deal and was a member of the climate change “unity task force” set up by then-Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his erstwhile rival Bernie Sanders during the 2020 presidential election campaign.
  • Cornel West. A prominent socialist intellectual and author for decades, West was elected to the Democratic Socialists of America’s national executive committee shortly after the group’s founding in the 1980s and was at one point its honorary chair. He is an independent candidate for president of the United States in the 2024 election.

This is of course merely a sampling, and the Progressive International’s website lists 66 current and 55 former members of its governing Council, who come from all over the world. From an American perspective, it is interesting to note that the council’s foreign members include current and former heads of state, sitting legislators, high-ranking executive officials, leaders of political parties, and others who have been rather influential in the governments of their respective countries. Of the 11 Americans listed as current or former members of the Council, four are academics, four are nonprofit activists, two are entertainers, and one is the CEO of a tech startup. This itself is probably something of a commentary on the nature of far-left politics in the United States relative to much of the rest of the world.

Revealing Radicalism

A persistent problem in contemporary sociopolitical commentary is that people, groups, and ideas that aren’t especially radical are nevertheless regularly portrayed as such—often for political expediency—while those that truly exist far outside the ideological mainstream aren’t adequately revealed as the fringe extremists that they are. The massive financial windfall received by the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation in 2020, despite its deeply radical nature, is probably the paradigmatic example of this phenomenon.

In such circumstances, it often takes time and sustained effort for reality to break through into public knowledge. Indeed, one silver lining in the Democratic Socialists of America’s abominable response to the October 2023 Hamas terrorist attacks was that it effectively exposed the group’s extremism for the entire world to see. This resulted in widespread condemnation from all political directions and numerous high-profile resignations from the group. Such scrutiny should be leveled against every individual and organization affiliated with the Progressive International, and their institutional funders.

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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