Socialist Internationalism


Weekly People
Vol. 85 No. 5
Saturday, May 3, 1975
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Socialist Internationalism

Ever since Karl Marx and Frederick Engels gave voice to the interests of the proletariat over a century ago, the socialist working-class movement has been recognized as an internationalist one. Despite an era of the most intense imperialist, nationalist and chauvinist conflicts, despite the failures of repeated attempts to forge organizational unity in the now defunct Internationals, this spirit of internationalism remains alive wherever workers raise the banner of revolutionary socialism.

It remains alive because the internationalist nature of the socialist movement has its roots in the common oppression experienced by all laboring classes and in the international character of the capitalist system itself. "Capitalism is international; so is socialism to be," Daniel De Leon once wrote, adding elsewhere, "There are but two nations in the world today -- the capitalist class nation, which exploits and lives upon the sweat of the brow of the working class nation, the sweat of whose brow, through unrequited toil, feeds, clothes, houses and fattens the capitalist class nation."

Why is internationalism such a vital part of the socialist movement? Perhaps most important among the answers is that working-class internationalism is a powerful antidote for some of capitalism's most vicious and virulent ideologies, including racism, divisive nationalism and chauvinism of all kinds. A clear view of the communality of interests of oppressed classes throughout the world provides a powerful bulwark against the bellicose, chauvinist propaganda which issues daily from ruling-class sources. Recognition of the interest all exploited peoples have in ending the systems of class rule which dominate the world is a large step toward exposing and withdrawing support from the imperialist and nationalist aims of their respective ruling classes.

Internationalism is also an excellent touchstone for gauging the real aims of any labor movement. Who can mistake the corrupt anti-labor nature of outfits like the AFL-CIO when they are seen helping the CIA overthrow popular governments, waging the ruling-class propaganda of "cold war" and serving at every opportunity the imperialist aims of the capitalist class? Understanding labor's internationalist interests helps brand such support for imperialism as direct opposition to working-class interests. The need for a new international order has become so imperative that it is making itself felt everywhere. Even though the calls for "international cooperation" and "interdependence" are being used by ruling-class representatives to mask their pursuit of material interests, they reflect an inescapable awareness of the global scope of nearly every major social problem.

But reorganizing and developing the world's productive forces to solve these problems, to feed its people, to protect its environment and to put an end to class oppression and human misery, are tasks only an international socialist order can meet. Socialist internationalism realizes, of course, that each country's working-class movement must adapt itself to the conditions peculiar to the particular country. It also realizes that demonstrable signs of internationalist ties between various working classes can surface only in proportion to the growth of the socialist movement in each country.

Given the current weakness of socialist forces, particularly in the industrialized capitalist nations of the West, overt signs of internationalism are infrequent. Additionally, other elements, notably the Communist parties, have tried to bend the internationalist spirit of workers to the service of various ruling-class foreign policies, notably those of the Soviet Union.

But because the overthrow of capitalist class rule and a socialist reconstruction of society remain the sole solution for the working classes of the world, the resurgence of internationalism is inevitable. For the internationalist spirit will grow step by step with the march of the workers of the world toward a socialist future.