Socialism 101: Why are socialists internationalists?

By Darragh O’Dwyer

Climate catastrophe, wars, pandemics and wealth inequality – these are global problems that all cry out for global solutions. The world is faced with multiple and interlinked crises, all of which are the by-product of the economic, social and political order that rules our planet; capitalism. The internationalism of socialists stems from our understanding that there needs to be an international struggle of workers, young people and the oppressed to end this system. Ultimately, socialism is international, or it is nothing. 

A global system 

While any given country will have distinct characteristics they all form part of an indivisible world economy. As capitalism took hold as the dominant economic system through a blood-soaked process of colonial plunder and dispossession, it bound the world together through trade and commerce. Marx wrote in the Communist Manifesto: “In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal interdependence of nations.” 

Recent events have shown just how true that remains today. The blockage of the Suez Canal was a sore reminder for many capitalists that 12% of global trade passes through the route annually; the war in Ukraine has disrupted food production and exports, driving up prices across the world. 

We need to have a scientific understanding of the system we are fighting if we want to develop a program and strategy to overthrow it. That’s why socialists look at things through a world perspective. To put it simply, we cannot grasp events in one country without first beginning from a global analysis. 

Working class struggle is international 

The development of industry and the penetration of capitalism into every corner of the planet, also gave birth to an international working class. 

The most class conscious workers have always understood that an injury to one is an injury to all regardless of gender, ethnicity or nationality. History is full of examples of inspiring solidarity action across borders. In the 1970s, Scottish workers at Rolls Royce refused to service the engines of the ex-RAF jets used by the brutal Pinochet dictatorship; from 1984-1987 Dunnes Stores workers in Dublin, predominantly young women, took strike action refusing to handle goods from apartheid South Africa. 

Today, new technology and social media contributes to an even greater internationalist consciousness, particularly amongst young people. The murder of George Floyd ignited a social rebellion in the US but quickly spread to every continent; similarly the climate strikes led by school students, which saw a coordinated day of strike action by 7 million in 2019; the new global feminist wave likewise shares lessons, slogans and tactics – the attack on Roe vs. Wade in the US has generated an outpouring of solidarity from workers and youth across the world. 

A system built on competition 

However, an interconnected world is not the same as a co-operative one. Contrary to the internationalism of the working class, the capitalist class is ultimately national, in constant competition with other nation states for markets, resources and profits. We see this today with the rise of protectionism, de-globalisation and the outbreak of war. We also witnessed this in the scramble for vaccines, where rich countries bought huge reserves at the expense of poorer countries, in a race to reopen economies before their competitors.

What’s more, as many young people are now instinctively aware, the climate crisis requires an international solution. Like many of the horrors generated by capitalism – poverty, disease, hunger – there is no solution on a mere national basis. Only through the development of an international plan of production and distribution, where the wealth, resources, technology and knowledge are organised on a rational and co-operative basis, can catastrophe be averted and humanity flourish and reach its full potential. 

An international struggle

That may sound utopian, but, as explained above, the class struggle is international and revolution contagious. While a socialist revolution in Ireland would be an enormously positive development, its survival and consolidation would ultimately depend on revolution spreading elsewhere. Imperialist powers across the world would fight tooth and nail to sabotage any project that threatened their rule. Appeals for international action would be absolutely key in this regard, a call for workers to resist the actions of ‘their own’ ruling classes and join the revolution.

A key part of winning socialist change is organising to achieve it, in the form of a global revolutionary organisation. Malcolm X once said that “tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today” – join us to help us win the future free from capitalism that we so desperately need. 

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