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Why the workers of the world need to unite

Our world leaders are united against us—we have to be united in response
Issue 2903
Black Lives Matter racism unite

On the march to unite against racism during Black Lives Matter protests in London 2020 (pic: Guy Smallman)

What does internationalism mean to socialists? Internationalism is not just a warm and fuzzy feeling of fellowship, it’s a reason to confront capitalism. Big corporations overflow national borders and organise across continents. The global system of capitalism pumps profits and exploitation around the globe. 

Socialists defend the rights of oppressed nations. But this is part of the struggle against imperialism and colonialism, which is the mortal enemy of workers. Ruling classes push the myth of the “national interest” as a means to blunt class differences and mobilise workers in one country. At the same time, they’re pitted against their sisters and brothers in others.

Labour leader Keir Starmer’s obsession with the Union Jack, celebrating St George’s Day and acting in the “national interest” is a sickening attempt to suck up to the ruling class. But Starmer also thinks this is a way to win working class people—by tapping into gross nationalism to rally workers around “Britishness”. 

All this does is uphold the illusion that workers are on the same side as the rich company director or repressive state apparatus. This “common sense” nationalism divides us as a class. There is a much more useful strand of “common sense” that arises from our common experience of exploitation and forms of oppression. 

The logic of nationalism argues for unions to bow to employers’ needs. It says to “defend British jobs” when migrant workers come over or companies threaten to move production abroad. “British values” are also a way to “other”people—such as Muslims, migrants or refugees—who the state demonises.

For huge sections of people “patriotism” and “traditional values” really mean racism and violence. Nationalism looks to hide the crimes of the state—in Britain’s case its bloody empire. If ordinary people were taught the truth, they wouldn’t rally behind the flag and be as easier to exploit. Instead they’d stand arm in arm with the victims of the empire. On the other side stand revolutionaries, who argue for no borders, no nations and unity of working class people around the world.

We stand with oppressed people worldwide, and at the same time argue against below inflation deals with bosses and fight for real victories in every workers’ dispute. We fight for solidarity with workers and ordinary people globally. German revolutionary Karl Marx wrote in the statutes of the First International, a gathering of socialist parties, that “the emancipation of the workers is not a local, nor a national but an international problem”.

He concluded his inaugural speech to the First International with the working class’s “duty to master themselves the mysteries of international politics; to watch the diplomatic acts of their respective governments; to counteract them, if necessary, by all means in their power; when unable to prevent, to combine in simultaneous denunciations”. 

Marx ended, “The fight for such a foreign policy forms part of the general struggle for the emancipation of the working classes. Proletarians of all countries, unite!” For socialists, the anti-war movement, the struggle for open borders and migrants’ rights and the fight against the bosses at home are the same. 

We intervene in those battles because we know that the interests of our class are always with other workers, and not with our rulers. There are opportunities with huge potential to unite ordinary people and send a blow to all ruling classes. The Black Lives Matter movement spread across the world and united millions.

And now the global Palestine movement is exposing our rulers’ crimes and has the ability for immense revolutionary potential. Our world leaders and bosses are united in their oppression and murder—and we have to be united in response. Internationalism remains as important today as it was when Marx ended the Communist Manifesto in 1848 stating, “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of all countries, unite.”.

  • This is the ninth part of a series of columns that discuss What We Stand For, the Socialist Workers Party statement of principles, printed every week in Socialist Worker. For the full series go to

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