Michael Brooks and the International Left

Since I aim to be a well-rounded political thinker, I consume political media and commentary across the left-right spectrum. Recently, one of my favorite hosts, Michael Brooks, a progressive political commentator, has died due to medical complications. On his YouTube podcast, "The Michael Brooks Show," he hosted panels that brought to light many human rights violations around the world that I worked on for International Bridges to Justice. However, the content he produced was not necessarily scholarly or intensely cerebral, often he would engage in political satire aimed at Dave Rubin, Ben Shapiro, and other YouTube personalities to his right. Through his comedy, Michael emphasized that society should not be organized around seeking profits, but promoting human welfare. Michael Brooks was an example of a new generation of international leftists. As a thirty-six year old he was not as deeply impacted by the Red Scare and the Cold War as older generations, hence, the stigma of the term "socialism" was likely not as strong during his upbringing as it had been in the past for older Americans. After the fall of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall, there was a sentiment around the globe that the far-left had failed in its mission. The 1990s and early 2000s were characterized by center-left politicians, including, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, drifting to the right and ushering in a period of global free markets, characterized by free trade agreements like NAFTA. For many, this signified the end of international socialism.

Although I appreciated many of Michael Brook's critiques of United States unilateralism in the foreign policy context, his concern about environmental issues, and some of his other opinions; the flaws (or complications) in his ideology seemed apparent to me overtime. There is one question on the famous (but problematic) Political Compass Test that I think elicits a major weakness on the far-left that I would like to explore in this blog post. To paraphrase, the question prompts the test taker to answer whether people are more divided by nationality or class. Marxists would argue that answer is obvious: class-consciousness and class-struggle can and will transcend borders and cultural identities to establish international socialism. To some extent, this Marxist prediction did play out in the Cold War Era; the Soviet Union, the leader of the socialist bloc, did have expansionist geo-political aims in east Asia (specifically, Vietnam and Korea) and the Middle East. On the other hand, this never really lead to the crumbling of national borders or international unification the way that some Marxists may have predicted. Socialist countries in the 20th century such as the Soviet Union, China, and Venezuela did not transcend national identity, in fact, the revolutions in the Soviet Union and China were fueled by nationalism. Russian and Chinese workers did not forget they were Russian or Chinese rather socialism became integrated into their national identities as opposed to displacing them. I suppose some Marxists may claim the weaknesses of capitalism, including, work exploitation, income inequality, uneven economic development, etc. will become so grotesque at some point that workers of the world will overcome their current inhibitions to unite in future. Nonetheless, there does not seem to be a viable path to this outcome.

Moreover, rather taking a single distinct form, socialism varied based on culture, Maoism famously departed from Soviet communism in several ways. At times, Michael Brooks seemed to make this same miscalculation as socialist thinkers in the past. Far-left theories, particularly those that delineate a central planning model (which coincides with a price-planning commission) have numerous problems, including, incentive problems for workers, shortage and surplus problems, investment problems (based on what is valuable in the economy) etc., however, it will be interesting to see if in the future the left continues to abandon internationalism and tries to counteract the wave of right-wing populism with a competing view of what it means to be a citizen of a nation. 

Now I need to address some house-keeping matters. My expungement piece is being edited. I do not have a date for when I plan publish it, but this will be the first platform I intend to publish it on. The paper does not strike me as something that would fit well in a periodical or a journal (it is scholarly and short), but I think the message conveyed in the paper is essential, so still want to come forward with it soon.