In his short life, Michael Brooks, became legendary on the left for his ability to say often exactly what needed to be said when it needed to be said.
But he also possessed an even more conspicuous ability to get his guests to do the same.
Here is Vivek Chibber of NYU on Brooks’s final show saying one of the things we very much need to be hearing now:
(Jacobin Weekend 7/18/2020, 55:00-58:00 Very lightly edited.)
“By the 70s and 80s, what happens is that the trade union movement is decimated (as are the communist and socialist parties) and the left is reduced to certain individuals in certain places who have certain values, almost all coming from the middle class. And there’s only one place left for them to go and that’s the university. When they go into the university they thought they were on an island (like Survivor), and they would subsist on that island and gather their forces and come back out when conditions were better.
“What they did not fully understand and many of them refuse to admit, this is not an island. Universities have a class and an institutional context. Universities are mainly a place where professionals come for upward mobility. And when you put a bunch of socialists and Marxists in universities and you give them university jobs, they are going to sooner or later start internalizing the aspirations, ambitions and goals of university life. Which is upward mobility not organizing.
“Even if they want to organize, how are they going to do it? You’re sitting in a fucking classroom. You’re imagining what you’re going to do if you ever start organizing and 15 to 20 years into it, who have you been recruiting into your organization? Grad students. People who want to get jobs for themselves, people who see things that are problematic but who, as their numbers increase, the odds are that what they’re pissed off about is what they’re not getting.
“And so you turn from an anticapitalist left to an anti-discrimination left. And the left today is fundamentally an anti-discrimination left. What does that mean? It wants to remove restrictions from upward mobility. That’s its fundamental goal. it is so structurally and institutionally removed from people who are manual laborers, blue collar laborers, who work for wages and a living, it’s very hard for them to conceptualize what that world is, they don’t instinctively care about it.
“And so the left today, the university left, has no interest in organizing beyond itself. The level of contempt and paternalism and condemnation that I’ve seen for working people, you literally have to come in and fill out a form to be deemed worthy of being supported.
This is the basket of deplorables. It’s not just Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton is just the more visible end of the progressive intelligensia. It’s the go to position, you go to any meeting of the left today, how do we deal with the working classes’ conservatism, their X, their Y, and how do we teach them.
“The position of declassé intellectuals for 120 years was our job was to learn about their conditions and make ourselves relevant to them.
The position of the left now is how do they become worthy of us.”