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Posts Tagged ‘Tariq Ali

Tariq Ali and Syria.

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Highgate Sage Ali Speaks on Syria.

In his latest foray (LLB 28th of August)  Tariq summed up the Syrian situation,

The aim of the ‘limited war’ as set out by the United States and its European vassals is simple. The Syrian regime was slowly re-establishing its control over the country against the opposition armed by the West and its tributary states in the region (Saudi Arabia and Qatar). This situation required correction. The opposition in this depressing civil war needed to be strengthened militarily and psychologically.

The present war is essentially driven by anti-Iranian forces,

Ever since the war and occupation of Iraq, the Arab world has been divided between Sunni and Shia components. Backing the targeting of Syria are two old friends: Saudi Arabia and Israel. Both want the regime in Iran destroyed. The Saudis for factional reasons, the Israelis because they’re desperate to exterminate Hizbullah. That’s the endgame they have in sight and Washington, after resisting for a bit, is playing ball again. Bombing Syria is the first step.

In lines that may well have been an attempt to rival Dean Swift he outlined the position of the United Kingdom,

It’s foolish to get too worked up about Britain. It’s a vassal state, de facto governed by a National Government that includes Parliamentary Labour. Its political parties have accepted permanently situating themselves in the ‘posterior of the White House’. Cameron was gung-ho for a war some months ago. When the US went cold on the idea, Downing Street shut up. Now they’re back in action with little Ed saying that he backs the war ‘reluctantly’, the most pathetic of positions. Conservative backbenchers are putting up a stiffer resistance. Will more Tories vote against than Labour? We shall see.

Ali described how his position evolved until September 2012 as follows (in Counterpunch),

From the very beginning, I have openly and publicly supported the popular uprising against the family-run Baathist outfit that rules Damascus.


But, as in Egypt, once the euphoria of the uprising and its success in getting rid of a hated despot evaporates, politics emerge. What is the strongest political force in Syrian politics today?  Who would be the largest party in parliament when free elections take place? Probably the Muslim Brothers and in that case the experience will be educative since neo-liberalism and the US alliance are the corner-stone of the Turkish model that Morsi and other colleagues in the region seek to emulate. For half of the last century, Arab nationalists, socialists, communists and others were locked in a battle with the Muslim Brothers for hegemony in the Arab world. We may not like it (and I certainly don’t), but that battle has been won by the Brotherhood. Their future will depend on their ability to deliver social change. The Egyptian and Syrian working class have played a huge part in both uprisings. Will they tolerate neo-liberal secularism or Islamism for too long?

His conclusion?

A NATO intervention would install a semi-puppet government. As I argued in the case of Libya once NATO entered the fray: whoever wins the people will lose. It would be the same in Syria. On this I am in total accord with the statement of the Syrian Local Coordinating Committeespublished on 29 August 2011.

What will happen if the present situation continues? An ugly stalemate. The model that comes to mind is Algeria after the military, backed strongly by France and its Western allies, intervened to stop the second round of an election in which the FIS were going to win. This resulted in an attritional civil war with mass atrocities carried out by both sides while the masses retreated to an embittered passivity.

This is why I continue to insist that even at this late stage a negotiated solution is the best possible way to get rid of Assad and his henchmen. Pressure from Teheran, Moscow and Beijing might help achieve this sooner than the military posturing of Sultan Erdogan, his Saudi allies and their surrogates in Syria.

ln criticising this position. the Syrian Leftist site, Syrian Freedom for Ever, claimed that,

TARIQ ALI says we are witnessing in Syria a new form of re-colonisation by the West, like we have already seen in Iraq and in Libya.

Many of the people who first rose against the Assad regime in Syria have been sidelined, leaving the Syrian people with limited choices, neither of which they want: either a Western imposed regime, “composed of sundry Syrians who work for the western intelligence agencies”, or the Assad regime.

The only way forward, in the interests of all Syrians, says Ali, is negotiation and discussion. But it is now obvious that the West is not going to let that happen because they are backing the opposition groups who are against any negotiation.”

What remains of this at present?

With greater confidence Ali now observes,

Every single Western intervention in the Arab world and its surrounds has made the conditions worse. The raids being planned by the Pentagon and its subsidiaries in Nato are likely to follow the same pattern.

After praising Boris Yeltsin as a democratic  socialist (1) , and voting Liberal Democrat in the 2005 General Election (2), Tariq Ali is famed on the left for his canny nose for the Zeitgeist.

That is, his capacity for getting things completely wrong.

The Morsi outcome could be classed in the thick file of Ali’s efforts in this direction.

Now that said many of us will find that Ali’s geopolitical analysis fairly convincing (Robert Fisk says as much).

That he was wrong about the British Parliament and Labour’s willingness to defy Washington puts him the company of thousands, to no disgrace.

Vassals, little Ed, posteriors, and pathetic as they all may be, they didn’t act in the predicted way.

They may continue to show some independence, though this is less certain.

But there is not a word in Ali’s analysis about the fate of the Syrian democrats opposed to Assad.

Or how any democratic forces can be supported.

Not a dicky bird.

That really sticks in the craw.

(1)Ali’s Revolution From Above: Where Is the Soviet Union Going? (1988) is also dedicated to Yeltsin, whose  “political courage has made him an important symbol throughout the country.”

(2) “In the tightly fought battle for the Hornsey and Wood Green constituency, the Liberal Democrats have received the support of prominent writer and film maker Tariq Ali, who says he will be backing the party in the forthcoming General Election. Mr Ali, who lives in the constituency, is a long-time critic of the Government over the war in Iraq.” (Here) The Liberal Lynne Featherstone, won the constituency,

Written by Andrew Coates

September 9, 2013 at 11:55 am

Joseph Anton. A Memoir. Salman Rushdie. A Secularist Review.

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Joseph Anton. A Memoir. Salman Rushdie. Jonathan Cape. 2012.

In early September demonstrations against the video The Innocence of Muslims, took place across the world. Wednesday the 19th of the month saw the French leftist satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo published, to more protests, caricatures of Mohammed.

Two days later, Tahar Ben Jelloun argued, in Le Monde (21.9.12) against any concessions to Islamist inspired rage. He began by asking why Islam seemed so fragile that fiction, cartoons, or a bad film, His answer was the some Moslem countries encouraged this reaction to stave off creating states based on individual rights. Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses was the template for this strategy. It been used by the Iranian regime to quash any criticism of Islam, and to cement an “appartence absolue à la communité” (absolute adhesion to the community). Jelloun had no time for the provocations of Charlie. Yet he recommended ignoring them, and turning to the transcendental spirit of Islam.

Tareq Oubrou, the Rector of the Bordeaux Mosque, wrote on the same Le Monde Débats page, even more clearly against those who wished to suppress ‘blasphemy’. “La liberté de conscience et d’expression est un aquis occidental incontesté et incontenstable. Une avancée et un progrès philosophical-moral réels de notre humanité.” – Freedom of speech and conscience are established, unchallenged, and indisputable facts in the West. This is a step forward and real moral and philosophical progress for humanity”. Oubrou did not just repeat the standard argument (even sued by some Islamists, in the absence of a state ruled by the Sharia) that Muslims should submit to French law. All criticism of writing and art should be within their own terms, “La critique d’art se fait par l’art, la philosophie par la philosophie, and les idées par les idées.”

On the publication of Salman Rushdie’s Joseph Anton, at the end that Month Le Monde put the author on the front page followed by a long, respectful, article/interview. It dealt with Rushdie’s criticisms of “Actually Existing Islam” as well as the Satanic Verses and the Khomeini Fatwa that has marked his life.

The present work does not neglect this political-religious theme, “During the worst excesses of Soviet Communism…Western Marxists had tried to distance ‘actually existing Socialism’ from the True Faith, Karl Marx’s vision of equality and justice.” Now, with Communism’s faults there for all to see, “it was no longer possible to believe in a True Faith untainted by the crimes of the real world.” Yet, “as Islamic states forged new tyrannies, and justified many horrors in the name of God, a similar separation was being made by Muslims; so there was the ‘actually existing Islam’ of the bloody theocracies and there was the True Faith of peace and love.” (Page 356) The crisis is profound, and cannot be wished away by this appeal, Rushdie says, “something was eating away at the faith of his grandfather, corroding or corrupting it, making it an ideology of narrowness and intolerance, banning books, persecuting thinkers, erecting absolutions, turning dogma with which to beat the undogmatic. That thing needed to be fought and to fight it one had to name it and the only name that fitted was Islam.”(Pages 356-7) Read the rest of this entry »

Tariq Ali, Norfolk Squire, Defends Assange: New Way Out Emerges.

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Ali: Now defends Droit du seigneur for Assange.

The Guardian says,

Assange addressed around 100 well-wishers, with supporters including Tariq Ali and former British ambassador Craig Murray making speeches from the street.

Ellingham Hall where Julian Assange lived before his present dramatic escapade, is a ‘Hide’ , in Suffolk terms, a Gemoot or ‘hiding.’

This gave the advanced thinker of Highgate a few ideas.

Comrade Tariq Ali is now prepared to offer,  generously,  Julian Assange the right to be Lord of the Manor in His Norfolk domains.

This will make Julian Assange safe from prosecution under British law.

Under Tariq’s unique jurisdiction it is understood that the Droit du seigneur continues.

Tariq also wrote this moving poem,

Patience exhausted

Tired, Ô  so tired!

The questing mole slowly wandered from the splashing mist

To tell us what was right and why.

You spoke loudly and clearly,

Each leek a leak!

Assange Thou Hast Great Allies!

Written by Andrew Coates

August 20, 2012 at 12:36 pm

The Obama Syndrome. Tariq Ali. Review.

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The Obama Syndrome. Surrender at Home, War Abroad. Tariq Ali. Verso 2010.

In January 2010 Tariq Ali wrote, “A year since the White House changed hands, how has the American empire altered?” (New Left Review ll. 61) In The Obama Syndrome, the author begins his second chapter with the words, “Two years since the White House changed hands, how has American empire altered?” (Page 35) *  The nature of American power, and its world-wide impact  is a defining political issue of our age. This alone is a good reason to look seriously at Ali’s reply to the question. That he writes fluently and – to this non-American at least – knowledgeably about the subject is a bonus. A lot less  appealing are his ‘anti-imperialist’ alternatives, beginning with Islamist-inspired ‘resistances’.

Does Ali’s “preliminary report” on the first 1,000 days of Obama’s presidency help us understand the nature of this global player? The unfolding Egyptian drama, and Washington’s response to the revolt, indicate the character, and the limits, of US domination. Obama’s predecessors brought Cairo under its wing and shored up Mubarak’s authoritarian regime. Will the President facilitate or obstruct a transition from the rule of the Raïs to a viable democracy? Whose interests, and what parties, will he promote? Will they permit an independent democratic left-leaning and secular force to develop? ? Can we expect to see that something has really changed in the White House? Why would we even consider the question? The Obama Syndrome opens, and concludes, on these issues of power.

Happy-Days Are Here Again.

Barack Obama’s election as President of the United States was greeted, with a “wave of ideological euphoria not seen since the days of Kennedy.” (Ibid) A broad cross-section of the domestic and international “mainstream centre and left believed that the White House had been liberated, by a “mixed-race Democrat”, from a “coterie of right-wing fanatics.” The President’s wife was of slave ancestry. His victory was widely seen as a posthumous victory for the Civil Rights movement, one of the country’s greatest campaigns of social justice. Post these heady times, and after The Obama Syndrome went to press, mid-term elections indicate the survival and revival of the hard-line right. But still the memory of Obama’s triumph glows in many progressive Americans’ minds. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew Coates

February 11, 2011 at 11:41 am

Posted in Imperialism, Iran, Islamism, Obama

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Review: The Idea of Communism. Tariq Ali.

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Not a Totem?

Review: The Idea of Communism. Tariq Ali. Verso. 2009.

Tariq Ali has not published a memorable, well-researched or even well written book, (in comparison with his The Duel, 2008, on Pakistan and Afghanistan).

 This is more than immediately apparent in the present work. The opening pages of The Idea of Communism are full of confusing metaphors and allusions.

We are bombarded with Communist spiders, a vision of capitalism  as a nervous disease, the triumph of liberal market states, when “utopia, together with all notions of collective activity and its misshapen Communist children, was buried safely in the family vaults..”. To cap it we learn of the Flying Machine of the Tailor of Ulm…

For Tariq Ali “the idea of ‘Communism’ grew out of the need to challenge wage-slavery of workers during industrial capitalism of the nineteenth and twentieth century”. From Europe and North America as wage slavery spread, resistance to it developed – the twin sides of the “first wave of globalisation”. It was the analysis of this process, of its “longue durée”, that Marx and Engels offered. “Because of its lasting value, it will last as long as the planet”.


The Idea of Communism does not seriously develop from this point on. It  is not so much an exploration of Communism, as an account (cobbled together from historical insights of varying quality, and his own published writings of decades past ) of the fate of one type of Communism. This begins with the Communist Manifesto (1848) and concludes, as the “light is dim” with a call for “new forms” of combat “between the possessors and the disposed.”

It ends with  William Morris’s A Dream of John Ball (1888) Where “fellowship shall be established in heaven and on the earth” completes the elegiac tone. An unfortunate reference. Perhaps Ali imagines himself as the Lancelot in Morris’s The Defence of Guenevere (1858). Mounted on the “roan charger” who comes to rescue Communism “at good need”.

The history of the “idea” of communism the short book is not. That is, there is nothing about pre-capitalist communist utopians, the communism of Moses Mendelson, Wilhelm Weitling and Étienne Cabet, anarchist communism, or contemporary communist thinkers such as Michael Hardt and Toni Negri. It restricts the “idea” of communism to an Platonic Ideal, discovered by Marx and Engels. Nor does it explain its Ali’s claim that as long as capitalism exists so will a communist challenge. It never specifies why resistance to markets and private property have to be communist as such (Interview here, rhetoric in full flow here).

The pages contain an account of the views of “Communism’s founding fathers”, Marx and Engels, their appropriation by the leaders of the October Revolution, and a balance-sheet of that event and its consequences for today’s left.

How far this is successful, in its own terms, is debatable.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew Coates

March 21, 2010 at 11:39 am