On History: Tariq Ali and Oliver Stone in Coversation

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Published by Haymarket Books, 2011

In working together on two challenging new documentaries—South of the Border and the forthcoming 13-part, 13-hour Untold History of the United States series for Showtime—filmmaker Oliver Stone engaged with author and filmmaker Tariq Ali in a probing, hard-hitting conversation on the politics of history. Their dialogue brings to light a number of forgotten—or deliberately buried—episodes of American history, from the U.S. intervention against the Russian Revolution, to the dynamic radicalism of the Wobblies, how Henry Wallace’s nomination for the vice-presidency was deliberately thwarted by Democratic Party machine insiders, to the ongoing close connections between various U.S. presidents and the Saudi royal family. For Stone and Ali—two of our most insightful observers on history and popular culture—no topic is sacred, no orthodoxy goes unchallenged.

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The Obama Syndrome

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Forthcoming from Verso, October 2010

A merciless dissection of Obama’s overseas escalation and domestic retreat …

What has really changed since Bush left the White House? Very little, argues Ali in The Obama Syndrome, apart from the mood music. The hopes aroused during Obama’s election campaign have rapidly receded. Following the financial crisis, the “reform” president bailed out Wall Street without getting anything in return. With Democratic Party leaders and representatives bought by the lobbying system, the healthcare reform bill was quickly eviscerated, public education delivered to the market and the big banks rewarded with light-touch regulation. Abroad, the “war on terror” continues: torture on a daily basis in Bagram, Iraq indefinitely occupied, Israel permanently appeased, and more troops and drone attacks in Af-Pak than under Bush. Obama’s failures are paving the way for a Republican surge, while his own  …

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Night of the Golden Butterfly

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Published by Verso, 2010

The final volume in Tariq Ali’s acclaimed cycle of historical novels, The Islam Quintet

Night of the Golden Butterfly concludes the Islam Quintet—Tariq Ali’s much lauded series of historical novels, translated into more than a dozen languages, that has been twenty years in the writing. Completing an epic panorama that began in fifteenth-century Moorish Spain, the latest novel moves between the cities of the twenty-first century, from Lahore to London, from Paris to Beijing. The narrator is rung one morning and reminded that he owes a debt of honour. The creditor is Mohammed Aflatun—known as Plato—an irascible but gifted painter living in a Pakistan where “human dignity has become a wreckage.” Plato, who once specialized in stepping back into the limelight, now wants his life story written.

As the tale unravels we meet Plato’s  …

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Islam Quintet

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Reviews: The Walrus, Socialist Review, The National

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The Protocols of the Elders of Sodom

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Published by Verso, 2009

Provocative and witty essays on the giants of world literature

Written over the last four decades, these provocative essays and diary entries explore the links between literature, history and politics. Training a critical, imaginative and occasionally a satirical eye on the works of varied writers—including Cervantes, Tolstoy, Proust, Joyce, Musil, Roth, Powell, Platonov, Solzhenitsyn, Grossman, Munif, Goytisolo and Rushdie—Ali discusses common themes as well as polarities, first impressions and re-readings, always seeking to contextualize the text in the political and historical milieu of its creation. Inviting the reader to share in the frustrations and pleasures of world literature and showcasing Ali’s range and polemical verve, this collection will be sure to attract critical attention and a wide readership.

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Read an extract here

Reviews: The Independent,

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The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power

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Published by Scribner, 2008

Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world. It is the only Islamic state to have nuclear weapons. Its border with Afghanistan extends over one thousand miles and is the likely hideout of Osama bin Laden. It has been under military dictatorship for thirty-three of its fiftyyear existence. Yet it is the linchpin in the United States’ war on terror, receiving over $10 billion of American aid since 2001 and purchasing more than $5 billion of U.S. weaponry in 2006 alone.

These days, relations between the two countries are never less than tense. Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf reported that U.S. deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage threatened to “bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age” if it did not commit fully to the alliance in the wake of 9/11. Presidential hopeful Barack  …

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The Assassination

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Published by Seagull, 2008

Also published by Seagull: The Leopard and the FoxA Banker for All Seasons,Conversations with Edward Said

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A Banker for All Seasons: Crooks and Cheats Inc.

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Published by Seagull, 2007

During the late seventies and eighties a new logo began to jostle for space with the more traditional landmarks on high streets throughout Britain. It was the badge of a remarkable Third World Bank…the BCCI (Bank of Credit and Commerce International). BCCI soon became a global corporate empire with former US Presidents, ex-British Prime Ministers and a range of dictators on its payroll, all helping with promoting the company. Tariq Ali was the first public voice to warn that the Bank was not all it seemed to be. Indeed, many of its own employees called BCCI the “Bank of Crooks and Cheats Incorporated”. Some political analysts also predicted the company’s collapse. The Bank finally imploded amidst a welter of scandal. This revealing screenplay presents an account of the rise and fall of the Bank  …

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The Leopard and the Fox

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Published by Seagull, 2007

The BBC commissioned Tariq Ali to write a three-part TV series on the circumstances leading to the overthrow, trial and execution of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the first elected Prime Minister of Pakistan. As rehearsals were about to begin, the BBC hierarchy—under pressure from the Foreign Office—decided to cancel the project. Why? General Zia ul Haq, the dictator at the time, was leading the jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. He was backed by the USA. According to expert legal opinion, there was a possibility of a whole range of defamation suits from the head of state to judges involved in the case. In consequence, it was decided not to broadcast this hard-hitting and provocative play. The Leopard and the Fox presents both the script and the story of censorship.

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Pirates of the Caribbean

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Published by Verso, 2006 (new and updated edition 2008)

A fiery polemic on Latin America’s challenge to US-led neoliberalism

The Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela has brought Hugo Chávez to world attention as the foremost challenger of the neoliberal consensus and American foreign policy. Drawing on first-hand experience of Venezuela and meetings with Chávez, Tariq Ali shows how Chávez’s views have polarized Latin America and examines the hostility directed against his administration. Contrasting the Cuban and Venezuelan revolutionary processes, Ali discusses the enormous influence of Fidel Castro on Chávez, President of Bolivia Evo Morales and, in this fully updated edition, the newly elected President of Ecuador Rafael Correa, the latest addition to the “Axis of Hope.” Infused with references to the culture and poetry of South America, Pirates of the Caribbean guides us through a world divided between privilege and poverty,  …

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From the archive

  • Tariq Ali: In Ankara

    June 26, 2013

    How it changes. When I was in Istanbul last April the mood was sombre. Even the most ebullient of friends were downcast. The latent hostility to the regime was always present, but the AKP’s hegemony, I was told many times, went deep. Erdo?an was a reptile, cynical but clever and not averse to quoting the odd verse from Nâz?m Hikmet, the much-loved communist poet imprisoned by Atatürk. The poet had escaped in a boat and been rescued by a Soviet tanker. ‘Can you prove you’re Hikmet,’ the captain asked him. He laughed and pointed to a poster in the captain’s cabin which had his photograph on it. He died in Moscow in 1963. His remains are still in exile.

    Talk now was of food (the exquisite wafer-thin pizzas from the Syrian border) or the delights of children produced in middle  …

  • Tariq Ali’s speech at the National Demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

    August 13, 2014

    Here is a video of Tariq Ali’s speech at the largest UK demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

  • ‘America’s selective vigilantism will make as many enemies as friends’

    September 6, 2011

    ‘America’s selective vigilantism will make as many enemies as friends’ by Tariq Ali for the Guardian, September 6 2011

    “Sovereign is he who decides on the exception,” Carl Schmitt wrote in different times almost a century ago, when European empires and armies dominated most continents and the United States was basking beneath an isolationist sun. What the conservative theorist meant by “exception” was a state of emergency, necessitated by serious economic or political cataclysms, that required a suspension of the constitution, internal repression and war abroad.

    A decade after the attentats of 9/11, the US and its European allies are trapped in a quagmire. The events of that year were simply used as a pretext to remake the world and to punish those states that did not comply. And today while the  …

  • Tariq Ali’s speech at the National Demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

    August 13, 2014

    Here is a video of Tariq Ali’s speech at the largest UK demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

  • ‘This is the real outrage’

    February 13, 2006

    ‘This is the real outrage’ by Tariq Ali for The Guardian, February 13, 2006

    Amid the cartoon furore, Danish imams ignore the tragedies suffered by Muslims across the world

    The latest round of culture wars does neither side any good. The western civilisational fundamentalists insist on seeing Muslims as the other—different, alien and morally evil. Jyllands-Posten published the cartoons in bad faith. Their aim was not to engage in debate but to provoke, and they succeeded. The same newspaper declined to print caricatures of Jesus. I am an atheist and do not know the meaning of the “religious pain” that is felt by believers of every cast when what they believe in is insulted. I am not insulted by billions of Christians, Muslims and Jews believing there is a God and praying to this nonexistent deity on a  …