How Vladimir Putin became evil

Once again, it seems that Russia and the United States are finding it difficult to agree on how to deal with their respective ambitions. This clash of interests is highlighted by the Ukrainian crisis. The provocation in this particular instance, as the leaked recording of a US diplomat, Victoria Nuland, saying “Fuck the EU” suggests, came from Washington.

Several decades ago, at the height of the cold war, George Kennan, a leading American foreign policy strategist invited to give the Reith Lectures, informed his audience: “There is, let me assure you, nothing in nature more egocentric than embattled democracy. It soon becomes the victim of its own propaganda. It then tends to attach to its own cause an absolute value which distorts its own vision … Its enemy becomes the embodiment of all evil. Its own side is the centre  …

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Stuart Hall’s message to those who want change

It is the way our sympathy flows and recoils that really determines our lives. This opening sentence from Stuart Hall’s 1960 review of Lady Chatterley’s Lover belongs to DH Lawrence. The critic had unearthed it from deep inside the novel. It could serve as an epitaph for Stuart himself. His own sympathies and aversions played a huge part in determining his political makeup. It is not easy to sum up what he leaves behind in a few words. Soon, one hopes, that the conversation his colleague and friend, Bill Schwartz had been conducting with him over several years will be edited and published in book form.

He was, first and foremost, a political person. Politics mattered to him and enabled him to develop his skills as a mesmerising orator.

He was a 1956-er. The twin crises that erupted that year  …

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Pakistan’s future is tied to the Taliban

Twelve years ago, a few weeks into the occupation of Afghanistan, I suggested (in these pages) that the euphoria aroused by an easy conquest was misplaced. It would be a long war and one of its side effects would be to seriously destabilise Pakistan. Unfortunately, events have not contradicted the analysis. The spillover into Pakistan has been creating havoc for years. The view that this has nothing to do with Afghanistan is too shallow to deserve serious consideration.

It’s no secret that, since 9/11, successive governments –Musharraf, Zardari and now the Sharif brothers – have agreed to US drone attacks and been aware of covert CIA operations being carried out in Pakistan. Opinion polls, however, reveal that a large majority of Pakistani citizens are opposed to US policies. The capitulation of liberal secular parties to Washington left the field wide  …

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Tariq Ali interviews John Lennon on revolution and politics

In this fascinating interview conducted for Red Mole, Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn interview John Lennon at his home, discussing Lennon’s political beliefs and ideological attitude. Tariq Ali remembered their meeting for the Guardian, 30 years after Lennon’s assassination, this week in 1980.

The day after the interview he rang me and said he had enjoyed it so much that he’d written a song for the movement, which he then proceeded to sing down the line: Power to the People. The events in Derry on Bloody Sunday angered him greatly and he subsequently suggested that he wished to march on the next Troops Out demonstration on Ireland, and did so, together with Yoko Ono, wearing Red Mole T-shirts and holding the paper high. Its headline was: “For the IRA, Against British Imperialism”.’

The full transcript of the interview can be  …

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The Faces of Maoism

The recent Monty Python revival has come with a bizarre reminder from south London that once, long ago, there were a few tiny Maoist groups in Britain who used language that could have been cribbed from Life of Brian.

Aravindan Balakrishnan, 73, and his 67-year-old wife, Chanda – arrested last week on suspicion of holding three women as slaves in a flat for 30 years – were leaders of a tiny sect of 25 members known as the Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought, invisible to the left at large. This sect had split from its father organisation, the Communist party of England (Marxist-Leninist), which itself had less than a hundred followers. The Maoists’ antics were rivalled by a number of Trotskyist sects, smaller and larger, whose implosion often involved the mistreatment of women, and the story is by no  …

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From the archive

  • On Intervening in Syria

    August 29, 2013

    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.

    Since Obama had said chemical weapons were the ‘red line’, the weapons were bound to come into play. Cui prodest? as the Romans used to inquire. Who profits? Clearly, not the Syrian regime.

    Several weeks ago, two journalists from Le Monde had already discovered chemical weapons. The question is: if they were used, who used them? The Obama administration and its camp followers would like us to believe that Assad permitted UN chemical weapons  …

  • ‘Poet of the Punjab’ – Fatima Bhutto reviews Night of the Golden Butterfly

    April 23, 2010

    Night of the Golden Butterfly reviewed by Fatima Bhutto for the New Statesman, April 23, 2010

    If Pakistan is a land of untold stories, whispered conspiracy theories and closed-door mutinies, then thank heavens for Tariq Ali, whose access to its innermost secret chambers has made him the country’s finest historian and critic.

    Night of the Golden Butterfly is the fifth and final volume of Ali’s Islam quintet. His intricate historical novels have spanned the Moors in Spain, the Ottoman empire, medieval car-tographers in Palermo and the battle for Jerusalem, before finally bringing us to modern-day Lahore, the cultural heart of the “Fatherland” (the name Pakistan is never mentioned), where four college students begin a friendship based on shared Marxist fantasies, a love of Punjabi poetry, irreverence and the hormonal palpitations of young love.

    The  …

  • ‘Out with the old, in with the new’

    February 7, 2005

    ‘Out with the old, in with the new’ by Tariq Ali for The Guardian, February 7, 2005

    The Iraqi elections were designed not to preserve the unity of Iraq but to re-establish the unity of the west

    The US, unlike the empires of old Europe, has always preferred to exercise its hegemony indirectly. It has relied on local relays – uniformed despots, corrupt oligarchs, pliant politicians, obedient monarchs – rather than lengthy occupations. It was only when rebellions from below threatened to disrupt this order that the marines were dispatched and wars fought.

    During the cold war, money was supplied indiscriminately to all anti-communist forces (including the current leadership of al-Qaida); the 21st-century recipients are more carefully targeted. The aim is slowly to replace the traditional elites in the old satrapies with a new breed of neo-liberal politicians  …