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

  • ‘This is no rah-rah revolt’

    April 25, 2006

    ‘This is no rah-rah revolt’ by Tariq Ali for The Guardian, April 25, 2006

    Nepalese have lost their fear of repression and are making a genuine, old-fashioned revolution

    There is something refreshingly old-fashioned taking place in the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal: a genuine revolution. In recognition of this, the US has told citizens except for “essential diplomats” to leave the country, usually a good sign. Since April 6, Nepal has been paralysed by a general strike called by the political parties and backed by Maoist guerrillas. Hundreds of thousands are out on the streets—several have been shot dead and more than 200 wounded. A curfew is in force and the army has been given shoot-to-kill orders.

    But the people have lost their fear and it is this that makes them invincible. If a single platoon refuses to obey  …

  • 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.

  • V40 Philosophy / Wittgenstein screening at the Tate Modern

    October 15, 2010

    In Defence of Philosophy series: Screening followed by discussion with Tariq Ali

    Friday 22 October 2010, 18.30 at the Tate Modern

    To mark 40 years of independent, radical publishing, Verso is celebrating its philosophy titles with a screening of the Tariq Ali-produced Wittgenstein, Derek Jarman’s innovative portrait of Ludwig Wittgenstein.

    A seminal thinker of the twentieth century, Wittgenstein’s revolutionary ideas have had an impact in disciplines beyond philosophy including psychology, the natural sciences, linguistics, mathematics, logic, art, religion, artificial intelligence and software design.

    Derek Jarman’s Wittgenstein was to be part of a series for Channel Four entitled The Philosophers, for which the producers had already commissioned four different scripts: Howard Brenton on Socrates, Tariq Ali on Spinoza, David Edgar on Locke, and Terry Eagleton on Wittgenstein.

    Jarman’s penultimate film is charged with lush and elegant images evoking the philosopher’s  …

  • 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.

  • Motorway Accident in Wales

    August 15, 2014

    On Wednesday I received four calls from the BBC’s Good Morning Wales.

    First morning call: was I available to be interviewed about Gaza tomorrow morning? I said yes.

    First afternoon call: could I tell them what I would say? I said (a) Israel was a rogue state, pampered and cosseted by the US and its vassals. (b) Targeting and killing Palestinian children (especially boys) and blaming the victims was an old Israeli custom. (c) The BBC coverage of Palestine was appalling and if they didn’t cut me off I would explain how and why.

    Second afternoon call: was I prepared to debate a pro-Israeli? I said yes.

    Afternoon message left on my phone: terribly sorry. There’s been a motorway crash in Wales, so we’ve decided to drop your item.

    Click here to view the LRB website.