‘Victor Kiernan: Marxist historian, writer and linguist who challenged the tenets of Imperialism’

‘Victor Kiernan’ by Tariq Ali for The Independent, February 20, 2009

Victor Kiernan, professor emeritus of Modern History at Edinburgh University, was an erudite Marxist historian with wide-ranging interests that spanned virtually every continent. His passion for history and radical politics, classical languages and world literature was evenly divided.

His interest in languages was developed at home in south Manchester. His father worked for the Manchester Ship Canal as a translator of Spanish and Portuguese and young Victor picked these up even before getting a scholarship to Manchester Grammar School, where he learnt Greek and Latin. His early love for Horace (his favourite poet) resulted in a later book. He went on to Trinity College, Cambridge where he studied History, imbibed the prevalent anti-fascist outlook and like many others joined the British Communist Party.

Unlike some  …

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‘Musharraf was rambling and impervious to tormented cries from his people’

‘Musharraf…’ by Tariq Ali for The Independent, August 19, 2008

General Pervez Musharraf acted swiftly and ruthlessly when he seized power to become Pakistan’s fourth military dictator in October 1999. He proclaimed himself Chief Executive of Pakistan. When he lost the confidence of two key board members—the United States and the Pakistan Army—majority shareholders of Pakistan plc, he realised his time had come. After a rambling, incoherent address to the nation, replete with the most puerile self-justifications, he resigned. He should have done so when his term expired, but afflicted with the power disease, his mind remained impenetrable to the tormented cries from below.

We can only speculate whether he would have lasted nine years had it not been for 9/11 and the “war on terror”. A previous dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq (1977-88), had similarly become a vital cog  …

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‘My heart bleeds for Pakistan. It deserves better than this grotesque feudal charade’

‘My heart bleeds for Pakistan…’ by Tariq Ali for The Independent, December 31, 2007

Six hours before she was executed, Mary, Queen of Scots wrote to her brother-in-law, Henry III of France: “…As for my son, I commend him to you in so far as he deserves, for I cannot answer for him.” The year was 1587.

On 30 December 2007, a conclave of feudal potentates gathered in the home of the slain Benazir Bhutto to hear her last will and testament being read out and its contents subsequently announced to the world media. Where Mary was tentative, her modern-day equivalent left no room for doubt. She could certainly answer for her son.

A triumvirate consisting of her husband, Asif Zardari (one of the most venal and discredited politicians in the country and still facing corruption charges in  …

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‘Pakistan takes yet another step into the dark night’

‘Pakistan takes yet another step into the dark night’ by Tariq Ali for The Independent, November 4, 2007

For anyone marinated in the history of Pakistan yesterday’s decision by the military to impose a state of emergency comes as no surprise. Martial law in this country has become an antibiotic: in order to obtain the same results one has to keep doubling the doses. This was a coup within a coup.

General Pervez Musharraf ruled the country with a civilian façade, but his power base was limited to the army. And it was the army Chief of Staff who declared the emergency, suspended the 1973 constitution, took all non-government TV channels off the air, jammed the mobile phone networks, surrounded the Supreme Court with paramilitary units, dismissed the Chief Justice, arrested the president of the bar association and  …

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From the archive

  • ‘Goodbye to Grosvenor Square’

    October 3, 2008

    ‘Goodbye to Grosvenor Square’ by Tariq Ali for The Guardian, October 3, 2008

    The US embassy is withdrawing from its central London fortress. If only America would quit other parts of the world it occupies

    Grosvenor Square is about to be liberated. News that the US embassy is moving to an unspecified five-acre location in south London may be good news for local residents (some of whom were renting rooms for a proper view of the rioting in 1968), but bad news for the unhealthier sections of the north London left. Till now, we could all meet happily in central London. A long march to south London is far less enticing, unless the San Francisco model of demonstrating on bikes becomes fashionable here as well.

    Of course, we could be spared all this if the United States simply  …

  • 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.

  • An Interview with Amerasia Journal

    August 1, 2007

    This interview was conducted via e-mail during the summer of 2007 by Russell Leong for Amerasia Journal, with assistance from Stephanie Santos (Amerasia Journal 33: 3; 2007)

    Amerasia (AJ:): You have written much about institutions that act as enablers or pillars of empire. How do you see the role of minority immigrants and refugees, who are intimate subjects of the empire? For example, South Asians and Muslims in England, Turks in Germany, Africans and southeast Asians in Italy, and ethnic minorities in the United States. They are first-, second-, or third-generation citizens, who are both part of but also apart from empire. What potential roles can they play in forming alternative cultural and political voices within empire?

    Ali (TA:): The narratives in this regard are multiple. No universalist response is possible. Immigrants and the countries to which they migrate are so  …

  • 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.

  • ‘Fight the power’

    April 23, 2005

    ‘Fight the power’ b y Tariq Ali for The Guardian, April 23, 2005

    It is as difficult to define or classify Islamic cinema as it would be a Christian, Jewish or Buddhist one. The language of cinema has always been universal. Interpretations vary. Censors had different priorities: in 1950s Hollywood a married couple could not share a double bed and had to be clothed. In South Asia, the censor’s scissors clipped out kisses from western films. The birth of commercial and art movies did not remain confined in the west for too long.

    The Lumière brothers first exhibited moving pictures in Paris in 1896. A year later there was a private showing at the Yildiz palace in Istanbul. The viewers consisted of the Ottoman Sultan/Caliph – the temporal and spiritual leader of Sunni Islam – and a few  …