‘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

  • Lennonisms

    February 2, 2010

    Tariq Ali on John Lennon’s politics and Power to the People, for The Guardian, February 2, 2010

    John Lennon’s power for the people … Whether or not Lennon did regret his associations with the radical left, I still remember his beliefs—and his voice—fondly.

    Maurice Hindle’s comments raise some interesting questions regarding John Lennon’s politics. For the record, it might be useful to point out that it was Lennon who rang and wanted a conversation, a year after the 1969 exchange on the Beatle’s album Revolution in the “ultra-left” Black Dwarf. We met a number of times before the interview that Robin Blackburn and I conducted for the even more “ultra-left” Red Mole.

    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  …

  • Protocols of the Elders of Sodom in The Socialist Review

    October 1, 2009

    Protocols of the Elders of Sodom reviewed by  Yuri Presad for The Socialist Review, October 2009.

    Tariq Ali is known to readers of this magazine as one of the most trenchant and articulate critics of imperialism. This collection of his articles, diary entries, reviews and interviews, published over many years, takes us in a different direction and reveals Ali’s passion for literature.

    When his writing is at its strongest it can make you want to read books that you long ago decided were not for you – in my case, Don Quixote, passages of which are revealed as a fascinating commentary on both the Cold War and today’s so-called clash of civilisations.

    The articles on and interviews with Salman Rushdie, centring on his novel Midnight’s Children, are a treat. They place the award-winning work in the  …

  • ‘Haiti needs the world’s support’

    March 5, 2011

    ‘Haiti needs the world’s support,’ an open letter to the Guardian signed by Tariq Ali and others, March 2 2011

    Over the next few years, much of Haiti will be rebuilt and much of its economy restructured. In response to last year’s earthquake an unprecedented amount of money has been promised for reconstruction. It’s more important than ever before that Haiti be governed by an administration that reflects the true will and interests of its people, rather than the concerns of foreign governments and corporations.

    In 2004, the US, France and Canada, in alliance with members of Haiti’s business community and demobilised soldiers of the Haitian army, overthrew the last Haitian government to enjoy genuine popular support: the party that led this government, Fanmi Lavalas, was elected with around 75% of the vote. This past November, these same powers imposed and  …