LRB Diary

Conversations in Cairo are punctuated by dates: 11 February (Mubarak’s fall), 24 June (Morsi’s election), 30 June (Sisi’s coup), which takes a bit of getting used to. On the street murals depicting the martyrs are defaced with black ink; barbed wire, state-constructed barricades and gates used to seal off roads remain in place. My publisher, Karem Youssef, talks me through the geography of the uprising, describing how she herself was radicalised as week followed week. It’s too soon to treat the events nostalgically since, according to some, they are not yet over. I’m not sure about that, but what is indisputable is that hope is dead.

During and after the uprising Mubarak’s name stood for amorality, cynicism, duplicity, corruption, greed and opportunism. A few months after Morsi’s triumph at the polls, the same adjectives were being used to describe his rule,  …

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The Vassal’s Revolt

Rejoice. Rejoice. The first chain of vassaldom has been broken. They will repair it, no doubt, but let’s celebrate independence while it lasts. For the first time in fifty years, the House of Commons has voted against participating in an imperial war. Aware of the deep and sustained opposition inside the country and within the military establishment, members of parliament decided to represent the will of the people. The speeches of all three leaders were pretty pathetic. Neither the opposition amendment nor the war resolution could muster enough support. That’s all we needed. The thirty odd Tory dissidents who made British participation impossible by voting against their leadership deserve our thanks. Perhaps now the BBC will start reflecting popular opinion instead of acting as the voice of the warmongers.

Given Britain’s status abroad as Washington’s bloodshot adjutant, this vote will  …

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On Intervening in Syria

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  …

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Feeling Good

Mercifully, I was in South India for two events that showed the English at their worst: a long-delayed sporting triumph and the arrival of George Alexander Louis. So I missed the response to Andy Murray’s win at Wimbledon and the eruption that greeted the birth of yet another royal. Before these there was the ‘multicultural triumph’ of the Olympics, followed recently by the ‘illegal immigrant’ buses and non-white citizens being stopped at railway stations. Even the UKIP leader denounced this as not being ‘the British way’.

‘Feel-good’ moments never last long; underneath the decay continues. Amazon is permitted to destroy the bookshops while Google, Yahoo et al hand over encrypted lists of their users to the intelligence services. Much simpler than paying taxes. The assault on education; the continuing privatisation of the NHS; the never-ending propaganda directed against benefit claimants; the  …

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Tariq Ali: In Ankara

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  …

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From the archive

  • ‘Death of a Comrade: Peter Gowan: 1946–2009′

    October 1, 2009

    ‘Death of a Comrade’ by Tariq Ali for New Left Review, Sept-Oct 2009

    With the death of Peter Gowan on 12 June 2009, the international left has lost one of its most astute political analysts, and New Left Review the most generous and steadfast of comrades. Peter was a socialist intellectual of the highest calibre, combining enormous energy and independence of mind with a truly collective spirit. A contributor to NLR from the 1970s, he joined the editorial committee in 1984; his interventions in the journal constitute a substantial body of analysis in their own right. His work was translated into many languages and he had readers on every continent; unlike some, he was incredibly patient in replying to their e-mails. He loved a good argument, although he was always extremely courteous to his critics. For me the loss is also deeply  …

  • ‘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  …

  • Re-reading Anthony Powell: ‘Come dancing’

    January 26, 2008

    ‘Come dancing’ by Tariq Ali for The Guardian, January 26, 2008

    Anthony Powell’s 12-book series A Dance to the Music of Time is often seen as the epitome of the English novel. Tariq Ali finds some surprising European connections

    Anthony Powell was the most European of 20th-century British novelists. We need to dispense with the blinkered view that his A Dance to the Music of Time is a novel sequence that can be enjoyed only by English “toffs” or readers of the Daily Telegraph. It’s a prejudice that has dogged Powell for far too long.

    What is on offer in the 12 novels that constitute the Dance (published between 1951 and 1975) is not the nuances of class snobbery, but a reflection of the social history of five crucial decades of the last century, beginning with the end  …