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

  • ‘The withdrawal of foreign troops is the only solution’

    August 12, 2004

    ‘The withdrawal of foreign troops is the only solution’ by Tariq Ali for The Guardian, August 12, 2004

    The media-hyped fiction of a handover of power in Iraq is designed for US voters

    Most legends contain a small grain of truth, but none is to be found in the fraudulent images being presented each day by the BBC (and the US networks). The print media is not much better. Official propaganda is constantly repeated in sentences such as: “On June 28 the United States and its coalition partners transferred sovereign control of Iraq to an interim government headed by prime minister Ayad Allawi. The transfer of sovereignty ended more than a year of American-led occupation”.

    Meanwhile, US intelligence agencies admit that the size of the resistance increases every day. If Moqtada al-Sadr were to be captured or killed  …

  • ‘Keeping the Leftist Spirit Alive’

    October 18, 2011

    Tariq Ali interviewed by Mariel Grazella for The Jakarta Post, October 18, 2011

    For Tariq Ali, Britain’s foremost leftist, democracy in Indonesia is comparable to a rolling walnut hollowed out by self-serving politicians who have failed to cater to their people over the years.

    Instead of working on real solutions to tackle the chronic problems plaguing the country, including rampant corruption, the “political and money elite”, regardless of their political color, seek to further forge their dominance over the nation.

    “And that makes democracy itself just an empty shell,” the editor of The New Left Review said.

    “You take a walnut and roll it on the ground and there’s nothing in it. That is what democracy is today.”

    He points out that the fretting of the elites over money and power were symptoms of the global triumph of capitalism, which has been  …