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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The Filthy Rich Election

Tariq Ali for the London Review of Books, 20th June 2013

Not long before last month’s elections, dozens of workers (the youngest was 12) were burned to death in factory fires in Karachi and Lahore. Pakistan’s rulers were unmoved: there were token expressions of regret but no talk of tough new laws being passed after the election. There is barely any safety regulation in Pakistan, and if any legislation does impede business a modest bribe usually solves the problem. Factory inspections were discontinued during the Musharraf regime in order, it was claimed, to protect industry from harassment by state inspectors. Ali Enterprises, the factory that burned down in Karachi, somehow passed an inspection by a New York-based body called Social Accountability International.

As for outright crimes, it’s best to use the cloak of religion to justify them. This effectively paralyses  …

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From the archive

  • Obituary: Daniel Bensaïd

    January 20, 2010

    An obituary for Daniel Bensaïd, by Tariq Ali for The Guardian, January 14, 2010

    The French philosopher Daniel Bensaïd, who has died aged 63 of cancer, was one of the most gifted Marxist intellectuals of his generation. In 1968, together with Daniel Cohn-Bendit, he helped to form the Mouvement du 22 Mars (the 22 March Movement), the organisation that helped to detonate the uprising that shook France in May and June of that year. Bensaïd was at his best explaining ideas to large crowds of students and workers. He could hold an audience spellbound, as I witnessed in his native Toulouse in 1969, when we shared a platform at a rally of 10,000 people to support Alain Krivine, one of the leaders of the uprising, in his presidential campaign, standing for the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR).

    Bensaïd’s penetrating  …

  • A New York Times review of Bush in Babylon

    January 25, 2004

    Bush in Babylon reviewed by Serge Schmemann for The New York Times Book Review, January 25, 2004

    “An often compelling insider’s perspective … with some valuable insights into the sensitivities that explain why the occupying coalition in Iraq is not being treated as a savior.”

    It is difficult to believe that George W. Bush has been in the White House for only three years. It seems ages now that we have been living in a new world, in which his administration is closely identified with new passions, new fears, new enemies. Sept. 11, of course, is the dominant reason; it has effectively divided our life into a ”before” and an ”after,” pushing the 20th century with its hot and cold wars, its thickets of nuclear missiles and its arguments into a foggy past. George H. W.  …

  • Tariq Ali speaks to Sarfraz Manzoor for the Guardian

    March 8, 2011

    Tariq Ali interviewed by Sarfraz Manzoor for the Guardian, March 7 2011 about his life in dissent, student protests and the Arab uprisings.

    On the contemporary events in the Middle East, Ali says, “it restores sense of balance in this world. It’s not all neoliberalism, it’s not all money money money, its not all celebrity politics: here are millions of people taking their destiny in their own hands saying, ‘In order to win all, you have to be prepared to sacrifice all.’ That is what they’re doing in the Arab world … It really is the beginning of a phase that might take five or six years to happen but there is no doubt we are at a turning point …

    It rejuvenates you when history is being made, people are out on the streets again, governments are  …