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

‘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  …

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‘Afghanistan: Mirage of the Good War’

‘Afghanistan: Mirage of the Good War’ by Tariq Ali for New Left Review, Mar-Apr 2008

Rarely has there been such an enthusiastic display of international unity as that which greeted the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Support for the war was universal in the chanceries of the West, even before its aims and parameters had been declared. NATO governments rushed to assert themselves ‘all for one’. Blair jetted round the world, proselytizing the ‘doctrine of the international community’ and the opportunities for peace-keeping and nation-building in the Hindu Kush. Putin welcomed the extension of American bases along Russia’s southern borders. Every mainstream Western party endorsed the war; every media network—with BBC World and CNN in the lead—became its megaphone. For the German Greens, as for Laura Bush and Cherie Blair, it was a war for the liberation of  …

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‘Mid-Point in the Middle East?’

‘Mid-Point in the Middle East?’ by Tariq Ali for New Left Review, Mar-Apr 2006

Looking down on the world from the imperial grandeur of the Oval Office in the fall of 2001, the Cheney–Bush team was confident of its ability to utilize the September events to remodel the world. The Pentagon’s Vice Admiral Cebrowski summed up the linkage of capitalism to war: ‘the dangers against which US forces must be arrayed derive precisely from countries and regions that are “disconnected” from the prevailing trends of globalization’. Five years later, what is the balance sheet?

On the credit side, Russia, China and India remain subdued, along with Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. Here, despite the attempts of Western political science departments to cover the instrumentalist twists of US policy with fig-leaf conceptualizations—‘limited democracies’, ‘tutelary democracies’, ‘illiberal democracies’, ‘inclusionary autocracies’,  …

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‘Remembering Edward Said’

‘Remembering Edward Said’ by Tariq Ali for New Left Review, Nov-Dec 2003

Edward Said was a longstanding friend and comrade. We first met in 1972, at a seminar in New York. Even in those turbulent times, one of the features that distinguished him from the rest of us was his immaculate dress sense: everything was meticulously chosen, down to the socks. It is almost impossible to visualize him any other way. At a conference in his honour in Beirut in 1997, Edward insisted on accompanying Elias Khoury and myself for a swim. As he walked out in his swimming trunks, I asked why the towel did not match. ‘When in Rome’, he replied, airily; but that evening, as he read an extract from the Arabic manuscript of his memoir Out of Place, his attire was faultless. It remained  …

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‘Re-colonizing Iraq’

‘Re-colonizing Iraq’ by Tariq Ali for New Left Review, May-Jun 2003

On 15 February 2003, over eight million people marched on the streets of five continents against a war that had not yet begun. This first truly global mobilization—unprecedented in size, scope or scale—sought to head off the occupation of Iraq being plotted in the Pentagon. The turnout in Western Europe broke all records: three million in Rome, two million in Spain, a million and a half in London, half a million in Berlin, over a hundred thousand in Paris, Brussels and Athens. In Istanbul, where the local authorities vetoed a protest march in the name of ‘national security’, the peace movement called a press conference to denounce the ban—to which ten thousand ‘journalists’ turned up. In the United States there were mass demonstrations in New York, San  …

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From the archive

  • Vancouver’s Georgia Straight reviews Night of the Golden Butterfly

    July 20, 2010

    Night of the Golden Butterfly reviewed by Charles Demers for Vancouver’s Georgia Straight, July 20, 2010

    It was the late Edward Said who, after reading Tariq Ali’s 1992 historical novel of the fall of Muslim Spain, Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree, prodded his friend to expand the scope of the project into a panoramic series on Islamic civilizations. With the publication of Night of the Golden Butterfly, Ali has satisfyingly and entertainingly concluded his Islam Quintet, a brilliant project unearthing the intellectual, sexual, artistic, and political histories heretofore kept out of mainstream conversation by both conservative Islamists and their former allies, and current enemies, in the West.

    Unlike the historical fiction that constitutes the rest of the quintet, Night of the Golden Butterfly is a (mostly) contemporary tale. It’s a testament to Ali’s skills as  …

  • ‘Afghanistan: Mirage of the Good War’

    March 1, 2008

    ‘Afghanistan: Mirage of the Good War’ by Tariq Ali for New Left Review, Mar-Apr 2008

    Rarely has there been such an enthusiastic display of international unity as that which greeted the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Support for the war was universal in the chanceries of the West, even before its aims and parameters had been declared. NATO governments rushed to assert themselves ‘all for one’. Blair jetted round the world, proselytizing the ‘doctrine of the international community’ and the opportunities for peace-keeping and nation-building in the Hindu Kush. Putin welcomed the extension of American bases along Russia’s southern borders. Every mainstream Western party endorsed the war; every media network—with BBC World and CNN in the lead—became its megaphone. For the German Greens, as for Laura Bush and Cherie Blair, it was a war for the liberation of  …

  • ‘The Life and Death of Trotsky’

    October 31, 2009

    ‘The Life and Death of Trotsky’ by Tariq Ali for The Guardian, October 31, 2009

    Tariq Ali on Trotsky by Robert Service and Stalin’s Nemesis by Bertrand M Patenaude

    For over half a century, Isaac Deutscher’s three-volume biography of Trotsky, a literary-historical masterpiece in its own right, was regarded as the last word on the subject. Many who were deeply hostile to the Russian revolution and all its leading actors nonetheless acclaimed these books: in 1997, asked to nominate his favourite book for National Book Day, the newly elected prime minister, Tony Blair, nominated the trilogy. Twelve years later the culture in this country has become so overwhelmingly conformist that any alternative to capitalism is considered outlandish.

    The Service industry has now produced a stodgy volume on Trotsky to add to a collection that includes Lenin and  …