Tariq Ali: What Is A Revolution?

Ever since the beginning of the Arab Spring there has been much talk of revolutions. Not from me. I’ve argued against the position that mass uprisings on their own constitute a revolution, i.e., a transfer of power from one social class (or even a layer) to another that leads to fundamental change. The actual size of the crowd is not a determinant—members of a crowd become a revolution only when they have, in their majority, a clear set of social and political aims. If they do not, they will always be outflanked by those who do, or by the state that will recapture lost ground very rapidly.

Egypt is the clearest example in recent years. No organs of autonomous power ever emerged. The Muslim Brotherhood, a conservative social force, one that belatedly joined the struggle to overthrow Mubarak, emerged as the  …

Read more

‘How do the 99% compare with mass protests of the past – and can they succeed?’

‘How do the ninety-nine percenters compare with mass protests of the past – and can they succeed?’, by Tariq Ali for the Sunday Herald, October 23 2011

“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth glancing at,” wrote Oscar Wilde, “for it leaves out the one country at which humanity is always landing. And when humanity lands there, it looks out, and seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of Utopias.” The spirit of that 19th century socialist is alive among the idealistic young people who have come out in protest against the turbo-charged global capitalism that has dominated the world ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Occupy Wall Street protesters who have taken up residence at the heart of New York’s financial distract, are demonstrating against a system of  …

Read more

‘Ill fares the land’

‘Ill fares the land’ by Tariq Ali for the Times of India, August 12 2011

The queasy condition of Pakistan, incapable of either a complete collapse or of throwing up a regime that could move the country even a few steps forward, has been a cause for depression for many a decade. The privileged elite — military and civilian — live happily in their bubble exercising military, political, administrative, economic and judicial power over the whole land.

This is, of course, the case in most countries, but in Pakistan the contrast between rulers and ruled is so stark that there is nothing to protect the weak majority from the powerful and rich minority. Kinship networks, like protection offered by gangsters, can do a bit but any notion that this can substitute for the state in providing the necessities of  …

Read more

‘Muammar Gaddafi’s planned resignation speech’

‘Muammar Gaddafi’s planned resignation speech,’ as seen by Tariq Ali, February 25 2011

“It’s raining outside which is why I cannot address you. Sorry. It seems to be raining inside my tent as well. Can this be rain? No. It’s dogs polluting the uniforms of my bodyguards. No respect for women. Benghazi. I hate that city. Once I accidentally addressed my friend Berlusconi as Benghazi. Drunkards, pimps and religious extremists. I will bomb them again before I leave. I wish we had bought some drones so I could press button myself. My relations with the people are informal, based on friendship and fear. Why have they become so noisy and combative? I have many children. The British Foreign Office adopted one of them, my dear Saif, and wanted to put him on the throne, but that would have no effect  …

Read more

‘Egypt Chaos Defines Bleeding in Despot Arab World’

‘Egypt Chaos Defines Bleeding in Despot Arab World’ by Tariq Ali for Bloomberg, February 4 2011

“Freedom lies behind a door closed shut,” the great Egyptian poet Ahmed Shawqi wrote in the last century. “It can only be knocked down with a bleeding fist.” More than that is bleeding in the Arab world at the moment.

The uprisings we are witnessing in Egypt have been a rude awakening for all those who imagined that the despots of the Arab world could be kept in place provided they continued to serve the needs of the West and their harsh methods weren’t aired on CNN and BBC World. But while Western establishments lull themselves to sleep with fairy tales, ordinary citizens, who are defeated and demoralized, mull their revenge.

The French government seriously considered sending its paratroopers to save former President  …

Read more

From the archive

  • ‘A Bavarian Provocation’

    September 16, 2006

    ‘A Bavarian Provocation’ by Tariq Ali for Counterpunch, September 16, 2006

    Was Benedict’s most recent provocation accidental or deliberate? The Bavarian is a razor-sharp reactionary cleric. A man who organises his own succession to the Papacy with a ruthless purge of potential dissidents and supervises the selection of Cardinals with great care leaves little to chance.

    I think he knew what he was saying and why.

    Choosing a quote from Manuel II Paleologos, not the most intelligent of the Byzantine rulers, was somewhat disingenuous, especially on the eve of a visit to Turkey. He could have found more effective quotes and closer to home. Perhaps it was his unique tribute to Oriana Fallaci.

    Perhaps.

    The Muslim world with two of its countries—Iraq and Afghanistan—directly occupied by Western troops does not need to be reminded of the language of  …

  • ‘From the Ashes of Gaza’

    December 30, 2008

    ‘From the Ashes of Gaza’ by Tariq Ali for The Guardian, December 30, 2008

    In the face of Israel’s latest onslaught, the only option for Palestinian nationalism is to embrace a one-state solution

    The assault on Gaza, planned over six months and executed with perfect timing, was designed largely, as Neve Gordon has rightly observed, to help the incumbent parties triumph in the forthcoming Israeli elections. The dead Palestinians are little more than election fodder in a cynical contest between the right and the far right in Israel. Washington and its EU allies, perfectly aware that Gaza was about to be assaulted, as in the case of Lebanon in 2006, sit back and watch.

    Washington, as is its wont, blames the pro-Hamas Palestinians, with Obama and Bush singing from the same AIPAC hymn sheet. The EU  …

  • ‘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  …