Tag Archives: 1968

Lennonisms

Tariq Ali on John Lennon’s politics and Power to the People, for The Guardian, February 2, 2010

John Lennon’s power for the people … Whether or not Lennon did regret his associations with the radical left, I still remember his beliefs—and his voice—fondly.

Maurice Hindle’s comments raise some interesting questions regarding John Lennon’s politics. For the record, it might be useful to point out that it was Lennon who rang and wanted a conversation, a year after the 1969 exchange on the Beatle’s album Revolution in the “ultra-left” Black Dwarf. We met a number of times before the interview that Robin Blackburn and I conducted for the even more “ultra-left” Red Mole.

The day after the interview he rang me and said he had enjoyed it so much that he’d written a song for the movement, which he then proceeded to sing down the line: Power to the People. The events in Derry on Bloody Sunday angered him greatly and he subsequently suggested that he wished to march on the next Troops Out demonstration on Ireland, and did so, together with Yoko Ono, wearing Red Mole T-shirts and holding the paper high. Its headline was: “For the IRA, Against British Imperialism”.’

We stayed in touch and talked to each other a great deal. He invited Blackburn and myself over when Imagine was being composed. I vividly remember him singing it at the kitchen table in Tittenhurst and then looking at us inquiringly. “The Politburo approves this one,” I joked. Later, the LP arrived and most of the songs in it were radical in the broad sense of the word (as was Working Class Hero from his previous album). Imagine, the utopian hymn, written during his most radical phase, was never repudiated and while he may have regretted some of his actions and remarks in the 1970s that song continued to represent his political hopes. read more

Obituary: Daniel Bensaïd

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 analysis was never presented in a patronising way, whatever the composition of the audience. His ideas derived from classical Marxism—Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg, as was typical in those days—but his way of looking at and presenting them was his own. His philosophical and political writings have a lyrical ring—at particularly tedious central committee meetings, he could often be seen immersed in Proust—and resist easy translation into English.

As a leader of the LCR and the Fourth International, to which it was affiliated, Bensaïd travelled a great deal to South America, especially Brazil, and played an important part in helping to organise the Workers party (PT) currently in power there under President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. An imprudent sexual encounter shortened Bensaïd’s life. He contracted Aids and, for the last 16 years, was dependent on the drugs that kept him going, with fatal side-effects: a cancer that finally killed him. read more

‘Goodbye to Grosvenor Square’

‘Goodbye to Grosvenor Square’ by Tariq Ali for The Guardian, October 3, 2008

The US embassy is withdrawing from its central London fortress. If only America would quit other parts of the world it occupies

Grosvenor Square is about to be liberated. News that the US embassy is moving to an unspecified five-acre location in south London may be good news for local residents (some of whom were renting rooms for a proper view of the rioting in 1968), but bad news for the unhealthier sections of the north London left. Till now, we could all meet happily in central London. A long march to south London is far less enticing, unless the San Francisco model of demonstrating on bikes becomes fashionable here as well.

Of course, we could be spared all this if the United States simply decided to stop bombing and occupying different parts of the world. Apart from anything else, they can’t afford it any more, which also appears to be the reason for the move from Grosvenor Square. The city is owed £4m in rates – which might be the sale price of the building in these troubled times.

When it finally happens, Grosvenor Square veterans should make sure there is a properly organised wake with proper music, etc. They should be sent off in style. Old memories must not be obliterated. This could happen if the fortress in the Square is sold off as apartments. Much better if the Imperial War Museum borrowed a few million from one of the Gulf states and purchased it as an adjunct devoted exclusively to US wars. The loan could be written off as a bad debt and Peter Mandelson, back in the cabinet, might help out here. read more

’1968, Forty Years Later’ – Democracy Now

1968, Forty Years Later: Tariq Ali Looks Back on a Pivotal Year in the Global Struggle for Social Justice for Democracy Now!, May 29, 2008

Mayo 68: ‘El placer, inevitable’

‘El placer, inevitable’, an interview with Tariq Ali for BBC Mundo, May 5, 2008

read the interview

From the archive

  • Diary: Pakistan

    June 19, 2003

    Tariq Ali on Pakistan for The London Review of Books, June 19, 2003

    May and June are the worst months to visit Pakistan: temperatures in Lahore can go up to 120°F, and I still remember the melting tar on the road, which virtually doubled the time it took to bike home from school. I had been invited, however, to give the Eqbal Ahmed Memorial Lectures in Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi. Ahmed—whose dream of setting up a serious postgraduate university in Pakistan remains unfulfilled—died in May 1999. read more

  • Tariq Ali’s speech at the National Demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

    August 13, 2014

    Here is a video of Tariq Ali’s speech at the largest UK demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

  • ‘Pakistan Needs a Triple Bypass’

    July 23, 2009

    ‘Pakistan Needs a Triple Bypass’ by Tariq Ali for The London Review of Books (Diary), July 23, 2009

    June is never a good month on the plains. It was 46ºC in Fortress Islamabad a fortnight ago. The hundreds of security guards manning roadblocks and barriers were wilting, sweat pouring down their faces as they waved cars and motorbikes through. The evening breeze brought no respite. It, too, was unpleasantly warm, and it was difficult not to sympathise with those who, defying the law, jumped into the Rawal Lake, the city’s main reservoir, in an attempt to cool down. Further south in Lahore it was even hotter, and there were demonstrations when the generator at Mangla that sporadically supplies the city with electricity collapsed completely.

    As far as the political temperature goes there is never a good month in  …

  • Tariq Ali’s speech at the National Demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

    August 13, 2014

    Here is a video of Tariq Ali’s speech at the largest UK demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

  • ‘Official politics in the west ignores public opinion at will’

    February 27, 2007

    ‘Official politics in the west ignores public opinion at will’ by Tariq Ali for The Guardian, February 27, 2007

    The government crisis in Italy over US bases and Afghanistan reflects the increasing gap in Europe between rulers and ruled

    The states of western Europe continue to resist harmonisation. On the same day last week that the chicaneries of every antiquated careerist vying for the New Labour deputy leadership were made public, each justifying his or her grotesque decision to support the war and occupation of Iraq, the centre-left Italian government—not yet a year old—fell after a debate on foreign policy in the upper chamber.

    It was not Iraq that was at issue here. Unlike New Labour (protected by undemocratic electoral laws and MPs unmoved by the suffering in Iraq), all of the Italian left and 80% of the  …