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
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’ 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: Tariq Ali Looks Back on a Pivotal Year in the Global Struggle for Social Justice for Democracy Now!, May 29, 2008
‘El placer, inevitable’, an interview with Tariq Ali for BBC Mundo, May 5, 2008