Tag Archives: Communism

The Idea of Communism – History News Network

An interview with Tariq Ali by Aaron Leonard for the History News Network, November 23, 2009

Given it has been 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is occasion for a lot of looking at the whole notion of communism, but beyond that why did you write this book now?

I think it was really for the anniversary. Seagull Books which is this new transcontinental publishing house was doing a series and asked my advice. I gave them my advice and they insisted I do a book on the idea itself. I did a short essay and put it out. Essentially the idea of it was that there are young people, students who have only heard about these things in a very vague way, in sound bites, to give them something that might interest them, then they could go and do their own reading.

You write, that “Marx and Engels would have been horrified by the suggestion that their writing might one day be elevated to the status of religion.” Yet it seems to continually landed in the hands of folks looking for a roadmap to heaven. How do you see this conflict, essentially between the content and the application of Marxism?

The very fact the idea of communism took off in two of the most backward societies at the beginning of the 20th Century — China and Russia — meant that the way it was picked up by many people, especially peasants and not so well educated people who joined in that revolutionary ferment was that the only way they could see it was as a secular religion, as a secular faith. The intellectuals who were initially won over the idea were of course not at all religious minded and by-in-large did not go in that direction or take Marxism in that direction either. If you look at the early Bolsheviks, most of who were of Jewish origin, they were cutting loose from religion— the were very much the great-grandchildren of the French Enlightenment. That was also the impact on the intellectuals in China who founded the Chinese Communist Party.

I don’t think there was anything in the theory that meant it should go in that direction. It was, I’ve always felt that the emergence of one-Party state, the emergence of all powerful Politburos and Central Committees, the emergence of a total monopoly of information and of ideas by the Party made it almost inevitable that they would transmit these ideas as ideas that were unchallengeable. If you challenged them you were a heretic or much worse than that, a traitor or an enemy of the people.

It was that form of application of Marxism that reminded me very much of the Spanish Inquisition which the Catholic Church used to use against Muslims and heretics in medieval Spain. It was when this dictatorship was imposed and free thought was more or less banished that the process took on this particular form. read more

From the archive

  • 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.  …

  • Night of the Golden Butterfly wins French literary prize

    April 4, 2012

    Night of the Golden Butterfly, the last volume of the Islam Quintet by Tariq Ali, has been awarded the 2012 Cercle Interallié literary prize for foreign language novels. The French edition was published in October 2011 by Sabine Wespieser Publishers.

    The Inerallié Prize was established on December 3, 1930 by a group of around thirty journalists who were members of the Cercle de l’Union Inerallié. The latter is a private Parisian club founded in 1917, which aimed to bring material and moral resources to officers and other representatives of the nations of the Triple Entente. Today, its members are politicians, diplomats, lawyers, CEOs, journalists.

    Although not comprising of any financial reward, each year the Prize gives honour to a novel, usually written by a journalist. The jury itself is made up of ten journalists, joined by the previous year’s  …

  • ‘My heart bleeds for Pakistan. It deserves better than this grotesque feudal charade’

    December 31, 2007

    ‘My heart bleeds for Pakistan…’ by Tariq Ali for The Independent, December 31, 2007

    Six hours before she was executed, Mary, Queen of Scots wrote to her brother-in-law, Henry III of France: “…As for my son, I commend him to you in so far as he deserves, for I cannot answer for him.” The year was 1587.

    On 30 December 2007, a conclave of feudal potentates gathered in the home of the slain Benazir Bhutto to hear her last will and testament being read out and its contents subsequently announced to the world media. Where Mary was tentative, her modern-day equivalent left no room for doubt. She could certainly answer for her son.

    A triumvirate consisting of her husband, Asif Zardari (one of the most venal and discredited politicians in the country and still facing corruption charges in  …