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

  • ‘Poet of the Punjab’ – Fatima Bhutto reviews Night of the Golden Butterfly

    April 23, 2010

    Night of the Golden Butterfly reviewed by Fatima Bhutto for the New Statesman, April 23, 2010

    If Pakistan is a land of untold stories, whispered conspiracy theories and closed-door mutinies, then thank heavens for Tariq Ali, whose access to its innermost secret chambers has made him the country’s finest historian and critic.

    Night of the Golden Butterfly is the fifth and final volume of Ali’s Islam quintet. His intricate historical novels have spanned the Moors in Spain, the Ottoman empire, medieval car-tographers in Palermo and the battle for Jerusalem, before finally bringing us to modern-day Lahore, the cultural heart of the “Fatherland” (the name Pakistan is never mentioned), where four college students begin a friendship based on shared Marxist fantasies, a love of Punjabi poetry, irreverence and the hormonal palpitations of young love.

    The  …

  • ‘Keeping the Leftist Spirit Alive’

    October 18, 2011

    Tariq Ali interviewed by Mariel Grazella for The Jakarta Post, October 18, 2011

    For Tariq Ali, Britain’s foremost leftist, democracy in Indonesia is comparable to a rolling walnut hollowed out by self-serving politicians who have failed to cater to their people over the years.

    Instead of working on real solutions to tackle the chronic problems plaguing the country, including rampant corruption, the “political and money elite”, regardless of their political color, seek to further forge their dominance over the nation.

    “And that makes democracy itself just an empty shell,” the editor of The New Left Review said.

    “You take a walnut and roll it on the ground and there’s nothing in it. That is what democracy is today.”

    He points out that the fretting of the elites over money and power were symptoms of the global triumph of capitalism, which has been  …

  • ‘The American War Moves to Pakistan’

    September 16, 2008

    ‘The American War Move to Pakistan’ by Tariq Ali for TomDispatch, September 16, 2008

    The decision to make public a presidential order of last July authorizing American strikes inside Pakistan without seeking the approval of the Pakistani government ends a long debate within, and on the periphery of, the Bush administration. Senator Barack Obama, aware of this ongoing debate during his own long battle with Hillary Clinton, tried to outflank her by supporting a policy of U.S. strikes into Pakistan. Senator John McCain and Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin have now echoed this view and so it has become, by consensus, official U.S. policy.

    Its effects on Pakistan could be catastrophic, creating a severe crisis within the army and in the country at large. The overwhelming majority of Pakistanis are opposed to the U.S. presence in the region,  …