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

  • ‘Why I Will Not Participate in the Turin Book Fair’

    February 5, 2008

    ‘Why I Will Not Participate in the Turin Book Fair’ by Tariq Ali for Counterpunch, February 5, 2008

    When I agreed to participate in the Turin Book Fair, which I have done before, I had no idea that the ‘guest of honour’ was Israel and its 60th birthday. But this is also the 60th anniversary of what the Palestinian call the ‘nakba’…the disaster that befell them that year, when they were expelled from their villages, some killed, women raped by the settlers.

    These facts are no longer disputed. So why did the Turin Book Fair not invite Palestinians in equal numbers? 30 Israeli writers and 30 Palestinian writers (and I promise you they exist and are very fine poets and novelists) might have been seen as a positive and peaceful gesture and a positive debate might have taken  …

  • A Snapshot of Pakistan

    January 30, 2013

    Tariq Ali for London Review of Books, 7th February 2013

    Pakistan is preparing for elections in May and June, and an all-party caretaker government will soon take over to supervise the process. Meanwhile, things continue as eventfully as usual. There has been yet another clash between the Supreme Court and the Zardari government; a previously obscure Muslim cleric returned from Canada to lead what he hoped would be a ‘million-strong’ anti-corruption march to Islamabad; and two factories in Lahore and Karachi have burned to a cinder with the workers still inside. Add to all this Sunni vigilantes regularly targeting and killing Shia; the Pakistani Taliban striking security targets; the military responding with indiscriminate killings; and the regular drone attacks, courtesy of Obama.

    On 15 January, the Supreme Court, having last year got rid of one prime minister, Yousuf Raza  …