Tag Archives: Europe

‘Why can’t we protest against cuts like the French?’

‘Why can’t we protest against cuts like the French?’ by Tariq Ali for the Guardian, October 19, 2010

Many thousands have protested in France against cuts; we have a proud history of dissent in Britain, so why aren’t we on the streets?

A few years ago, the French president Nicolas Sarkozy told an interviewer that he knew the French better than most. Today they were admiring the good looks of his wife; tomorrow they would cut his throat. It hasn’t quite come to that just yet, but the French—students and workers, men and women, citizens all—are out on the streets again. A rise in the pension age? Impossible. The barricades are up, oil supplies running out, trains and planes on a skeleton schedule and the protests are still escalating. More than three million people a week ago. Hundreds of thousands out this week and more expected this weekend. And what a joyous sight: school students marching in defence of old people’s rights. Were there a Michelin Great Protest guide, France would still be top with three stars, with Greece a close second with two stars.

What a contrast with the miserable, measly actions being planned by the lily-livered English trade unions. There is growing anger and bitterness here too, but it is being recuperated by a petrified bureaucracy. A ritual protest has been planned, largely to demonstrate that they are doing something. But is this something better than nothing?

Perhaps. I’m not totally sure. But even these mild attempts to rally support against the austerity measures are too much for dear leader Ed Miliband. He won’t be seen at them. The rot of Blairism goes deep in the Labour party. A crushing defeat last year might have produced something a bit better than the shower that constitutes the front bench. Balls the bulldog might have gone for the jugular but he has been neutered. Instead, the new front bench is desperate to prove that it could easily be part of the coalition and not just on Afghanistan. read more

‘The People of Greece Are Fighting for the Whole of Europe’

‘The People of Greece Are Fighting for the Whole of Europe’, an interview with Tariq Ali and Mark Weisbrot for Democracy Now!, May 11, 2010

‘The Assault on Ilhem’

‘The Assault on Ilhem’ by Tariq Ali for Le Monde, republished in English for Counterpunch, February 25, 2010

Forgive an outsider and staunch atheist like myself who, on reading the recent French press comments relating to Ilhem Moussaid the hijab-wearing NPA candidate in Avignon, gets the impression that something is rotten in  French political culture. Let’s take the debate at face-value. A young  Muslim woman joins the NPA [New Anti-Capitalist Party]. She obviously agrees with its program that defends abortion, contraception, etc, i.e. a woman’s right to choose. She is then told that despite this she does not have the right to choose what she wears on her head. It’s astonishing. There is no Koranic injunction involved.  The book says: “Draw their (women’s) veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty”, which can be interpreted in several ways but is disregarded most blatantly by hijab-wearing Egyptian women I see in Cairo and Karachi wearing tight jeans and T-shirts that contradicted the spirit of the Koranic message.

Patriarchal traditions, cultural habits and identity are what is at stake here and they vary from generation to generation. Pushing people back into a ghetto never helps.

I grew up in a Communist family in Lahore. My mother never wore a veil. She set up a feminist group in the Fifties that worked with working class women in the poorest quarter of the city. Half of them covered their heads in public. It did not affect their activism in the slightest. Similar stories can be told of women in different parts of the world, Muslim and non-Muslim. The Algerian women who fought in the resistance against French republican colonialism did so as anti-imperialists. Some were partially veiled, others not. It did not affect the way they fought or the methods used by the French to torture them. Perhaps the torturers should have been more brutal to the hijabed freedom-fighters to help integrate their progeny better in the  Republican tradition. read more

Interview: ‘L’immigration à deux voix’

An interview with Tariq Ali for Le nouvel observateur, November 1, 2008

read the interview

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

‘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 population opposed that war. The dispute concerned two issues: Operation Enduring Freedom – the satirical self-description of the Nato occupation of Afghanistan – and the expansion of the US military base in Vicenza in northern Italy. read more

From the archive

  • ‘This is the real outrage’

    February 13, 2006

    ‘This is the real outrage’ by Tariq Ali for The Guardian, February 13, 2006

    Amid the cartoon furore, Danish imams ignore the tragedies suffered by Muslims across the world

    The latest round of culture wars does neither side any good. The western civilisational fundamentalists insist on seeing Muslims as the other—different, alien and morally evil. Jyllands-Posten published the cartoons in bad faith. Their aim was not to engage in debate but to provoke, and they succeeded. The same newspaper declined to print caricatures of Jesus. I am an atheist and do not know the meaning of the “religious pain” that is felt by believers of every cast when what they believe in is insulted. I am not insulted by billions of Christians, Muslims and Jews believing there is a God and praying to this nonexistent deity on a  …

  • ‘What happened next? Student protests’

    January 4, 2011

    ‘What happened next? Student protests’ by Tariq Ali for the Guardian, December 27 2010

    A friend in France, watching the London student demos on an English website, emails “. . . unlike France, there’s no tribal, institutionalised memory of struggle where you are marching. Does that make this moment in Britain more fiery and unpredictable? I thought, watching the website, that maybe it might.” There’s no memory of revolution in modern Britain, but there is a historical memory of what the students did in 1968, a memory kept alive by images, songs and books and there is the memory of the anti-poll tax rebellion that did for Thatcher.

    Mixing old wines with new (Château Thatcher 1979, with the 1997 Nouveau Blair or the plastic-bottled Cameron-Clegg 2010) is always a mistake. Wisdoms old and young, however, mix admirably well. That is  …