‘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’, an interview with Tariq Ali and Mark Weisbrot for Democracy Now!, May 11, 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
An interview with Tariq Ali for Le nouvel observateur, November 1, 2008
‘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