Tag Archives: Trotskyism

Trotskyist or Trotskyish?

‘Trotsky: past, present… future?’ an interview with Tariq Ali by Kirsty Jane for Vulpes Libris, September 3, 2010

A leading figure of the Trotskyist movement in the sixties and seventies, Tariq Ali’s engagement with Trotsky goes far beyond party politics. Kirsty Jane met up with him at the Edinburgh Book Festival, where he was presenting his new novel Night of the Golden Butterfly, to talk about old friends… and new strategies.

You mentioned in Street Fighting Years that you first read Isaac Deutscher’s biography of Trotsky when you were ill in bed (and I wish I hadn’t known the rather TMI details of that… you’ve scarred me for life). How, then, did you begin to read Trotsky? What was your first contact with him?

After reading the Deutscher trilogy, I was just quite naturally drawn to read the writings of the subject of this amazing biography, which has no precedent. There’s nothing quite like it. So then I read My Life, Trotsky’s own account of his life, which is beautifully written and almost reads like high quality fiction. The literary quality of Trotsky appealed to me enormously. Then I started reading his other writings. For my generation he was very important, because he offered us an alternative to a system which we could see even then wasn’t working and was going very wrong. It was reading him which finally led me to become a Trotskyist for that period of the sixties and seventies. Ernest Mandel was another leading figure. The strange thing was that one met people in that period who knew or had direct links with the Bolsheviks, and so it was like we were just continuing that tradition. But Trotsky himself always stayed with me, and the prescience of some of his analyses… when I think back on it, in the book which he called What is the Soviet Union and Where is it Going?, which was mistranslated as The Revolution Betrayed—a very sober book—he said that, in the future, either the Soviet Union will move and advance and become a socialist democracy; or there will be a regression and it will revert to capitalism, and many of today’s bureaucrats will become tomorrow’s millionaires. And his opponents said, “this is just crazy stuff”. No-one else ever thought so far ahead and in that way. He had a very fine mind, and I guess it was his qualities as an intellectual and as a revolutionary which combined to create this appeal, certainly for me, and for lots other people who were coming of age in the sixties as well. read more

From the archive

  • ‘Mid-Point in the Middle East?’

    March 1, 2006

    ‘Mid-Point in the Middle East?’ by Tariq Ali for New Left Review, Mar-Apr 2006

    Looking down on the world from the imperial grandeur of the Oval Office in the fall of 2001, the Cheney–Bush team was confident of its ability to utilize the September events to remodel the world. The Pentagon’s Vice Admiral Cebrowski summed up the linkage of capitalism to war: ‘the dangers against which US forces must be arrayed derive precisely from countries and regions that are “disconnected” from the prevailing trends of globalization’. Five years later, what is the balance sheet?

    On the credit side, Russia, China and India remain subdued, along with Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. Here, despite the attempts of Western political science departments to cover the instrumentalist twists of US policy with fig-leaf conceptualizations—‘limited democracies’, ‘tutelary democracies’, ‘illiberal democracies’, ‘inclusionary autocracies’,  …

  • Tariq Ali’s speech at the National Demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

    August 13, 2014

    Here is a video of Tariq Ali’s speech at the largest UK demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

  • V40 Philosophy / Wittgenstein screening at the Tate Modern

    October 15, 2010

    In Defence of Philosophy series: Screening followed by discussion with Tariq Ali

    Friday 22 October 2010, 18.30 at the Tate Modern

    To mark 40 years of independent, radical publishing, Verso is celebrating its philosophy titles with a screening of the Tariq Ali-produced Wittgenstein, Derek Jarman’s innovative portrait of Ludwig Wittgenstein.

    A seminal thinker of the twentieth century, Wittgenstein’s revolutionary ideas have had an impact in disciplines beyond philosophy including psychology, the natural sciences, linguistics, mathematics, logic, art, religion, artificial intelligence and software design.

    Derek Jarman’s Wittgenstein was to be part of a series for Channel Four entitled The Philosophers, for which the producers had already commissioned four different scripts: Howard Brenton on Socrates, Tariq Ali on Spinoza, David Edgar on Locke, and Terry Eagleton on Wittgenstein.

    Jarman’s penultimate film is charged with lush and elegant images evoking the philosopher’s  …

  • Tariq Ali’s speech at the National Demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

    August 13, 2014

    Here is a video of Tariq Ali’s speech at the largest UK demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

  • Thoughts on the Satanic Cartoons

    March 9, 2006

    Tariq Ali on the Satanic Cartoons for The London Review of Books (Diary), March 9, 2006

    ‘We’ve been trying to get you to come and talk here for the last three years,’ my host complained as we shook hands at the airport. ‘Here’ was Tripoli, capital of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, bathed in mild February sunshine; my host a functionary from the World Centre for the Studies and Researches of the Green Book—the Green Book is the Libyan equivalent of the Little Red Book. ‘The lecture is just an excuse,’ I told him. ‘I’m really here to see Leptis Magna’—the capital of Rome’s African empire. We both laughed. He because he thought I was joking and me because I wasn’t. read more