The enfant terrible of the Sixties England
A Romantic hero of the youth of that European period
He continues to play that role, that of keeping up that radical, even a sort of anarchist role in our times.
He was in India recently. He spoke on the contemporary world he knows best. Tariq Ali is just what he has always been. An eternal rebel, a self-confessed street fighter, an Oxford figure in the early Sixties. He was elected as the president of the historic Oxford debating union; he went afterwards to take part in the famous Paris student rebellion that saw De Gaulle resign as the French President and the later developments thereafter.
Tariq Ali was born in Pakistan in pre-partition Lahore and now, aged 71, remains an eternal rebel and optimist. He has written extensively and his books are all about the Leftist issues and causes. Some of his titles like My Street Fighting Years are read widely and he remains a widely travelled man on a mission of his own.
He lives in London where he is a film maker, journalist, he is on the editorial board of the long-time leftist magazine, New Left Review and his knowledge of the contemporary world is so wide and directly acquired. He knew and worked with so many rebels, Che Guevara, he knew the Arab World, the Latin American leaders and he of course is deeply involved with Pakistan affairs.
He was a personal friend of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, he was also close to the late Benazir Bhutto who too was at Oxford and also got elected as president of the Oxford debating union.
Now in India he is talking about and talking out on all sorts of topics and issues, from the rise of terrorism, the first major attack on the US, the 9/11(he says such an attack is not repeated so far and He sees American capitalism, American imperialism are the current reality. The rise of terrorism he traces from the 19th century anarchism, he reminds us, Indians, that terrorism arose in India, in Kolkata and Punjab during the early years of nationalism in India and now in the 20th and 21st century terrorism has taken some bizarre forms.
The rise of terrorism in Arab countries. What Mr.Tariq Ali says about the Arab countries are all new information as far as Indians, Indian readers and listeners are concerned. The active engagement of the USA in Arab countries is for their running what he calls the “imperial petrol stations!”
There is no clash of civilisations, he asserts strongly.
Then, what other reasons?
Again he terms it as capitalism, imperialism and their revenge of sorts.
As for the rise of terrorism in Arab countries he traces it to the Shia-Sunni divide, he has much to say on the Arabian Wahabism. These are worth pursuing further by Indian readers.
Tariq Ali is very enlightening about what is happening in the Middle East, in the Muslim world in particular and also in the Latin American countries.
China mimicking America?
He has much insightful things to say about China which, he alleges is just mimicking the Americans. And also there is tensions within the Chinese Communist party. They have abandoned the old style Communism, they, as an ideology is all only reviving and sticking to nationalism.”There are disturbing signs in China. There are people within the Chinese leadership, who at least in private, talks about the Kuomintang regime and Chiang Kai-shek quite favourably.”Chiang, Tarq calls names in unprintable worlds.
We were in China recently and we visited the residences of the great Chinese leaders, Sun-yat-Sen and we could find that the Chinese people really don’t like Mao and they have such great regard, why even pride in what the nationalist leaders did for the rise of a modern China.
Tariq Ali has of course much to say about the media today, the media in the new countries, he has some very interesting observations on such new TV channels, Al Zazeera of Qatar. We were also in Qatar recently and we could now get more understanding of how the much-admired Middle East TV channel rose to become a very modern, very independent, very liberal voice.
Of course Tariq Ali has a different version. Al Zazeera transformed the viewing habits of the region, it played a very critical role in the Iraq war. Tariq went to Al Zazeera and met its director Wadah Khanfar and he has much praise for the work being done by the channel.
But the Americans interfered and yet the Emir of Qatar resisted American pressure to sell it or privatise it. But after the fall of Morsey and Qatar decided to back the regime change, Al Zazeera, says Ali, has become an instrument of the Qatar state.
Ali also has much to say about the Latin American TV, Telesur, jointly owned by the Latin American countries. Tariq Ali is a film producer and a culture enthusiast, he in fact inspired some of the 20th century rock stars. Mick Jagger’s(of Rolling Stones).”Street Fighting Man”. This is also the name of his autobiography!
Also John Lennon’s(of Beatles)”Power to the People”.
What he now says about the rise of American Hollywood cinema culture that had impacted the unique features of some of the 20th century cinema strams. France New Wave films are no more. France cine is now showing more Hollywood films. Italy social realism films, Germany’s neo-expressionism etc.
Also about the rise of new information techs and how America now controls and even has a monopoly of information. Of course, Tariq comes to the latest developments.How the Wiki Leaks Assange, Snowden and Headly Manning.The latest jail term for Manning has raised serious questions about the US attitude towards freedoms and free press.
Tariq Ali calls Snowden as a freedom fighter.
Eric Hobsbawm, in his last book of essays, Fractured Times, asks about the new likely shape of culture, cultures, media and arts in what we can call the post-Bourgeois age. Hobsbawm is a keen student of the 10th and early 20th century bourgeois society, bourgeois culture which he says it had gone forever. These Left leaning people, the Left and Marxist intellectuals, imagine that the bourgeois of the old era are the only true middle classes.
What about the current new middle classes. Of course they are now flooded with information, new IT technologies and also many devices to enjoy music and culture.Books are also now easily available on the Internet and e-books. There is a wider access to latest offerings, from music to books to online newspapers to films.
How these arts would influence the thoughts and imaginations and creative energies of the new generation?
Certainly Tariq Ali is very innovative and also very provocative.
His obsession with US capitalism is flawed. What about capitalism in old and new countries. In the European nations as well as in new countries like China and India. Russia is seen as a highly corrupt country, so too India and also such other countries like Indonesia. The world, the masses of people are all shedding poverty, there is economic growth everywhere, in all countries, so too the growth and spread of democracy. There is a great yearning for freedoms by people at all levels.
All these are the new positive developments.
The old fashioned leftists are now becoming a negligible minority.