Tariq Ali (born 21 October 1943) is a Pakistani-British political activist, writer, journalist, historian, filmmaker, and public intellectual.
His public profile began to grow during the Vietnam War, when he engaged in debates against the war with such figures as Henry Kissinger and Michael Stewart. He testified at the Russell Tribunal over US involvement in Vietnam. As time passed, Ali became increasingly critical of American and Israeli foreign policies. He was also a vigorous opponent of American relations with Pakistan that tended to back military dictatorships over democracy. He was one of the marchers on the American embassy in London in 1968 in a demonstration against the Vietnam war.
Active in the New Left of the 1960s, he has long been associated with the New Left Review. Ali inserted himself into politics through his involvement with The Black Dwarf newspaper, he joined the International Marxist Group (IMG) in 1968. He was recruited to the leadership of the IMG and became a member of the International Executive Committee of the (reunified) Fourth International. He also befriended influential figures such as Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
In 1967, Ali was in Camiri, Bolivia, not far from where Che Guevara was captured, to observe the trial of Régis Debray. He was accused of being a Cuban revolutionary by authorities. Ali then said: “If you torture me the whole night and I can speak Spanish in the morning I’ll be grateful to you for the rest of my life.”
During this period he was an IMG candidate in Sheffield Attercliffe at the February 1974 general election and was co-author of Trotsky for Beginners, a cartoon book. In 1981, Ali quit the IMG and joined the Labour Party to support Tony Benn in his bid to become deputy leader of the Labour Party.
In 1990, he published the satire Redemption, on the inability of the Trotskyists to handle the downfall of the Eastern bloc. The book contains parodies of many well-known figures in the Trotskyist movement. In 1999 Ali strongly criticised NATO intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the piece Springtime for NATO, and book “Masters of the Universe? NATO’s Balkan Crusade” in which he negated extent and nature of crimes committed by Serbian forces in Bosnia and Kosovo. He also defended denialist claims espoused by figures such as Diana Johnstone and Edward S. Herman.
His book, Clash of Fundamentalisms, aimed to put the events of the September 11 attacks in historical perspective. He followed that with Bush in Babylon, which criticised the 2003 invasion of Iraq by American president George W. Bush. The book uses poetry and critical essays in portraying the war in Iraq as a failure. Ali believes that the new Iraqi government will fail.
Ali has remained a critic of modern neoliberal economics and was present at the 2005 World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, where he was one of 19 to sign the Porto Alegre Manifesto. He supports the model of Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela.
He has been described as “the alleged inspiration” for the Rolling Stones’ song “Street Fighting Man”, recorded in 1968. John Lennon’s “Power to the People” was inspired by an interview Lennon gave to Ali.
Ali participated in the 2012 Sight & Sound critics’ poll, where he listed his ten favourite films as follows: The Battle of Algiers, Charulata, Crimson Gold, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Entranced Earth, If…, Osaka Elegy, The Puppetmaster, Rashomon, and Tout Va Bien.
Ali has also written in favour of Scottish independence.
During the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, Ali was sympathetic to a Leave vote on left-wing grounds, whilst simultaneously criticizing right-wing support for Brexit based on opposition to immigration.
In 2020, Ali was a member of the Belmarsh Tribunal organized by Progressive International, investigating and evaluating the war crimes committed by the United States government in the 21st century.
In November 2020, a British public inquiry into the work of undercover police officers was provided with evidence that Ali had been spied upon by at least 14 undercover police officers over a period of decades. The surveillance began in 1965 when he became president of the Oxford Union, and continued until at least 2003, when Ali was on the national committee of the Stop the War Coalition trying to prevent the invasion of Iraq. Ali said “It is incredible to think that after 35 years, in 2003, under the Tony Blair Labour government, that Special Branch were still engaging in the same anti-democratic activity as they had been at the outset”.
In 2009, Ali, alongside Mark Weisbrot wrote the screenplay to the Oliver Stone documentary South of the Border. This gave a favourable account of Hugo Chávez and other left-wing Latin American leaders.
The Jan. 6 panel recently presented new evidence on how former President Trump stoked violence leading up to the Capitol insurrection. But the escalation and normalization of violent rhetoric has extended beyond Trump, becoming a dangerous feature of Republican campaigns and party messaging. Laura Barrón-López reports.
NPR’s Tamara Keith and and Annie Linskey of The Washington Post join Amna Nawaz to discuss the latest political news, including political extremism in the Republican Party, how Democratic lawmakers are working to pass a much narrower version of the once-ambitious Build Back Better bill, and the White House navigates how to secure abortion protections after the fall of Roe.
When the GOP comes after your wife, your daughter, your sister or someone else close to you, that needs reproductive healthcare… What are you going to do? The Republican death cult is playing Russian Roulette with women’s lives. People will die because of this grotesque effort to court the vote of misogynist men and religious zealots…
The Republican war on women — waged in earnest for over a century and now turbocharged by six fanatics on the Supreme Court — shows no sign of letting up.
The only thing that will stop them is enough people turning out this fall to vote these freaks out of office, get the courts under control, and return sanity to our nation.
A collection of science stories from the U.S. National Science Foundation. We’ll explore NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope images, the Very Large Array (VLA), new robotics, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, interstellar space, Alan T. Waterman Award winners, the Wall of Wind, and more.
We speak with Harvard journalism analyst Laura Hazard Owen, who says reporters will have to abandon “conventional journalism wisdom” to cover abortion stories following the overturning of Roe v. Wade. “Reporters are going to need to accept that it’s going to be really hard to sort of do the things that they’ve been trained to do when they’re writing about these cases,” says Hazard Owen, explaining why privacy laws and the criminalization of doctors will make it harder to identify pregnant people and fact-check different abortion stories that involve young victims or occur in Republican-controlled states. Her latest piece is titled “Unimaginable abortion stories will become more common. Is American journalism ready?”
A scorching heat wave continues to fuel wildfires across southern Europe and parts of North Africa, resulting in hundreds of heat-related deaths and forcing thousands to evacuate their homes. The record-breaking temperatures come as Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has effectively killed President Biden’s Build Back Better climate legislation after stringing Biden along for 18 months. “It’s appalling, but it’s not unexpected. It’s why we have to keep building movements bigger,” says Bill McKibben, climate author, educator, environmentalist and founder of the organizations Third Act and 350.org.
President Biden met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Friday, as the Saudis agreed to increase oil production as well as open their airspace to Israeli commercial flights. Biden says he told the crown prince he held him responsible for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was a U.S. resident, though Biden’s claims were later contradicted by a top Saudi official. We speak with Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now, who says Biden’s friendly fist bump with the crown prince will become the “legacy of President Biden as a man who broke his promises” on holding Saudi Arabia accountable and sends a troubling message to other wealthy oil-producing countries. Whitson also calls for the UAE to give civil rights lawyer Asim Ghafoor, who represented Khashoggi, “due process” after he was detained by officials while traveling through Dubai’s airport and sentenced to three years in prison for fraud charges he denies.
We speak with climate author and activist Bill McKibben, who is pushing for the climate movement to demand the release of Egyptian prisoner and human rights activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah ahead of the next U.N. climate conference, which will be hosted in Egypt. McKibben says releasing El-Fattah to the U.K., which has agreed to house him, would be “the easiest of gestures” by Egypt, whose authoritarian leader met Saturday with President Biden. “The spread of authoritarian governments around the world is one of the things that’s making it difficult to deal with the existential challenge that climate change [presents],” says McKibben.
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