Thursday, July 20, 2006

Grr Ol' Tariq

Here's his comment piece from today's Grauniad.

A Protracted Colonial War

In his last interview - after the 1967 six-day war - the historian Isaac Deutscher, whose next-of-kin had died in the Nazi camps and whose surviving relations lived in Israel, said: "To justify or condone Israel's wars against the Arabs is to render Israel a very bad service indeed and harm its own long-term interest." Comparing Israel to Prussia, he issued a sombre warning: "The Germans have summed up their own experience in the bitter phrase 'Man kann sich totseigen!' 'You can triumph yourself to death'."

In Israel's actions today we can detect many of the elements of hubris: an imperial arrogance, a distortion of reality, an awareness of its military superiority, the self-righteousness with which it wrecks the social infrastructure of weaker states, and a belief in its racial superiority. The loss of many civilian lives in Gaza and Lebanon matters less than the capture or death of a single Israeli soldier. In this, Israeli actions are validated by the US.

On the slightly flip-side, if ever you've got Tariq Ali bearing down on you, for whatever reason, just go:

"Oh, Tariq, there's a national-liberation movement over there".

"Where, where? I must give it my full support...!"

And off he goes, happily trotting behind it.

And he is good on imperialism and internationalism, resistance etc. You almost never hear him speak on domestic/economic issues. Imagine seeing him down a picket line... You can't. It's not possible.

I have a sneaking suspicion he's the ultimate revolutionary tourist. I.E. I like revolutions, especially when they happen far, far away and involve bandanas, ski masks and cool guns. Give him a resistance movement and he's in his element. Ask him who to vote for at the general election and he gets himself in a dreadful knot.

Meanwhile, this seems to be the general media consensus. Small war, one pair of socks singed, no one British dead yet... Well, that's good, I suppose.

The first Britons evacuated from the devastation of war-torn Lebanon arrived back in the UK today.

The 80 evacuees, who landed at Gatwick Airport at around 1.30am, expressed relief to have escaped unharmed from the week-long Israeli bombardment.

They arrived on charter flight AMT6205 from Cyprus, where they had been ferried from the Lebanese capital Beirut on board the Royal Navy destroyer, HMS Gloucester.


DJN said...

That sounds exactly like some of the old Trots where I live who were waist-deep in Vietnam solidarity committees back in the day. They're also still enamoured with Cuba, some 47 years later. Listening to their twisted justifications for supporting Castro at every turn is like riding a rollercoaster of logic that ultimately flies off the rails and explodes.

I only run into them at solidarity committees of varying nations, especially Haiti and Venezuela.

Otherwise they're pretty cool. They continue publishing stuff, which is often really good (except for their Cuba obsessions) but they have no organization anymore - the LSA (Cdn section of USFI) having collapsed through a series of splits in the mid-70s.

They're also very good speakers, and are walking encyclopedias. Despite their occasional wierdness and fanaticism over Cuba, they're worth having around.

morbo said...

The British cuba lovers are somewhat more manical here

DJN said...

Oh yeah, we have the nutters too. I guess I should have qualified the "old Trots" as being generally nice people with generally good politics willing to talk to revolutionaries under 30 who can't recite whole tracts of the transitional programme.

There is also no organization on the far left of any significance in Canada which supports Cuba uber alles. The pro-Cuba Trotskyist groups from the sixties fell apart along with the big Maoist groups in the 70s. All we really have is two members of the Bullshit Tendency and half a dozen Sparts. And they all live in Toronto.

morbo said...

Poor Toronto

Victor Serge said...

Sorry to barge in on a discussion, but being a Toronto resident...

I think we still have some Fidelistas around in the Communist League and their recent split, Socialist Voice. I picked up some awesome bargains at Pathfinder Bookstore a few years ago (not sure if it still exists here.) But I'm a little sick of hearing about Cuba's rooftop gardens.

I'm not sure your comments about Tariq are entirely fair. He's pretty measured in his support for anti-imperialist movements, much more so than a lot of Maoists ("A gun? Anti-American? We're there!") He's also commented extensively on the domestic British scene - I've heard his latest book, Rough Music, is an excellent take-down of Blairism, though I haven't read it yet. I realize he doesn't support Respect, and that's a political disagreement, but surely not one that merits saying he stands apart from struggle entirely? Unless there's another basis for your judgement which, not being in jolly ole England anymore (sigh), I'm missing.



Roobin said...

On a slightly flip note.

"Awesome bargains"... "Pathfinder Books"?

Shurely schome mishtake! I find they've been the most awful literary executors of all the late great commies, and that's including Progress publishing house, with their made, stalinoid editing.

At least we've seen a decent selected works for Lenin. Marx and Engels have also been served up pretty well. Even Rosa Luxembourg has had a reader published (albeit only two years ago). But poor Trotsky is arranged into "Trotsky's shopping lists and incidental correspondants - 1933-34" and such like.

"I've heard his latest book, Rough Music, is an excellent take-down of Blairism, though I haven't read it yet."

Yes, do, it is a fine book. Tariq seemed to have a burst of energy last year, around the elections and through 7/7, into its aftermath. Much of what went into Rough Music was said at anti-war meetings up and down the country (or at least up and down London).

It is still a critique, mind you, rather than a call to arms or anything so practical. His conclusion (create a new-left current in Britain) is purely open ended.

He may have disagreements with Respect (I have a sneaking suspicion part of it is because he wouldn't be the star attraction). But he's not a member of anything, at least not anything that might discipline his activity. For example, he is simply notorious for not turning up for StWC meetings he has been booked for... for no apparent reason. The coalition simply can't put that kind of pressure him.

If you are not part of an organisation then your work, such as it is, will mostly go to waste.

Victor Serge said...

Fair point about Tariq's unreliability and affiliation... though sometimes organizations themselves can prove a barrier to participation. I speak as a jaundiced ex-ISTer, don't mind me. (I still love State Capitalism In Russia - the book, not the historical trajectory).

Yeah, Pathfinder is ridiculously expensive and incompletist. I have "Leon Trotsky Speaks"; I'm waiting for "Leon Trotsky Mumbles" and "Leon Trotsky Picks His Nose". The Pathfinder I encountered was having a once-ever liquidation sale, so I picked up some Cannon and Trotsky for $2-3 a piece. And I foolishly gave up the chance to buy Lenin's Collected Works for a similar price.

A comrade of mine, who follows these things much closer than I do, pointed out a Jack Barnes editorial in the latest New International, who justifies the expensive price of Pathfinder Books because they have to reformat them all in large-type. Not because Barnes is getting old and needs it, oh no; because the workers demand large type. Gotta love the working class - you can depend on them for everything, including shelling out $30 for a reprint.