PRINCETON, N.J.—Tariq Ali is part of the royalty of the left. His more than 20 books on politics and history, his seven novels, his screenplays and plays and his journalism in the Black Dwarf newspaper, the New Left Review and other publications have made him one of the most trenchant critics of corporate capitalism. He hurls rhetorical thunderbolts and searing critiques at the oily speculators and corporate oligarchs who manipulate global finance and the useful idiots in the press, the political system and the academy who support them.
Conditions even when they are overripe do not a revolution make. A revolution requires revolutionaries. The garden of the left, no matter how fertile seems incapable of producing a bloom. I do not think this is because the foliage is sterile, I think it is because of relentless, merciless pruning. What has caused the Great Apathy is the realization that state and corporate power is embedded into even the lowest, most local, even benign community organizations. Indeed, all of our relationships, even intimate personal relationships are subject to scrutiny by security analysts whose remit is to ensure the security of their paymasters. This, along with an even further constriction of media interaction leaves millions of people voiceless and unable to share idea’s and desires that are necessary to evolve a credible alternative narrative or course of action. For those who entertain the notion that a financial collapse would energize the left, look back to 2008-9 and see how well that worked. If you think Presidential elections can produce a champion for the muzzled you need not look to far to see our last great hope go Kerr-Plop. Now count the number of current candidates who are NOT neo-conservatives and neo-liberals and I think you will have to conclude that political party branding doesn’t mean much. My belief is that the power of this state and it’s fascistic control over the mechanisms of reform or revolt are so overwhelming that whether we want to or not we are left with accepting the actions and reactions to events that will in time supersede the power of the fascists to control or predict them and we will enter the historical vortex that pulls down everything.
Tariq I hate to be the bearer of bad news but nothing is going to happen in the US. Nothing, that is, along the lines of what you hope for. What will happen, is happening, is an open police state - call it fascism if you like. Do not look for hope here.
As for Spain. Cruising alternative news sources last night I cam across a piece posted at venezuealanalysis from RT that explained how the Catalonian push for separation has no commonality with Podemos. They are competing narratives within Spain, and Podemos will be the loser in that competition.
I’m reminded of the imagery propagandized so heroically at the first heights of the US oil boom. The "roughneck’ with shining oil drenched muscularity whipping a chain around the central post of the drilling rig in motion.Flash to the halls of power and the ghost of this internalized by ‘negotiators’ for the speculative frauds of the barren financial barons.
Today’s administrative roughnecks have built and continue to build their ‘rig’ on an insidious sales pitch of “post” - ‘its all behind us now’ (ahem) post-colonial, post-racisism, post-gender, and the list goes on. So much time was ‘bought’ to institutionalize the misrepresentation ‘behind’ the ‘post’ of the coup of extractive capitalism.
It is like a neotenized (permanently infantilized) cooing over a fashion runway ‘coup’ to set style for ‘consumers’ that will be produced on ‘post’ clear-cut forests in virtual slave-wage sweat shop factory cities the world over. The muscle of ‘there is no alternative’ is now like a digitalized fiat mine from which to extract, yet again, a ‘market share’ for the ‘exclusive’ identity of being powerful. Implicit seems to be the broadcast message that if you pay attention to the breadth of alternatives experienced in every day life, your experience is an illusion. But then again, illusion is and always has been the fraudulent ‘ace’ tucked up the sleeve, hasn’t it? Shhh, its a secret…
It would seem that revolution in the U.S. is a far fetched idea considering that most Americans buy into the mainstream narrative of corporate capitalism. But perhaps a Occupy 2.0 that did contain a political agenda as Tariq Ali suggests, might at least get people thinking about why their basic demands are not even discussed in the existing political forums. Universal healthcare, dismantling the military, electoral reform and raising the minimum wage would be a good start.
Perhaps 2.0 might consider ‘re-branding’ as ‘Enough!’ - noted by Ali as thematic motivation - and shared in a number of languages and by countless peoples.
What more dignified response of conscience to the revelations of profligate abuses than to stand say No More! It is a resistance that does not shove aside the diversity necessary to meet needs, but rather stands strong for all who have been divided for conquering.
I think the vast majority of Americans have been placed on that line between comfort and disaster and that even the smallest tremor will push them out of comfort. I believe this is planned and the fear it creates keeps Americans from causing even the smallest rocking of the boat.
Indeed it is a culture of narcissism, more than ever (e.g., “selfies”). Most seem not to realize how tenuous is our situation. Here in California, the worst drought in the state’s history is in effect, with no end in sight.
The repression will pale against the fighting over water. Nonetheless, Jerry Brown continues to allow fracking.
With Democrats like this (and as Ali points out re Hillary), who needs Republicans?
“Humanism is the only - I would go so far as saying the final- resistance we have against the inhuman practices and injustices that disfigure human history.”
― Edward W. Said
It depends on what Syriza does with its 4 month extension, I say both sides blinked but that could have been a shrewd move on Syriza’s part to be able to say they have done all they can and have Greek voters warm up to breaking away. Syriza stands as a lynchpin capable of releasing Spain, Italy, and Ireland, with dominoes striking Scotland and even England which are already teetering in some ways. Should a Grexit set off a chain reaction, shockwaves will travel far and we could see lingering waves from disparate humanist movements like the Arab Spring and Occupy propagate and reform evolved hybrids. The flowers of these movements have been crushed but the roots are alive and will have new form when they re-emerge. For US, protest will need more than feet in the street to alter the course of power, peaceful non-cooperation such as general strikes and blocking destructive activities such as poison pipelines and war will require a higher level of sacrifice but between collapsing international ponzi schemes and our broken weather system there will be desperate people who will take desperate action. Wish I had time to further elaborate, got to go. Be brave and caring, we can only succeed with great bonds of unity.
Yes, “This wretched neoliberalism has downgraded the teaching of history.”
“If nothing happens in the United States, if nothing new is created to
challenge systemic excesses (of) EMPIRE, it will be a bad situation for
all of us,” he said. “One is doomed if nothing happens in the U.S.”
Enough American people must be brought to understand Empire — nobody is correctly diagnosing this new form of Empire.
Many people tell me, “Mac, everyone knows it’s an Empire — stop raging
about Empire, you dolt, you’re preaching to the choir.”
Of the very tiny sociopathic minority of < 0.001% who are actually inside
the global elite of the damn Empire, there are even fewer dumbed-down
and deluded average Americans who have any idea of this new disguised
form of global capitalist Empire.
Ali is right to be discouraged. I’m discouraged.
But it is not a complex or insolvable problem.
This Disguised Global Capitalist Empire can readily be diagnosed and exposed as the cancer that it is.
As Zygmunt Bauman hauntingly puts it, “In the case of an ailing social
order, the absence of an adequate diagnosis…is a crucial, perhaps
decisive, part of the disease.”13
Berman, Morris (2011-02-07). Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire (p. 22). Norton. Kindle Edition.
“The U.S. state is a key point of condensation for pressures from dominant
groups around the world to resolve problems of global capitalism and to
secure the legitimacy of the system overall. In this regard, “U.S.”
imperialism refers to the use by transnational elites of the U.S. state
apparatus to continue to attempt to expand, defend, and stabilize the
global capitalist system. We are witness less to a “U.S.” imperialism
per se than to a global capitalist imperialism. We face an EMPIRE of
global capital, headquartered, for evident historical reasons, in
Washington.” [caps added]
Robinson, William I. (2014-07-31).
Global Capitalism and the Crisis of Humanity (p. 122). Cambridge
University Press. Kindle Edition.
This is not rocket science folks.
The nature and structure of this disguised Empire can be easily understood,
recognized, ‘exposed’, publicly ‘called-out’, its mask ripped-off,
successfully confronted, and ultimately ‘excised’ like the cancerous
tumor that it is.
But as any good oncologist or diagnostician knows, this can’t be done by fooling around, writing
about, protesting against, organizing about, and being distracted by
hundreds of subordinate and superficial ‘identity issues’ and ‘symptom
problems’ — all of which the EMPIRE (and only the EMPIRE) causes —
and all the dissipation of efforts of which the Empire is laughing to
see progressives chase around like a dog chases its tail.
Based on this article, I’d say that Tariq Ali is badly out of touch with what is taking place on the left in the U.S. Chris Hedges would be well served to connect with folks here in the U.S. that are actually doing the day to day work on the ground.
For example, Ali’s criticism of #BlackLivesMatter, that they “don’t totally grasp that dealing with this problem of continuous state violence against the citizenry requires political movements.” is totally without merit. Has he ever spoken with anyone in BLM? One of the three founders of BLM, Alicia Garza, is the Special Projects Director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) and was previously the Executive Director of People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER). Both are organizations deeply rooted in the day to day realities of state violence, and are explicitly designed as movement building organizations.
Furthermore, Ali seems to think that concentrating resources on local struggles is a new idea. He says, “I wonder if it would be better to concentrate on big cities and states to develop some movements where they can have an influence in Los Angeles, New York or in states such as Vermont.” Perhaps he (and Hedges) should check out the amazing work of the Vermont Workers Center, which along with many allies, is moving the fight forward to single payer healthcare in the U.S. Also, the work of the Malcom X Grassroots Movement and others in launching Cooperation Jackson and the People’s Assembly in Jackson, Mississippi, culminating in the election of Chockwe Lumumba as the mayor of Jackson which has transformed the politics of Jackson, and serves as a model of committed movement building for us all.
The negativity of this article seems to be a reoccurring theme in Hedges work, and he helps no one by making the actual successes of our movements invisible.
People with nothing to lose can be very influential. And dangerous.
We damn ourselves
When we don’t give one for anyone else
Pessimistic article. Who is not also pleasantly surprised at the interesting things happening today? How long can ignorance and greed attempt to make societies function before they decay and die?
I think you missed the point - Ali said “requires political movements” - the only “political” effort you pointed out was the one to elect Lumumba - check this out:
“PABLO IGLESIAS: For necessity, because we understood very well that if you need to change the things, you need political power. And we were activists, and we used to work in social fields in the civil society, but we know that it’s very important to occupy the institutional powers in order to change things. It’s quite important to be in the Parliament. It’s quite important to win the elections.”
Another example could be Green Mayor, McClaughlin (sp?) in Richmond CA, or Sawant in Seattle -
But these are few and far between - most often the left here in the US seems to shun and diss the importance of electoral politics, in favor of this rather vague concept of “movements” often organized around “identities” e.g. ethnicity, gender, peace, environment, labor, etc - all doing their own thing carrying their own banner - marginalizing each others concerns - and rather easily played off against each other by the major political parties …
Amen to that!
How can we have humanism with conservatives in power?
Hedges should have titled this article and interview with Ali as “The Time Is Right for a Palace Revolution against the EMPIRE” disguising itself in a palace disguised as a democratic Republic.
Ali and Hedges both used the term Empire repeatedly and multiple times — although few commenters got the hint that the EMPIRE is the cancerous tumor that any Revolution must ‘excise’.
Both Ali and Hedges should know by now that you can’t be subtle with a so-called Leftish, Progressive audience.
You have to hit them over the head with the fact that this GD disguised EMPIRE is what the Revolution has to expose and confront — else the psedo progressives (and the pseudo progressive alt media) will just keep yapping about their favorite ‘identity issues’ and hundreds of superficial ‘symptom problems’ — all of which are caused only and directly by the disguised EMPIRE — and the Revolution will not only not be on TV but will never friggin happen.
How can we claim authentic power without humanism first? Humanism and conservatism exist simultaneously in the world. Also, it depends on your definition of conservatism. Humanism aligns with aspects of conservation, but not the flim flam “I got mine and screw you” version that finds lofty rhetoric to justify not conservation but greed, that is currently ascendant and threatens all known life. In short, the results you get from the actions you take will hinge on your heart being in the right place. Motivation is key, until humanism is the cause, the reason, the goal, forms of oppression will only be replaced by other forms of repression. Humanism is not simply an end result but the pathway, the antidote.
“To fight tyranny and oppression by using tyrannical and oppressive means, to combat a single-minded and ruthless fanaticism by becoming equally fanatical and ruthless, will not further the cause of justice or bring about a meaningful democracy. It can only prolong the cycle of violence.” - Tariq Ali
“No one today is purely one thing. Labels like Indian, or woman, or Muslim, or American are not more than starting-points, which if followed into actual experience for only a moment are quickly left behind. Imperialism consolidated the mixture of cultures and identities on a global scale. But its worst and most paradoxical gift was to allow people to believe that they were only, mainly, exclusively, white, or Black, or Western, or Oriental. Yet just as human beings make their own history, they also make their cultures and ethnic identities. No one can deny the persisting continuities of long traditions, sustained habitations, national languages, and cultural geographies, but there seems no reason except fear and prejudice to keep insisting on their separation and distinctiveness, as if that was all human life was about. Survival in fact is about the connections between things; in Eliot’s phrase, reality cannot be deprived of the “other echoes [that] inhabit the garden.” It is more rewarding - and more difficult - to think concretely and sympathetically, contrapuntally, about others than only about “us.” But this also means not trying to rule others, not trying to classify them or put them in hierarchies, above all, not constantly reiterating how “our” culture or country is number one (or not number one, for that matter).”
- Edward W. Said, Culture and Imperialism
Conservatives and Conservationists are polar opposites. (Also conservatism and conservation).