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A World in Revolt Against Neoliberalism & Corruption: Tariq Ali on the Roots of Today’s Uprisings

StoryDecember 02, 2019
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The historian and activist Tariq Ali talks about the uprisings that are happening around the world, from Chile and Colombia to Iraq and Lebanon. “It’s extremely significant, because what it reveals is a new generation completely alienated from the political structures of their societies,” Ali says.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue our conversation with Tariq Ali, the historian, activist, filmmaker, author, editor of the New Left Review. I asked Tariq Ali about the significance of the uprisings that are happening around the world, from Chile to Lebanon to Iraq and beyond.

TARIQ ALI: Well, I think it’s extremely significant, because what it reveals is a new generation completely alienated from the political structures of their societies, in most cases. It’s the case in Chile, where Sylvie [sic] Bachelet, the socialist president for two terms, did nothing to transform, reform and get rid of Pinochet’s structures, political, socioeconomic structures, in that country. And this is what young people in Chile are saying.

AMY GOODMAN: Although Michelle Bachelet, of course, was a victim of Pinochet. Michelle Bachelet was a victim of Pinochet — her, her mother, her father.

TARIQ ALI: She was. She was. Of course she was. Which is why she should have acted on this. I mean, it’s a real tragedy. So the protesters are not involved with any political party in Chile, because they don’t like what Bachelet did when she wasted two terms in not doing anything and basically following the U.S. lead in foreign policy, a U.S. which was centrally involved in the Chilean coup d’état, as you know better than most.

In Lebanon, it’s the same thing. It’s heartening to see the Lebanese demonstrations in Beirut, young people, Christians, Shia Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Druze, people of all different denominations marching together and saying, “We want to get rid of all of them.” And the “all of them” they’re talking about is corrupt politicians, their oligarchies, their crookedness, what they are doing to the country. So they want change, too.

And in Iraq, people are just fed up that, you know, nothing much has happened for them since the occupation. They live in dire conditions. And many of their parents and grandparents remind them of what Iraq used to be. Despite Saddam Hussein’s atrocities, they say life was better under him. This is very common now in Iraq and in Libya, Amy.

So, the effect it has here — here, young people are saying it’s the Corbyn campaign. If Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t win, I think you will see trouble here. You’ve seen it in France with the gilets jaunes movement, the yellow vests, where the repression was horrendous. We now have got the figures: 10,000 arrests, people shot with gas in the eye. The head of the French health service recently blogged, pleading with the government, “Please stop firing in young people’s eyes. We’ve had to remove one eye completely, and many, many people are now suffering.”

So it’s not simply that it’s happening elsewhere. It’s happening in Europe, as well. And, of course, in your country, you have these huge gatherings. I mean, 26,000 people gathering in Brooklyn to hear Bernie Sanders, that sort of thing doesn’t happen every day in an election campaign. So I think underneath the surface and above it there is a lot of rumbling.

AMY GOODMAN: And in your country, I mean, in Britain, you have thousands of people taking to the streets, particularly around the climate crisis, not only when President Trump made that state visit to London, but you have Extinction Rebellion.

TARIQ ALI: Yeah. That has been huge, very well organized, unpredictable. Attempts to delegitimize it have failed, because the courts have ruled that the police have no right to ban these demonstrations, which is one of the few legal victories a movement has won in this country in recent years. So, that is happening here.

And, you know, let’s hope it ties in with the election campaign. I think the figures are that over a million people have registered between the ages of 18 and 34. They’ve kept to the date, they’ve registered. So I hope that that helps. It would be amazing.

Also, Amy, if Corbyn wins and begins to implement the program, it will have a big effect globally. If it can be done in Britain, why can’t it be done in France? Why can’t it be done in the United States? Why can’t it be done in country X or Y or Z? It will show that it is possible to reverse all the damage inflicted by the neoliberal system, its economic policies, its wars, etc. Corbyn would be the first prime minister of this country who has been an antiwar activist and president of the Stop the War campaign for some years.

So, that is one reason the right is so upset and the establishment has been trying to destabilize him, and this absurd, absurd accusation of him being anti-Semitic has been thrown into the ring by right-wing and liberal Zionists, which has unfortunately had an impact. But, you know, people are fighting back, including large numbers of Jewish activists from Jewish Voices for Labour. But they’ve hurled every possible charge you can imagine at him — he’s a terrorist, he’s an anti-Semite, he’s a communist, he’s going to be like Stalin. You cannot imagine it outside this country, what they’ve thrown at him. And he’s come back fighting. Well, this is probably his last fight politically to win this election, and let’s hope he succeeds.

AMY GOODMAN: Tariq Ali, the noted historian, activist and author, speaking to us from London. He is co-editor of the new book In Defense of Julian Assange. To see our full interview with Tariq Ali, you can go to

Well, we’ll be broadcasting from Stockholm, Sweden, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, where the Brazilian indigenous leader Davi Kopenawa and the Western Sahara human rights activist Aminatou Haidar will be receiving the Right Livelihood Award. Then we go to Madrid, Spain, for the U.N. climate summit on Friday and continuing all next week.

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