Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Interview with author and activist, Tariq Ali

Posted in activism, atheism, Barack Obama, BTR, Citizen Radio, politics, religion by allisonkilkenny on April 8, 2009

tariq_061229102525399_wideweb__300x375Citizen Radio interviews Tariq Ali, celebrated intellectual and the man who famously debated Henry Kissinger. A world-renowned activist, who the Rolling Stones named the song “Street Fighting Man” after, Tariq Ali spends the hour talking with Citizen Radio.

Tariq Ali talks with Citizen Radio about a range of subjects from the true definition of Socialism to his discussions with Malcolm X, and how he thinks atheists and religious people can work together to make the world a better place.

Listen here. Transcript is posted below. Please feel free to repost both the interview and transcript, but please credit Citizen Radio.

Tariq Ali is the author of the new book, The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power.

Citizen Radio airs every Wednesday on BTR. Episodes available 24/7 in our archives.

Jamie Kilstein: Recently, on FOX News – and actually all news stations – we’ve kind of been hearing Obama denounced as a Socialist. They’ll be like, “No one wants socialized healthcare,” or “socialized banks,” and I think, for the first time, there are some people who are like, “Yeah, we do. We kind of do. That sounds really nice.” But Obama didn’t have anyone who represents single-payer healthcare at his health conference, and the banks are getting our money, and we’re not getting anything in return. So first, I wanted you to give the actual definition of Socialism because I think it’s mischaracterized a lot here, and second, why you think decrying Socialism has been such a successful scare tactic in a country where rich-poor divide is so large.

Tariq Ali: There are many definitions of Socialism. The simplest way to define it, I guess, would be: the ownership of public utilities and things important to the economy and the land by the state in the interests of the common people. I would go beyond that and say where public utilities are owned by the state, my definition of Socialism would also include the people, who work in these utilities, playing a part in determining how they are run, and not allowing the state to nominate bureaucrats to them. That has never really happened anywhere, but given the crisis into which Socialism fell in the ‘90s, I think you need more and more democracy at every level of functioning.

Read the rest of the interview behind the cut.

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Shameless Democratic-Socialist Propaganda

Posted in atheism, Democrats, media, politics by allisonkilkenny on April 8, 2009

YM001405Typical. The Times is at it again. The liberal rag published another thinly-veiled, socialist rant in Tuesday’s edition. Though, this time, the diatribe came from an unlikely source: David Brooks, the Canadian-American columnist, who has served as senior editor to the Weekly Standard, contributes his thoughtful analyses to the Atlantic Monthly, and identifies himself as a “moderate conservative.”

Of course, David is completely unaware that he makes a perfect plea of his readers to join the Democratic-Socialist cause. His column explores the roots of morality, and rattles off scientific theories about where our morality comes from, and how it benefits us as a society to have “morals.” It’s actually pretty interesting, though the best part comes when David steps back and analyzes “morality” i.e. communal spirit:

Like bees, humans have long lived or died based on their ability to divide labor, help each other and stand together in the face of common threats. Many of our moral emotions and intuitions reflect that history. We don’t just care about our individual rights, or even the rights of other individuals. We also care about loyalty, respect, traditions, religions. We are all the descendents of successful cooperators. 

But David, what of that “rugged individualism” that Conservatives so cherish and praise? Are you saying that gallivanting around a dude ranch, refusing to pay taxes and/or care for our fellow humans, is not only the behavior of a selfish, childish asshole, but also detrimental to society itself?

The first nice thing about this evolutionary approach to morality is that it emphasizes the social nature of moral intuition. People are not discrete units coolly formulating moral arguments. They link themselves together into communities and networks of mutual influence.

Like unions, perhaps? But those are the things your Conservative brethren are fighting tooth and nail to suffocate! They’ll be the reason the Employee Free Choice Act fails in Congress. You should really share with them your revelations about all of this “help thy neighbor” stuff, and how it’s so great for our society.

And don’t let Rush hear you talk like that. On the other hand, you may be safe. He’s too busy packing (thank you, Jesus) his things, and moving out of New York. 

The second nice thing is that it entails a warmer view of human nature. Evolution is always about competition, but for humans, as Darwin speculated, competition among groups has turned us into pretty cooperative, empathetic and altruistic creatures — at least within our families, groups and sometimes nations.

Tell your Wall Street buddies that, David. Drop some knowledge onto their finally coifed ‘dos, and let them know competition isn’t everything, that human beings are more than stocks, portfolios, credit default swaps, and speculative mortgages. Ask those financial firm CEOs if jumping out of the burning building with $23 million in severance is an altruistic act, or the act of a pirate.

I’m sorry. That’s not fair. Pirates were actually very democratic creatures that allowed voting and egalitarian debate. They also didn’t profit from suckering poor people into bad loans. Of course, they raped a lot, which is definitely a tick in the “Bad” column.

But I digress. As if he knew I would be reading him today, David throws this curveball at the last possible moment:

[The rise and now dominance of this emotional approach to morality] challenges the new atheists, who see themselves involved in a war of reason against faith and who have an unwarranted faith in the power of pure reason and in the purity of their own reasoning.

…What? Did David Brooks just cite a scientific theory at length, and then in the last paragraph of his column, thumb his nose at atheists who believe in — wait for it — science and reason?

On behalf of the human species, I apologize to the trees that gave their lives for David Brooks’ pointless musings to be published in otherwise highly usable column space.

What an embarrassment.

Reimagining Socialism

Posted in Capitalism, Economy by allisonkilkenny on March 19, 2009

 AVENGING ANGELS

Tariq Ali

The crisis confronting capitalism is a vivid demonstration of the vapidity that underlay the appeal of globalization (a k a the Washington Consensus) as a mantra for all seasons, all times, all countries and all continents. Mass unemployment once again threatens the advanced capitalist world, as it has during thirty-four business cycles since 1854. Ehrenreich and Fletcher map today’s conditions, underline the weaknesses of the left on every level and then pose the old question, What is to be done?

Before addressing the question, a few points of disagreement. Despite mocking those on the left who, in the past, saw every downturn as an opportunity to proclaim that the end of capitalism was nigh, the authors fall into the same trap. This time, we are told, the “patient may not get up from the table.” I don’t agree. Capitalism is always faced with crises, which are part of the deadly logic of an economy based on a state-buttressed market system. It has failed many times before but has recovered, including during periods when it confronted real political challenges. Its ability to adapt and survive should not be underestimated, even though it will do so, as before, at the expense of the majority it exploits. 

Until the emergence of a viable sociopolitical and economic alternative, perceived by a majority as such, there will be no final crisis of capitalism. In order to save themselves, today’s elites will consider approaches to the crisis that preserve the status quo. The choice they are faced with domestically is between establishing a public utility credit and banking operation geared to reviving a productive sector, or shoring up a discredited, deregulated Wall Street/City of London operation based on fictive capital. The bailouts in New York and London are designed to do the latter. Globally, it’s more difficult to accept a loss of Atlanticist control, but if pressure continues to mount, the Far Eastern bloc might suggest a new set of institutions based on multilateral rather than imperial control, leading to dismantling but also renewal.

What of the alternatives? With the post-1990 entry of capitalism into Russia, China, Vietnam, etc., the global media networks crowed that the capitalist Cinderella had defeated the ugly sisters, communism and socialism. The shift was experienced by a majority of the world’s less-privileged citizens as a collapse of all anti-capitalist perspectives.

A new mood for change developed slowly: the Caracazo in 1989, Seattle a decade later, followed by the birth of a World Social Forum to counter the ideology of Davos, followed by a set of mass social movements in South America. The dramatic collapse of the Argentinian economy led to workers’ self-management experiments, factory occupations and district soviets (councils) in Buenos Aires to discuss a different future. In Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay, the social movements challenging the neoliberal order produced governments that represented a new form of radical social democracy that seeks to combine state, socialized, cooperative, small-scale private and individual enterprises. These popularly elected governments broke the isolation of Cuba and obtained its help in constructing health and education infrastructures that benefit the majority. If Cuba, in turn, learned the importance of political pluralism from its new allies, the results would be beneficial.

What happens in Latin America is important for the United States. The backyard has moved indoors. The large Hispanic population within US borders maintains links with its past. The effect has sometimes been negative–e.g., among Cubans in Florida, but there, too, the mood is changing. The social movements in South America challenged deregulation and privatization more effectively than organized labor has done in North America or Western Europe. If adopted in the United States, this model could build popular pressure for a nationalized health service, massive investment in education and reduced military spending, and against bailouts for the car industry and sinking airlines. Let them fall, so that a public transportation infrastructure can be built based on an ecologically sound and more efficient train service that serves the needs of all. Without action from below, there will be no change from above.

Tariq Ali is an editor at New Left Review. His latest book is The Duel: Pakistan on the Flightpath of American Power (Scribner).

Other Contributions to the Forum

Immanuel Wallerstein, “Follow Brazil’s Example

Bill McKibben, “Together, We Save the Planet

Rebecca Solnit, “The Revolution Has Already Occurred

Robert Pollin, “Be Utopian: Demand the Realistic

John Bellamy Foster, “Economy, Ecology, Empire

Christian Parenti, “Limits and Horizons

Doug Henwood, “A Post-Capitalist Future is Possible

Mike Davis, “The Necessary Eloquence of Protest

Lisa Duggan, “Imagine Otherwise

Vijay Prashad, “The Dragons, Their Dragoons

Ralph Nader/Matt Gonzalez Wall Street Bailout Rally

Posted in Uncategorized by allisonkilkenny on October 18, 2008