Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Heard Tariq Ali on the Radio

I get most of my news from the BBC radio website. I can't be bothered with the TV anymore. I can't sit through a movie or an hour long program. I heard on the radio Tariq Ali talking about the recent problems at the Red Mosque in Islamabad. (The government had tried to reopen it after the recent battle but it ended up with another riot.) He talked a lot of sense, but...

I never liked him much. Not really sure why and he is probably blameless. It was when I first saw him, although I already knew of him from the TV. I was 16 and it was 1968. There had been a big demo at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square. I wasn't there. Like many other working class boys of that age I was becoming radicalized and wanted to be in a demonstration. (Sort of radical football hooligan;-)

Rudi Dutschke had just been shot. (I didn't know who he was at the time.) The demo, (do they still call them that?), was outside the London offices of the German publisher of Der Spiegel. I think it was on or near London's Fleet Street. That magazine was being blamed for building up the atmosphere that led to some nutter shooting Dutschke in the head.

There was a real feeling of violence in the air. The one at Grosvenor Square had been noted for how vicious both the police and the crowds had been. (I think a local Bexleyheath boy had been caught in a tabloid front page picture delivering a drop kick on a cop.) The tabloids worried about the poor police horses of course.

At the Der Spiegel office the crowd was pushing up against the police lines and first couple of rows were throwing and receiving kicks and punches. I was a few rows back; I seem to remember there was a funnel affect as the crowd was trying for the doors. I could hear haranguing from behind and there was a few more rows back, Tariq Ali up the shoulders of pair of guys screaming out orders to charge.

I had the idea that leading should be done from the front which was probably stupid but I always thought of Tariq Ali as a backseat driver from then on. A good Millwall hooligan of the same period wouldn't be holding back that's for sure. (No, I wasn't a Millwall supporter, but followed a much more peaceful team down the road at Charlton.)

Going back to Tariq Ali on the radio talking about Pakistan's problems made me think how the Pakistani aristocracy like Ali and the Bhuttos had failed that country so badly. They had nothing in common with the major part of the population and have not been able to offer an the poor an alternative to extreme islam. I hear Benazir is cutting a deal to go back there now. Where did this rich class come from? Were they just powerful landlords, royalty or appointed by the Raj? I would like to find out.

He looks a lot older now. Back in 1968 the establishment was quite afraid of him. Surprised he didn't become a Labour MP and move to the right. He wrote a book called Redemption in 1990 that I would like to get hold of one day.

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