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Wednesday, 01 May 2013 22:35

Tariq Ali: A Revolutionary Made Good

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A Revolutionary Made Good  

In the late 1960s the British Labour Party was in turmoil. The Old Left (as they came to be known) were being challenged by a new generation of activist students, bent on ending support for the Vietnam War and infused with the enthusiasm of the emerging stuudent movement and voice. Sometime in, I think, 1967, a debate was arranged between the two sides in the historic Westminster Hall adjacent to Westminster Abbey. The two major antagonists in the debate were Michael Foot - onetime Leader of the Labour Party and Tariq Ali, representing the New Left. It was a memorable encounter. Both had previously been President of the Oxford Union Debating Society. The debate was televised, and, watching the protagonists carefully, I could not but notice how Foot - seemingly muted and unemphatic responded much less theatrically and was much more conscious of the content of his speech (than to the image of his presentation) to the presence of the cameras than his opposite number.

I watched the debate with friends, and immediately after, penned this poem to Tariq Ali. Looking back now, with the hindsight of 40 years experience I have to admit that I( was a bit harsh. Both before and since then, Tariq Ali had proved his political courage and integrity. It was I, if anyone, whose arrogance was evident in my writing. Ali has since been in the forefront of many radical causes and has many times placed his intellectual and political reputation on the line.

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