Monday, November 06, 2006

Tariq Ali still keeping the leftish dream alive, Clive James still self-deprecating his own existance. What more could a middle-aged Englishman want?

Tariq Ali is a few years older than I am and was already established as a revolutionary leftwing thinker by the time I went to University. He was an influential figure in those heady days of the early 1970s which I maintain were really part of the sixties; that iconic decade not having really got up steam until around 1963.

Then it was more than fashionable to be young and radical. As I’ve mentioned before, there were causes around which it was simple to unite and protest. The Vietnam War and, especially, the situation in apartheid-ridden South Africa seemed so obviously wrong that banner-waving became pretty-well obligatory.

And the British establishment, still near the height of its powers, provided another easy target for those of us dreaming of a socialist utopia. It had received a few bad shocks: Suez, the Lady Chatterley case and the Profumo affair to name but a few, but it wasn’t yet in full retreat. It was even, just about, still possible to believe the communist dream. Although by 1970 it was becoming increasingly obvious that the Soviet and East European system had some major flaws, there was so little information coming out of China that we could comfort ourselves that they’d got the model right where the Russians had failed.

I admire Tariq Ali in a way for keeping ‘the faith’ all these years. He was on Radio Four’s Start the Week programme this morning advertising his new book “Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope”. His dream has now shifted to South America.

Another participant asked him the question I’d liked to have asked, sort of relating to the ‘test’ that I mentioned in a post on Friday. He asked if Tariq could name one country in which his ideals were being successfully practised, like me, hoping that one could be produced. But it couldn’t.

Clive James was next up on Radio Four reading the first of five extracts from his ‘Unreliable Memoirs’ sequence of autobiographical musings. This book is called “The North Face of Soho” and today’s episode covered his marriage, clothes and his attempts to bring his Cambridge Footlights review into the West End in the 1960s. As our French friends might say ‘très drôle’...

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