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Marx becoming relevant again: Tariq Ali

New Delhi: Twenty-one years after the fall of the East Bloc, Karl Marx is becoming relevant to students of politics, economics and modern history across the world who want to understand capitalism, says noted Pakistan born novelist, historian and political activist Tariq Ali.

"Marxism is one of the things people are reading now. I know of universities in the US where the students have formed Marxist Study Circles to understand capitalism," Ali, who is based in London, told reporters here.

Marx is "bestseller in Europe again because young people are talking about him", said Ali, 68, who was in India to release a short biography of progressive Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz.

According to him, Marxism in the genre in which it existed in Russia and China has gone.

"...And that is a not a bad thing… It did not actually educate the party members and allow them to think critically so that it could create a social layer that could think, which Marx was all about. That was a foolish way of developing a political organisation.

"The character in Greek mythology that Marx really loved was Prometheus who was expelled from heaven... Yet Prometheus gave the earthlings the gift of fire. If they misused it (the ideology), it was not Marx`s fault," Ali said.

Explaining the conflicting relationship between religion and politics, he said "it has been a time-honoured historical tradition all over the world for political parties to use religion to push their agendas... and all of it is authoritarian agenda.

"When they do it in Islam, it angers me because the history of Islam in many parts of the world is the history of dissent from within. The rise of religion is a modern phenomenon," he said.

Considered one of the best orators in the world of contemporary socialist intellectuals, Ali laces his observations with caustic wit.

"The new president of Pakistan (Asif Ali Zardari) is not a religious man... it is one of the positive things about him. His religion is money and other people`s money.

"Why he went to Ajmer, I was surprised... but it will come out. Everything in Pakistan is exposed, the country has changed," he laughed.

He added that the residents of Lahore were praying to Allah "to grant US their avatar of Zardari".

The son of journalist Mazhar Ali Khan and activist Tahira Mazhar Ali Khan, Tariq is is an authority on Islamic military history and the Left movements all over the world.

He has authored 17 books including "Protocols of the Elders of Sodom and Other Essays", "The Obama Syndrome", "The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power" and "Islam Quintet" (a five-part fictional history of ancient Islamic civilisations) and hundreds of articles espousing his views of a "free, thinking and just social structure".

Ali is often dubbed the "alleged inspiration" for the Rolling Stones 1968 track "Street Fighting Man"; an interview John Lennon gave to Ali inspired the iconic singer to later write "Power to the People".

The Left intellectual does not like coming to India.

"The last time I came was in 2006. I was mostly in Kolkata (and a bit in Delhi). Getting a visa is a struggle. I had to wait for three months for a visa to India.

"It is what we suffer from the bureaucracy. It is not as easy any more as it was in the 1970s and 1980s.

"I hope this tension which began after 9/11 does not punish common people travelling in the subcontinent. You cannot learn unless you travel..." he rued.

Ali said he was writing a new book. "It is about the American empire and how long it will last," he said. He expects to complete it in a year.

IANS

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