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About the Author

Tariq Ali is a writer and filmmaker. He has written more than two dozen books on world history and politics, seven novels (translated into over a dozen languages), and scripts for the stage and screen. He is an editor of New Left Review and lives in London.
Image credit: Tariq Ali Photo: Jonathan Cape


Works by Tariq Ali

The Book of Saladin (1998) 414 copies
A Sultan in Palermo (2005) 235 copies
The Stone Woman (2000) 227 copies
Trotsky for Beginners (1980) 220 copies
Fear of Mirrors (1998) 51 copies
The Islam Quintet (2014) 47 copies
Redemption (1990) 38 copies
The Leopard and the Fox (2006) 23 copies
The Trials of Spinoza (2011) 17 copies
Moscow Gold (1990) 7 copies
South of the Border [2009 film] (2009) — Screenwriter — 6 copies
The Lenin Scenario (2024) 4 copies
2007 1 copy
Necklaces (1992) 1 copy

Associated Works

A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant, and a Prayer (2007) — Contributor — 105 copies
The Declarations of Havana (2008) — Introduction, some editions — 65 copies


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Common Knowledge




When you are to read about one of the controversial (to say the least) historical figures in a book written by author that is heavily biased towards that very person one needs to have a clear head. And so, I started this book wanting to see what will I find in it and truly hoping this is not going to be a propaganda-pamphlet-book. I am happy to say this was not the case.

Tariq Ali writes in a wonderful way. This book could have been a very poor and dry read but he manages to make it come to life. Author obviously knows a lot about the period and provides not only references to other works but his own additional comments on the subject and this truly adds to the book.

We follow Lenin from his early days, his early childhood, shocking loss of his brother [executed by Tsarist regime] and finally his rise through the Socialist movements and revolutions of 1905 and 1917, bloody Civil War and his very interesting views on the aftermath (and future of the) revolution at the very end of his life.

Lenin is a very intriguing figure, always living in the shadows and very unwilling to share details about his life. If you ever wanted to read about the ultimate spy then I think one needs not look any further. Although he is ever present in the Socialist circles he is constantly being sent to exile by Tsarist regime and living in Western Europe (especially Germany, Switzerland). After the revolution of 1905 he decides to use more radical measures and organizes his party (soon to be known as Bolsheviks) along the lines of what today would be called guerilla movement (think more in line of "Arlington Road" than "Michael Collins") that was highly illegal in Tsarist Russia and gaining popularity in rest of Europe, especially Germany. Lenin was always experimenting with all sorts of political organization but in the end sensing coming WW1 he made a very radical decision that will mark the coming period in history a lot. Decision was simple - single-handedly take the power of Russia using the WW1 horrors Tsarist regime brought on its people (on top of the already existing horrible conditions when it comes to living conditions of majority of population) as an opportunity to galvanize the popular support. This approach, total antagonization of other political parties (sometimes not just through Lenin's actions but his actions surely did not help) will create the atmosphere that will help Stalin and his followers to completely undermine the results of the revolution and create totalitarian state. As we follow the changes revolution brought into Russian society post-1917 we can also see the outlines of the coming disaster.

Although lots of positive changes were done (armistice, social changes, women rights), great losses from WW1 and then bloody Civil War and finally total loss of momentum [when revolution did not take place in Western Europe] and disappointment with the US government actions slowly caused reformists rule to get replaced by ever more bureaucratic machine based on "scientific and democratic approach" (which sounds very very very disturbing these days). Of course this scientific just means that entire population is to be treated as a mass (not mass of individuals but mass) and thus was looked through prism of what you might call condition engine (if...then...) that would mark someone as anti revolutionary based not on concrete actions but on predictions of the actions (thought police? again brrrrr). Is it surprising that snitching became national sport?
Due to horrendous losses in the war the very people that were supposed to be The Population to carry on the revolution were decimated very close to a man and woman by 1920. Influx of uneducated and rural cadre caused by this further ruined the movement because it brought in people that were strong believers in the Tsarist methods but presented it as a reform revolutionary activity (again, this is not something that can be taken against the rural (majority of) Russian population due to their very history, it was not until 1917 that they gained freedom from feudal rulers of Tsarist regime and of course they knew nothing better than the way they were treated).

Author presents Lenin as a intellectual that argued with his opponents but they just forced his hand in the end and caused him to organize complete power takeover during 1917. John Reed's account gives us a more direct view of the man who knew what he was doing and was not forced by anything or anyone - Lening laid a corner stone for a dictatorship that will then become for all means and purposes cult of personality and finally taken over by Stalin.

Would the rule under Lenin be more benevolent if he did not die prematurely? I think it would. He had a very strong stand on how he sees revolution evolving - his final views were premonitions of things to come and his warning on the newly formed apparatus and people heading it were spot on. But these came too little too late in time when he was potentially sidelined by the new majority.

He was a great thinker and he definitely wanted best for his nation but he was a fanatic and unable to plan in the long run (as is always case with zaelots and fanatics). He wanted to transport his nation from medieval period to modern society in a span of little more that a decade by completely obliterating the past knowledge, history and experiences. Unfortunately this cannot be done (as his last remarks clearly show). Society needs to grow and evolve and unfortunately every step in social evolution that is skipped will bring ruin later. Revolution took place too early, without the population that could actually make all the promises a reality. As a result it ended up in form of secular church (which is something it shares with all dictatorships because they all have need to replace religion and place themselves as body/soul keepers/saviors). If this was done in steps/phases, without exclusivity and with better cooperation with the other Socialist parties who knows what could happen. If there ever was a proof for saying haste-makes-waste this was it.

I especially liked the comments on the foreign elements - fail of revolution in Germany (something Lenin could never get over) that caused raise of another radical dictatorship, resistance of West Europe and launch of counter revolution movements (complete disillusion with the worker movements in West Europe and US - again due to very simple fact that these societies were on a completely different level from Russia to begin with so views on the future and politics just could not match) and finally role played by West Europe and US in invading the Russia and assisting Whites. Bibliography is very detailed and I am already on a lookout for other books covering this same period.

In the end greatest beneficiary of the Russian revolution was not Russia but other nations. Victory of the Bolsheviks gave worker movements strength and they soon got their liberties and rights. Strengthening of worker class in Europe helped a lot in resisting Nazism and Fascism but unfortunately caused ever deepening rift between Russian work class and workers of the rest of the Europe. And all thanks to exclusivity of the Soviet regime and unwillingness to communicate and compromise.

Excellent book that should be a warning to both reformers and those following them - immediate jump is not possible. If you want society to progress immediately we need to ask ourselves why - is it because of the population we want to help or for personal goals. Unfortunately road to hell is paved with good intentions and nobody wants to live in hell (right?).

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Zare | 3 other reviews | Jan 23, 2024 |
Having a hard time with this. Surprisingly tedious writing. Taking a break.
lschiff | 8 other reviews | Sep 24, 2023 |
Estamos cerca de Estambul, en 1899, en el palacio que un antiguo amigo del sultán, caído en desgracia, hizo construir después de que este decretara su destierro de la corte, y que durante doscientos años ha pertenecido a sucesivas generaciones de la familia. Nilofer, hija de Iskander Bajá, regresa después de nueve años de ausencia con su hijo. Allí, a la sombra de las familiares paredes del viejo edificio, en mitad de los sensuales olores del antiguo jardín y del vecino mar, se reencontrará con los miembros de su familia, con nuevos y atractivos personajes, miembros todos ellos de una sociedad que vive su decadencia. El regreso moverá a Nilofer a desgranar sus recuerdos y a escuchar de nuevo las viejas historias de la familia Pero igual de importante que su reencuentro con familia, personas y relatos es su reencuentro con "La mujer de piedra", una antiquísima estatua que se levanta en el huerto y que es la depositaria de los secretos, confidencias y consultas de toda la familia...… (more)
libreriarofer | 3 other reviews | Sep 14, 2023 |
Not quite a decade after the fall of Granada, a new archbishop orders the burning of Islamic books and begins forced conversions contrary to the treaty. This book covers the last months of a noble Islamic family with lands producing silk and food and the choices they make. It really seems to be a call for Islamic unity as nearly every catastrophe is bracketed by lamentations about infighting which is itself only mentioned in that context.
quondame | 18 other reviews | Jul 29, 2023 |



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