On History: Tariq Ali and Oliver Stone in Conversation
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the politics of history.
Their dialogue brings to light a number of forgotten—or deliberately buried—episodes of American history, from the US intervention against the Russian Revolution and the dynamic radicalism of the
Industrial Workers of the World to Henry Wallace’s sidelining by Democratic Party machine insiders and the ongoing interference of the United States in Pakistani political affairs.
For Stone and Ali—two of our most insightful observers on history and popular culture—no topic is sacred, no orthodoxy goes unchallenged.
TARIQ ALI is an internationally acclaimed Pakistani writer and filmmaker. He has written more than two dozen books on world history and politics and seven novels (translated into over a dozen languages) as well as scripts for the stage and screen. He is an editor of New Left Review and lives in London.
OLIVER STONE has directed, among other films, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, W., World Trade Center, Alexander, Any Given Sunday, Nixon, Natural Born Killers, Heaven and Earth, JFK, The Doors, Born on the Fourth of July, Talk Radio, Wall Street, Platoon, Salvador, and the documentaries Looking for Fidel, Comandante, Persona Non Grata, South of the Border, and the upcoming The Untold History of the United States series for Showtime.
British, who could no longer control Iran. The election of a nationalist government in Iran, the National Front Party, a very democratic movement led by Mohammed Mosaddegh, was a turning point. The first thing Mosaddegh did when he was elected in Iran was nationalize the oil. He said Iranian oil is not going to remain under the control of the British. And at that point the United States decided to back the British, so the CIA and British intelligence organized the toppling of the Mosaddegh
embark on such a project. An old sinner can’t be stopped from casting the penultimate stone. —Tariq Ali Chapter 1 From the Russian Revolution to the Second World War Oliver Stone: I’ve always wanted to meet you, and I’m glad to have you here in Los Angeles, and to share this time together. It’s really an honor, thank you. Tariq Ali: My pleasure. I’d like to get right into it and ask you about a strong thesis in your book Pirates of the Caribbean, regarding the Russian
up for Obama’s election campaign. People said this couldn’t happen in Europe, because in Europe the bulk of kids between eighteen and twenty-six tend not to vote these days. So we are seeing a process where, because of the economic system and the way it offers no possibility of any alternatives, democracy itself is becoming hollowed out as a process. And people are saying if the choice we were offered between center left and center right in Europe, or between the Congress Party and the BJP in
the war in Vietnam that had gained currency during the B-movie years of Reagan’s presidency. Stone had actually fought in that war in the US Infantry, which made it difficult for others to pigeonhole him as a namby-pamby pacifist. Many of his detractors had avoided the draft and were now making up for it by proclaiming that the war could have been won, had the politicians not betrayed the generals. This enraged Stone, who detested the simplistic recipes now on offer in every aspect of American
Dead Statesman,” he wrote, I could not dig: I dared not rob: Therefore I lied to please the mob. Now all my lies are proved untrue, And I must face the men I slew. What tale should serve me here among Mine angry and defrauded young? And these beautiful lines are so applicable to Iraq, to Afghanistan, and to numerous other wars that are being fought in the twenty-first century, a hundred years after Kipling wrote those lines. In your writings, you also cite Joseph Conrad, a Pole living in