The Extreme Centre and its enemies

Extreme Centre

Democracy in the west is groaning under the weight of greed, inequality and political self-interest. Unfortunately Tariq Ali doesn’t have the answers

The Extreme Centre: A Warning

Tariq Ali

Verso, £7.99

If Tariq Ali is a leading figure on the British left, as the Guardian describes him, then the prospects for socialism are bleaker than is commonly supposed. One of the first things which strikes the reader about The Extreme Centre is the staleness of the prose and the way in which the same turns of phrase – ‘stifling neo-liberal consensus’, ‘imperial wars’ and ‘Thatcherism’ – are deployed on page after page until they lose their meaning.

Ali isn’t alone in this respect; however the arguments in the book lack freshness too, and this is probably reflected in the prose. The tone veers between that of a cantankerous uncle who bores the family at Christmas with dreary speeches on the ‘state of the world’, and a man grasping desperately at ‘alternatives’ like a dog chasing a piece of tin foil in the wind.

The Extreme Centre need not have turned out this way. There is something nauseating about the way our truncated western democracy often means little more than a choice between “Tweedledee and Tweedledum”, as Ali puts it. For all the glib and simplistic pronunciations of the Economist and City AM, capitalism is able to function perfectly well without democracy, and in those parts of the world where the ballot box has threatened the powerful the former has been quickly cauterised in the name of ‘the markets’ (see: the bankers). Continue reading “The Extreme Centre and its enemies”