In This Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope
Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope
By Tariq Ali
Verso, 2006, 224 pp.

Ali, the Pakistani British essayist and editor of London's New Left Review, briefly visits Caracas, La Paz, and Havana and returns with a message of hope. Few individuals or political movements meet the stern Trotskyite's superhigh standards (his writings on the Arab world make for depressing reading), but Ali revels in the new stirrings among the urban and rural poor in Latin America. He blames much of the region's problems on U.S. imperialism and the "fundamentalist" Washington consensus but directs his strongest polemics against social democratic renegades, lamenting the Venezuelan intellectual Teodoro Petkoff's personal journey from communism to anti-Chávez activism and labeling Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva a "tropical Tony Blair." Ali disparages the "human rights industry" and nonprofit organization bureaucrats "who desire to change very little, excepting their apartments." This short, hurried work, much of it recycled journalism, is full of factual errors and oversimplifications (for example, that Foreign Affairs is the "State Department's house journal"). Nevertheless, Ali's vitriolic volleys do occasionally hit their mark, and the old-school theoretician recognizes the organizational and intellectual weaknesses of his "pirates" and the long, difficult roads they face.