UW-Madison to honor Marxist scholar who praised Hugo Chavez

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is presenting a lifetime achievement award to Marxist writer and activist Tariq Ali, who has openly praised socialist dictators like Hugo Chavez.

According to the MacIver Institute, Ali has been selected by the university’s A.E. Havens Center for Social Justice to receive the 2017 Lifetime Contribution to Critical Scholarship Award, which recognizes individuals with a "distinguished and extensive record of scholarly achievement in the critical tradition of social thought."

The Havens Center, which was established in 1984 under the auspices of the Sociology Department, exists to “suggest both practical and utopian alternatives” to “the sources of inequality and injustice in existing social arrangements,” drawing inspiration from “the many social movements seeking progressive social and political change.”

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Alongside his academic and journalistic work, the MacIver Institute claims that Ali has a history of controversial political activism and vocal support for authoritarian communist regimes, such as repeated meetings with former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and his successor, Nicolás Maduro.

Following Chávez’s death, Ali published a column in The Guardian reflecting fawningly on his presidency, political career, and governing style.

“He appeared as an indestructible ox, speaking for hours to his people in a warm, sonorous voice, a fiery eloquence that made it impossible to remain indifferent,” Ali rhapsodized. “He had a punctilious sense of duty to his people. He was one of them. Unlike European social democrats he never believed that any improvement in humankind would come from the corporations and the bankers and said so long before the Wall Street crash of 2008.”

Ali also praised the new political structure established by Chávez, and encouraged the next generation of the country’s leaders to advance it forward.

“The system he created, a social democracy based on mass mobilisations, needs to progress further,” Ali maintained. “Will his successors be up to the task? In a sense, that is the ultimate test of the Bolívarian experiment.”

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The controversial writer also joined the International Marxist Group (now known as Socialist Action) in the late 1960’s and has since maintained an affiliation with various branches of the socialist movement.

While UW’s Havens Center for Social Justice primarily advocates for “critical intellectual reflection,” the organization also stresses the importance of “active engagement” and establishing a framework for “creative critical analysis.”

“By fostering such interaction and providing a space for critical voices advocating democratic alternatives to existing social arrangements, the Havens Center seeks to contribute to the development of a society openly committed to reason, democracy, equality, and freedom,” the center explains on its official website.

According to the report, Ali will appear on the university’s campus in October to deliver his award speech on the topic of wars and revolutions of the past century.

The Havens Center for Social Justice did not immediately return Campus Reform’s request for comment.

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