Friday, October 28, 2011

Libya - Setback for Anti Imperialist Struggle by Peter Tobin

Democracy and Class Struggle publishes Comrade Peter Tobin's article on Libya and Imperialism. The views contained in this article are those of Peter Tobin and not Democracy and Class Struggle and we invite comments and contributions on the question of Libya and Imerialism from readers.

The view of Democracy and Class Struggle on Libya is here :

Copy of article written for new Nepali language UCPN(M) monthly journal - Krambaddha by Peter Tobin.

Gaddafi, lynched like Saddam Hussain, whatever his twists and turns of the last ten years, redeemed himself at the end, by dying fighting imperialism. The record shows that over the 42 years of his regime, he used Libya’s oil wealth against Western Imperialism, led by the US and its local military outpost – the white Zionist colony, Israel. He utilized ‘terrorist’ methods that Arab militants found was the only military avenue of resistance open to them, a position that no communist would criticize; it is for oppressed people to choose their way of struggle, according to their circumstances.

Therefore Gaddafi’s Libya bank-rolled many Palestinian resistant groups, and for decades was the most militant Arab leader on the Palestinian question, among Saudi Arabian lip-servers, Jordanian vacillators, or outright Egyptian traitors; like Sadat and Mubarak after him.

He also came to see the African dimension, and uniquely, for an Arab leader substantially funded the Organisation of African Unity (OAU); an act of solidarity with the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa, a recognition that their sufferings under Western imperialism, were no different from those of the Arab masses; genocide, dispossession, theft of natural resources and brutal colonial, or neo-colonial rule.

Gaddafi was also a strong financial and political supporter of the African National Congress (ANC), when the West labeled it a ‘communist terror’ group. The fact that the first person Mandela visited outside South Africa was Gaddafi shows the depth of his, and ANC’s, gratitude. He will be mourned there as a mark of their continuing respect.


Gaddafi’s attempt, as a devout Muslim, to counter the cultural imperialism of the West led to a radical interpretation of the Koran, which saw the ‘Ummah” (the body of the striving faithful) as the Arab masses desiring/requiring socialism. Hence the ‘Jamayriah’, proposed in the ‘Green Book’ - an Islamist parody, a riposte and rival to Mao’s ‘Little Red Book’ and ‘Red Revolution’.

He furthermore thought, until the millennium, at least, that he could build ‘Green socialism in one country’, staving off imperialist designs on Libya’s oil wealth, and the deadly enmity of all the pro-Western Arab regimes, led by Wahabbist Saudi Arabia. His state tried to mobilize the masses through popular devolving committees. However, he had no formal role within the power structure, acting as a last ‘adviser/guru’ issues and policy.


Libyan society, with a population of around 4 million has not moved very far beyond four major ethnic groups into a cohesive voluntary civil society. It never was a nation, but always a collection of disputatious tribes, unified by Islam, if little else. Hence, it was easily overcome by the modern, industrial, Italian state, looking for its ‘place in the sun’, building an overseas empire with of series of incursions into Libya and subsequently Abyssinia, and in the former achieving imperial status in 1934. (Like clan Ireland fell to Strongbow & Henry ll in 1169/71, and Native Americans fell to the white European colonisers on the North-American continent &c.)

The urban centres, mainly Benghazi and Tripoli have a substantial free-market private sector with bourgeois and petit-bourgeois stratas, swollen by subsidies from oil revenues, and a largely Western educated, professional, media and technological elite, many of whom are culturally and ideologically hegemonised by bourgeois ideas, mores, and values. This class has been prominent in all imperialist backed populist movements of the last few years; Ukraine, Lebanon, Iran, Burma, to list a few. They hang their hats on the ‘Human Rights’ and ‘Democracy’ banner against media demonised, ‘authentic’ villains , straight from Holly/Bollywood central-casting.

Well - Gaddafi, in this gallery of Western ‘baddies’ was the baddest of them all! When Bin Laden was still wondering which of his father’s wives was his mother, Muhammar was Number One hate figure in Western media circles.


Take his relations with UK governments; he became convinced in the 1980s that the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) was fighting a struggle of national liberation against British imperialism in the six counties of Ulster, that reignited in 1969. I don’t intend to go into the pro and cons of this issue here, but, the result was Libya provided PIRA with guns, and most importantly, the new advanced, Czech, plastic dynamite – Semtex. This was a key factor in keeping the war going for another decade. PIRA did not bomb the million Protestants, loyal to Britain, into a republic, but they did bomb their to the negotiating table, as was graphically demonstrated by the effect of the campaign launched against the British homeland; the biggest attack devastating the entire square mile of London’s financial centre and seriously shaking the morale of the British Establishment.

Adams and Morrison would not be sitting on the Northern Ireland Executive were it not for his decisive, practical assistance, and Provisional Sein Fein, political and military wing, are also in his debt and owe his family condolences.

Another example; a tiny Trotskyite sect – the Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP) convinced Gaddafi that it was the authentic voice of the British Revolution, and seizure of state power was certain within a few years. All that was needed was a propaganda machine to convey ‘Bolshevik-Leninist-Trotskyist truth’ to the awaiting proletarian masses, eager to get on with the revolution by sweeping away their existing ‘reformist’, ‘Stalinist’ leadership!

Gaddafi gave these buffoons millions, enabling them to produce a glossy daily newspaper, ‘Newsline’ something the entire British, left wing movement, vastly outnumbering this semi-religious playgroup, could only match with the CPGB revisionist, economist, humanist, peacenik, plodding ‘Morning Star’; itself topped up by Moscow money in all events.

I cite these to show the weakness of charismatic leader systems; individuals who can act impulsively, emotionally, quixotically, often misguidedly and with impunity.


Certainly the cult of personality plays a progressive role in certain situations, the cult around Gadaffi, that caused him to become such a hate-figure in Western ruling, and thence through to popular circles, was because he stood up to the American/Zionists in Palestine, because he stood up to their stooges in the Arab League, because he stood up the West in OPEC to secure better prices for oil producers.

When you are so reviled by the Evil Empires of the West, then you must be doing something right?

But the truth is that the steam ran out of his ‘Green Revolution’ years ago, a national identity was never truly forged, with rural remaining tribal, and urban compromised by the developed world’s bourgeois culture - ‘psychologically colonised’- as Franz Fanon, the formidable Algerian Marxist, put it, an ideological comprador class. Those successfully duped into believing that Western bourgeois democracy and capitalism express universal human values, demonstrating such a circle of perfection, as to constitute, in the words of the right-wing American ideologue, Fukyama, parodying Hegel, the ‘end of history’. Whereas communists argue that Western, specifically Anglo-Saxon global command, is a purely transitory, historical contingency, a stage like feudalism to be transcended, as Mao said, in the dialectical ‘action and reaction’ that has marked human society from pre-history.

Make no mistake; from General Attaturk, (four years after he kicked the bejasus out of the British ANZAC, Dardanelles invasion) and the Young Turk movement, establishing modern, secular Turkey in 1919, out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, to the Baathist, secular, socialist message of Affleck in Syria, to the great Colonel Nasser, and also to the comparatively long-lived Baathist regimes of Syria, Algeria and Iraq - all were genuine anti-imperialists, who achieved much for their societies. Syria is ‘last man standing’ and next immediate target for the imperialists and Zionists. Where it not for these regimes the Palestinian cause would have been completely lost, and Lebanon would have been Balkanised. That is why they have incurred the enmity of the American led West; it is simply a question of settling geo-political accounts hiding behind the flag of ‘Human Rights’ – ‘Liberty’ – ‘Freedom’ and ‘democracy’.

But, as with charismatic systems, military ones, however progressive, have limitations, as there is ultimately no authority, institutional or popular, to which they are answerable. The reason it occurred in the Arab world was because the army was the only modern institution in society, equipped, not only with access to superior killing equipment, but to linguistic, cultural and political influences.

From Lenin’s support for Ataturk, against the imperialist, 1919, Versailles carve-up of the Middle East, communist have supported these progressive anti-imperialist struggles, while recognising the limitations outlined above, and their often explicit anti-communism. The fact is these regimes have faded and crumbled, under the pressure from growing Western economic and military post-1945 superiority. They have, and are, being picked off one-by-one, Gaddafi is just the latest; demonstrating that these forces can no longer carry forward the struggle against imperialism - the dog has barked but the caravan has moved on. In this century only revolutionary communism can successfully challenge imperialism, because it is the only polity and ideology that recognizes the primacy of the people and unleashes their historical potential.

Like Baathism, of which he is a Islamist mutation, the road ran out for Gaddafi; his desperate attempts to make peace with Western imperialists; get rid of his ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’, accept responsibility for Lockerbie, etc and avoid Saddam’s fate, have come to naught.

That’s the flexibility of the bourgeois democratic system – one day Tony Blair will come and hug you, another day one of his replacements will come and kill you (and your children – for good measure).

His Libya, like Saddam’s Iraq, was trashed and bombed, only the lies and the military modalities were different; against the former – to save the world from ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction” and latter – to save civilians from being massacred by a ‘evil regime’, in the hands of a certifiable ‘lunatic’. The euphemism ‘humanitarian mission’ covers military aggression and invasion.

Both were lies based on the strategy of ‘Liberal Interventionism’, another euphemism, propounded following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, that abandoned the prohibition enacted in the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, ending the Thirty Years War in Europe, against invading countries, whose regimes you do not approve, in order to replace them with more amenable ones.

The UN mandate to ‘protect civilians’ by enforcing a ‘no-fly zone’ did not sanction regime change, arming opposition forces, giving those forces close air support or assassinating the Head of State. NATO’s decisive intervention even exceeded the bounds of trans-national bourgeois jurisprudence with, among others, Gareth Evans, the co-chair of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty condemning the aggression, stating it was not allowed for under the explicit legal terms of the mandate.

This time also, America agreed the job be sub-let out to its junior partners-in-crime; principally Britain and France. The Secret services of all NATO states were active in promoting the civil war, by arming and financially supporting a plethora of tribal, Islamic and comprador opposition groups. They have shown themselves to be such an undisciplined, murderous, Quisling rabble that they would not have succeeded without the sustained, brutal NATO air assault.

Even so we will see if Libyan patriots take Colonel Muhammar Gaddafi’s death as the end of hostilities? We will see if Gaddfiism has left any deep roots in Libyan society, or whether, like his ashes, it is blown away into the desert sands. He is probably the last effective member of a tough breed of nationalist Arab Bonapartist leaders who made history in the 20th century. The specific circumstances under which genus flourished no longer apply, because imperialism is extinguishing its conditions of existence.

Successful Arab resistance, however, does continue, as Hamas and Hezbollah have shown, and while they are nominally Muslim organizations, albeit of Sunni and Shiite dispensations respectively, they are none the less closer to being genuine mass movements drawn from their peoples, and giving the Zionist/fascist US/Israeli expansionists a military run for their money.


Like Iraq, this is about oil, it is about securing a crucial natural resource, which enables a decadent, gluttonous, wasteful consumer-capitalist, commodity-obsessed, Western society to continue dancing on the edge of a volcano, at the expense of the rest of the World.

To a secondary extent; it is about the constant need, in an economy with a huge military-industrial complex, to test rapidly evolving military equipment on a real enemy – the more defenceless the better. War is continuous under imperialism, and the US leads the way as chief war-monger. Now it is even a great video game for the militarily-minded armchair warrior retard. The French philosopher, Braudillard, said of the 1990 attack on Iraq, it was: “a virtual reality war” designed for a society, with a popular culture saturated by violent imagery and corrupted by generations of imperial slavery, genocide and brutality against the peoples outside the ‘First-World’ heartlands, and with the technological capacity to participate and gloat in the death and suffering of peoples in far-away lands, without in any way suffering retribution, or even the threat of it. (Drones watching Drones?)

The German, communist playwright, Brecht in ‘ The Three penny Opera’ has a policeman and a criminal reminisce about the great times they had serving in the British Army on the Indian sub-continent:

(German) (Eng. trans.)

“und es begegnete, “and when they met

Inhnen ‘ne neue Rasse a new race

‘ne braune oder blasé, a brown, or a white one

Dann machen sie vielleicht They’d probably make

Daraus ihr Beefsteak Tartar Mincemeat outta them.”

NATO’s war crime against the Libyan people, however dressed up in modern ‘PR-speak’, is another blood-soaked, imperial adventure, driven by greed and treachery, where the flags of the NATO aggressors against the Libyan people, are better described as butchers’ aprons, and the so-called ‘liberators’ of Libya are no more than imperialist running dogs, (exception among anti-Gaddafi forces being the Jihadists who have their own anti-Western combined Anti-Arab secularist/heretic agenda.)

Finally: Gaddafi’s brutal termination shows again that the default position against Western gangster imperialism, however and wherever it is manifest, is People’s War. Between the international proletariat and the bourgeoisie there can be stalemate, realignment, defeat or victory– but never compromise or agreement.

1) I have not discussed the events in Libya in relation to its distinct Maghreb identity within the Arab nation, comprising the states across North Africa; Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia. Even here Gaddaffi’s Islamic faith make him stand out among the leaders who emerged in the anti-colonial struggles of mid-century, Ben Barka, Ben Bella, Bourguiba &c. were all secular, cosmopolitan, civilian politicians. The best authority on this is the Marxist-Leninist, political economist, Samir Amin.

2) There is no reference on the Libyan civil war in relation to the ‘Arab Spring’, because I do not think there is homogeneity among the recent regional upsurges. In this light, I think the Libyan situation is uniquely important, (even from its next-door neighbor, Tunisia), as it closes a chapter on an historical period of resistance to imperialist hegemony in the Middle East and communists can draw precise lessons from it.

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