Libyan 2011 revolution degenerating like Gadaffi’s revolution?


Blair and Gadaffi in 2007

When, in 1969, young Muammar Gadaffi and fellow officers overthrew the corrupt monarchy in Libya, they had some good intentions and did some good things.

They seized the royal palace in Tripoli and did not go to live there themselves, but turned it into a public library. They closed British and United States military bases. They nationalized the oil wealth, which so far had been profitable only to foreign multinational corporations and a small clique around the royal family. Education and public housing expanded.

However, Gadaffi’s revolution eventually degenerated into an oppressive dictatorship. Economic policies shifted in the direction of neoliberal capitalism. Lots of money which should have gone to the Libyan people instead went to cliques around the Gadaffi family, to oil and other multinational corporations, and to advisers to the Gadaffi regime like Tony Blair. Meanwhile, privatization meant for many Libyans unemployment and other deteriorations.

After the Tunisian people managed to drive away their dictator Ben Ali who was supported by NATO countries until he had to flee … after the Egyptian people managed to drive away their dictator Mubarak who was supported by NATO countries until his own army deposed him … many Libyans, especially young people, felt inspired to drive away Gadaffi similarly.

There were and are important similarities, but also important differences, between Libya and Tunisia to its west and Egypt to its east. There was justified discontent about political oppression and Thatcherite-Reaganite economics in all three countries. However, the average standard of living in Libya was higher than in other (North) African countries (will it still be after the present devastations of war?).

Also, both in Tunisia and Egypt, workers going on strike played a key role in the downfall of the dictators. In Libya, I have not read about such a working class movement. In Libya, until very recently, most lower paid jobs in the blue-collar hard core of the working class were done by immigrants: from Egypt, from Tunisia, from Black African countries. “Autochthonous” Libyans tended to work more in white-collar jobs.

When the revolt against Gadaffi started, workers from Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey, etc. did not participate, but fled the country. This is different from Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia where immigrant workers do play a role in pro democracy movements.

As for immigrants from Black African countries: rumors about some of Gadaffi’s troops being African mercenaries contributed to bloody racist attacks on Black workers in anti-Gadaffi areas. Two caveats here: certainly not all anti-Gadaffi Libyans approve of anti-Black racism and the bloody crimes which it is causing. And Gadaffi is no hero of anti-racism, as he agreed to help his xenophobic European allies (allies until a few weeks ago) like Berlusconi of Italy in stopping African migration to Europe.

Still, the massacres of sub-Sahara Africans are a sign of the anti-Gadaffi revolt, which, like Gadaffi’s 1969 revolt, started with some good intentions and good actions, degenerating, like Gadaffi degenerated.

In Tunisia and Egypt, the people managed to drive the dictator away, basically with non-violent mass actions, even as the dictators killed many hundreds of protesters. This one-way (top down) violence is also a feature in many Arab and non-Arab countries where pro democracy movements have not yet managed to drive away their equivalents of Ben Ali or Mubarak: Bahrain, Yemen, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iraq, Jordan, Djibouti, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Swaziland, Georgia, Albania, etc. etc.

In Libya, like in Tunisia and Egypt, the anti regime movement started in a mass, non-violent and non-hierarchical way. Unfortunately, it did not stay that way. People who until very recently had high positions in Gadaffi’s armed forces and police repressive apparatus tried to capture the leadership of the movement; and succeeded, if we are to believe Western media. Within the opposition, there was a switch from a mass strategy to a militaristic strategy. Militaristic strategies tend to exclude women and people who are too young, too old or not able-bodied enough to join armed forces, from movements.

Of course, that governments of countries like the USA, France, and Britain, and their organization NATO, which used to have an excellent military and economic relationship with the Gadaffi regime, now claimed to support democratic rebellion in Libya, and “proved” that by war and bombing, greatly helped this tendency from mass movement to militarism and secret services. When, a few weeks ago, the British Conservative Cameron government sent SAS soldiers into eastern Libya, anti-Gadaffi rebels arrested and expelled them. Today, however, we can read that the CIA, world record holders in human rights violations, are active in Libya. Those Libyan rebels who expelled the British SAS may like now the expel the CIA. However, I do not hear about them now. Have they died in battle against Gadaffi forces? Have they been sidetracked? How is the situation now, for, eg, the Libyan anti-Gadaffi anarchist Saoud Salem who wrote on 17 March against Western bombing of Libya?

Recently, ex-Gadaffi general Khalifa Hifter, said to be a CIA agent, was appointed commander of the rebel armed forces.

While Libyans were rightly indignant about Gadaffi’s privatization, the boss of Gadaffi’s privatisation program, Mahmoud Jibril, now turns up as an official rebel leader, as Prime Minister of the Benghazi government. What do the people who revolted peacefully against Gadaffi because of government privatisation and unemployment policies think of this?

Many people revolted against Gadaffi as they wanted democracy, not dictatorship. However, yesterday, in Dutch TV program Nieuwsuur, their Benghazi correspondent had an interview with anti Gadaffi lawyers. What is wrong with laws under Gadaffi? the correspondent asked. The lawyers said that now laws are not based on Islamic religious shariah law. For instance, if someone is convicted of theft, under Gadaffi his hand is not cut off. That is wrong and should change, the lawyers said (for Islamophobic readers: there are many views of what shariah law exactly is, and very many Muslims do not favour such a cruel interpretation. What if someone’s hand is cut off, and later it turns out that the theft was by someone else? Not even a very good surgeon will be able to restore the hand to the innocent ex-convict).

Gadaffi sought to get support for his regime by claiming his opponents were Al Qaeda. Correctly, in Western media, people laughed about that. Like they also laughed about claims that most or all opponents of George Bush’s bloody occupation of Iraq were Al Qaeda … oh, wait a moment, Western media did not denounce those spurious claims. Like they also laugh about claims that most or all opponents of the bloody occupation of Afghanistan are Al Qaeda or Taliban .., oh, wait a moment, Western media do not denounce those claims. Like they also laugh about claims that most or all opponents of the bloody dictator of Yemen are Al Qaeda .., oh, wait a moment, Western governments do not denounce those claims. They give the dictator of Yemen some more weapons to kill democratic oppositionists. Like they gave weapons to Gadaffi until oh so recently.

As for Libya: high level US officials now say at least some Libyan anti-Gadaffi forces are Al Qaeda. Are they lying, like about Iraq, Yemen, etc., or about the democratic opposition in Bahrain supposedly being controlled by the regime in Iran? Those US generals and top bureaucrats might be lying if the US-Gadaffi alliance would be still intact, like a few weeks ago. Now that saying such things is not good for anti-Gadaffi war propaganda and they still say it, I am not so sure.

Among people who would like to lead the anti-Gadaffi movement is Crown Prince Mohammed El Senussi, pretender to the Libyan throne which his dynasty lost in 1969. That, of course, does not mean that all anti-Gadaffiists are monarchists. That the flag from the monarchy days now flies in Benghazi does not say everything. Just like only a small minority seem to be Al Qaeda, it just means that not all are genuine democrats. And that Western governments waging war are extremely unlikely to support the genuine democrats. They will prefer to help degeneration of the original anti-Gadaffi revolt.

By John Green:

Dancing with Dynamite

History teaches us that once some revolutionaries successfully gain power they become conservatives or, even worse, congeal into authoritarian regimes.

How can we ensure that a revolution maintains its momentum for change and radicalism?

How can the grass-roots movements that brought about the change ensure that they are not neutered and absorbed into the new power structures?

As debate rages in Washington over whether to arm anti-Gaddafi rebels, an exclusive report by The Daily Beast indicates al Qaeda forces are gearing up to join the rebels and seize power in Libya: here.

Campaigners warned today that depleted uranium (DU) munitions have probably been used by US forces in Libya: here.

38 thoughts on “Libyan 2011 revolution degenerating like Gadaffi’s revolution?

  1. Vatican: Airstrikes killed 40 civilians in Tripoli
    By REUTERS
    03/31/2011 11:59

    Catholic official in Tripoli says “so-called humanitarian raids have killed dozens;” UK’s Hague calls for Gaddafi cabinet members to defect.
    Talkbacks (4)

    ROME – At least 40 civilians have been killed in airstrikes by Western forces on Tripoli, the top Vatican official in the Libyan capital told a Catholic news agency on Thursday citing witnesses.

    “The so-called humanitarian raids have killed dozens of civilian victims in some neighborhoods of Tripoli,” said Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, the Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli.

    “I have collected several witness accounts from reliable people. In particular, in the Buslim neighborhood, due to the bombardments, a civilian building collapsed, causing the death of 40 people,” he told Fides, the news agency of the Vatican missionary arm.

    Libyan officials have taken foreign reporters to the sites of what they say were the aftermath of western air strikes on Tripoli but evidence of civilian casualties have been inconclusive.

    Western powers say they have no confirmed evidence of civilian casualties.

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  2. EU wants freeze on Libya’s bluefin tuna catch

    BRUSSELS | Thu Mar 31, 2011 11:25am EDT

    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s fisheries chief has called for the suspension of Libya’s fishing rights for the Atlantic bluefin tuna, fearing the endangered fish could be further depleted amid the confusion of war.

    An Atlantic bluefin can grow to the size of a horse and fetch more than $100,000 in markets such as Japan, but stocks have plunged by more than 80 percent since the 1970s, scientists say.

    EU fisheries chief Maria Damanaki fears Libya is in no position to regulate its fishing fleets when bluefin come to spawn in the Mediterranean in May or June.

    High-tech fishing vessels using echo-sounders have become so efficient at locating and netting the giant creatures in “purse seine” nets that a season’s quota can be met in just 10 days, and long-term damage to thestock can be inflicted thereafter.

    Damanaki called for action from the body that governs bluefin fishing, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), in a letter seen by Reuters on Thursday.

    “The EU believes that, as long as this situation will last, this gives rise to grave concerns in a situation where bluefin tuna is already under serious threat,” Damanaki wrote.

    She called for Libya’s fishing rights for Atlantic bluefin tuna to be “temporarily suspended until Libya is able to ensure the respect of all ICCAT provisions.” Last November, ICCAT set a 2011 quota of 12,900 tonnes, down 600 from 2010, ignoring calls from conservation groups for deeper cuts.

    (Reporting by Pete Harrison, editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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  22. BRUNEI: The government today embraced a form of Islamic shariah criminal law that includes harsh penalties.

    It began phasing in a version of Shariah that allows for penalties such as amputation for theft and stoning for adultery.

    Most of the punishments can be applied to non-Muslims, who account for about a third of the 440,000 people in the country.

    Reactionary Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah declared the law a “great achievement” for Brunei.

    Human Rights Watch said the move was a “huge step backward for human rights.”

    http://morningstaronline.co.uk/a-9d4a-World-in-Brief-010514

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    http://morningstaronline.co.uk/a-6762-Sharia-law-imposed-on-Brunei

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  37. On September 1, 1969, a group of 70 Libyan army officials calling themselves the “Free Officers Movement” and led by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi launched a coup d’état against the monarchical government of King Idris I. The coup established the rule of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) as the official governing body of Libya, with Gaddafi as chairman.

    The coup against Idris was bloodless. Not a single death was recorded during the seizure of power. Rather, the repressive apparatus of the state—the armed forces, the police, the prisons—simply shifted hands to Gaddafi.

    Idris came to power in 1951 through the intervention of the United Kingdom and the United States, who gave the monarchy hundreds of millions of dollars in exchange for the establishment of military bases in Libya. Idris oversaw a regime of mass political repression. He banned all political parties and all government officials were selected directly by the monarchy.

    The political crisis in the country was greatly heightened in 1959 when oil was discovered and vastly increased Libya’s wealth. In 1951 Libya’s GDP per capita sat at around $30. By 1969 it had jumped to $2,000. Most of this new wealth was concentrated in the hands of a few privileged individuals who were close to the monarchy. This extreme inequality combined with massive political repression made Idris wildly unpopular with the Libyan masses.

    In an address to the country after the coup succeeded Gaddafi exclaimed, “By a single stroke it (the army) has lightened the long dark night in which the Turkish domination was followed first by Italian rule, then by this reactionary and decadent regime which was no more than a hotbed of extortion, faction, treachery and treason.”

    Gaddafi and the other officers were able to exploit the unpopularity of the Idris monarchy to their benefit. Making appeals to anti-imperialism, Arab nationalism, and using vague socialist rhetoric, the RCC established a bourgeois nationalist regime heavily inspired by Maoism.

    Gaddafi would remain in power until 2011 when his government was toppled by the US-backed NATO bombardment under the Obama administration.

    https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/08/26/twih-a26.html#top

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