[Marxism] Letter to Socialist Worker newspaper on Libya

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Aug 31 07:49:15 MDT 2011


Readers' Views [1]

Toufic Haddad, from the Internet

The winner in Libya is undetermined
August 30, 2011

"WHO REALLY won in Libya" [2] is unnecessarily deterministic about 
the future orientation of the Libyan regime, supposing the 
revolution is finally successful in dislodging Qaddafi and his clique.

The article claims "[t]he new government that will form in place 
of the Qaddafi regime will be led by these elements [the most 
conservative elements of the Qaddafi opposition, embodied in the 
Transitional National Council]" and, hence:

     will be beholden to the U.S. and Europe for its 
existence--and pliable to their interests...The new government 
that will come to power in Libya won't answer to the people of 
Libya and their desire for democracy and justice. It will answer 
to imperialism--and that is a blow to the Arab Spring, which this 
year showed the world the hope of an alternative to oppression, 
violence and tyranny.

Not so fast.

It's true that there are contradictions to the rebel struggle and 
likely impending victory. But it is important to not 
mischaracterize the main impetus and current of the revolt, nor to 
swallow the exaggerated Western government claims of influence in 
the rebellion and post-Qaddafi Libya.

The West was dying for a card in the Arab Spring, and indeed 
believed that the air power and logistics it supplied in Libya 
would provide them this. It certainly bought them some collateral, 
though it is far from clear that it will be able to "cash in" this 
card in the post-Qaddafi era.

Part of the problem is that the Libyan state was such a bizarre 
nepotistic cult around the figure of Qaddafi himself that the 
opposition to him incorporated large sections of ex-regime 
figures, plus those who, at different stages in history, were 
either marginalized from the get go, or alienated from the regime 
throughout its mercurial turns. This indeed means that there are 
sections of the opposition that are amenable to making deals with 
the West, and it would be wrong to deny this.

But that the rebellion benefited from NATO support in its 
insurgency still doesn't mean that the rebellion has lost its way 
or is a stooge of imperialism. The overwhelming thrust of the 
rebellion has been paid for by a determined struggle of the Libyan 
people, who sacrificed perhaps as much as tens of thousands of 
lives for their freedom. The thought that they would allow the 
fruits of their rebellion to be so easily snapped up by an 
ex-regime, pro-West alliance, is unlikely, premature and 
excessively cynical.

Here lies the main fault of the article: The Arab Spring is about 
human agency and popular will, which cannot so easily be put back 
in the bottle--and certainly not by an opportunistic section of 
the opposition in cahoots with the Western governments and Big Oil.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THOSE WHO will determine the fate of Libya are the people 
themselves, and particularly the fighting forces on the ground, 
most of whom have correctly focused on fighting the regime, rather 
than flirting with Western diplomats. The balance of power between 
these different elements of the opposition remains to be 
disclosed, though it is premature to select the winner now.

While knowing the orientation of Libya will be difficult to 
determine at this stage, there is no reason to suspect that this 
is going to be a "shoo-in" for the West. The Libyan people are, in 
principle, no different from other Arab and Amazigh peoples of the 
region, where a cocktail of pan-Arabist and pan-Islamist 
sentiments dominate the historical, cultural and intellectual 

The Libyan people's historical connections to the Palestinian 
struggle and other revolutionary struggles are deep--it's wrong to 
assume this was all top-down shenanigans from Qaddafi 
himself--while the country had the highest number of foreign 
fighters to volunteer and fight the U.S. coalition in Iraq and 
Afghanistan, something they did against the will of the regime.

Furthermore, the killing of the Libyan rebel leader Abdel Fattah 
Younis--likely by an Islamist section of rebels that differed with 
this ex-regime internal security chief--gives an indication of the 
mixed soup of players within the opposition, and that there could 
be retribution for those who so quickly changed hats when Tunisia 
and Egypt fell. It is believed that at least 30 autonomous rebel 
groups are operating in the eastern part of the country alone. 
Israel has already accused Hamas of purchasing Libyan weapons from 
rebel groups and bringing them into Gaza.

In a nutshell, the West took a gamble in its actions with Libya 
and may one day come to regret its support for the Libyan 
revolution. Where is Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi huckster who was 
America's horse for the post-invasion period of Iraq? The man once 
dubbed "George Washington of Iraq" is not only not running Iraq, 
but is under investigation by the U.S. for all the money he stole, 
and the lies he told.

The point is, the dislodging of Qaddafi, if finally successful, 
will be an important first stage in the success of the Libyan 
revolution. But it is not the end of the struggle, as Tunisia and 
Egypt are proving as well. The battle for the orientation of Libya 
and its political and social makeup, will fall to its people.

The left in the West needs to support the revolution's basic 
demand for a democratic and free Libya, while also particularly 
supporting the most progressive wings of the movement, if and when 
it gets to the second stage of determining what to do with the 
country and its resources. It does not need to engage in writing 
off a revolution before it has even achieved its first major gain 
(the fall of Qaddafi).

This smacks of too much armchair quarterbacking, at a time when we 
need to see the field at large, learn who the players are, and how 
we can constructively engage and help in the struggle for the 
emergence of a progressive post-Qaddafi Libya.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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     [1] http://socialistworker.org/department/Readers%27-Views
     [2] http://socialistworker.org/2011/08/23/who-really-won-in-libya
     [3] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0

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