[Marxism] A nightmare on the brains of the living

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Aug 31 13:10:40 MDT 2011

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they 
please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but 
under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from 
the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a 
nightmare on the brains of the living.

–Karl Marx, “The Eighteenth Brumaire”

By now it has become clear that there are four different 
perspectives on the left about Libya:

1. Qaddafi as heroic anti-imperialist: Found at Counterpunch, 
MRZine, and Global Research, this perspective relies heavily on 
falsification such as the claim that NATO invaded because Qaddafi 
opposed AFRICOM. My emphasis has been to debunk these claims even 
though they led to me being accused of supporting NATO. One 
supposes the only way to avoid such false accusations is to follow 
the bullshit party line of the brain-dead “anti-imperialist” left. 
No thanks.

2. The rebels were good guys until NATO got involved: This is the 
analysis put forward by the ISO in the USA and the SWP in Britain. 
I was sympathetic to this analysis but came to reject it during 
the Berber offensive in Western Libya. As someone who despises the 
oppression of national minorities, I began to realize that there 
was more to the revolt than puppets whose strings were being 
pulled by NATO.

3. My own analysis—this should be obvious from the comment above.

4. Gilbert Achcar: Achcar defended NATO’s no-fly zone. As a 
long-time opponent of imperialist interventions, I could not abide 
by this although I found much of Achcar’s analysis on the money. 
Despite his being vilified by members of the Counterpunch 
tendency, I don’t regard him in the same light as the Paul Bermans 
and Kenan Makiyas of the world. I would tend to regard his 
position as falling into the category of a legitimate mistake made 
by revolutionary in much the same way I regarded some comrades’ 
support for the KLA.

The question of rebel racism tends to reveal how the different 
perspectives line up against each other. For Counterpunch’s sorry 
gaggle of Qaddafi apologists, racism only became a problem in 
February 2011. When Qaddafi’s troops lost control in Benghazi, 
there was an outbreak of racist pogroms—an unheard of phenomenon 
in enlightened Libya. For them, it was like Union troops being 
withdrawn from Dixie at the end of Reconstruction.


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