[Marxism] Gilbert Achcar interview
jbustelo at bellsouth.net
Sun Aug 28 01:14:50 MDT 2011
On 8/27/2011 1:10 PM, Louis Proyect wrote:
> I think that socialist historians of the future will have their hands
> filled trying to figure out how in our tiny numbers in the early 21st
> century we were so willing to indulge in Torquemada type denunciations
> like this.
> It is a fact that Andy's group Socialist Action said that it was
> impossible to "demonize" Milosevic, a dubious prospect to say the least.
> His co-thinkers on this question in the Australian DSP would agree
> with this even though they backed Australian and New Zealand
> intervention in [East Timor] which Marxmail lurker Joaquin Bustelo
> supported as well. Meanwhile, he uses the same kind of language as
> Andy to describe those comrades in Solidarity who agree with Achcar.
A comrade was kind enough to let me know I was mentioned in this
discussion since I don't read Marxmail much these days.
On East Timor, I'm not sure why Louis raises this from 12 years ago. But
he "forgets" that the Cubans took a position similar to mine. It wasn't
just me and the DSP.
He adds that "Meanwhile, he uses the same kind of language as Andy to
describe those comrades in Solidarity who agree with Achcar," meaning
terms like "imperialist stooge," "criminal," "unprincipled," etc.
That is simply false.
To prove it, I reproduce below everything I wrote on Libya in the
Solidarity pre-convention discussion, and the only things I've written
on Libya in Solidarity since a post or two last March that I also
forwarded to this list.
In what's below, I refer to a suggested resolution on Libya for the Soli
convention. That did not happen: instead, the Political Committee
adopted a statement expressing sympathy with the anti-Gaddafi movement
as a popular uprising against a dictator but opposing the NATO bombing
and denouncing the hypocrisy of the imperialists for claiming to support
the democratic aspirations of the Arab peoples but opposing the rights
of the Palestinians. The statement urged Solidarity branches to
participate in protest against the bombing where those were open to
critics and opponents of Gaddafi.
At the time I wrote my first comments below, I was not aware that
everyone on the Soli PC now agreed with taking an active stance of
opposition to the NATO war, believing the organization was still deeply
divided over this point as it had been at the time of a National
Committee meeting in April.
I've substituted initials [in brackets] for the names of other comrades
since I have not asked for their agreement to make my posts public with
their names included. I've also included an explanatory phrase or
additional information also [in brackets]. And I've fixed typos when
I've found them.
The first post was on July 17, the second on the 19th, the third on the
21st. The convention was held July 29-31.
* * *
On Sun Jul 17 10:26 AM, [DF] wrote:
> I believe the outgoing PC will be submitting a very brief resolution
> for the convention on our orientation to activities opposing the
> bombing of Libya. My own view is that branches (in this case NY)
> should assess the character of events occurring locally. They can best
> make that decision.... [snip]
> The problem is that either the victory of the Qaddafi regime or the
> emergence of an imperial-sponsored new government are serious threats
> to the Libyan people and the broader Arab uprising. That should guide
> our orientation. (The impact of this military action on U.S. politics
> and the deepening of the imperial presidency is also important but
> beyond this immediate debate.) To me, the least bad outcome at this
> point is a negotiated settlement along the lines proposed by the
> African Union and/or International Crisis Group. Regardless of that,
> illusions about liberation-through-imperialist-bombing are
> unacceptable but so is the anti-imperialism of fools.
Well, I sure hope the PC opts to give this threatened resolution a miss,
or that the convention votes to table it without discussing it.
We have no agreement in Solidarity around Libya, and it is now way too
late to begin a *serious* discussion for this convention.
And a serious discussion would be required, because while I agree with
David that in general, "either the victory of the Qaddafi regime or the
emergence of an imperial-sponsored new government are serious threats to
the Libyan people," I do not believe a "plague on both your houses"
stance is correct. I believe the political approach Trotsky presented in
saying in the 1930s that he would support a fascist Brazil in the face
of an attack by imperialist "democracies" is correct, and should help to
guide us here despite the fact that there is also a civil war in Libya
so one can't just cookie-cutter apply Trotsky's hypothetical there.
But imperialism is the more strategic and more important enemy; its war
against the Arab and Muslim worlds, are, I believe, much more the
context and the content of what it is doing in Libya than the fight for
power between Libyan factions (I say factions because unlike in the
other Arab countries, in Libya the very beginning of popular protests on
a large scale was accompanied by --possibly even instigated or sparked
by-- some sort of military rebellion or attempted coup).
And our main responsibility is to oppose "our own" imperialism not just
because we're here but because it is the main imperialist power and the
entire world imperialist system is structured around the central U.S.
role. In my opinion, doing that job correctly would involve going back
and systematically exposing the countless lies that have been told in
the last six months to demonize Gaddafi, something I seriously doubt
most comrades would endorse. And it would involve making clear we cannot
express any sympathy with the Benghazi council while it invites and
gives cover to imperialist attacks on other Libyans, even if they are
the enemies [of Gaddafi] on the Benghazi council in a struggle over power.
[I do not know how I completely mangled that last sentence. What I had
been trying to say was something like that while the rebels provide
cover for imperialism, Solidarity should not express support for them
even though otherwise we would.]
I do not believe comrades [CP] or [DF], [nor] lots of their friends, are
likely to agree with this approach, just as I know I don't agree with
the approach of the statement(s) the NC put out.
[Those statements are here: http://www.solidarity-us.org/current/node/3243]
* * *
On Sun Jul 17 3:01 PM, [CP] wrote:
> Perhaps Joaquin can explain why he is willing to solidarize with the
> Egyptian uprising, but not the Libyan, despite the fact that:
> 1. The Egyptian uprising was also accompanied-- and concluded-- with
> a military uprising (the military removed Mubarak and installed
> themselves in power).
> 2. Both uprisings included pro-Imperialist elements (El-Barati and
> the military in Egypt)
> 3. The old regimes were both pro-imperialist to their core.
> Inquiring minds want to know...
In my view there is a tremendous difference between the events in Egypt
and Libya. In Egypt you saw a series of powerful and sustained mass
mobilizations against the head of the regime, leading to his becoming so
politically isolated that eventually the imperialists withdrew their
support and so the army removed him.
In Libya, there were scattered protests of hundreds of people starting
on Feb. 15. For Thursday, Feb. 17, a "day of rage" had been called
--apparently before the 15th-- which was to have been the real launching
of the movement but unlike Tunisia and Egypt, from the outset it had an
aggressively insurrectionary stance, with attacks on security
installations and other government buildings by people trying to take
[Checking on some detail just now, I came across this Al Jazeera report
from February 16:
It says attacks on police stations with Molotov cocktails took place on
the 15th, that the 17th was now being projected on the internet as an
"uprising", and that the regime's initial reaction was not just to repel
the protesters but also offer concessions. This provides further
confirmation that the narrative that was presented in the following days
--that Gaddafi savagely attacked peaceful Egypt or Tunisia-type
protests-- was false.]
And already from that first day of mass protests, Feb. 17, there were
reports suggesting army units were involved with or supporting the
protests, and my impression is that it soon became clear in Libya that
there was a mutiny or coup attempt, with part of the army and security
forces in a confrontation with another sector of the military apparatus.
In reality this was the beginning of a civil war. The initial main
fighting initially was around a military base in Benghazi held by
Gaddafi loyalists, but by Saturday night they were routed by rebel
attacks spearheaded by tanks, i.e., by regular, organized, army troops
acting as coherent military units.
In the rest of Eastern Libya, the anti-Gaddafi wing of the military and
government officialdom appear to have taken over without significant
fighting. At one point there were reports of a unit of more than 100 men
who had been captured and imprisoned in one of those towns. The men were
said to be mercenaries, but actually turned out to be Black Libyans. The
curious thing is that the entire unit was captured. That is not an
outcome likely to issue from a spontaneous popular uprising on its first
day, nor in later days (once the unit was on alert due to disturbances).
To me it suggests a scenario like this unit being called to some sort of
formation by superior officers and discovering that they were trapped or
These sorts of events, which back in early March I spent a lot of time
reconstructing by looking at things like Al Jazeera's real-time blog of
what was being reported on their networks, CNN transcripts, BBC clips on
YouTube and so on, suggest that either the mass protests on the 17th
were called as part of a move to get rid of Gaddafi by a faction of the
regime or this faction took advantage of that call to put their plans
By that weekend, Saturday the 19th, absolutely outrageous crimes were
being attributed to the regime by reports coming out of the country,
which Gaddafi claimed were lies but most people discounted that, since
he was not letting reporters into the country. Two major propaganda
themes that emerged were that Gaddafi, having lost the army and a lot of
the other paramilitary organizations, had brought in mercenaries to
terrorize the population and was flying in hundreds more every day, and
that Gaddafi was using the air force to attack demonstrators and
civilian population centers.
It is very important to understand the significance of the very sharp
escalation in the coverage and the details that became available that
first weekend. It indicates in essence a very active role by the
imperialists in relation to the media, though not in the vulgar way some
people might imagine.
Until very recently I worked (for more than two decades) at a 24-hour
news network. I can guarantee you that those reports and especially the
[on-air] phone calls with people who claimed to be inside Libya, could
not and would not have been aired without confirmation and especially
someone vouching for the person on the other end of the line when they
were speaking live, and under these circumstances those doing the
vouching would almost certainly have been "western" (American/West
European) diplomatic, military or intelligence sources. And that is true
whether you're talking about the BBC, CNN International, Al Jazeera, Sky
News, MSNBC or anyone else (except Fox). So that means that all of a
sudden a network of people (presumably inside Libya) were given the
world's biggest megaphone, and they made very good use of it.
One incongruity is that one would expect an organized military mutiny or
attempted coup to present itself pretty much as such. That wasn't the
case here. Of course, one could say that after being high up in the
repressive forces the general who was minister of the Interior or the
Minister of Justice did not believe people would back them, but the
truth is we don't know.
The first significant Libyan government official to publicly speak out
on the side of the anti-Gaddafi movement was the deputy ambassador to
the United Nations (the ambassador wasn't there, so he was the top guy).
Speaking on Monday, Feb. 21, he called on the international community to
institute a no-fly zone to prevent further attacks by Gaddafi's air
force against civilian protesters and population centers, and stop more
mercenaries from being flown in. As if to underscore the message two
Libyan Mirage fighter-bombers were flown that day to Malta by pilots
--both colonels-- who were defecting. The Maltese authorities recounted
that the pilots had said they had been ordered to attack civilian
targets in Benghazi. And the main international TV networks were flooded
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucNHrwKvreE>of Gaddafi air force
bombardment <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOeP5zGASSk>of civilians in
and near Tripoli on that day, truly atrocious, cowardly and criminal
attacks that make your blood boil with rage.
However only two days later, on the 23rd, in the course of reporting on
the reign of terror in Tripoli, Anderson Cooper played video images of
what Tripoli had been like on that Monday, the day we were being told
about all that bombing, and this is what he said
Libya's dictator, Moammar Gadhafi, now using not just foreign
mercenaries to hang onto power, but arming teenagers, thugs,
encouraging prisoners and anyone else he can get on to the streets.
We have talked to a number of people in Tripoli today and you're
going to hear from them and all say the same thing. They have seen a
dramatic change for the worse on the streets today, more dangerous,
more deadly than ever.
*We have new video tonight of what Tripoli looked like 48 hours
ago,* before Gadhafi made that rambling speech yesterday threatening
to execute those who opposed him. Take a look. *Two days ago, crowds
of anti-government protesters felt safe enough to gather in
Tripoli's Green Square in the heart of the capital, lighting fires. *
Tonight, those crowds are in hiding, armed thugs, young and old,
roaming the streets, hunting rebel opponents and anyone who looks
like a journalist, anyone with a camera or anyone suspected of
trying to tell the world what is happening.
On Monday we were presented the same picture of Tripoli that Cooper
*now* is telling us prevails on *Wednesday*,**as *opposed to Monday,
*when things were quiet ...
[Later, I found this Feb. 21 report on the supposed bombing on Tripoli
on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucNHrwKvreE, as well as this
Anderson Cooper report from Monday Feb. 21:
Moreover, there is this report from Russia Today, which they posted to
youtube <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYesnOD6_gQ> on March 1under the
headline "Airstrikes in Libya did not take place - Russian military."
The reports of Libya mobilizing its air force against its own people
spread quickly around the world. However, Russia's military chiefs
say they have been monitoring from space -- and the pictures tell a
different story. According to Al Jazeera and BBC, on February 22
Libyan government inflicted airstrikes on Benghazi -- the country's
largest city -- and on the capital Tripoli. However, the Russian
military, monitoring the unrest via satellite from the very
beginning, says nothing of the sort was going on on the ground. At
this point, the Russian military is saying that, as far as they are
concerned, the attacks some media were reporting have never
occurred. The same sources in Russia's military establishment say
they are also monitoring the situation around Libya's oil pumping
And RT pointed out that no camcorder or cellphone clips of the attacks
or aftermath had emerged. And, yes, despite those wrenching accounts we
all heard in February, there isn't any evidence that many of those
things actually happened. No one has produced video clips of the
bombardment, pictures of the craters left by the bombs, the trails of
machine-gun pockmarks and so on. It is of course impossible to prove a
negative with scientific rigor, that something *did not* happen. But in
this age of cameras on the ubiquitous cell phones, I think the absence
of video clips and pictures make the case overwhelming.
Then to complete the picture, if you Google "Air strikes Libya Russian
military satellite" (without the quotes) you will see that the Russian
story was picked up by everybody and their sister /outside/ the core
imperialist countries, where the major media all boycotted the
information. So there was every reason for the imperialists to try to
refute the Russian claim. They never even tried. Nor did the Benghazi
council or others in the Libyan opposition. Nor did CNN, which has a
contract t get extremely high quality satellite images from a commercial
provider, offer any such images until after mid-March. Which means the
U.S. government blocked access to them (technically, the government
doesn't "censor" the pictures, it just buys exclusive use of them,
avoiding messy first amendment lawsuits).
[And recently I came across a March 5 Pentagon presser where defense
secretary Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen were asked whether they could
independently confirm whether there really had been air attacks on
Libyan civilians. The answer was no:
The accounts about the mercenaries suffered a similar fate. The
rampaging rambos ravaging the Libyan people evaporated into thin air as
soon as Gaddafi finally relented and let international press people into
I believe it is now clear that those air raids in fact did not take
place. Gaddafi's air force was not carrying out constant strikes against
civilians. The planeloads of mercenaries did not exist. But that also
means that the harrowing accounts of the reign of terror in Tripoli and
other cities, as mercenaries commandeered ambulances, shot anyone that
as much as stuck their head out of a window, dragged injured
oppositionists from their hospital beds, as bombs and machine gun fire
rained down from above were also fictional. And that the defecting
pilots story is just that -- a story. Presumably the planes and the men
were real, but they've never been identified nor has anything at all
been said about them since the initial splash of publicity.
Just so there is no misunderstanding. I'm sure LOTS of bad things
happened in Libya in those days and are continuing. Civil wars are like
that, and I don't doubt that Gaddafi is perfectly capable of behaving
atrociously even within that context. But, again, everything suggests he
did not engage in the kind of mad-dog savagery that was attributed to him.
So look now at the entire picture:
What happened in Libya on February 17 was seen from the outside as the
beginning of a mass civilian political upsurge, but inside Libya it
marked /instead /the beginning of a civil war because there was some
sort of mutiny, rebellion, coup attempt, or split /within/ the regime
and its repressive forces. That imparted a character and dynamic to the
situation very different from that in the other Arab countries. [And
also, it now appears that those organizing/leading/projecting the
protests meant for them to be insurrectionary].
Forty eight hours later --Saturday, Feb. 19--, the imperialists have
already decided to throw Gaddafi under the bus. Sure, he'd been playing
nice the last few years, helping the US with its international torture
archipelago, screwing the Palestinians, but he was very far from the
reliable "ally" and "friend," not to mention sock puppet, that Mubarak
Forty eight hours after that --Monday, Feb. 21-- there is a tidal wave
of reports of Gaddafi's savagery, centered on the bombing of Tripoli and
Benghazi, the defection by the air force colonels, the reign of terror
imposed by Gaddafi mercenaries.
That very same day, Libya's deputy ambassador to the United Nations says
the whole UN mission is against Gaddafi and calls for an imperialist
no-fly zone to stop the air attacks and the flying in of more
mercenaries to terrorize the population. Things to note:
Thing One: You cannot do what the acting head of that Libyan diplomatic
mission did, have a press conference and give interviews calling for an
act of war against your own government, without the approval of the host
country, and specifically the State Department.
Thing Two: This press [offensive from the UN mission] was obviously and
transparently timed to coincide with the crescendo of anti-Gaddafi
propaganda based on falsehoods, indicating a well-coordinated effort.
Thing Three: This means the anti Gaddafi faction of the Libyan regime
did not turn to imperialist intervention in desperation but instead
consciously sought it from the outset. Perhaps they hoped in the first
day or two that just the initial rebellion would be enough to get them
across the goal line. But the moment they saw that it wasn't enough,
their reaction was to try to parachute into power from NATO planes,
assuming an imperialist-imposed no-fly-zone would be enough to dislodge
Gaddafi from his throne or tent or whatever it is that he has.
Thing Four: the hook up between the pro-imperialist, anti-Gaddafi regime
faction and the imperialists had to have taken place by Friday the 18th
or Saturday the 19th at the very latest, because it is over the weekend
that the anti-Gaddafi reports become a saturation bombardment of Big Lie
propaganda and for that to happen the imperialists needed to be on board
to vouch for the oppositionists
Thing Five: The person that saw what was going on clearly and understood
its implications was Fidel Castro. On that same Monday, Feb. 21, and
apparently before hearing of the appeal for imperialist intervention by
Libyan diplomats in the United States (because he doesn't mention it)
Fidel wrote one of his commentaries with the poetic, symbolic
title,"NATO's plan is to invade Libya,"
and appealed to everyone --whether you were for or against Gaddafi-- to
join in sounding the alarm against the danger of an imperialist attack.
Se podrá estar o no de acuerdo con el Gaddafi. El mundo ha sido
invadido con todo tipo de noticias, empleando especialmente los
medios masivos de información. Habrá que esperar el tiempo necesario
para conocer con rigor cuánto hay de verdad o mentira, o una mezcla
de hechos de todo tipo que, en medio del caos, se produjeron en
Libia. Lo que para mí es absolutamente evidente es que al Gobierno
de Estados Unidos no le preocupa en absoluto la paz en Libia, y no
vacilará en dar a la OTAN la orden de invadir ese rico país, tal vez
en cuestión de horas o muy breves días.
One might or might not be in agreement with Gaddafi. The world has
been invaded with all sorts of news, using especially the mass
media, and we will have to wait whatever time it takes to know with
rigor what was true and what was false, or what mixture of events
took place in Libya in the midst of this chaos. What is absolutely
obvious to me is that the United States Government could care less
about peace in Libya and will not hesitate in ordering NATO to
invade that rich country, perhaps in a matter of hours or a few days.
Fidel also noted that Venezuela had been dragged in by the hair into the
Libyan imbroglio with a false report on Sunday that Gaddafi was headed
there, and expressed his agreement with the desire expressed by the
Venezuelan foreign minister "that the people of Libya find, in an
exercise of their sovereignty, a peaceful solution to their
difficulties, one that preserves the integrity of the Libyan nation and
people, without meddling from imperialism."
And Fidel added, referring to that report about Venezuela (and remember,
this was when Gaddafi was being presented as some sort of Pol Pot or Idi
Amin) "For my part I can't imagine that the Libyan leader would abandon
the country, evading being accountable for the actions imputed to him,
whether or not they are partly or completely false." ("Por mi parte, no
imagino al dirigente libio abandonando el país, eludiendo las
responsabilidades que se le imputan, sean o no falsas en parte o en su
I quote this at some length because this column was then taken by a
couple of leftists from Spain living in Tunisia to write an article
<http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=123027> demanding Latin American
revolutionaries, beginning with Fidel, stop giving back-handed support
to Gaddafi by approaching Libya in the framework of the world struggle
against imperialism. That article led to very public blow-outs in far
left milieus in Europe reflected in web sites like Rebelion and Caos en
la Red. It was picked up by many Trotskyist groups, including the Fourth
International that some Soli comrades are engaged with, and it was the
main piece <http://www.solidarity-us.org/current/node/3215> we had on
the Solidarity web site on Libya for many weeks:
Any kind of Western interference must be opposed, but we don’t
believe, truly, that NATO is going to invade Libya; it seems to us
that this threat, just barely pointed out, has the effect of
entangling and blurring the anti-imperialist camp, even to the point
of making us forget something that we ought to know: who Gaddafi is.
And after a detailed recounting of Gaddafi's misdeeds over the past
decade or so, the authors return to their theme:
And so now when Gaddafi’s imperialist friends – who’ve seen how the
Arab world revolted without their intervention – condemn the Libyan
dictatorship and talk about democracy, we vacillate. We apply the
universal template of the anti-imperialist struggle, with its
conspiracy theories and its paradoxical distrust of the people, and
ask for time so that the clouds of dust thrown up by the bombs
dropped from the air might clear – to be sure that there are no CIA
cadavers underneath. That is, when we don’t offer direct support, as
the Nicaraguan government did, to a criminal with whom the slightest
contact can only stain forever anyone who claims to be leftist or
progressive. It’s not NATO who’s bombing the Libyans, but Gaddafi.
"/*It’s not NATO who's bombing the Libyans, but Gaddafi,*/" Fidel's
critics wrote, when they would have been better served by following his
example and reserving judgement until things became a little clearer.
Because they are now saddled with the very ironical result that, as it
turns out, the claims about Gaddafi bombing his own cities were false
and those false reports were spread to make possible the very NATO
intervention that they discounted. Because that's what Fidel saw quite
clearly -- the sort of propaganda barrage that was unleashed around
Gaddafi wasn't about Gaddafi but about preparing an imperialist
* * *
[CP] asks why I don't express solidarity with the Libyan uprising and
the reason is what I explain above, that from the outset, at the very
center of this movement have been political forces that didn't just ally
with imperialism but looked to the imperialists to play a major role in
putting them in power. I certainly sympathize with the sentiments and
aspirations of the civilians and the soldiers (not the colonels or
generals, though) who rose up against Gaddafi. But war is the
continuation of politics by other means, and it does not seem to me that
it is the politics of a popular movement against a repressive and
undemocratic regime that are dominant here, but rather, of increased
In Egypt it seems to me the effect of the political changes brought
about by the movement have been quite clearly to reduce imperialist
influence and give more weight to working people. I think this
formalistic, well the military were involved here and there too, people
leading the thing were pro-imperialists here and there, and so we should
have the same political stance does not make any sense.
I think for us in the United States, and probably throughout the rest of
the planet outside the Arab world and perhaps just outside Libya,
opposing NATO's war is job #1 in relation to Libya. On that, I don't
think it is particularly helpful to stress how much we like one side or
the other in the internal conflict, because that is now inextricably
intertwined with the foreign aggression. I like what the Venezuelans
said at the outset, expressing the hope that the Libyans would settle
this peaceably and internally without outside interference, and I think
they did the right thing to try to put together some sort of offer of
My understanding is that Gaddafi has accepted, at least in theory or in
general, those sorts of proposals including the most recent one from the
African Union and the Benghazi council rejects anything that does not
*begin* with Gaddafi's removal. But that rebel stance is just a
reiteration of their hope that imperialist support will put them in
power, because of course you do not go into a negotiation to end a
military conflict with the precondition that the other side grant you
the strategic objective you have been seeking but have been unable to
come close to winning on the battlefield.
[Quite obviously from a tactical point of view the Benghazi council was
right to follow the course they did as they now appear to have won.]
And when there was a fair bit of buzz at the end of June about cutting
some sort of deal that would have Gaddafi leaving his formal positions
and the country within a few months, the imperialists had their criminal
international court indict Gaddafi and his son to make any sort of
accommodation like that impossible.
I think Solidarity should very resolutely oppose the imperialist
military campaign in Libya, but not try to take sides on the internal
conflict within Libya as such.
PS: I wanted to add, after looking at some of the later discussion after
I drafted this, that while I certainly would not have and won't vouch
for Gaddafi's future conduct, I think the stuff about how he would have
staged some humongous massacre in Benghazi should not be credited. It
was being sold by the same people who invented the horrific accounts
about cities being bombed and rampaging mercs in the first few days of
the conflict that now look like they were mostly fabricated.
And the prediction was made with exactly the same aim in mind -- to pave
the way for an imperialist military intervention starting with a "no-fly
zone." As to the statements attributed to Gaddafi, I can't speak to all
of them, but I did read some in a fair bit of detail and it wasn't in
essence very different from what one might expect under those
circumstances: a promise to treat them [the rebels] like the prodigal
son and talk and work things out if they stop fighting and a threat to
use them to make hamburger if they don't.
I had my fill of that kind of ultraviolent speechifying --from both
sides-- when I was covering the civil war in Nicaragua a quarter century
ago. I learned to discount a lot of it. That sort of overheated rhetoric
seems to be as inevitable in wars as the lies and the bloodshed. But
even granting that what was claimed about Gaddafi would have come true,
is there anybody here who wants to give us assurances that in the end,
the imperialist intervention won't wind up costing the Libyan people as
much or more grief and suffering and death?
* * *
On Wed Jul 20 12:11 PM, [CP] wrote:
> I am in full agreement with the PC resolution on Libya-- opposing
> continued NATO/US intervention and supporting the movement to
> overthrow Qaddafi. I remain convinced that the Libyan movement is part
> and parcel of the "Arab Spring"-- a socially and politically
> heterogeneous movement for basic democratic rights that socialists
> /must support. /Put simply, the question before Solidarity now is
> /not/ whether or not to support (in a critical and extremely limited
> way) the US/NATO military action, but whether or not we support /any
> and all manifestations of the democratic movement in the Arab countries. /
I agree that the /popular uprising/ that began in Libya in mid-February
was progressive. But it is far from clear to me that this was the /only/
thing going on. There is substantial circumstantial evidence, which I
explained in a long post in the last couple of days, that there was also
an active putschist conspiracy of an even more pro-imperialist faction
of the regime than Gaddafi, or that what may not yet have fully been
such a faction became one with the outbreak of the popular rebellion.
And it is this circle, and not the popular uprising, that the
imperialists are supporting.
I presented evidence that this dissident wing of the regime (and Libyan
exile allies, although I didn't get into their role in my last post),
from the first days of the uprising were seeking an imperialist
intervention and brazenly lied and fabricated the most horrific
accusations against Gaddafi tailored to justify the establishment of a
no-fly zone. Comrades should reflect on the cynicism involved in
organizing and carrying out such an operation for the purpose of
establishing the military domination of your country by the British,
French and American imperialists.
That saturation bombardment of war propaganda eventually had the
intended effect, with the imperialist military intervention becoming a
decisive factor in the unfolding war, preventing the victory of the
[And now handing it to the Benghazi Council, with reports only beginning
to filter out of the much larger on-the-ground role of imperialist
intelligence agents and special forces.]
I do not think Solidarity should express judgments about whether the
opposition to Gaddafi now should be considered a democratic popular
uprising, a tool of the imperialists, an ambitious clique of former
Gaddafi loyalists or whatever. And obviously, Gaddafi & Co. are hardly
the distilled essence of revolutionary anti-imperialism, even though
they are in the imperialists' gun sights. We are not in Libya, nor is
the internal situation there the least bit transparent, so we are not in
a very good position to make a determination and there is absolutely no
I do not know why [CP] and I guess the comrades on the PC think "the
question before Solidarity now is ... whether or not we support /any and
all manifestations of the democratic movement in the Arab countries/." ///
This question envelops multiple errors.
First it absolutizes and turns into a principle something that doesn't
even exist: "the democratic movement in the Arab countries," which is a
distilled perfect essence floating in the mysts of Plato's cave while we
in this vale of tears are reduced to looking at shadows, to see whether
they are true "manifestations" of that great and noble spirit.
Second it begs the question: the issue being raised is not whether we
should support the good guys, but whether --when you take into account
all the contradictory factors-- these really are the good guys. In other
words, we need to come down to the ground from the dizzying heights of
"manifestations," so that we can analyze what are the real social layers
in motion and what is the direction of motion that is the result of the
interaction of various and contradictory forces. Usually one would say,
for example in Egypt, that despite the participation and even seeming
domination of the movement by high ranking members of the military
caste, imperialist agents like the atomic guy and so on, fundamentally
this movement has been pushing society in a progressive direction,
breaking down dictatorial control, creating greater space for the
struggles of working and oppressed people. And historically there have
been enough of these movements that we actually do not carry out the
analysis because from experience we see the kind of movement it is. In
this sense there is a justification for abstractions like "democratic
movements in the Arab world" /provided we remember that is a
generalization based on certain repeating features or patterns, not a
"thing" that really exists /and is pressing as hard as it can to
manifest. Because sometimes we see a surface resemblance of a pattern
but something different is going on if you look more closely. And
sometimes a situation is contradictory and confusing and you see
elements of any number of patterns: here a popular uprising, there a
quisling, at the other end a fight for power or a falling out among
thieves. And we need to resist the temptation to think that one or
another must be considered primary or dominant or even that "history
will tell us" because history could care less, "history" doesn't exist,
shit happens and then it is gone and we live with the consequences.
/Third, it is an error because we do not live and function in that part
of the world, "support" has no /direct /meaning at all save perhaps for
an article or two someone might write that would be no different whether
or not we proclaimed our "support" to "any and all manifestations...".
For revolutionaries in Libya and perhaps neighboring countries "support"
means something completely different than it does to us, and they do
have to have a position, but then again they know a hell of a lot more
about it than we do.
What I tried to do in some earlier posts and now the long one from a
couple of days ago is point out this is far from a "typical" situation
of an anti-dictatorial struggle or upsurge, or if it is, the multiple
smokescreens of lies and propaganda make it impossible to determine.
And by the way, to the pro-Gaddafi folks I'd say the same sort of thing,
that this division of the world into imperialists/anti-imperialists is
/idealism:/ getting a few bombs, or even millions thrown at you by the
U.S. imperialists does not automatically make the recipient a working
class hero. You don't combat the demonization of Gaddafi by depicting
him as a saint or silencing his critics but by documenting the
propaganda and the lies and showing that it isn't about Gaddafi /at
all,/ it's about the imperialist designs on Libya.
The MAIN thing /we /can do in relation to what's going on in the Arab
world or anywhere else in the global South is to oppose American
imperialism's efforts to dominate the world, which we should do BOTH
because it is "our own" imperialism but also because the United States
is the most powerful imperialist country in the world, the lynchpin of
the entire system. That opposition can, under the right circumstances,
change history and prove to be a more powerful and concrete support than
even an armored division.
The pre-eminent example, of course, is Vietnam, but there are others.
The Bay of Pigs invasion, for example, might have turned out differently
if Kennedy had not been too scared of popular reaction here and
elsewhere to provide the CIA brigade with the protection of a "no fly
zone." That fear was kept alive by the relatively tiny "Fair Play for
Cuba Committee" because Kennedy knew from the welcome Fidel got in
Harlem when he came to the UN that there was a lot of sympathy with the
Cuban revolutionaries among working people in the United States.
The main thing we should be saying in relation to Libya is /not /that we
support the rebels or Gaddafi's regime, but that everyone should unite
in opposing the imperialist intervention. Whatever they think of Gaddafi
or the rebels.
Fidel got it right from the outset, he said no matter what you think of
Gaddafi, we need to unite against the then-threatened NATO attack,
(although at first very few people even saw the danger). Now that NATO
is at war in Libya, his advice applies with even more force.
The real question before Solidarity is not "whether or not we support"
the Benghazi side as a manifestation of the movement for democracy
despite its crappy pro-imperialist leadership or the Tripoli side as a
manifestation of the struggle against imperialism despite its crappy
The issue before us is how we can most effectively combat the
imperialist military campaign in Libya.
By doing /that/ we will be giving the most effective possible support
that we can to the people of Libya, their movement for democracy and
their struggle against imperialism.
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