[Marxism] Who do the "Libyan people" support?

Dayne Goodwin daynegoodwin at gmail.com
Tue Jul 5 07:58:44 MDT 2011

On Fri, Jul 1, 2011 at 2:34 PM, Eli Stephens <elishastephens at hotmail.com> wrote:
> Obviously, they are split. But here's today's evidence that massive numbers of them support the government:
    . . .

I guess you can call a rally of 50,000 or so in Tripoli - repeatedly
panned over back and forth in video - "massive numbers."

It is difficult to know who the Libyan people support when political
parties are outlawed, peaceful anti-government demonstrations are met
with military violence, and the media is among the most censored in
the world.

Numbers i can find quickly for Libya give the population as ranging
from a little over 5 million to a little over 6 million.  Immigrant
worker numbers before the recent exodus ranged from 1 to 2 million,
apparently a little more than the total number of Libyan workers (who
are not allowed to form labor unions or go on strike).  Around 85% of
the population lives in cities along the coast.  Tripoli is the
largest city at a little over one million, Benghazi is second largest
at about 3/4 of a million and Misrata is third at around half a
million.  Gaddafi's home town of Sirte (twelfth largest at about
130,000) may be the only city which would not go over to the
opposition without violent military repression.

References to Libyan tribes leave me somewhat confused but it is
dubious that the Gaddafi regime enjoys strong support from most of
them <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LW4pFF69VmI>,

The Gaddafi regime's control of Tripoli was maintained through the use
of ruthless violence, mowing down demonstrators for weeks until
demonstrations publicized in advance ceased.  Below are two
reminders of how the present situation developed.

1) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libya>
. . .
After popular movements overturned the rulers of Tunisia and Egypt,
its immediate neighbours to the west and east, Libya experienced a
full-scale revolt beginning on February 17, 2011.  By 20 February, the
unrest had spread to Tripoli...
. . .
As of early March 2011, much of Libya has tipped out of Gaddafi's
control, coming under the aegis of a coalition of opposition forces,
including soldiers who decided to support the rebels. Pro-Gaddafi
forces have been able to militarily respond to rebel pushes in Western
Libya and launched a counterattack on the strategic coastal towns of
Ras Lanuf and Brega.  The town of Zawiyah, 30 miles from Tripoli, was
bombarded by planes and tanks and seized by pro-Gaddafi troops,
"exercising a level of brutality not yet seen in the conflict."
Eastern Libya, centered on the second city and vital port of Benghazi,
is said to be firmly in the hands of the opposition, while Tripoli and
its environs remain in dispute.

However, in several public appearances, Gaddafi has threatened to
destroy the protest movement, and Al Jazeera and other agencies have
reported his government is arming pro-Gaddafi militiamen to kill
protesters and defectors against the regime in Tripoli. Organs of the
United Nations, including United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
and the United Nations Human Rights Council, have condemned the
crackdown as violating international law, with the latter body
expelling Libya outright in an unprecedented action urged by Libya's
own delegation to the UN.
. . . (see the source for footnotes)

2) from the International Socialist Review Issue 77, May–June 2011

Libya’s revolution, U.S. intervention, and the left

By Lance Selfa

IN THE heady days of February, as the Libyan government of Muammar
el-Qaddafi teetered, the Arab revolution appeared to be on the verge
of forcing out a third dictator. The Libyan revolution had burst onto
the scene with the same energy and fighting spirit that the
revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia had shown. Youth led the revolt,
giving confidence to wider layers of the population to mobilize. For
various historical reasons, opposition to Qaddafi was strongest in the
country’s eastern oil-rich regions. Although protests spread
throughout the country, they reached farthest in the eastern cities of
Benghazi and Tobruk. The mobilization drove the police off the streets
and turned many city administrations over to popular committees.

But Qaddafi determined that he wouldn’t follow in Ben Ali and
Mubarak’s footsteps. The Qaddafi government, acting through its loyal
security forces, launched savage repression against the movement.
Pro-Qaddafi forces opened fire on crowds, killing hundreds, while
attempting to regain control of the streets of the capital and other
major cities. The repression (or the fear for their own skins if they
ended up on the wrong side of a triumphant revolution) prompted dozens
of high-level Libyan government figures to defect to the side of the
anti-Qaddafi opposition. In the eastern part of the country, whole
military units went over to the opposition. The Libyan uprising
transitioned from mass mobilization into a civil war between Libyan
army units and mercenaries loyal to Qaddafi and rebels composed of
military defectors and volunteers.
. . .
The left and Libya

Clearly, the mass opposition to Qaddafi received its initial
inspiration from the revolutions that overthrew tyrants in Tunisia and
Egypt. As it unfolded as the next phase of the Arab revolution, it
demonstrated conclusively that there is nothing about the Qaddafi
regime worth defending. The challenge for the left in the West is how
to provide support and solidarity with the popular movement against
the Qaddafi dictatorship while opposing Western imperialism’s attempts
to misdirect or squelch it under the guise of intervening to support

Unfortunately, a small number of commentators on the left in the
United States as varied as the editors of MRZine, the Party for
Socialism and Liberation, and Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report have
taken positions that show varying degrees of sympathy toward Qaddafi
(as have state leaders such as Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro). This
current also tends to be skeptical of, if not downright hostile to,
the popular challenge to the Qaddafi regime that began with mass
protests. Some leftists in the West may have mistaken Qaddafi’s past
anti-imperialist and quasi-socialist rhetoric as evidence of his
progressive credentials. But the victims of Qaddafi’s torture chambers
know better.
. . .
How should socialists respond?

As already argued, socialists support the popular uprising against the
Qaddafi dictatorship, and we have no truck with defenders of Qaddafi.
But we also oppose the imposition of the no-fly zone and other forms
of Western intervention because, in strengthening the role of imperial
intervention in the Libyan revolution, they undermine the prospect of
genuine freedom and independence...

More information about the Marxism mailing list