[Marxism] Libya is now set to be a scene of multiple battles

Fred Feldman ffeldman at verizon.net
Sat Sep 10 12:17:47 MDT 2011

Seeking for a qualitative distinction between the role of Islamist currents
in Libya before the revolution, Louis states:

Qaddafi cracked down relentlessly on political Islam for decades, while the
Shah of Iran actually used it as a cudgel against the left (the leading
cleric actually worked to overthrow Mossadegh.) 

Fred comments:
This is so telescoped and rushed that it can create a seriously wrong
impression. One could easily conclude from this that the Islamists of North
Africa and the Arab countries, unlike those in Iran, were supportive of the
Mossadeghs of these countries, which is absolutely false. The Islamists were
among the main domestic political opponents of the national-revolutionary
processes in Egypt, Algeria, Iraq, and Syria. We should remember that
Gadhafi began as the "Mossadegh" or "Nasser" of Libya. I doubt that the
clergy played a terribly progressive role when he was undertaking some
positive initial steps.

Secondly, Louis' phrasing can foster the mis-impression that the Iranian
Islamists supported the Shah virtually to the end and were never repressed
under his regime.  This impression can leave the false impression that the
Khomeini current only leaped into the struggle against the shah at the last
minute when victory was all but won without them, suddenly "hijacking the

In fact, the Khomeini current had been part of the leadership of the
anti-Shah struggle for 15 to 20 years by the time the shah was toppled.

Khomeini was in public opposition to the shah at least from the early 1960s
on. The main provocation seems to have been a reactionary anti-peasant "land
reform" sponsored by the imperialists, which also affected the clergy's
property interests in the countryside. Khomeini was forced into exile and
began to issue the anti-monarchist tapes that became very popular and to
project the idea of the Islamic Republic.  Most of his top aides like the
now-billionaire Rafsanjani did stints in prison or in exile or both.

I think there was a change in the character of the Islamic Brotherhood from
the 50s to the 70s.  I think one element may have been the destruction or
radical weakening of the landed aristocracies, with which they had been

Afghanistan and Pakistan are countries in which the landed aristocracy and
their ties to Islamism seem to be quite strong.

So Louis' formulation exaggerates the differences between the Iranian and
other Islamists at the time of the Iranian revolution.

Today, however, there is a very radical difference indeed between the
character of the Islamic movement in Iran and in the rest of the Middle East
and North Africa. 

In Iran today, the top clergy are the capitalist ruling class to a large
extent. I don't know if they are big landholders in the countryside anymore
but they own or control the arms and most other modern industry in the
country. When you hear about privatization, it is usually they who are
benefiting. No section of the population has such a deep interest in
preserving the status quo against any progressive change. 

This is pretty much where Gadhafi ended up as well.
Fred Feldman 


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