The tremendous revolutionary uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, represent the clearest indication, along with the great recession in the world economy, that we have entered a turning point in world history. The power of the working masses to take matters into their own hands and overthrow the most brutal regimes has been dramatically shown. How things will develop from here remains to be seen, but the example of Libya shows that important and difficult questions are being posed for the future of the movement and the region as a whole.
For many people around the world watching these events, the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi was seen as a triumph for the Libyan people and for many Libyans it was met with celebrations. However, while the ousting of Gaddafi’s vicious dictatorship in August should be supported, the question of how this was brought about is crucial. Unlike the mass movements and strike actions in Tunisia and Egypt, which saw millions of oppressed workers and young people rise up and tumble their own oppressors, Ben Ali and Mubarak – relying entirely on their own strength – the movement in Libya was of a different character.
The role of imperialism
The main difference was the role played by NATO’s intervention, without which Gaddafi’s stronghold, Tripoli, would not have fallen the way that it did. The assistance given to the rebels from the special forces of Britain, France and the US, among others, in the form of training, weapons and 20,000 air strikes – killing many civilians – played a key role in defeating Gaddafi’s forces. While there is still support for NATO’s intervention among some Libyans who are rejoicing in the defeat of Gaddafi, ultimately the cost of this support will prove to be too high.
The claims from the capitalist establishment that the events in Libya are in some way a victory for the idea of humanitarian intervention, exposes the utter hypocrisy of the imperialist leaders. Their support for “democracy” doesn’t concern them in the case of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain or Qatar, where demonstrations demanding democracy have been brutally repressed. They very belatedly discovered that they had concerns about the lack of democracy in Tunisia and Egypt, whose former dictators they had backed up until the last minute. The same is also the case in Libya, where close links between Gaddafi and the CIA and MI6, (involving kidnapping and torture of suspected terrorists) have recently been exposed.
It is an undeniable truth that imperialism only acts in its own interest. This is certainly the case in oil rich Libya, a country with a relatively small population, huge resources and no debt whatsoever. In fact, the World Bank estimates that Libya currently has a $160bn foreign currency reserve. The objective for imperialism now is to install a puppet regime in Libya that will serve it’s interests, as they exploit the country’s wealth and resources.
What way forward?
The leadership of the rebel forces, who make up the newly formed Transitional National Council (TNC) are made up largely of pro capitalist elements and former members of the Gaddafi regime who are very much allies of NATO. The self-appointed leader, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, was Gaddafi’s feared justice minister. There is little doubt that these forces will continue with the neo-liberal agenda – including privatisation of the countries assets – of the Gaddafi regime.
Initially, the movement in Libya was inspired by the revolutionary struggles in the region and demands for genuine democracy and higher living standards were central. For these demands to ever be met, it is essential that democratic workers organisations are formed, that can unite the working class, youth and poor in Libya. The key tasks for such an organisation are to oppose imperialist intervention, break with capitalism and fight for genuine revolutionary socialist transformation of society.