On 17 March, after much procrastination, the United Nations agreed to military action against Libya’s dictator Muammar Qaddafi, whose murderous forces were advancing on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.
The Stop the War Coalition immediately issued a statement condemning “a new war”, and “escalating armed intervention in Libya”. Socialist Worker headlined “No to intervention in Libya! Victory to Arab revolutions!” Much other left-wing commentary has focused on opposing intervention.
But the rebel forces in Benghazi greeted the UN decision with jubilation. Benghazi is a city where Qaddafi has, in the past, conducted the mass public execution of oppositionists. They knew what they could expect if Qaddafi triumphed. And it seemed likely that Qaddafi was on the verge of defeating the revolution, or at least inflicting terrible slaughter.
To oppose – that is, demonstrate against, and make a serious effort to prevent – the limited military action against Qaddafi, is to tell the rebels in Benghazi “you’re on your own.”
What socialist would want to send out such a message? Only one not deserving the name.
There is of course no reason to trust the armies of the West, or their Arab allies, to bring democracy to Libya or anywhere else. They are intervening for their own - capitalist, imperialist - reasons, not in the interests of the Libyan people. There is no guarantee that Western intervention will even succeed in its short-term aim of halting Qaddafi’s advance.
The force which is advancing democracy across the Middle East is the mass movement, above all the workers’ movement. In Egypt a new, independent trade union federation has been formed in the midst of a wave of militant strikes.
This is the agency to which socialists look to transform the Middle East.
But neither such workers’ movements nor the labour movement internationally have a military force of our own to come to the aid of Benghazi. We can build our own forms of solidarity with the popular movement in Libya. We can be vigilant against whatever political steps the Western powers take (including, for example, any attempt to rehabilitate Qaddafi, which they may think is the best, most "stable" option).
But what issue of principle should make us demonstrate against the one thing which might prevent untold slaughter, prevent Qaddafi’s immediate bloody victory, and therefore a crushing defeat for the wave of revolutions?
It is not good enough for socialists to point out that Cameron, et al, are no friends of the Libyan people. Indeed they are not. But what do you propose to do, instead, then, to prevent Qaddafi crushing his enemies? Socialists either address this real, life-and-death question or they are irrelevant poseurs.
It’s not good enough to argue that the West has supported dictators in the past and will do so again. Of course it will. But how able the West is to impose its agenda on the Middle East in future depends on the self-confidence of the mass movement. A terrible defeat in Libya might sap that self-confidence much more than a temporary acceptance of Western assistance.
We need to develop a strong solidarity campaign which is independent of Western (or Arab) governments. We need, in particular, to help the new Egyptian workers’ movement to continue to grow and develop, which could have an immense, positive effect on the whole region.
Instead, some socialists have responded to this crisis by putting their hostility to America above the lives of the Libyan rebels.
And this is a shameful disgrace.
first military attack was done
Submitted by guenter on 19 March, 2011 - 17:12.
just yesterday some1 said here, that a nonflyzone does NOT automatically lead to other military steps, and now the first military attack on libya was done a few hours ago.
should we be out on the streets denouncing the UN's decision? See above. I think not.(clive)
oh no, of course not. because its neither imperialist nor colonialist...
its not for oil "only", no, no, but 4 humanity and democracy.
thanks 4 that information, my local spokesman of the torries.
or is he from labour or from the liberals? or from the greens?
...or from AWL?
united we stand.
IN ANY OF THE ARRTICLES HERE THE REBELS ARE DESCRIBED AS A HOMOGEN AND GENUINE MOVEMENT FOR MORE DEMOCRACY
NOWHERE IT WAS SAID THAT THE BIGGEST PART OF THE REBELS SEEM TO BE ISLAMISTS WHO RECENTLY LABELLED GHADAFFI AS A JEW AND ZIONIST !
AM I PRO GHADAFFI? NO BUT IAM SAYING THAT THERE ARE SITUATIONS WHERE WE CAN NOT INTERVENT ON ANY SIDE AND IMPERIALIST POWERS HAVE TO LEAVE THESE COUNTRIES ALONE ANYWAY
FOLLOWING THIS ARGUMENTATION THAT ANY TYPE OF REBELS MUST BE SUPPORTED AGAINST THEIR LOCAL DICTATOR WITH FOREIGN MILITARY INTERVENTIONS MEANS THAT IN 1979 WE SHOULD HAVE SUPPORTED KHOMEINI AGAINST THE SHAH WITH FOREIGN MILITARY SUPPORT !!!
We should oppose the presence of imperialist troops in Libya whilst unambiguously supporting the Libyan revolt and be for sending aid to them, campaigning for the West to divert stolen resources ot the libyan reble held areas, to allow them to arm themselves against Gadaffi and even giving military hardware and epxertise under the control fo the Libyan rebels.
It is naive to think that the West's guns and planes and bombs wonouldn't be turned on the Libyan rebels and workers if they ever managed to gain control of th eoilfields against the interests of Western capital.
There's an article and comments here discussing the views of Permanent Revolution and readers of that site.
Yes, Jason, not actually addressing the point, though. And I do not suggest that the West wouldn't turn on the rebels if the rebels opposed the interests of Western capital. Again, like, duh. I think, sadly, that's a bit of a way off at the moment though anyway.
The demand for arming the rebels does make sense to me (with all qualifications raised in an earlier discussion - ie, that it will still be the West arming them, for their own interests ultimately). It makes sense to keep that argument in the general public mix, as part of the pressure on Western governments. It doesn't make sense as an alternative to what is happening now.
Guenter - are you saying you know enough about the political composition of the rebels to be sure we should declare ourselves neutral between them and Gaddafi? 'THe biggest part of the rebels seem to be Islamist'? I have seen no evidence of this; please provide a link. It seems to be simply a ground-level mass popular revolt, whose leadership has fallen (in so far as leadership has really fallen to anyone) to those people most able to put themselves in that position (former politicians in the regime, etc). But a mass uprising by the people of Libya hardly equals just 'any type of rebels against their local dictator.'
By the way. Glad you find it funny.
The article - which is short, and written to be a leaflet, so it covers only a few things - does not say that the intervention will 'avert the defeat of the rebellion'. In fact it says "There is no guarantee that Western intervention will even succeed in its short-term aim of halting Qaddafi’s advance."
What consequences will the intervention have 'within Libya society? Well, neither of us know, exactly. Do we. It may mean a prolonged civil war, yes. Hopefully not, and for sure the Western powers are anxious to avoid it.
Ergo what? There was - and could still be - an immediate issue of what was going to happen to Benghazi. Why do so many people on the left find it so hard even actually to address this question? Your contribution, David, is actually even more evasive than most on this issue. What are you saying? All this article says is that we should not mobilise to try to prevent the mlitary intervention. What *else* we do, in light of what happens as events unfold, is something intelligent people can work out.
But right now it seems at least the *immediate* disaster *has* been averted. I for one am pretty glad about that, because whatever the longer-term consequences of intervention might be (and whatever we might need to oppose), for sure, a bloody defeat in Benghazi would have had - will still have - extremely bad consequences throughout the region.
"Jason, your slogan support libyan revolution, not intervention is meaningless.
Your support doesn`t means anything before Gaddafi`s slaughters."
That only makes sense if Western military intervention is the only option to avert a defeat of the libyan rebllion
Actually, as David argues, it is not even clear it will avert it. It may help defeat Gadaffi or the imperialists may refer a stalemate: they definitely won't allow a revoluiton that opposes Western influences- having French, UK and US missiles in the area won't help the LIbyan people then! It will help kill them!
What the West could do is divert massive aid into free Libya and Benghazi allowing the rebels to buy arms, training and military assistance under the rebel's control.
Of course they won't. They won't because they don't care a jot for the the people of Libya.
Socialists and trade unionists here should clearly support the revolutionary movements and the protest movements in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Syria. But we should also be absolutely clear that this means oppsing imperialism and go on the demonstrations against the Western attacks- yes with clear slogans and placards for arming the rebels, for opposing Gadaffi and the dictators across the region and those backing, financing and supporting them Cameron, Obama, Sarkozy, Fillon (guest of Mubarak three months back) etc.
What we can also do is have solidarity demonstrations with the exiles and raise money for volunteers to go to Benghazi and other areas to fight against the dictators and their backers.
This is not a shameful position, far from it. Backing imperialism is, as much as it woud be to back Gadaffi (armed funnily enough by....?)
Dave Broder speculates about the potential affects of Western Military intervention.
What is certain is that a city of 1 million people faced imminent slaughter .
The roots of actively opposing the intervention lie in Stalinist distortion of the concept of Imperialism
and the Stalinists/Stalinoid/SWP/CPB etc etc etc starting point of opposing US imperialism rather
than what is in the interests of the working-class.
The StW protest in London today had about 100 or 150 people on it. 20 Greek Stalinists, 10 members of Socialist Action, Some US Stalinists, French Sparts, the CPGB-ML giving out a leaflet saying 'Hands of Libya! Victory to Gaddafi' (at least they spell out the meaning of 'Hands off Libya' and understand the SWP's 'Hands off Libya! Victory to the revolution!' is oxymoronic), CPB members with Soviet-era flags...
A tiny demo. This idiot left is isolated - rightly. Normal people can understand the meaning of 'Stop the bombing' - it means 'allow the massacre' - and they don't go along with it... Good for them.
The 300 000 Arabs in London. None with StW. Politically active Arabs are at the Libyan embassy. It is not even as if the SWP/Stalinists are there arguing for their position with Libyans...
David what does this sentence (of mine) mean, which I now write for the third time: ""There is no guarantee that Western intervention will even succeed in its short-term aim of halting Qaddafi’s advance."? Come along, I think you learned to read at some point.
So, buried at the end of a paragraph halfway through your second post on the subject, you reveal your position. It turns out that you actually do think that socialists should oppose the intervention. Why?
You think it is 'likely' that the intervention will create a pro-Gadaffi backlash.
You think it is 'likely' that, in a general sense, the doctrine of humanitarian intervention will get a boost.
The thing about the pro-Gadaffi backlash is far from certain. We haven't seen it yet; we have only really seen paid militias fighting for Gadaffi so far; basically, you are speculating about something which *could* happen.
The massacre of the revolutionaries in Benghazi, up until the Western intervention, was much more certain. It was the most likely outcome of there being no intervention. If the no-fly-zone/bombing stopped tomorrow (as NATO buckled under the hammer blows of the CPGB-ML and the Commune), the massacre would almost certainly resume.
Not only is the massacre much more certain than the pro-Gadaffi backlash, the massacre of all the leading cadre of the rebels in Benghazi would be much, much worse for the revolution than would a pro-Gadaffi backlash appearing in certain quarters - even if the latter happened, which I doubt.
The thing about the doctrine of humanitarian intervention getting a political boost is more of a likely prospect. But what does that mean? It is a general political development, which will bode ill for the future, generally. In situations which do not exist, which we cannot guess at, it will make it easier for the US to bomb people. It does not mean imminent mass death of revolutionary cadre and civilians, in Benghazi, tomorrow. It is not as immediate, certain, or bad for the Middle Eastern/North African revolution as the massacre.
David Broder's general political method is to pop up and
1) say things which are self-consciously awfully clever and
2) pose somewhat to the left of the naughty, naughty AWL on questions of imperialism, in order to score points
So, we get
1) instead of actually saying what he thinks, we get rather a lot of waffle along the lines of "do not chide me, you sophist" and "we must ask the bigger political questions..."
2) an obviously cooked-up reason to oppose the intervention, which is so thin that David can't even bring himself to spell out its consequences.
Why won't you say that you think it would be no bad thing if Gadaffi killed all the revolutionaries in Benghazi? Because at least then we would be spared the "potential consequences" of a revival of liberal interventionism and the support for Gadaffi that the intervention "may galvanise". You can't take it seriously! You admit in spelling out the arguments to call for an end to the intervention that all the bad stuff is only potential, only maybe.
The reason you won't come out and say that you're with the CPGB-ML in calling for an immediate end to the intervention is because you can't possibly think it, you can't possibly with a straight face defend Gadaffi's right to kill all the rebels. You've just come on here to continue your long-term political project of saying things for effect, to attract attention, sound more leftwing than the nasty old AWL, and generally play silly buggers. Get serious or go and do it somewhere bloody else.
And what does "the political consequences of the intervention may be self-defeating" mean? That NATO forces "may" defeat themselves accidentally? Wouldn't that be a good thing though? What kind of a sentence even is that?
But seriously, folks. There is an argument doing the rounds (in an oblique, knowing way from David Broder, and in a straightforward, openly boneheaded way from the SWP) that if the rebels in Benghazi won but only with the backing of NATO forces then the nature of their victory would be compromised - that a victory for the people in Benghazi, if backed openly by imperialism, would be reduced to a NATO proxy-conquest of Libya, not a proper revolution. What's implied there is that it would be really great if the rebels won without any help from NATO. We've never thought it would be a socialist revolution if the Benghazi forces overthrew Gadaffi. It would not be less socialist if they won on the back of a NATO bombing campaign. The rebels are being led and have always been led by renegade Gadaffi generals and ministers.
But what a rebel victory would *necessarily* mean is greater breathing-space for working-class organisation and self-assertion.
In all seriousness, David, the charge of 'sophistry' is a bit rich. What I am saying is perfectly straightforward - that the immediate assault on Benghazi has been averted, but this doesn't guarantee Gaddafi's defeat. What happens next, or eventually, neither you nor I know; unlike you, I don't pretend to know things I don't. On the other hand, what would have happened without the military intervention is pretty fucking certain.
And it is this perfectly straightforward issue which you and others just seem unable to face.
And it seems to me an entirely fallacious leftist canard that because we have not opposed this particular specific thing we are unable to oppose something else later. Why the hell not? Nothing prevents us from criticising the military intervention in Libya, or whatever other 'humanitarian interventions' are proposed or carried out in the future.
In answer to David Broder and those who may believe that AWL is a lone voice in the wilderness, I'd would refer readers of this website to Gilbert Achcar, who recently wrote:
"We all know about the Western powers' pretexts and double standards. For example, their alleged concern about harm to civilians bombarded from the air did not seem to apply in Gaza in 2008-09, when hundreds of noncombatants were being killed by Israeli warplanes in furtherance of an illegal occupation. Or the fact that the US allows its client regime in Bahrain, where it has a major naval base, to violently repress the local uprising, with the help of other regional vassals of Washington.
The fact remains, nevertheless, that if Gaddafi were permitted to continue his military offensive and take Benghazi, there would be a major massacre. Here is a case where a population is truly in danger, and where there is no plausible alternative that could protect it. The attack by Gaddafi's forces was hours or at most days away. You can't in the name of anti-imperialist principles oppose an action that will prevent the massacre of civilians. In the same way, even though we know well the nature and double standards of cops in the bourgeois state, you can't in the name of anti-capitalist principles blame anybody for calling them when someone is on the point of being raped and there is no alternative way of stopping the rapists.
So, to sum up, I believe that from an anti-imperialist perspective one cannot and should not oppose the no-fly zone, given that there is no plausible alternative for protecting the endangered population. The Egyptians are reported to be providing weapons to the Libyan opposition -- and that's fine -- but on its own it couldn't have made a difference that would have saved Benghazi in time. But again, one must maintain a very critical attitude toward what the Western powers might do."
therealnews.com of 19 March.
Iraq was a full-scale invasion with the intention of occupying the country. It was reasonable to base a position on the likelihood that the US army would not bring democracy but bring one or other kind of terrible mess. It wasn't a question of the immediate slaughter of a revolutionary movement.
Libya might evolve in that direction, in which case I will oppose it.
The fundamental thing right now is that what was happening in Libya was part of an unfolding revolution across the region. Its bloody defeat in Benghazi would have been an immense set-back for the prospects for democracy, not to mention socialism, across the Middle East. Of course what is happening now has its attendant dangers, too. But Gaddafi's victory would have been - would still be - much worse. (I am not making a case for an 'Arab revolution' or 'revolutionary process' before some irritating pedant tries giving me lectures on that score).
This fucking matters, David. What's been happening in the MIddle East is the most important and hopeful thing to have happened in my political lifetime, which is considerably longer than your actual lifetime. Of course it's a terrible tragedy that the Libyan people weren't able to simply to dispatch Gaddafi by themselves. I wish to God they had; and the new situation is for sure a set-back. But it is nothing like as disastrous a set-back as Gaddafi wading triumphantly through Benghazi in blood. That the left can't 'get' this elementary fact seems to me more than anything I have ever seen confirmation of its irrelevance and utter stupidity.
And I think you underestimate normal people's intelligence. Anyone who is not a left-educated twit can see that military intervention in Libya is not automatically the same as any old other military intervention, and will be able to oppose others which are not the same.
What the hell is wrong with you people? 'Soberly assess' the threat from Gaddafi? This is a dictator who in response to opposition had the entire population of a prison killed; who has staged mass public executions; who has put snipers on the tops of buildings to randomly shoot demonstrators; who has rounded up many of the families of people fighting on his side and threatened to kill them if they defect - etc etc etc.
We could sit around being terribly unsure if he's *really* going to massacre people in Benghazi, and on that basis - on the basis he might not really massacre people! - join demonstrations opposing military intervention... It beggars belief.
Of course Western intervention could end up going horribly wrong. If you want to say that if that turns out, because I was against demonstrating against it, it's my fault - go ahead. I'll cross that bridge.
I would remind David that the socialist opposition to imperialist intervention against Germany after the rape of Belgium or, for that matter, of independent socialists in the West to arming the Hungarian rebels in 1956 had nothing to do with the issues raised by those opposed to "humanitarian interventions." Of course "humanitarian interventions" is transparent nonsense. You are just reinventing the wheel. Socialist resisted intervention in Belgium because they recognized it as a fig leaf to grab Germany's imperial possessions and to strangle Austria and Turkey. In the case of Hungary in 1956, ---which posed a greater challenge---it was only reluctantly resisted for fear of triggering a third world war. But the fist line of evaluating our attitude towards an imperialist intervention is whether it would strangle the autonomy of the democratic movement that it claims aid and subordinate that movement to the interests of imperialism. The "liberation" of Kuwait was a complete imperialist lash up and had nothing whatsoever to do with strengthening the forces of democracy. And that's the point. Once the question of subordination and neutralization of native democratic forces has been addressed, then the question of imperialism's wider prospects for stifling democracy are put on the table.
I would further remind David that independent socialists---a tradition, I believe that he once associated himself with--actually urged the nationalist democratic movements of occupied Hitlerite Europe "not (to) hesitate to come to practical agreements with Allied imperialism, or its agents or its representatives, by which they are provided with material aid and supplies for the struggle. That means, furthermore,that the line of policy advocated by the revolutionists in these movements includes the advice to take all the arms that may be put at their disposal, in the event of an invasion of that continent by the Allied armies". Was this the wrong thing to do? Should they have read them the riot act about democratic imperialism's real aims? Or could arming nationalist democrats have had further implications down the road, as socialists believed, for challenging capitalism or at least strengthening democracy?
The Libyan rebels had two choices (not mutually exclusive, to be sure) with respect to their demands on imperialism. They could have demanded that Qaddafy's frozen assets be turned over to them so they could purchase guns, antiaircraft missles etc. But that would have given the West a decisive hand in choosing the most compliant elements among the rebels to empower, both with money and arms. Or they could have asked---as they have---for air cover to level the terms of war. I think this option leaves them the greatest autonomy. The decision probably was made on the basis of urgency rather than political calculation. But either way, the decisive question--I think--for socialists is whether the insurgency has been coopted by the intervention.
As far as aircover itself, I see no principled difference between the demand for arms and the demand for air support. Both are demands for active imperialist intervention. So I put the question back to you, David. Why would you support one, but virulently oppose the other? Is it tactic or principle?
To TomU "is it a 'good' or 'bad' thing that Gadaffi's murderers have been halted in their attempts to slaughter the people of Benghazi? "
Good of course. Is it good or bad that US, French and British planes are on control of Libyan security? Bad.
Why? Because they will use that power to ensure a settlement for their own economic interests. If that means killing Libyans so be it.
If the police stop fascists carrying out a racist attack is that good or bad? Good. But do we say supoport the police or not oppose the police? No. We say racist police off our streets. Why? Because they will target the antifascists.
Do we say UK, US, French (imperialist) planes and bombs out of Libya? Yes. Why? Because they will target any attempt by the Libyan workers to oppose the economic interests of the big powers.
Do we say we don't care? No. We say arm the rebels: put all military equipment and expertise under the military control of rank and file revolutionary democratic committtees of the fighters against Gadaffi. For international working class assistance to the revolt in Libya, to the strikers and protestors in Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain.
Jason's attempts to reconcile decent instincts with a slavish commitment to orthodox "Trotskyist" dogma are becoming difficult to watch. Are you seriously suggesting that "racist police off our streets" would be your banner-headline response to the police intervening to stop fascists beating up or killing a black or Asian person? Of course it wouldn't. "Racist police off our streets" might be your general framing perspective but you don't just robotically raise one formulaic slogan ("racist police off our streets", or indeed "no to imperialist intervention!") in every situation; you assess reality, you assess the actual balance of forces and you assess, depending on those assessments, what implications that slogan actually has in a concrete situation. The only possible implication of "no to imperialist intervention" as a banner-headline slogan in the context of Libya, right now (rather than Libya through the lens of some ortho-Trot "anti-imperialist" fantasy) is "victory to Qaddafi".
It's telling that Jason says "Do we say UK, US, French (imperialist) planes and bombs out of Libya?", but later says his position is to demand that imperialist states arm the rebels. Notice that the word "imperialist" is in parentheses in the first sentence. Presumably that's because Jason thinks that the planes and bombs would somehow be less "imperialist" if they were given to the rebels rather than used by UK, US and France themselves. This simply isn't the case; whether they're using them directly or giving them to rebels, "UK, US and French planes and bombs" in Libya is "imperialist intervention". You can't say "no to imperialist intervention" and "arm the rebels"; the two slogans are directly, mutually exclusive and contradictory.
And to David, if for you the main, overarching concern here is not to give "a boost" to the idea of "liberal intervention", presumably you'd counsel the Libyan rebels not to take politico-military advantage of any openings or opportunities created by the weakening of Qaddafi's forces, in case that gave "a boost" to the idea of "liberal intervention". Applying the logic of your position to Iraq in 2003 you'd also have to tell Iraqi workers not to organise, because to do so would give "a boost" to the same idea by highlighting how opportunities to organise existed that didn't exist before the invasion.
The question for us isn't the ideological esteem in which particular abstract notions are held; the question is the balance of class forces. In Iraq, we could reasonably assess that despite the likely positive side-effects of the toppling of the Ba'athist regime (which were not insignificant), a full-scale imperialist invasion of Iraq was a clear, direct threat to Iraqi self-determination which "outweighed" (if you want to be cold and calculating about it) the other concerns. In Libya, the threat posed by Qaddafi to a social upheaval going on right now outweighs the concern that the idea of liberal intervention might get a boost (amongst whom, by the way?). Is the massacre of the Libyan uprising by a brutal Stalinoid dictator a price you're willing to pay to keep the "distrust that millions of [unnamed, unspecified] people feel towards imperialism" nice and "healthy"? Maybe it is, but in that case I suggest that your political point of departure is not the advancement of working-class or even democratic struggle but rather an abstract notion of "anti-imperialism". If we have completely different starting points then this debate is going to become increasingly difficult to have.
There are times in which democratic resistance movements come to a provisional, but practical agreement with imperialism on an enemy of my enemy basis. World War II was one of them and socialists recognized that. This is another. I fully appreciate David's concern that "humanitarian imperialism" is a figleaf for other purposes and cannot and should not be taken as face value. These reasons have been properly aired in the course of the exchange on the AWL site. If it were the case that imperialist aid to the Libyan democratic resistance would threaten the broader Arab revolution the way that helping Belgium, as Lenin put it, was impossible without strangling Turkey and Austria, then David's point would be perfectly valid. I think the resistance understands this also, which is why they are adamant in refusing to support imperialist troops on the ground. It would have been preferable if the Arab revolution had consolidated itself sufficiently to offer the Libyans an international brigade to topple Qaddafi. Short of that, the resistance is simply outgunned.
Socialists, including those on this website, did not call for this intervention. And properly so. But the resistance did and they defined the terms under which they would accept it. The practical question for socialists now is which alternative--- the defeat of the Libyan resistance or the defeat of Qaddafi with the aid of imperialism-- poses a greater threat to the Arab democratic revolution. There is simply no third alternative.
Why would you be so keen to make the argument that Gadaffi's victory would in fact not be a step back for the revolutionary movement in Libya? First you say that the accusation that Gadaffi is going to massacre oppositionists is dubious (it is not); then you say that the victory of the rebels would not bring more breathing space (that's something we have to admit as a possibility, but it is less likely than Gadaffi's victory closing off all hope of democratic openings). All of this cloaked in umming and ahhing - nothing is certain, it is all a gamble, we cannot know anything, you must exhaustively document the most tentative estimate of what's going on... this looks like the progress of someone slipping towards a pro-Gadaffi position as a logical consequence of knee-jerk denunciation of every thing that imperialism does.
In response to your questions:
b) it was reasonable to expect that such a thing would happen. It was only unreasonable to expect such a massacre if your starting point was that no ethnic cleansing was taking place at all. Was all the genocide in Kosovo "imperialist war propaganda"?
c and d): We do not support intervention. We warn against relying on it, we warn against trusting it, we call for vigilance against the current action evolving into a mission of conquest or subjugation. Currently, the bombing campaign is keeping the rebels from being defeated and it is aiding the rebellion. For as long as that is the primary dynamic on the ground in Libya, a movement capable of stopping the bombing should not stop it. But were this situation to change, we would call for mistrust to turn into active opposition. If we were supporting the intervention now, that would be a u-turn; support now would make it harder to galvanise opposition later. We are not supporting the intervention precisely because we recognise that at any moment mistrust will have to become active opposition. We are not taking responsibility for the later actions of the coalition, because we are making propaganda to prime the movement to oppose it later.
But that task of opposing it (rather than just warning against it) later is not helped, the anti-war case is not strengthened, if the left positions itself *now*, in the eyes of everyone who hasn't gone through a daft-left education, as bone-headed partisans of Gadaffi's right to slaughter the rebels! It is no part of principled anti-imperialism to proclaim explicitly or implicitly, that the best thing is for the Libyan conflict to take its course with the strongest coming out at the end on top of the bloody pile. Saying that now is not part of opposing imperialist adventures later.
A) Not relevant. He has the capacity to do it and has said that he is prepared to. As Clive points out this is a guy who executed the entire population of a prison. Do you really want to have this debate on the terrain of "Qaddafi is not as bad as you think"?
B) Could you quote our "uncritical reproduction" of NATO propaganda, please? Also, did Milosevic have a ethno-imperialist, genocidal project in Kosova or did he not? Do you think that stopping this was a greater concern than stopping NATO's bombing? I do.
C) Because I know that any intervention by imperialist states necessarily takes place for imperialist reasons. My position is not "neutrality"; in general terms I'm against both sides in the conflict (Qaddafi and western imperialism), but given the current balance of forces I won't raise slogans that imply the victory of, or political confidence in, either side (neither "no to imperialist intervention"/"stop the bombing"/"troops out" nor "yes to intervention!"/"full trust in NATO"/whatever). If the "logic" of that is difficult for you to grasp then I'm sorry, but there you have it.
D) I don't really understand what you're asking here. I don't think people who have a "stop the intervention" bear political responsibility for what Qaddafi will do if their slogan is implemented; I just think they're extremely cavalier about it and have got their political priorities severely wrong.
Don't think your comparison on Iraq makes sense. My point was that David's main objection to the intervention seems to be that it'll give a generalised "boost" to the idea of liberal intervention. Since that'd be a bad thing for us, we should be against it. I'm saying there are greater concerns in this situation that outweigh that one.
Daniel seems to imply that support for the Libyan revolution whilst opposing imperialism is some kind of 'slavish addiction to orthodox Trotskyist dogma' or some such nonsense. I think we should avoid insults in this debate and try to be polite.
"Are you seriously suggesting that "racist police off our streets" would be your banner-headline response to the police intervening to stop fascists beating up or killing a black or Asian person? "
No. That's not the point at all. If the fascists murder a Black person we'd be for the organised self-defence of the Black communities with labour movement support. We would not be for saturation policing or allowing police on to the streets to ostensibly defend Asian or Black communities- they may say that but the experience of Bolton 2010, Oldham 2001 and many other occasions suggests otherwise!
Arming the rebels is not pro-imperialist. It could be done by the workers' movement or we could demand it of the bourgeois governments if we were strong enough- the point is that the planes, missiles, guns, etc, should be under the control of the Libyan rebels not the imperialist forces who have a very different agenda in Libya than supporting the revolution!
The choice isn't simply Gadaffi or imperialism: it is or could be the independent power of the Libyan and wider working class across their region to take control of their fate, their collective resources and their society. We should support that.
I was perfectly polite. I called your politics out for what I think they are. Sorry if that offends you.
Yes, it is possible to support the revolution and oppose imperialism. I manage it.
But your position doesn't just "oppose imperialism" in a general sense. It argues that the first priority for socialists in this situation is to actively campaign against the specific action that some imperialist states are currently undertaking, even though we don't actually want the outcome that any successful campaign against it would bring about!
Opposing imperialism doesn't mean actively campaigning to "stop" every single thing that imperialist states do, especially when you're not strong enough to impose a better alternative.
PS: There are people on your organisation's website (members of your group, I should add) claiming that we "support every UK foreign policy". Do you agree?
I was wondering whether the subject line of Daniel's reply to me ("I was perfectly fucking polite how dare you?") was unintended irony or a strange sense of humour.
I suppose I've had worse but I don't think accusing someone of dogma or slavish addiction is really particularly polite but hey- and this is important because there are people out there interested int his for very understandable reasons giving some kind of critical suppoirt to imperialism- many Libyan exiles for example. Perfectly undertandable but no less wrong for that as there is a whole wealth of history sdaly to show that asking the US, Frencch, British controlled forces to intervene on the side of justice is forlorn.
Nowhere did I say that our 'first priority' is to oppose imperialism or the no-fly zone. Opposing Gadaffi, supporting the revolution is as if not more important. I think as socialists and internationalists we should also be clear that French, US, UK planes, ships, special forces in Libya should be opposed as the fight against Gadaffi is for freedom, for the right to organise, for the Libyan people's to have contorl of thier onw destiny.
I think one person did say on the PR website that the AWL often follow th eposition of the British government's foregin policy. To me that is hyperbole and not that helpful perhaps - however if there is a posiiton of no opposition to the no-fly zone, no opposition to the intervention (only a lack of trust) on this occasion it is not hard to see why someone may indeed think this position is to all intents and purposes identical.
However, as I say that is the not spectacularly helpful hyperbole of one person. I am more interested in making common cause with those Libyan exiles continuing to show solidarity with the revolution and making the points that our fight is their fight and that within that fight the bombers of the Obama and Cameron administration are on the other side, that of the capitalist class who armed Gadaffi, Mubarak, Ben Ali, Meles Zenawi and all the other dictators of the African continent, butchers of the working class and enemies of freedom now quaking due to the heroic struggles of workers who risked and lost their lives in Tunis, Cairo, Benghazi.
Is the position of the British government to support the revolutionary overthrow of the British government? If so then yes our position is identical.
Can you understand a difference between general opposition and direct, immediate opposition to a specific action (or rather the outcome of a specific action)? Do you think general opposition has to imply immediate active opposition to every action? Gilbert Achcar's use of the cops analogy is better - would you say "police off our streets!" if you saw the cops intervening to stop a rape?
Really, there's no need to read all his posts. Here's a summary:
1. Mmm, I admit I know nothing about Libya.
2. Notwithstanding that, I think I'm coming down on the side of supporting the massacre of the Libyan opposition.
3. I live in London; I know what it is like to be on the sharp end of the state's violence: I once got a parking ticket.
4. Anyone for a curry after the massacre?
france did push the military attack 4 internal political reasons.
all the imperialist countries which are bombing ghadaffi now, did sale weapons to him in the past years for hundreds of million euros. then they complained that he ....did use this arms and not just collected them, and take this as a pretext 4 intervention, while these same countries at the same time sold weapons 4 hundreds of million euros to saudi-arabia -and still do- who intervented in bahrain and with the bought weapons shoots down the opposition there.
when will AWL press 4 an intervention against saudi-arabia?
Dan2 thinks that an overabundance of sarcasm and irony put people off involvement in far-left politics. Personally I have a somewhat higher opinion than him of people's ability to spot these for what they are. Rather, I think what puts people off the left is when they see far-left groups and individuals appearing to be more concerned with maintaining an "anti-imperialist" posture than they are with the literal survival of a democratic-revolutionary uprising in another country.
No-one outside of the "far-left ghetto" (to use Dan2's neat phrase) thinks that opposing the British and American government means actively campaigning against every single action they take. No-one outside of the "far-left ghetto" thinks it makes any sense to support Hamas or Ahmedinejad or North Korea's right to nuclear weapons or any of the other positions that residents of the "far-left ghetto have turned into anti-imperialist badges of honour. I would suggest therefore that it is international politics like Dan2's that contribute to keeping the left isolated, marginal and irrelevant far more than a bit of piss-taking on a website.
Like David, Dan2's primary concern seems to be that the intervention might give a boost to the idea of liberal intervention in general, which might have some bad consequences at some unspecified point down the line. Yes, maybe it will. But this is infinitely less important than the life-and-death fate of the Libyan uprising. Making sure the idea of liberal intervention is held in a generally low esteem by as many people as possible is just not worth the massacre of the anti-Qaddafi rebels. By making this his point of departure, Dan2 is guilty of precisely the thing he calls us "pathetic" for criticising; putting abstract hostility to America above the lives of Libyan rebels.
His justification for this is that he thinks "imperialist massacres and widespread oppression by imperialism" are likely consequences of the current intervention. I simply don't agree; after their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan I don't think the American or British ruling-classes have any interest in getting dragged into a long-term, occupation-style operation in Libya. And even if the consequences Dan2 speculates about were more likely, they would still be of less importance than the massacre of the uprising.
The other bit of Dan2's contribution - that without links to the Libyan rebels all we can do is "fight our own government" - is just lazy. Revolutionary socialists do not exist to act as a mirror image for our own bourgeoisie, to put a cross wherever they put a tick and to mobilise reactively against every action they take just because it's them taking it. That makes us not independent opponents of capitalism with our own positive programme but simply the capitalists' negative imprint.
Again, people need to start basing themselves on an assessment of the actual reality on the ground. The intervention has, as far as we can possibly calculate, prevented the massacre of the uprising and has not (thus far) resulted in an Iraq or Afghanistan-style invasion and occupation of Libya and does not seem likely to. I think it was reasonable to predict those things from the start, too. Based on that reality what possible reason can there be for "opposing" it (above and beyond general revolutionary opposition and hostility to the people carrying it out) in an active and direct way? What possible reason can there be for saying anything other than "this is being done in a bad way by bad people for bad reasons and it might develop in a worse direction, but for now the consequence of this has been positive and the Libyan rebels should take advantage of it"?
The Libyan rebellion still exists. Qaddafi might yet fall at its hands. Our positive feelings about that should outweigh our hand-wringing concerns about whether or not a few more people might now think "liberal intervention" is a good idea.
Dan2's other point about the politics of the rebel leaders is more interesting. Undoubtedly most of them are reactionaries. But if a willingness of its leaders to do deals with imperialism was sufficient criteria to preclude support then Dan2 would probably never support any democratic movement anywhere ever.
1) "the AWL thinks that a mass opposition in the UK to the imperialist adventures of the government in Libya would be a bad thing"
We don't think that. We're in favour of that. The thing is, opposition to imperialist adventures in Libya does not mean opposing every single specific action of the government in Libya. For sure - we should *mistrust* every single specific action of the government in Libya, understand the cynical motivations behind it, etc. etc. - but there's no reason to call specifically for the immediate end of an action which is obviously stopping the rebels from being massacred.
2) On the thing of the idea of humanitarian intervention getting a knock vs. the Libyan rebels being massacred - I think that there are better ways of making propaganda against liberal intervention which don't involve allowing the rebels to be massacred in order to make a point. I also think that bone-headed, negative-imprint opposition to every specific action of imperialism is not a policy which is going to give people confidence in your politics. If you're out there raising slogans whose logical end is obviously the destruction of the rebels in Libya then people will either think that your slogans are badly wrong - or that you don't take them seriously enough to think through their implications if they were applied to the real world.
3) "The reason people do oppose it (some polls have said the majority of people in the UK do as it goes), is because they know it is for entirely cynical reasons." I think there are various reasons why people don't support it. I think cynicism with imperialism is probably not the majority reason - it strikes me as far more likely to be a sort of nationalist-isolationist sentiment.
The case against the war is not to say do nothing. The population of Benghazi faced death. UK arms dealers supplied Gadaffi with arms used to kill Libyan people. What we should have been demanding is arm the rebels, inernational workers' assistance to the revolution, workers' movement collections for the fighters in Benghazi and free Libya, for those in Yemen, Syria and elesewhere.
Now we should be demanding the withdrawal of imperialist led planes and bombs from Libya and for the Libyan people to take control, for revolutionary democratic committees of Libyan people to be in control of the military campaign against Gadaffi. We should be against the bombing campaign by French, US and UK missiles and protest on the streets, instead demanding arms to the rebels, support for the revolution and Libyan workers' democratic control of the resources. We should join the Libyan demonstrators against Gadaffi and argue our case for support for the revolutin but against Western troops whose governments are targetting the oil.
1)The reason we should raise a slogan is because it is *right* and *true* - not because we think we could 'win big' by raising it; or because it's popular. You say that a movement against the intervention could 'link in with the anti-cuts movement to bring down the government'. Firstly, I just don't think that that's true. Secondly - we don't raise a slogan because we calculate that we could make a 'big score' with it! That is no way of doing principled politics at all.
2) You keep saying that we support the bombing. We don't support it - but equally we recognise that it would be daft to call on it to end, as the only logical conclusion of making that call is that Gadaffi would come in and kill all the rebels. We warn to distrust the intervention, to watch it, to oppose any part of it which goes beyond just stopping Gadaffi from annihilating the rebels. But we think you can't raise the call for the bombing to end because, whatever gloss you put on it, that means the end of the rebel movement.
3) Why 'bone-headed'? It's because you're not just wrong; your whole approach is at odds with critical thinking.
We draw a distinction between opposing imperialism "generally" and opposing every single action that an imperialist power does. If you fail to draw that distinction, then you cease to think. You don't have to look at what's happening in reality - you can just see what the foreign ministers in London and Washington are saying, and then decide to say the opposite. It means you become monotone. Nothing needs thinking about - you just oppose everything. The complexity of every situation is ignored, because all you have to say about anything is "no, no no". If that's not a bone-headed way of relating to reality, I don't know what is.
Ed I think you are being unfair to say that what Dan and I argue is mindless "at odds with critical thinking...
ceas[ing] to think... monotone"
Imperialist control fo the bombing plays into Gadaffi's hands at least in the short-term and means they are in control. I spoke to a Libyan activist on yesterday's demo who agreed with me that it would be much better to arm the rebels and give them control over th emilitary operation. He said that in his opinion that's what most of the Libyans supporting the revolution want to. He did say he wasn't against the bombing and that is understandable- I'm not against bombing Gadaffi's forces only the imperialist control of the bombing.
Stop the War have the wrong focus though when I spoke to some on the antiwar contingent yesterday they weremn't at all against being for the Libyan revolution- however thier placards and slogans did not make that explicit. That is a serious mistake I think.
This is a serious debate- at elast when had with libyan exiles who have good reason to be grateful for not being massacred by Gadaffi. But the job of socialists is to point out the need for rebel control of the arms, of the war and society. We don't oppose imperialism merely for the sake of it but because of the historical record of the big powers pursuing their own interests, over the corpses of the working class, in our millions. Victory to the Libyan revolution! Against imperialist control!
Dan2 and Jason-
But wouldn't arming rebels also allow imperialists to select who among the rebel leaderships, in their judgment, would be most amenable to Western interests? Wouldn't the demand that Qaddafy's frozen funds be released to the rebels so they could pursue arms purchases through backdoor channels leave them vulnerable to the same manipulation? The point is that any call for Western intervention has to be treated with suspicion, because all involve some form of temporary alliance of convenience with interests incompatible with the long term health of the revolution. These objections are not trivial. But that point has been made in almost all contributions to this site. Which deal with the devil the rebels chose however is their call, not ours. On the other hand, if it were so patently objectionable to the Arab masses---as objectionable as it appears to some anti-imperialists such as yourselves---it is remarkable how silent they are in echoing your demands. That they have not taken to the streets of Tunis and Cairo should at least impart Western leftists with a dose of introspection before making demands that are blatantly out of step with the present mood of Arab democracy.
Clearly,the immediate issue is how the insurgency properly balances its urgent need for physical survival with its need to free itself from imperial domination, thereby avoiding the exchange of one oppressor for another. That is why they oppose troops on the ground. This is their way of threading that needle. But ultimately that cannot succeed at the national level. It can only be done by the Arab democratic revolution in the process of consolidation, a process which would face enormous additional hurdles were the rebels to go down in defeat.
The call to stop the bombings not as a free standing demand--as much of the anti-war movement is doing, but as contingency to the arming of the Libyan opposition at least has the merit of clearly defining whose side you--Dan2 and Jason-- favor. But you have yet to make that elemental distinction. Calling simultaneously for a victory to the Libyan revolution and for the immediate end to the bombing, on the other hand, is analogous to calling for one to hold his breath and breathe.
This posture, of burnishing your anti-imperialist bona fides, while being willing to acquiesce defacto in Qaddafy's destruction of a movement that embodies the aspirations of Libya's oppressed and exploited, would be disastrous all around. It would mean placing Libya again under secret police rule, with a newly emboldened and embittered tyrant---flush with oil revenue---and itching to settle scores with Tunisia and Egypt who approved of the imperialist imposed no fly zone.
And it would destroy our credibility as dependable allies to the Arab masses as they struggle to free themselves from tyranny. It would mean that we placed our desire for politically clean hands above the well-being of Arab freedom fighters. It would condemn the West itself--Left no less than Right---as enemies and betrayers of isolated Arab liberation struggle, as it is forced to turn inwards. And, in the end, socialists who took your advice of opposing the no-fly zone and damn the consequences would also have, despite your best intentions, covered themselves in the blood and filth of complicity.
They might not be on the streets demanding control of the planes and the bombs but that is because they are in the middle of fighting a war- that does not make the demand any less right. The control of the fighter planes and missiles should be under the military control of the rebels and answerable to democratic councils of the revolutionary struggle. Even if that means foreign pilots, technology, expertise and personnel the important issue is strategic control.
To misrepresent this position as "being willing to acquiesce de facto in Qaddafy's destruction of a movement that embodies the aspirations of Libya's oppressed and exploited, would be disastrous all around." is not only completely inaccurate- it borders on offensive (not to me but to the Libyan fighters) but I'll leave offense aside for now. The only way such a position makes sense is if you believe that the only alternative to imperialist air strike is doing nothing.
We are not demanding nothing. We are demanding mass solidarity and aid to Libya under the control of the workers' movement.
I suppose that the only way the dilemma would arise is if we had some kind of revolutionary socialist MPs and they held the balance in voting for or against war. Sadly we don't and parliament doesn't get to vote on war anywhere except retrospectively when it doesn't make too much difference anyway.
If the workers' movement was powerful enough to make a difference like that it would be powerful enough to demand massive assistance including military assistance to the rebels- but crucially under their control.
We may be a long way off that but we fight for the politics now that will bring about the situation where workers are in control.
In the fight in Libya now we are clear which side we are on and when I have spoken to several Libyan exiles here including ones who have gone to Benghazi to fight they largely agree with me, though we may disagree on the no-fly zone (though I do support a no-fly zone but one imposed under rebel control) and certainly don't accuse me of de facto or any other way of supporting Gadaffi
To digress a little, I find it fascinating that the AWL, which condemned much of the left for its backing an undifferentiated 'resistance' in Iraq, including extreme Islamists, is giving a carte blanche to the anti-Gadaffi forces in Libya.
Why is it, when AWL members solemnly warned us to beware Islamist forces lurking in Tunisia and Egypt during the mobilisations against Ben Ali and Mubarak, we are not warned in any AWL article on Libya about their very real presence here in the ranks of the rebels alongside the renegade members of Gadaffi's state machine and the genuinely democratic elements? Do these people not represent as big a menace in a post-Gadaffi or partitioned Libya as they do elsewhere in the region?
Might you not actually be presenting a case for your readers to support a post-Gadaffi regime in which Islamists -- and do not forget that a disproportionately high number of al Qaeda cadres hailed from Libya -- can play a major role? Might not the collapse of Gadaffi's regime lead to a situation in which a nasty disfunctional regime that was hostile to Islamism becomes replaced by one in which the Islamists play an important role?
The situation in Libya is more akin to that in Iraq than that in Tunisia and Egypt in that the total or partial collapse of Gadaffi's regime will lead to a very chaotic situation, and it is under such conditions that Islamism of the most extreme brands tend to make the running. After all, the only country in which al Qaeda proper has made itself an operational base is post-invasion Iraq.
Oh my god! I had literally never thought of that! You're so clever!
And that's all you can say. The AWL usually has a nose as keen as anyone on Harry's Place or around the Euston Manifesto for sniffing out the merest whiff of Islamism at half a mile or more, so it is very peculiar that none of the pieces on the AWL website on Libya actually mentions something that will be of considerable, even crucial, importance in a week or two's time, as the current commotion over whether to support a no-fly zone fades into the past and the big-power military campaign becomes an actual conquest, and the local competing factions vie for power under a big-power occupation.
Under the chaotic conditions of a collapsed dysfunctional regime, the competing forces in Libya will be remnants of the Gadaffi regime, Islamists, reactionary opponents of Gadaffi and various democratic or semi-democratic elements, often also stratified by regional and tribal allegiances, all jockeying for positions of power and many if not most of them attempting to ingratiate themselves with the occupying powers. We have seen in Iraq how any democratic or left-wing elements have been squeezed out, persecuted and killed by an unholy mixture of Sunni Islamists, Shi'ia sectarian militias and Kurdish nationalist gangsters, not to mention the official forces of the Iraqi state, all mutually exclusive but equally opposed to genuinely democratic forces, with the occupation forces turning a blind eye to the whole nasty business.
The situation in Libya will be much more akin to post-Ba'athist Iraq than post-Mubarak Egypt or post-Ben Ali Tunisia, where the state machines have remained intact and, in reality, the militant upsurge has resulted mostly in an enforced reshuffle within the ruling class. And the Islamist forces in Libya will be much more akin to those murderous ones in Iraq than the semi-housetrained ones in Egypt or Tunisia.
Finally, anyone expecting a democratic outcome to the uprising against Gadaffi should be dismayed to read that the Libyan National Council has appointed a long-running CIA asset, Khalifa Hifter, as its head of military operations. A former Gadaffi military leader, he has long been working with the CIA, and is a representative of the sort of people the big powers want as a replacement for Gadaffi. One can expect his main target when Gadaffi is turfed out to be the democratic forces.
I know that it's fun for left-wingers to criticise each other over slogans that have, in reality, next to no impact on events here let alone in Libya. I have a feeling that this will run and run; after all, it's been over 40 years since Socialist Worker got itself into trouble by giving a guarded welcome to British troops in the Six Counties (incidentally, does the older and wiser AWL now feel that this was a correct stand to take?), and some folk still rabbit on about it. I think that a deeper, more analytical look at things on the ground in Libya will be a lot more useful now that the country is heading towards regime change and occupation. What I originally described as a digression could and I feel should become an important part of the discussion.
It's not news that some of the leaders of the rebels are defectors from gaddafi. But information about the precise character of the forces involved is quite hard to come by. Yes there seem to be various Islamic elements. But the dominant programme is democratic. For myself I'm just trying not to jump to conclusions.
Is it possible the movement could be so reactionary as to disqualify our support? I've seen nothing to suggest it is.
Sorry if this fails your exacting intellectual standards, doctor.
I realize that you are making a sincere and determined effort to square an anti-imperialist orientation with the realities of armed intervention on the side of forces whose victory you also favor. And I respect your efforts. My point is you are trying to square the circle by reconciling means which are not suitable to the ends that you wish to attain.
"We are demanding mass solidarity and aid to Libya under the control of the workers' movement.
I suppose that the only way the dilemma would arise is if we had some kind of revolutionary socialist MPs and they held the balance in voting for or against war. Sadly we don't and parliament doesn't get to vote on war anywhere except retrospectively when it doesn't make too much difference anyway.
If the workers' movement was powerful enough to make a difference like that it would be powerful enough to demand massive assistance including military assistance to the rebels- but crucially under their control."
But then again, if my grandmother had wheels she would be a bus. You are amalgamating two different propositions. If the workers movement was powerful enough to make a difference, why would it demand anything from imperialists? It would simply authorize that assistance directly as a matter of international solidarity and place that aid, as you suggest,---under the control of Libyan workers.
The only thing that independent revolutionary socialists who simply held the balance of power could do is to withhold the credits needed to finance an imperialist intervention. They would hardly be in any position to also demand that the intervention be placed on a socialist footing. Rank and file socialists face an analogous dilemma. We are not in a position to impose socialist demands on an imperialist intervention, to transform an imperialist war into a socialist war. We do, on the other hand, have the ability to mobilize masses against that intervention and attempt to bring it to a halt.
When should we do this? To date, the Libyan opposition and the democratic movement throughout the Arab world haven't called for world-wide demonstrations against the NATO operation. I am simply suggesting that we defer to the tactical judgment of those actually engaged in the struggle, rather than lecturing them on the historical duplicity of imperialism. I think, in any case, we have little to teach them with regard to this subject. And it seems to me (and also from the evidence that you give regarding your contacts with Libyan oppositionists!) that democratic movements in Libya, Tunisa, Egypt and elsewhere have to date tolerated the air attacks on tactical grounds rather than as naive dupes of Western imperialism.
You imply that we nevertheless mobilize now to bring the intervention to an immediate halt.I realize that that does not exhaust your list of demands. Still it holds pride of place. And it stands independent of the impact that it may have on the outcome of that struggle you so ardently seek to advance, almost as a point of socialist honor.
I suggest, instead, that this demand be made when there are increasing calls from the Arab street for a ceasefire which NATO refuses to comply with. Then the appearance of mass demonstrations in the region should be joined by us. That would be a deliberative and meaningful act of solidarity. Let the Libyan freedom fighters take the lead; we don't need to politically colonize them.
"You imply that we nevertheless mobilize now to bring the intervention to an immediate halt. I realize that that does not exhaust your list of demands. Still it holds pride of place. And it stands independent of the impact that it may have on the outcome of that struggle you so ardently seek to advance, almost as a point of socialist honor."
I agree with Dan2 that Barry's points are in the spirit of reasonable debate and deserve a reasonable answer.
Nowhere have I said that standing against the bombing as opposed to supporting the Libyan revolution holds 'pride of place'. I think we should be for the Libyan workers to control the war effort- no doubt Barry and others here agree with that. The imperialist control of the bombing presents grave dangers. I would attend a demo against the bombing but make support for the revolution and demands of arm the rebels the main focus. As it happens I have attended three demos in support of the Libyan revolution and none against the bombing, though on Saturday as we passed the Hands Off Libya contingent I shouted "Victory to the revolution, against Gadaffi, against the imperialsits!" and spent some fo that demo marching alongside and talking to an activist with an anti-Gadaffi placard- we agreed with each other!
If a socialist movement or workers' movement had the power of veto over the no-fly zone but no influence on aid to the rebels then that would present us with a grave dilemma. Arguably there we should take our lead form revolutionaries in Libya- possibly facing immediate deaths form Gadaffi or later defeat by the imperialists we'd take our chances and ask for arms to us under our control but if that wasn't on offer ask for the no-fly zone. It's an almost impossible situation- perhaps we'd say we either defeat Gadaffi on our own or we lose altogether; a position argued by this Libyan activist here but probably very much a minority one- it's the Libyan movement's call to make and I'd go off that. I certainly don't condemn the Libyan rebels using the advantage given to them by the no-fly zone- instead support them but ask for them to control the war.
But the fact is that we are calling for an end to the imperialist bombing and for support for the Libyan revolution- if we could achieve one without the other that would be a different matter but actually it is not an either or situation and only very peculiar (though not necessarily impossible) situations would have that character- e.g. if a socialist party held the balance of power on a war vote (as if the bourgeois would put such a question to the vote- not impossible but pretty unlikely) but didn't have enough power in society to organise military aid. If the workers' movement is powerful enought ot halt the bombing it would be powerful enough to deliver effecitve solidarity to the rebellion.
Of course sadly we're not- but we can and must do what we can, mobilsie support for the ongoing revolts in the Arab world, link global issues in with our struggles against capitalism here and thereby begin to build the movement and the politics that can produce real political change and social upheaval- to deliver victory to the working class.
The scenario discussed is not directly analogous, and obviously we shouldn't just read off from what prominent Marxists in history have said (coz they got plenty wrong, etc. etc.) but I found this essay by Trotsky quite illuminating.
"Let us assume that rebellion breaks out tomorrow in the French colony of Algeria under the banner of national independence and that the Italian government, motivated by its own imperialist interests, prepares to send weapons to the rebels. What should the attitude of the Italian workers be in this case? I have purposely taken an example of rebellion against a democratic imperialism with intervention on the side of the rebels from a fascist imperialism. Should the Italian workers prevent the shipping of arms to the Algerians? Let any ultra-leftists dare answer this question in the affirmative. Every revolutionist, together with the Italian workers and the rebellious Algerians, would spurn such an answer with indignation. Even if a general maritime strike broke out in fascist Italy at the same time, even in this case the strikers should make an exception in favor of those ships carrying aid to the colonial slaves in revolt; otherwise they would be no more than wretched trade unionists – not proletarian revolutionists.
At the same time, the French maritime workers, even though not faced with any strike whatsoever, would be compelled to exert every effort to block the shipment of ammunition intended for use against the rebels. Only such a policy on the part of the Italian and French workers constitutes the policy of revolutionary internationalism.
Does this not signify, however, that the Italian workers moderate their struggle in this case against the fascist regime? Not in the slightest. Fascism renders “aid” to the Algerians only in order to weaken its enemy, France, and to lay its rapacious hand on her colonies. The revolutionary Italian workers do not forget this for a single moment. They call upon the Algerians not to trust their treacherous “ally” and at the same time continue their own irreconcilable struggle against fascism, “the main enemy in their own country”. Only in this way can they gain the confidence of the rebels, help the rebellion and strengthen their own revolutionary position.
If the above is correct in peace-time, why does it become false in war-time? Everyone knows the postulate of the famous German military theoretician, Clausewitz, that war is the continuation of politics by other means. This profound thought leads naturally to the conclusion that the struggle against war is but the continuation of the general proletarian struggle during peace-time. Does the proletariat in peace-time reject and sabotage all the acts and measures of the bourgeois government?"
"An irreconcilable attitude against bourgeois militarism does not signify at all that the proletariat in all cases enters into a struggle against its own “national” army. At least the workers would not interfere with soldiers who are extinguishing a fire or rescuing drowning people during a flood; on the contrary, they would help side by side with the soldiers and fraternize with them. And the question is not exhausted merely by cases of elemental calamities. If the French fascists should make an attempt today at a coup d’etat and the Daladier government found itself forced to move troops against the fascists, the revolutionary workers, while maintaining their complete political independence, would fight against the fascists alongside of these troops. Thus in a number of cases the workers are forced not only to permit and tolerate, but actively to support the practical measures of the bourgeois government.
In ninety cases out of a hundred the workers actually place a minus sign where the bourgeoisie places a plus sign. In ten cases however they are forced to fix the same sign as the bourgeoisie but with their own seal, in which is expressed their mistrust of the bourgeoisie. The policy of the proletariat is not at all automatically derived from the policy of the bourgeoisie, bearing only the opposite sign – this would make every sectarian a master strategist; no, the revolutionary party must each time orient itself independently in the internal as well as the external situation, arriving at those decisions which correspond best to the interests of the proletariat. This rule applies just as much to the war period as to the period of peace."
It's a good analogy- not sure what a direct analogy is to be fair. I think this supports the idewa that the revolutionary movement should support the arming of the rebels, whether directly by the workers' movement or even making demands on the bourgeois government without in any sense suspending our opposiiton to the imperialist bourgeois.
"An irreconcilable attitude against bourgeois militarism does not signify at all that the proletariat in all cases enters into a struggle against its own “national” army. At least the workers would not interfere with soldiers who are extinguishing a fire or rescuing drowning people during a flood."
In the instances Trotsky gives ("extinguishing a fire" or "rescuing drowning people during a flood"), the imperialist soldiers would still be doing those things for "imperialist reasons" (to save the building for continued use by capitalism, no doubt). Would you say "no imperialist intervention! Troops out now! Turn off your hoses!" I imagine you probably would. I seem to recall you being in favour of the slogan "troops out now" as the sloganistic summary of what socialists should say about US "intervention" in Haiti after the earthquake.
And what about this bit -
"In ninety cases out of a hundred the workers actually place a minus sign where the bourgeoisie places a plus sign. In ten cases however they are forced to fix the same sign as the bourgeoisie but with their own seal, in which is expressed their mistrust of the bourgeoisie."
I'd be for working class democratic control of the relief mission. I'd be for the rebels in Libya saying give us the arms, let us have strategic control over the planes, the technology etc. We're not saying to the rebels shoot down the US planes- we are saying let the Libyan rebels control the military campaign.
Another example would be Haiti. Would we have welcomed US soldiers in the guise of relief? No. We wouldn't be for the shooting of the US soldiers handing out food- but would be for the relief to be under civilian control, for mass aid, for civilian volunteers- nurses, doctors etc. If soldiers were utilised for their logistical skills we'd be for them surendering their weapons and under the defence and control of the Hitian masses. That doesn't mean we'd advocate shooting the US soldiers, that would be not only suicidal but absurd when they are ostensibly supplying releif, but we are for their wirhdrawla as soldiers, or disarmament which amoutns to the same thing- until or if they use their military might to crush the working class, then of course we'd support the right of armed resistance. But it does mean we support working class independence.
Every Gadaffi controlled tank blown up is good- whoever does it. But the US, French, UK impeiralism represent a huge threat- we should be for Libyan working class control of the war and society.
Abstractly counterposing "Libyan working class control of the war and society" to the intervention as it's taking place now is only a couple of rungs short of saying "socialism is the answer".
In the absence of any identifiable independent working-class element within the Libyan rebellion, what concrete grip does your perspective have against the position Trotsky articulates in the article (don't put a minus just because the bourgeoisie puts a cross, no trust/confidence but no direct, active opposition either) and that we have advocated over Libya?
If you know of an independent working-class force within Libya capable of enacting your perspective I will be only too delighted to change my position.
The Trotksy quote is a good analogy for why the workers' movement here should be for the arming of the Libyan rebels. We shouldn't support even critically what imperialism is doing now though. The imperialist bombing of Libya risks driving some parts of the population into support for Gadaffi or at least a distraction from the task of overhrowing them, leaves the imperialists in complete control and able to impsoe terms on the rebels. It means that if there had been any chance of working class expropriation of the oil fields and moves towards socialism that they will be blocked by the imperialists.
When Gadaffi controlled planes, troops or tanks are taken out that is good whoever it's by but it would clearly be much better under the control of the rebels. Overall though the intervention strengthens Western strategic interests in the area. Given the choice of immediate death from Gadaffi or a slow strangulation by imperialism it is not surprising they chose the latter nor can such a choice be condemned- but we should be for the rebels being armed under democratic Libyan workers' control.
I don't specifically know any progressive workers' blocs- I know of individuals who have gone to Libya open to different ideas including socialist ones. I know that if the Libyan rebellion had defeated Gadaffi under their own control albeit with outside weapons and aid that the liberation of a society produces tremendous opportunites. Those opportunites are now very much truncated. That doesn't stop support for the rebels in their fight against a murderous dictator anymore than we check the politics of those facing attack or murder from fascsits.
Why wouldn't imperialist arming of the rebels risk driving Libyans into the arms of Qaddafi? In fact it would. Clearly there are different kinds of intervention - for instance an invasion and occupation of Libya would need to be opposed sharply - but your pretence that there is a Chinese wall between arming the rebels (which I support, of course - though I suspect eg the Stop the War Coalition would oppose it) and limited military action to push back Qaddafi's forces is nonsensical.
If the rebels win, Western imperialist and capitalist influence in Libya is going to be established through the fact that the main forces leading the rebels are bourgeois and pro-imperialist. Any effect the bombing has in reinforcing this is outweighed a hundred times by its effect in preventing Qaddafi from crushing the rebellion.
Beyond that, in general you shouldn't raise a slogan if it doesn't make sense by itself, or to put it another way if its realisation conflicts with your other related slogans. Take Iraq. If we'd "stopped the war", it would have put Iraqi workers and democrats in no worse position to overthrow Saddam Hussein than before the war - in fact, if the anti-war movement had raised clear slogans of solidarity, possibly a better position. On the other hand it would have avoided the occupation and all the slaughter and political reaction it unleashed. In contrast, "stopping the bombing" the day it started could *only* have meant Qaddafi crushing the rebels and carrying out a massacre. It was therefore in contradiction with "Victory to the revolution" in a way that "No to war, no to Saddam" (or whatever formulation you prefer) was not contradictory.
In terms of the remarkable Trotsky article that Daniel posts above, some of the differences with Libya today are in fact 'on our side'. Fascist Italy had its own clear agenda of colonial conquest in North and East Africa (Libya, Abyssinia); this would be a much more 'complicating' factor than the US agenda in North Africa is today, when there is no evidence that the US wants to conquer Libya or anywhere else in the region. And even in terms of Mussolini sending arms to hypothetical Algerian rebels, Trotsky is not saying that Italian revolutionaries should raise this as a slogan - just that were it to happen it would be ludicrous to denounce and obstruct it.
I am also struck by Trotsky's comment about being "proletarian revolutionists, not trade unionists". It is perfectly legitimate to contrast the ease with which money is found for war with the supposed scarcity of funds for public services. But to say we should oppose the intervention because of how much it costs, regardless of the politics, is not a revolutionary position. I am not accusing anyone debating here of that, but this is certainly a theme in anti-intervention agitation.
Dan: yes, working class people in the UK "have every right" to take a position on our government's wars. In fact we should encourage this. This is an ABC of Marxism ever since Marx wrote in the founding address of the First International that events had "taught the working classes the duty to master themselves the mysteries of international politics; to watch the diplomatic acts of their respective governments; to counteract them, if necessary, by all means in their power; when unable to prevent, to combine in simultaneous denunciations, and to vindicate the simple laws or morals and justice, which ought to govern the relations of private individuals, as the rules paramount of the intercourse of nations."
Are you referring to a throw away comment I made to you in face-to-face conversation when I said I was going to a Stop the War protest to "tell people to go home" or something like that? Well, that protest was dominated by pro-Qaddafi Stalinists - to them, that is what I was saying, in effect. But to others on the protest I said something different. To workers in general, I would certainly advocate they demonstrate, but with different slogans: solidarity with the Libyan revolution, particularly working-class and democratic elements; no trust in the imperialists; but not stop the bombing, which for reasons we have explained makes no sense. That is also what I would say, 'from the other side', to pro-intervention Libyans demonstrating outside the Libyan embassy.
was between imperialsit bombing and Gadaffi's victory that would be a very difficult situation because it is clear that the imperialists are aiming to limit the potential of social revolutions, control the supply of oil and serve as a warning to other peoples tempted to rebel against the regional gendarmes of capital, the dictators.
But as pointed out several times there are other options: the arming of the Libyan working class, Libyan working class control fo the war and society, solidarity action here by British workers supporting the rebellions in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria raising funds, taking co-ordinated action here against our governments who fund the tyrnts and being ready to mobilise against imperialist aggression to derail the rebellions.
"Libyan working-class control of society" is not on the table right now, is it Jason? You have to respond to concrete realities based on the balance of forces, not some abstract desire for socialism. You don't raise the demand "abolish the police now!" in Britain, do you? Presumably that's because there's no independent working-class force capable of dealing with the consequences which that slogan would imply. So why can't you apply the same logic to Libya?
I don't really understand how the intervention is aimed as "derailing the rebellion" in a direct way, but even if it was, I honestly cannot understand how anyone could deny that if it had not taken place then the rebellion would have been massacred or at least severely set back. Unless you're positively in favour of that happening (i.e. you support Qaddafi), no attitude other than an opposition to the forces responsible and their motives but a recognition that the immediate effect of intervention was beneficial makes sense.
"An irreconcilable attitude against bourgeois militarism does not signify at all that the proletariat in all cases enters into a struggle against its own “national” army. At least the workers would not interfere with soldiers who are extinguishing a fire or rescuing drowning people during a flood."
The intervention rescued the Libyan rebellion from drowning. Yes, it did it using imperialist means and yes, it did it for imperialist reasons. But if our common aim is a social movement in Libya capable of overthrowing Qaddafi and, ultimately, asserting itself against imperialism too then it's hardly in the anti-imperialist interest for the existing rebellion - out of which the movement we'd want must necessarily grow - to be crushed.
Dear Workers and Peasants of Libya
It has come to our attention that your country is experiencing a civil war complicated by an imperialist intervention. In our search for an appropriate anti-imperialist candidate on which to lavish our support, we ruled out Colonel Qaddafy. This may, at first blush, seem strange as his regime is actually resisting an imperialist onslaught. But insofar as he has a past history of engagement with Western imperialism and insofar as he runs a police state dripping in blood, he must be judged--in the final analysis--alas, utterly unworthy of our solemn confidences.
By default we must therefore shift our attentions to you, the Libyan rebels. You seem like a mixed bag, but overall you have a commendable program which calls for a democratic transformation of society, with freedom of speech and press; a program which would permit the revival of civil society including the right to freely organize trade unions and political parties. Neither have you, to our knowledge, engaged in massacres, ethnic cleansing or other mass human rights violations. These are all factors in your favor. You are verging on the acceptable.
There is one troubling factor however. It seems that when faced with immanent death at the hands of Qaddafy's army, you called for imperialist intervention in the form of a no fly zone. Of course, it might have been even worse. You might have called not only for air cover but for troops on the ground. To your credit, however, you did not go that far. Had you done so, we would have simply written you off.
Nevertheless, your ongoing near-death experience has, in our opinion, warped your judgment. You don't seem to fully appreciate that if the US carpet bombs Iran in the not too distant future, it will be because you gave them inadvertent cover to do so. You see, the feeble minded masses are unable to make the distinction between your plea for support and the lack of any parallel call in Iran, where regime opponents have repeatedly repudiated such action. The world will be again bamboozled, as it was in Iraq and Afghanistan. They can not understand that there are no humanitarian interventions, that imperialist nations act in their self interest. They cannot connect the dots here, that imperialism is pursuing a two track policy of engaging with the spirit of change in the Maghreb, while encouraging its Saudi client to hold the line against what it perceives to be the threat of Iranian subimperialism in the East. And this lack of understanding on the part of the world's masses, we say with great sadness, must be laid on your doorstep.
And if we refused to call an immediate halt to this intervention or at least change its terms, then we too would would have encouraged the next imperialist war. Our revolutionary honor and reputations are no less at stake here..
So this is what we suggest. Qaddafy has stated his willingness to abide by a cease fire. You should take advantage of this and organize yourselves into revolutionary councils. Rid yourselves of quisling Karzai types, and those ready to conciliate with imperialism. In the meantime, we will exercise our massive influence on the ruling classes demanding that they place their air forces under your control. We will compile a list of what armaments you need and demand they be turned over in due haste to your revolutionary committees. We understand that this would still constitute an imperialist intervention, but one now under workers control.
When this is achieved, we can offer you our complete and unconditional solidarity. Fight on comrades! Our socialist thoughts and atheist prayers are with you.
Jan2 and Chason
in germany, even politicians and big mags from the conservatives(FAZ) hint to the point, that the agression against lybya does violate the international law (law of nations). they also reported about the rebels masacree on thousands of black africans, as the following article does explain:
Libyan rebels massacre black Africans
By Wolfgang Weber
31 March 2011
The opposition forces in Libya attempting to march on Tripoli with the assistance of American, French and British bombs are far removed from the image of innocent civilians fighting for freedom and democracy promoted by the media and political circles.
This is made clear in a March 22 article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung by Gunnar Heinsohn, the author of Encyclopaedia of Genocide (Rowohlt, 1998).
Heinsohn cites a report by the well-known Zimbabwean journalist and documentary filmmaker Farai Sevenzo dealing with barbaric, pogrom-like massacres perpetrated by the so-called “rebels” against black African workers in Libya. The article states:
“Because mercenaries from Chad and Mali are presumed to be fighting for him [Gaddafi], the lives of a million African refugees and thousands of African migrants are at risk. A Turkish construction worker told the British radio station BBC: ‘We had seventy to eighty people from Chad working for our company. They were massacred with pruning shears and axes, accused by the attackers of being Gaddafi’s troops. The Sudanese people were massacred. We saw it for ourselves.’ ”
The genocide authority Heinsohn explains: “It is standard knowledge in genocide research that minorities come under attack in civil wars because at least one party to the conflict accuses them of collaborating with the enemy….
“Whoever wants to prevent crimes against humanity with the use of force...is always in danger of helping one side in the neutralisation or even extermination of the other side…. UN Security Council Resolution 1973 of March 17 against the Libyan government provides a perfect example.
“All the stops of international criminal law have been pulled against those prepared to bloodily defend their power. The material assets at risk are meticulously listed. But neither in the text of the resolution nor in the speeches of US Secretary of State Clinton or French President Sarkozy is any mention made of warnings or legal threats directed to the insurgents. The use of ‘mercenaries’ by the Libyan leadership is expressly condemned. But genocidal acts conducted under the same pretext—such as the mass killings of black African workers reported by Farai Sevenzo—go unmentioned…. A cloak of complete silence is being thrown up surrounding the deeds of his [Gaddafi’s] opponents.”
On February 28, the Arab TV station Al Jazeera reported the racist massacre of black African workers by so-called “freedom fighters” as follows: “Dozens of workers from sub-Saharan Africa, it is feared, have been killed and hundreds are hiding because angry opponents of the government are hunting down black African mercenaries, witnesses reported…. According to official reports, about 90 Kenyans and 64 people from southern Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Zambia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and Burundi landed in Nairobi today.
“One of them, Julius Kiluu, a 60-year-old construction manager, told Reuters: ‘We were attacked by people from the village. They accused us of being murderous mercenaries. But in reality they simply refuse to tolerate us. Our camp was burnt down. Our company and our embassy helped us get to the airport.’
“Hundreds of black immigrants from the poorest African countries, who work mainly as low-wage day labourers in Libya, have been wounded by the rebels. From fear of being killed, some of them have refrained from going to a doctor.”
At the time of the outbreak of civil war, about 1.5 million black Africans were employed in Libya as labourers in the oil industry and the construction, agriculture and service sectors.
A couple of weeks ago there was a prospect of Gadaffi falling- rebels were asking desperately for arms and military assistance under their control.
Imperialism for its own reasons didn't give it. Instead they put in place an arms embargo against the rebels. They could have easily diverted seized funds to the rebels; they could have provided arms.
They didn't. The no-fly zone in so much as it prevented immediate prospects of a massacre may have been better than nothing but it is not out of order or inappropriate to raise the demand that it should be the rebels in control of this.
As socialists we can and should raise immediate practical solidarity with the Libyan revolution. Sadly this is very hard to do much- in my personal case it has been limited to a small amount of money given to a Libyan exile I know returning to his homeland to defend Benghazi. But we can also raise wider political demonstrations- do Libyans in Libya see demos here outside the BBC and the Libyan Embassy in support of the libyan revolution- no doubt. Does it help? Not much except morale but what else can we do? Not much- but where there are practical alternatives we should pursue them.
Does it help to raise demands for arming the rebels on demos, against imperialist troops, against imperialist control of the no-fly zone, for arms and training to be given, for strategic control fot he war to be given over to Libyan workers fighting Gadaffi? Again not much directly. But we are offering the very small scraps of solidairty we can. We support you in your fight against a murderous dictator- we are demonstrating our support for you and demanding that arms are supplied.
We are fighting for a bigger working class socialist movement here and a revolutionary current within it, for revolutionary communicsm, for workers ourselves to decide on how society is run through mass organisations, workers' action coucnisl and the like. Is it an immediate prospect? Sadly not. But it is our only option as thinking critical human beings to fight for a sociery based on freedom and equality.
I'm not sure whio you are addressing but I assume it's meant to be me and Dan by the names at the end. But you clearly have not read anything I have written. Gaddafi is murderous dictator so why would anyone accept his lies regarding a cease-fire? Have I ever condemned the rebels for asking for a no-fly zone? No. Faced with immediate threat you'd ak for one too. But that no-fly zone should be under the control of the rebels- if it isn't thye ahve to take what they can. You talk about revoluitonary honour but what use is that to anyone in a life and detah situation? I think you are addressing the wrong person in this debate.
Finally, is it wrong for Libyans to try to organse society themselves in mass meeetings and revolutionary councils? Are thye somehow incapable? No and no. That however should not limit or be a precondiiton for sptit our support.