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Submitted by AWL on Thu, 24/03/2011 - 08:31

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.

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Daniel Randall

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