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Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/03/2011 - 11:10

Jason,

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.

Sacha

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