When the revolt against Qaddafi started in Libya, hardly anyone on the left — however broadly defined — could say anything in defence of Qaddafi.
With the start of the "no-fly zone", many on the left started to sideline the issues within Libya and focus their efforts on denouncing NATO.
Now the denunciation of NATO, in turn, is acting as a lever to introduce defence of Qaddafi and denunciation of the rebels into broad-left discourse.
The Morning Star of 18 April, in an article by Alexander Cockburn, started by saying that the casualties in Qaddafi's assault on Misrata, while "cause for dismay", were "less than a medieval siege or Leningrad" (the 1941-44 siege of Leningrad by the Nazis, in which up to four million people died).
Remember being told during Serbian tyrant Slobodan Milosevic's attempt to drive out or massacre the whole Kosovar population of Kosova that Milosevic was not as bad as Hitler? Same argument.
Cockburn slid on to suggest "that the rebels might actually be under the overall supervision of the international banking industry, rather than the oil majors".
Their provisional government has set up a central bank. Why is that sinister?
Qaddafi, so Cockburn claims, had a scheme to create a new international reserve currency, "the gold dinar", to replace the dollar and the euro.
This crackpot scheme, Cockburn suggests, was regarded as a dire threat by the main central bankers. "Taking down the [Qaddafi] Central Bank" is "top of the globalist agenda".
Cockburn concludes that he would "like to see an objective account of Qaddafi's allocation of oil revenues versus the US's in terms of social improvement".
Nothing in Cockburn's article is stated openly and honestly, nothing is argued out objectively.
Everything is done by insinuation and sarcasm, just as old-style Stalinists used to deflect criticism of the USSR by studied wondering whether the regime was quite as bad as extreme Western right-wingers used to say, or whether the right-wingers' motives for criticism might be suspect.
"Stop the War" abandons rebels
The Stop the War Coalition (STW) is now an embarrassing rump of Stalinists, Counterfire, the SWP, and similar types.
STW, which takes its lead from the classless “anti-imperialism” of the SWP and its Counterfire offshoot, is more concerned to strike poses of hostility to Britain and the US than to help those fighting for democracy in Libya.
In a recent statement, “Why we oppose Western intervention in Libya”, STW claims that “Cameron, Sarkozy and Obama have openly declared that NATO military intervention in Libya is a war for regime change”. In fact these leaders have said explicitly that Qaddafi is not a target and their war is only one to protect civilians.
STW demands an “immediate end to NATO bombing and military intervention”. It makes no call on Qaddafi to stop fighting. The meaning of these demands is the overrunning of Misrata and Benghazi, the slaughter of rebels, the re-imposition of Qaddafi's rule, torture and terror.
STW now sees the rebels as a mere outpost of imperialist ambition. “The Libyan opposition in Benghazi [has been subordinated] to the interests of Britain, France and the US”.
But the rebels are fighting for democracy, not on behalf of international oil companies, with whom, anyway, Qaddafi has long been happy to do business.