Solidarity 200, 6 April 2011

Libya: from revolution to reform?

Submitted by Matthew on 6 April, 2011 - 2:22

Political and military developments in Libya have continued to move at a significant pace over the last few days.

The initially successful rebel onslaught against Qadaffi forces in mid-Libya seemed to promise a decisive attack on the strongholds of Tripolitania and relief to rebel-held Misurata. The potential capture of Sirte would have initiated the end of the regime as it was both the military and ideological heartland of the regime. This did not happen.

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Syria: democracy protests spread

Submitted by Matthew on 6 April, 2011 - 2:16

Pro-democracy protests have spread to the Syrian capital, Damascus. On Friday at least 15 people were shot dead in Douma, a satellite of Damascus.

On Saturday, Syrian security forces arrested dozens of people, mostly in Deraa and Douma. Those that have been arrested have been brutalised and tortured. On Sunday. thousands marched in Douma as eight of those gunned down were buried. The crowd chanted “Down with the regime!”

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Islamists defeat left in Westminster University election

Submitted by Matthew on 6 April, 2011 - 2:11

Last year, following a big upsurge in student struggle at Westminter University, activists from the Fight Cuts campaign took over and began the process of transforming their previously moribund student union.

Now that process will be thrown into reverse, after left activists at Westminster narrowly lost this year’s elections to people who we believe to be supporters of the radical right-wing Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT). The incumbent VP Education, AWL member Jade Baker, was very narrowly defeated.


Submitted by AWL on Fri, 08/04/2011 - 15:27

This is the text of the leaflet Jade campaigned with - both in the first election, when she stood as part of "Westminster Fights Back", and the second, when she stood as part of "The 4 Sisters Fight Back".


"I'm standing for re-elect as Vice President Education because I want to continue the passion-filled work I've done this year to turn the students' union around. We've begun the process of transforming UWSU from a dead duck into a union which engages with students and actively campaigns around cuts, free education and broader issues.

"I am a Journalism graduate, a co-founder of the Fight Cuts at Westminster campaign and the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, and a member of the socialist organisation Workers' Liberty. I stand for equality and liberation for all in the university and society.

"We need a union that organises and campaigns. This year I have been working tirelessly to mobilise students, linking up with staff trade unions, to campaign on the biggest issue facing us: cuts to education. We will need every bit of experience, determination and fight we've got in the coming months, as the government slashes budgets and the university sacks lecturers and wipes out modules and courses."

My record this year

This year, as VP Education, I have:

* Rebuilt the course representative community by holding a team building trip and introducing "Education Assemblies" where students' issues are aired in an informal environment, voices are head and actions are taken;
* Pushed the Deans of Electronics and Computer Science into holding student forums where they have no option but to listen to what students want and think, rather than sitting behind a desk all day, making decisions for, but being totally detached from their students;
* Helped train the new Part Time Officers and particularly working closely with the Women's Officer to set up a new university community "Westminster Women";
* Represented students on IT, Library Services and Blackboard by holding focus groups;
* Helped in the review of Blackboard to ensure students have a much more reliable system next year;
* Celebrated our diversity by holding events such as anti-fascist meetings and discussions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict;
* Started a campaign for the London Living Wage, all members of staff should be paid a decent salary as they contribute to our educational experience.
* Involved large numbers of Westminster students in national demonstrations, actions and conferences, putting us on the activist map again.

My priorities for next year:

* Democracy inside UWSU: maximum student involvement and democratic control. More regular General Meetings, only students on the Trustee Board (the governing body of the union, currently with non-student representation). It should be much easier to get involved in and have a say in your union.
* To continue the fight against fees, and to raise awareness of why free education is a right. Full support for UCU and other staff unions' fight against cuts. Fight for BIGGER BURSARIES! Many of our students are from working-class background. A measly £300 is not enough. To fight for more scholarships for those of poorer backgrounds and for internationals who are currently in the midst of wars and revolutions in the Middle East. The university prides itself on its international students; let's give something genuine back to the international community. We should oppose everything that prevents people from coming to live and study in the UK, financial disincentives as well as immigration controls.
* To tackle the negative culture in some areas of the university. Students are the heart and soul of Westminster, let's treat them with some respect!


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NUS conference - a chance for the left?

Submitted by Matthew on 6 April, 2011 - 2:06

The National Union of Students conference 2011, which takes place next week (12-14 April) in Newcastle, will be unpredictable.

Incumbent president Aaron Porter is standing down, following repeated embarrassment in the wave of student struggles during the winter; there are two high profile right-wing candidates standing to replace him. The whole leadership is embarrassed and discredited by recent events, and could lose some important policy votes. Certainly at NUS Women’s Conference last month the left was on the offensive, despite having only just re-established itself.

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UNISON leaders betray pensions fight

Submitted by Matthew on 6 April, 2011 - 1:20

The standing orders committee (at Unison Health Conference, in sesssion as we go to press) agreed under pressure to allow a motion on the attacks on pensions onto the conference agenda.

We will be debating a motion submitted by Service Group Executive and Scottish Region on Wednesday 6 April. However at least one motion with a clear call for action has still been ruled out. Now conference will not be able to have a debate about how to defeat the biggest ever attack on our pensions.

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Army to break prison officers' strikes?

Submitted by Matthew on 6 April, 2011 - 1:17

The British state is preparing to mobilise the army to break a prison officers’ strike if they take action against the privatisation of Birmingham Prison.

Commenting on the proposed privatisation, Prison Officers” Association (POA) leader Steve Gillan said: “This is a disgraceful decision. Prisons should not be run for the benefit of shareholders nor for profit. The state has a duty to those imprisoned by the criminal justice system and this coalition government have betrayed loyal public sector workers for their friends in the private sector.”

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British universities' Libyan connections

Submitted by Matthew on 6 April, 2011 - 1:05

According to the Guardian, Mutassim Qaddafi (son of Muammar), who has been described as a “war criminal” by Libyan anti-government protesters, was given private lessons at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in the summer of 2006.

This is one of many sordid revelations that have come to light about British universities and their relationship with Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s dictatorship.

Many universities not only profited from ties with the Libyan regime, but actively trained people earmarked for roles in Gaddafi’s feared security network.

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The left and Libya

Submitted by Matthew on 6 April, 2011 - 1:00

A statement about Libya has appeared on the website of Unite, declaring itself simply to be a “Unite statement” without any indication of what committee of the union it was endorsed by. It seems to have been presented to the national executive as a ready-made “take it or leave it” statement. Its line is “end the intervention now!”.


Submitted by guenter on Sun, 10/04/2011 - 13:02

He does not deal with the substantive argument of revolutionaries like Achcar and many others on the left — that, whatever the motives and intentions of the imperialists, the intervention had the concrete effect of preventing the massacre of the anti-Qaddafi rebellion, an outcome that outweighs other concerns in this situation.

plain nonsense. no massacre was prevented, and ghadaffi is still there. the intervention made him stronger. and the intervention still is for oil and part of an imperialist worldstrategy and cant be seen isolated from interventions in iraq, afghanistan and so on. another longgoing war.

Submitted by danrawnsley on Sun, 10/04/2011 - 16:32

Guenter, you're obscuring what really happened in Libya. You claim that 'no massacre was prevented'. Before the no fly zone was imposed and the intervention began Gaddafi's forces had pushed the rebels all the way back to Benghazi and were preparing to attack the city. The balance of forces was weighed so far in favour of Gaddafi that victory for him was a certainty. In short, he had an air force and the rebels didn't. I would like to know where your information is coming from, what makes you confident that the rebels could've repelled Gaddafi's soldiers? How do you see the rebels winning without the no fly zone?

Of course we should point out that bourgeois forces intervene to serve their own interests, but it doesn't immediately follow that you call for a halt to their intervention or that you actively oppose it; socialists don't exist to blindly oppose everything the bourgeoisie does. Should socialists have opposed the use of a train provided by the German foreign minister to transport Lenin and other Bolsheviks from Switzerland to Petrograd in 1917? It was, without a doubt a calculated intervention by the German ruling class to take Russia out of the First World War.

Submitted by DB on Sun, 17/04/2011 - 14:51

Where is Workers Liberty's analysis of the interests which have driven the bourgeois forces to intervene in Libya? Looking through the articles on this website, it seems they merit no more than a passing mention from most AWL comrades; as if the motivations and strategic considerations of the Western powers in intervening against a dictator in Libya (but not Bahrain, Yemen, Saudi etc.) can be written off in a sentence or two ("of course we have no illusions!") to be included as an afterthought at the end of every piece. Far more important, apparently, is the need to whip up support for this intervention and denounce anyone on the Left who is anything less than 110% behind it.

Sadly the impression given is one of uncritical support not only for military intervention but also for the political imperatives of the US and European ruling classes on this issue. You would think that a properly Third Campist position on the matter, if it included limited support for Western military operations against Gadaffi (where they coincided with the express interests of the Libyan working class), would be coupled with rigorous and unrelenting criticism of the Western powers' real ambitions in Libya, including some consideration of the perils attached to the intervention, the strings that may be attached to such "favours", and the possible political consequences for any post-conflict settlement. You would think a Third Campist position might acknowledge that, even if you cannot oppose an intervention of this nature, nor can you give it wholehearted support on the ruling class's own terms. Sadly I don't think the AWL has pulled this off, and, as is so often the case, it finds itself politically closer to the First Camp than the Third.


Submitted by edwardm on Sun, 17/04/2011 - 20:39


Does this post mean you agree with us, but you think that the way we have presented our ideas could be better?

Or do you disagree with us?

You acknowledge that we are critical, untrusting, etc. of the NATO bombardment, that we do counsel no illusions in their motives - but you say that "Sadly the impression given is one of uncritical support". What does this mean? Either you can tell that we are critical of NATO and their motives: or you can't. Which is it?


Submitted by DB on Sun, 17/04/2011 - 22:39

EPM: it's not so much a matter of presentation as a matter of emphasis with real political implications. To answer your questions briefly, no, I can't really tell if some comrades are critical of NATO and their motives, because there doesn't seem to have been any detailed consideration of what those motives are, and where they might lead, let alone any critique or condemnation. The "no illusions" clause rings quite hollow in this context, and does nothing to allay the impression that AWL isn't particularly interested in analysing or condemning the politics of the ruling class. And these things should not just be taken for granted: it's imperative that your opposition to their rationalisations and motivations for intervention are made as loudly and consistently as possible, if only to reign them in, otherwise you're basically in the First Camp: pro-intervention, largely uncritical of its chief proponents, silent on the wider questions of what Western power represents in Libya and the Middle East.

Just to clarify my own view, I'll be honest and say I couldn't bring myself to oppose a military operation whose immediate outcome was to prevent the massacre of an uprising; but nor could I wholeheartedly support it, given that NATO's motives are cynical and the longer term consequences for Libya and the region could be hardly much better than if Gadaffi had crushed the uprising last month. We probably agree that it's possible to support military operations which coincide with the interests of the working class without lending political support to those responsible for the operations. For example, I would passively support the guns of a Hamas militant if, in a conflict situation, they were turned upon an IDF regiment that was engaged in the crushing of an uprising by the Palestinian working class. But I would simultaneously want to expose to the highest degree possible the dangers of Hamas' politics and wider military strategy. All I can think to do in this case is take a similar stand: whilst not opposing that initial action, I do support the exposure and condemnation of NATO's politics and wider strategy in the loudest and strongest terms.

Submitted by AWL on Mon, 18/04/2011 - 11:20


I don't think D.B. is who you think they are. The "D.B" who called for "troops out of Haiti now!" when they were administering aid writes on this website under his full name (David Broder) and also has a "troops out now/stop the intervention now" position on Libya, unlike the D.B. above.


I think it's pretty clear that there has been no "silence" about NATO motives in our coverage, but it's certainly true that the emphasis has been elsewhere. That's because we're a small organisation active on a small left. In our articles about Libya we're trying to intervene in and shape a debate on the far-left of the labour movement. Within that debate, everyone involved knows that western imperialism is bad and has nefarious motives. The contentious issue is whether it is necessary to actively oppose everything western imperialism does even if a given action has a (perhaps limited, temporary or unstable) positive outcome or side-effect. Therefore the emphasis of our coverage has been on that aspect. Maybe you think that emphasis is wrong and that we should be writing our paper differently; that's a legitimate argument, but I don't think it's fair to imply that we're naive about NATO's motives.


Daniel Randall

Submitted by guenter on Tue, 19/04/2011 - 00:48

as if the motivations and strategic considerations of the Western powers in intervening against a dictator in Libya (but not Bahrain, Yemen, Saudi etc.) -DB

DB said the right thing , and i myself often asked b4 on various threads when AWL will push 4 the interventions in bahrain, yemen, saudi, syria etc. and if it wanna risk a worldwar then. i never earned an reply, and DB, instead of earning an serious reply, is considered by martin as "only an idiot".
this page cant be taken serious anymore

Submitted by guenter on Tue, 19/04/2011 - 12:43

i think it was easy 2 understand what i meant: following the AWL-logic aout lybia, AWL should consequently call 4 an intervention in all those countries where dictators are. but this would be playing with creating a worldwar.

Submitted by DB on Tue, 19/04/2011 - 14:33

Daniel/Martin - thanks for your measured responses, appreciated. No probs re. the confusion of my initials, easily done.


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