The initial successes of the uprising in the east of Libya gave comfort to those who were looking for the complete elimination of the Qaddafi regime. The taking of cities close to Tripoli gave some grounds for optimism that the uprising, backed by the defection of large parts of the military, would soon move on to take Tripoli.
There are now reports that Misurata has been taken back by government forces and critically Brega may be about to be retaken. Rebel troops in Brega are apparently taking shelter in the old refinery — which Qadaffi’s forces are reluctant to bomb as it is the central oil exchange and refinery for the pipelines running from the south.
Brega, with its close neighbour Adjedabia is also the key link on the transport routes between east and west.
Unfortunately Brega is close to the tribal heartland of the Qaddafi regime — Sirte — many in that region support the regime and have benefited from it.
In the zone of “free Libya”, since 23 February in the hands of the National Transitional Council, there are hints of significant developments in the civil society — including free newspapers and two new radio stations including “Radio Free Benghazi”.
There have been broadcasts supporting the idea of a “Muslim revolution” rather than an Arab or Libyan revolution. However Islamists are only one strand within the uprising and do not represent a majority.
The Senoussi monarchists are in a strong position in Benghazi although their natural power base has been in the tribal areas of Fez rather than in the east or west. They are no nascent Saudi-type monarchy as their religious ideas are the polar opposite of the Wahhabi. They represent a “constitutionalist” strand in the uprising.
The appointed leader of the liberated areas is Mustafa Abdul Jalil who has some record on human rights, at least verbally, but continued until the uprising as Justice minister under Qaddafi.
There is said to be a degree of unhappiness in Benghazi at his close association with the old regime and there are certain paralells with politics in post-Ceaucescu Romania in his statements such as “Qaddafi alone bore responsibility for the crimes that have occurred”. That is patently ludicrous.
Any emergence of workers‘ organisations in the free zone must exploit any democratic openings but there should be no illusions that the National Transitional Council will do much for workers’ rights. Nor for tribal minorities, minority faith groups, migrant workers, and for the large LGBT population in the cities which has been dreadfully treated under Qaddafi.
There will be no “carnival of the oppressed” in the liberated areas, as the Libyan masses look towards military victory, military defeat or a tense and unsustainable stalemate. But there is real hope and excitement in the free cities.
It may be that a potential No Fly Zone could tip the balance in the favour of the rebels — in that sense we should not take a stand against such a policy, even if we would not critically support it with all that that that implies.
Let us look towards the elimination of the Qaddafi regime and its crimes. The vengeance of history is more powerful than the vengeance of the most powerful General Secretary, as Trotsky wrote in similar circumstances. Solidarity with the revenge of the Libyan working class!