A little over two years, Muammar Gaddafi was lynched by rebel militiamen who had captured him hidden in a pipe. The images captured that day are already recorded in history, symbolizing the end of a long dictatorship.
The Libyan Revolution sparked a deep debate on the nature of Gaddafi’s regime and its relationship with the world powers, people’s mobilizations and on the imperialist intervention in the country. Three years after the beginning of that heroic revolution, we can continue the discussion of the Libyan process as well as the whole process that has been initiated in North of Africa and the Middle East.
The most profound revolution in the region
The sarahuis camp in Laayoune (capital of Western Sahara, occupied by Morocco) and the immolation of a street vendor in Tunis inaugurated a series of revolutionary processes which ultimately modified the map of the entire region, toppling dictators in power for 40 years.
Among all these processes, the revolutions in Libya and Syria have been so far the deepest. The distinguishing factor in these two cases, compared to the others, is that the capitalist state has partially collapsed in both countries. The Armed Forces, the fundamental state’s institution, were divided in both countries, giving rise to rebel militias able to put in serious risks what remained of the regular army. Furthermore, both Gaddafi and Assad proved inflexible before the ongoing revolution, refusing to adopt reformist measures inside the regime to try to slowdown the riots. The intensification of class conflict opened up the case of civil war in both countries.
In Libya, the imperialism, frightened by the possibility of its allied government being overthrown by the people’s force of arms – opening a process of uncertain outcome and extreme instability that could curtail its plan to plunder the Libyan wealth – allowed Gaddafi’s brutal repression to happen, while opening a negotiation with his regime. Only after confirming that Gaddafi was unable to defeat the revolution (even if by means of brutal annihilation), the dictator of Tripoli did not accept any negotiated solution and that there was a possible loyal government to replace Gaddafi (National Transitional Council – NTC) it changed its position and intervened militarily against Gaddafi.
Imperialism intervened by air to try to control “from inside” a revolutionary process that it could not just smash with a terrestrial occupation (mainly due to its defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan), and the war developed in the rebel side: the regime was destroyed and the corpse of the once almighty Gaddafi ended in a cold room exposed to popular derision. The panorama from then consisted of a people with strong democratic and social justice aspirations that had mobilized and defeated a pro-imperialist dictatorship, which meant a tremendous democratic victory of the people in arms, although the enormous contradiction of having to face a new government, the NTC, who swore loyalty to the imperialist powers, the same ones that had welcomed and dealt with the dead dictator.
Stalinism, primarily its Castro-Chavista version, explained this process in a simplistic and “conspiranoid” way attributing all the responsibility for the operation to an alleged U.S. imperialism’s power play which, according to this current, had hired thousands of “mercenaries” to destabilize the country, while the people were satisfied with their “anti-imperialist” leader, who came to be, to the most exalted, a “socialist”. This explanation, besides ignoring and belittling the Libyan people who staged a revolution, is completely absurd. Especially since Gaddafi had become a staunch ally of imperialism for many years now, dealing with it, making agreements to bring to Libya and torture people accused of “terrorism” by the Bush administration and was publicly congratulated by the IMF only 8 days before the beginning of the revolution.
On the other hand, organizations that claim to be Trotskyists, as the Trotskyist Fraction (FT), mimicking the Castro-Chavismo, considered the Libyan rebels as mere “imperialism’s ground troops” and the fall of Gaddafi as a “victory of imperialism”, as the revolutionary process didn’t meet their schematic requirements.
The huge difficulties to rebuild the bourgeois state
If it was true – whether an imperialist conspiracy or a legitimate popular uprising – the imperialism managed the process in its own interest without much problems, it would be logical that after Gaddafi a strong pro-imperialist government would take office, supported by the “ground troops” to dominate the situation with iron fist. In fact, what we observe is a painful attempt of the Libyan bourgeoisie and imperialism to rebuild something close to a bourgeois state, which would be able to guarantee their class interests.
The point is that, after decades of silence, the Libyan masses raised their voices, took the street and built armed militias who fought Gaddafi and played a decisive role in his downfall. After that, it’s hard to convince them to return their weapons and go home quietly. The bourgeoisie would now have to run the state without controlling the institution on which ultimately it relies, the Armed Forces, in a country crowded with armed militias.
The main policy in order to rebuild the state has been to co-opt the main militias’ leaders to the state apparatus. However, this plan, although it advanced, was not quite fruitful so far. The militias, despite collaborating with the government, and many are part of the national army, maintain high degree of autonomy, even facing it when they believe it’s appropriate. During late 2013 strong armed clashes between militias and government forces occurred, which threatened the weak stability attained.
Another important fact in recent months was the prolonged blockade of oil activity, due to the intervention of militias in Benghazi who tried to increase their share in the sale revenues, which amounted to US$ 40 billion (20% less than expected due to losses during the conflict). There are other striking symptoms of the new Libyan state’s weakness, such as the assassinations of senior military and police officers, including the chief of espionage. And the Prime Minister, Ali Zeidan, was kidnapped! Both the U.S. Embassy and the Russian Central Bank were mugged and robbed.
The inability to control the situation is visualized with clarity by the fact that in recent months the Interior Minister, the Chief of the Armed Forces and the Prime Minister resigned from their posts for their ineffectiveness. Government crises are recurrent: for example, last January the five ministers from the Justice and Building Party , linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, withdrew from the government.
Imperialism is monitoring the situation, expressing by the mouth of its spokesman, John Kerry, its concern about the pace to rebuild a stable state in control of the situation: “Let me just say quickly that the United States is committed to promoting stability in Libya, in North Africa, and in the Sahel. So we’re going to discuss further the cooperation on security issues.” Therefore, through NATO, the United States is collaborating with prime minister Zeidan to quickly train the new Libyan “army”.
Militias must be subordinated to a plan of struggles democratically defined!
The fall of Gaddafi’s dictatorship was a major achievement of the rebellious Libyan masses. Nowadays, the Libyan workers have much larger democratic freedoms to organize and fight.
However, the burden left for the revolution is so heavy that it can be put at risk. Despite the aspirations of the masses who staged the revolution, its main political and armed leadership had a bourgeois and pro-imperialist character. It could not be otherwise, for under Gaddafi was very difficult, if not impossible, to build large labor organizations that could led the revolution in the early stages, while the imperialism and bourgeois forces entered the process with all their vast military resources to dominate it.
However, this situation involves a big contradiction. There are different forces trying to defeat the revolution and thwart the emergence of genuinely popular movements that represent the poor and exploited masses of Libya. The delay in the clear emergence of alternative leaders with these features opens the possibility not only that the revolution will not achieve its social and democratic goals, but also lose those already won. There are already reactionary measures taking place, as the approval of the Islamic law as the basis for the new constitution.
Also within the wide range of militias, due to the absence of a revolutionary leadership and the performance of their political leaderships (bourgeois, petty-bourgeois or tribal), many of them degenerated into groups advocating self interests and even attacking the people. So, people’s demonstrations against certain militias have been occurred.
Would, then, their disarmament – as requested by the Libyan government and imperialism – be the solution? Definitely not. We defend the subordination of the armed militias to a national plan of struggles defined democratically by the unions, popular committees, neighborhood communities and other workers’ bodies.
The Libyan people need a working class and socialist leadership
The ongoing process remains alive. Despite what Stalinism or the FT said, the fall of Gaddafi hasn’t brought the strengthening of imperialism, which three years later has not been able to stabilize the country, not even being able to fulfill the first counterrevolutionary task, which is to rebuild a solid bourgeois state before a victorious people. It is urgent to build an organized structure for this first revolutionary struggle, a workers and socialist alternative to lead the continuity of the revolution is needed.
The IWL-FI appeals to the working people not to trust in the current government. Neither in the bourgeois leadership of some militias, because they don’t represent an alternative for the workers, restricted to inter-bourgeois struggles aiming at proposing themselves as the local figureheads necessary for the imperialist companies to spoil the oil resources of the country.
It is urgent to develop large militant and democratic unions, and other types of organization, to fight for the specific people’s demands. These unions should, in turn, coordinate with armed militias to build a national plan against the government’s plans. The centralization of militiamen and all unions and popular organizations around a socialist and working-class policy is key.
In this process, it is imperative to lay the foundation and build a revolutionary and internationalist party to lead the continuity of the revolution. In this sense, gains strength the demand for a truly democratic and sovereign Constituent Assembly to advocate that the multinationals should be expropriated and their wealth and technologies be controlled by the Libyan workers for the country’s development, to ensure independence from imperialism and land reform. This Constituent Assembly, to be truly free and sovereign, can only be called by a workers and popular government, supported by the organizations and militias that overthrew Gaddafi. Finally, for the advancement of the Libyan revolution it’s necessary to unconditionally support the struggle of the Syrian masses, because there is no better ally for the Libyan revolution than another triumphant revolution in Syria.