Gaddafi’s relationship to imperialism
In stark contrast to the manner in which the Western imperialists have responded to developments across North Africa and the Middle East over the last two months, for the armed opposition in Libya they have been only too ready to support the anti-Gaddafi movement. For all their clamoring about the necessity for “peaceful transitions” where the masses threatened their clients in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere, the imperialists have abandoned their pacifist demagogy when it has come to Libya. NATO is pushing for a military assault against Libya that could range in devastation anywhere from NATO’s operation against Kosovo in 1999 to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
To be sure, the Muammar Gaddafi regime in Libya is neither anti-imperialist nor or a defender of the interests of the Libyan masses. Despite Gaddafi’s support to national liberation movements throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, from the late 1990s onwards the Gaddafi regime took the road of capitulation and collaboration, negotiating its détente with imperialism and sharing in the spoils of a structurally adjusted Libya. UN sanctions were lifted in 1999 and by 2006 the US lifted its own sanctions and normalized relations as it looked to get in on the massive investments opportunities that European corporations were availing themselves of.
In the 2000s, the Gaddafi regime consolidated its status as a strong ally of imperialism, becoming a partner in the ‘War on Terror’ and rigorously implementing neoliberal structural adjustment programs in Libya. The amount of foreign direct investments from the Western imperialists – especially France, U.K., Germany, Britain, Italy, and Canada – have sky-rocketed in the past decade. According to an April 2010 report from the Libyan government, over the past ten years 110 state-owned companies have been privatized and the same report promised to privatize 100% of the Libyan economy over time.
The Canadian imperialists, for their part, have made substantial investments in Libya in the past few years and want to ensure the protection of those investments. Among the top companies working out of Libya include Canada’s largest oil company, Suncor and the Quebec-based engineering and construction firm SNC-Lavalin. Amongst SNC-Lavalin’s contracts include the construction of the Benghazi airport, a prison in Tripoli, and the massive Great Man-Made River Project.
For his opening up to the forces of imperialist globalization in the 2000s the Gaddafi regime became tolerable, even celebrated – or at least so long as his rule was secure. But in the second half of February 2011, Gaddafi has lost all support from the imperialists.
The emergence of opposition forces in Libya has provided the imperialists with the opportunity to reclaim the initiative in the region’s ongoing developments; restore their image as apparent defenders of justice, democracy and progress; and re-legitimize the logic of imperialist meddling in the region. There’s no doubt that they view Libya as strategically significant and recognize that there is a greater share of spoils to be seized.
As the popular rebellions of the Middle East and North Africa unfolded throughout January and February 2011, the Western imperialists desperately struggled to save face in the midst of popular movements that revealed just how hated imperialism’s comprador front men really were. The toppling of Mubarak served as a huge embarrassment for U.S. policy in the region. Mubarak’s Egypt was second only to Israel as the staunchest defender of American imperialist interests in the Middle East.
At first, the imperialists cautioned the masses to exercise restraint and ensure that their resistance would remain peaceful. As the people’s movements in various countries advanced and threatened to topple imperialism’s clients, especially in Egypt, the imperialists saved face by feigning neutrality. When the strength of the people’s struggles melted away the support for Ben Ali and Mubarak regimes, some of the imperialists even celebrated these developments “Revolutions” (with the subtle implication that it was time to go home and let the “transition to democracy” work its magic).
The Libyan Exception
Yet, the chorus sung by the imperialists when it came to Libya contrasts sharply with their positions in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and all the other popular struggles. The imperialists have made no effort to temper the opposition forces brandishing RPGs and Kalashnikovs against Gaddafi, capturing city by city by force of arms. Certainly, the people have a right to struggle by any means necessary. But had any of the recent mass movements in the region (except for in Iran, perhaps) taken up this level of armed resistance, the West would have immediately labeled them as “terrorist” and provided direct assistance in a merciless military assault.
The opposite has been the case with Libya. The imperialists are supporting wholeheartedly the anti-Gaddafi forces. Every diplomatic maneuver taken by the imperialists has been aimed at isolating Gaddafi and supporting the opposition forces.
The development of an opposition movement against Gaddafi in the broader context of the protest movements sweeping the region has allowed the imperialists to conflate what’s happening in Libya with everything else. The Western press has given top priority to the cause of the anti-Gaddafi forces, eclipsing all other developments across the Middle East and North Africa, many of which still pose a threat to imperialism’s interests in the region. The diplomatic moves and military maneuvers of the Western imperialists against Libya in the past two weeks signal that they are actively working to steer the popular anti-dictator sentiments in the region and around the world to pursue their own imperialist interests in Libya.
Imperialism’s Intrigues Against Libya
The maneuvers of the Western imperialists must be exposed and opposed. Any type of meddling or interference by the imperialists will prove disastrous to the interests of the Libyan masses. Whether the imperialists resolve upon stricter economic sanctions, NATO aerial strikes, or outright military occupation, each and every move being contemplated by the imperialists will only intensify the misery felt by the masses under Gaddafi. All we have to do is look to the examples of the Iraq sanctions regime throughout the 1990s, NATO’s aerial war against the former Yugoslavia in 1999, or the occupations of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Haiti in the 2000s to see what bloody catastrophes imperialism has caused in the past decade. The combined effect of these U.S. or NATO-led campaigns has left millions upon millions dead, and tens of millions languishing.
On February 26, the U.N Security Council voted unanimously in favour of limited sanctions against Gaddafi and his close associates. The following day, Stephen Harper announced that Canada would take the sanctions one step further by blocking all transactions with the government of Libya, its institutions and agencies, including the Libyan central bank.
On March 1, the General Assembly suspended Libya from the UN Human Rights Council. The International Criminal Court has announced that it will investigate Gaddafi for “crimes against humanity” for the regime’s actions from February 15, 2011 onwards. Such charges are never hurled at the clients of the Western imperialists fighting counter-insurgency campaigns far more ferocious than what’s being seen in Libya. Colombia’s decades-long war on its people and the armed revolutionary forces, claiming tens of thousands of lives; Sri Lanka’s genocidal assault against tens of thousands of Tamil civilians in 2009; the Philippine state’s notorious disappearance campaign against thousands of mass activists amidst its own anti-Maoist counter-insurgency campaign; India’s anti-Maoist ‘Operation Green Hunt’, the largest military exercise against the Indian people in that country’s history; and Israel’s invasions and sieges against Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2009 – none of these anti-people offensives led to charges of “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity”. These cases do not diminish Gaddafi’s crimes against the Libyan people; they only reveal the great terror that will befall the Libyan people if the imperialist’s intervene.
All diplomatic moves taken against Libya have been aimed at delegitimizing Gaddafi while strengthening the hand of the anti-Gaddafi forces. However, with the position of the opposition forces being beat back and incapable of immediate success – a piece of military intelligence that the U.S. imperialists began to admit openly by March 10 – the only option left to the imperialists is to secure the support they need from the “international community” to impose a no-fly zone (which would be followed by air strikes). According to the “international law” of the imperialists, the only legal way to do this is through approval from the United Nations Security Council. However, two of its veto-wielding members, the imperialists to the east, Russia and China, have expressed their opposition to and will likely block any attempt to legally sanction an intervention in Libya. Hence, the imperialists are side-stepping China and Russia by taking their campaign outside UN framework, encouraging the Arab League and the African Union to sanction imperialist intervention.
On Saturday, March 12, the Arab League, which has suspended Libya, called on the Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Libya, while paying lip service to being opposed to foreign occupation: “The Arab League has officially requested the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone against any military action against the Libyan people”, said the Secretary-General of the League, Amr Moussa.
The African Union has thus far rejected military intervention in Libya, not wanting a strike against Gaddafi to set a precedent that would threaten other African heads of state. The AU has insisted that Libya is in a state of civil war and should be treated as such. Zimbabwe’s Mugabe said: “We took exception to interference by Western powers … and we absolutely reject their intervention.”
Preparing themselves for this possibility, NATO forces have been accumulating in the Mediterranean since early March, amassing aircraft carriers and rapid strike forces. The challenge confronting the western imperialists, however, is that while they do not want to see the opposition get thoroughly crushed and are military positioned for intervention, they fear making any hasty moves that will turn the Libyan masses and the masses of the whole region and the world against them.
U.S. imperialism is already incredibly overstretched and there may not be another set of powers willing to lead up any major operations. But these restraints do not necessarily limit the dangers that remain for the Libyan people.
Hence, the imperialist press is working furiously to foster public opinion against Gaddafi in favour of some sort of military intervention.
The Libyan masses do not need to replace one set of reactionaries with another set. Any forces in Libya calling on NATO to bomb Libya are opportunists at best, if not reactionaries. The Libyan revolution does not need a NATO campaign of aerial bombing. The overthrow of Gaddafi remains the right of the Libyan people alone and can only come through the fruits of their own struggle. An imperialist intervention will only stem the tide of the revolution and foreclose the possibility of an expansion of people’s power.
There are a number of forces claiming to have played a role in initiating the anti-Gaddafi uprisings, including the National Transitional Council, which declared itself the “sole representative of all Libya” on March 5, 2011; and there is the National Conference for the Libya Opposition (NCLO), which is claiming to have played a role as well. Amongst these forces are military men, judges, lawyers, academics – and in the case of the NCLO, the royalist Libyan Constitutional Union led by the pretender to the Libyan throne, Muhammad as-Senussi.
That certain imperialists have been quick to extend diplomatic recognition to “the opposition” in Libya does not suggest that what we have observed unfolding is simply a plan hatched in Washington. The Libyan masses have sufficient reason to seek Gaddafi’s removal. In a country with 30% unemployment and 50% youth unemployment, Gaddafi and the bureaucrat capitalists and compradors have become richer and richer through the period of neoliberal reforms, while the masses have suffered immensely. The meddling of the imperialists is merely their attempt to exploit the class contradictions that characterize the opposition to arrive at an outcome even more preferable to imperialism.
Revolutionaries in the imperialist countries have the duty to expose and oppose the role of their own imperialist bourgeoisies in Libya, and the people in the Middle East and North Africa have already demonstrated that the assistance of imperialism is not required to do away with reactionaries like Mubarak and Ben Ali. As Mao Zedong once said, “All reactionaries are paper tigers”. Mao’s certainty in the triumph of the people stemmed from his recognition that all reactionaries are divorced or divorceable from the interests of the people.
The growing waves of protests, strikes, and uprisings by workers and the broad masses all across the world, conditioned by the general crisis of the imperialist world system, reveal that the position of imperialism is in strategic decline, while that of the proletariat is strategically improving. Today’s People’s Wars in India and the Philippines demonstrate that, when led by a genuine communist Party, the will of the people for liberation is inexhaustible. In the coming years, new People’s Wars will emerge all across the world. Out of the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, new and revolutionary communist Parties can and must emerge. The imperialists and all their clients can and must be crushed.
Support the people of Libya in smashing Gaddafi and all deals with imperialism!
No to imperialist meddling! No to NATO intervention!
Support the struggles of the masses in the Middle East and North Africa for New Democracy and Socialism!
March 13, 2011.