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From The Socialist newspaper, 3 March 2011

Libya: A fight to the finish

THE UPRISING against Libya's dictator Muammar Gaddafi has left at least 1,000 dead and led to thousands fleeing the fighting. Tens of thousands of migrants are stranded near Libya's Tunisian border.

Niall Mulholland, Committee for a Workers' International (CWI)

Many towns across Libya have fallen to the opposition in recent days. But Tripoli is still largely in the grip of the regime, with tanks and checkpoints guarding the main roads into the capital. The situation inside the city is becoming more chaotic and desperate.

Groups of heavily armed opposition forces, which are mainly made up of young people and former members of the security forces from Benghazi city and the east, are reportedly planning to march towards western Libya, to link up with opposition militias near Tripoli.

More tribes and former Gaddafi ministers, high ranking officials and diplomats denounce the Gaddafi regime and declare allegiance to the revolution.

However, the struggle for power can still be protracted and accompanied by much more bloodshed. Gaddafi forces are attempting to retake rebel territory. Gaddafi makes blood-curdling threats against demonstrators, mixed with anti-imperialist phrases and attempts to foster divide and rule tactics - offering some tribes large amounts of money and land.

Western powers are now quickly publicly shedding their cosy links with the brutal Gaddafi regime. They are exploiting their past hostility to Gaddafi to present themselves as being on the side of the 'people', something they do not do in regard to the semi-feudal regimes of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.

The western powers are scrambling to influence any post-Gaddafi regime, to ensure continuing preferential and lucrative big business access to Libya's oil fields and to safeguard imperialist interests in a vital geo-strategic region.

The US, in particular, is terrified that the Libyan events could be emulated in oil-rich Saudi Arabia, where youth on the internet are calling 11 March the day of "revolution".


The UN and EU have imposed sanctions against the Libyan dictator and his family. Western politicians call for a 'no-fly zone' over Libya. The US publicly backed anti-Gaddafi groups in eastern Libya and Cameron suggested Britain might arm Libyan rebels.

Some politicians go further and call for direct western military intervention, dressed up as 'humanitarian aid'. Yet Western leaders are very hesitant and divided about taking military action. They fear getting dragged into another prolonged conflict in the Middle East and facing the wrath of the Arab masses.

Workers and youth everywhere must oppose all attempts at Western armed intervention, which would be intended to safeguard vital imperialist interests and to cut across revolutionary movements in the region.

Amongst the Libyan masses there is opposition to imperialist intervention in the region. "Despite the heavy sacrifice they are offering every day, Libyans utterly reject any foreign intervention, even for their defence and protection," writes Mahmoud Al-Nakou, a Libyan author (Guardian 28/02/11). "The people are adamant that this revolution is theirs alone."

But various 'community committees' and 'councils of the elders' have been set up in Benghazi, Musrata and Zawiyah to 'restore order' and opposition forces controlling eastern cities have formed a 'national council' in expectation of the fall of Tripoli. The former justice minister, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, announced that he would head an interim government, suggesting that it has the backing of the US. He also said an agreement could be reached with the sons of Gaddafi, echoing some Western politicians.

Although Mustafa Abdel-Jalil's comments are disputed by other opposition figures, they still intend to include him in an interim government. This should act as a warning to the Libyan masses - their revolution is in danger of being hijacked by remnants of the Gaddafi regime, pro-capitalist opposition leaders, reactionary tribal leaders and imperialist interests.

Committees vital

For the revolution to win its goals - real democratic rights and a transformation in living standards - it needs democratically-elected committees that truly represent the interests of the mass of working people, youth and the poor, in the neighbourhoods, workplaces and colleges, linked up at local, regional and national levels.

The masses armed, under democratic control, can defend themselves against Gaddafi's forces, march on his last bases of support, and sweep away the dictator and his entire regime while preventing the country once again falling under foreign control.

Such a mass movement would immediately introduce full democratic rights and oversee elections to a revolutionary constituent assembly.

A government representing the interests of workers and small farmers would take the oil fields into public ownership, and other major planks of the economy, under democratic workers' control and management.

This would ensure that the country's huge natural riches serve the majority of society not only an elite around the corrupt Gaddafi family and giant multinational companies.

To ensure this, organisations of the working class need to be formed, including independent unions and a mass party of the working class, with bold socialist policies.

Such organisations would oppose not just Gaddafi and the remnants of his regime but all pro-capitalist and reactionary forces in Libya and meddling imperialism.

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In The Socialist 3 March 2011:

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International socialist news and analysis

Libya: A fight to the finish

Tunisia: Revolution and counter-revolution on the streets

Marxist analysis: history

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