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From The Socialist newspaper, 7 September 2011

Libya after Gaddafi - Independent workers' action needed

Robert Bechert, Committee for a Workers' International (CWI)

Almost every day there are warning signs of the dark shadows that Nato's intervention has thrown over the Libyan revolution.

In a country with hardly any tradition of a workers' movement the distorting effects and dangers posed by the manner of Gaddafi's overthrow are starting to come into the open.

The newly published correspondence confirming the close links between the Gaddafi regime and imperialist agencies like the US's CIA and Britain's MI6 show the western powers' utter hypocrisy. Their 'concern' for the Libyan people under Gaddafi did not amount to much. Trade and assistance with the 'war on terror' were the west's priorities.

Only when they saw a chance to both replace Gaddafi with a more reliable ally and to take a grip over the revolution starting in Libya, did Washington, Paris, London, etc, suddenly start calling for "regime change". This should serve as a warning not just to the Libyans but also to those in Syria and elsewhere who might have hopes in outside intervention against tyrants.

Already it is clear that the imperialist powers' plans, particularly regarding the Transitional National Council (TNC), are not working out smoothly and they are preparing for the possibility of using the UN as a cover to intervene to try to stabilise situation.

The TNC is still largely a fiction and is continually hesitating over when it moves to Tripoli, where around one-third of the country's population live.

The TNC leaders also have problems over who they should accept as representatives from the west and south of the country and have not, so far, been able to appoint a new 'cabinet' to replace the one that resigned after the TNC's military commander, General Younes, was killed by some of his erstwhile rebel allies.


The tragedy of the first stage of the Libyan revolution is that the largely spontaneous initial uprising did not really result in the development of democratic, self-organisation of the working masses and youth.

This has meant, especially in Tripoli, that in the absence on the ground of democratic independent organisations in communities and workplaces etc, militias and mosques are taking the lead in maintaining security and getting services restarted. But they are not democratically run or controlled and their leaders have their own agendas.

In the absence of a workers' movement and left forces, Islamist groups have started to attempt to build wider support by making populist attacks on the western powers and warning that the revolution could be "lost".


The revelations confirming US, British, German and other governments' security services collaboration with Gaddafi in so-called 'rendition' (ie kidnapping and abduction) and torture have been seized upon by Islamist leaders to build their own support and weaken that of the pro-western NTC leadership.

Belhaj, the rebel forces military commander in Tripoli, recently told the New York Times that "many Libyans feared that the revolution would be 'stolen' by rich, Westernised secularists on the TNC". At this moment they seem to be especially targeting the TNC's so-called "prime minister" Jibril and this is why he seems to be trying to delay his move to Tripoli for as long as possible.

Belhaj himself is the former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) who was kidnapped in 2004 in Bangkok in a joint CIA-MI6 operation. He became the rebels' Tripoli commander after the TNC was forced by rebel fighters to withdraw its initial appointment of a former Gaddafi general, Shkal, to the post.

But these are still early days, Libyan workers and youth have still not put their demands on the table. A key factor in the revolution was the revolt of the youth against the Gaddafi regime's suffocating corruption and nepotism. 30% of Libya's 6.5 million population is under the age of 15, there are nearly a quarter of a million university and college students, and their voice will be heard.

Workers' alternative

It is likely that the pro-western leaders of the TNC would, if they are able to form a government, proceed carefully with a neoliberal agenda. They would use Libya's oil and gas income to maintain, at least for a time, public services and subsidies.

But a renewed world economic crisis would fundamentally change the situation and threaten to plunge the country into disaster. When the oil price fell in the 1980s, Libya's GDP collapsed by over 40%.

Now more than ever the creation of independent, democratic workers' organisations, including a workers' party, are vital if working people, the oppressed and youth are to achieve a real revolutionary transformation of the country and thwart the imperialists' plans, end dictatorship and transform the lives of the mass of the people.

To achieve these goals such a movement would need to defend all democratic rights, involve and defend the rights of migrant workers, be against the privatisation of Libya's assets, demand the withdrawal of all foreign military forces and oppose all foreign military intervention. They must demand the democratic election of a constituent assembly and, above all, reject participation in any government based on capitalism.

Instead it would strive for a government of representatives of the workers and poor based upon democratic structures in the workplaces and communities that would use Libya's resources for its population. This would be the real victory for the Libyan revolution and set an international example of ending both dictatorial rule and the miseries of capitalism.

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