|Written by Jose Welmowicki|
|Thursday, 13 October 2011 23:34|
|The Libyan Revolutionary Process has appealed to the hearts and minds of the whole world. When closing this edition of International Courier, Gaddafi’s fate is still to be determined and some minor fighting is still going on, but the collapse of the bloody regime of the Libyan dictator Gaddafi is a fact. After six months of fighting and 20,000 dead, the terror regime, which ruled Libya for 42 years, has been demolished by the heroic revolutionary action of the masses that are hungry and thirsty for democratic freedoms. It wasn’t just Gaddafi and his clique that fell. The armed people destroyed the Armed Forces of the dictator and all state institutions. In some places, armed people’s committees have assumed tasks with political power.
For those who argued revolutions have ended and spread distrust in the power of the masses, here’s a big counterexample. We are witnessing a mighty revolution, in which the people armed themselves valiantly and, losing the fear of death, waged a civil war against a vastly superior military force. The Libyans can now give a lesson to all the Arab peoples and the world: when workers and popular sectors unite and rise together, it is possible to overcome such obstacles.
What happened in Libya is part of the same revolutionary process that is sweeping the Arab world. It has the same popular and anti-imperialist character of the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, confronting and overthrowing Gaddafi – who was part of the dictatorships that support the imperialist strategy of domination in the region and ensure the security of Israel. Undoubtedly, this tremendous democratic victory of the Libyan people puts all the revolutionary process in the Middle East and North Africa in a better position. The flame of the Libyan revolution lights up and illuminates the way for the other peoples of the Arab region. The revolutionary process that is currently sweeping the Arab world shows us the path to shatter the dream of imperialism and of its agents throughout the world.
The international left has an obligation to discuss this process and draw the necessary lessons. As part of this task, we first need to take into account some facts and identify the actors that are playing a leading role in the Libyan uprising.
Who are the Rebels?
It is very important to define who the rebels are, what their social composition is, and how they arose. When gathering data from different sources, it is evident that the rebel troops are composed mainly of popular sectors, workers, students, unemployed and former regular soldiers. Among those who took up arms, there are sectors of the middle class: liberal professionals, bankers and even former diplomats. Most were ordinary people before the outbreak of the revolution, ordinary people of the village. Most had no military experience and what united them was their hatred for the dictatorship of Gaddafi.
Since the first demonstrations and repression of this past February, they began to emerge in an independent, spontaneous and self-organized form, the so-called “popular committees”. These committees were assembled during the capture of Benghazi, their trial by fire. The strength of the popular mobilization, which bravely faced the savage repression of Gaddafi’s army, ended up dividing the armed forces. As a result, there were mass desertions from the lower sectors of the troops as well as from the senior officers. The arming of the masses came from the capture of weapons from the army, which was expropriated by the revolutionary struggle of hundreds of committees. This began on February 17th and ushered in the civil war.
The Nature of Armed Conflict
In this matter there are no doubts. In Libya, a revolution is occurring with an anti-imperialist character and is confronting the dictatorship of Gaddafi, one of the key agents of Western powers, which directly attacks the interests of imperialism. It is part of the revolutionary process, and the overthrow of Gaddafi has a fundamental meaning, like the downfalls of Mubarak and Ben Ali.
In this context, another question is needed for clarification. Contrary to what Gaddafi and his supporters were saying, what happened in Libya was not a simple “regional fight” between the Tripolitanians (peoples from the historical Tripoli province), from the center and west, and of the peoples from Cyrenaica (which are the two previously separate regions that together form Libya’s current territory). Many analysts explained that at the root of the outbreak of the civil war was the old division of the country- as if it was a dispute between the two areas or among different tribes.
The reality of the war showed that, despite the differences that exist, the struggle against the dictatorship unified the different regions and ethnicities. Let’s see how: the rebels came from the east, west and Misrata (a city located between Tripoli and Sirte), which resisted heroically and broke through the siege that Gaddafi’s forces imposed. After this, they were still able to participate in the final offensive on Tripoli.
To the west of Libya, near the Tunisian border, the landscape is mountainous and there are many small towns, many populated by Berbers, a non-Arab ethnic group persecuted by Gaddafi. In this region, the rebellion resisted, aided by the geography, to the many ground attacks and bombings from the Gaddafi dictatorship. In the last phase of the civil war, when the air force and heavy weapons artillery had been destroyed by the bombing of NATO, the Berbers gained an advantage in the fighting done in the mountains; the Berbers had plenty of weight at Zintan (further south) and then Zawyia, which is a few kilometers from the capital. Consequently, this is how Gaddafi’s forces in Tripoli were being closed on and how these rebel forces were part of the vanguard that entered the capital to overthrow the dictator.
Those from Misrata were not far behind. A reporter from the Spanish newspaper El Pais reported: “Trucks with the Misrata letters painted over abound in Tripoli since a week ago. They are militants from that city that led the charge: ‘We were the ones that started to fight at eight in the morning of Aug. 22nd at the Bab el Aziza.‘“
The armed people were unified by the fury, anger and indignation that accumulated in the last 42 years. This was demonstrated in the final attack on Tripoli, where rebel forces intervened in Benghazi, in the central regions of Misrata (Tripolitanians) and west (Tripolitanians and Berbers). A participant gives this account in El Pais: “Ahmed, Abdelrauf, Adnan and Bashir had never touched a weapon. Ahmed is an accountant in a bank. Abdelrauf drives trucks. Adnan made ice cream. Bashir does not have a job. They, the Tripolitanians from the mountains of Nafusa or from the massacred Misrata, took the capital and expelled the troops of Muammar Gaddafi from the Bab el Aziza fort and all of Tripoli. ‘We will win or die’ is a slogan written on the walls of Benghazi and Tripoli. ”
The National Transitional Council (NTC)
This body, now officially the head of Libya, was erected in Benghazi from the division in the Gaddafi army, when the rebels took control of the city. Given the lack of centralized leadership, after several meetings, on March 5 the NTC proclaimed itself as an alternative “provisional government” to replace Gaddafi. Soon after, the NTC began to seek recognition from the Western powers. Who composes it? Chiefly, former ministers of Gaddafi and exiles who worked in organs of imperialism. So far, its main members are:
Mustafa Abdul Jalil, former Minister of Justice from 2007 to 2011, when he was responsible for the persecution, imprisonment and torture of countless opponents.
Mahmoud Jibril, a former head of the council of economic advisers of Gaddafi, the architect of the neo-liberal reforms and the economic opening to the imperialist investments. He was nominated by the NTC to be prime minister of the interim government in July.
Abdelhafiz Goga, human rights lawyer in Benghazi. He defended the regime’s political prisoners, which gave him prestige in many sectors. However, he agreed to a deal with the most reactionary sectors in the formation of the NTC, leaving them to direct the apparatus.
Ali Tarhuni, exiled since 1973, lived in the U.S., where he graduated from and was a professor until 2011, when he returned to Libya. He has built strong ties with imperialism in his period of exile. Currently, he holds the position of Minister of Finance and Petroleum at the NTC, and advocates the maintenance of oil contracts, as well as the guarantee and encouragement of imperialist investment in the country.
Abdel Younis, former interior minister. He was the chief military leader of the NTC. He was killed by the Benghazi rebel brigades in July.
As shown above, the composition of the NTC is highly reactionary and pro-imperialist. That first council of the rebels in Benghazi, which sought to minimally coordinate the actions against the dictatorship, was monopolized by submissive and right-wing forces, which used the power vacuum opened by the crisis of the regime to run for political leadership of the process. Today, they are seen as those who placed themselves in front of the popular uprising in Benghazi and as the alternative to the government. They are the product of the lack of revolutionary leadership. However, they do not possess leaders with the strength to arbitrarily impose their decisions on the armed committees and the various forces operating in Libya.
The Contradictions between the Militias and the Character of the NTC
Despite the support it won for acting as the spokesperson for the revolution, the NTC’s origin and politics cause a strong contradiction between them and the aspirations of the victorious revolution.
The NTC raises a transitional slow process of drafting a constitution and then calling for elections. As in Egypt, it will present a constitution to be submitted to a “referendum” vote. Throughout this period, they will continue to be in office without having been elected by anyone.
The bourgeois origin of its main leaders, the trajectory of links with the old regime, and its ties with imperialism show the objectives of the NTC after the fall of Gaddafi. These will likely lead to clashes with rebels from the base sectors. The NTC is maneuvering in order to avoid the spread and polarization of these clashes. Therefore, the execution of Major Younis, who was accused of treachery by rebel forces, was left without investigation or punishment. According to the NTC’s own statements, this was done in order to not “damage the revolution” and divide the front of opposition to Gaddafi.
There is much distrust of the NTC by the various militants, especially those of Misrata and Nafusa, who had no involvement in their election. They are also questioned in Benghazi. According to some sources, the February 17 Brigade, which was crucial in the defense of Benghazi and was led by Ismael Salabi, said recently: “The interim government led by Mahmoud Jibril is no longer necessary, because they are the remains of the old regime. They should relinquish themselves, starting from the top of the pyramid, from top to bottom.” Some leaders demanded the complete renunciation of the interim government appointed by the NTC, alleging that it shouldn’t have management of the billions of dollars of frozen Libyan assets from abroad.
In Tripoli, the brigade commander who controlled the city after the departure of the supporters of Gaddafi was Ahmed Bel Haj, a former fighter in Afghanistan who was tortured by Gaddafi, and a victim of the agreement between the CIA, MI-6 English and Libyan secret service in 2004. Bel Haj made declarations of loyalty to the NTC but did not give command of the city. Also, when the NTC ordered the Misrata and West brigades (which participated in the capture of the capital), to go back to their cities, they refused and have stayed armed.
Another demonstration of the difficulties faced by the NTC is the change in its position regarding foreign armed forces. After the imperialist powers and the UN declared that they were in favor of putting NATO ground troops on Libya, the NTC was at first supportive , but then it backed away and declared that “there was no need for the entry of foreign troops in the country”. Though in reality the NTC is in favor of direct imperialist intervention, the position of the NTC changed and may change again according to the correlation of internal forces. In addition to these clashes and confrontations with the ranks of the rebels, there are problems within the NTC itself; this is due to disputes between bourgeois sectors that are scrambling to get a bigger slice of the pie.
The point is that, due to the absence of a revolutionary leadership with strong influence, there is no clear alternative that can channel the aspirations of the most militant sectors and lead the struggle against imperialism and the NTC.
The Dangers to the Revolution
Once the actions of the masses accomplished their first goal (the fall of Gaddafi’s regime), the circumstances have started to pose serious dangers and to present new tasks for the revolution. The main issue is the anti-imperialist struggle- the struggle for national independence- against the eagerness of imperialism and its local agent, the NTC, to dismantle the revolutionary upsurge and to continue the plunder of Libyan wealth.
Imperialism, as we developed in a previous article, after first supporting Gaddafi’s regime, subsequently changed position and played a strong position in its fall. This change in position occurred when Gaddafi was unable to control- via repression or through institutional channels- the popular armed insurgency. This change in tactics, which placed imperialist forces in the same military camp as the rebels, represented a partial and circumstantial victory that can help in their goal of dismantling the revolution with the NTC is their main ally.
But a smooth path does not await imperialism. Because it lacked a favorable correlation of forces, it could not invade Libya with ground troops and directly control the situation. The “quagmire” in Iraq and Afghanistan, coupled with the economic and political crisis in its own turf, prevents imperialism from getting into a new war now. It now has a big problem: how to convince the Libyan people to disarm themselves and go home peacefully after this tremendous victory. Not only must it disarm the masses, but also quickly rebuild a new bourgeois regime and a new armed force. It has the submissive collaboration of NTC which, until now, is the political leadership of the process. But it does not have total control or authority on the people and the armed committees. Nor can we ignore the possibility that bourgeois factions that comprise the NTC may start fighting for “slices” of the new regime.
In this context of the difficult battle between revolution and counterrevolution, the Libyan people need to continue the struggle and deepen the revolution. For this, it is essential to have a clear program to face the next period.
How to Continue the Struggle?
After the fall of Gaddafi, the Libyan people are the ones who must decide on their destiny. Those who overthrew a dictator- like Gaddafi- cannot stop their fight: it is necessary to advance to the conquest of political power. For us, it is the armed people who should rule in Libya and deepen the revolution in this country and throughout the Arab world. If the revolution is stopped, inevitably the counter-revolution will advance.
Only a government of armed people’s committees may call, as a first step, elections for a Constituent National Assembly that are truly open, democratic and sovereign. This call can re-establish the country under a new economic, social and political foundation. This slogan is very important, because Libya is a country that has endured decades of colonialism and dictatorship. This task is obligatory so that the Libyan people can be the only ones to decide their fates. But a National Constituent Assembly that is popular and sovereign can only be realized if it is convened by a government composed of the working class and poor people of Libya. If the NTC calls it, it will not be democratic and it will be used to legalize the new handing over of the country.
Another key task that only a popular and worker’s government can ensure, supported by the armed committees, is the outright confiscation of all property and fortunes of Gaddafi, his family and his sinister minions. These properties must be socialized and placed in the service and under the control of the representative bodies of the Libyan people. In this sense, we should nationalize the deposits, extraction and marketing of oil, and the country’s economy under popular and workers’ control.
This wealth must be used to meet the enormous needs of the working people and to urgently implement an emergency economic plan to meet the pressing needs of the poor. We must, as one of the first steps, cancel all oil contracts signed by the Gaddafi dictatorship and other pacts with imperialism. Furthermore, the revolution must punish Gaddafi, his sons who were in power, and his entire sinister regime for all their robberies and crimes against humanity, particularly in the four decades they ruled with an iron fist and during the recent civil war.
To realize this program, the Libyan people must remain armed and rely only on their own forces, which became obvious when they overthrew the tyrant of Tripoli. They must rely on themselves and the immense power of the revolution in the rest of the Arab world.
No Trust in Imperialism or the NTC!
The Libyan people should not place the slightest confidence in the NTC and must confront it openly. The NTC can not even be expected to advance democratic measures. It is a bourgeois organ, composed of all types of defectors, corrupted officials, former Gaddafi ministers or political exiles of bourgeois factions originating from the dictatorship. They are now returning to the country, thirsty to receive the crumbs of a new looting. The NTC has already announced that it will maintain, and even increase, the percentage of oil production for countries that “collaborated” in the fall of Gaddafi. The imperialist powers, like vultures over their prey, had a meeting in Paris with the nickname “Friends of Libya” to “discuss the fate” of that country, which for them, is simply to maintain their oil.
The NTC, in the service of imperialism, is trying to disarm the masses and rebuild a political regime, as well as bourgeois armed forces. If they do not meet these objectives and, especially if the class struggle rages on, it cannot be ruled out that imperialism will occupy the country with its own troops to take direct control of its resources. From the LIT-CI, we are totally against any possibility of sending troops by imperialism, whether they are NATO or “humanitarian” under the guise of the United Nations (UN). This will serve to defeat the revolutionary process, disarm the people and rebuild a submissive regime. An imperialist occupation is as dictatorial as the government of Gaddafi. We must say:
No imperialist soldiers in Libya! To NATO, the UN and imperialism, hands off Libya and the entire Arab region!
We are for the maintenance of the armed people’s committees and for political power to go directly and completely to their hands. This must be, in our opinion, the next battle of the Libyan revolution: putting the power in the hands of the people through their organizations and pushing with all their might the revolution in the region to the road for an Arab Federation of Socialist Republics.