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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Life as it was under Gaddafi's democracy in Libya

Mummar Gaddafi use to have rallies in Green Square with well over a million supporters until I made him stop.

That may be a bit of hyperbole. These are the facts: Qaddafi claimed 3 rallies in Green Sq. on June 17th, July 1st & 8th 2011 at which he claimed he had 1.7 million supporters. After I published Tripoli Green Square Reality Check on July 19th showing there was no way Green Square could hold that many people, and it was widely circulated by the Libyan Youth Movement among others, Gaddafi never made that claim again. I consider it one of my most significant contributions to their revolution.

Naturally, all the "anti-imperialists" were promoting these rallies as proof of Gaddafi's popular  support. Worker's World Party made that claim, so did the Party for Socialism and Liberation. I wrote in that:
Now others reporting on these pro-Qaddafi protests have estimated much lower numbers for these crowds, in the range of 10,000 to 30,000. It has also been said that the majority of those in attendance had some relation to Qaddafi security forces, approximately 10% of the Libya population has such an association. It threatened them if they failed to show up.

Yesterday Counterpunch published an article that is sure to hail a new round of nostalgia for Gaddafi's "democracy" by "anti-imperialists" that were never forced to live under it.  Libya: From Africa’s Wealthiest Democracy Under Gaddafi to Terrorist Haven After US Intervention by Garikai Chengu, starts out with the claim that:
Prior to the US-led bombing campaign in 2011, Libya had the highest Human Development Index, the lowest infant mortality and the highest life expectancy in all of Africa.
What is important to remember about all these facts and figures about life in Libya under Gaddafi from the United Nations and other international bodies is that they were all supplied by the Libyan government and are therefore no more reliable than the government that supplied them.  Consider this alternate view from my Is Libya better off than it was?, 29 June 2012:
Contrast that with this view of Qaddafi's Libya published on the eve of the February 17th uprising in afrol News:

afrol News, 16 February - While the Libyan economy drowns in petrodollars and its "Great leader" Muammar al-Ghaddafi buys support abroad, almost half of its youth are unemployed. The non-oil sector is tiny.

Libya is the richest North African country. Counted in GDP per capita, Libya indeed is on an Eastern European level.

But that does not reflect the real economy of the average Libyan, with around half the population falling outside the oil-driven economy. The unemployment rate is at a surprising 30 percent, with youth unemployment estimated at between 40 and 50 percent. This is the highest in North Africa.

Also other development indicators reveal that little of the petrodollars have been invested in the welfare of Libya's 6.5 million inhabitants. Education levels are lower than in neighbouring Tunisia, which has little oil, and a surprising 20 percent of Libyans remain illiterate.

Also, decent housing is unavailable to most of the disadvantaged half of the population. A generally high price level in Libya puts even more strains on these households.

But the key of popular discontent is the lack of work opportunities, which strongly contrasts the Libyan image of a rich nation constantly propagated by the regime and its Soviet-style media.
One Libyan, responding to those like Cynthia McKinney, who were repeating Qaddafi's lies and telling the world how wonderful Qaddafi's Libya was, had this to say:
Have you been to Tripoli and seen the districts of Hadba Shergeeya, AbuSleem, Hay Alislami, Soug al Jomaa to name only a handful? Is it acceptable that in 2001, in a country with vast oil riches, and after 42 years of trying, that this country still has raw sewage pouring onto streets where children play, that some parts of the capital do not have phone lines or water pipeline? Is this credible leadership?

5- You mention that in Libya there are ‘excellent institutions of learning’. This is nothing short of laughable. Did you know that some libraries in the main uni have no books? Did you know that in other libraries where they have sections for books, you are forbidden to enter these sections? Did you know that corruption in academic institutions is rife, where most lecturers take bribes to allow students to progress, largely because their wages are pathetic, and sometimes delay in receiving these wages sees them without pay for months. Did you know when the ‘brother leaders’ daughter was studying Law in the main uni they banned all males from the law school for the duration of her uni years? So if you were her age, male and wanted to go to law school at Tripoli main uni…you couldn’t. Tough luck. The ‘brother leader’ says you can't, so you can't.

6- Please tell me I misread your statement that Libya has good ‘medical facilities’? Are you not aware that most Libyans who require specialist care travel to foreign countries to receive this care? some countries FAR poorer than ours, i.e. Tunisia. Such is the market for ‘medical-tourism’ to Tunis that there are Libyan-only medical centres. Perhaps you don't know that you can't even get simple things such as the Flu jab in Libya. Its in such low quantities that it runs out within weeks. Perhaps you don't know that when one of my friends passed away with a heart attack the hospital where he was taken (well known) took 15 minutes to find an ECG that worked, and later kept replacing the defibrillator, because they were malfunctioning. Is this not a farce?

7- You talk of our sense of belonging to Africa. Do you not know how much money Qaddafi pumps into Africa? Have you not heard of the war with Chad where countless Libyans and Chadians needlessly died? Do you not know of Qaddafi funding of rebel movements around Africa contributing to more bloodshed?

You need to seriously revise your knowledge of the country if you want to be a credible activist for peace, or a worthwhile defender of Qaddafi. You are doing him more harm than good by demonstrating your lack of grass roots knowledge.
This is just a sampling. There is a lot more information available for a fact-based analysis that show that even on the highly touted economic front, Qaddafi's Libya wasn't all it was cracked up to be by those under the spell of the illusions he so skillfully created for them.
So much for "anti-imperialist" illusions about the fabulous Libyan economy. Here are a couple of selections from my Behind the Green Curtain: Libya Today:
The Bread Queue in Janzour: posted to the Free Generation Movement facebook page this morning, July 18, 2011 at 6:17am

Today, at a queue for bread in Janzour, I witnessed the following.

Production was slow and the queue was getting longer. The owner of the bread store came out, apologized and told those waiting that due to fuel shortage his machines were working at 50%. He urged people to just buy bread for ¼ dinar and then come back later for more. He said there was also a flour shortage so urged, again, for people to be economical.

One women shouted “it’s not your flour, its Moamers flour, who are you to ration it?”

The people in the queue were visibly angered by this comment and one man shouted “and do you think your moamer carry the flour here on his back?”

She fell silent but immediately made a phone call.

Minutes later people whispered in the man’s ear to leave as she is a well known revolutionary committee member and loud mouth. He disappeared into the side streets moments before uncountable security trucks turned up with armed men.

The men demanded that the shop owner tell them who the “traitor” was. The shop owner said that he was just a customer and can’t remember just a single person from hundreds of daily customers.

The security chief said to him “Either tell us who he is, or we close this place down”. The man bravely stood tall and said “Close it, but if you want me to give you details about a man I do not know then you are delusional”.

A symbol of defiance from a man standing in a queue. A symbol of nepotism by one woman who thinks she can say and do as she pleases because of who she knows. A symbol of intimidation by security forces enforcing jungle law.

You cant even speak your mind in a bread queue, and then Saif AlGaddafi says “we will have elections”. On what planet do these people live?
And more on those popular Green Square rallies:
1.7 million rally for Qaddafi? Not as it seems! Now we have another video from Qaddafi's massive support rally in Tripoli on July 8th, 2011. I have already blogged about certain questions surrounding this march in my dairy. Now this video from libyaresistence purports to show that many of those in attendance weren't from Tripoli. They write:

Attempts to call on Tripoli residents to abandon local mosques and pray at Green Square back fired for the regime, as attempts were made to show the people of Tripoli stood by the “leader”. Local mosques remained open despite the call by authorities, and local residents turned out in full to pray at their usual mosques in defiance of the regime. The atmosphere was visibly positive as it was very apparent that everyone present was making an open stand against the regime. The regime amassed another crowd at “green square” to rally for their cause. The crowd was not as large as previous Friday and FGMovement were in attendance to evaluate the situation. See this video for our explanation of the size of the crowd and the scenes at the square. Rest assured, people of Libya, the majority of the people of Tripoli were nowhere near “Green Square” today.
In Qaddafi's Million Man March, 7 July 2011, I described how the Gaddafi regime encouraged attendance at these "popular" rallies:
Ahmed went missing in Tripoli near the very beginning of the uprising. His family now believes that he was arrested on February 22 and taken to the notorious Adu Salim prison with many others. At the time they assumed he had been shot dead and disappeared by soldiers, mercenaries or one of Qaddafi's security services, like so many others.
So when a member of one Qaddafi's revolutionary committees told Ahmed's father, "We have your son, he is being held at Abu Salim prison. If your family does not come out to demonstrate on Friday you will never see your son again.", they paid him no never-mind and an extended clan of around 50 adult males and family refused to attend the rally. A few hours after the rally Ahmed's still warm body was dumped outside the family home with two bullets in his head.Many other families received similar threats. "We did not think it was possible that he (Ahmed) was still alive, we thought the guy was just making threats," said Mohammed, Ahmed's uncle who was interview by AFP.
These "anti-imperialists" would rather see people suffering under a police state than attempting to rebuild a "failed state," which is the task of every revolution that overthrows a state, and now they want to sell their revised history of life under Gaddafi. Fortunately, I have only to go back to my archives to refuted them.

See also: Random notes on “anti-imperialism” by Louis Proyect, 21 Oct 2015

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