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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Why I consider Libya a revolutionary success story

Nader Hashemi, commenting on my response to Swanson, "who like many on the Left are living in a parallel universe" said: 
There is much more to say on the topic of Libya. The current chaos in that country is now a frequent talking point invoked by those who want to abandon the Syrian people.
As Nader is right, I think it worth repeating in my blog, what I replied to him as to why my view on Libya is "so far, so good" and that in spite of the chaos I consider it to be a big success story:

Consider that the revolutionaries were able to unite the country and form mostly grass roots self-defense forces into something like a people's army and defeat, on the battlefield, without the support of foreign troops, a well armed regime that had 40 years of uninterrupted dictatorship to entrench its rule and financial and military support from Russia and China.

They were able to enlist the air support of the main imperialist coalition, and yet largely remain in control of that relationship. They managed to use NATO in such a way as to avoid both NATO boots on the ground and massive lost of life and damage to infrastructure from NATO bombs, a remarkable feat that should be careful studied rather than derided.

They managed to restore oil production to 80% within 4 months after the fall of the regime and hold elections within 9 months. While there has been violence, overall the murder rate has been about half what it is in Chicago, there is no serious threat that Libya will be torn apart by sectarian violence or that the old regime will be restore.

With regards to our "friends" on the non-interventionist Left, those that have already abandoned the Syria people, we first must remember what they predicted about Libya in the beginning.
  • Massive loss of life from NATO "carpet bombing"  <- NEVER HAPPENED!!!
  • Huge bomb damage from NATO "carpet bombing"  <- NEVER HAPPENED!!!
  • A very long conflict <- NEVER HAPPENED!!!
  • A long guerilla war by Qaddafi supporters.  <- NEVER HAPPENED!!!
  • NATO boots on the ground.  <- NEVER HAPPENED!!!
  • AFRICOM HQ in Libya.   <- NEVER HAPPENED!!!
  • Take over of all the oil by US companies.  <- NEVER HAPPENED!!!
  • US puppet government, stacked with pro-western players.   <- NEVER HAPPENED!!!    
And so on. But do they examine the real outcome against their predictions and try to learn something? Of course not. They go off and trash the revolution anyway, but on a completely new basis. They know they opposed this revolution [What revolution they cry even now!] from the beginning so they know they oppose the outcome and especially the results of NATO military intervention. They don't have US boots on the ground or a puppet government to kick around so they claim there is no government and complain about all the violence and chaos, although you will never hear them make similar complaints about Venezuela, where the murder rate is ten times what it is in Libya.

But what they show to me, with all their carping about Libya today, is that at heart they are just liberals and oppose revolutions in the real world, because almost all their complaints about the Libyan revolution are really complaints about the revolutionary process in general. Take for example:

1) Libya is a failed state.
No, Libya is a country between states. This is what every successful revolution, without exception, must do. It must "smash the existing state machinery" and they must rebuild it. Usually rebuilding it from scratch is better, in the case of Libya, it is a necessity. This implies that where will be a period of no state followed by a weak state in every revolution. A period in which the old state no longer has a "monopoly of violence" and the new state has yet to obtain it.

2) The country is being torn apart by chaos and violence.
Part of what happens in periods like this is that while elements of the defeated state have been beaten, they are still around to make counter-revolutionary mischief. They did have a popular base, no matter how tiny, and they still have resources, so they can be expect to cause trouble for some time. There are other elements, like the jihadists who are now free to come out of the woodwork. Also criminals can be guaranteed to take advantage of any revolution to do their thing.

3) The country is awash with weapons and that has created regional instability.
Well, yes, the Tuareg fought for Qaddafi and he armed them well, after he was defeated, they broke into his arsenals, took even more weapons and took them all back home to Mali. One would hope this Left crowd would look at those developments and have the grace to admit that Qaddafi had African mercenaries fighting for him after all. One might blame Qaddafi or the international arms merchants that supplied him but no, this crowd blames the revolution for setting them loose. One might as well blame the needle for the puss oozing from the bole.

4) There are all of these armed militia that nobody controls.
While are are some criminal gangs and jihadists, most are revolutionary brigades that have a strong working class composition and developed in the revolutionary process. They have played a bigger role in keeping the peace than they have in creating the chaos. They see themselves as guarantors that the revolution will not be stolen and I think they are right. They are a true people's army and they control themselves.  As they see the type of state they were fighting for being constructed, they are dissolving into it. They are feared by those that fear an armed working class.

These are problems that will be faced by all revolutions. No doubt the Libyans could have handled things better, but you always have to move forward with what you have on hand. In any case, the co-called Left should be hanging its head in shame rather than complaining about the lack of socialist organization or "Marxist" clarity leading any of these struggle given how that Left has presented itself in recent decades and particular after it has so heartlessly turned its back on the revolutions in Libya and Syria.

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria


  1. As a Libyan...your observations in this article are true....the situation is not exactly perfect...but it certainly isn't the chaos some folks portray it to be.....I go to work daily in downtown tripoli, I return home for supper around 6 o'clock, I don't hear any shooting, I don't see any armed persons roaming the streets, people go about their business like another city in the world...we only hear of problems and violence on Facebook !!...so thats why most libyan have just turned off their Facebook accounts and just started to get on with their lives.......I mean, do people expect to come out of 42 years of tyranny in a blink of an eye....we are grateful that we even reached this point....if you watch the daily news....it seems the world has gone to hell !!!

    Tripoli, Libya

  2. So the revolution is a triumph. Two years on, and really the only thing that has changed is the emergence of yet another "liberal democracy" in the world.

    Whoopee. You can have 'em, for all I care anymore.

    Contrary to what you and Pham Binh claimed, my critical view of the Libyan revolution was not (at least not for long) predicated on "anti-imperialist" support for Qaddafi; it was predicated on pessimism as to whether or not the revolution would produce "left-wing" character, or do anything to promote workers power and social programs/welfare. So far, apart from ONE (yes, one) article I read about an oil strike (over a year ago), I have heard of nothing. I thus have no choice but to assume that the "revolution" has come screeching to a halt at the "liberal democracy" phase; the Libyan people are obviously happy to vote for "liberal" (read, free market capitalist) technocrats, some of them (like Mahmoud Jibril) former regime functionaries, and are disinterested in forming political parties that defend their welfare against neoliberalism. And said welfare? Is it any better than before, when it was abysmal? Not a peep from any source about this. I guess, as with most left-wingers in relation to Venezuela, the anti-anti-imperialist left (which I have come to agree with more and more over time, mostly out of disgust for the "anti-imperialist" left) is embarrassed that the 2 years of "peoples' revolution" of Libya has resulted in no advancement or development socialism in the region.

    I still support the Syrian revolution, but only because there exists the glimmer of hope (no matter how improbable) that it will develop a more leftist character in the future than the Libyan revolution.

  3. "we should compare Libya today to what Libya would have looked like if we hadn’t intervened. By that standard, the Libya intervention was successful: The country is better off today than it would have been had the international community allowed dictator Muammar Qaddafi to continue his rampage across the country."
    And by now his nuclear programme would be back on track and war with Israel pending. Assad would have felt even more emboldened, and Putin would now have 2 champions in the area.