No doubt must subsist: this March’s NATO military deployment in Libya, approved by the UN—in which Canada is involved—does not have any legitimacy based on humanitarian objectives. It does not aim to spare Libyan bloodshed, to protect the people from a mad tyrant’s vindication; it cannot contribute to the emancipation of the country’s oppressed masses. In the contrary, this operation is an imperialist aggression revealing the fact that imperialist powers, whom have for years held Arab countries as puppets, intend to maintain their position in the midst of recent and ongoing turmoil. This aggression must be denounced as such and fought by all progressive forces, especially for revolutionaries.
The wave of destabilization of Arab regimes has hit Libya in mid-February. An agitation against Colonel Gaddafi’s government was then set in motion, inspired by the Arab revolts in almost every surrounding country, from Morocco to Syria. The events, however, unfolded in a way fairly different from those of Egypt and Tunisia; there was a palace revolution under the rising pressure of demonstrations and general strikes.
The conflict rapidly took the appearance of a full-blown civil war and the perspective of a democratic mass movement was eclipsed by military clashes between two factions of the bourgeoisie. Between these candidates for state control, the imperialist vultures quickly picked sides and immediately took on their prey, not leaving any room for doubt as to their will to maintain the Libyan people and its resources under their control.
The meaning of the Arab world revolts
In Libya as in every Arab country, the revolts of past weeks reveal and contrast simultaneously the strength and weakness of the proletariat and popular classes in facing the present conjuncture. Their strength because we were able to witness that when fear no longer stands in the way, the people’s anger, built up through decades of misery and oppression, expresses itself collectively and finally soars, in its wake destabilizing what are believed to be the most solid and authoritarian regimes in a matter of weeks. These regimes now show their true colors: the ramparts of a tiny minority’s interest, slave to diverse imperialisms. Their weakness because the popular classes have not yet managed to truly take lead of their revolt, to push the political crisis in such a way that it leads to a true revolutionary struggle.
In the short run, the Arab street uprisings have shed light and aggravated the contradictions existing amongst the upper classes and hence provoked clashes between diverse factions. In Egypt and Tunisia, these clashes have manifested themselves as the overthrowing of dictators in place followed by a relatively stable transition to the next bourgeois faction (“an orderly transition,” according to president Obama). In Libya, such a transition appears impossible. State integrity is radically compromised and the clash has taken an armed and bloody turn.
We cannot report all of the country’s upper classes’ tensions and contradictions in a single analysis. Each country has its history, its people, its resources, its social structures, its political strengths; the political crisis’ many and different deployments assuredly confirm this.
In Egypt, there seems to be a confrontation between a comprador faction of the bourgeoisie, meaning a bureaucratic bourgeoisie directly linked with the penetration of imperialist interests in the country, and a national bourgeoisie, whose capital is closely tied to interior markets and development of national economy. The comprador bourgeoisie had the upper hand under Hosni Mubarak and his son Gamal’s government. It was taking advantage of the opening of markets to exterior capital and the dismantlement of state-governed sectors of economy, part of the measures dictated by the IMF and the World Bank put in place many years ago but greatly accelerated in the mid-2000s.
The national bourgeoisie is mostly represented by army officials. They are heirs of the state capitalism developed by Nasser in the 1950-60s. Their interests have been threatened by the savage and rising integration of Egyptian economy in the world market as well as competition of exterior capital. To this group is equally added private capital from prominent Egyptian businessmen. This specific faction is responsible for overthrowing Mubarak and his closest collaborators in favor of the popular uprising, which led to the “democratic” reforms with which it hopes to appease the anger of the masses.
Obviously, the army and national bourgeoisie are not revolutionaries, they are not even patriotic. They won’t shatter their alliance with US imperialism nor will they threaten its interests. They will simply seek to bring back political and economical stability and maybe renegotiate the terms of the imperialist domination to their advantage. The imperialist powers do not feel threatened by these political and social forces. After a short hesitation, the USA have encouraged the downfall of old Mubarak and have preferred wagering on forces better resolved to restore status quo.
The stakes are different in Libya. The Gaddafi regime’s main asset is oil. It annually generates a vast and manna-like income. Hence, the contradictions amidst the upper classes stem from a regional disparity in oil income sharing. The country’s east side, of which Benghazi is the main city, has long been neglected by the authority of Tripoli to the west. The bulk of the resources and oil related infrastructures are, however, located in the east. It is also in the east that resistance to Italian colonialism has its cradle in the 1930s and that the monarchy, overthrown by Gaddafi in 1969, had its stronghold. It is not by chance that the 2011 rebellion chose the 1969 monarchy’s flag as its emblem.
It is also from the eastern part of the country, Cyrenaica, and more specifically Benghazi, that grew this rebellion against Gaddafi, rebellion which has taken control of most of the territory.
Rapidly put under commandment of past collaborators now dissidents of the dictator, the rebellion took with it a chunk of the rotting Libyan state: a part of the national army and its arsenal as well as, no doubt, a significant part of its political personnel. It has rallied the support of tribal clans. It no longer represents a movement of spontaneous revolt of the masses, as it might have during its first steps in February. It now appears under the firm control of a regional fraction of the Libyan bourgeoisie—represented by the National Transitional Council—and has come to be its instrument in a faction struggle over national resource sharing.
The imperialists impose their will over the Libyan crisis with military force
The imperialist powers—United States, France, Britain, Italy and Canada—have chosen to push on the Libyan crisis in a stronger manner than they did in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, etc. The brutal repression, which was Gaddafi’s answer to the first moves of the revolt, has given them a pretext to deploy military force in hopes to recover the rebellion’s fighting chance.
In spite of this, the aggression of which the imperialist powers are responsible must not cloud our judgment on the nature of Gaddafi’s regime. Whatever some may think, there is no anti-imperialist resistance figure that is attacked through his character. In the context of the cold war, Colonel Gaddafi was aligned with the USSR and has abundantly fuelled anti-imperialist rhetoric. Driven by Arab nationalism, he has followed the example of his mentor, Egyptian general Nasser, in nationalizing oil, ergo creating a form of state capitalism. In this regard, he might have actually improved living conditions for the Libyan people. He has, however, never been the leader of a true socialist revolution but instead, has been, at most, the leading figure of a bourgeois nationalist resistance. Furthermore, with the disappearance of the USSR and the coming of occidental hegemony in the Arab world in the 1990s, he has, too, fallen in submission and accepted his role as relay in neo-colonial domination.
What the imperialists are trying to shake off is a bad ally, an eccentric, troublesome and unpredictable subordinate. A servant whom does not possess, as his neighbors do, the decency to back down when the right moment comes up and is ready to drag his country in civil war to keep his position, even for a short while. Gaddafi was received as a friend in most European countries no more than a few months ago. As the “Arab spring” comes, it seems he is no longer the man of the hour.
NATO’s military intervention can bear no hopes of emancipation for the Libyan people. On the contrary, it can only amplify the imperialist domination over the country. Even if the National Transition Council would triumph with this outside “aid,” it would be unable to form anything more than a new client regime to the capitalists of the United States, Canada, Europe and China. The Council would be indebted towards them and not the popular uprising. Considering the speed with which Sarkozy’s France recognized the National Transition Council’s self-claimed legitimacy, we cannot doubt that it has already sold its people and resources, even before they have been “liberated” from Gaddafi’s dictatorship.
The wind of revolt announces the storm of revolution
It is far too early to draw conclusions from the formidable and successive uprisings of the Arab masses of 2011. Every day, the news confirm that its first wave has not even finished emerging—rising tensions in Yemen, growing agitation in Syria, etc. Even in Egypt and Tunisia, where things seem to be quieting down after the first stages of the “democratic transition,” chances are more social and political crises, deeper and more meaningful, will explode in the near future.
Even if the bourgeoisie was able to maintain its power with sacrifices of its most compromised, most associated with popular oppression elements and promises of political reforms, elections and parliamentary democracy will not solve the fundamental issues which have driven the proletarian and petit-bourgeois youth to riot. It will not create jobs, will not reduce exterior debts, will not improve access to food and will not fund public services. For this to be possible, the position of the Arab countries in the international division of labor must be radically rethought. Only a proletarian revolution is capable of this.
And so, in spite of its present limits, the Arab revolt is extremely positive. It brings forth a new climate of struggle which will deepen and shake, with increasing intensity, the strong points of the region’s imperialist order, in its passage threatening its Zionist agent. A new generation of Arab masses is now bulked by the legitimacy and knowledge of its rebellion and collective power. The next times it rises, it will not be clouded by illusions of democratic calls. It will not attack the dictatorship of a single tyrant, but rather that of a social class: the bourgeoisie in its entirety. We have to hope for the emergence and establishment of revolutionary communist forces capable of leading such a struggle.
What is certain is that it is amongst its own ranks and through its own class struggle experiences that the Libyan people will find the strength and leadership which are necessary to its liberation from the national, comprador and imperialist factions of the bourgeoisie. It cannot be otherwise. The internationalist duty for any consequent revolutionary from a country like Canada is to organize the struggle against rapine wars, occupations imposed on the Libyan, Afghani and Haitian people by our government as well as its support to dozens of corrupt and despotic regimes across the globe.
Let us denounce Canadian imperialist aggression!
Let us organize the revolutionary struggle in Canada now!