On February 4th, when I first wrote about the Egyptian revolution, I pointed out how some elements of the left might be suckered into viewing it as an American-inspired “color revolution” since the April 6th Youth Movement had taken funds from the USA and had attended workshops led by Peter Ackerman, a venture capitalist who operates an NGO that has sponsored reactionary student movements in Venezuela and elsewhere.
Fortunately, most of the left has figured out how to see the big picture in Egypt and not be led astray by this kind of puppet-master conspiracy-mongering. Even Stephen Gowans, a blogger who has more or less made this line of inquiry a specialty, had the good sense to write this:
Unquestionably, [Gene] Sharp, the ex-cop, Ghonim, and the US government too, played a role in the Tahrir Square uprising, some remotely and indirectly, others more directly. But they alone weren’t the only ones who played a part. So too did Mubarak and his policies and the corruption of his son Gamal, as did Egypt’s military, the Muslim Brotherhood, food prices, the privatization of Egypt’s publically owned enterprises, bloggers, Israel, unemployment, Saudi Arabia, the police, millions of ordinary Egyptians, the media and a vast array of other events, people, relations and systems.
However, some forces on the left have adopted an entirely different attitude toward events in Libya. While not exactly having the temerity to endorse Qaddafi without reservations (who could, at this point?), they tend to focus more on what they perceive as threats to the “Libyan revolution” from a combination of external threats such as NATO and an internal fifth column.
While it is no longer much of a factor in the British left or internationally, the Workers Revolutionary Party that was formerly led by the late Gerry Healy and included Vanessa Redgrave in its ranks, put forward arguments that encapsulate this line of reasoning. While the News Line article is filled with vitriol against Qaddafi, it still sees him as the last hope against a Greater Evil: imperialism.
In fact, the aim of the right wing is to put Libya and its oil at the disposal of imperialism, and impose an Islamic state or states in place of the secular Libyan state – whatever the imperialist powers wish.
They have already proclaimed the Islamic Emirate of Benghazi, and declared that Gadaffi is an enemy of God and that it is the religious duty of every Libyan to rise up and kill him and his sons.
We urge the working class of the world to oppose the imperialist intervention into Libya that is being made, and the greater, possibly military intervention to come into the affairs of the Libyan people.
We urge the Libyan masses and youth to take their stand alongside Colonel Gadaffi to defend the gains of the Libyan revolution, and to develop it.
This can only be done by the defeat of the current rebellion and a major national discussion about the introduction of workers control and management of the Libyan economy and society, as well as the introduction of the political organs for exercising that political control and management.
Further, the Libyan workers must take their place as a leader of the revolutionary wave that is sweeping through North Africa.
This can only win through the establishment of the United Socialist States of North Africa.
It should be mentioned that when Gerry Healy was running the WRP, he was totally devoted to Qaddafi’s “revolution”. Some of this had to do with getting funding for his cult apparently, as this article reveals:
Convinced that he would soon be standing at head of a revolutionary government in Britain, Healy sought to build the international connections that would provide both the ‘resources’ for the struggle for power and also the alliances necessary to sustain the resulting socialist regime. A WRP delegation was reportedly sent to Libya in April 1976 to request money for a new printing press for the News Line, and Healy himself apparently visited in August 1977 in search of further financial assistance from the Libyan regime.4 Not surprisingly, adulatory articles about Colonel Gaddafi were one of the notable innovations of the new paper.
While there are almost no connections between Gerry Healy and Fidel Castro except for the fact that Healy split with the Fourth International over its support for the Cuban Revolution, the Cuban leader does appear to share some of News Line’s views. In a statement on Libya, Castro prefers to suspend judgment on Qaddafi until the “truth” is known:
One can agree with Gaddafi or not. The world has been invaded with all kinds of news, especially using the mass media. One has to wait the necessary length of time in order to learn precisely what is the truth and what are lies, or a mixture of events of every kind that, in the midst of chaos, were produced in Libya.
But he is sure that the Libyan despot has a solid anti-imperialist record:
The Libyan Revolution took place in the month of September of the year 1969. Its main leader was Muammar al-Gaddafi, a soldier of Bedouin origin who, in his early years, was inspired by the ideas of the Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser. Without any doubt, many of his decisions are associated with the changes that were produced when, as in Egypt, a weak and corrupt monarchy was overthrown in Libya.
As such, Castro’s main worry is that the West will invade Libya pursuing the same kinds of goals that led it to go to war with Egypt after the Suez Canal was invaded:
For me, what is absolutely clear is that the government of the United States is not in the least worried about peace in Libya and it will not hesitate in giving NATO the order to invade that rich country, perhaps in a matter of hours or a few short days.
One cannot escape the feeling that Fidel Castro is living in the past. At one time Libya was on the front lines in the struggle against imperialism, but as the British playwright once said: “That was in another country and besides the wench is dead”.
Even the WRP News Line article was forced to take into account newer realities:
The British ruling class from the 2004 meeting between Blair and Gadaffi in a tent in the desert, where he cooed sweet nothings into Gadaffi’s ear, in order to win big oil contracts, had been treating Gadaffi like a long-lost cousin.
However, it must be said about Gadaffi’s turn towards the UK – after all Blair is the Butcher of Iraq – that it resulted in an accommodation with BP and British imperialism, which enriched a section of the Libyan apparatus, and encouraged the neglect of the interests of the Libyan youth in particular.
Well, to say the least.
Back in 2006 the New Yorker Magazine ran a long article on Libya by Andrew Solomon titled Circle of Fire that really gives you a flavor of the changes taking place.
[Prime Minister Ghanem] Dr. Shukri, as he is called by those close to him and by those who pretend to be close to him–he has a Ph.D. in international relations from the Fletcher School, at Tufts–has a certain portly grandeur. With a neat mustache and a well-tailored suit, he exuded an effortless cosmopolitanism that seemed more conducive to facilitating Libya’s reentry into the world than to winning over the hard-line elements at home. When I arrived, he was sitting on a gilded sofa in a room furnished with Arabic reimaginings of Louis XVI furniture, before many trays of pastries and glasses of the inevitable mint tea. In the Libyan empire of obliquity, his clarity was refreshing, and his teasing irony seemed to acknowledge the absurdity of Libyan doubletalk.
I mentioned that many of his colleagues saw no need to hasten the pace of reform. This was clearly not his view. “Sometimes you have to be hard on those you love,” he said. “You wake your sleeping child so that he can get to school. Being a little harsh, not seeking too much popularity, is a better way.” He spoke of the need for pro-business measures that would reduce bureaucratic impediments and rampant corruption. “The corruption is tied to shortages, inefficiency, and unemployment,” the Prime Minister said. “Cutting red tape–there is resistance to it. There is some resistance in good faith and some in bad faith.”
Nor was he inclined to defer to the regime’s egalitarian rhetoric. “Those who can excel should get more–having a few rich people can build a whole country,” he said. Qaddafi’s “Green Book” decreed that people should be “partners, not wage workers,” but it is not easy to make everyone a partner, the Prime Minister observed. “People don’t want to find jobs. They want the government to find them jobs. It’s not viable.”
In reality, the Libyan economy has both satisfied Shukri Ghanem’s expectations while not creating jobs. Unemployment is at 30 percent and has hit youth particularly hard, a factor in the uprisings throughout the Arab world.
Despite allowing British oil companies in, Libya still had an image problem. When it sought outside help, it looked to figures with knowhow on imperialist machinations. After all, they had a lifetime of experience, as politico.com reports:
One of the more unlikely figures to have advised a firm which has worked to burnish Libya’s image and grow its economy is not registered with the Justice Department. Prominent neoconservative Richard Perle, the former Reagan-era Defense Department official and George W. Bush-era chairman of the Defense Policy Board, traveled to Libya twice in 2006 to meet with Qadhafi, and afterward briefed Vice President Dick Cheney on his visits, according to documents released by a Libyan opposition group in 2009.
Perle traveled to Libya as a paid adviser to the Monitor Group, a prestigious Boston-based consulting firm with close ties to leading professors at the Harvard Business School. The firm named Perle a senior adviser in 2006.
The Monitor Group described Perle’s travel to Libya and the recruitment of several other prominent thinkers and former officials to burnish Libya’s and Qadhafi’s image in a series of documents obtained and released by a Libyan opposition group, the National Conference of the Libyan Opposition, in 2009.
The Monitor Group did not return phone calls left at its Boston offices Monday. But Monitor describes, in a series of documents published by the National Conference of the Libyan Opposition in 2009, an “action plan” to “introduce and bring to Libya a meticulously selected group of independent and objective experts” who would be invited to Libya, meet senior officials, hold lectures, attend workshops, and write articles that would more positively portray Libya and its controversial ruler.
A 2007 Monitor memo named among the prominent figures it had recruited to travel to Libya and meet with Qadhafi “as part of the Project to Enhance the Profile of Libya and Muammar Qadhafi” Perle, historian Francis Fukuyama, Princeton Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis, famous Nixon interviewer David Frost, and MIT media lab founder Nicholas Negroponte, the brother of former deputy secretary of state and director of national intelligence John Negroponte.
With such talents working to prettify Libya’s image, one doubts that Qaddafi has much need for the unpaid services of the WRP or Fidel Castro.