MRZine appears to be the latest entrant in the anti-anti-Qaddafi current on the left. The use of the term “anti-anti” is appropriate since the grounds for being “pro”-Qaddafi nowadays are so tenuous.
I have found the term “anti-anti” useful over the years. I first heard it in Lillian Hellman’s memoir “Scoundrel Time” when she referred to the anti-anti-fascist left. It also pretty much describes people like Marc Cooper, David Corn and Michael Bérubé who wrote article after article red-baiting the anti-war movement while including pro forma statements from time to time about how wicked the invasion of Iraq was. As anti-anti-war activists, there was not much to distinguish them from all-out supporters of the war like Christopher Hitchens.
In the case of the left, we have pro-forma statements about Qaddafi that serve to establish the bona fides of the author. For example, the Party of Socialism and Liberation (PSL) editorialized: “the Libyan government has ushered in neoliberal reforms that have stripped social programs and subsidies for the poor and increasingly turned over the country’s oil wealth to foreign corporations.” But what one hand giveth, the same hand taketh away. In the same article they state: “Protesters have hoisted Libya’s first national flag, that of the exploitative, U.S.-backed monarch King Idris (1951-1969) over the areas they have seized. Some in the Libyan exile community consciously call for the return of the Idris monarchy, but it is unclear how deeply this sentiment runs among those in revolt.”
Don’t you love that little business about “it is unclear how deeply”? The authors must have learned that from reading Time Magazine where it is often deployed on behalf of assertions like “It is unclear how deeply Noam Chomsky endorses the holocaust denial sentiments of the book whose author he defended.”
We should add in the case of MRZine that it is difficult to ascertain upon whose behalf editor Yoshie Furuhashi is speaking since the website functions pretty much as her personal blog. We know that her effusions for the Iranian clerical dictatorship was enough to prompt an outraged letter from dozens of Iranian leftists in exile and Barbara Epstein’s resignation from the magazine’s editorial board. My impression is that MR chief and éminence grise John Bellamy Foster is too preoccupied with his professional pursuits to pay much attention. It is more likely that John Mage endorses this nonsense although being too savvy to write his own apologetics for Ahmadinejad under his own name.
Like the PSL, Furuhashi ensures her readers that she is not for Qaddafi in the first sentence of her article: “As everyone knows, Muammar Gaddafi is an authoritarian dictator.” Once this disclaimer is out of the way (reminiscent of those that appear at the end of anti-depressant commercials—”continued use might lead to your head exploding”), she can then roll up her sleeves and make the case implicitly that a color revolution is underway.
Mostly this is done by dredging up every tarnished figure who is angling to lead the people’s struggle. In doing so, she shows a dedication to the cause that far exceeds the PSL comrades who could only turn up the supposedly royalist flag flying at Benghazi rallies:
As the fate of Libya was being discussed by the powers represented in the NATO and the UN Security Council yesterday, among those most fervently calling for no-fly zones were Libya’s own UN ambassadors turned defectors, Abdurrahman Mohammed Shalgham and Ibrahim Dabbashi, making the same demand as the National Conference of Libyan Opposition (NCLO), an umbrella group of major Libyan exile organizations including the Libyan Constitutional Union (led by the so-called “Crown Prince” of Libya) and the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL, a tool of the CIA and Saudi Arabia during the Cold War).
Wow, scary stuff.
Not surprisingly, she aligns herself with “Latin American socialists” rather than obscure formations like the dregs of the Healyite movement in Britain or the vanishingly tiny PSL in the USA. After all, who can take exception to MRZine when it is on the side of the people referred to in the link for Latin American socialists below?
Thus it fell to a few good Latin American socialists to do what they could to argue the case of Libya and defend its right to self-determination — that is, the right of the Libyan people, those who are for, against, or indifferent to the soon-to-be former Libyan regime, to sort out their own affairs, free from NATO or any other foreign troops — in the court of world public opinion.
As it turns out, the link is to a google search on Ortega + Castro + Chavez + Morales. For Ortega, it is a bit more than defending the right for self-determination. On the president’s website, he issued a statement that said Qaddafi is “waging a great battle, seeking dialogue but defending the integrity of the nation.” Perhaps this has something to do with Libya forgiving Nicaragua’s 200 million dollar debt last week but I will forgo using the weaselly “it is unclear”.
I have already discussed Fidel Castro’s errant thinking on Libya in another post but want to turn my attention now to Hugo Chavez, one of those “Latin American socialists” that Comrade Furuhashi uses as a cudgel against leftists having a bit too much enthusiasm for the anti-Qaddafi revolt.
Nicholas Kozloff reports on what is much more than a marriage of convenience apparently:
WikiLeaks cables lay bare the tight diplomatic and political alliance between Qaddafi and Chávez. In 2009, the U.S. Embassy in Caracas wrote Washington about an African-South American summit held on the Venezuelan island of Margarita. Chávez had called the meeting in an effort to highlight the historic unity between long-oppressed continents, though such public relations efforts were severely undermined by the roster of participants which included autocrats like Qaddafi and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. According to U.S. diplomats, Chávez and Qaddafi congratulated each other on their “revolutions” during the ceremonies. From there, the rhetoric got more and more ridiculous. “The meeting with Gaddafi,” U.S. diplomats wrote, “provided the opportunity for rhetorical assaults on capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism.”
Bizarrely, Chávez declared “What Simon Bolívar [the Great Liberator of South American independence against the Spanish] is to the Venezuelan people, Gaddafi is to the Libyan people.” Qaddafi then praised Chávez for “having driven out the colonialists,” just as he had driven out those in Libya. “We share the same destiny, the same battle in the same trench against a common enemy, and we will conquer,” Qaddafi said. As if these exchanges were not preposterous enough, Chávez then took advantage of the occasion to award Qaddafi the “Orden del Libertador,” Venezuela’s highest civilian decoration, and presented the Libyan leader with a replica of Simon Bolívar’s sword.
Now it should be clearly understood that there is nothing wrong with forming alliances with Zimbabwe, Iran or Libya. Countries that are trying to develop a foreign policy independent of imperialism will by necessity adopt a kind of socialist realpolitik. When the government of Mexico made the streets run red with the blood of student protesters in 1968, it was understandable why Cuba remained silent. When Cuba had few friends in Latin America, Mexico’s PRI had a shred enough of remaining nationalism to stand up to the OAS and trade with Cuba. Furthermore, Cuba was in its rights to maintain diplomatic relations with Spain when Franco was dictator. Beggars cannot be choosers.
What is not acceptable is elevating despots like Mugabe, Qaddafi and Ahmadinejad into revolutionaries even though they have had confrontations with imperialism. We are not trying to build an anti-imperialist movement. Our goal instead is to build a socialist movement, which is alone capable of ridding the world of capitalism. In the final analysis, imperialism is the latest stage of capitalism and not some new economic system.
Finally, to look for simon-pure working class revolution in the Arab world in which elements like the National Conference of Libyan Opposition are not “players” is a sure sign that you do not understand how revolutions unfold. In many ways, these struggles from Libya to Egypt to Tunisia are like the revolution that put Kerensky into power. Despite Kerensky’s willingness to continue WWI and to deny peasants their land, the Bolsheviks defended his government against Kornilov and saw it as an advance against Czarism. Sadly, most of the ultraleft attacks on the mass movement in Libya can be read as an implicit endorsement of Qaddafi. When MRZine tells us that Ortega has the right understanding of what is going on Libya, what other conclusion can be drawn?
Lenin warned against seeing revolutions as some kind of pure proletarian struggle for power in which all the good guys line up against all the bad ones. After the Easter Rebellion of 1916, Lenin took on Leon Trotsky and Karl Radek who were concerned about the presence of “bourgeois” forces in the Irish struggle. Lenin replied:
On May 9, 1916, there appeared, in Berner Tagwacht, the organ of the Zimmerwald group, including some of the Leftists, an article on the Irish rebellion entitled “Their Song is Over” and signed with the initials K.R. [Karl Radek]. It described the Irish rebellion as being nothing more nor less than a “putsch”, for, as the author argued, “the Irish question was an agrarian one”, the peasants had been pacified by reforms, and the nationalist movement remained only a “purely urban, petty-bourgeois movement, which, notwithstanding the sensation it caused, had not much social backing…”
To imagine that social revolution is conceivable without revolts by small nations in the colonies and in Europe, without revolutionary outbursts by a section of the petty bourgeoisie without all its prejudices, without a movement of the politically non-conscious proletarian and semi-proletarian masses against oppression by the landowners, the church, and the monarchy, against national oppression, etc.–to imagine all this is to repudiate social revolution. So one army lines up in one place and says, “We are for socialism”, and another, somewhere else and says, “We are for imperialism”, and that will be a social revolution! Only those who hold such a ridiculously pedantic view would vilify the Irish rebellion by calling it a “putsch”.