Sunday, 23 October 2011

As Gaddafi falls - Lessons from Libya - imperialism, anti-imperialism & democratic revolution

With Al Jazerra reporting that Gaddafi has been killed during or after the closing phase of the battle of Sitre Andrew look's back at the rebellion in Libya and the decade of co-operation with imperialism that preceeded it.

The sudden end of the Gaddafi regime some 6 months after the start of the Libyan revolt leaves some difficult questions unanswered for the left. Gaddafi’s determination to physically crush the revolt quickly transformed it into a civil war, a civil war that saw considerable imperialist intervention on the rebel side, intervention that was essential to their eventual victory. 

This and Gaddafi’s historic record led to some on the left taking his side in the civil war while other organisations tried to balance support for the ‘Arab spring’s’ arrival in Libya with opposition to imperialism. This question of where the balance lies between international solidarity with pro-democracy movements and opposition to imperialism could well rapidly return to the top of the agenda in a very much bigger way as the regime in Syria continues its months long military suppression of the democracy movement there.

The spread of the Arab democratic revolution to Libya and the subsequent intervention by imperialist airpower against Gaddafi led to a major and heated debate on the revolutionary left on the question of imperialism. The very complexity of the situation in Libya means that as well as the specifics of this war and revolution it provides a useful starting point for a re-examination of what has become traditional anti-imperialism. Libya like Rwanda, Srebrenica and more rhetorically Palestine has become one of those recent conflicts where many argue for rather than against intervention.

Part of this is down to a standard dogmatic polarization between pro-intervention liberals who think the bombs are being dropped to protect Libyans on the one hand and on the other the nationalists and hard core Leninist’s who think Gadaffi's past make him an enemy of imperialism today. Neither pole has much to say of relevance to those who found themselves facing Gaddafi's tanks outside Benghazi at the start of the revolt with little more than AK47's to stop them. But much more reasoned argument for and against intervention has been made by commentators with a strong record like Gilbert Achcar who argued for intervention and Noam Chomsky who argued against.

Articles Continues: