Stage Two of the Libyan Revolution

by A Libyan Rebel, Tripoli Brigade on September 26, 2012

Here’s a quick and relatively accurate description of what happened:

The popular demonstrations that took place in Benghazi recently were not haphazard and not a reaction to any single incident or event. Since the killing of Libya’s tyrant and official declaration of liberation, the Libyan people began calling for the next stage in their revolution which is state building.

Naturally, the first step in state building is free, democratic elections to choose a government that represents the will of the people and building a strong army and police. After a long struggle and despite the hardships, Libyans were able to coalesce around each other and pull off successful and unprecedented parliamentary elections.

After the elections, people began calling for the dismantling of the many rogue brigades still not under government control and merging them with the newly formed military and police. During the revolution, there was an estimated 50,000 revolutionary fighters, but after the official end of the war and due to the abundance of weapons, that number skyrocketed to over a 100,000, most of whom never saw battle. These additional armed individuals formed countless militias taking advantage of the security vacuum left by the war. A lot of these groups harbored criminals, drug dealers, and kidnapping gangs that reaped havoc on locals. After months of this dire situation, people became increasingly anxious and frustration was constantly being voiced to the government. The weakness of the government, however, and its inability to make decisions, meant no solutions to the crisis.

The attack on the U.S. consulate and the passing of the late Chris Stevens was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Libyans Attempt to Save Chris Steven’s Life after Consulate Fire in Benghazi
The act of attacking guests of Libya and the resulting death of a good friend of the Libyan people highlighted the fragility of the state and the danger these militias posed.

Being the first to be liberated, Benghazi saw the longest presence for these brigades and was the first to move toward putting an end to this reality. The big demonstration on September 21, 2012 did just that.


It was a peaceful demonstration calling for the dismantling of all brigades who had not joined the army and police and asked them to leave city. By sundown, most demonstrators and their families returned to their homes but some of the anxious youth decided to take matters into their hands and physically force the brigades out of their compounds. The biggest former revolutionary brigade that refused to be part of the new state was “Ansar Al-Sharia” (which is also rumored to have been involved in the U.S. consulate attack) was the first to be approached by demonstrators. The brigade, knowing that it was a target of the wrath of the protesters and to prevent bloodshed, quickly packed up its gear; by the time the protesters arrived, its members had left the city. Feeling the power of the crowds, the protesters quickly moved to another brigade called “Abu-Salim Martyrs Brigade” which, after little resistance, also left the city.

 

The Jado Brigade voluntarily disarms.

By this time, the protesters had achieved their goals and the city of Benghazi was clear of all brigades not under government control.

Jibril

At this point, the protesters should have gone home but it seems that the demonstration took a political tone, with many of the lads praising the former liberal presidential candidate Mahmoud Jibril and chanting slogans against his opponents from religious-leaning groups. One of the latter individuals is Isma’el Sallabi and he commands the biggest and most powerful brigade in Benghazi called the “Rafallah Shati Brigade”. This brigade played a very significant role in defending Benghazi against Ghadafi’s “convoy of death” and gave many martyrs in the fight for liberation. This brigade had long been integrated in the Libyan National Army and, unlike the brigades mentioned earlier, it believes in the democratic state and the choices of the Libyan people. For this reason, the brigade never expected that the crowds would turn on it and thus never made arrangements to leave their compound.

As the crowd neared, the head of the army and president of Libya urged the demonstrators not to approach the brigade, as it is a legitimate state entity and a major bastion of stability in the city. The crowd, now including many armed individuals, ignored all warnings and continued toward the compound. As the crowd began throwing stones and setting fires near the building, the besieged brigade members began shooting in the air in attempt to disperse them. Instead of dispersing, however, armed individuals within the crowd (some of whom were former Ghadafi military and security personnel) began firing into the compound and a clash broke out that resulted in a several fatalities and a few dozen injuries.

To prevent further bloodshed, Rafallah Shati brigade members packed up whatever heavy weapons they had and left the building. They returned the next morning only to find that thousands of arms and loads of ammunition belonging the National Army were looted. They arrested those found in the compound and setup checkpoints in the perimeter of the building to try recover what weapons they could.

As unfortunate as the ending to this event was, we as Libyans see this demonstration as a direct reflection of the mood on the street. The government needs to take immediate action to disband the remainder of rogue militias in the country and build a strong national army a strong police force.

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Brian S. September 30, 2012 at 11:09 am

A very valuable post that provides interesting insight into this important event in the history of Libya. I agree with the view that this has the potential to mark the start of the “next stage in the Libyan revolution”, which will centre around the construction of effective democratic institutions. And what is striking is that it has been initiated by the Libyan people, who have always been the main driving force in this great upheaval. Of course, Libya in not home free yet – there are big problems to be resolved – reconstruction, the tensions between the majority of the population who enthusiastically support the revolution, and the minorities who continued to have some attachment to the old regime, at least passively, until the very end. But the combination of developing democratic institutions and a people committed to national unity and popular participation promises to be a powerful instrument for the political and social reconstruction of Libya.
I hope this poster will continue to provide us with further information and observations.

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Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp September 30, 2012 at 3:21 pm

So much for Libya being “militia-stan”:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/30/libyan-civilians-weapons_n_1926572.html

I wonder what off-the-wall B.S. the Libyan revolution’s detractors will make up next to keep their doom-and-gloom narrative up.

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Diana Barahona September 30, 2012 at 7:54 pm

“… over 800 citizens handed in weapons at the main collection point.” A mere two hundred of these were militia members and some were children who brought bullets they had found in the street. This is out of an estimated 200,000 Libyans who are armed. Not to mention the fact that thousands of Libyans have been given state-of-the art weapons and paid by Qatar to wage war in Syria–not that any of those weapons would ever find their way back to Libya!
When the L.A. Sheriff’s Department wanted to reduce the weaponry in the streets they paid money for guns. Although Associated Press doesn’t mention how much money the government offered for this little show, I would be very surprised if there were no compensation. But we all know that militias are not going to turn in weapons they need. The fact that they got what they did is only evidence that the country is awash in weapons, thanks to U.S./NATO/Qatari imperialism.

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Brian S. October 1, 2012 at 7:48 am

@Diana
re Libyan guns.You say that 200, 000 Libyans are armed (seems a credible figure to me). Allowing for multiple weapons ownership that would represent somewhere around 1 milllion weapons in the country or 17 per 100 population, with about 17% of Libyan households owning guns. The United States on the other hand (in 1st place) has 270 million guns in civilian ownership, 88 per 100 population with 45% of households armed. “why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”
Of course there is much heavier weaponry in non-government hands in Libya than the US: but the bulk of it (75-85%) is in the hands of organised and well-disciplined militia groups who have an agreed relationship with the government, providing security while new government and state institutions are being built
re Syria: “thousands of Libyans have been given state-of-the art weapons and paid by Qatar to wage war in Syria” Standard question to people who make claims like this – so where are they? Where are the dozens of Syrian fighters and attack helicopters that would be downed if the FSA and its allies had “state of the art (or even second-hand) anti-aircraft weapons?

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Diana Barahona September 30, 2012 at 7:41 pm

From Oriental Review, Russia: “Today Libya is being torn in parts by the rivaling tribes. During Gaddafi’s rule it was a confederation of tribes mostly loyal to central authority. Now they are not. Eastern tribes have already declared factual secession and ignored the parliamentary elections. They are trying to pocket the revenues of gas and oil fields exploration on their territories. One of the most economically prosperous countries of Maghreb is rapidly turning into Afghanistan or Somalia.” http://www.voltairenet.org/Anti-American-Autumn-Follows-the

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Louis Proyect September 30, 2012 at 9:34 pm

From Oriental Review, Russia:

The title of this publication says it all…

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Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp October 1, 2012 at 9:37 am

Comrade Diana is not familiar with terms like Orientalism. It’s not in the conspiracy theory handbook.

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Brian S. October 1, 2012 at 8:10 am

I don’t know if anyone has noticed that the main source for the article in this link is so deeply mired in Stalinism that its title reads like something out of the Moscow trials: “Libya: Permanent Chaos a.k.a. Permanent Revolution”
“Eastern tribes have already declared factual secession and ignored the parliamentary elections. ” – Diana, do you have any idea what this is talking about? What a load of claptrap.

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Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp October 1, 2012 at 9:36 am

Turns out your boy Assad sold out your man Ghadafi to save his own skin:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/9577628/Bashar-al-Assad-betrayed-Col-Gaddafi-to-save-his-Syrian-regime.html

Which of these regimes is anti-imperialist again? I get them mixed up since they both tortured people for Bush Jr.

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Arthur October 1, 2012 at 11:05 am

This story just sounds like gossip. Western intelligence services would not need Syrian assistance to find out Gaddafi’s satellite phone number. Satellite telecos are required to cooperate.

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Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp October 1, 2012 at 12:31 pm

You think Ghadafi registered that phone number using his real name with a telephone company? You haven’t provided any grounds to dismiss the reporting and information sources except your own skepticism.

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Arthur October 2, 2012 at 10:54 pm

Intelligence agencies take great interest in people using satellite phones.

BTW “gossip” stories are inevitable in situations like this. There is no reason to treat such “sources” as reporting.

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Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp October 3, 2012 at 11:26 am

Of course they take great interest, but confirming who is physically handling a given phone is not that easy when said persons do not want to be found. If it was that easy, bin Laden would have been tracked and killed years ago. They went through a very long process of tracking him down through his associates and their use of cell phones. They didn’t just call up the phone company and ask, “which one of these guys is bin Laden’s courier?”

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Arthur October 3, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Satellite phones are a much narrower population than cell phones. (Term refers to handset that communicates directly with satellite not with local teleco – for use in remote areas).

Routine traffic analysis would note satellite phone calls between Libya and Syria and analyse their contents.

Both Assad and Gaddafi are public speakers whose voice patterns would be picked up easily by automatic recognition software.

(Although I am not aware of any reliable indication that phone calls had anything to do with Gaddafi’s capture).

BTW It has been widely noted that a major factor in Bin Laden’s survival for so long was his extreme communications security.

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Brian S. October 1, 2012 at 1:56 pm

This story seems to have originated with Mahmoud Jibril (although not the Syrian connection) and been supplemented by el-Obeidi’s interviews with several western papers. Its got caught up in the fog of the internet, so its difficult to check out his bona fides. I’d just say that there is a lot of politicking going on in Libya at the moment, as you might expect, and this may be connected to it. Best to let the dust settle (and keep the b/s antennae up).
Talking of which, the political discussion over the future constitution seems to be getting underway, with a rather surprising comment by the President of the GNC: http://www.libyaherald.com/?p=15432

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Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp October 3, 2012 at 11:27 am
Aaron Aarons October 3, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Thanks to people like Fahed Bakoush, U.S. agents can feel a little bit safer while carrying on their work on behalf of the Empire.

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Aaron Aarons October 3, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Has Louis Proyect been put in charge of ‘moderating’ here? Apparently, my comment questioning the qualifications as a ‘rebel’ of someone who sees the next stage of the ‘Libyan revolution’ as requiring that the government “build a strong national army a strong police force” was too much for somebody controlling this site.

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admin October 3, 2012 at 4:32 pm

If he was, 99% of your comments would never make it. Be thankful.

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Aaron Aarons October 3, 2012 at 4:45 pm

So, why was my comment deleted, if it wasn’t done by the ‘schmuck’/’asshole’ (his favorite epithets) Louis Proyect?

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admin October 5, 2012 at 3:02 pm

You, like Tony, tend to lace substantive comments with personalistic attacks on others. Many of his comments were removed for the same reason.

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Aaron Aarons October 7, 2012 at 3:15 am

At least Tony and I, unlike Louis, do include substantive comments with our alleged personal attacks. But I’m not sure what part of my original, censored, comment was a ‘personal attack’. Perhaps referring to the anonymous ‘LIBYAN REBEL’ author as a ‘faux-rebel’, and using quotes from his article to justify that characterization?

Quite frankly, I’m surprised, given the generally open editorial policy here, that my comment was censored. I guess I’ll find somewhere else to post it, with a link to this page.

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Brian S. October 3, 2012 at 6:33 pm

@AaronAarons Any revolution that is to have lasting achievements must be institutionalised in some way or another. And its in the nature of a revolution that its going to inherit serious security problems (because where you have revolutions you have counter-revolutionaries of various sorts) – so that means that the construction of effective security institutions will be a key part of that process. As post-Gaddafi Libya shows, “weak” security structures do no one any good except the counter-revolution. The challenge will be to construct those institutions in a way that preserves the democratic and popular spirit of the revolution: that’s one reason why I didn’t rush to join the western chorus (including most of the so-called “anti-imperialists”) who decried the continuing role of the revolutionary militias. But its clearly necessary to move beyond that phase now, towards the creation of effective (“strong” if you will) state institutions. But the big question is, what will be the source of that strength? For “rebels”, I hope it will be democratic legitimacy and popular accountability.

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Aaron Aarons October 4, 2012 at 4:50 am

Thanks for responding, Brian, to the short version of my comment. Unless you are one of the managers of this site, you presumably didn’t see the long version.

The state that is being consolidated in Libya is and will be a capitalist state. While the special situation of Libya’s great oil wealth might make it possible to allow for a well-fed working class that doesn’t have to be violently repressed, it is more likely that a large part of the working class will be Black African migrants, including some from the South of Libya itself, and workers from South Asia, while most Arab Libyans, at least, may wind up constituting a privileged rentier stratum, similar to the ‘indigenous’ inhabitants of places like Kuwait and Dubai, and as they themselves did to a great extent under Gaddafi.

So the new Libya will be a class-divided society (where the privileges of citizenship and race will be a big part of the mix), and the “special bodies of armed men” (and perhaps even a few women!) will serve at various times to defend the interests of the privileged against internal and external threats to that privilege.

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Brian S. October 4, 2012 at 9:14 am

@AaronAarons:” The state that is being consolidated in Libya is and will be a capitalist state.” I’ll accept that verdict as a working proposition, because I don’t want to get caught up in theoretical intricacies. But even within that framework I would suggest that there is a wide variety of types of capitalist states, some ruthlessly oppressive some significantly less so. And the latter provide important space for the mobilisation, articulation, and sometimes reflection of the needs of subordinate social classes and oppressed groups. That is what I am hoping Libya will develop towards, and I think there are several positive indicators that this is possible, although serious obstacles exist.
Your suggestion that Libya’s economy could develop as an “oil state” with a high proportion of its labour force provided by migrant workers, generating a stratification based on nationality and ethnicity, is a possible scenario. The figures I have seen suggest that about 50% of the labour force under Gaddafi were foreign contract workers – that might recur in the near future if a “reconstruction boom” gets underway, or it might not return to that level (there are plenty of unemployed Libyan workers to be absorbed). But in any event it will not reach the sort of levels that exist in the Gulf states, where 70-90% of the workforce are migrants. (And there will be other factors – like the fact that the bulk of the migrants come from neighbouring countries like Tunisia and Egypt). I think that is likely to produce a different social and political dynamic. Moreover, it is inevitable that we will eventually see the re-emergence of an independent labour movement in Libya (although I don’t know what its precise origins and influences are likely to be) which will be able to develop relatively freely and will provide another factor in the equation. So on balance I think your scenario – at least in thefull-blown form you state it – is unlikely.
But the main point is that we don’t have a crystal ball to divine Libya’s future – its just a field of open-ended probabilities. But its present circumstances require an effective security apparatus, hopefully one, as I have said, subject to democratic influences. That is likely to provide the best possible (even if not always ideal) situation for all workers – local and and migrant.

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Aaron Aarons October 5, 2012 at 7:17 am

Brian S:

[…] we don’t have a crystal ball to divine Libya’s future […]. But its present circumstances require an effective security apparatus […].

‘Circumstances’ never require anything. What they do is determine, to a greater or lesser extent, what is required to serve the interests of various classes and other human groupings. While it may secondarily or temporarily serve other purposes, the main function of a security apparatus separate from the armed people is the defense of inequality. Even in socialist countries like Cuba, where the main function of the security apparatus is to defend against imperialist-backed counter-revolution, a secondary function is inevitably to serve the particular interests of those who control the apparatus, which is why an armed population (but excluding the bourgeois elements whose numbers and power will be increased by ‘reforms’) is to be preferred to “special bodies of armed men”.

BTW, I don’t need a crystal ball to tell me that the Libyan security apparatus will be tied to Western imperialism — U.S.-American, French or whatever.

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Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp October 5, 2012 at 10:02 am

“I don’t need a crystal ball to tell me that the Libyan security apparatus will be tied to Western imperialism — U.S.-American, French or whatever.”

By crystal ball, you mean evidence.

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Brian S. October 6, 2012 at 3:43 pm

@AaronAaronsYou rely on vague language to conceal the lack of coherence in your arguments, and make other people do all the work to construct a logical discussion. If you’re not relying on a crystal ball to draw your conclusions about the future shape of the Libyan security apparatus, then share with us us what this claim is based on. What does “tied” mean – do you mean “under the control of” or something else?
Your formula of security maintained by an “armed people” is a nice phrase – but what does it mean in concrete circumstances? Are you advocating that as an immediate solution to public security (in which case I hope you are paying your dues to the NRA). As I said in my previous post I have not joined in the demonisation of the militias because I also have reservations about too rapid a concentration of power in an institutionalised miltary apparatus before other social and political institutions are stabilised. But the current need in Libya if it is to shift the balance from “some armed people” to democratically accountable and nationally representative institutions.

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Aaron Aarons October 7, 2012 at 2:43 am

I can’t provide ‘evidence’ for something that hasn’t happened yet. I’m stating my expectations based on 56 years of observing and studying how the world works. I could be wrong, of course. Only time will tell. However, I don’t see much evidence of anti-imperialist sentiment among any of the major political actors in Libya, and the imperialists generally manage to penetrate the state apparatuses of weaker countries even when such sentiment does exist.

In Libya, I expect that the main imperialist penetration will be via imperialism’s clients like Qatar and Saudi-occupied Arabia, but with a direct role as well for the U.S. and other Western powers. I am not making predictions about how strong that imperialist influence will be, except that it will be major.

I usually tend to underestimate reactionary forces. For example, in 1994, at the time of the ANC’s coming to power in South Africa, I did refer to the new regime as “Apartheid in Blackface”, but I had no idea quite how bad they were going to be.

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Aaron Aarons October 7, 2012 at 3:01 am

The preceding remark was a response to Pham Binh’s and Brian S.’s.

But Brian showed he really missed the main methodological point of my earlier comment:

‘Circumstances’ never require anything. What they do is determine, to a greater or lesser extent, what is required to serve the interests of various classes and other human groupings.

when he ended his reply with:

But the current need in Libya if it is to shift the balance from “some armed people” to democratically accountable and nationally representative institutions.

There is no such thing as “the current need in Libya” without specifying whose need.

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Brian S. October 7, 2012 at 8:37 am

@AaronAarons: re needs and cirsumstances: On the contrary, Aaron I dealt with this argument early on in this discussion when I indicated that no social group benefited from the absence of public security (with armed groups of counter-revolutionaries and small salafist minorities free to perpetrate violence against the majority). As I’ve said, where the interests of different social groups may well diverge is over how and in what form a new national security apparatus is created.
I appreciate your honesty in conceding that you don’t have any firm basis for favouring one possible outcome for the Libyan revolution over another. That might clear the way for a sensible, factually grounded, discussion of what’s happening in the country and what the real probabilities of alternate scenarios is. Not a lot of point in embarking on that now, as Libya is on the verge of a very decisive moment, with the confrontation between the government forces and former pro-Gaddafi elements in Bani Walid, sorting out the relations between the militias and the state, and the rather tortuous process of learning how to work a democracy that is going on in the GNC. I think that in 3-6 months time the picture will be considerably clearer, but there may be developments worth discussing as this process unfolds.

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Aaron Aarons October 9, 2012 at 9:19 am

Ultimately, if not immediately, the monopolization of force by the state is a threat to the ‘security’ of those classes and groups of the ‘public’ that don’t control the state. If there are any class-conscious proletarian or semi-proletarian forces in Libya, they should be doing what they can to secure and keep arms. It’s likely that such forces, if they exist, are being labelled (correctly or not) as “former pro-Gaddafi elements”.

And if such proletarian forces do not exist, I find it hard to care what happens there, except that I don’t want Libya to become a ‘success’ for imperialism, either in material reality or in the Western imagination.

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Aaron Aarons October 20, 2012 at 7:56 am

Here’s hoping that one or more of the rather diverse armed groups remaining can stage a diversionary action in Tripoli or elsewhere to take the pressure off the defenders of Bani Walid.

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Brian S. October 20, 2012 at 11:46 am

@AaronAarons. “A diversionary action” like what exactly? Car bombs in the streets? I don’t much care for the way the conflict with Bani Walid is being handled. But this suggestion is vile.

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