Back to Bani Walid

by Clay Claiborne on December 3, 2012

It has been a month since pro-Libyan government forces took the pro-Qaddafi stronghold of Bani Walid by force of arms. This slight return to armed struggle in the Libyan Revolution has spun alternative narratives about what really happened there and what it means about the Libyan Revolution.

Not without reason, the different narratives on what happened in Bani Walid coincided with a split in the Left over support for the Libyan Revolution that emerged strongly as soon as NATO intervened on the side of the people Qaddafi was trying to kill. This split in the Left has only ripened and sharpened with time, and has become especially acute as Assad’s mass murder in Syria drags on.

The same forces on the Left that supported Qaddafi in Libya, support Assad in Syria, and for much the same reasons. Now the anti-interventionists that opposed the no-fly zone over first Libya and now Syria, have Syria, with maybe 40,000 dead and counting and an estimated 700,000 refugees by the end of the year, as an example of what happens when their policy rules the day.

Internationalism 101: a Tripoli Brigade member martyred in Syria.

Under these circumstances, they are under great pressure to show that in hindsight, intervention in Libya was a bad thing. Their current narrative on Syria requires them to demonstrate that Libya is a complete mess now, much worst off than under Qaddafi, worst or at least as bad as what is happening now in the non-interventionist success story — Syria.

Once they predicted NATO boots on the ground would follow NATO air support. They painted the Libyan Revolution as a US-orchestrated grab for oil and the National Transitional Council (NTC) as a CIA-organized puppet government. They said we’ve been through this movie before. They said it was just like Iraq.

Well, it didn’t work out like that, and now they are at great pains to ignore reality and create an alternative one in which things worked out the way they dreamed they would.

They really haven’t had much to work with, but the final rooting out of Qaddafi loyalists, a task that ultimately needed to be done through armed struggle, gave them an excellent opportunity to cast the revolutionaries in the role of the aggressor and the Qaddafi remnants as the underdogs. Hence, their narrative around Bani Walid has taken on a particular significance.

In any case, i thought it would be useful to revisit Bani Walid a month after the controversial events to see what hindsight can tell us. This is the most recent report on Bani Walid that I have found, it is from Magharebia and published in English at AllAfrica.com:

Libya: Bani Walid Returns to Normal

By Essam Mohamed, 20 November 2012
Tripoli — Security improvements in Bani Walid reassure citizens that it is now safe to resume their normal activities.Less than one month ago, the Libyan desert town of Bani Wali looked like a war zone. It is now coming back to life.

“Every day is better than the previous one and steadily improving. The security committee controls all the intersections of the city, which is protected by the national army and the security forces,” Local Governance Minister Mohamed al-Hrari told Deutsche Welle.

Troops loyal to the Libyan government captured the flashpoint city on October 24th. Hundreds of loyalist fighters reportedly entered the town and hoisted the national flag atop abandoned buildings.

In the month since then, several grocery stores have opened, as well as fruit and vegetable markets. Cars circulate in the streets.

Some 500 homes were burned in the city during recent clashes between Libyan government-controlled forces and former Kadhafi loyalists.

“We have tasked a committee drawn from four engineering offices to fully survey damaged homes and dwellings in the city. Victims will have their rents covered for three months,” Dr. al-Hrari said.

The army is in control of the city and the population is now less worried, according to Mouin Chernam, Director of the Political Section of the United Nations Mission in Libya. He also noted that displaced people were returning to schools and hospitals were becoming fully functional. More…

A November 7 article in the Libya Herald put the death toll from the attack at 30, most of them being civilians:

Bani Walid: complacency from the authorities, resignation from the population
By Mathieu Galtier.
The government says that Bani Walid will be back to a normal in a week or so, with the local authorities taking charge. However, locals are fatalistic; they know it will take months to erase the scars of the siege and the attack of their city.General Hussein Abdullah, the chief of the temporary military council in Bani Walid, is proud to list all the achievements since the army’s successful attack on Bani Walid.

“The security is good, eighty percent of electricity and water supplies are back, schools will re-open in three or four days, the hospital has been replenished with drugs and equipment and the roads are largely open.”

According to Bani Walid hospital, the attack [Bani Walid Operation -- A Necessary Evil?], which happened just before Eid, killed 30 people, most of them civilian Warfallah, with 50 injured.

After the military operation, on 24 October, the government created three committees for Defence, Public Services and the Return of Refugees. These committees report to General Abdullah.

“I hope to leave Bani Walid in less than one week” he told Libya Herald. “The local police will take over when we leave.”

Abderhaman El Ahmari had just returned to Bani Walid to fulfil his own mission : to rebuild his family’s new life and home. On 25 October, he discovered that his two-storey house was burnt.

“I used to live in this house with my wife and my five children. They stole my gold worth LD 180.000, which I kept in a strongbox. I don’t know who has done this, but they as Muslims, they showed a lack of respect. I still believe the situation will improve in the country but not now, maybe after this government”, he told Libya Herald sadly. At the moment, he and his family are living with relatives in Bani Walid.

The smell of burning, the black smoke-stained walls and the sound of glass cracking underfoot are the same in Al-Adj’s family house. Back from Taruna, on 27 October, the nine members of the family saw their home was totally destroyed.

“My mother cried when she saw it burnt. Now, all of us are living in the same room, which is independent from the house” Hussain, one of the sons, explained. In the corridor, one message is written on the dust of a mirror : “Allahu Akbar” (God is great).

As far as Libya Herald could check, many of the destroyed homes were in the Darah area of the town. But in a community as tight as the 80,000 Warfallah in Bani Walid, it seems almost everyone knows someone who has been hit with disaster. Libya Herald noted dozens of shops had been looted and many others are still closed. The normal daily life is coming back slowly [Inside Bani Walid].

Nevertheless, Bani Walid is not like the largely-deserted town of Tawagha.

Most of the 25,000 Bani Walid inhabitants who, according to the International Red Cross, fled before the final attack, have now returned from Taruna or Tripoli. More…

Days before that, Reuters reported:

Life slowly returns to former Gaddafi stronghold
By Ghaith Shennib
BANI WALID, Libya | Sun Nov 4, 2012 4:41am EST
Hundreds of cars filled with families took advantage of the quiet lull after the Muslim holiday of Eid to return to their homes after a siege around the former Gaddafi stronghold of Bani Walid was lifted.A week earlier, a similar stream of cars carrying the same people headed the other way. Families loaded with belongings fled attacks from militiamen aligned with the government who said they were wresting control of a city that remained anti-revolution.

Fighters captured the town on October 24 amid chaotic, vengeful scenes that demonstrated the weakness of the new government’s hold over militiamen who owe it allegiance but largely do as they please. More…

There is no doubt that the vengence taken out on Bani Walid by some of the government authorized militias was excessive and criminal, even if most of it was against buildings after the people had fled. Many homes were destroyed. As reported in the Daily Star of Lebanon in an article titled “Libyan town wracked by political score settling“:

“What does burning down homes have to do with searching for criminals of the former regime?” asked Saad, a father of five, after appraising the damage and concluding there was no alternative but to pitch a tent in the garden.

But it is also apparent that reconstruction efforts began as soon as the fighting stopped, as exampled by this 31 October report of an electricity maintenance team heading to Bani Walid.

The Alternate Universe
The picture of Bani Walid presented by these reports is one of the real world but there is another one from an alternate universe that is being presented by various friends of the defeated regime. I have already noted the spurious charges of white phosphorous and nerve gas made by RT, the mouthpiece formerly known as Russia Today, in my last diary on Bani Walid.

In a more recent article on their website, The Final Call, the Nation of Islam, the African-American group, takes this even further, comparing the siege of Bani Walid to the killing fields of Cambodia:

NATO’s henchmen are attacking their own people with bombs and chemical weapons, injuring and killing scores of civilians. Women, children and old people lie maimed or dismembered on the side of the roads, many of them buried in the rubble.Residents tell stories of bombs filled with burning toxic gases and white phosphorous raining down from missiles. Scorched victims of the constant shelling are proof of the sinister nature of the Islamist militias and the fascist government forces which have been ordered to use “all necessary means to deal with Bani Walid.” Where is the “international community” condemnation? Where is Amnesty International? And where is NATO? Why has the Security Council not called an emergency session to address this atrocity? Where is the “humanitarian intervention?” Russia finally put forward a draft statement to the UN Security Council calling for “a peaceful resolution to the ongoing crisis”—a lukewarm response to a “killing fields” scenario and even this was blocked by the U.S. This is the freedom sanctioned by NATO in Libya—accept the mark of the beast or die.

the siege of Libya and Bani Walid, which can easily be compared to the “killing fields” of Cambodia, is unfolding before their eyes. There is no question that the Islamist militias that have surrounded Bani Walid are certainly on a par with the Khmer Rouge.

Of course, the Nation is Islam did receive millions of dollar from the Qaddafi regime to promote their politics in the US. It is certainly no accident that all those howling about mass murder in Bani Walid are supporters of the Qaddafi regime and coincidently, supporters of the Assad regime in Syria. In fact, I think we may find that their efforts at propaganda around Bani Walid are actually more related to current events in Syria than they are to events in Libya.

“Peacefully if we may, forcefully if we must.”An Amazigh poster calls for reconciliation with Qaddafi diehards in a failed attempt to avoid needless bloodshed.

There are also others on the Left that seek to use the experiences in Bani Walid as an example of how the Libyan people are worst off now than under the Qaddafi regime. When an edited version my Daily Kos diary, Bani Walid, was published by The North Star under the title “The Fall of Bani Walid and Libya’s Counter-Revolution” on November 17, 2012, one of commenter had this to say:

Distasteful trash. The whole article is shamelessly justifying and glorifying the death and destruction inflicted on the residents of Bani Walid, home to the largest tribe in Libya.

‘Rebels’ from Misrata cut off water, food and medicine to Bani Walid for four weeks as they indiscriminately shelled the city. After entering Bani Walid ‘Rebel’ forces undertook a policy of shelling, burning and looting homes, businesses and public buildings including hospitals. The city is now in complete and utter ruins with many residents unable to return. It’s not hard to find evidence for this devastation if you had looked beyond your strange obsession with Russia Today.

He then goes on to list two [1][2], YouTube videos from RT source GRN Live, before he goes on to trash the Libyan people’s efforts with another set of convenient, if unrelated, charges:

Racism was prevalent in Libya particularly in the East of the country. In Dec 2000 anti-black pogroms which started in Benghazi led to the deaths of 100 migrant workers. The whole NATO-backed rebellion in Libya was characterised by a relentless racist campaign of ethnic cleansing, lynching, torture and incarceration of black Libyans and migrant workers which began within days of the rebellion and continues today. Misrata was home to a particularly heinous brigade who were self-titled ‘The Brigade for Purging Black Skin, Slaves’ Misrata forces ethnically cleansed the entire town of Tawergha of its 30,000 inhabitants.

Finally, he ends my making his preference for Libya under Qaddafi clear:

Libya has transformed from a stable country with by far the highest standard of living in Africa (despite decades of crippling sanctions) into a failed state ravaged by insecurity, death squads and human rights abuses on an unprecedented scale.

Then there is a link to Global Civilians for Peace in Libya, a group that opposed NATO intervention and was granted unique access by the Qaddafi regime on numerous visits to Libya, for documentation that Qaddafi’s opposition was racist to the core.

Again on Racism in Libya
Since this gratuitous and distasteful charge that the whole anti-Qaddafi opposition is racists was, and often is, thrown in for good measure, I will address it first. I have already spoken to his points in greater detail elsewhere, I would refer the reader especially to Racism in Libya and Helter-Skelter: Qaddafi’s African Adventure for more on the history of racism in Libya and Qaddafi’s contributions to it.

Libya’s Amazigh (Berbers) celebrate liberation from Qaddafi’s racist tyranny.

The commenter is absolutely correct to point out that racism was prevalent in Libya after more than 30 years of Mummar Gaddafi’s rule but he is absolutely wrong to imply that it is a disease of Eastern Libya. I believe he has his dates wrong because the racist pogrom against blacks in Libya in 2000 took place in September not December and involved the whole country as far as I’m concerned.

This piece post 12 October 2000 in The Economist gives us a picture of the times:

PLANELOADS of bodies, dead and alive, flew back to West Africa from Tripoli this week, after Libya’s worst outbreak of anti-foreigner violence since the expulsion of Italians and Jews in Muammar Qaddafi’s coup in 1969. Survivors told of pogroms.Emeka Nwanko, a 26-year-old Nigerian welder, was one of hundreds of thousands of black victims of the Libyan mob. He fled as gangs trashed his workshop. His friend was blinded, as Libyan gangs wielding machetes roamed the African townships. Bodies were hacked and dumped on motorways. A Chadian diplomat was lynched and Niger’s embassy put to the torch. Some Nigerians attacked their own embassy after it refused refuge to nationals without proper papers—the vast majority.

Libyans sheltering Africans were warned that their homes would be next. Some of Libya’s indigenous 1m black citizens were mistaken for migrants, and dragged from taxis. In parts of Benghazi, blacks were barred from public transport and hospitals. Pitched battles erupted in Zawiya, a town near Tripoli that is ringed with migrant shantytowns. Diplomats said that at least 150 people were killed, 16 of them Libyans. The all-powerful security forces intervened by shooting into the air.

Later, when the regime itself was the target, these same forces would not hesitate at shooting into the crowds.

African migrants, unfairly blamed for the disaster, were detained en masse. They once numbered over 1m but diplomats say that they have now mostly disappeared from the streets, and are in hiding or in camps pending expulsion. Over the past fortnight, hundreds of thousands of black migrants have been herded into trucks and buses, driven in convoy towards the border with Niger and Chad, 1,600km (1,000 miles) south of Tripoli, and dumped in the desert.

This was Mummar Qaddafi’s policy, his government organized the rounding up, transport and dumping of hundreds of thousands of African immigrants in the desert.

Migrants from countries without land links to Libya, including 5,000 Nigerians and nearly the same number of Ghanaians, are being airlifted out. Hundreds more are languishing in three scrubland camps ringing Tripoli airport waiting for flights. There is no medical care for the black Africans, many of whom have broken limbs or stab wounds.

This article also gives us more on background:

Anti-black violence had been simmering for months, fired by an economic crisis. Colonel Qaddafi heads Africa’s richest state in terms of income per person. This year oil will earn him $11 billion. But Libyans, feeding their families on monthly salaries of $170, see the money squandered on foreign adventures, the latest of which is the colonel’s pan-Africa policy. As billions flowed out in aid, and visa-less migrants flowed in, Libyans feared they were being turned into a minority in their own land. Church attendance soared in this Muslim state. So did crime, drugs, prostitution and reports of AIDS.A history of racism fanned the flames. Libyans were slave-trading until the 1930s and, under Italian colonial rule, they saw themselves as Mediterranean, calling Africans chocalatinos. Black-bashing has become a popular afternoon sport for Libya’s unemployed youths. The rumour that a Nigerian had raped a Libyan girl in Zawiya was enough to spark a spree of ethnic cleansing. More…

And all this happened more than a dozen years ago, under Colonel Mummar Qaddafi’s leadership.

So racism is not a new problem in Libya. It did not arise with the movement to overthrow Qaddafi, nor will it be vanquished overnight. I aim my writings on this subject at the Libyan revolutionaries with an eye to contributing towards a solution.Not so these anti-interventionists turned counter-revolutionaries. They see in Libyan racism, a chance to attack the revolution so they go to great lengths to paint a picture of racism whenever they can. For example, it is an unfortunate feature of Arabic that the word for Black[the race] and the word for slave are the same, so the name of this brigade, as translated by someone looking to make a point, might be misleading.

And while it is true that almost everyone was run out of Tawergha, a town of 30,000 that played a particularly cruel role in the months-long bloody siege of Misrata, I don’t think it fair to call it ethnic cleansing or to attribute the targeting of people from Tawergha due to racism rather than revenge. Black townships generally have not been targeted and Tawergha itself was not ethnically cleansed, everyone was run out, Black and Arabic alike.

Racism and the Libyan Revolution
In historical-political terms, what the Libyans are doing is carrying forward the bourgeois-democratic revolution against a tribal based regime with many feudal remnants and a “socialist” facade. US history has clearly shown that victory over racism is no prerequisite for carrying forward the democratic revolution. In fact, just the opposite is the case.

So those that seek to condemn and disavow the democratic processes taking place right now in post-Qaddafi Libya, in the name of fighting racism, are really missing the point.

A Libyan cake celebrating what Western anti-interventionists mourn: the birth of a new Libya.

Like far too many on the Left, I believe that this commentator is one who fell for Qaddafi’s“socialist” and “anti-imperialist” facade many years ago. Then when the Arab Spring came to Libya, the Colonel started to do an Assad on the protesters and NATO uncharacteristically came to their aid, these same leftists, so use to opposing whatever NATO does, doubled-down on their support for Qaddafi and opposed the popular uprising against his dictatorship.

They became “anti-interventionists” with regards to the Libyan conflict and we can see in Syria, for the past year, what they wished was still happening to the Libyan people.

But since they failed in their bid to keep the beloved Brother Leader in power, they have turned their fire on every effort by the people to create a new Libya.

They like to portray the developing revolutionary government as a “failed state” or something similar, so when the newly elected government finally moved decisively to crush the armed pro-Qaddafi counter-revolutionaries in Bani Walid, they screamed bloody murder.

What Happened in Bani Walid?
I believe there was necessary violence used in Bani Walid and there were excesses. I also believe that only reaction is served by applying hyperbole and exaggeration, not to mention outright fabrication, to this unfortunate situation in an attempt to tar the whole Libyan Revolution.

In his final paragraph, this commenter indicates that he would probably also endorse the view of the Nation of Islam that what took place in Bani Walid in October was as bad as the Khmer Rouge “killing fields” of Cambodia because he says that Libya today is “ravaged by insecurity, death squads and human rights abuses on an unprecedented scale.”

The odd thing to me is that this commentator thinks himself a Marxist and since that is the case, let us look at these questions from the perspective of Marxism.

State and Revolution
While Mummar Qaddafi called himself “Brother Leader,” said he had no formal state power, and claimed his Libya Jamahiriya was some new kind of “green” socialism, the reality was that the economic system was capitalism and the political system was much more of a throwback to an earlier epoch than an advanced example for the future.

The system he developed relied heavily on ancient tribal rivalries and loyalties that parceled out favors and power along family lines. It had much more in common with the feudal dictatorships of the pre-capitalist world everywhere than with the bourgeois republics native to capitalism. Qaddafi ruled like a king and his family lived like royalty. The proof is that he was grooming his son to succeed him.

Therefore the principal task of the current revolution in Libya is the completion of the bourgeois-democratic revolution. This must be done before they can move forward to the next stage. For Libya, the road to real socialism flows through the establishment of a democratic republic.

This has been the task of the “Arab Spring” revolutions generally; completing these long-stalled national bourgeois-democratic revolutions.

There are those on the Left that have poo-pooed these revolutions because they haven’t had socialism as their immediate goal, but that has not been their mission.

These have not been proletarian revolutions in the Marxists sense, even though it has principally been the workers of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries that have pushed them forward. The demands for democracy and an end to these family dictatorships are still demands of the bourgeois-democratic revolution. The demand for economic justice pushes the envelope.

Speaking generally, in these countries the bourgeois democratic revolutions that began with the end of formal colonialism after World War Two were stalled by imperialist suppression so that state organization never moved over completely to some form of democratic republic but instead ossified for 20, 30, 40 years as a tribal and family based holdover from feudalism, formally with kings in Jordan, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia and de facto with Assad and son, Mubarak and son, Ben Ali and son, and Qaddafi and sons in others.

Capitalism develops the best with the modern bourgeois-democratic state but the fact that these MENA countries were throwing off colonial oppression rather late, in a period of socialist revolution, and the fact that the masses continued to face heavy imperialist exploitation, made the extension of anything like full democratic rights to the masses rather risky.

So, using tribal, religiou,s and ethnic differences to divide and conquer, a variety of neo-feudal regimes consolidated their power in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, and Syria. The monarchies already in place in Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia made a few cosmetic democratic concessions. And that is how MENA rolled — until recently.

“Remnants of the old, surviving in the new, confront us in life at every step, both in nature and in society” wrote the great Russian Marxist V.I. Lenin in his profound work on the nature of government under capitalism, socialism and communism, The State and Revolution.

All of these MENA governments had proven themselves completely corrupt and incapable of change. They were incapable of meeting the mass demand for democracy and that made the demand for democracy revolutionary. In every case, it necessarily morphed into a demand for an end to the old regime.

This is what the Arab Spring became in every country.

But the people didn’t face the same situation in every country.

Now, looking at the first three countries to succeed in casting out a dictator in North Africa, we can see that while Ben Ali was forced out in Tunisia and Mubarak was forced out in Egypt, and without a lot of violence, much of the machinery of state remained intact. Most significantly, the security forces of the old regime have survived largely intact. That makes these very dubious revolutions so far, if indeed, they have earned that title at all. The people of those countries still have a lot of work to do before they can claim their liberation from the old regimes.

In Egypt, Morsi is reaping the whirlwind for attempting to do just that.

Matters are quite different in Libya where the regime’s army was completely defeated on the field of battle, albeit with NATO air support, and all of the existing state institutions had to be completely destroyed or abandoned. In point of fact, the Qaddafi way of doing things left them little to work with in any case. Everything has to be rebuilt from scratch.

The thoroughgoing nature of the revolution in Libya should make it of special interest to Marxist-Leninists, it is such a shame to see so many turning their backs to it. Of all the uprisings of the Arab Spring, only the one in Libya meets two of the major requirements for the liberation of the oppressed as Lenin described them in State and Revolution:

if the state is the product of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms, if it is a power standing above society and “alienating itself more and more from it”it is clear that the liberation of the oppressed class is impossible not only without a violent revolution, but also without the destruction of the apparatus of state power which was created by the ruling class and which is the embodiment of this “alienation”.(my emphasis) As we shall see later, Marx very explicitly drew this theoretically self-evident conclusion on the strength of a concrete historical analysis of the tasks of the revolution.

The year since the fall of the Qaddafi regime has been a most exciting and interesting one in Libya. To defeat Qaddafi’s organs of state violence, it was necessary for the Libyan people to form what Lenin would have called “the population organizing itself as an armed force” or “a self-acting armed organization of the population.” This necessarily led to a post-overthrow landscape of hundreds of armed groups all over the country that mostly cooperated but occasionally competed with tragic consequences.The NTC was also necessarily a body cobbled together on the fly. It could never be entirely representative, democratic, nor open in its functions. It was designed to bring the Libyan Revolution out of the shadows and in that it succeeded.

In the past year, the war was won and civil institutions started to be reconstituted. The NTC created the High National Election Commission (HNEC) which, over a period of months, organized national elections in which 1.7 million Libyans elected a 200-member General National Congress.

The NTC hands power to a freely and fairly elected government.

This election was a particularly interesting exercise in democracy because at every step, every feature had to be created anew, Qaddafi allowed no open political life, it all had to be built anew. Now, political parties and publications of all sort abound but there are no petrified parties like the Republicans or Democrats to hog the limelight; in fact, 60% of the positions were only open to independents. And there weren’t a bunch of foreign NGOs or advisors telling them how to run the show.

This was a truly Libyan election resulting in a democratically elected government.

Another critical part of this revolution has been the struggle to consolidate all armed forces into one national force controlled by the elected government and to extend that control to every part of Libya. The conflict over Bani Walid must be viewed in that larger context.

And the revolutionary struggle to form a new government in Libya continues unabated. With the GNC in place and most of the key government posts filled, the country is preparing to write a new constitution and that is sparking lively discussion. Monday 26 November 2012 Shabab Libya [Libyan Youth Movement] is carrying the following piece:

The Libyan Public’s Role in Drafting the Constitution

Source- George Grant for the Libya Herald via the Saudi Gazette
NEW YORK CITY – Over the past week, the General National Congress (GNC) has turned to the question of who should draft the new constitution. The question is whether drafters should be selected as originally planned in the August 2011 Constitutional Declaration or its amendment immediately prior to the 7 July elections. The debate raises the question of the role the public should play in drafting the constitution.At the core of modern democracy is the idea of popular sovereignty. It is generally thought that governments are more just and legitimate when the law emanates from the people by their election of lawmakers. Yet democracy extends beyond voting law-creators into power. The people can and should participate in law creation itself when possible and advisable. Especially in the creation of the fundamental law of the country: the constitution.

Substantively, public participation in constitution-making will likely yield a constitution that better ensures rights and protections for the people and will be more reflective and inclusive of those people. More…

Too few on the Left have been carefully following these developments in Libya; some have even long ago written off the Libyan revolutionaries as tools of western imperialism and NATO and refuse to look back. Some feel that they can’t come to any meaningful results simply because they lack socialist leadership, but that is not their fault. Consider how little respect the Left has given their heroic efforts so far, and how little guidance.

Remember, the Paris commune also lacked the leadership of a vanguard party.

And while what they are building in Libya is not yet socialism or the dictatorship of the proletariat, possibly it is the next best thing. Consider Lenin’s assessment of the significance of the establishment of the democratic republic, again from State and Revolution:

Engels realized here in a particularly striking form the fundamental idea which runs through all of Marx’s works, namely, that the democratic republic is the nearest approach to the dictatorship of the proletariat. For such a republic, without in the least abolishing the rule of capital, and, therefore, the oppression of the masses and the class struggle, inevitably leads to such an extension, development, unfolding, and intensification of this struggle that, as soon as it becomes possible to meet the fundamental interests of the oppressed masses, this possibility is realized inevitably and solely through the dictatorship of the proletariat, through the leadership of those masses by the proletariat.

Libya remains a country with a small population that is rich in oil revenues. That means it is possible to meet the fundamental interests of the oppressed masses now and the current struggle for democracy in Libya can easily and organically lead to socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Claiborne’s articles on the Libyan Revolution:
Bani Walid
BREAKING: Libya | BaniWalid falls!
US Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens Murder Timeline
Libya: This is what democracy looks like – protesters take over HQ of Ansar al-Sharia
My answer to Secretary Clinton Re: US Death in Libya
Women and the Libyan Revolution
The Left and the Arab Spring
Libya’s elected congress to take power today
The Elections and Libya’s Violent Militias
#Libya at the crossroads: The ballot or the bullet
Is Libya better off than it was?
Libyan Elections to be held July 7th
Qaddafi forces Strike Back in Libya
Libya & Syria – two videos – no comment
BREAKING: Libyan High Court strikes down anti-free speech law
Where should Libya’s Saif Qaddafi be tried?
MSM plays Hankey Panky with Libya
Qaddafi lies live on after him
Another “Houla style” massacre in Syria
Libya’s Qaddafi helped US & Israel against Iran in Olympic Games
Why is Russia demanding NATO boots on the ground in Libya?
#LyElect Libyans register to vote 1st time in 60 years
Libya’s Revolution: How We Won – The Internationale in the 21st Century
Good News from Libya
On Libya & Glenn Greenwald: Are the anti-interventionists becoming counter-revolutionaries?
UN: NATO killed 60 civilians in Libya
Libya in the news today
Amnesty International on Libya again
The Current Situation in Libya
Democracy Now & Amy Goodman gets it wrong again.
Why is Chris Hedges calling for “boots on the ground” in Libya?
The Worm Has Turned: Good Film on Libyan Revolution from PressTV
Why NATO’s mission in Libya isn’t over yet
Libya’s Freedom Fighters: How They Won
Racism in Libya
Abdul Rahman Gave his Eyes to See the End of Qaddafi
BREAKING: Secret files reveal Dennis Kucinich talks with Qaddafi Regime
BREAKING: Libyan TNC won’t extradite Lockerbie bomber
Who really beat Qaddafi?
#Feb17: @NATO Please help MEDEVAC wounded from #Libya
What should those that opposed NATO’s intervention in Libya demand now?
BREAKING: Qaddafi’s Tripoli Compound Falls!
Does PDA Support Qaddafi?
BREAKING: Operation Mermaid Dawn, the Battle to Liberate Tripoli is Joined
Helter Skelter: Qaddafi’s African Adventure
Qaddafi’s Long Arm
SCOOP: My Lai or Qaddafi Lie? More on the 85 Civilians presumed killed by NATO
Did NATO kill 85 Libyan Villagers As Qaddafi Regime Contends?
CCDS Statement on Libya – a Critique
The Assassination of General Abdul Fattah Younis
NATO over Tripoli – Air Strikes in the Age of Twitter
How Many Libyans has NATO Killed?
Qaddafi Terror Files Start to Trickle Out!
Have Libyan Rebels Committed Human Rights Abuses?
Tripoli Green Square Reality Check
Behind the Green Curtain: Libya Today
Gilbert Achcar on the Libyan situation and the Left
NATO slammed for Libya civilian deaths NOT!
2011-07-01 Qaddafi’s Million Man March
NATO’s Game Plan in Libya
February 21st – Tripoli’s Long Night
Did Qaddafi Bomb Peaceful Protesters?
Tripoli Burn Notice
Libyans, Palestinians & Israelis
‘Brother’ Qaddafi Indicted plus Libya & Syria: Dueling Rally Photofinishs
An Open Letter to ANSWER
ANSWER answers me
2011-06-22 No Libyans allowed at ANSWER Libya Forum
Are they throwing babies out of incubators yet?
Continuing Discussion with a Gaddafi Supporter
Boston Globe oped supports Gaddafi with fraudulent journalism
2011-04-13 Doha summit supports Libyan rebels
Current Events in Libya
Amonpour Plays Softball with Gaddafi
Arming Gaddfi
North African Revolution Continues
Is Libya Next? Anonymous Debates New Operation

  • Aaron Aarons

    “Libya remains a country with a small population that is rich in oil revenues. That means it is possible to meet the fundamental interests of the oppressed masses now and the current struggle for democracy in Libya can easily and organically lead to socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat.”

    What “oppressed masses”, what “proletariat” are you talking about? The foreign workers who did most of the low-paid physical work in Libya before the “revolution”? Whatever groups of foreign workers will replace those who are too Black to be allowed to return? Were any such real proletarians allowed to vote in the recent election? Will they be allowed to vote in the next one?

    The enormous per-capita oil revenues that will make it possible for Libyan citizens to live comfortably without having to go up against the global capitalist class also guarantee that any proletarian revolution in Libya will not grow up out of Libyan bourgeois democracy but against it, possibly through the extension of a workers’ revolution from Egypt and maybe Tunisia in alliance with the real, non-citizen, working class inside Libya.

    You may think I’m smoking something real potent to have fantasies of such a revolution. But you must be smoking a hell of a lot stronger to think that whatever is happening now in Libya “can easily and organically lead to socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat.”

    • http://linuxbeach.net Clay Claiborne (@clayclai)

      So Libya has no native working class, in your opinion, and the Libyan masses have not been oppressed, niether by Qaddafi or capitalism. How about the U.S.?

      Also your continued race baiting is tiring. It’s an insult to all those Black Libyans that fought for the revolution. Do you know that there were even African immigrants that fought on the side of the revolution? This is also covered in my Libya diaries.

      • Aaron Aarons

        I doubt that much of the Libyan population, especially of the Arab population, is proletarian, even if many of them are salaried or even waged. Same goes for, or used to go for, most of the white, English-speaking population of the U.S., although many of the latter have been proletarianized since 2007-2008.

        I’m sorry if my repeated references to white supremacy in the Arab as well as the European-settled world get tiring, but if you want to reference particular ones of your Libya ‘diaries’ that contain actual information about the extent and nature (and not just the fact) of Black Libyan and African immigrant participation in the ‘revolution’, I will take a look at them.

  • Aaron Aarons

    “Remember, the Paris commune also lacked the leadership of a vanguard party.”

    Yes, but there was never any doubt that the Paris Commune was a social revolution of proletarians and other plebeians against the bourgeoisie as a class, and not just a political uprising against a particular group of rulers or a particular form of bourgeois rule. It was the successful bloody counter-revolution that established bourgeois parliamentary democracy.

    • http://linuxbeach.net Clay Claiborne (@clayclai)

      The Paris Commune was ” a political uprising against a particular group of rulers or a particular form of bourgeois rule.” Every real, as opposed to fabntasy revoltuion, cannot help but be grounded in these realities.

      The only reason you can claim the Libyan revolution was not “a social revolution of proletarians and other plebeians” is that you don’t think Libya had a working class under Qaddafi.

      • Aaron Aarons

        Of course Libya had a working class. But the questions are:

        (1) How much of that working class was Libyan as opposed to non-citizen migrants?

        (2) What class-based slogans, demands, etc. were raised in the ‘revolution’?

        (3) Has the success of the ‘revolution’ led to a situation where workers, particularly proletarians, have state power, or even dual power?

  • Old and tired

    There is not a single critical point about how the government or situation is shaping out. The message seems to be: “Well, seems to be working so far! No need for revolutionaries to hate – or think through next steps. The government is the ‘next best thing’ and is forming without any problems whatsoever. Oil wealth will create peace and stability and socialism is guaranteed in a few years.” Makes you wonder if the writer is trying to convince himself – not the reader – that everything will be ok. Anyway, I appreciate the stuff about the facts on the ground, but this article makes me even more doubtful about the situation in Libya. My guess is that the writer is a former or current Stalinist.

    • http://linuxbeach.net Clay Claiborne (@clayclai)

      Did you even read what I wrote? Or are you talking about some other article because I have never been a Stalinist.

      • Anthony Abdo

        Here are some words of your own in this commentary by you, Clay.

        ‘Therefore the principal task of the current revolution in Libya is the completion of the bourgeois-democratic revolution. This must be done before they can move forward to the next stage.’

        This is the classic Stalinist two stage theory of revolution thought being written out here on this commentary by you. Your thoughts on Libya definitely are not Trotskyist influenced in take at all. That is why Old and tired and others also think that you are, in fact, a Stalinist.

        • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

          I guess that means Lenin was a Stalinist then because he continued to adhere to his uninterrupted two-stage theory of uninterrupted revolution after 1917:
          http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1918/prrk/subservience.htm

          His arguments in 1918 are completely consistent with his arguments in 1905 on the same issues:
          http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1905/tactics/index.htm

          • Anthony Abdo

            Pham, it is not helpful to any real discussion here to simply refer us to ENTIRE WORKS by Lenin. You might instead refer us to what you see as relevant PASSAGES that you see as somehow marxist scripture backing up your own pov. Instead of trying to out Lenin you, I will merely refer the reader here to what wikipedia has to say in brief on this subject. Notice that wikipedia states that Trotsky disagreed with Stalin’s ideas on the matter just as I had mentioned before you tried to show us that God (or Lenin in your case) was on your side theologically. (Personally I really hate these theological marxist discussions and would rather talk God with a Jehovah Witness instead.)

            Two-stage theory
            From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
            The two-stage theory (or stagism) is the Marxist political theory which argues that underdeveloped countries, such as Tsarist Russia, must first pass through a stage of bourgeois democracy before moving to a socialist stage.[1] The two stage theory was applied to countries worldwide which had not passed through the capitalist stage.
            The discussion on stagism focuses on the Russian Revolution. However, Maoist theories, such as New Democracy, tend to apply a two-stage theory to struggles elsewhere. In the Soviet Union the two stage theory was opposed by the Trotskyist theory of permanent revolution.

            In Marxist-Leninist theory under Stalin the theory of two stages gained a revival. More recently, the South African Communist Party and Socialist Alliance (Australia) have re-elaborated the two stage theory, although the Socialist Alliance differentiates their position from the Stalinist one.

            • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

              The entire closing chapter of Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky written in 1918 proves that Lenin never abandoned the stages theory he outlined in 1905. Try reading it.

              • Arthur

                Surely you have figured out by now that he has never been and will never be interested in actual Marxist theory, but simply adopts the label as an expression of his agreement with vague impressions of half-baked snippets from people whose views he finds congenial that claim to be Marxist.

                • jim sharp

                  arfur lad
                  you’re past your bloom
                  & more than a tad soured
                  coz no other is in lock-step
                  with your “exceptional ken!”

          • Brian S.

            @Pham Binh: Its true that Lenin adhered to a “two-stage” theory in Two Tactics, but I would call it an “unstable two-stage theory” (ie it had a major logical weakness – it fudged the issue of what policies a government led by the proletariat would have to undertake once the autocracy had been overthrown – and was therefore not capable of surviving the test of real-world events). The Soviet government led by the Bolsheviks had to confront these issues, and it did so by breaking with the “two stage” schema (as Trotsky had advocated) – Lenin’s famous April Theses were a first step in this direction (not fully worked out), but as you will know, they met great resistance in Bolshevik ranks, precisely because of their inconsistency with the “democratic dictatorship” formula.
            The arguments in “The Renegade Kautsky” are a very poor effort by Lenin to reconcile these two phases without acknowledging the shift: they are full of contradictions and simply don’t correspond to the real historical process.

            • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

              So Lenin was wrong and never figured out that Trotsky was right.

              Trotsky’s profound misreading (or misrepresentation) of the RSDLP’s April debates is a subject for another thread. I encourage folks who are interested in these issues to read the following material:
              http://links.org.au/node/141
              http://www.cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/843/the-ironic-triumph-of-old-bolshevism
              http://www.cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/939/april-theses-before-and-after-april-1917

              • Brian S.

                “So Lenin was wrong and never figured out that Trotsky was right.” Pretty much – although I would phrase it:”Lenin was confused and never figured out Trotsky was right until it was all over,”
                A quick glance at Binh’s links doesn’t persuade me otherwise, but I’ll need to look more closely before making final judgement.
                Sure, Lih makes the correct point that there is continuity between “Two Tactics” and the “April Theses” – but it is the continuity of change in response to a new reality : as I said above “a first step in this direction (not fully worked out)”.
                I would just invite anyone interested in these topics to read Lenin’s “Two Tactics” and ask “how closely does this correspond to the course of the Russian revolution”?

        • http://linuxbeach.net Clay Claiborne (@clayclai)

          aH because if you aren’t a Trotskyist you must be a Stalinist. What a narrow world you live in.

    • Brian S.

      @Old and Tired. I think Clay tends a bit towards the over-optimistic, especially when suggesting a near-future organic transition to socialism. But his points about the present situation are a good counter-balance to the blinkered doom-mongers of both the mainstream media and left. Libya’s oil resources are obviously good grounds for believing that the emerging political system will have room for manoeuvre and choice. I don’t understand why it “makes me even more doubtful about the situation in Libya.” Could you share your doubts with us?

      • Old and tired

        Thanks, Brian. I agree with that. My internet manners are terrible and I was being an unhelpful jerk. I seriously apologize to everyone for that. While the author present some good empirical evidence counter-balancing the arguments of others, he has a clear uncritical bias in support of the new emerging government. That raises doubts in my mind about the rosy picture he paints. Oil wealth is definitely an advantage, but their are serious political, ethic, and tribal divisions, yes? Will oil be enough to create a stable central government in the artificially created nation-state of Libya?

        • Brian S.

          @Old and Tired .There is a great deal of uncertainty in the Libyan situation, which is subject to forces pushing in contradictory directions. “There are serious political, ethnic, and tribal divisions”. Political, most certainly, in that a significant (c.20 %) minority continue to hold some attachment to the old regime (as in all civil wars) – so national reconciliation will be important (and hasn’t got off to a great start); ethnic – not necessarily so great – there are some problems around the borders and periphery, but overall the Libyan people are pretty ethnically homogenous (Arab, muslim, arabic-speaking). The most important ethnic minority are the Amazigh (Berber) people, but they supported the revolution; they will be seeking recognition of their cultural rights and that will be one of the first tests of the new Libyan democracy. Tribal – this is a complex issue, but my view is that the “tribal” interpretation is mostly an artefact of the Gaddafi regime’s power structure and western orientalist reading of the Arab world. The big question is to what extent has the unfiying experience of the revolution created a Libyan “civic nationalism” that can override these and other (especially regional) divisions? I’m optimistic, but only time can tell.
          This is partly why the issue of oil resources is important – in a context of inter-group competition for scarce resources, these divisions could spiral in a negative direction. But if oil revenues can be mobilised and channelled equitably then potential conflicts could be managed and a more positive dynamic promoted.

        • http://linuxbeach.net Clay Claiborne (@clayclai)

          “artificially created nation-state of Libya” as opposed to what? The US forged out of a bunch of European immigrants, a suppressed indigenous population, and an imported slave population, with the active military support of a monarchist France?

          What are some of the naturally created nation-states you have in mind?

      • http://linuxbeach.net Clay Claiborne (@clayclai)

        I do not have the expectation of socialism in Libya’s near future. I am pointing out what Marx taught about the bourgeious democracy being the nearest approach to a dictatorship of the working class. Namely even bourgeois democracy, practised without corruption, would become a dictatorhip of the workers instead of the capitalist in countries where the worker are the majority. Then the only barrier to socialism is the material basis, which Libya already has.

        I make no predictions about how long this will take.

        • Aaron Aarons

          “I am pointing out what Marx taught about the bourgeious democracy being the nearest approach to a dictatorship of the working class. Namely even bourgeois democracy, practised without corruption [!!!???], would become a dictatorhip of the workers instead of the capitalist in countries where the worker are the majority.”

          I’m not sure what statements by Marx you are referring to, but Marx had the excuse of having died 130 years ago, and I think his rather tentative hopeful illusions in the possibility of a peaceful transition via bourgeois democracy to working-class rule were probably somewhat older than that. In fact, in writing on the Paris Commune of 1871, in The Civil War in France, he wrote (auf Deutsch, presumably, so there are probably minor variants in the translation) “But the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes”.

          No, Clay, you are clearly not a Stalinist, since no Stalinist would admit to such illusions even if Stalinist practice (e.g., Chile) has often been based on them. You are really, at best, an old-fashioned social democrat, way to the right of Kautsky.

  • Old and tired

    Sorry for making late-night accusations. But, this article is an echo of the Stalinist position, not Lenin. Also, Pham Binh, The Mensheviks also had a”two stage” theory. Did Lenin agree with the Mensheviks? The issue is that Lenin, in practice, did not use the “two stage” theory as a dogma to hold back the working class. Stalin and the Mensheviks did. What’s missing from this article is any independent perspective for the struggle of the working class and oppressed. The thrust is simply “support the new government”. That has much more in common with the Stalinist position than Lenin, who was a firm defender of the independence of the working class and did not support the government that emerged from Russia’s bourgeois-democratic revolution.

    Every Marxist, like Lenin, learned the ABC of bourgeois-democratic revolution as the first “stage” in revolution. But, Lenin did not approach it dogmatically as is being done here. Look what Lenin wrote in 1918 in the piece Pham Binh shared: “Beginning with April 1917, however, long before the October Revolution, that is, long before we assumed power, we publicly declared and explained to the people: the revolution cannot now stop at this stage, for the country has marched forward, capitalism has advanced, ruin has reached fantastic dimensions, which (whether one likes it or not) will demand steps forward, to socialism. For there is no other way of advancing, of saving the war-weary country and of alleviating the sufferings of the working and exploited people.”

    Lenin saw the Russian bourgeois-democratic revolution in the context of global capitalist crisis. He very carefully analyzed perspectives and used those perspectives as a guide. The above article just uses wishful thinking as a guide for activists. I would love to see more discussion on this web site: Can capitalism provide a way forward for Libya? It can’t even provide a way forward for Greece! What are the perspectives for Libyan society post-Gadaffi under capitalism? Will the new government be able to build a central government? Does oil production assure development? Can And what are the tasks for the working class and oppressed to assure they get the best deal under a new government? And if capitalism is a dead end: what are the tasks for workers and the oppressed to begin a struggle for socialism?

    Since 1848, the Marxist position has been the independence of the working class in the bourgeois-democratic revolution. Stalinism broke with this. It was a recipe for disaster. If the working class does not have it’s own independent organizations, analysis, and perspective on the way forward for the revolution, then it makes the independence of the working class unnecessary, and revolutionary workers join the government parties that the “marxists” support. The tasks in Libya is to build mass organizations of workers and the oppressed as a necessary step for defending the interests of working class and preparing a new struggle. We should not offer blind support to the new government. Obviously, I don’t know enough about the concrete circumstances in Libya, but we are dealing with matters of principal!

    • Brian S.

      @Old and Tired. Well, “we” aren’t in much of a position to do anything in Libya. At best we might have a small number of people we can talk to about these issues. No one I know of in Libya is “offering blind support to the new government” – on the contrary they are quite scathing about their shortcomings. But we have to realise that all social groups in Libya are in the early stages of a learning process, after almost 40 years of stifled political life. The politicians are not very good at doing their job; the former revolutionary activists have concerns but no clear or common political programme; and the citizenry at large are not clear on how to judge the government or influence their operations. But a lot of things are going on: there are the early signs of trade union organisation and activity; there is an important Amazigh cultural resurgence; and there are going to be major political debates over the constitution, new national elections once the constitution is drawn up; and the formation of new local government bodies. So there are lots of possibilities for significant political developments – but no certainties.

    • http://linuxbeach.net Clay Claiborne (@clayclai)

      the revolution cannot now stop at this stage, for the country has marched forward, capitalism has advanced, ruin has reached fantastic dimensions, which (whether one likes it or not) will demand steps forward, to socialism. For there is no other way of advancing

      Isn’t that precisely what I said in quoting Lenin citing Marx, only the citation from Marx spoke to the reasons why that was the case.

  • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

    Claiborne writes: “Speaking generally, in these countries the bourgeois democratic revolutions that began with the end of formal colonialism after World War Two were stalled by imperialist suppression so that state organization never moved over completely to some form of democratic republic but instead ossified for 20, 30, 40 years as a tribal and family based holdover from feudalism, formally with kings in Jordan, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia and de facto with Assad and son, Mubarak and son, Ben Ali and son, and Qaddafi and sons in others.

    “Capitalism develops the best with the modern bourgeois-democratic state but the fact that these MENA countries were throwing off colonial oppression rather late, in a period of socialist revolution, and the fact that the masses continued to face heavy imperialist exploitation, made the extension of anything like full democratic rights to the masses rather risky.

    “So, using tribal, religious, and ethnic differences to divide and conquer, a variety of neo-feudal regimes consolidated their power in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, and Syria. The monarchies already in place in Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia made a few cosmetic democratic concessions. And that is how MENA rolled — until recently.”

    I have to disagree re: the quasi/semi-feudal character of post-WWII regimes in the Middle East/North Africa region. In Iraq, the 1958 revolution led to land reform and the end of the landlord class; Egypt under Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak I don’t think can be accurately described as quasi/semi-feudal either. Most of the newly independent former colonial states in this region degenerated into crassly corrupt dictatorships because the progressive measures taken by these governments were conceived and instituted by a thin layer of officers at the top of the capitalist state machine and were not the result of independent activity by workers, poor people, peasants, and students through bodies like the popular committees in workplaces and neighborhoods that exist in Venezuela today. The politics of many of these countries were dominated by coups and counter-coups over the course of decades, some “left”, others right, and many but not all aided by the U.S. (Iraq and Syria 1963, Iran 1953).

    The Arab Spring marks a sharp and probably irrevocable break with the long-standing trend towards coups from above and mass acquiescence. We’re in a somewhat historically unique situation with bourgeois-democratic revolutions against bourgeois (perhaps fascist) regimes. The only good example I can think off the top of my head that might fit this definition would be the revolution in Portugal in 1974 and the Iranian revolution in 1979.

    If the working class had political freedom in these countries, then it would be easier for our class to organize and lead these revolutions and turn them into something more than bourgeois-democratic revolutions. Unfortunately, the Marxist left’s attachment to democracy and politically freedom was severed a long time ago, probably at Kronstadt in 1921 (if not earlier in Russia) so we shouldn’t be surprised that the left as we understand it is all but absent from the ground floor of these revolutions. We’ve been replaced by liberals, left nationalists, anarchists, and Islamicists of varying stripes. Holding our own well-earned irrelevance against these revolutions is the best way to keep ourselves on the sidelines, criticizing when people are really looking for leadership and solidarity.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

      One thing I will add: Clay is right that the Libyan case is the most radical political outcome yet in the Arab Spring. The Western left’s favored revolution in Egypt has not touched the state machine; in Tunisia, the secret police was abolished (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12669461) but the police and military remain intact; in Yemen, the outcome thus far is roughly the same as Egypt (http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/04/06/yemen-transition-needs-accountability-security-reform).

      Libya is treated as the red-headed stepchild of the Arab Spring by the Western left even though Ghadafi’s state machine was almost completely dissolved (as Kautsky put it) by popular militias, a mix of the armed population and renegade military units, only because they sought and received military aid from imperialist powers. Now, they are stuck insisting that Libya is a terrible place (see http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/6012 for an embarrassing example) because “no good can ever come of imperialism” — anything imperialism touches is fatally tainted. This kind of anti-imperialism has more in common with a religious, moralistic world view (“A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” — Matthew 7:18) than it does with the materialist or Marxist world view.

      • Aaron Aarons

        Replacing one rather unique and peculiar state machine that had an 0ff-again-on-again relationship with imperialism with one that fits in very neatly with the imperialist world order is not anything that supporters of the global struggle against imperialist capitalism, unlike imperialist-country bourgeois democrats, have reason to cheer.

        The struggle to stop and reverse the capitalist devastation of the planet is a global one and, regardless of how much and in what ways the change in state power in Libya changes life inside Libya, the practice by pseudo-leftists of prettifying imperialism by focusing attention mainly on those situations of oppression in the world, comparatively minor in their global significance, that are not directly the responsibility of the main imperialist bloc. Meanwhile, more children die each day around the world from imperialist-imposed or -abetted capitalist economic policies than have died in the entire Syrian civil war over nearly two years, and the U.S. openly leads the charge, at the moment in Doha, against any agreement to stop climate catastrophe that would cost the rich imperialist countries more than it would cost the poorer ones.

        • Aaron Aarons

          The first sentence of my last paragraph should have ended with something like “strengthens the ideological grip of imperialism on the world” or, perhaps, “undermines resistance to imperialist capitalism”. I’m not sure which of these, or other, different but supplementary formulations I had in mind when I was writing it, but I never got around to finalizing it before I hastily clicked “Submit”.

    • Arthur

      Seems obvious that Clay’s recognition of the bourgeois democratic (not even “new democratic”) character of the current revolutions reflects the actual reality (which also does make it less Trotskyist ;-)

      It would be absurd to suggest that the pseudo-left’s hostility to these democratc revolutions has anything to do with them not being socialist revolutions. They are rabidly hostile to democracy and would be even more rabidly hostile to anything resembling a revolutionary working class movement.

      I like Clay’s straightforward enthusiasm for democratic revolution. However it is over enthusiasm and a mistake to say “the current struggle for democracy in Libya can easily and organically lead to socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat.”

      Re “quasi-feudal” I think the “socialist” features in which state positions rather than private property ownership form the basis of the ruling class has a lot of similarity to classical feudalism where the landlord class was also the state.

      Especially in oil states where the revenue unambiguously has the characteristics of rent.

  • Anthony Abdo

    I see that this thread’s discussion has turned surreal. Sometime, as a marxist I feel like just blowing my brains out.

    Honestly, I’m glad that not too many folk in Bani Walid will ever see any translation into Arabic of this idiocy offered here in ‘discussion’ about the plusses and minuses of a supposed ‘democratic revolution’ in their country supposedly underway. I wonder what Hillary’s take is on this matter?

    • Brian S.

      I 75% agree with you, Anthony. Threads on fora like this tend to take on a life of their own – sometimes that’s ok, but sometimes it prevents the original discussion from being properly developed. I think the issues around Bani Walid and Libya have had a basic airing, but obviously there’s much more that could be said.
      To be fair Binh did try to nudge us away from going entirely off-message.
      I would suggest the opening of a new thread on the historic/theoretical issues in one of two ways: people who are interested could write a summary of the key questions and whoever gets there first could open the discussion; OR Admin could set up a new thread using Binh’s links.
      Meanwhile back to Libya.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

      Clay has a following among Libyan revolutionaries, actually. The only forces re-printing Western anti-interventionist garbage are counter-revolutionary outlets like Syria’s SANA and Iran’s Press TV.

  • Old and tired

    This discussion has been really useful and enlightening for me. Sorry to Clay and all for starting it off in such a rude way. But, lots of points were brought up by Binh and others that I am really interested to explore and consider. Reading “Two Tactics” now. Also, reading over some other articles on this site about Syria and Libya. I still am not convinced to change my thinking to any major extent (I am a supporter of the “embarrassing” positions of the CWI). But, I am convinced enough to reevaluate things. I’m also convinced this would be a useful discussion for the whole international left – as long as it’s done in a constructive way. BTW, Brian, you seem like someone who has lots of experience with cantankerous debate. Thanks for patiently dealing with me.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

      It’s not the CWI’s positions on Libya that are embarrassing, it’s the method underlying their analysis (which isn’t unique to CWI but common to the international left): U.S. imperialism is bad/evil and can no do no good, anywhere, any time, under any circumstance. That is the starting point rather than the ending point. Then, they cherry-pick facts that fit that conclusion and come up with the following narrative: Libya is overrun by Islamicist death squads, it’s chaos, it’s Iraq 2003-2007 all over again, all thanks to U.S. imperialism. In doing so, they ignore the revolution (deny that there even was one), ignore the elections, strikes, demonstrations, newspapers, and grassroots organizations that have sprung up since Ghadafi’s ouster, ignore the struggle between popular militias and the newly formed state machine, ignore the actual experiences and feelings of actual living Libyans (victims of “false consciousness” no doubt). All the evidence that doesn’t fit or contradicts their political conclusions is ignored, denied, and downplayed, and so they end up repeating truisms (imperialism = bad) even when these truisms have outlived their usefulness as a guide to revolutionary action. They are, as Lenin put it, claiming that “three is more than two” even though we are dealing with negative and not positive figures (negative three is not more than negative two!).

      Historical materialism is supposed to take material reality and the totality of its contradictions as they evolve as its starting point not our own political preferences and worked out positions or just one element of reality like imperialist intervention.

      • Old and tired

        I agree the issue is method. But I think you have a profound misreading of the CWI’s method. Nowhere does the CWI say it is “Iraq 2003-2007 all over again”. You said the CWI approach is: “U.S. imperialism is bad/evil and can no do no good, anywhere, any time, under any circumstance.” This is not what the CWI has said. The CWI wrote earlier, “If weapons were supplied to assist a genuine mass rebellion, even if they were supplied by the imperialist powers – on the precondition that there were no strings attached – we would not stand in the way of this… However, imperialism has no intention of doing this, partly because it is not sure that the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois leaders who presently dominate the ranks of the rebels will be able to control the situation – to imperialism’s benefit – after the removal of Gadaffi. In other words, it is not sure it could control the revolution. This is the fundamental concern throughout the region – hence the relative silence and inaction on massacres in Bahrain and repression in Syria, and the encouragement of sectarian forces in Egypt, etc.” (http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/5083) I think this is fundamentally different from what you are saying the method is. The CWI is taking into consideration the aims of imperialism in the region. The U.S. does not support the Arab Spring, which is not a series of isolated developments, but from the beginning has been tied to regional and global developments. They would like to intervene in the best way possible to safeguard their interests, and above all I think they want stability. I don’t think facts on the ground disprove this.

        Also, it’s not true that the CWI paints a one-sided picture of unmitigated disaster. In the article you linked to it says this about the positive side of recent developments in Libya: “The feeling of liberation that many Libyans have is still important. This could provide a basis for opposition to sectarian and reactionary militias, the potential for which was seen in the protests against Ansar al-Sharia.”

        • Aaron Aarons

          The trouble with the protest against Ansar al-Sharia was that they were not — if the article on this site by an unnamed supposed “Libyan Rebel” is to be believed – against anything sectarian or reactionary that that outfit had done, but against its apparent role in the attack on U.S. diplomatic and intelligence bases. I can’t see anything good about such a protest.

          However, I would never claim that the result of what happened in Libya is an unmitigated disaster. I’m sure, in fact, that the destruction of the U.S. diplomatic facilities and CIA operations center wasn’t the only good thing that has happened in Libya since the fall of Qaddafi, but I’d like to know what the other things are. In particular, what “strikes, demonstrations, newspapers, and grassroots organizations” is Pham Binh referring to in his comment above?

          • Brian S.

            @AaronAarons: The article you refer to states quite clearly “The popular demonstrations that took place in Benghazi recently were not haphazard and not a reaction to any single incident or event.” They were held under the slogan of “Save Benghazi” and expressed public frustration at the poor security situation in the city and the failure of the government to address the issue of unofficial militias. What was “good ” about the protest was that it demonstrated the continuing vitality of the revolutionary spirit, with citizens taking direct action to resolve problems when the government was unable to do so.
            Its difficult to know the details of what is happening at grass roots level in Libya for those of us who don’t have access to Arabic: the western press has largely lost interest in such things. Until recently most strikes have been more about political issues (especially security and removing Gaddafi appointed managers) than economic ones – involving being airline staff (pilots and air traffic controllers), truck drivers, and oil workers
            The most recent dispute is a more traditional trade union one: http://www.libyaherald.com/2012/11/14/sidra-terminal-strike-threatens-400000-bd-exports/
            A local dispute which shows how Libyans are voicing and dealing with local concerns:
            http://www.libyaherald.com/2012/10/02/beida-residents-protest-against-history-books/

            One of the main areas of civil society activity is over women’s rights. Some info and some relevant general comments can be found in: http://www.libyaherald.com/2012/12/09/dont-just-focus-on-the-negatives-libyan-female-activist-tells-bbc-interviewer/
            This includes the wise words: “Democracy is not an event, it’s a process,”

        • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

          Actually, it is what CWI said: “The CWI – as was the duty of Marxists – did not bend to this pressure, but explained that imperialism could play no progressive role in the situation.” (http://www.socialistworld.net/mob/doc/5560)

          And yes, the CWI article does ” ignore the elections, strikes, demonstrations, newspapers, and grassroots organizations that have sprung up since Ghadafi’s ouster, ignore the struggle between popular militias and the newly formed state machine” as I said. The original article I pointed to (http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/6012) is headlined: “Post-Gaddafi society still volatile and violent.” It says the country is wracked by “chaos” and “instability” and denigrates all of the militias, not just the right-wing/Islamist ones. It doesn’t even note that the prospect of forming worker-based organizations is dramatically easier now that Ghadafi is gone!

          How the CWI picture squares with the reality that oil production has gone back to normal is beyond me. But one thing is for sure: this is not the materialist method.

  • Jonathan Nack

    I’m glad that Clay Claiborne is so optimistic about the trajectory of things in Libya. However, when he writes about it leading to socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat, I think he’s fooling himself. How he gets there, from a movement which is obviously capitalist in its economic ideology is astonishing.

    Claiborne rails against a tiny minority in the radical left which has provided some defense of the Gadaffi regime. Why Claiborne is fixated on what some Marxist-Leninist sects and some individuals are writing about Libya is completely beyond me.

    Claiborne’s main contention, that a significant portion of the U. S. radical left has defended the Gaddafi regime and opposed the “revolution” is just flat out wrong. Can’t say it any clearer than that.

    Claiborne attempts to confuse opposition to imperialist military intervention with support for the Gaddafi regime. Fortunately, few on the U. S. radical left are confused by this point. The overwhelming majority of radicals in the U. S. support the revolutionary demands for democracy and human rights by Libyans, but also know that imperialism acts only in the interests of profits, exploitation and control. Claiborne’s downplaying of the pro-capitalist ideology of the revolution, and the economic impact of imperialism’s intervention, renders much of his writing dubious.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

      The best and only way to defend the Ghadafi regime in 2011 was to stop NATO’s airstrikes on his military forces. The majority of the far left hoped and did its best to organize for this outcome. Fortunately for the Libyans, they failed miserably and the revolution succeeded.

      • Anthony Abdo

        Well once again we have another example from Pham of the Pham, Clay and Louis humanitarian socialist camp of they bluntly claiming that ‘revolution’ could only be made in Libya by supporting imperialist bombing of that country, imperialist intervention in that country, imperialist forced war in that country and that therefore he, Pham, and all other true marxist ‘revolutionaries’ must be for Nato just being freely allowed to do its work, and then celebrating that!

        The revolution succeeded in Libya proclaims Pham against all reason and evidence, and one can only wonder if for Pham the only thing keeping the Egyptian revolution from succeeding is merely a good dose of Nato bombing there on Egyptian territory as well as was done supposedly for Libya.

        Pham and crowd have made it very clear that a greater entrance of Nato into the fighting in Syria too is welcome by these famed ‘revolutionaries’ that they are generals and comandantes for. On to Tehran with the marxists we have here on North Star! One revolution two revolutions three revolutions… revolution everywhere for Pham and the revolution!

        • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

          So when Egyptians in Tahrir Square chant, “If they want to be Syria, we’ll give them Libya” you think they’re calling for NATO to bomb Egypt?

          • Anthony Abdo

            So how do we know that more than several people in Egypt were ever chanting this, and what does the chant mean to you even? What we do know, is that if any grouplet of dissidents inside Egypt were to ever ask that Nato or the US bomb their country for them, that you, Comrade, would second their request, as you have already done in the cases of Syria and Libya so far. Will you soon, too, be supporting bombing by Nato and the US of Iran? The government there I hear is horrible horrible horrible.

            • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

              We know because it was reported in real time from the ground. We also know that Hamas and the majority of the Palestinians support the revolution against Assad. I guess they’re pro-imperialist too in your book.

              • Aaron Aarons

                Citations, please!

    • Brian S.

      @Jonathan Nack: I agree that its necessary to distinguish between opposition to external military intervention in Libya and explicit support for Gaddafi, and that most significant left groups were in the former rather than the latter category. But you underestimate how widespread the latter view was in wider left-influenced public opinion: if you’ve spent any time on public discussion boards – linked either to left organisations or mainstream media, you will know how many people there are who soak up conspiracy theories (propagated by a host of left sites) and draw the conclusion that Gaddafi, Assad, et al were/are heroic anti-imperialists. And what did the mainstream left do to disabuse them? Almost nothing: indeed groups like the UK Stop the War echoed such views in their own propaganda. Nice to know that the “overwhelming majority of radicals in the U. S. support the revolutionary demands for democracy and human rights by Libyans”. So where were the demonstrations and meetings proclaiming this fact? Where are the articles and informed discussions from the left engaging with the problems and prospects facing the Libyan people in their struggle for for “democracy and human rights” post-Gaddafi (as opposed to the tedious crowing of “All is chaos- we told you so!”)?
      You seem to be continuing in the same tradition – rather than making a clear critique of the Libyan revolution you just mutter obscurely about !”the pro-capitalist ideology of the revolution, and the economic impact of imperialism’s intervention”. I might disagree with you and I might not: I can’t tell because you don’t take this discussion seriously enough to spell out your argument, and I am therefore left with no idea what you are talking about.
      I have multiple points of disagreement with Clay – but he always offers clear statements of his views, chapter and verse documentation, and I know what side he is on. Would that the rest of the left followed suit.

      • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

        This distinction is correct except where external military intervention is what tipped the scale between Ghadafi staying and going, between a victory for the counter-revolution and and its defeat. The end of NATO’s military operations in 2011 would have been the best possible thing to happen for Ghadafi. The question should always be, “who stands to gain?” not “what is imperialism doing/not doing?”

        • Aaron Aarons

          I’m quite sure that the imperialists, and factions thereof, ask themselves what they stand to gain or lose by intervening in various ways. The global enemies of Empire and Capital have no reason to care about whether a guy named Qaddafi would gain or lose by a decision of the imperialists, but every reason to care about whether our propaganda, agitation and direct actions would strengthen or weaken the grip of imperialist capital on the world and, in particular, its ability to mobilize its populations in support of its future interventions.

    • http://www.dailykos.com/blog/Clay%20Claiborne/ Clay Claiborne (@clayclai)

      I really hate two faced statement like we always hear from the bourgeoisie. Like “we’ve all opposed to homelessness” while they move forward with evictions or “we all want peace” while they plan the next war.

      That’s why I have learned to judge people by what they do and not by what they say.

      “overwhelming majority of radicals in the U. S. support the revolutionary demands for democracy and human rights by Libyans,” has much the same feeling. unless you think the radicals around Anonymous and WikiLeaks constitute the “overwhelming majority” which I seriously doubt. I have some clues as to how those radicals “support[ed] the revolutionary demands for democracy and human rights by Libyan” by practical activities that ranged from keeping the Internet open to weapons identification and communications for the revolutionary fighters. But those aren’t M-L radicals we are talking about here.

      I mainly lent my talents for agitprop to the revolution and the fruits of my labour can be seen in the list above. That is how I expressed my “support the revolutionary demands for democracy and human rights by Libyans.” And with practical effect.

      My The Assassination of General Abdul Fattah Younis was the first piece I asked selected Libyan activist to critique before it was published. It was seen as the definite piece on the assassination at the time by many Libyans. It was designed to damp down the defeatist speculation circulating around the incident at the time and it had that effect.

      After I debunked a Russian intelligence report claiming Qaddafi had not used his air force against protesters, Russia Today stopped telling that lie.

      Qaddafi claimed 3 rallies in Green Square with 1.7 million supporters. After I showed that Green Square couldn’t hold half that many, they never made that claim again.

      I just didn’t see many others in the US Left in those trenches with me. I just saw the US Left demanding that our air cover be withdrawn [ Like most in the US Left, in the beginning, I didn't give a fuck about anybody in Benghazi, as my practise developed, that changed.]

      This was air cover demanded by those in Libya promoting the “revolutionary demands for democracy and human rights” and anybody demanding its removal was their enemy and a friend of Qaddafi in their eyes.

      I know that those that think they can have it both ways, namely take the “correct anti-imperialist stand” of opposing NATO and still know “in their hearts” they, in theory at least, “support the revolutionary demands for democracy and human rights by Libyan,” may not like it.

      But that’s the way it looks from the trenches.

      • Arthur

        Its depressing to call these people “the left”, let alone “Marxist-Leninists”. It is a sad fact that left and ML forces are very small at the moment. But work they are doing, like the work Clay is doing, is real and revolutionary. The pseudo-left is also very small and rapidly growing smaller. The sooner they are universally identified as “pseudo-left” rather than “the left” the less damage they will do and the sooner we will start to grow again.

        • Aaron Aarons

          I’m sure that most people who fight for social and economic equality, which is what historically defines the left, are going to recognize that people like Arthur are supporters of imperialism, the main enemy of such global equality, and are therefore, since the claim to be “leftists”, part of the not-very-convincing pseudo-left.

  • http://www.dailykos.com/blog/Clay%20Claiborne/ Clay Claiborne (@clayclai)

    Yesterday, I was set to pen a long comment to this thread on the experience of myself and others with regards to the practical work being done activists around the world in proving essential support for the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Syria.

    This will address the claims of those that say we really can’t have any effects on these events so far away. That is so not true in the Internet age. Anonymous has, Wikileaks has. I have.

    This is a question of revolutionary practise and I have contributed in a practical way to each of the revolutionary struggles I listed above without ever going east of Lincoln.

    I also think Left political theory should be advanced critically by our participation/analysis of these struggles. I bought the Paris Commune into this discussion because I feel we should be studying the Arab Spring revolutions the way Marx and Engels studied the Paris Commune.

    Here we have an oppressed people, largely working class, that have organized a people’s army to overthrow a long standing dictator and now those people, already proven to be among the most courageous on the planet, are rebuilding a modern state virtually from scratch. These are exciting times. We have a lot to learn here and maybe a little to teach.

    But that can’t happen because the Marxist Left as a whole as no practise in these revolutions, unlike the anarchist lead Anonymous, which can count cadre from most of the struggles as being in its ranks, and because the Left, as shown by discussion here, is so clouded with a position that is still seeking portray the people build a new state in Libya as ” the current group of imperialist stooges in power in Libya” and other such nonsense.

    These anti-interventionists turned counter-revolutionary positions can’t really be defended so the best approach requires a very selective cherry-picking of “facts.” What must be avoided at all cost is a detailed look at all the facts and circumstances of these revolutions with an eye towards understanding their internal dynamics so as to push them forward and apply the lessons elsewhere. That is what Marxists do, but instead so many of these left infiltraitors are looking for reasons to condemn these people for all eternity for overthrowing their “Brother Leader” pretend socialist and imperialistic.

    My practise in the Libyan revolutions, mostly documented in the list of writings above, has gained me a certain amount of respect among many Libyan revolutionaries. My most important papers are well read and republished on Arab sites. Libyan Youth Movement & NTC Labor Commission are (were NTC??) among my Libyan followers on Twitter. Other Libyans have acted as my proof readers, translators and advisers on tribal and cultural matters. They know I am Black and they know I am a communist.

    This will have to do, as yesterday I got sidetracked by more pressing practical work and wrote this instead:

    BREAKING in Syria: Assad asylum offers pour in as he is reported loading sarin gas into bombs

  • Anthony Abdo

    Clay speaks so unintelligibly that I have a hard time even beginning to make any sense at all of much of his verbal mumbo jumbo. Take for example this paragraph by him just written… We’ll try to make some sense of what motivates this guy’s politics???? …shall we? And can we really?

    ‘These anti-interventionists turned counter-revolutionary positions can’t really be defended so the best approach requires a very selective cherry-picking of “facts.”’

    Huh? As a marxist ‘anti-interventionist’ I am against the intervention of the imperialist government of the US in the internal affairs of any nation, and that includes Libya. Why would any marxist be FOR intervention by their own capitalist imperialists into running the affairs of other nations, Clay?

    And we ‘cherry pick’ facts and data? You’re the guy who thinks that a grand revolution occurred due to Nato bombing that removed Gaddafi from power. You really have to stretch to come to this conclusion that this was supposedly ‘revolution’. The percent of the world population that sees Libya as now moving on a revolutionary course has to be about only perhaps 1% of 1% of 1% at max! Clay is delusional about this.

    Clay goes on…’What must be avoided at all cost is a detailed look at all the facts and circumstances of these revolutions with an eye towards understanding their internal dynamics so as to push them forward and apply the lessons elsewhere.’

    Huh again? Clay, most marxists do not believe that any revolution has actually occurred in Libya. The overturn of Gaddafi’s government by the US was completely reactionary in character and to term that a revolution just shows how utterly confused you are. The events simply do not add up to concluding that any revolution has taken place, but rather to concluding that the US has helped destroy the previous fairly decent standard of living that many Libyans enjoyed.

    ‘That is what Marxists do, but instead so many of these left infiltraitors are looking for reasons to condemn these people for all eternity for overthrowing their “Brother Leader” pretend socialist and imperialistic.’

    Huh? Who is Clay to call other marxist comrades such as myself a ‘left infiltrator’? An infiltrator of what? Clay leads no movement at all and is not a participant in any US movement that I can see. He is an advocate of US militarism and justifies it by using phony marxist phraseology of which he is master of not in the least. As this supposed ‘left infiltrator’ I do not condemn any Libyans for trying to overthrow Gaddafi. Never have and never will so he simply is just making up accusations against us so-called, his pretense, ‘left-infiltrators’. Who I do condemn is know nothing US based fools, marxist or not, who were trying to overthrow Gaddafi much more than trying to overthrow their own US military involvement there. Clay doesn’t get it so he makes up absurdities to accuse us of instead of using his brain some, and trying to understand why other marxists of long standing are diametrically opposed to his politics that condone US capitalist military force being used against Third World governments.

    Last, is this idiocy of Clay accusing anybody as thinking that Gaddafi was anybody’s ”Brother Leader’. Nobody in the US or Europe ever talked of Gaddafi in that way, and Clay well knows that. So he is what? Lying? But lying really only to himself because everybody else can see through his nonsense about this. Gaddafi did some reasonably good things off and on, but “Brother Leader’? Give us a break. It really is hard to justify any excuse for any marxist to be spouting such nonsensical mumbo jumbo such as this.

  • Jonathan Nack

    @Brian: I don’t know where you live (I live in Oakland, CA), but your assertion that many activists were influenced by those few defending the Gaddafi regime does not comport with my experience at all. I even attended an anti-war forum organized by ANSWER (one of the few groups on the left taking such a position) in San Francisco and I can tell you that even at this forum an overwhelming majority of attendees were strongly against ANSWER’s position, while also opposing U. S. military intervention.

    The idea that significant portions of the left looked upon Gaddafi and Assad as “heroic anti-imperialists,” is just plain wrong to the point of being silly. Leftists in the U. S. didn’t oppose the U. S. military intervention for those reasons. If you think that’s what happened, I think you’re really out of touch.

    I have no great analysis of the revolution in Libya, other than the obvious, that the new ruling class will be drawn from the capitalist class. This may well represent an improvement for Libyans over the Gaddafi regime. It will certainly be different. It may turn out to increase democratic representation, civil liberties, and rule of law, while diminishing entitlements and giving rise to a powerful capitalist class. It may end up worse, or it could still fail entirely and give rise to a new dictatorship. I make no prediction. I’m no expert on Libya like Claiborne and don’t pretend to be. I wish the Libyan oppressed masses well.

    I stand in solidarity with the just demands of the Libyan people for democracy, freedom and social justice. However, I am not worried about what any Libyan thinks about my opposition to my nation’s military intervention. They may understand their situation, but I understand U. S. imperialism. I do not look to revolutionaries in any other country to tell me what my position in regard to U. S. imperialism should be.

    That doesn’t mean I’m not interested in learning what Libyan revolutionaries are calling for, nor that I wouldn’t consider what they are saying, just that they do not define my political choices or how to express my solidarity.

    It is an absurd idea that the position a radical in the U. S. can take in regards to a U. S. military intervention can be defined by revolutionaries in Libya (that are not even leftists) as a binary political choice: support the U. S. military intervention and be in solidarity with us, or oppose U. S. military intervention and be an opponent of the Libyan revolution and a defender of Gaddafi. It’s terribly twisted syllogistic logic.

    • Arthur

      The absurd idea of a binary political choice was the actual choice you faced and still face just as it was the exact choice “America Firsters” faced. After Pearl Harbour, because only a minority of America Firsters were in fact enthusiastic sympathisers of fascism rather than dupes and blind fools their ant-war movement (which was large and influential) rapidly collapsed. Yours has already collapsed but there is no pearl harbour and you are still refusing to face the binary choice between actually being in solidarity with people fighting for basic democratic rights and siding with their rulers being allowed to crush them militarily while military powers capable of stopping that do nothing.

      • Aaron Aarons

        Interesting that Arthur mentions Pearl Harbor, which was, rather than a surprise attack on an innocent United Snakes, part of an inter-imperialist struggle for the control of the Pacific. It was also an attack that Roosevelt allowed to happen so as to provide an excuse for U.S. entry into the ongoing war. (As for “America Firsters”, they weren’t leftists but real or pretend U.S. nationalists, so whatever choices they made had nothing to do with what actual leftists did or didn’t do.)

        And, no, we don’t have to side with Qatar, the Saudi royals, and the Western imperialist powers in supporting and arming the rebellion in Syria, and certainly not with the forces within the rebellion that those enemies of humanity will choose to arm. There are many conflicts going on in the world (e.g., Haiti, Colombia, the Philippines, India, Honduras, to name a few) where we can be on the side of the oppressed masses and, as a natural corollary, be in opposition to imperialism and its local clients.

        Real leftists are not going to strengthen the main enemy, U.S.-and-Western-dominated global capitalist imperialism, by legitimizing its use of military force under the guise of “humanitarian intervention” , “Responsibility to Protect”, or, even more absurdly, “promotion of democracy”.

        • http://www.dailykos.com/blog/Clay%20Claiborne/ Clay Claiborne (@clayclai)

          Interesting that Arthur mentions Pearl Harbor, which was, rather than a surprise attack on an innocent United Snakes, part of an inter-imperialist struggle for the control of the Pacific.

          Sounds like you are justifying the attack on Pearl Harbor and the killing of thousands of people because they were snakes. That’s the way it will read to most people. Most people don’t making hating the US a principle.

          It was also an attack that Roosevelt allowed to happen so as to provide an excuse for U.S. entry into the ongoing war.

          Yes, a war against that most terrible and and brutal stage of capitalist rule – fascism, the defeat of which, I count as the most important task of the world’s people at that time. A war that some in the 3rd world were waging for 7-8 years before the US started doing more than supplying weapons and money, although I must point out that some of the best and and most progressive among us volunteered to put their bodies on the line in Spain and in China much nearer to the beginning than the end of that great struggle.

          I can’t believe you want to play some silly school yard game about who really hit first in a M-L forum?

          And, no, we don’t have to side with Qatar, the Saudi royals, and the Western imperialist powers in supporting and arming the rebellion in Syria

          We don’t have to, because we don’t really give a fuck who wins or loses in this fight, so why compromise our purity?

          Why did the Soviet Union side with the imperialist Roosevelt? Because they wanted to defeat a common enemy – the Nazis! Why did the US imperialist Roosevelt send weapons and military advisers to Ho Chi Minh? (which I’m sure you would have condemned him for not refusing.) I’ll let you answer that one.

          You sound like you oppose rebellion against a fascist police state, rebellion specifically against the Assad regime, and maybe that’s the core issue here

          and certainly not with the forces within the rebellion that those enemies of humanity will choose to arm.

          So we shouldn’t give support to the most progressive elements in the rebellion because the people that also fund Al Jazeera may also be funding some of the most backwards elements in the rebellion according to the Assad regime.

          There are many conflicts going on in the world (e.g., Haiti, Colombia, the Philippines, India, Honduras, to name a few) where we can be on the side of the oppressed masses and, as a natural corollary, be in opposition to imperialism and its local clients.

          But Syria is where the action is now!

          Are you actually trying to say that any of those struggles is at such a critical role now as Syria? Are you actually proposing that the Left chose its focus by what is supposedly clear and uncomplicated rather than what is of world-historic importance at the given time.

          You propose that the Left abandon the Syria struggle because it is receiving support from right wing elements, and them you condemn that struggle because jhadists see its importance and we don’t?

          Real leftists are not going to strengthen the main enemy, U.S.-and-Western-dominated global capitalist imperialism, by legitimizing its use of military force under the guise of “humanitarian intervention” , “Responsibility to Protect”, or, even more absurdly, “promotion of democracy”.

          On that basis I also expect you to be organizing protests against the deployment of the US military for tsunami or Earthquake relief no matter how many lives could be saved, for fear that it might generate good PR for the pentagon.

          Hate only takes you so far. It doesn’t win revolutions.

          • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

            These “Marxists” wouldn’t call the police in a rape case because they are “opposed to bourgeois cops as a matter of principle.”

          • Aaron Aarons

            “Are you actually trying to say that any of those struggles is at such a critical role now as Syria? Are you actually proposing that the Left chose its focus by what is supposedly clear and uncomplicated rather than what is of world-historic importance at the given time.”

            The only thing that might be of world-historic importance in relation to what is happening in Syria is whether or not the result materially strengthens the position of the U.S. and its allies, especially the Sunni monarchies, to the point that they can strangle and defeat Iran. Aside from that, the question of whether the Baathists, with or without Assad, continue to rule or are replaced by any of the other forces there that actually have a chance of coming to power is of very little consequence for the future of the planet.

            • Aaron Aarons

              Correction: “to the point that they can strangle and defeat Iran” and Hezbollah.

          • Aaron Aarons

            “Sounds like you are justifying the attack on Pearl Harbor and the killing of thousands of people because they were snakes.”

            The attack on Pearl Harbor was an attack on a military installation of one imperialist power by another. It is regrettable that so many subsequent attacks by all sides in that war were not so narrowly targeted. I realize this is just fantasy, but imagine how much better the situation would have been for oppressed nations and peoples if the various imperialist powers had mainly targeted each others’ military forces and installations!

            “[...] I must point out that some of the best and and most progressive among us volunteered to put their bodies on the line in Spain and in China much nearer to the beginning than the end of that great struggle.”

            I won’t comment on people who “put their bodies on the line” in China because I don’t know anything about them (unless you’re talking about the Chinese and Koreans in the Red Army). But, in Spain, such well-meaning and heroic people were misused by the Stalinists in their successful efforts, as part of their strategy of trying to form an alliance with the imperialist “democracies”, to sabotage the revolutionary workers’ uprising that was the immediate and largely successful mass response to the military coup of July, 1936.

            “On that basis I also expect you to be organizing protests against the deployment of the US military for tsunami or Earthquake relief no matter how many lives could be saved, for fear that it might generate good PR for the pentagon.”

            The actual deployment of the US military in response to the January, 1910 Haiti earthquake directly interfered with actual earthquake relief and was denounced by Haitian activists and many relief organizations. If the U.S. troops had gone into Haiti to actually deliver aid without re-occupying the country, it would have been hard to denounce them, except perhaps for the stinginess of such aid. But that wasn’t the case.

    • Brian S.

      @Jonathan Nack I live in the UK (there is a world outside the US, you know). And I didn’t make any claims about “activists” (US or otherwise) – indeed I said the opposite:” its necessary to distinguish between opposition to external military intervention in Libya and explicit support for Gaddafi, and most significant left groups were in the former rather than the latter category”.
      What I did refer to was “wider left-influenced public opinion” (perhaps that’s not a category you’re very familiar with in the States). And there were certainly many influential left sources (US and other) that contributed to pro-Gaddafi sentiment in these circles.
      I don’t know who your subsequent arguments are directed against – they certainly don’t relate to anything I said. (Although I think a little more humility in response to people who are risking their lives in a fight against injustice would be appropriate).
      You claimed that the “overwhelming majority of radicals in the U. S. support the revolutionary demands for democracy and human rights by Libyans”. My question about that was: “Where were the demonstrations and meetings proclaiming this fact? Where are the articles and informed discussions from the left engaging with the problems and prospects facing the Libyan people in their struggle for “democracy and human rights” post-Gaddafi” You chose to ignore it – so So I repeat it here again.

  • Jonathan Nack

    @ Brian S, Those are two fair questions. There were a few small protests in support of the Libyan revolution in my area. I wasn’t going to join them because their main demand of the U. S. was to call for U. S. military intervention. I stood and continue to stand against that.

    I had some discussion with pro-revolutionary Libyans at the time. I warned them that U.S./Nato intervention will create huge problems for Libya and that the price for the imperialist military intervention that they were calling for would be extremely high.

    I would point out here, that the type of U.S./NATO intervention that occurred was not the only option. There is an internationally recognized military tactic of providing a safe corridor for civilians fleeing oppression and even genocide. At the beginning of the intervention, the rebels had retreated to the east and a corridor could have been established. There could even have been ongoing protection of the eastern part of Libya, resulting in a semi-autonomous zone.

    Such tactics pass the tests for a humanitarian military intervention.

    This alternative military strategy would not have resulted in the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime, which is why it wasn’t what Libyan revolutionaries were calling for.

    U.S./NATO opted for a military strategy of regime change, not humanitarian intervention. That point seems to be lost by some in this discussion.

    As far as articles go, I remember reading many. I’m not your bibliographer, go find them yourself. I suggest leading left U.S. publications, such as The Nation, In These Times, Indymedia, Common Dreams, Huffington Post, etc. While these publications gave some voice to minority positions defending Gadaffi, as they should, the overwhelming number of articles were clear about the oppressive nature of the Gadaffi dictatorship, and expressed solidarity with the demands of the Libyan people for democracy and freedom.

    If people in my country want to be lost in the tiny and almost completely insignificant world of what someone from a Marxist-Leninist sect writes about Libya – go right ahead. If you think it has profound implications for the U. S. left, I think you’re sorely mistaken.

    I understand that Marxism-Leninism isn’t quite as dead in Europe, but here in the U. S., it’s a corpse. And as I wrote before, even most Marxist-Leninists in the U. S. didn’t defend Gadaffi.

    In the U. S., the largest group defending Gadaffi was the Nation of Islam. The NOI is not leftist, though some of its positions coincide with leftist ones. The NOI is very ideologically eclectic and many other positions of the NOI are actually pro- capitalist, while some others actually coincide with right-wing positions, including segregationism. I hardly think the NOI’s position is a cause to debate the left’s positions on Libya.

    • Brian S.

      @Jonathan Nack:
      “I’m not your bibliographer” I must remember that the next time someone asks me to document my claims – but then I won’t need it, because I believe that providing such documentation is a prerequisite to intelligent debate. I’ve just done a quick search of “In these times” and while there aren’t’t any articles extolling the virtues of Gaddafi, I can’t see any expressing solidarity with the democratic demands of the Libyan people either , and there are a number decidely ambiguous in their attitude to Gaddafi (including by that marginalised and uninfluential Marxist-Leninist Noam Chomsky.)
      ” There were a few small protests in support of the Libyan revolution in my area.” Exactly – and WHY? If the anti-interventionist left had mobilised under banners proclaiming “Hands off Libya – Victory to the Libyan Revolution” I could have some respect for them: but all their emphasis went into the first part, and the second never seems to have occured to them.
      If you look back on this site, you’ll see a thread where various of us did a coordinated review of the public expressions of solidarity with the Syrian struggle in the US and Europe, at a time when the movement was primarily led by peaceful civil protesters who were being daily gunned down in the street. We didn’t find a single protest initiated or actively supported by the lef in the US. In the UK there were none supported by mainstream left organisations.
      Your notion of an “alternative solution” I find quite strange coming from someone who claims to be on the left. It would have involved a long-term partitioning of the country into a Cyrenaican mini-state, overwhelmed by refugees from the west, and dependent on NATO largesse; while the other half of the country would have to get by with the mercies of an ascendant Gaddafi.
      And you think this PREFERABLE to the actual outcome?

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

      “There were a few small protests in support of the Libyan revolution in my area. I wasn’t going to join them because their main demand of the U. S. was to call for U. S. military intervention. I stood and continue to stand against that.”

      Because we should only support revolutions and movements that adopt positions we agree with, right?

      This is textbook sectarianism.

      “I had some discussion with pro-revolutionary Libyans at the time. I warned them that U.S./Nato intervention will create huge problems for Libya and that the price for the imperialist military intervention that they were calling for would be extremely high.”

      Time to re-evaluate. Libya is doing the best out of all the nations affected by the Arab Spring: tremendous political freedoms and a salafi movement that is totally isolated and going nowhere fast.

      “There could even have been ongoing protection of the eastern part of Libya, resulting in a semi-autonomous zone. Such tactics pass the tests for a humanitarian military intervention.”

      So you support imperialist intervention when you think it will work for humanitarian reasons? Your position and methodology is unclear.

      “This alternative military strategy would not have resulted in the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime, which is why it wasn’t what Libyan revolutionaries were calling for.

      U.S./NATO opted for a military strategy of regime change, not humanitarian intervention. That point seems to be lost by some in this discussion.”

      It would have resulted in the survival of the Ghadafi regime and the partition of Libya; instead of a free, independent, and unified Libya, we’d have an imperialist-dependent client state and a permanent excuse to keep imperialist boots on the ground against the “Ghadafi threat.”

      Libyan revolutionaries accomplished the regime change the people wanted with military aid from NATO and today there are zero NATO bases in Libya. Why is that bad?

  • Louis Proyect

    @Nack: If people in my country want to be lost in the tiny and almost completely insignificant world of what someone from a Marxist-Leninist sect writes about Libya – go right ahead. If you think it has profound implications for the U. S. left, I think you’re sorely mistaken.

    This is not really a question of The Nation versus Workers World Party or the SEP. Counterpunch, MRZine, Global Research, Dissident Voice, and a number of other websites have a huge presence on the left. They all supported Qaddafi. Furthermore, the more fundamental question is how to assess the Libyan revolution. For some, it became illegitimate the minute it called for a no-fly zone. I think that this is not a good litmus test. By analogy, the East Timorese called for intervention against the Indonesia-backed militias. The movement did not become transformed when it issued that call. In my view, given the geopolitical realities of today, there will be a tendency for liberation movements to try to get help from any quarter. Since you have a major hegemon facing off a coalition of nations that historically had ties to the former Soviet Union, there is a tendency to reduce every situation to the Vietnam War or other struggles against imperialism. Libya is far more contradictory, so is Syria. To liken the insurgents to counter-revolutionaries of the Savimbi or Nicaraguan contras stripe is a crude mistake. Even in the case of Nicaragua, there was evidence that the Miskitos were not simple pawns of American imperialism as Tomas Borge tried to explain some years ago.

    • Anthony Abdo

      Louis, since you have put yourself thoroughly into the orbit of the Green Left crowd of humanitarian Australian Lefty imperialists and their cohorts elsewhere and in the US, it is no great surprise to see you say the following…

      ‘By analogy, the East Timorese called for intervention against the Indonesia-backed militias. The movement did not become transformed when it issued that call. In my view, given the geopolitical realities of today, there will be a tendency for liberation movements to try to get help from any quarter.’

      And now, in great part because the Australian neo-Troskyists around Green Left called, too, for supporting their own countries imperialist capitalist class in their grab for what was Third World Indonesia’s petroleum reserves, East Timor has become a completely dependent on imperialism satellite state of way less than 2 million people total for Australia to now thoroughly exploit natural resources there at will. Indonesia lost those much needed natural resources of BIG OIL needed for its huge population approaching quickly 300,000,000 people plus. East Timor represented about half of Indonesia’s oil reserves. It’s now gone to a tiny puppet statelet of Australia though. It is now Australia’s ‘Kuwait’, so to speak, which was once a part of Iraq split off by the British imperialists to help them better control the flow of oil as they willed.

      All of this is all irrelevant to Louis and like ‘marxist’ thinkers though. They are too busy chasing ‘revolutions’ and rainbows to cheer far as USA TODAY ‘revolutionary tourist than to ever really oppose any imperialist war machines and resource grabs.

      • Brian S.

        @AntthonyAbdo. Actually East Timor has about 12% of the joint oil reserves of itself and Indonesia. And it has been involved in a major conflict with Australia for the last decade over access to those resources.

        • Anthony Abdo

          You are right, Brian. I had based my bad estimate of the relation on oil resources between the two nations on a report that calculated a huge amount of oil that would soon be found potentially in the Timor Sea.

          True though that Indonesia’s oil reserves are rapidly running out for its 4th largest in the world population while East Timor (and thus imperialism) now has access to a relatively unexplored area that cannot longer provide any much needed revenues and energy supplies to Indonesia.

  • Arthur

    I would be surprised if anyone here failed to notice that NATO opted for regime change rather than humanitarian intervention.

    Why do you prefer the regime contiuing to hold Tripoli (with a likely ongoing civil war) to the actual outcome of free elections? Given that you don’t support the regime, what attracts you to this position and how do you expect others to pay much attention to the distinction in your own head between your opposition to regime change and defending the regime?

  • http://LinuxBeach.net Clay Claiborne

    Here’s a survey of Left actives vis the Syrian conflict in Los Angeles.
    Here’s what a casual observer would have noted by listening to our local left radio station, KPFK, reading one of the local papers that reports on left events, like Changing Times, or any of the email lists that specialize in spreading the word about protests and events.

    Half a dozen marches or rallies over the past year at which many of Assad’s flags were flown and none where the revolution’s flag were flown.

    On the strength of this alone, the great masses of Angelenos, whose only contact with the Left is that they may occasionally drive by a protest or see one on TV, will conclude that the Left in Los Angeles is throwing what insignificant weight it has behind the murderous Assad.

    This helps explain why these protests are so small and growing smaller every time.

    This pro-fascist stand the Left has taken on Libya and Syria has been extremely damaging to it.

    And that’s how we know who the true friends of imperialism are.

  • Louis Proyect

    Indonesia lost those much needed natural resources of BIG OIL needed for its huge population approaching quickly 300,000,000 people plus.

    Suhartoite.

    • Anthony Abdo

      And I guess that you were a Saddam Husseinite when you opposed the US military war on Iraq, Louis…

  • Jonathan Nack

    Sorry, I appear to be living in a different universe from many of you, particularly Clay Claiborne. He writes, “This pro-fascist stand the Left has taken on Libya and Syria has been extremely damaging to it.” This statement is so out there, so disconnected from reality as I experience it, that it’s hard to respond to.

    The U. S. left has been extremely damaged by many things, but this is not one of them.

    The Assad government’s slaughter of its people has been almost universally condemned by the various groups that comprise the U. S. left. If that translates to Claiborne into support for Assad’s government, he has a very twisted idea of what support is.

    I’ve never been in favor of U. S. leftists allowing themselves to be divided over disagreement over the analysis of some foreign country. If Claiborne and some of those connected to The North Star want to come out strongly in favor of the Libyan revolution and the U. S./NATO, I have no problem with that. They’re certainly entitled to their opinion.

    To announce that leftists who do not agree and oppose U. S./NATO military intervention are in support of pro-fascist regimes stretches credulity beyond its breaking point. (And that’s to put it as comradely as possible.)

    I’m not out there demonstrating for every movement around the world seeking to overthrow their government. Why should I even think about going out to demonstrate for some movement in another land that isn’t even leftist or anti-imperialist? Especially when such a movement is openly operating in alliance with U. S./NATO imperialism. This is what you think I should spend my limited time and energy on? Pleeeeez!

    Does that mean I have no solidarity with demands by the Libyan masses for more democracy and freedom? I don’t think so at all. If those living in whatever alternative reality they’re living in think it does, I’m fine with that.

    • Brian S.

      @Jonathan Nack. I’ve already indicated that I make a distinction between opposing US intervention and supporting the dictatorships: but I’m afraid your attempt to shelter under the claim that Libya and Syria are “far-away countries of whom we know nothing” just won’t wash. Both were clearly expressions of the Arab Spring, which has been acknowledged by all and sundry as the most significant geopolitical upheaval of the last 20 years. If the left had followed your approach it would have just ignored Libya and Syria (which some in the UK did for a while) – while extremely parochial that would have at least been consistent. But it didn’t: it trumpeted its opposition to the intervention and down-played to the point of islence any expression of solidarity. Anyway, I think this horse is now definitively dead, so I’ll have no more to say on it.
      To turn instead to your more interestng comments on post-Gaddafi Libya :” the new ruling class will be drawn from the capitalist class. This may well represent an improvement for Libyans over the Gaddafi regime. It will certainly be different. It may turn out to increase democratic representation, civil liberties, and rule of law, while diminishing entitlements and giving rise to a powerful capitalist class.” Its very likely that the new ruling class will be capitalist; but there won’t be much different about that, the Gaddafi regime was a classic case of a nationalist-populist regime that used its monopoly of political power to foster familial-crony capitalism. Its not clear how much the Gaddafi family was sitting on, because family and regime assets were intertwined, but the authorities identified over $1 billion of personal assets in Italy alone; and that figure could very likely be multiplied several time over elsewhere.
      I don’t know why you assume a democratic Libya will “diminish entitlements” – its an oil rich country and if democratic institutions prosper that’s likely to generate pressures to expand entitlements (which we are already seeing).
      The main question, as I see it, is who will make up this new capitalist class, how it will be configured., and with what political implications. Will existing large state corporations (e.g. in telecoms) be broken up or reorganised? If there is privatisation will the beneficiaries be foreign capital or the domestic petit bourgeoisie? I would expect a large role to be played by petit bourgeois forces (including professionals) both attempting to return to normal business life and seeking to exploit opportunities in the new era to move up the social ladder. Some might think that this implies an inevitable reactionary political trajectory, but I think its far more complex.

    • http://linuxbeach.net Clay Claiborne (@clayclai)

      Let me say again. The only demonstrations that the Left has conducted in LA around Syria have had only Assad’s flag flying over them.

      So based on our public protests, who do you think the public thinks we support?

      ANSWER barred (anti-Qaddafi) Libyan from their Libya rally where leftist spoke fondly of “Brother Qaddafi”. In 2011 ANSWER, IAC and PDA all sponsored events were Cynthia McKinney spread Qaddafi’s propaganda. There was nothing coming from the LA in terms of public events, that supported the struggle against Qaddafi.

      Again, the public will draw the conclusion that the left supported Qaddafi.

      I don’t see that this stand has won the left any public support.

      • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

        The American left left the Libyans hanging long before the question of U.S. intervention even came up:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cv-HGm_IrnY
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cLHUBnL4Yc

        Not a left organization in sight, and this is back in February 2011. Only revolutions (like Egypt) that could be used to make the case for some kind of half-backed anti-interventionism apparently deserved support.

        Forget “solidarity for sale,” this was selective solidarity*.

        *Terms and conditions may apply. Void where prohibited.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp
      • Jonathan Nack

        Brother Pham Binh, I went to the Truthout web site and checked on their coverage of Syria. While Truthout clearly has an editorial line opposing U. S. military intervention, it can not be said to be spreading Syrian propaganda, much less supporting the Assad regime.

        I entered the word “Syria” in the Truthout web site and came up with a wide variety of left opinion with virtually no support for the Assad regime. Don’t believe me? See for yourself. http://truth-out.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8&q=Syria

        It is wrong to cherry pick one article, which may contain pro-Assad propaganda, in order to pretend that Truthout or the left is heavily influenced by pro-Assad propaganda.

        The only logic than would lead one to think that Truthout’s coverage of Syria is pro-Assad is the twisted logic that claims anyone opposing U. S. military intervention in Syria is pro-Assad. Sorry, that will never cut it.

        • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

          I never made any claim about their coverage as a whole. The article in question is indeed spreading SANA’s “line”:

          In reality, the “revolt” in Syria, totally managed by foreign countries and their intelligence services, was a proxy war against the Syrian national state, a war which needed “Syrians at their service” only to serve as “local color.”

          Compare the above to the words that came out of Assad’s mouth as far back as 2011: http://www.presidentassad.net/SPEECHES/Al_Assad_Speeches_2011/Bashar_Al_Assad_Parliament_2011_Speech.htm

          Let Assad do his own dirty work. Truthout shouldn’t be a platform for his regime’s conspiracy theories and lies that are necessary and essential components for crushing a popular uprising.

          • Aaron Aarons

            So you only want the version of events that you support to be seen? There’s certainly no lack of such anti-Assad, pro-“revolution” reporting in the Western media.

            If articles published by Truthout are wrong, refute them!

        • Brian S.

          @Jonathan Nack. I’ve only recently come across Truthout, and was drawing on it when this exchange appeared, so thought I would check it out. So I ran the “Houla test” on it: ie looked at how it covered the Houla massacre of May this year – both a crucial event in the development of the Syrian conflict and a focus of controversy between different perspectives, both internally and externally. Truthout carried 10 stories that referred to the Houla massacre between 27 May and 27 August. I would classify these as follows: 5 were balanced (4 NYT news reports and 1 Amy Goodman – interviews with Assad but also the opposition); 2 were clearly pro-Assad (reporting and endorsing the nonsensical Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) story on Houla); 3 were mixed/indeterminate (John Pilger: who would probably have been pro-Assad if he hadn’t spent most of his time talking about Vietnam; 1 apologia which was classical “whataboutery” – what about Afghanistan, Iraq, native people, Japanese Americans, etc ; 1 of which was undecided, but gave considerable credence to the FAZ story).
          In summary : balanced reporting, 50%; pro-Assad; 20%; Assad-leaning: 30%
          My conclusion is that Truthout does not have systematic bias because it is incoherent – without structure, quality control over original material, or continuity. For example over Houla it provided some accurate reporting, followed by a string of conspiracy theorists who based themselves on the FAZ nonsense; there was then no coverage of the definitive debunking of the FAZ report; then suddenly on 27 August Houla was being referred to accurately.
          The article which provoked this exchange is just a further example of this. Someone in Truthout decided that this was a piece that fitted in with their political concerns and posted it, without asking any questions about what it represented, its accuracy, or its provenance (which looks very dubious to me).

  • Jonathan Nack

    @Clay Claiborne,

    I think you are very wrong brother. I think contrary to your assessment, that those on the left who’ve supported U. S. imperialist intervention are the ones that cost the U. S. radical left support. They’ve cast doubt among some leftists and progressives of the necessity to oppose U. S. sponsored imperialist wars.

    I think it’s possible you’re right about the new regime ending up being better than Gaddafi. As I wrote before, I think it could go many ways, including quite badly for the Libyan people. I make no prediction.

    Large scale military intervention is well underway in Syria. This intervention is aimed at regime change and the installation of regime that imperialist powers can exploit more. This intervention is currently by proxy. Huge amounts of arms and munitions are being funneled to the Syrian rebels, largely through Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Make no mistake though, this is a huge military intervention.

    The arms flowing to the rebels have insured that the civil war in Syria will continue indefinitely until the Assad regime falls. While their propaganda is around bringing Assad to negotiate a peaceful transition, their actions are aimed at war and taking power through force of arms.

    The Assad regime deserves no support from leftists, and from my position here in Northern California, they are getting virtually none, except from a few tiny Marxist-Leninist sects. Claiborne and others can rail all they want against those small pro-Assad voices on the left that do defend the Assad regime. I do not see them as a big problem.

    To the contrary, I see support for U. S. imperialist interventions as a huge problem for the U. S. left.

    @Brian S., the reason I speculate that the new regime may reduce entitlements is because I think the new rulers are capitalists. Poverty and social inequality are endemic to capitalism.

    I would never refer to the Gaddafi regime as socialist, but it wasn’t capitalist in the same way the U. S. and the western capitalist powers are. For all that was terrible, oppressive, and anti-democratic about the Gaddafi regime, I’ve not read a single word that poverty was a big problem in Libya. Capitalism creates poverty. That the society as a whole is wealthy is not important in this regard.

  • Jonathan Nack

    @Brian S., Truthout is a news and opinion site. Of course it publishes a variety of news reports and opinion pieces from left and progressives sources and authors.

    I appreciate that you did a serious study and basically confirmed what I wrote. Studying one incident of your choosing isn’t scientific though. Doing a search for all articles and pieces published by Truthout with the word “Syria” would yield a much more scientifically defensible sample group for study.

    Also, by “balanced”, I suppose you mean reporting on Syrian government atrocities and the massive protests against it. I seriously doubt the Assad regime and its supporters (of which I am not one) view such coverage as “balanced”. They view such coverage as anti-Assad, as it delegitimizes the regime. I basically agree, and would characterize such reports as “anti-Assad regime.” That’s because reporting the facts and truth can only lead any thinking progressive person to being anti-Assad.

    • Brian S.

      @ Jonathan Nack. Well, definitions of “scientific” vary in the social science world – but this is a valid qualitative approach, using a strategic case. The advantage is that it generated a small enough number of items that I could look at in detail to see what was going on . I doubt that your read through the 100 or so items your search generated, and I’m pretty sure that you missed some pro-Assad articles.
      My definition of “balanced” was that it should include an unbiased account of the anti-Assad resistance, not that it should exclusively focus on that. Since one of the items in that class was an Amy Goodman progamme that included an interview with Assad, they could hardly be labelled “anti-Assad”. One was entitled “Syria Denies Responsibility in Brutal Attack as Protests Erupt”.
      The point is that all the NEWS stories were balanced; while almost none of the OPINION ones were.
      I guess the test is for someone to write a pro-opposition piece for Truthout and see how it fares.

      • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

        If the New York Times ran 9/11 truther articles it would not make the paper a truther rag; however, it would still be a huge problem. The same applies with Truthout and pro-Assad/anti-revolution drivel regardless of the quality of Syria coverage overall.

        • Aaron Aarons

          If the New York Times ran articles questioning the Official Story of the 9/11 events, it would have to either run the less reasonable ones, making their editorial judgment look bad, or rational ones, making the Official Story look bad. I don’t think they would want to do either one.

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