Benghazi, Derna, Al Baida, Tobruk, Zintan, Tripoli:
The riots in Tunisia and Egypt extend to Libya, where Gaddafi is trying to drown them in a bloodbath
(«Proletarian»; Nr. 7; Summer 2011)
Unofficial information sources indicate 200-250 dead and 1000 injured. The protests erupted in the major Libyan cities in the wake of the wave of a revolt that has broken out from the Arab countries of the Maghreb and the Middle East to the Persian Gulf and Iran. Unarmed Protesters confront Libyan security forces; fearing the fraternization of military detachments and the police with the masses who are demonstrating, the authorities in Tripoli have used super-equipped mercenaries from neighboring countries: they have the advantage of having no ties or relationships with tribal peoples, especially with the Tuareg and Berber populations of Cyrenaica, traditionally rebellious.
Here its seems the global economic crisis has had fewer consequences than in Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt. This although unemployment is around 30% in this country of 7 million inhabitants (not counting a million “illegal” immigrants). Social unrest, coupled with an oppressive climate of authoritarianism and omnipresent political control by a regime which has banned the right to strike, organize and protest, has found an example to follow in the rebellions in neighboring countries. Like a gigantic telluric force emanating from the earth, a material thrust to free itself from brutal oppressive modes shakes the economic and social firmament of whole countries, leading the proletarians, the proletarianized masses, petit-bourgeois, and peasants to a spontaneous and generalized refusal of the established order. The objectives are simple, dramatically limited and vague: to end corruption and the dynastic power of Ben Ali, Mubarak and Gaddafi, to obtain democratic rights, but above all, work and bread. And as in Tunisia and Egypt, the Libyan authorities respond by using the only immediately available means to respond to a peaceful protest and stop challenges to their power: bloody repression, massacres, indiscriminate firing upon crowds of demonstrators.
In Libya, as in other oil producing countries that have a raw material vital to the economies of major industrial countries, the bourgeoisie thinks it has every interest in keeping the profits it derives by any and all means, including imposing social peace by bestial repression: this interest is shared by the imperialist bourgeoisie in Europe and America, even if they are ready in a few days to abandon the authoritarian regimes they have armed and supported for decades or to maneuver behind the scenes to facilitate a “transition” that changes nothing essential and can resume business once the social storm has abated. This explains the awkward silence of the European ruling classes or the timid calls by an Obama to end the violent repression of demonstrations and to give more freedom and democracy. What else could we expect from any of the dominant imperialist bourgeoisies, more criminal still than the Arab bourgeoisie? In addition, as long as these social movements do not exceed the limits of bourgeois democracy, of bourgeois rights, as long as they do not attack private property and with it capitalism – and even if they were to take the path of Islamism – they are for the bourgeoisie only a minor evil in comparison to the erupting of the class struggle, the direct struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie and its economic system.
In 1969 a military coup led by a young Colonel Gaddafi overthrew King Idris 1st, at the head of a corrupt regime in the pay of Great Britain and especially the United States. The new regime was called the “Great Socialist People’s Arab Republic of Libya”. Needless to say that behind an ideology inspired by Nasser’s pan-Arabism and European social-democracy, there was nothing socialist in a regime that played on anti-American nationalism. The first social measures were the doubling of wages, the establishment of a corporatism involving workers in the management of factories, the introduction of legislation based on the Koran, the prohibition of alcohol, closing down nightlife, etc. Making himself the champion of revenge on the old colonialists, Gaddafi confiscated the properties of the former Italian colony at the same time he nationalized the oil companies to “restore the Libyan people’s wealth usurped by the oppressors, ” according to the terms of his “Green Paper ” (1976). These reforms and the demagoguery were necessary to win popular support for the new regime. Pompidou’s France, eager to profit from the setbacks of Anglo-Saxon imperialism in an oil-producing country, accorded its support to Gaddafi by selling modern weapons (Mirage, etc..).
Libya has become the biggest supplier of oil to Italy and has forged close links with many companies in the former colonial power (such as Fiat). That is why Berlusconi has just said he did not protest against the repression in that country, because he did not want to “disturb” the Libyan government!
As for the Sarkozy government, which has been courting Gaddafi, and which for many months has multiplied its efforts to increase French sales to Libya (including arms), it kept a deafening silence. Clearly, these reactions mean: repress and massacre, it does not concern us!
But it is very much the concern of the proletarians of France, Italy and of all countries, beginning with the Mediterranean countries!
Everything that happens in the streets of Tunis, Cairo, Algiers, Benghazi, Manama (Bahrain) Saana (Yemen), etc.., concerns the proletarians because when the bourgeois bloodily suppress social movements which demand for bread, work, freedom to organize, they act as a ruling class against the dominated classes and in the first place the proletariat from which they derive most of their profits. When a bourgeoisie crushes its people in cold blood, it not only defends its power, privilege, domination, it also defends the interests of social and political domination of other bourgeoisies, from whom it also seeks assistance. Competition among the bourgeois and their states is the rule under capitalism and this competition often leads to war, but against the proletariat and the proletarianized masses whose movements come up against existing political regimes and could pave the way for the anti-capitalist proletarian struggle, their differences are put aside: the bourgeoisies all collaborate to ensure the return to order, one way or another.
Here too, the proletariat must draw lessons from the unfolding events.
The current movements, with all their dead and wounded, imprisoned and tortured express their social discontent in terms of democracy, a change of government, they may be able to topple autocrats and their families, but power remains firmly in hands of the bourgeoisie, it will continue to be a capitalist power and will continue to defend the interests of the ruling class, perhaps using methods different in appearance, at least initially, but which will always be authoritarian and based on an ever-increasing militarism. This is a general tendency, although due to their historical traditions and resources at their disposal, this authoritarianism and militarism which express the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, are hidden in the imperialist countries by a veil – always thinner! – of democratic and parliamentary forms.
In Libya as in Italy, in Tunisia and Algeria as in France, in Egypt as in the United States, in all countries, the proletarians are all class brothers since they are all wage-slaves, but also since they are targets of a repression which strikes or threatens everywhere, because they are the only class that, by organizing themselves on the terrain of immediate struggles independently from bourgeois forces, religious or collaborationist, and on the political level, by organizing themselves in full autonomy as a class party, have the opportunity not only to respond blow-for-blow to bourgeois attacks, but to pass over to the conquest of power, to the destruction of the state apparatus and the establishment of their own dictatorship, the prerequisite for the emancipation of humanity from capitalism and all its horrors.
The current movements have opened a new page in the exacerbated social contradictions that characterize capitalism. The proletariat must respond by breaking with class collaboration and by rejecting democratic mystification to embark on the road of the class struggle!
February 20, 2011.
International Communist Party