What’s been happening in Libya has been rapidly changing and marked by many uncertainties, but many on the Left are quite clear on what they want their demagogues to do.
In a Guardian (28/2/11) article headlined “How can Latin America’s ‘revolutionary’ leaders support Gaddafi?” Mike Gonzalez criticises Presidents Ortega of Nicaragua and Chavez of Venezuela, along with Fidel Castro, for expressing their sympathy for Gaddafi and the Libyan government. He says they “cannot support an oppressive regime that now faces a mass democratic movement from below” when, apparently, they do.
The exact nature of the movement is open for discussion, but there can be no quibbling with the fact that the Libyan capitalist state is repressive.
In contrast to the Gaddafi regime Gonzalez says that Ortega and Chavez came “to power as a result of a mass insurrection” and that when Castro overthrew Batista it “was hugely popular”. Regardless of their route to power Ortega, Chavez and Castro are integral parts of the capitalist ruling class in their countries. As it happens Ortega and Chavez are presidents following elections, but, whether in power through the ballot box, or through a military coup like Gaddafi, they have done their best to serve their national capitals.
What Gonzalez wants to hear is a passionate denunciation of Libyan repression and expressions of solidarity with the people. His explanation for the failure of his fallen heroes is that “Libya has invested in all three countries and presented itself as an anti-imperialist power.” This is a rather crude, partly materialist explanation. In reality all these left-wing leaders proclaim their anti-imperialist credentials, and recognise Gaddafi as one of their own, one of the bosses that can talk ‘radical’. Meanwhile the exploited working class and other oppressed strata endure the capitalist reality which they preside over.
There is an exception to this pattern. Iranian President Ahmadinejad has criticised the “bad behaviour of the Libyan government towards the people” and said that the state should listen to the people’s desires. This is what ‘radical’ leaders are supposed to do, and, if they criticise other governments their message will be transmitted by their leftist admirers.
Leftist hypocrisy over WRP’s Libyan connections
Gaddafi’s 1969 coup looks a little different through the eyes of the Workers Revolutionary Party that publishes Newsline. They refer (28/2/11) to “the Libyan revolution, through which the Libyan people took control over their country from UK and US imperialism in 1969.”
Other leftists scoff at the WRP because of the agreements and communiqués it signed with the Libyan government, its slavish loyalty to the Libyan ‘socialist’ state and Iraq of Saddam Hussein both of which gave money to the WRP, its defence of the execution of Stalinists in Iraq, and a whole range of sordid activities in collaboration with regimes in the Middle East during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Even now, after any Libyan contributions have possibly long dried up, they “urge the Libyan masses and youth to take their stand alongside Colonel Gaddafi to defend the gains of the Libyan revolution, and to develop it. This can only be done by the defeat of the current rebellion” (Newsline 23/2/11), and publish one of the longest available extracts from Gaddafi’s speech “to the Libyan people made ... to rally them against the internal counter-revolutionary forces and their UK and US backers” (ibid 24/2/11).
But the leftists who have pointed a finger at the WRP for accepting money from the blood-stained regime of Gaddafi don’t have a leg to stand on. What the WRP was paid for most leftist groups do for free.
Take the example of the Vietnam War. In the 1960s and 70s the International Socialists (who went on to become the SWP) described North Vietnam as ‘state capitalist’, while more orthodox Trotskyists called it a ‘deformed workers state’, and Stalinists called it ‘socialist.’ These differences amounted to little in the unity of the Left in insisting on the necessity for workers and peasants in Vietnam to lay down their lives for the capitalist North against the capitalist South.
In the eight year war between Iran and Iraq in the 1980s, during which maybe a million people died, the Left put all the emphasis in their propaganda on the support by the US and others for the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. There might have been reservations over the Iranian regime and its archaic religious ideology, but the consensus on the Left was that it was better to die for Iran then Iraq. Of course, when Iraq was under attack from the US and its ‘coalitions’ the leftists found Saddam defensible, even though the position of the working class had not altered in any way.
During the conflicts in disintegrating Yugoslavia in the early 1990s the leftists chose their camps once more. The logic of defence of Bosnia or Kosovo led to support for the bombing of Belgrade. Support for Serbia and a united Yugoslavia meant support for the massacres undertaken by both ‘official’ and paramilitary forces
The brutalism of the WRP is easy to see, but the ‘critical support’ offered by other leftists for various factions of the bourgeoisie is just as poisonous. With calls for military intervention in Libya growing louder it will be interesting to see who the leftists rally to. Past experience shows that it won’t be for the working class in defence of its class interests