Egypt: The class struggle takes centre stage

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jk1921
Egypt: The class struggle takes centre stage
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: Egypt: The class struggle takes centre stage. The discussion was initiated by jk1921.
Below is the discussion so far. Feel free to add your own comments!

jk1921
Who is this David McNally the

Who is this David McNally the article quotes?

Beltov
Some academic by the look of

We've updated the article to explain about McNally and Hossam el-Hamalawy We just used his quote because it has a lot of useful facts in it.  :)

jk1921
Libya

Is the nature of what is happening in Libya different from Egypt, Tunisia, etc.?

ernie
 This is a very preliminary

 This is a very preliminary personal reply and will propably be superceeded by a more developed position by the organisation.

The fundamental origins of the movement in Libya appears to be the same as that in Tunisa etc: unemployment, poverty and a youth desperate for some form of future. However, the main difference appears to be the nature of the formation of the state in Libya. In Tunia and Eygpt the state had a backbone in the armed forces, along with various other fractions of the bourgeoise: buisness, financial etc etc. Thus, when push came to shove, they were able to tell the leader to go but also maintain the basic structures of the state intact. In Libya the armed forces were only 40.000 strong and the "great leader" and his family have integrate themselves into the whole state. Thus, there is noone to tell him to go and to organise a fairly stable transtion to a new ruling team -well one made up of the old state and a few new faces. Thus, whilst many of his inner gang are deserting him Gaddifi his family and those still loyal to him are literally fighting for their lives and behind his ranting is a very real terrifying threat to pull the whole house down with him.The reaction of the ruling class in Europe, whose main concern appears to be the threat of a flood of refugees, shows that they feel that there is a real prospect of Libya collapsing. Neither Eygpt nor Tunisa held out the prospect of an implosion, but Libya does and that is the main difference.

There is a lot of self-organisation going on in many areas in Libya but this would appear to be based on a popular response rather than a movement towards self-organisation by the working class. But on a wider level without the presence of a strong working class movement the dynamic can only be towards a fragmentation and chaos as the various elements coming out of the regime and those bourgeois coming back from exile struggle to gain their slice of the very rich cake.The sight of the former 'Justice' minister jocking for position with the tribal leader is a fore taste of what is to come. In this morass of conflicting dynamics the working class is in serious danger of being sucked even deeper into democratic illusions or even fractional struggles between various bourgeois gangs.

The state is crucial to the holding together of the ruling class, especially in decadence, so a situation where the cohesion of the state has been undermined the prospects are very grime indeed. For all the difficulties of the bourgeoisies in Tunisia and Eygpt, and there are many, to their able to impose some form of stability the immediate prospect is not the possibility of the collapse into chaos. In Libya Gaddifi's total inability to put the interests of Libyan capital above his and his family's own has and could only lead to a terrible nightmarish striking out and dragging of society into a blood bath.

This situation is a very graphic example of the deepening decomposition of society.

I hope this provides some food for thought about the differences. Jr what do you think?

 

jk1921
Ernie, I think that your

Ernie, I think that your response is on the right track. It did appear that at one point Gadaffi had the opportunity to flee to Venezuela, but that appears not to be possible anymore. There is no Sharm El-Sheikh for him and his family and he probably would not be welcome in Riyadh, so it appears that his only hope is to fight to the death using the African mercenaries he has bankrolled with his oil revenue. The perspective of a general descent into chaos behind whatever "tribal" authorities come to the foreground is a clear possibility, posing a fracturing of the state. This of course has implications for the Great Powers and poses a further point of destabilzation for the entire region. Today, there was an op-ed in the Toronto Star calling for a division of the country into East and West, seemingly with the hopes of permitting the Gadaffi regieme to remain as a stabilizing force and protect the interests of the foreign oil companies there.

One of the themes we are hearing from bourgeois academics is that the movement in Egypt succeded because it was adopted by the emerging middle classes who felt shut out of a supposedly growing economy by Egypt's rampant cronyism. It was the participation of this class in the movement which has kept the state intact, whereas Libya is devoid of such a class.

Interestingly, some earlier reports on the mercenaries said there were "Italians" or "Eastern Europeans" involved in the killings, but we have only heard of African (by which they mean black African) mercenaries in the media over the last few days.

Devrim
What is the nature of this movement?

ernie wrote:
The fundamental origins of the movement in Libya appears to be the same as that in Tunisa etc: unemployment, poverty and a youth desperate for some form of future. 

My impressions are completely different. Yes of course the economic conditions play an important role, but the movement comes across to me as tribal and Islamicist, and offers no sort of perspective to the working class.

Devrim

 

 

ernie
Please expand

 Devrim your understanding of the detail of the situation is much better than mine, could you expand on tribal and islamicist elements. As I said what I wrote was a first stab at trying to respond to JR question. What I say about the difference between the ability of the state to adapt, and the perspective arises out of this, is that how you see things panning out?

One interesting thing I heard at the beginning of the situation in Libya was that it was three working class areas of Tripoli that came out in protest first and suffered extremely brutal repression: presumably as an example to the rest of the population. Do you know anymore about this?

 

baboon
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, friend

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, friend of Tony Blair, Lord Mandleson, the Rothschildes and guest of Buckingham Palace, with connections in New York and Washington, was being groomed by Britain to take over and represent its imperialist interests in Libya. Politically supported by the London School of Economics, Saif met with MI6 and learnt from Britain the importance of divide and rule and thus fostered what tribal divisions already existed in his country. It was Saif that at the beginning of the revolt in Libya who blamed tribal and Islamicist forces for being behind the unrest. In relation to Tunisia and Egypt, when the bourgeoise of the west wasn't talking about the "Arab Revolution", it was talking about the Islamicist danger whereas one of the clear factors in the revolts of Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen was religious toleration and the mutual protection of the masses over religious divides against state repression.

 

In my opinion, what's at the fore of the revolt in Libya is social and economic questions that have propelled mainly proletarian elements onto the streets and into a struggle against the state. While tribal elements are involved in this of course, the main opinion of LIbya "watchers" is that these have not been at the forefront - they were mainy bolstered by Saif as a means of division. There are not workers councils  or anything like them in Libya at the moment (as far as we know - and I think that it's almost certain that if there were independent expressions of class organisation we wouldn't have heard of them given the situation) but there is a strong proletarian element. Are the unemployed masses who just want jobs, the wherewithal to live and an end to repression considered proletarian or not? Are we for them or against them because of the real dangers of being dragged behind bourgeoise faction fighting? Do we just write them off as futile, tribal and Islamicist - people who are only going to cause more problems because of the dangers of decomposition? Do we denounce them? These are important questions for communists and I think that we should support these movements, show solidarity with them in their struggle against the state even if this contributes to further instability in the short or medium term. What's the alternative; ignore events, write them off, support the status quo?

 

The question of the east of the country has been played up as a division, a "breakaway" (by both the west initially and the regime) but that is plainly nonsense. There  is a strong non-tribal, non-Islamicist middle class here - as there is in the rest of Libya - which has been involved in the revolt from a point of view of democratic reform and so on. But on the street the degree of self-organisation has been outstanding - and don't forget these masses don't have the luxury of time and space here but are fighting for their very lives. The taking of the barrack/air base just outside Tobruk was a classic case of self-organisation made in the immediate, perilous circumstance. First stones against the mercenaries and special forces, then any weapons and implements, then construction vehicles, bulldozers, lorries, etc., loaded with petrol and sent against the enemy and its fortifications. This wasn't organised by tribal leaders, islamicists or even middle class professionals, but the masses including large numbers of proletarians. It's the same in the west of the country: hunting rifles, stones in Zawiya taking on the might of the British-armed regime. In areas where the regimes' forces have been neutralised there is no looting (apart from some regime buildings), youths involved in keeping order, traffic moving and so on.

 

I don't want to underestimate the dangers to the population, both in the immediate - apparantly the regime still has access to chemical and biological weapons (which were supposed to have been removed under the terms of British imperialisms' rapprochement) and in the longer term; dislocation, the submerging of the working class into a "democratic" population, faction fighting and so on. But we can't adopt a "let's wait and see what happens" attitude nor one that dismisses this revolt out of hand as tribal, Islamicist and "it's only going to make things worse". Yesterday, in order to gain some credibility, the regime announced substantial wage rises to workers and while these may be like the initial wage rises offered to Egyptian workers, that is non-existent, it shows that the crumbling regime at least is aware of the potential class content to these struggles.

 

It's not the task of communists to respond to every dot and comma of every event in world. In fact it's necessary to take a step back and take an overall position consistent with a class analysis. But this is a fairly significant movement that can't be dismissed as tribal and Islamicist and nor can we ask it to duck its nut and continue to suffer repression in the interests of stability and wait until the working class is organised in workers' councils.

jk1921
I don't know. Obviously, this

I don't know. Obviously, this demands further discussion and clarification. I agree with baboon that it would be a mistake to turn our backs on whatever autonomous proletarian movemements are occurring in Libya out of fear of "increasing instability" and "more decomposition," but I don't think anyone here would call for that.

Of course, we are relying only on what news is being gotten out in the bourgeois media, but on some levels the movement in Libya just "feels" different from what happened in Egypt and elsewhere. Perhaps Ernie is correct and that difference is a result of the nature of the state in Libya. In some ways (and maybe this is what Devrim was referring to) it feels more like the collapse of Somalia (the commanality here would be a shared history of Italian colonial rule). I guess the question is what is the perspective here? Towards future class confrontations (as in Egypt) or towards the general descent into chaos? Both? Can the class struggle act as a counter-weight to the pull towards decomposition? Can the Egyptian working-class offer a perspective to the Libyan, etc.?

I have heard two different takes on the issue of the Libyan "middle class." One is that Libya has none whatsoever, no civil society, no insitutions outside of the Gadaffi mafia. The other, which I have heard more and more, is that as a result of this uprising, a Libyan middle class has surfaced that nobody thought existed (mostly living in exile). Part of this is an attempt to assimilate the movements today in the Middle East with the so-called "velvet revolutions" of 1989, where the main motivations were supposedly frustration over the "stunting of free entrepreneurialism" by a closed, clientalist state prone to cronyism. According to this narrative, the biggest problem facing the Middle East is not mass unemployment and social marginalzation of the young, but the fact that it takes two years to get a business license and you have to bribe people all along the way. Of course, this narrative ties into the techo-celebration of things like Facebook and Twitter in creating a new "vibrant," "transnational public sphere."

baboon
I think that the ICC already

I think that the ICC already has a developed position on Libya and its on the front page of the paper. This of course doesn't prevent further clarifications.

 

Just to give another slant on "Islamicism": Yesterday in Tripoli, filmed live on Libyan state television, an Imam addressing a crowded mosque began to denounce the protestors as unIslamic. The response was immediate and the cries of derision and anger rose up. The cameras suddenly pointed to the roof of the mosque and then cut off. Islamicism and tribalism are also weapons of the regime.

 

I have no information, I don't know, but I find it hard to imagine that given all the circumstances - and given the overall analysis of the ICC, that there wouldn't be some form of workers' self-organisation going on here. Things are "grim" with possibly thousands being killed and this makes it all the more necessary to show solidarity and salute this struggle against the state of things.

 

The ideas that these events are meaningless or will only make the situation worse have been effectively countered on libcom, even on Libcommunity.

Alf
 I agree with Baboon that

 I agree with Baboon that this revolt is not 'tribal and Islamicist'. There is still a massive social movement which is pitched against the state, and therefore demands solidarity from workers and from revolutionaries. But the dangers that Ernie and others have pointed to are also very real - the danger of degneration into a kind of 'each for themselves' faction fight; and the Lybian working class is nothing like as strong as the working class in Egypt and will find it very difficult to act as a counter-weight to these negative tendencies.   

Devrim
On Libya

 

I think that the first problem with Baboon’s posts is the way he tries to paint arguments against his position:  

baboon wrote:
 Are the unemployed masses who just want jobs, the wherewithal to live and an end to repression considered proletarian or not? Are we for them or against them because of the real dangers of being dragged behind bourgeoise faction fighting? Do we just write them off as futile, tribal and Islamicist - people who are only going to cause more problems because of the dangers of decomposition? Do we denounce them? These are important questions for communists and I think that we should support these movements, show solidarity with them in their struggle against the state even if this contributes to further instability in the short or medium term. What's the alternative; ignore events, write them off, support the status quo? 
  To me this comes across as the same sort of argument that the left makes when communists are refusing to support national liberation struggles. Do you really think that anybody on here is ‘supporting the status quo’. It is not a question of denouncing people, but pointing out what the nature of this movement is. Really, this is a very poor argument. Communists recognise that there are struggles between different bourgeois factions in which the working class has nothing to gain from picking either side and lots to lose. I believe that this is one of them, and the working class is being dragged into a struggle in which neither side reflects its interests. This doesn’t mean that I am ‘supporting the status quo’. Do you think that I am cheering on demonstrators being massacred? You should be embarrassed by this argument, as you should by some of your others.  
baboon wrote:
 The ideas that these events are meaningless or will only make the situation worse have been effectively countered on libcom, even on Libcommunity. 
  Such as this one, which is an amalgamation technique. It takes a phrase, ‘meaningless’ that hasn’t even been used on this thread, which was used on another site by somebody who doesn’t post here, and tries to imply that this is what I think.   I don’t think that the events in North Africa at the moment are meaningless. I think that in Tunisia and Egypt, there have been significant working class struggles. However, I don’t think that the events in Libya are the same. I think that the situation is rapidly descending into a civil war in which the working class has no interest in taking either side.   Let’s look at the actually arguments that are being presented instead:  
baboon wrote:
 I have no information, I don't know, 
  I think that this is the first thing to be clear about.  Much of the argument put forward here is mere speculation. It is difficult to get information. Certainly this argument doesn’t seemed concerned in any way with factual accuracy even when things have been widely reported:  
baboon wrote:
  Yesterday, in order to gain some credibility, the regime announced substantial wage rises to workers and while these may be like the initial wage rises offered to Egyptian workers, that is non-existent, it shows that the crumbling regime at least is aware of the potential class content to these struggles. 
  What the regime did was say that it would make two payments of 1000 dinar (just less than €600) each, not to workers, but to every family to every family one this month and one next month.   It is difficult to get information though. I spoke to an old friend there last week who has lived there for around 25 years, but haven’t been able to contact him since. Maybe some people would think that this lack of information means we should express a certain amount of caution as I did earlier:  
Devrim wrote:
 My impressions are completely different.  
  Not so though:  
baboon wrote:
 I find it hard to imagine that given all the circumstances - and given the overall analysis of the ICC, that there wouldn't be some form of workers' self-organisation going on here. 
  Basically what is being said here is that if the analysis is correct and this is a workers struggle, then there must be expressions of workers’ self organisation, which would mean that the analysis is correct and that this is a workers struggle.   It is pretty torturous circular logic.   Where then does the information concern this struggle come from:  
baboon wrote:
 While tribal elements are involved in this of course, the main opinion of LIbya "watchers" is that these have not been at the forefront - they were mainy bolstered by Saif as a means of division.  
  Ah, so what we have is the views of the academics and the bourgeois media. That means it must be right.   Hang on a minute though. Wouldn’t these be exactly the same people who are currently bigging this whole thing up as a people’s democratic revolution’?  Is it not possible to even imagine that this may be how they want to present it.   Then again I must be wrong because as was pointed out in the opening paragraph, I hold the same position as Gaddafi’s son that this this is a tribal and Islamicist movement.  
baboon wrote:
 Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, friend of Tony Blair, Lord Mandleson, the Rothschildes and guest of Buckingham Palace, with connections in New York and Washington, was being groomed by Britain to take over and represent its imperialist interests in Libya... It was Saif that at the beginning of the revolt in Libya who blamed tribal and Islamicist forces for being behind the unrest. 
  This is the same sort of amalgamation technique again, but let us try to concentrate on the actual arguments now. It is difficult though because there is very little substance.   Is it just even slightly possible that these forces might be deeply involved. As you know the Libyan stat has being playing on these tensions for years:  
baboon wrote:
 Politically supported by the London School of Economics, Saif met with MI6 and learnt from Britain the importance of divide and rule and thus fostered what tribal divisions already existed in his country. . 
  Perhaps after forty two years in power the regime has managed to stoke these divisions just a little.   I am not sure that I am right, but the overall impression that I get is that this is a movement which is expressing itself in tribalism and Islamicism, and which is not i any way a working class movement. I could be very wrong, and would like to be so. Time will of course tell, and I suspect very quickly.    Devrim

 

Berrot
On Devrim & Libya

Despite agreeing with Devrim that we need more time before judging the significance of current events in Libya, I find it interesting that in all that he has said in rebutting Baboon's analysis, he has said nothing by of elaboration of his own meagre assertion that the movement is tribal and Islamist.  My own (purely personal) impression is that it is merely the media expressing their own anxieties that the uprising will finish up like that, while - to the contrary - I have come across quite a number of interviewees (and even some commentators) denying any such desire; in fact, many have explicitly condemned such imputations (and have even gone to the lengths of producing slogans to that effect on placards in English).  It would be useful if Devrim could offer more substance to his impressions.

As to the nature of the self-organisation that has occurred, it has to be recognised that even if (as seems likely at the moment) the committees which have been formed are dominated by local worthies who have "emerged" rather than being elected, there are vital forces which may produce something more appealing to us.  Let us remember that the Russian soviets had no autonomous (let alone communist) pretensions initially; it was the inner dynamic of the times which propelled them in those directions.  Hopefully, workers will come to recognise (if they haven't already) that they have distinct interests to pursue, and insist on elections and rights of recall.  But events must unfurl before we can say more.  In the meantime, we can all remember the lessons: Walk like an Egyptian and fight like a Libyan"!

Berrot
Postscript

...and has anyone come across anything of any substance analysing the committee movement?  It would be well worth sharing with us all!

kinglear
working class struggle

Devrim says: 'the working class is being dragged into a struggle in which neither side represents it's interest.' Bit we don't know that this is true or that the class is being 'dragged'. And even if it was true, why can't the class realize the truth, just as Devrim has: that neither islamism or tribalism is any use to it. If workers are never to struggle for fear of being derailed by one or other aspect of the bourgeoisie, then we'll never learn anything and never develop our class consciousness. It seems that workers are already involved in this struggle - may even have started it - like it or not. So: All power to the Workers and to Solidarity. I will admit to liking Baboon's analysis over Devrim's and I only hope that Baboon is right. But in any case we cannot just go on waiting and waiting for ever, for perfect conditions - generously provided courtesy of the bourgeoisie, of course - so, here is the rose, here dance, or whatever that means...

jk1921
Well, at least this

Well, at least this discussion should put to rest any ideas about the ICC's supposed "monolithism." There are only sketchy details emerging about the local population "taking over" the running of Benghazi and other places, assuming certain government functions, such as directing traffic, etc. However, there are also reports of army officers declaring themselves the soverign power and preparing a military assualt on Tripoli. It is very difficult to determine exactly what is happening on the ground, which raises the questions of what sources revolutionaries should rely on when attempting to draw the significance of events?

Devrim
Libya again

Berrot wrote:
I find it interesting that in all that he has said in rebutting Baboon's analysis, he has said nothing by of elaboration of his own meagre assertion that the movement is tribal and Islamist.

Like I said it purely my impression. It is as 'meagre' as the assertion that this is a class movement, which to me seems based upon nothing but people's desire for it to be so.
Berrot wrote:
  It would be useful if Devrim could offer more substance to his impressions.

I have just followed the media in English and Arabic and talked with a couple of people. Of course there are various things that point towards it for example the initial demonstrations which sparked the events being over the arrest of  the lawyer of Islamicist militants. The fact that the place where the movement started is an area where the tribes, particulary the Zuwaya, but also the Warfallah have both traditionally been hostile to Gaddafi, and that the tribal leadership sees this as a tribal matter is particularly clear if you read the words of Shaykh Faraj al-Zuway, who has constantly talked up the opposition between his tribe and the state seem to point in that direction
Berrot wrote:
(and have even gone to the lengths of producing slogans to that effect on placards in English)

I heard somebody else saying that the movement in Tunisia was orientated towards the working class in the west because the banners they saw on the TV were in French and English. It is as much to do with TV channels focusing on banners in languages their viewers can understand as anything else.
Berrot wrote:
As to the nature of the self-organisation that has occurred, it has to be recognised that even if (as seems likely at the moment) the committees which have been formed are dominated by local worthies who have "emerged" rather than being elected, there are vital forces which may produce something more appealing to us.

Maybe this is possible, but one of the examples I saw in one left publication about committees in Egypt was one in Zamlek (the are just next to Tahir square. As anybody who knows Zamlek would tell you the idea of working class neighbourhood committees there is slightly less possible than seeing them in Mayfair. These were committees purely set up to defend private property. That, of course, doesn't mean that this applies to all of the committees in Egypt or Libya.
Brian Kenny wrote:
I will admit to liking Baboon's analysis over Devrim's and I only hope that Baboon is right.

So do I.

Devrim

Marin Jensen
Revolts in the Middle East

As Devrim says, it is very difficult to know exactly what is going on, so what follows is very general and open to correction as details emerge and things become clearer. It seems to me necessary to distinguish between what is general and what is specific in the revolts going on in the Middle East today. 

First, it is surely the case that the "driving force" behind these revolts is a combination of poverty and unemployment, made deeper and worse as the years go by as a result of the continuing crisis; the anger and frustration of an educated, young, labour force (including what the media call the "middle classes") at the lack of opportunity available to them, the lack of any perspective for proper employment or the possibility of founding a family; and the exasperation and anger of the whole population against corrupt and brutal regimes which have robbed the entire population blind for years, and especially against police forces which have tortured and robbed with impunity for decades. This is not a specifically "working class" reaction, it is something that workers have in common with poor peasants and the wretched masses of unemployed who have been driven off the land and into the cities.

Second, one very striking element is the way in which the revolt in Tunisia has provided a "spark" all across the Middle East (and according to some reports, even in China). This really is something new and it is hard to imagine it happening without the Internet and the mobile phone. This is not yet the generalisation of workers' struggles as we think of it, but it gives you some idea of how the world has become "smaller" - and of how the world's oppressed populations are aware that the problems they face cannot be resolved in their country alone. None of this means that a revolution is around the corner, but it is a sign of a change which has a historic significance.

Third, this is not a "workers' revolution". There may or may not be some workers' self-organisation, especially in Egypt I would suspect, but this is not a situation where the working class is the leading force in society and this can be seen in the slogans: for democracy, for the nation, in particular. I'm reminded of a saying from the 60s: "You'll know it's the revolution because you won't hear about it on the TV". When the TV is talking about revolution left right and centre, it's a clear enough sign that it isn't one (we are of course in a difficult situation with regard to the media because on the one hand we mostly rely on it for the news, on the other hand we know that the reporting especially on anything to do with class struggle is anything but impartial so you have to read between the lines). If we talk about "self-organisation" in Libya, then we have to ask "self-organisation of what, by whom?".

The next thing I would say is that there are some big differences between the different countries involved, in terms a) of the strength of the working class, and b) the power relations within the ruling class, and finally c) the attitude of the major powers, especially the USA.

For the working class, it is surely clear that Egypt is the key here (and Algeria is another one to watch, as indeed is Iran), because there is a large, combative, working class which has been involved in major struggles only a few years back. In Tunisia, there were some reports of strikes and working class protests at the beginning of the revolt, but in Egypt it's at a different order of magnitude. IMHO the reason that the army booted out Mubarak so smartly was that workers' strikes were beginning to spread and there was a real fear that the working class would start emerging centre-stage. In a country like Yemen, the situation is surely very different, and in Libya (as in the Gulf States) there is yet another phenomenon: the presence of a large immigrant workforce (apparently some 120,000 workers have left the country, mostly Tunisian and Egyptian, but also Chinese). So from the standpoint of the working class, all this needs analysing in more detail.

Then there is the internal situation of the ruling class. In this sense, it seems to me that the situations in Tunisia and Libya have something in common: a kleptocratic clique in power has despoiled not only the poor and the workers', but the rest of the ruling class as well - so that once the revolt was under way there was nobody left to support the ruling family exept their closest hangers on. And from the little I know about Libyan history, I suspect that the tribal element also plays a part in this.

Finally, there is the relationship between the ruling class locally and the imperialist powers, above all the USA. In Tunisia, it was the army that told Ben Ali he had to go, and they got the word from the Americans (hilariously, the French Foreign Minister - who just got the boot this weekend - was swanning around with a mate of Ben Ali's doing property deals in Tunisia while this was blowing up, completely unaware of what was going on!). As for Egypt, given that the US finances the military there to the tune of $1.5 billion a year, and that Tantawi - head of the military junta - was seeing Pentagon officials in Washington barely a week in advance of Mubarak getting the boot. Clearly, there isn't the same relationship between Khaddafi and the US military.

Anyway, just a few thoughts...

Devrim
Newspapers and other modern technology

LoneLondoner wrote:
This really is something new and it is hard to imagine it happening without the Internet and the mobile phone. This is not yet the generalisation of workers' struggles as we think of it, but it gives you some idea of how the world has become "smaller" 

In 1848 the revolution spread from Palermo in Italy to virtually every corner of Europe within a month.Compared to that these events are not really that quick. I think it is something that the media is playing on.

Do you think that in 1848 people said that 'It couldn't have happened without this new fangled newspaper thing. ;)

Devrim

 

Marin Jensen
Maybe they did...

Devrim wrote:

Do you think that in 1848 people said that 'It couldn't have happened without this new fangled newspaper thing. ;)

Well maybe they did, indeed yes. It reminds me of this quote from the Manifesto:

Marx wrote:

...every class struggle is a political struggle. And that union, to attain which the burghers of the Middle Ages, with their miserable highways, required centuries, the modern proletarian, thanks to railways, achieve in a few years.

Yesterday railways and newspapers, today the Internet. I agree with you that there should be a certain healthy scepticism about media puffing the effects of the Internet, on the other hand we should also be trying to understand where there really are new things appearing, and what they mean. I don't think you'ld disagree :)

jk1921
I have often wonderded what

I have often wonderded what the objective is in bombarding with us with all the happy talk about "You-twit-face" and how it will transform the world, bring us all together, blah, blah. I think it is another example of techno-worship in which the culture tries to convince itself that new technology will save us from the chaos that deepens daily.

Alf
social revolts, class movements, faction fights...

The following passage is from an article by Peter Beaumont in today's The Guardian following a visit to the town of Zawiyah, which has 'fallen to the rebels'. I think it indicates that the situation in Libya is still fluid and that it is difficult to come to any definitive conclusions. The passage certainly goes against the idea that the revolt is totally dominated by Islamists. At the same time I think we have to distinguish between a definitely working class movement (such as we have seen with the strikes in Egypt recently) and a more general social revolt which the working class may influence to a greater or lesser extent depending on its organisational and political strength and autonomy. The latter is again different from an inter-bourgeois faction fight, even if its tendency to be confused by democratic and other illusions make it more vulnerable to being pushed in that direction. 

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/feb/27/libya-30-miles-from-tripoli

 Leaving Tripoli this morning on a tour organised by the government, it was in the understanding that we were to be shown a city still under government control. To prove it had not fallen. The minder in our car Our minder was clear about the mission: to show us that Libya had not been plunged into chaos, that it remained safe.

Six or so kilometres from Zawiyah, with the minaret of its mosque just visible in the distance, the convoy stopped. A distant pair of armoured vehicles was pointed out. We were told it was the last line of government forces. Two men leaving the town in a black car stopped to reinforce the government view – that those in the town were foreigners, al-Qaida fighters with beards, Egyptians and Tunisians.

But the men in Zawiyah were not foreigners, or drugged – as Gaddafi had previously claimed. Nor were they bearded Islamists or even rebels from outside. Instead, they were the town's people. There were doctors and engineers, teachers, local youths and old men all anxious to speak, although many of them still fearful that the army – whose nearest positions were only two kilometres away – would try to enter Zawiyah again.

baboon
Interesting, "doctors,

Interesting, "doctors, engineers, teachers, local youths and old men". Of course they could be worker-zombies led by Islamicists, tribal leaders or gangsters.

 

I think that our first duty as internationalists should be to denounce the real gangsters involved in this: the governments of Britain, Italy, France, Germany and Egypt. They are the ones that have kept this murderous regime in place and they are the ones that have supplied it with the wherewithal to maintain a state of terror and put down any attempt to protest against it. Britain and the others would have been quite happy for its weapons to be used (that's why it provided them) to maintain the status quo and prevent any further "chaos".

 

I think that the second duty of internationalists here is to express our solidarity to the Libyan working class and support it in whatever actions it takes fighting on its own ground and for its own self-defence, against repression, for jobs and for a future. Even if these elements are minor or fleeting, I don't think it useful to denounce them straightaway as followers of gangsters, Islamicists or Tribes. Of course experience of struggle is useful for the working class as the recent experiences of Egypt show but in the absence of this experience we should not abandon the working class until it has got some experience - a strange position to adopt against an area that contains a significant working class.

 

We don't know the details of what's going on in Libya but that's no excuse for the "let's wait and see what happens" position. We know that there are many workers here, we know that they have been living in a state of terror and under constant threat, we know that many in their families are unemployed and we know that the regime was sucking the blood from them. That's enough for me to willingly express my solidarity. A strength of this movement it seems to me is the fraternisation of soldiers (these are workers in uniform) against the regime. It is much more marked than in Egypt and involves single or groups of soldiers refusing to fire on crowds and going over to the revolt. That was patently obvious in Zawirah and this morning libcom reports on a battalion commander executed by a private with the words "it's better you die than dozens of youths". I don't see this as a push by gangsters, Islamicists, and so on but a movement, a life and death movement in some cases, of which the working class is a factor. It's no more than that but, for better or worse, that's what we have to support even if things turn out very wrong and a massacre ensues.

 

Dignity is a word that's been used a lot in these uprisings and it has been heard a lot in Libya. The cry for dignity is an expression of the revolt against capitalism, against the repression of the state and is a perfectly valid proletarian concern - we've seen it expressed in struggles in France and elsewhere. But it can't be met by the bourgeoisie a class for whom dignity is an anathma. This further underlines for me the proletarian potential in this struggle - at least its potential for self-defence (and when someone's coming at you with a gun, that's a very pressing concern).

 

On libcom yesterday, I posted about a "rescued" British oil worker from the east of the country who complained that his oil company executives had fled (they'd not been in touch since) and he'd only just heard from the British government. But he had nothing but praise for the self-organised and armed militias that fed and protected him against the looting and dangerous mercenaries for days. I've had some experience "working away" - I've even worked in war zones like Govan - and I know that as a contractor one's closest point of contact is the local workers. I don't think it's unreasonable, given the proximity and comradeship shown, that these militias were workers. But they could have been gangsters, Islamicists and tribes - I don't know.

 

 

 

 

Jock
Outside interjection

I hope you don't mind an outsider adding some comments to this discussion. I broadly agree with Lonelondoner and Devrim in urging caution.  I am having diffiulty understanding Baboon's rush to support a movement in Libya whose class character everyone seems to agree is at best confused.  As he himself says at one point we don't need to rush to judgment (and then advocates precisely that).  At the moment we do not have shred of evidence for a) embryonic class wide formations (even local strike committees) or b) the existence of a communist minority on the ground.  Evidence of either one of them would be grounds for the kind of optimism that some are advocating but there seems not a shred of evidence for them up to now.

I certainly think this statement of Baboon is utterly dangerous (if I understand it)

"I have no information, I don't know, but I find it hard to imagine that given all th. circumstances - and given the overall analysis of the ICC, that there wouldn't be some form of workers' self-organisation going on here."

This a Lewis Carroll argument (or as the ICT would say "idealism"). We have to start from the reality in front of us not what our ideal theory might be.  At least Ernie starts from sound premises in pointing out that Libyan society is not based on huge army as was the case in Tunisia and Egypt (and thus the transition to what comes next will be "safer") and he correctly poses the danger of greater instability and chaos in Libya because of this. But then adds that what is going on shows "the deepening decomposition of society".  But he has just proved that Libya is an exception in social terms! What it shows is that Libya (which seems to be a more tribal based society is more in danger of breaking up as Ghadaffi has always had trouble with eastern regions).  If all the Arab revolts lead to chaos then he might have case.

On Egypt I had flu for a fortnight so lay on the sofa getting heavy doses of Al Jazeera.  I got the same impression as Lonelondoner that the the Army dithered but when Mubarak (or Suleiman) stated that they would raise state workers wages by 15% then other workers (starting with the companies servicing the Suez Canal came out on strike FOR THEIR OWN DEMANDS). Otheres soon followed and this led to the Army finally removing Mubarak (as one of the major capitalist interests in the country).  But I think Alf is exaggerating when he says that Egypt today si a working class movement as there are so few of the working class actually one strike (tens of thousands). It is a bit early to get reaching for The Mass Strike.

 

There are a lot of other things (I think Baboon raises an interesting point about how we characterise these millions of unemployed by relatively well-educated young people who seem to have been proletarianised by a system that cannot absorb them ) but I have said too much already.

Oh Devrim, you were spot on about the 1848 revolutions sweeping round 15 European capitals in a month but the bourgeois history books usually give the credit to something invented only 8 years earlier - the telegraph.  Sam Morse - merchant of revolution!

baboon
There's no rush to support

There's no rush to support any movement but to denounce the bourgeosie of the west in being directly implicated in setting up and supporting this regime and to offer an  expression of solidarity to the not inconsiderable number of workers who are suffering in this country and who are already being killed in numbers. That's not a lot to ask of internationalists is it? Do we really have to see evidence of strike committees or workers' councils before we make this fundamental expression? The ICC has a clear position, which includes Libya, on its front page of its paper and it doesn't see the roots of these upheavals in gangsterism, Islamicism or tribalism. Of course these are all dangers in the situation, and there's a lot more, but at root these are social movements against the conditions being imposed by capitalism. And these movements include masses of unemployed (not necessarily well-educated) that are part of the working class.

 

The Gaddafi regime was central to reinforcing the tribal divisions in this country as a method of control and it's the remnants of this same regime saying that the protestors are gangsters, Islamicists and tribal - while using all three.

 

Following the "excitement" in the British press over the great SAS rescue some words from another British oil worker, a foreman on a rig in the south-east desert, in The Independent today; his and his fellow workers' compound was being attacked and besieged by armed Bedouin bandits. He said that some of his local workers went "...to get help. Two days later they came back with a pick-up truck and two Land Rovers. We piled up the vehicles with supplies and they drove us out of there. I'm so grateful that they came back for us". Now these workers - and these are definitely workers - could have been working in the interests of gangsters, Islamicists and tribes. But I doubt it, and rather see another expression of proletarian solidarity.

 

I think it significant that the pro-Gaddafi demonstrations around Zawirah have been around the wealthy suburbs and in the surrounding countryside.

baboon
PS: I think that all talk

PS: I think that all talk about optimism and pessimism is as pointless as "let's wait and see what happens". Whatever happens the working class in Libya is going to have to struggle whether its old masters hold sway or new ones emerge.

jk1921
The question of the nature of

The question of the nature of the unemployed and socially marginalized rebellion is an important one. What is the class nature of these revolts? Are they a new form of mass proletarian struggle? An emerging form of class struggle corresponding to the period of decomposition? Are they embryonic forms of a wider class movement waiting to emerge in strikes, etc.? Or are they part of a less class specific "general social revolt"? What is a "general social revolt"?

The conditions of mass unemployment and marginalization of the younger generations are not only typical of the countries in the periphery, but characterize the metropoles as well, even if the social conditions are not yet as dire. My impression of some of the analysis of the movement in Wisconsin, U.S.A in the milieu has been to characterize it as a "new type of class struggle," some kind of mass youth uprising spurred on mostly by marginalized students even against the sensibilities of significant sectors of the proletariat. The struggle occurs not so much at the point of production, but at the level of the "street," maybe in the sense of the "general social revolt" cited by Alf. The strike, in this version of events, is increasingly anachronistic. This sounds more and more leftist as I type it, but the attempt to account for the conditions of mass unemployment and social marginalization and situate this within a broader analysis of the conditions of struggle in decomposition seems important. Of course, one has to agree with the analysis of decompositon for this to make sense (which I am fairly certain Jock rejects).

ernie
 The question of the origins

 The question of the origins of the present situation in Libya is important, but it is also important to analysis what is happening now as well. Whatever the origins it is becoming increasingly clear that the movement is now becoming predominately  a bloody intra-bourgeoisie fraction fight. The 'opposition', many of the leaders ex-members of the regime, has set itself up as the new rulers -with the increasing backing of the US, Britain etc- appears to be imposing itself. In the Guardian article quoted above, this is reflected in a comment by one of the protestors "we answer to the intrim government in Benghazi". Such taking sides between fractions can only drown the class, poor and the population in a bloody massacre. I think the 'West'  growing open support for the opposition and condemnation of Gaddaffi expresses their confidence in the ability of the Opposition to crush or dragon expressions of discontent and restore  order.

In my first post I said the difference with Eygpt etc was the Gaddaffi's tight control of the state. However, since then we have seen the growing formation of an alternative state team combining 'opposition' figurers and those jumping the Gaddafi ship. A amalgamation of what would appear to be opposites which is taking place pretty smoothly and with the active encouragement of the US, GB and others. An encouragement which now appears to be backed up by the growing threat of military action against Gaddaffi (belicose talk also aimed at burying thier previous support for Gaddafie etc).

The whole situation is being turned into a struggle between the democracy loving West supporting the "aspirations" of the Arab world against the old dictators: at least at the ideological level in the West. Newsnight is talking about this in the perspective of the US etc giving military support to other such movements. What incredible brass neck, in the space of days they have gone from hesitation to appatentely being the most determined and active defender of the Arab people!  This way layseven more  terrible death and destruction for the working class and the population

Is this support for democratic movements the prelude to the justification for waging war on the Iran bourgeoisie  when they crack down on some form of uprising?

Here we can see another difference to Eygpt, one which was not so expected, the apparance of a much more organised opposition leadership being openly developed by the US etc. The US had and is active in support for opposition groups in Eygpt but it has done so in a  more discrete manner. What does this express?

This open support can only help harden the determination of the Gaddafi's and their supports to hold out, and will help strengthen their hold over those in the population who support them. Thus holding out the prospect of an increasingly bitter fraction fight with the working class and population as cannon fodder. Is this something that the US and other bourgeoisies are trying to encourage in order to crush any expressions a social uprising and as a means for showing how they are really the defenders of democracy, throught their support for the opposition?

 

 

 

kinglear
Libya

baboon wrote:

PS: I think that all talk about optimism and pessimism is as pointless as "let's wait and see what happens". Whatever happens the working class in Libya is going to have to struggle whether its old masters hold sway or new ones emerge.

. When Jock 'urges caution' who exactly is he urging? Is it the working class in Libya, Baboon and others who want to voice support for the class, people who post stuff on forums, or Lewis Carroll? The latter of course is dead, so it's too late for him. Will there one day be a situation when it will be okay for the working class to fight without anyone telling them to be careful or even to stop because it's dangerous? Somehow I doubt it. I always understood that it was through struggle and fighting the bourgeoisie that we developed our solidarity and class consciousness. Am I wrong? And given the number of analysts who see the bourgeoisie as pretty active in Libya, then whatever else is happening any workers involved will be coming up against them, and stand to learn from the experience. Or maybe not. We can't always choose our fights, but workers are involved in this one, like it or not.

jk1921
http://timesofindia.indiatime

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Gaddafi-has-lost-co...

"The European Union says that Libya's strongman Muammar Gaddafi no longer controls most of oil and gas fields in the country. EU Energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger said on Monday that control over much of the oil and gas fields is in the hands of regional families or provisional regional leaders that have emerged from the revolt and chaos"

Devrim
Did I call people 'gangsters'?

baboon wrote:
Interesting, "doctors, engineers, teachers, local youths and old men". Of course they could be worker-zombies led by Islamicists, tribal leaders or gangsters.
  Because that is exactly what I said. If you go back through this discussion you will see me refer to worker Zombies on numerous occasions. Also I didn’t accuse anybody of being gangsters. Really I think the methods of debate being used here are a bit shocking. Also some of the comments that you have been making on Libcom fall into the same catorgory.  
baboon wrote:
I think that our first duty as internationalists should be to denounce the real gangsters involved in this: the governments of Britain, Italy, France, Germany and Egypt. They are the ones that have kept this murderous regime in place and they are the ones that have supplied it with the wherewithal to maintain a state of terror and put down any attempt to protest against it. Britain and the others would have been quite happy for its weapons to be used (that's why it provided them) to maintain the status quo and prevent any further "chaos".
  I agree that revolutions should denounce these things, just as they should denounce the activities of the imperialist powers now supporting the rebels.  
baboon wrote:
I think that the second duty of internationalists here is to express our solidarity to the Libyan working class and support it in whatever actions it takes fighting on its own ground and for its own self-defence, against repression, for jobs and for a future.
  You seem to be implying that I don’t feel any solidarity for workers in Libya here. It fits your general approach to the debate.  
baboon wrote:
 I don't think it useful to denounce them straightaway as followers of gangsters, Islamicists or Tribes.
  I don’t think that I denounced anybody. Nor did I call anybody gangsters. Try using the find function on your browser. You will see that the first person on this thread to use the word ‘gangster’ was yourself. Of course tribes have a lot to do with the question. Virtually every open discussion of the issue in the Arabic press discusses the issue of which way various tribes will go. Even the BBC has started to talk about it:  
BBC wrote:
 Tribal ethos And, so they claim, they are preparing to move westwards, to engage pro-Gaddafi forces around Tripoli, where the regime depends on its support from the three tribes that have been its traditional power base - the Qadhadfa, the Warfalla and the Maghraha - together with the army's 32nd Brigade and an unknown number of foreign mercenaries. Already Misurata to Tripoli's east and Zawiya to the west appear to be in rebel hands. And what of the rest of the country? Well, it appears that the tribes of Tripolitania and the Fezzan have adopted a wait-and-see attitude. They will not choose until they know who is going to win. Yet tribal leaderships and, more particularly, the tribal ethos, remain one of the possible institutions upon which new political institutions could be built, largely because the Gaddafi regime allowed their continued existence as a means of controlling them through a system of collective responsibility for the behaviour of their members.
And let us be quite clear. These new institutions are being constructed at the moment, as the working class is being dragged into civil war.
baboon wrote:
 We don't know the details of what's going on in Libya but that's no excuse for the "let's wait and see what happens" position.
Yet again Baboon says that he has no idea what is going on, but is still quite willing to jump in support of a movement, and when others suggest that this might possible be a movement which has no working class base and is dragging workers into a war which is not in their interests, he just resorts to the debating tactics that we have seen in this thread, instead of trying to address their concerns. To us, and when I speak I represent the position adopted by an entire section of the ICC at meetings of all its members in different cities, the working class is being dragged into a civil war in the interests of different bourgeois factions, which is quickly developing into one where one faction is being openly backed by the imperialist powers.

Devrim 

Devrim
Is every Muslim a foreigner with a beard?

Alf wrote:
At the same time I think we have to distinguish between a definitely working class movement (such as we have seen with the strikes in Egypt recently) and a more general social revolt which the working class may influence to a greater or lesser extent depending on its organisational and political strength and autonomy. The latter is again different from an inter-bourgeois faction fight, even if its tendency to be confused by democratic and other illusions make it more vulnerable to being pushed in that direction. 

Could you please elaborate on this idea of a "more general social revolt which the working class may influence to a greater or lesser extent depending on its organisational and political strength and autonomy", giving specific examples of the influence of the working class on the movement in Libya?

Alf wrote:
 The passage certainly goes against the idea that the revolt is totally dominated by Islamists.

The Guardian wrote:
 Two men leaving the town in a black car stopped to reinforce the government view – that those in the town were foreigners, al-Qaida fighters with beards, Egyptians and Tunisians.

I would be very surprised if there weren't Muslims in Libya who weren't foreigners and didn't wear beards.

Devrim

 

baboon
I think that the basis of a

I think that the basis of a statist alternative to the Gaddafi regime has existed since the very beginning of this revolt and has possibly been underestimated on here - lawyers, officials, tribal elements and, latterly, rats jumping the sinking ship as Ernie says. In a limited sense, there are certain similarities to some of the old eastern bloc regimes where despite overwhelming state control and repression there were still underground, functioning oppositions on a bourgeois terrain ready to come to the fore given the appropriate assistance.

 

Britain, France, Italy and the US have put all their eggs in one basket in Libya and consequently got their fingers burnt - and been openly exposed for the friends of killers that they are - and all four countries, in various degrees of imperialist competition, are now desperately trying to back "democratic change", i.e., regain and increase their influence around the Mediterranean.

 

In response to what Ernie says about Iran and this being a possible ideological precursor to an invasion of that country. I think that this event alone gives the major powers enough to worry about for the moment. There is clearly no appetite among the US bourgeoisie for any land invasion anywhere any time in the near of middle distance and Secretary of Defence Gates made this point very clearly on behalf of the Pentagon in a recent West Point lecture just before Libya blew up. I think that the wave of revolt around the region had already put military action action against Iran - which I think would have happened in a couple of years time - on the back burner.

 

On a slightly related point, the question of mercenaries: of course this phenomenon is as old as the hills and goes well back into civilisation. But what does it mean for capitalism - is it part of decomposition? Their role is clear in the Gaddafi regime and there are some similarities with the way that the Russian state brought in troops from Mongolia, etc., to deal with widespread class struggle (I'm not suggesting there's widespread class struggle in Libya, but rather the reliance on mercenary forces by the state for whatever reason). But it's not just confined to weaker imperialisms. Reports have been around of the use by the British of mercenaries in the Sierra Leone war under Tony Blair. And reports at the time of the announcement that US troops would be reduced to 50,000 in Iraq, suggested that there were at least 50,000 mercenaries there at the time and there must be many thousands in Afghanistan. What does this mean?

baboon
To return to the specific

To return to the specific question of oppositional forces in Libya and the wider question of imperialism, particularly British imperialism.

One of the clarifications of the discussion above has been an agreement that there are indeed oppositional forces in Libya that can attempt to take the reins. I wouldn't overestimate these as they are relatively weak, but they exist and are getting stronger.

The British ruling class has been grooming Saif for power and this is reinforced in the relevation today that Britain (and France) have also been grooming an administrative, legal and diplomatic elite to the tune of some hundreds. But it should also be borne in mind that the "Arabist" department of the British state is the most experienced in the world and there can be little doubt that it has also been heavily involved in Libyan opposition figures in exile (this probably also applies to France). This is the strength and experience of this department as it supports a whole spectrum of "oppostionists" in the Arab world, in exile, whose tab it may call in one day. The British bourgeoisie in general have miscalculated somewhat in putting all its eggs into the Gaddafi basket, but we can be sure that the Foreign Office hasn't made this mistake and contacts have been maintained with opposition forces and are now being stepped up.

Reflecting the twists and turns of British imperialism and its relations to the US, the FO Arabist wing was generally ignored and put down during the LP/Blairite reign. But it doesn't lie down for long and its ascendency was confirmed some months ago by a speech from Cameron in Turkey where he called the town of Gaza "a prison camp". More recent pronouncements from the British government against Israel have been equally pointed.

 

Another point of confirmation of the ICC's analysis is the question of universities: independent seats of learning or arms of the state? The LSE doesn't appear to be the only university actively supporting the Gaddafi gangsters, but this "left-wing" body appears to be the most outrageous. Other cockroaches have also crept out of the woodwork: Shami Chakrabati, the head the civil rights group Liberty, is a director of the LSE and thus fully complicit in backing Saif and must have been aware of him breaking down in laughter every time he mentioned democracy in his speech to the assembled worthies of the university. Human Rights Watch also could not sing his praises enough.

jk1921
How does this relate to

How does this relate to Britain's own sizable Muslim population and the recent pronoucement by Cameron that British multiculturalism has failed?

baboon
Contrarily. The demonisation

Contrarily. The demonisation of British muslims has continued apace under the Conservative government as it did under Labour. But the state still has plenty of high level contacts with the bourgeois elements of "the muslim community".  It must be in the interests of British capital to maintain these divisions especially in the face of potential class struggle. There is an enormous number of muslim workers. Just a couple of weeks ago, the head of MI6 warned of a "wave" of home-grown muslim terrorist attacks in the offing. The bourgeoisie still quotes the "ricin plot" a couple of years ago - a completely manufactured, non-existant threat. We regularly hear of arrests - some even filmed in the manner of Hollywood - of terrorists, who a month or two later are quietly released. When the terrorist are not real, the bourgeoisie invent them.

radicalchains
On Libya

 

I know the title of this thread is Egypt but most of the discussion has been on Libya and having read the discussion I feel this is the best place for my post.

Libya: Economic factors for destruction?

I am having difficulty in understanding the motives for the NATO/UN destruction of Libya. There hasn't been much discussion on some of the possible economic factors apart from the complicit news media mentioning "mineral wealth" and "oil". I've been making some notes, mainly in the form of questions. I think many of the answers to my questions could rest on the proletarian content of events which have clearly been discussed on the ICC forum. But are not clear at all and in fact in my view have been clouded rather than clarified (I tend to agree with Devrim's comments). Some of the following may appear quite "leftist" and I apologize for that. I am sincerely trying to understand the motives economic and political of the bourgeoisie, never an easy task. And clearly this may be at odds with some of the developed theory of the ICC.

About Libya:

State education including university

National Health Service

Housing programme

Highest standard of living in region

Some level of national independence

Honestly, I don't know the quality or extent of the above but my question is were these a factor or a dangerous influence to other uprisings i.e an example the bourgeoisie don't want others to follow much like what happened re US imperialism in Latin America? Or simply things that had to be stopped one way or another re global crisis, everything has to be sold off (or destroyed), through force when necessary?

Qaddafi and Africa: (some plans and visions that were in part maturing)

African Independence and unification into a bloc

African telecommunications satellite (mostly funded by Libya)

African Monetary Fund (to be created in 2011)

Central Bank (stop using foreign currencies, use local or single African currency? Again mostly backed by Libya)

Central Bank of Investment (future development for Africa)

United States of Africa (plan)

So they might be some factors rival bourgeoisie didn't like, regionally and internationally. Some vague questions: Did NATO and co opportunistically use revolt (genuine or 'artificial') as a cover and tool for its own ends? Is there even on a small scale destruction of capital entwined with the general crisis occurring, a continuation of Iraq, Afghanistan and if so where next could or will be 'hit'? If the proletariat remains undefeated re ICC theory is this the only way the bourgeoisie can presently attempt destruction, in the periphery, against weak states etc?

Two questions directly towards the ICC. What do you mean by "centrifugal tendencies" it comes up quite a lot in your press. And instead of referring to NATO, UN or 'The West' what is the most accurate term to describe the forces that have militarily intervened, I know the US has been involved but it seems to have mainly been a matter of central (to capitalism) European countries, a European bloc of sorts?

I realize this is a messy post, I apologize for that.

 

 

baboon
Just on some of the latter

Just on some of the latter points from radical above. I've posted on libcom to say that I think that the action by the "west" (see below) in Libya is part of a wider imperialist configuration around the very volatile region of the Middle East.

I think it wrong to see destruction going on here for destruction's sake.

When the world was divided into two blocs, NATO and the Warsaw Pact, there wasn't any room in between. Countries adhered to one bloc or the other. With the collapse of the Russian bloc, the cement that held the western bloc (fear of Russian imperialism) crumbled to dust and the resulting tendencies were outward, centrifugal, rather than cohering blocs and alliances. This created the situation we have seen since the early 90s of each imperialist gangster fighting for their own corner, their own interests, while the US is constantly forced to attempt to reimpose its discipline as the leader of the world. This in itself leads to further instability and tendencies towards imperialist chaos.

On radical's idea of a "European bloc" intervention in Libya. I don't think that this is the case. In fact I think that here there's a demonstration of the centrifugal tendencies above which, for over two decades, have completely contradicted any idea of a coherent European bloc. Germany certainly oppposed the military action seeing its French and British rivals strengthened in the Mediterranean; Italy had to run to catch up.  In the latest International Review, in an article on the Middle East, the argument goes that the US, France and Britain were at loggerheads over this war. I don't think that this is the case and I think that the Anglo-French action is exactly what the State Department and the Pentagon have been asking for for ages: for US "allies" to put their money where their mouth is. So for me, this is a joint US, French and British manoeuvre completely in line with US policy - though not without some disagreements.

Further, while oil is obviously a major factor in Libya, the same Review article talks about how social movements can upset imperialist equilibrium and aggravate international relations and rivalries (it doesn't quite put it in these terms, but that's the gist...). Nowhere are these "relations" and rivalries more pronounced than in the Middle East. The fall of the Murabak regime in Egypt has been both a major blow to imperialism and a factor aggravating tensions throughout the region. Events in the Sinai show how this region could be further destabilised to the detriment of Israel; Iran has resumed diplomatic relations with Egypt and the stability of the Egyptian regime must be open to doubt. In the face of this a secure western base in a compliant Libya, possibly with military bases, logistics, etc., would certainly be an advantage for the US, Britain and France faced with the growing influence of Iran throughout the region.

It's more or less the same "rationale" that led to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Alf
destruction

agree with Baboon that the motive for the NATO intervention in Libya is not the destruction of capital, and that in general, this is not the motive for imperialist war. The Gauche Communiste de France had come to this conclusion in the wake of the most destructive war in history: World War Two. As they wrote in 1945:

 

The object of war production is not the solution of an economic problem. Its origins are the re­sult of the state's need, on the one hand, to defend itself against the dispossessed classes and maintain their exploitation by force, and on the other to maintain its economic position and better it at the expense of other imperialist states, again by force. The permanent crisis makes the solution of inter-imperialist differ­ences by are struggle inevitable. War and the threat of war are latent or overt aspects of the situation of permanent war in society. Modern war is essentially a war of materials. With a view to war, a monstrous mobilization of a country's entire economic and technical re­sources is necessary. War production becomes at the same time the axis of industrial production and society's main economic arena.

jk1921
I think that in the majority

I think that in the majority of cases imperialist war long ago lost its immediate direct economic rationale. This is another point that has historically divided the ICC and the ICT, with the latter tending to look for direct economic interests to explain war and imperialist maneovers, i.e. UK imperialism holds on to N. Ireland in order to control the ship building industry, etc.

I think the situation in Libya is very complicated and I have some sympathy for Baboon's analysis of the role of UK and France vis a vis the U.S. However, as recent events have shown, the U.S. bourgeoisie itself was not terribly united on this intervention or at least how the intervention was carried out. This is something that needs to be developed.

Baboon, could you elaborate a bit on what you mean when you say the fall of the Mubarak regime has been a major blow to imperialism? Do you mean it was major blow to imperialism itself or the particular imperialist configuartion that dominates the region? Can a generalized "social revolt" be "anti-imperialist"?

Alf, does the passage you cite contain the idea that war production is a function of the class war? Wasn't this a very controversial idea within the Italian left and the GCF?

Alf
GCF

Within the Italian left there was a whole debate on Vercesi's theory of the war economy; beginning in the late thirties and continuing during the war itself, which among other things argued that imperialist war was in essence a civil war against the proletariat. I don't think the text in question refers to it directly but the comrades of the GCF were opposed to Vercesi's whole trajectory, which led him into deep opportunism during the war. The whole text from the 1945 conference of the GCF is here: 

 

https://en.internationalism.org/node/3171

baboon
To try to address some of

To try to address some of jk's thoughts within this:

 

Firstly though: this is not a "war for oil", it's obviously something more than that. Oil was flowing quite well under Gadaffi and BP, for example, have been doing good business with Gadiffi since at least the late 1970s. There may be a certain redistribution of oil given the war but the latter also has major geo-strategic factors woven in that are relevant to the entire region of the Middle East from the action of the US, France and Britain. The lack of widespread destruction from the careful approach to the bombing by France and Britain gives this war a certain "success" (in relation to these imperialist powers), even if we don't know the extent of civilian casualties (much of the infrastructure destroyed by Nato bombing in the Balkans in the 90s, for example, has still not been repaired - and the consequences for Iraq and Afghanistan are there for all to see).

 

Certainly, as jk says, elements in the US were not united on this war at the outset. In some part this reflects the growing difficulties within US politics itself but in the main, the important elements of the war economy in the US cohered around Obama's policy of "Leading from Behind" (which itself is a policy expression of the problems of US imperialism). This policy, approved by the Pentagon for some time, envisages the US getting its main "allies" to stump up the money to act as policemen on the USA's behalf in particular areas, using their own increased defence spending, their own missiles, warplanes, facilities - in short their own war machines in the service of US interests. From the very beginning of the war in Libya the USA has provided the intelligence and the logistics for its effective pursuit. The sudden withdrawal of the crucial A-10 Warthog warplanes, suprised the British and French but it was meant as a kick up the arse for them to use their own "assets". At the time of writing this policy has had a certain success in Libya (with challenges ahead). There's  nothing new about "Leading from Behind" and to some extent Obama's accession to the presidency was to implement this policy against the "John Wayneism" of the more rigidly ideological elements of the Bush administration. Obama's ex-secretary of state (and Bush's secretary of state, very close to the Pentagon), Robert Gates, has been a consistent advocate of some sort of "Leading from Behind" policy, ie, pushing those powers into action, in relation Nato and other "friendly" powers.

 

While France and Britain have stepped up here the glaring absentee is Germany and I think it was to the latter that Gates was referring to when he recently pointed to Nato having "a real possibility of collective military irrevelance". Right at the beginning of the war Berlin refused to even allow its AWACs (early warning) aircraft to be used overriding Nato's use of them (they are supposed to be available by treaty). Francois Hersbourg, who advises the French Defence Ministry, recently said, pointing his remarks at Berlin "... an 'integrated' Nato really has no meaning... in effect Germany's progress towards military normality have been turned back 20 years". So, in the face of imperialist war and increasing militarisation there are major centrifugal tendencies at work within Nato and the European powers.

 

On "the major blow to imperialism" issue: what I meant was that when such a crucial regime like Egypt's is shaken by social revolt and destabilised then this is a blow to the whole imperialist configuration of the Middle East. Imperialist instability results from the upswelling of the social movement but this in itself is not positive because imperialism will not allow a vacuum and new imperialist tensions, manoeuvres and actions will take place which in their turn make the situation more unstable in the middle or longer term. The war in Libya is, in my opinion, a very clear expression of this.

jk1921
Alf, thanks for refreshing my

Alf, thanks for refreshing my memory. I think the points Baboon makes need to be taken seriously. IRC, Gates (Actually Secretary of Defense) was opposed to the Libya intervention to begin with--it was the faction around Hillary Clinton who pushed for military action. However, I agree that Gates had been pushing strongly for the approach to intervention the U.S. eventually took in Libya: the "leading from behind strategy." But Gates is now out of office, replaced by career bureacrat Panetta.

Of course, the Republicans seem to want to say whatever they can to make Obama look bad, so at first they were against the intervention and now that it has appartently "succeded" they are angry that it took too long and the full force of U.S. military might was not used. Is this a real objection to the leading from behind strategy or just bluster for domestic political consumption? The "left-wing" of the bourgeois media in the U.S. was going crazy all weekend long about how the fall of Gadaffi was a total vindication of Obama's strategy and a complete rebuke of the George Bush/John McCain approach of "kill them all, let god sort them out." According to this narrative, the Republicans have totally lost the upper hand in foreign and military policy and now have to say whatever is politically expedient because they cannot possibly be seen to give Obama any credit. Obviously, this is something that Internationalism will have to develop, but how does the apparent switch in U.S. policy towards a more multi-lateral veneer affect the global imperialist balance of power? Consequently, the rise of Sarkozy in France seems to have been a major moment in this with France appearing to adopt a much more conciliatory stance towards U.S. imperialism. Or is this an illusion?

baboon
The US, along with Britain

The US, along with Britain and France, had to see the distinct possibility of Egypt becoming more unstable and certainly, more unreliable, even before Murabak officially went. This in my opinion is one of the major considerations, if not the major consideration of these powers in unleashing the war in Libya.

Given the attack on its embassy (it's a moot point that this was directly encouraged by the Egyptian state), Israel was reduced to asking the US administration for direct assistance in contrast to its recent arrogance towards the Administration. Israel's position is becoming more exposed in the region and its imperialist tendencies have aggravated Turkey and Egypt to the point that one Israeli minister suggested giving Israeli support to the PKK to counter Turkey's support for Hamas. Israeli diplomacy has also been courting anti-Turkish elements in the murky waters of the Balkans and eastern Europe. A source of further threat for Israel comes from the destabilisation of the Sinai which could turn into (is turning into) some sort of lawless badlands. Iran is strengthened by all the centrifugal tendencies of these previous "allies".

In the meantime, there are still workers' demonstrations and strikes going on in Egypt today.

baboon
The US role in the war in

The US role in the war in Libya.

Just some additional information on the role of the US in the war in Libya, a war that it continues to play a major role in. The following is is based on yesterday's Guardian article which uses direct quotes from the British defence minister, Liam Fox on the record and four other ministers involved, on and off the record.

At the outset of the drawing up of a UN resolution by the British and French on a "no-fly zone" the British Ministry of Defence was cautious and Robert Gates, US defence secretary, criticised "loose talk". Given what follows, this could have been disinformation aimed at the Gadaffi regime suggesting that there were major disagreements between the US, France and Britain.

To quote The Guardian: "The ever-active Sarkozy convened a summit in Paris with Cameron and Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, on 18 March. This showed how Libya would be no Iraq. For once the US was trying to avoid taking the lead. It intended to hand over the leadership of the military campaign at the earliest opportunity. Britain and France, which had been at loggerheads over Iraq, would eventually be in the lead through Nato". There was some rivalry between Britain and France over Sarkozy's haste in putting "Operation Odyssy Dawn" into immediate effect, but essentially this was a US, British and French operation. A day before the Anglo-French-US meeting, "a UN security council resoluton ... went much further than permitting a no-fly zone, after the US quietly pressed for 'something that makes a real difference'". The grounds for the summit organised by Sarkozy on the 18th, had already been laid by the US State Department on the 17th.

Again: "But the initial military strain was loaded on the US, which continued to offer support, short of bombing, after Nato (in this case, France and Britain)  took over command". Up to here the US had been using its missiles and particularly its very effective Warthog A-10 bombers.  On the whole operation, "Nato could not have done this without the US, Fox openly admits".

"Another minister says: 'They have the intelligence assets in the sky and air-to-air refuelling that is invaluable for a long-haul mission". Without the US, the whole damn thing would not have happened".

Once the NTC decided to move on Tripoli, the US launched further drone strikes and Nato increased its strikes on the capital.

 

Libya may be "no Iraq" in terms of scale and terms of post-war "planning" but in terms of imperialist war it is exactly the same with its slaughter of innocents (unknown numbers), of its cannon-fodder, of its destruction (even if somewhat limited), its irrationality and cost to the working class, and the problems that it presages for the future.

baboon
PS: sorry about posting this

PS: sorry about posting this on Egypt thread but this is where the discussion on the above has been. Maybe there's a way of splitting this?