Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1071/30192

From The Socialist newspaper, 29 January 2020

Libya: Civil war and chaos follow interventions by world and regional powers

It is almost nine years since the Nato-led military intervention in Libya, and the country is still a mess, split between conflicting forces, backed by western capitalist powers, Russia, and regional powers Turkey and Saudi Arabia. An ongoing series of 'peace' summits hosted by various world powers have failed to resolve an increasingly violent civil war. In the second of our series on the Middle East, Tom Baldwin explains how imperialism brought about this chaos and why the current conflict can only be resolved by an independent revolutionary movement of workers and the poor.
The mass uprising against Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, in the absence of an independent, revolutionary workers’ movement, was derailed by the West, photo wikipedia/CC

The mass uprising against Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, in the absence of an independent, revolutionary workers’ movement, was derailed by the West, photo wikipedia/CC   (Click to enlarge)

Barack Obama has described failing to prepare for post-Gaddafi Libya as the worst mistake of his presidency. But as described in our article, on 'Iraq - A brutal legacy of imperialist intervention', Libya is one of a long list of countries where imperialist intervention has ended in disaster for the local population.

In March 2011, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution backing military intervention in Libya, ostensibly to protect civilians from the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. MPs backed Prime Minister David Cameron's proposals for the UK to join the action by 557 votes to just 13. Shamefully, sections of the 'left' supported this intervention, arguing that it was the only way to protect the Libyan people from Gaddafi's repression.

At this time the 'Arab Spring' was at its height. The revolutionary wave had seen the overthrow of dictators Ben Ali in Tunisia in January and Mubarak in Egypt in February. Western powers had been taken unawares by the movements and lost these allies. In Libya they now saw the chance to stamp their authority on the situation and try to ensure the revolution would be diverted and would lead to a new regime that was amenable to their interests. No small consideration was the fact that Libya was the world's 12th largest oil producer, sitting on Africa's largest oil reserves.

At times, Gaddafi had claimed Libya was socialist, but it couldn't accurately be described that way. A redistribution of oil wealth had improved the lives of many Libyans, which until the 1960s had been one of the poorest countries in the world.

After the 1969 Gaddafi-led overthrow of the British-backed monarchy, the oil industry was nationalised.

However, workers had no control over the running of society. Gaddafi wielded dictatorial power and enriched himself and his children. The oil industry began to be re-privatised in 2003, just before Gaddafi announced the end of Libya's nuclear and chemical weapons programmes. This was part of an attempt to make a deal with the Western powers and get sanctions lifted.

Uprising

The uprising against the Gaddafi regime began in the east, around Libya's second city Benghazi. Inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, the overwhelmingly young and educated population sought their chance to do away with Gaddafi and the ruling clique.

The international organisation that the Socialist Party belongs to, the CWI, described at the time the need to deepen the revolution by the building of workers' organisations such as unions and a party. We also called for democratic committees in order to coordinate the taking of power, and democratic workers' control of the country.

However, without an organisation around which workers and youth could organise their struggle, the leadership began to be assumed by defectors from the old regime and pro-Western politicians.

Fear of foreign rule, a well of support based on previous reforms, and the resurfacing of regional divisions, were among the factors which meant Gaddafi could not be easily swept away. Civil war ensued and forces loyal to the regime began a counter offensive against the revolutionaries, placing civilian lives at risk.

It was this that Nato powers seized on as an excuse to intervene. This was an utterly hypocritical action as they were doing nothing about attacks on civilians in Bahrain and Yemen which their allies, including Saudi Arabia, were responsible for. Instead, they were seeking to further their imperialist interests.

After 2003, European powers had largely rehabilitated Gaddafi, and Libya was an important trade partner and oil supplier.

In 2010, the EU had signed a deal to restrict the number of refugees reaching Europe, resulting in up to two million sub-Saharan Africans being trapped in Libya, many in detention camps.

American intelligence service, the CIA, had a close partnership with its Libyan counterparts, described by a senior US official as "especially productive".

Now that Gaddafi's rule was threatened, imperialist powers were hypocritically trying to pretend that they'd always opposed him. They looked to burnish their democratic credentials by claiming to support the revolution and thereby divert it in the hope of establishing an even 'friendlier' government.

Nato action included establishing a no-fly zone, airstrikes and the deployment of small numbers of special forces, including Britain's SAS. The tide of the civil war turned against Gaddafi, he was driven from power and eventually killed.

Revolution derailed

However, in the absence of an organised independent movement based upon the Libyan working people, Western intervention had further polarised the population and split the anti-Gaddafi forces. Previously posters had been put up by revolutionaries in Benghazi stating: "No to foreign intervention - Libyans can do it by themselves".

The revolution had been derailed and the chance for workers and youth to take control of their destinies had been lost. The country fractured into areas controlled by opposing forces.

A damning UK parliamentary inquiry in 2016 concluded that the result of intervention has been "political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons and the growth of Isis in North Africa".

The images of slave markets have become emblematic of the desperate state of the country. People attempting to reach the Mediterranean in order to cross to Europe are at risk of capture and extreme exploitation by criminal gangs.

One former captive, speaking to Time magazine last year said: "The Libyans understood that if the EU doesn't want blacks to come, it means we are not valuable as humans. The EU is essentially rewarding these militias for abusing us, for raping us, for killing us and for selling us."

A second civil war began in 2014 between rival governments - the General National Congress based in Tripoli in the country's west and the House of Representatives based in Tobruk in the east, which is backed by the Libyan National Army (LNA) of General Khalifa Haftar.

A peace deal in 2015 officially saw the formation of a 'unity' government, the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, which is recognised by the UN. However, Haftar's LNA remains hostile to it and the conflict is still ongoing.

Patchwork

While most of Libya is split between these two main forces it is a complicated and shifting patchwork quilt of control by different militias and tribal forces. For a time, this included significant territory held under the brutal, right-wing religious rule of the so-called Islamic State, although their influence is now severely diminished.

Despite the strength of Libya's regional and tribal conflicts, reflecting the fact that the country was only created in 1934 by the then Italian fascist colonial occupiers, the country's oil wealth also means that there is a continual struggle over who controls its oil exports.

Nato-led operations may have ended in 2011 but military intervention in Libya has not. The country remains a battleground between different, mainly regional, powers seeking to exert their influence.

The GNA has been backed by Qatar, Sudan, and Turkey while the LNA has had the backing of Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Haftar, who once lived in CIA-supported exile in the US, has been backed by the French government, and recently had friendly contact with Trump.

This year there have been peace talks in Moscow and Berlin where the governments of eleven countries were represented, including the UK, as well as UN secretary general, António Guterres. However, General Haftar has not signed the ceasefire and his forces have now blocked oil exports.

Speaking at the Berlin conference, Boris Johnson hinted at possible further British involvement in the future, saying: "There's a case for us... sending experts to monitor the ceasefire."

The recent past is a stark warning however that the forces of imperialism will intervene only to pursue their own interests. Their 'support' for the uprising was really an attempt to control and limit the 'Arab Spring'.

Workers and the poor can only rely on their own class, including calls for international solidarity. If they are to take control of their own lives, they must be organised themselves, including building a workers' party with a socialist programme that can actually deliver on their aspirations.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation £

 

Your message: 

 


In The Socialist 29 January 2020:


What we think

No 'blank cheque' for Labour leadership candidates


News

End health and wealth divide - fight for our NHS

Unite union nominates Long-Bailey and Burgon

Coronavirus: capitalism limits response to viral outbreaks

HS2 debacle: nationalise rail and construction!

Johnson's Huawei internet deal underlines world trade tensions

Them & Us


Workplace news

University and College Union: Pensions, pay and conditions dispute reach a crucial stage

PCS union elections: Nominate candidates fighting austerity and for union democracy

Interview with a forestry worker

Westex carpet strike


Brexit and the economy

Brexit and British capitalism - why Johnson's juggernaut is set to jackknife


Stop the cuts

Fight the closure of Royal Glamorgan A&E

Save Hampden Nursery in Camden

We need socialists in London's City Hall

Unite regional committee votes to support anti-cuts Enfield councillor

Cuts to women's services cost lives


Campaigns

Socialist sellers: Opposing the Tories & fighting cuts

London protest against Modi's racist law


International news

Libya: Civil war and chaos follow interventions by world and regional powers

Trump's trashing of the environment - Dump the capitalist profit system!

CWI round-up


Readers' opinion

TV review: The Trial of Christine Keeler

The Socialist Inbox


 

Home   |   The Socialist 29 January 2020   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

Libya:

triangleUnited working class movements can defeat Trump

triangle15 years since the invasion of Iraq: what we said

triangleForeign aid corruption: capitalism to blame

triangleLibya: imperialist intervention helped wreck country and revolution

triangleMiddle East: Isis under pressure on several fronts

War:

triangleAnniversary of nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

triangleCapitalism's 'vaccine war' shows need for socialist cooperation

triangleHow capitalist restoration led to war and 'ethnic cleansing' in the Balkans

triangle75th anniversary of the Attlee Labour government

Gaddafi:

triangleBlair's multimillion plans to fight 'populism'

triangleLibyan's legal action against British security forces

triangleWhere now for Libya after the downfall of Gaddafi's regime?

Oil:

triangleShell pays £0 corporation tax, and plans huge hike in fossil output

triangleDrone attacks on Saudi Arabia: Tensions ratcheted up

Workers:

triangleCuba: Covid-19 and the 60-year-old embargo

International

International

5/8/20

Cuba

Cuba: Covid-19 and the 60-year-old embargo

5/8/20

Nuclear weapons

Anniversary of nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

22/7/20

Iran

Iran: Renewed wave of protests and strikes

22/7/20

Israel

Israel: Nurses strike and win

8/7/20

Hong Kong

Hong Kong: The fight for democratic rights

24/6/20

South Africa

South Africa: Building jobs and living wage campaign

10/6/20

France

France: 20,000 rally against Paris's killer gendarmes

10/6/20

US

Black and white youth rise up against racism - US protester speaks to the Socialist

3/6/20

USA

USA - another cop killing of unarmed black man sparks widespread protests

31/5/20

US

Outrage spreads globally following US police murder of George Floyd

27/5/20

Hong Kong

Chinese state's imposition of draconian law reignites Hong Kong protests

27/5/20

Lebanon

Economic collapse leads to renewed protests across Lebanon

20/5/20

US

Trump, coronavirus, capitalism, and the presidential race

6/5/20

India

India: Fighting the curse of capitalism and coronavirus

6/5/20

Trump

Trump puts profit before safety (again)

triangleMore International articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999