Libya and Imperialism

The following editorial is from Workers World:

Of all the struggles going on in North Africa and the Middle East right now, the most difficult to unravel is the one in Libya.

What is the character of the opposition to the Gadhafi regime, which reportedly now controls the eastern city of Benghazi?

Is it just coincidence that the rebellion started in Benghazi, which is north of Libya’s richest oil fields as well as close to most of its oil and gas pipelines, refineries and its LNG port? Is there a plan to partition the country?

What is the risk of imperialist military intervention, which poses the gravest danger for the people of the entire region?

Libya is not like Egypt. Its leader, Moammar al-Gadhafi, has not been an imperialist puppet like Hosni Mubarak. For many years, Gadhafi was allied to countries and movements fighting imperialism. On taking power in 1969 through a military coup, he nationalized Libya’s oil and used much of that money to develop the Libyan economy. Conditions of life improved dramatically for the people.

For that, the imperialists were determined to grind Libya down. The U.S. actually launched air strikes on Tripoli and Benghazi in 1986 that killed 60 people, including Gadhafi’s infant daughter – which is rarely mentioned by the corporate media. Devastating sanctions were imposed by both the U.S. and the U.N. to wreck the Libyan economy.

After the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 and leveled much of Baghdad with a bombing campaign that the Pentagon exultantly called “shock and awe,” Gadhafi tried to ward off further threatened aggression on Libya by making big political and economic concessions to the imperialists. He opened the economy to foreign banks and corporations; he agreed to IMF demands for “structural adjustment,” privatizing many state-owned enterprises and cutting state subsidies on necessities like food and fuel.

The Libyan people are suffering from the same high prices and unemployment that underlie the rebellions elsewhere and that flow from the worldwide capitalist economic crisis.

There can be no doubt that the struggle sweeping the Arab world for political freedom and economic justice has also struck a chord in Libya. There can be no doubt that discontent with the Gadhafi regime is motivating a significant section of the population.

However, it is important for progressives to know that many of the people being promoted in the West as leaders of the opposition are long-time agents of imperialism. The BBC on Feb. 22 showed footage of crowds in Benghazi pulling down the green flag of the republic and replacing it with the flag of the overthrown monarch King Idris – who had been a puppet of U.S. and British imperialism.

The Western media are basing a great deal of their reporting on supposed facts provided by the exile group National Front for the Salvation of Libya, which was trained and financed by the U.S. CIA. Google the front’s name plus CIA and you will find hundreds of references.

The Wall Street Journal in a Feb. 23 editorial wrote that “The U.S. and Europe should help Libyans overthrow the Gadhafi regime.” There is no talk in the board rooms or the corridors of Washington about intervening to help the people of Kuwait or Saudi Arabia or Bahrain overthrow their dictatorial rulers. Even with all the lip service being paid to the mass struggles rocking the region right now, that would be unthinkable. As for Egypt and Tunisia, the imperialists are pulling every string they can to get the masses off the streets.

There was no talk of U.S. intervention to help the Palestinian people of Gaza when thousands died from being blockaded, bombed and invaded by Israel. Just the opposite. The U.S. intervened to prevent condemnation of the Zionist settler state.

Imperialism’s interest in Libya is not hard to find. wrote on Feb. 22 that while Libya is Africa’s third-largest producer of oil, it has the continent’s largest proven reserves – 44.3 billion barrels. It is a country with a relatively small population but the potential to produce huge profits for the giant oil companies. That’s how the super-rich look at it, and that’s what underlies their professed concern for the people’s democratic rights in Libya.

Getting concessions out of Gadhafi is not enough for the imperialist oil barons. They want a government that they can own outright, lock, stock and barrel. They have never forgiven Gadhafi for overthrowing the monarchy and nationalizing the oil. Fidel Castro of Cuba in his column “Reflections” takes note of imperialism’s hunger for oil and warns that the U.S. is laying the basis for military intervention in Libya.

In the U.S., some forces are trying to mobilize a street-level campaign promoting such U.S. intervention. We should oppose this outright and remind any well-intentioned people of the millions killed and displaced by U.S. intervention in Iraq.

Progressive people are in sympathy with what they see as a popular movement in Libya. We can help such a movement most by supporting its just demands while rejecting imperialist intervention, in whatever form it may take. It is the people of Libya who must decide their future.

Articles copyright 1995-2011 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.



7 responses to “Libya and Imperialism

  1. Luis Lazaro Tijerina

    To understand the conflict in Libya, we must first give an analysis of the class character of the Libyan revolutionaries that have taken to the streets in the majority of the Libyan cities. They are students, the poor working class, some segments of the professional classes, as well as different segments of the military armed forces. This is too short of a comment to give a serious or in-depth account of the deeper aspects of the Arab class character that has brought about the massive outcry for political change in Libya. Also, many of these thousands of Libyans are educated and have a fierce love of their country, which is not rare in Arabia, but not always understood in the United States, for instance, because of the vulgarism and reactionary elements that control our daily lives, and therefore create an understood skepticism and even some cynicism among us here in the United Sates, who have no nationalistic love of country. Unlike Americans, the Libyan people know who their economic enemies are within their own homeland, and therefore willing to lay down their lives for work, bread, and freedom, which should not be confused with the concept of American freedom and all the lies and contradictions that go with it.
    Those in the West, particularly in Western Europe, there is the fear of not only mass immigration from the thousands of ordinary Libyans who will surely flee the violence, but also an embedded racism towards Arabs which has been a staple of hatred since World War I, when North Africans and Africans were good enough to die for the Western powers against Imperial Germany, but not good enough to live among Frenchmen, Italians, and other Europeans. However, more than even racism, there is the greed which never abates in Western Europe and the Untied States for oil. It should not surprise anyone that during the political earthquake in the Middle East, there will be numerous intelligence service men and women, who speak the language of the region, who will not only gather intelligence, but will also attempt to play a hand in who controls the oil fields and who persuades the various military organizations to side with Western interests, all in the name of so-called “Freedom” and “Democracy.” Obama, Berlusconi, Sarkozy, and Merkel, all have an interest in maintaining imperialist control not only in Libya, but in the other nation-states that are grappling with their own National Question and Self-determination. Although a few of the leaders of the West mention above may have “good intentions” ultimately their intentions are imperialistic whether they come down with a soft glove approach or an iron fist approach. There is not only the great and profound force of revolutionary force in history, there is the insidious role of reactionary force in history. Engles mentions this use of force in his work “The Role of Force In History, when he wrote, “In short, always and everywhere it is the economic conditions and instruments of force which help “force” to to victory, and without these, force ceases to be force.” America will only intervene if it works to their economic interests which is then coupled to their use of force against the dictators or tyrants that have decades have oppressed the majority of Arab peoples. Bismark’ ghost is a great specter among the foreign policy planners in the halls and offices of the U.S. Foreign Department and his voice of blood and iron are still admired among certain political apparatuses in Europe. In other words, if NATO, or even an individual, predatory nation-state intervention on the part of the United States, for instance, attempts to control the revolution, it will be because of economic and regional political ambitions, and not out of love for the Libyan people. They will use the National Front for the Salvation of Libya as a proxy for the continuation of American hegemony across the Arab world. It is for the intellectuals in the West to make people aware of the actual reasons that imperialist nations like the United States are quiet or stand on the side lines, until they are sure they have the right leadership in order to force the issue that will benefit American imperialist interests, and not contribute to the progressive Liberation Movement of the Libyan people. Obama did not show a genuine compassion in his address for the Libyan Revolution, because his political benefits are with the American bourgeoisie, with his Wall Street banker friends, with the national bourgeois minorities that take the economic scraps that are thrown at them. Any intervention that Obama decides to advocate will be for the benefit of those who are his political allies; his interest, like his European partners, are not sympathetic towards the deeper aspirations of the Libyan people. We should not forget that American foreign policy representatives have learned from their Briti8sh imperialist cousins and how they created Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration which were agreements that would divide the Arab world in the interest of Western powers, and not in the interest of the proud and energetic Arab working class. And in all those agreements men and women died, and young children like Gadhafi’s daughter also paid the price with her life by an American bomb that came down from the skies from an American jet. To be a martyr is not a simple thing, it is a complex and telling example of dying against a political oppression which is yet to be understood in the United States, but that historical period is coming….

    Luis Lazaro Tijerina
    Burlington, VT

  2. Unfortunate Statement by PFLP: call for international intervention in Libya without mentioning imperialist designs on Libya

    PFLP condemns Gaddafi regime’s massacres against the Libyan people
    The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine demanded an immediate end to the bombardment and massacres against the heroic Libyan people, condemning the killing of demonstrators committed by the Gaddafi regime.

    The PFLP demanded the protection of the Libyan people and thei rights, and emphasized its support for the demands of the people of Libya and the Arab masses for freedom, human and national dignity, democracy, social justice, and the fight against corruption and dictatorship.

    The Front demanded an immediate end to the bloody aggression and oppression and called upon all forces for rights and human dignity in the Arab world and relevant international institutions to act immediately to stop the shedding of Arab blood in the fields and streets of Libya, saying that the criminal regime cares for nothing but its own rule and livelihood at the expense of the enslavement of the homeland and its people.

    The Front called for broad humanitarian and national solidarity with the people of Libya, calling upon all to participate in the rally callled for by the Network of NGOs and National and Islamic Forces in Manara Square, calling for an end to occupation and division and solidarity with the Arabs in Libya and the Arab masses in all countries.

  3. The PFLP was a group that was backed by Libya for years. It is a shame that they would condemn Mu`ammar al-Qadhafi. However, I do wish for the bloodshed to end. However, if this continues it will allow NATO and other imperialist forces to come in to Libya and occupy them and take control of Libya’s oil and gas wealth.

    I have sympathized with and supported the PFLP through the years because of their militant resistance against U.S. imperialism and Zionist occupation of Palestine.

  4. We the Communists

    Turmoil in yet another Middle-East country has reached its mostly-expected climax. Rebel forces with assistance from NATO have reached Tripoli, and have started establishing their authority. While there are similarities and differences to Afghanistan and Iraq wars, let us sincerely hope Libya will not turn in to yet another country of continuous battle ground.

    NATO and its members have a lot to celebrate. What started as an “honest” action to enforce UN resolution – to “protect civilians” by establishment of “no-fly zone” – has now almost ended with their expected end-result –topple “rough” Government of a “rough” country which does not salute the so-called Western superpowers. Full article at

  5. we red solute to Gaddafi’s historicle battle against wild imperialism. long live peoples’ struggle and viva marxism leninism.

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