There is little doubt that a bloody war of attrition is being waged against the population of Misarta by forces loyal to the Gaddafi regime.
The Gaddafi regime is relying on brute force to survive, but is able to do so largely because the momentum from the original February uprising, inspired by the revolutions in neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt, faltered. Lacking its own independent leadership the movement was effectively hijacked by a combination of pro-western elements and regime defectors who wanted to do a deal with the main imperialist powers. This in turn helped Gaddafi stabilise his rule, at least for now, on a combined basis of terror and exploiting popular fears of losing the social gains made over the last 40 years in fields like health and education.
The alliance that the rebel Interim National Council (INC) has made with imperialism and reactionary Arab states has made it more difficult for it to appeal to the population in much of western Libya where two-thirds of Libyans live.
The current military stalemate is forcing the major powers to consider more direct intervention on the ground as they seek to remove Gaddafi, albeit under a “humanitarian” banner. The European Union has agreed a 61 page document that includes plans to send 1,000 troops to Misarta on a “humanitarian mission” which would “be authorised to fight if they or their humanitarian wards were threatened. ‘It would be to secure sea and land corridors inside the country,’ said an EU official” (18 April, Guardian, London, website).
Given Libya’s oil and gas riches it is no surprise that already there is rivalry between the European powers as to which one would lead any ground operation. The German government, despite its abstention in the March UN vote on the “no fly zone”, offered in early April that the 900 Bundeswehr soldiers in the “EU-Battle-Group” could be used in such a mission. This angered Britain and France and now, in a blatant move to seize the initiative against its European rivals, the British government has announced that it is sending “additional” military officers to “advise” the rebels on the ground.
While some Libyans might well welcome any support in their battle against Gaddafi any trust in these so-called “friends” would be totally misplaced. If Gaddafi had been a more reliable ally then imperialism would have taken a different attitude to him. When over 50,000 civilians were killed in the Sri Lankan government’s final push against the Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009 the major powers were largely silent in the hope of remaining on good terms with the regime. Only now is criticism of the Sri Lankan government emerging as it has started to lose support and is becoming more tied to the western powers’ Chinese rival.
None of the powers either supporting the Libyan rebels or, indirectly, the Gaddafi regime have any record of supporting democratic rights in North Africa or the Middle East. For example, currently the rebels are being supplied and financed by the autocratic feudal Qatar regime that has never allowed national parliamentary elections to take place.
The western powers support for reactionary regimes in the Middle East, alongside their silence over Israeli attacks on Gaza and Lebanon, is clear. Only the mildest criticism is directed towards the Bahraini regime’s brutal repression that now includes around 500 arrests and a number of deaths in detention. This regime is fully backed by military forces from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In the last weeks the UAE, ruled by another bunch of feudal autocrats, has also started arresting oppositionists. One, Ahmed Mansour, was arrested on April 8 in Dubai after he signed a petition in favour of an elected parliament.
Not surprisingly the British Foreign Office’s 2010 “Human Rights and Democracy Report” does not even mention the UAE or the internal situation in Qatar, after all they are important British allies. While this Report did mention Saudi Arabia it only listed “women’s rights, the death penalty, rights of foreign workers and judicial reform” as the British government’s four areas of concern, the questions of general democratic rights and national elections were conspicuous by their absence. But then British imperialism hopes that the Saudi family will stay in control of the country.
As we have previously argued, the way out of this quagmire is a movement of Libyan working people and youth around a programme that will genuinely benefit the mass of the population. This needs to be based upon winning and defending real democratic rights, an end to corruption and privilege, the safeguarding and further development of the social gains made since the discovery of oil, opposition to any form of re-colonisation and for a democratically controlled, publicly-owned economy planned to use the country’s resources in the interests of the majority of the population.
Such a programme can cut across tribal and regional divisions and, like in Tunisia and Egypt, unite the mass of the population against the Gaddafi clique and the imperialists’ attempts to regain their positions in Libya and in a joint struggle for a better future.
There can be no support for the imperialist intervention, despite its UN colouring. The Libyan working masses and youth should show no trust whatsoever in the so-called democratic powers. They need to always remember that up until a few weeks ago the US, Britain, France etc. were friends of Gaddafi and are still friends and allies of dictators and rotten regimes like Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE across the Arab world.
The creation of an independent movement of Libyan workers, poor people and youth that could implement such a real revolutionary transformation of the country is the only way to thwart the imperialists’ plans, end dictatorship, bring the bloody civil conflict to an end and start to transform the lives of the mass of the people.