Libya and

posted 29 Aug 2011, 09:48 by heiko khoo   [ updated 31 Aug 2011, 10:39 by Admin uk ]

“Last night the streets of Tripoli were filled with wild rejoicing as rebel soldiers occupied Green Square”    

Alan Woods 22/08/2011   

“The overthrow of Gaddafi was only the first step. The real Libyan Revolution starts now.”   

Alan Woods 23/08/2011   

 These words published to celebrate the entry of NATO organised forces into Tripoli reveal the inability of our friends and comrades in the leadership of the International Marxist Tendency to distinguish between revolution and a counter-revolution in Libya.   

 It appears that their theoretical errors on the class nature of China combined with their voluntarist conception of revolution have landed them in this unfortunate situation, where they seek to impose these theories on China onto the Libyan context.

In the truncated debate on China 2008-2009 we argued that the privatisation of a section of a planned economy by the ruling bureaucracy does not automatically lead to capitalist restoration. Indeed there are sections of the economy in a transitional society which were nationalised in Cuba, Libya, China, the USSR etc., which should never have been nationalised in the first place.

Socialism, and any transitional society moving towards socialism, should be based upon public ownership of the socialized sector of the economy, i.e. the large-scale enterprises that produce goods by collective labour on modern machinery for society as a whole or large numbers of people.

Small and medium scale production, farming, services etc. do not need to be nationalised in a transitional society. Experience in all planned economies, starting with the USSR in the 1920s, revealed that nationalisation of these sectors leads to excessive bureaucracy, shortages, a black-market and excessive concentration on heavy industry, with inadequate development of services and tertiary industry to meet consumer needs.

Libya nationalised most of its economy and banned private companies until the recent past. In the 1990s Gadaffi’s regime and its organs of power, permitted increasing amounts of the economy to be run by private companies, and allowed foreign companies to invest. There were even plans to privatise the majority of the economy, but these plans were a long way from realisation. Deals between Gaddafi and capitalist states and companies did not constitute ‘capitalist restoration’, nor did the Hilter-Stalin pact change the fundamental character of the USSR.

Fred Weston (06/4/2011 argues that Libya under Gaddafi eliminated capitalism by 1979 and established a variant of a Stalinist regime of based on bureaucratic planning. He points out that in 2004 only 41 companies had been privatized, but then he seems to imply that the class nature of the regime changed because they renounced weapons of mass destruction, and accepted foreign investment, this apparently meant that Libya “was following imperialist dictated policies.”

In fact, although Gaddafi and his cleptocratic clique enriched themselves, they had not restored capitalism as the dominant mode of production in Libya. The Imperialist powers have shown by their actions how little they felt Libya was ‘following’ their command.

A theme often repeated in IMT articles on Libya is that there is high unemployment and there has been a destruction of the welfare state, and they argue that the ‘revolution’ is an uprising against this. The fact that there is high youth unemployment also does not determine the class character of the regime. Prior to the collapse of the USSR, Poland and Yugoslavia, there was also high unemployment. In reality the full employment in the USSR in the 1980s concealed millions of people formally ‘going to work’ but in reality adding nothing to the productive wealth of society. There will soon be high unemployment in Cuba as many people will be laid off from state employment, does one therefore seek the overthrow of the Cuban Communist Party? Or would that signal a counter-revolution?

Comrade Woods declared in horror (23/2/2011 that “Gaddafi carried out privatizations and encouraged foreign companies to open up shops” indicating that under Wood’s vision of the transition to socialism, there will be no private companies, no foreign investment, and no private shops!

He argues “It was precisely these policies which destroyed any elements of a welfare state which existed previously, created a massive gulf between the obscene wealth of the Gaddafi clique and the poverty of the masses and mass unemployment developed. Any progressive features which the regime might have had in the past were eliminated. This is the root cause of the present uprising”

The same tone is taken by Fred Weston who argued (21/3/2011 that “Gaddafi was opening up the economy to western investment. The economy had been partially privatized and more was on its way.”

The existence or not of a welfare state, does not in itself determine the class nature of a state, otherwise Britain, Sweden and Germany would all be defined as transitional or socialist states. Comrade Wood’s unnamed sources seem to contradict all serious sources, which indicate that welfare provision continued under Gaddafi despite the regime permitting private and foreign ownership of shops.

“With considerable oil revenues, a relatively small population and redistributive policies including an extensive social welfare system and subsidies for basic goods, Libya was enjoying the third highest Gross National Income (GNI) per capita and the highest human development index (HDI) in Africa. In 2010 the country was also enjoying a robust growth of around 7.4% and exhibited a high growth trajectory until the conflict erupted.”

The Human Development Index of the United Nations Development Programme indicates that there was no sudden decline in living standards, welfare or human development in the period in which the IMT claims “progressive features…were eliminated”. According to comprehensive UNDP data, whatever measures were taken in practice by the Libyan state between 2005 and 2010, led to improvements in the general welfare and well being of the people.

Revolution and Counter-Revolution

 The analysis adopted by the IMT from day one of the “Libyan Revolution” was not based upon facts but upon fantasy. This fantasy has its root in voluntarism summed up in the following phrase.

“The Libyan Revolution contains many contradictory elements, and it can go in a number of directions. Its main weakness, as in Tunisia and Egypt, is the absence of the subjective factor: the revolutionary party and leadership. That missing factor will make the revolution more complicated and drawn out, but the Revolution also has great strengths.”

(Alan Woods 22/8/2011)

The absurd and circular ‘theory’ of the International Marxist Tendency is that any and all revolutions can be transformed into a new October 1917, if only the International Marxist Tendency can win the leading position within the revolution. The main determinant in the fate of revolutions is something that is absent, not something that is present! This is passed off to the IMT members as Marxism! Surely a Marxist analysis should begin from what is present?

According to an article by Fred Weston (1/4/2011 “what started as a genuine revolution against Gaddafi, has been taken over by reactionary bourgeois elements”

It is well documented that the conquest of Tripoli was organised by British Mercenaries, French weaponry, and Qatari finance and support: all backed by NATO air-cover, bombs, logistics and planning.

According to the Economist the Libyan ‘rebel forces’ are composed of NATO backed forces (made up of those ‘reactionary bourgeois elements’) of the National Transitional Council and militias “grouped into 40-plus privately organised, privately funded militias known as katibas (brigades). Each katiba is usually drawn from one town, commanded by a respected local military veteran or, in some cases, by the businessman who financed it.”

This is the real subjective factor in the Libyan revolution. It is Imperialism and its Libyan stooges. They have the small advantage over the International Marxist Tendency that they are very much present in the ‘Libyan Revolution’. What the IMT wish to call a ‘revolution’ in Libya is in fact a counter-revolution organized by Imperialism.

Heiko Khoo 29 August 2011