Home > News from Abroad, Socialism > Intervention in Libya: a response to Carl (part I)

Intervention in Libya: a response to Carl (part I)

Here’s Carl, defending military invention in Libya, and thereby promoting it in Syria:

Russia, it was said in a recent New York Times editorial, oppose change in Syria, and tried to block change in Libya, on the grounds that “revolutions have completely destabilized the region and cleared the road to power for the Islamists.”

In other words Putin was, and is, willing to see innocent people die for a series of ill-judged guesses about the political trajectory of countries after the Arab Spring. And this is even before we look at Russia’s weaponry client base.

But in Libya it did not happen this way.

I disagree.

Western intervention in Libya is has contributed significantly to regional instability.  Life may well be better for a lot of people in Libya (pop. 6m) but in the north of Mali (pop. 16m) life is suddenly a great deal worse.  As I set out here and here, the arms-and-mercenaries overspill from the messy end to the Ghadaffi regime was an important factor in the rapid formation of the loose Ansar-Al-Din/Touareg separatist (MLNA) alliance, which swept across the North of the country to take advantage of events in Bamako.  The result is that Timbuktu, Gao and other northern towns are now fairly firmly under Islamist Ansar-Al-Din control, with UNESCO heritage sites destroyed as part of that process.

Mauritania to the West of Mali has been dragged in, with thousands of Malians fleeing over the border to seek refuge and the Mauritanian airforce conducting fresh airstrikes against a newly emboldened Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), but with the inevitable civilian deaths resulting.

Now, with seeming inevitability, the informed talk turns towards anti-Jihadist “Western intervention”, as the Touareg seccessionists (MLNA), presumably deeply regretting their tactical alliance with the Islamist now that they have been driven from their strongholds, reach out for the other obvious source of assistance.

Indeed, the prospect starts to arise – though probably it is still a little way way off – of Touareg mercenary groupings that were once in the pay of Ghadaffi starting to receive covert military assistance to help them fight back against the Islamists, whose hand was strengthened by Western intervention in Libya in the first place and the consequent armed chaos to the South.

It also looks like there is now at least some level of cooperation between Ansar Al-Din/AQIM and Boko Haram, the apparently well resourced Nigerian Islamist group, and if this develops further the potential for wider conflict right across West Africa develops too.

Meanwhile, back in Niger (pop 16m), already terrible food insecurity – drought and locusts both playing their part – is being worsened by the sudden cutting off of remittances from 150,000 or so Nigeriens (again, many armed) who had been in Libya to earn for their families back home, and their forced exit back to a region which already has too many mouths to feed.

All of that looks an awful lot like regional instability to me.

Now, I recognise that some may dispute the precise cause-effect chain I set out briefly here.  In particular, there is the claim that Ghadaffi had spent years supporting the Touarg secessionist movement, and that it is therefore invalid to suggest that a movement he supported might have been unleashed, with the knock-ons I suggest, by his downfall.

Nevertheless, I think there’s a strong case to argue that it is Western intervention in Libya which has triggered the collapse of a fragile sort-of–stability in the Sahel region and made it an easier base for Al Qaeida and linked/supportive forces to operate in (especially as AQIM seeks new safe havens after setbacks in southern Algeria).  You don’t have to like what Ghadaffi did to acknowledge that he had an interest in using his influence to restrain some of these forces as he tried, until 2011, to cosy up to the West.

So why is Carl apparently happy to overlook this set of unintended consequences in pursuit if his argument that Western intervention in Libya was justified, because of what Libya itself looks like now?

It may simply be that he’s not aware of them, because they’re not headline news in the UK, but I suspect the greater reason is that his humanitarian ‘something-must-be-done’ instincts (which I share, deep down) drive him towards the uncomfortable position of having to set to one side inconvenient facts about what really happens when the West involves itself in wars without a plan to clean up after itself.

In part II of this I’ll be looking further at these humanitarian, act-utilitarian instincts – expressed by Carl but shared by many others, and in particular at whether there’s any potential for rapprochement between this position and the more dominant leftwing position (as expressed by Boffy), namely that intervention by imperial powers is always unjustified because those powers, focussed only on the interests of capitalism, can never take a “moral position”.   This won’t be entirely hatchet job on Carl, as I’m also uncomfortable with aspects of Boffy’s logical but uncompromising approach*, and think the answer for the Left lies ultimately in something a bit more nuanced than the one which seems content to ignore the human cost of ideologically pure sidelines-standing.

I’ll probably quote Arendt.

Further reading: an excellent summary and analysis of the current position in Northern Mali and the surrounds by Andrew at Al-Wasat

*A genuine question to Boffy if he’s reading: What does he make of the UN’s military intervention in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo to stop the advance on Goma of an ICC-indicted warlord?  Is that justified/welcome, in spite of the argument that  such intervention may only/mostly be being taking place to defend the routes out from the mineral mines which supply the people who end up making our mobile phones?

  1. Dan
    July 13, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Good to see a bit of nuance attempted on this issue, where its generally been in short supply.

    I do think your thesis on Libya is flawed though, for 3 main reasons.

    1. As you allude to, its quite strange to suggest that the Touareg militias would have been weaker had their main sponsor stayed in power longer. Its also hard to see how a longer civil war in Libya would have made the region more rather than less stable.

    2. Gaddafi had a long record of sponsoring and instigating interventions into neighbouring countries, most notably Chad.

    3. Related to the above 2 points, in general youre not being clear on exactly what alternative possible situation or course of action from the west you think would be preferable to the way it turned out. I agree it would have been good for more regional preparation to have taken place, but given the speed at which the decision to intervene was made, and the uncertainty on the outcomes, its a bit unfair to make the charge of wanton neglicence as you are.

  2. July 13, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    There is a semantic issue here – generally if you think Libya you think of it as part of

    a) North Africa (which to a Brit brought up on WW2 movies like the Desert Fox and Ice Cold In Alex means the North African littoral from Morocco to Egypt)

    b) the Middle East (hazy as that concept its) and,

    c) as part of the Arab world.

    Mali, Chad etc may indeed share borders with Libya but given that the sea of sand to the south is in practical terms a bigger geographical obstacle than the sea of water to the north it’s hardly surprising that we think of them as a quite different region (as you yourself recognise by using the term Sahel – a region which is generally not defined to include Libya).

    Certainly the collapse of the Ghaddafi dictatorship has radically destabilised those states to its south – but as you yourself admit what ‘fragile stability’ did exist there was largely down to Gaddafi having stopped his own long-term attempt to create a trans-Saharan empire due to fear of the West (which arguably was one positive result of other Western interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan – as he paid no attention whatsoever to protests before the fall of Saddam).

    And one has to ask the question what if there had been no intervention?

    While the rebels appear to have been too weak to overthrow Gaddafi themselves, he also appears to have been too weak to thoroughly suppress them.

    The most likely outcome was thus another Syria with civil war continuing for months and years – and this would clearly have also led to the collapse of Ghaddafi’s proxies in the Sahel as he would hardly be in the position to continue arming, funding and controlling them.

    And you also have to ask yourself in what sense such artificial entities as Mali – mere conjurations of dead French officials armed with maps, pencils and rulers – can be stable?

    You are right to point out that the cost of intervention in Libya may be being paid by cities and tribes hundreds of miles to the south – but you have to put their position in a far wider historical context.

    The immediate cause may indeed be the collapse of Libya’s own imperial project in the Sahel but the seeds of the whirlwind were sown many years if not centuries or millennia before,

  3. July 13, 2012 at 2:14 pm


    I don’t know enough about what is happening in the DRC to comment authoritatively (soon to change because Africa is now the new “Asia”, and I intend to devote some time analysing its economies in detail). I do not hold the orthodox Trot view of Imperialist intervention, which is heavily economic determinist, and, therefore crude – Britain’s involvement in the North of ireland for example, was exceedingly costly, it would have benefitted economically if it could have simply cut the Protestants adrift. Thge role of Imperialist intervention is far more nuanced than that, and is about global strategic advantage, maintaining the system of states and so on.

    As I wrote here some months ago in rewsponse to Modernity, if Imperialism intervened to bring about industrial development in pre-capitalist formations then there would be an argument for adopting the same kind of approach that Marx and Engels did in respect of British Imperialism in India, in Algeria etc. that is, we would not call for Imperialist intervention, but we would not necessarily oppose it either. We would point out its progressive role in bringing about such revolutionary change, and would see the consequent development of working classes in these societies as something to be welcomed, for example, and we would seek to assist in the development of those Labour Movements, part of whose function would at the same time be to seek to put themselves at the head of a revolutionary movement to kick out those very Imperialist powers whose intervention had brought them into existence. You see the dialectics at work here!

    That is, for example, why I do not subscribe to the rather crude “anti-imperialist” theories that claim to base themselves on Lenin, and which fail to admit that various Colonies have actually won political independence without Permanent Revolution, and have developed their economies. Such theories have to claim that these economies are in some way still Neo-Colonies, that they are really still opprssed and dominated by Imperialism, through the investment of large multinational corporations and so on. It is mirrored in the theories of “Dependency” and “Centre-Periphery”, and “Unequal Exchange”. But, of course, the investment of these mnc’s in these economies is actually to be welcomed, precisely because it does allow economic development to occur, and because it therefore, develops the working class, the agent of revolutionary change. Lenin sought to attract such companies to Russia – without much success – Trotsky in his analysis of Mexico’s Second Six year Plan, argued the need for Mexico to do the same by offering Joint Ventures to such foreign companies and so on.

    But, this is completely different from military intervention, precisely because there is no possibility for workers here or in the country being invaded to intervene in this action to push it in a particular direction. We cannot direct the military activity of the british State to progressive ends. And, the point I made to Modernity is that, if you look at the countries where military intervention would be required, they are countries where Imperialism is NOT going to stick around and build large scale investment. It didn’t in Somalia, after more than ten years it has not done so in Afghanistan, and so on, and it will not, because before such industrial develoment can take off a whole series of other, infraastructural and other developments – what might be called primitive accumulation – is required. Imperialism began by sending most of its investment not to these pre-capitalist economies, but to other developed economies. In the 1980’s it began to send investment to the NIC’s in Asia, Latin America, where that development was occurring. It has been doing so more recently into Egypt.

    The only reason it will intervene in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, DRC etc. is for global strategic reasons. China now, for example, has a huge presence in DRC and other African economies. The real reason for Imperialist support in Libya, Syria – and their refusal not just to condemn the atrocities committed in Bahrain (which in proportional terms are even greater than the number of deaths in Syria!) but even to stop arms sales to them – is because of their need to bolster their relation with the Sunni Gulf Monarchies, and thereby to isolate Iran within the region, which is the main regional alternate power, and which could not only bring about the overthrow of those Gulf tyrannies – the ambition of the Iranian Mullahs is after all to create a new Caliphate extending from Mauritania, to Malaysia – but could in the process establish a new regional strategic relationship with Russia and China.

    Without the necessary investment to create industrialised economies, these countries like Libya, Syria, Somalia, will remain at best sources of important raw materials, and as such Rent based economies, the appropriate political regime remains that of the Feudal State, or at best Bourgeois Bonapartism. As a consequence, any intervention by Imperialism is incapable of bringing about a progressive transformation of the material conditions, and without that, all any such intervention can bring about is the repalcement of one brutal regime by another.

  4. Edgar
    July 13, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    I think Boffy has a point about the West not actually investing in the nations they have been occupying in recent years but this has been the way for over a century. The colonial control of Africa set back most of that continent god knows how long. I think the problem here is that we have people claiming to be socialists acting as apologists and propagandists for the imperialist crimes. How did this knee jerk support of any imperialist intervention come to pass, where did any attempt at critical analysis go? This knee jerk apologia is to be contrasted with their critical analysis of the anti imperialist movements in Latin America, here the imperialist apologists suddenly find their full critical faculties and go out of their way to point out the problems with this new progressive movement.

    American imperialism comes at the barrel of a gun, contrary to what some economists say the US arms industry is it’s most profitable area. We have all heard stories of the defence dept or MOD paying way over the odds for equipment etc. By supporting imperialism, even when you think it is being progressive, you support the military/industrial complex and you support oppression and racism at home.

  5. July 13, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    I don’t think its true that Colonial control of Africa set back its development at all. As Marx said about British Colonialism in India, it was the first true social revolution the sub continent had ever seen. The bringing to India of the railroad, facilitated its transformation for the first time in history into a single country – if later to be divided in two – and also provided the fundamental basis for the modernisation, and capitalist development of its economy.

    The same was true of the Latin American Colonies, whose Capitalist development created the conditions for them to win their independence in the 19th Century. Actually, US Imperialism usually does not come at the barrel of a gun, it more frequently comes from the bottle of Coke bottle, or out of a Mig Mac. The US is able to achieve far more economically through its soft power, and the global activities of its multinational companies than it can via its military. What exactly do you think the US obtained economically from Afghanistan or Iraq? In fact, arms expenditure are a drain of Surplus Value for Capitalist economies – contrary to the neo-Keynesian nonsense put forward by the so called “Permanent Arms Economy”. For Capital in general, such drains simply to benefit one particular section of Capital i.e. the arms manufacturers, is to be avoided where possible. So, its clear that there are other non-economic reasons for such activity.

    • BigDave
      July 13, 2012 at 6:48 pm

      FFS Boffey, have you never read Walter Rodney? Colonial control and the slave trade decimated African development for centuries whilst providing the cheap raw materials that stimulated the Industrial Revolution in Europe. You talk dialectics, surely you can see the negative dialectic for Africa of pillaging the country of resources to be invested in Europe which advanced massively as a result, leaving African development even further behind. Colonial control of Africa was so malign it’s effects are still being worked through today. But the actions of the new Imperialist and their land grabs will further hinder what slim progress has already been achieved. When the Chinese and Koreans buy up African agricultural land, all I foresee is an Irish famine scenario of people starving while food is exported.

  6. Edgar
    July 13, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    The US does employ soft power but that is facilitated by the gun! America spends those billions on arms for a reason, and it is because historically it helped and still helps the US ruling class. The gun allows the US to employ soft power more effectively. Everything is a drain on capital, if people spend increasing amounts on fuel they spend less on other things, if people spend money on mobile phones they don’t spend on other products. If arms drain capital so do motor cars. The arms industry feeds off the consumption fund because it is often funded through taxation, so like every other business the more that is spent on arms the less on other things. Only, arms profit is more certain. Arms also allow access to more wealth, through force, arms allow force, which itself is an economic factor. People will pay over the odds to acquire arms, arms requires high levels of research, it is a monopoly market.

    Engels claimed England had set back India by centuries! They moved away from the idea that India had never had an history before England came along. Their Asiatic formulation was crude at best. They had no solid research or knowledge to make such observations and they changed their views as more information became available.

  7. July 13, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    It struck me as interesting that the New York Times piece I quoted from, which has been quoted from again here, calls the change in Libya a revolution. Strikes me that Russia were even sceptical of the Arab Spring. Perhaps they should have to keep their leaders, perhaps they should remain in chains, for the concern that Russia loses airbases, chunks of weapon sales and an ally in the Middle East. Seriously, boo hoo – I’d rather lose my chains than appeal to the better nature of a Russian mafia leader.

    Of course Paul calls out western intervention after the quote – but the premise is thus wrong. Russia oppose change in Syria and Libya, not just western intervention – and this is not something I can sign up to.

  8. July 14, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Interesting you brought up DR Congo. Western Multinationals were making billions while that country went through decades long civil war. Over 5 million dead and yet it was barely reported in the Western media, with no calls for R2P military intervention.

  9. July 14, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Big Dave,

    That assumes, that Africa was on the verge of undertaking its own Industrial revolution as a result of internal development. It clearly wasn’t, anymore than India was likely to have broken out of the constraints of the AMP, and Caste System without British Colonialism smashing it apart. Of course, dialectics means seeing the reactionary elements of any development, but likewise it involves seeing the progressive elements too, as marx emphasised against the Sismondists, and Lenin emphasised against the Narodniks.

    If McDonalds sets up in India, it has all of the negatives of exploitation of Indian workers, of encouraging unhealthy eating pattersn and so on. But, it also has the revolutionary consequences of helping to create a working class, of promoting the development of transport facilities to ensure that supplies are received and so on.

    The fact, is that although its possible to point to various aspects of African history, and the existence of African Kingdoms, where some impressive features existed, this is no different really from the existence of Pyramids and other impressive constructions in Ancient Egypt, which itself was characterised by the AMP, which was an historical dead end. These societies were a step up from hunter-gatherer societies, they had settled agriculture (though many in Africa did not, befoere European settlement South Africa was dominated by migrating tribes), and all that goes with it, but they were not even at the level of development of Ancient Greece or Rome in most cases, let alone about to engage in their own Industrial revolution.

    Colonialism – which is the projection of the power of feudal landlords along with Merchant and Money Capital overseas – has a dual role. On the one hand, because it needs to introduce various elements of development – railroads, roads, ports etc. – necessarily creates conditions which can engender industrial development. On the other hand, because it is Landlords, Merchant and Money Capitalists the dominant tendency is Rent seeking. The Landlords seek Rent on land acquired, the Money capitalists seek rent in the form of interest on money lent, and the merchants seek Rent in the form of their share of Surplus value, acquired by “buying low and selling high”. Necessarily, this means draining Surplus Value rather than creating the basis of primitive accumulation. This is why Capitalism when it was established in the mediterranean City states in the Middle Ages, was killed off at birth.

    That is the difference with Imperialism, which involves the overseas investment of industrial Capital. That can only proceed on the basis of accumulation, and the continual expansion of Capital, which necessarily as Bill Warren demonstrated leads to development not underdevelopment.

  10. July 14, 2012 at 6:57 pm


    A look around the world shows that the gun does not facilitate US soft power. If the US decided to use military power in Europe what do you think would happen to its sales of Big macs. Already, hostility towards US military actions in various parts of the globe causes some European consumers to steer clear of US products. In Iraq, US military power has brought it very little economic returns. The main beneficiaries have been a number of European oil companies, and Iran!

    Its not true to say that everything is a drain on Capital! When people buy cars, they realise the Surplus Value in those commodities, which is then used to EXPAND Capital. But, military expenditure is funded out of taxes, and goes to procure arms that do not go into the reproduction of labour power, or into the production of additional Constant Capital i.e. the resources used in their production are completely lost, and removed from the circuit of Capital.

    You would have to show me the actual quotes from Engels saying what you claim. Marx certainly undersestimated the destructive effect that the destruction of the village system entailed, but that is not the same as saying that it set back development, because that would mean beleiving that India could have broken out of the AMP, and Caste system itself. It hadn’t done so for thousands of years, there was no reason to beleive it would have done so without external shock.

  11. July 15, 2012 at 8:53 am

    There was a point raised by Big Dave above I’d intended responding to, but forgot. He talks about Imperialist land grabs in Africa causing a repetition of the Irish Potato Famine. This shows a misunderstanding both of the development occurring in Africa, and of the Potato Famine. The Potato Famine was caused because Irish Peasant Farmers were precisely that, they were peasant farmers. They worked on landed estates to produce food that was largely exported to the rest of Britain, and in place of wages they worked their own small, very poor pieces of land, on which they grew potatoes, which made up almost entirely their diet. Any money wages they received went either to cover money rents, or to pay taxes. In short they were not wage workers. When the potato crop failed their means of subsistence failed, and without money wages they could not buy alternative food, which was in plentiful supply.

    The whole point about current large scale agricultural development in Africa is that those employed to work on these new large agribusinesses ARE wage workers. They do receive wages, they are able to organise in Trades Unions, wages do need to be sufficient to cover the Value of Labour Power, and the value created by large efficient farms means they can be paid. There is indeed a considerable amount of land being bought up by Chinese and other Asian companies in Africa, as well as by Gulf States, and their motivation is to ensure their own food supplies, but in the process they are also creating a new large working-class in Africa who have the potential for higher living standards than subsistence farming could ever provide, precisely because of becoming wage workers.

    Moreover, rising global food prices to meet the needs of a rapidly growing, and increasingly affluent working class in China and elsewhere (the global working class has grown by around 500 million in the last 10 years) means that a number of African economies have begun to develop agriculture on an industrial scale to meet this demand. Angola for example is investing $7 billion into developing its own large, industrial farming industry, which takes advantage of the natural fertility of the soil, and combines it with the use of modern, efficient Capital equipment, drainage, irrigation etc. to produce food efficiently, thereby not only providing the basis of sustainable living standards for the workers, but of Capital expansion. In fact, the growth of agriculture in Africa is expected to be so great that in the next ten years it will become the bread basket for the world. None of this is possible unless you have the basic infrastructure in place to enable the investment to take place.

    In the 19th. Century Colonialism did that for large parts of the globe in the form of the establishment of railway systems, ports etc., and even in the case of India of things such as a Civil Service for administration. The problem was, contrary, to what lenin says in “Imperialism”, there was a lack of industrial Capital to invest in all these places, to facilitate industrial development, and so Capitalist activity remained at the level of Merchant and Money Capital, and of Landlordism, all of which darined Surplus value, rather than expanding Capital. In fact, the problem was exactly as Lenin had analysed in respect of Russia – that is not only were they suffering from Capitalism, but they were suffering from NOT ENOUGH Capitalism.

  12. July 15, 2012 at 9:26 am

    In response to Dan and Roger McCarthy, I don’t think its true to say that Gaddafi could not have suppresssed the rebels had they not been supported by external forces. The situation seems much like that, which existed in Kosovo. There, although there were very real concerns of Kosovan Albanians, they had lived pretty amicably with their Serb neighbours for decades. The concerns were utilised by Albania, and by the CIA (this is not conspiracy theory, its documented that the CIA were financing activity in Kosovo) to help build the KLA, who were a bunch of fascists, and mafia type thugs. They stirred up ethnic violence in Kosovo, by buring Serb villages, kidnapping Serbs for ransoms and so on (Channel 4 did a very good documentary on this some years ago). The consequence was necessarily rising communal violence, and support for Serb Kosovans by Serbia, that eventually led to Milosovic’s murderous attacks.

    Its known that leaders of the uprising in Benghazi had links with European Imperialism. many of them as Gaddafi henchmen themselves, were well palced to have done their own deals to line their own pockets as the new representatives of European Capital – part of this also seems to be internal European politics. The main influence in Libya has been Italy. Its star is clearly waning, and Berlusconi was seen as both too close to Gaddafi, and dangerous within Europe – which is why they got rid of him too. Its liely that French oil companies will gain influence at the expense of ENI). One of those gaddafi henchmen who had links with Imperialism for some considerable time before the uprising was Jibril.

    Most of the talk about a massacre in Benghazi was a fabrication, just like much of the footage and pictures from Syria are a fabrication – look at the comments from the UN observers who were on the ground for the supposed massacre in the last couple of days. Even the BBC has had to report that contrary to the rebel claims, it appears to have been a well targeted attack on rebel fighters with no sign of the hundreds of civilian casualties the rebels were claiming had been individually massacred. In Benghazi, the military had already defected. They even had their own fighters jets! In fact, the only aircraft actually shot down, as opposed to those destroyed on the ground, was one belonging to the rebels in Benghazi, which they shot down themselves by mistake!

    Had their been no massive air campaign by Imperialism, then its likely that the rebellion would have fizzled out within days. It appears that there were at most around 13,000 rebel fighters, which amounts to 0.3% of the population, which is less support than Far Left groups get in electins in Britain! Even that figure is dubious, because Qatar has boasted that it had hundreds of Special Forces troops in every area, fighting throughout Libya from the beginning! It was not alone, as the UK, France and other countries simialrly had large numbers of Special Forces, using the latest weapons on the ground too, and they were not their as advisors, as those discovered early on claimed, representing William Hague!

    Its very unlikely this would have turned into a Civil War, and the main reason Syria is doing today, is as many western commentators are now beginning to amit, is because it is becoming like Iraq, with large numbers of Al Qaeda and other jihadists entering the country, supported as Al Qaeda always has been by the Gulf Monarchies, that have a vested interest in bringing down anything approaching a secular state. As a consequence the knock on effects into Mali etc. would have been unlikely to have developed.

    The main losers are the Libyan workers. The analysis of Libya is basically couched in petit-bourgeois, liberal, not proletarian terms. The vast majority of people in Libya are themselves petit-bourgeois. They have lived off the back of an oil rich state, to be able to engage in various professions, in small-scale trading an so on. There is no sizeable bourgeoisie to speak of, because Libya was State capitalist. Its likely to be the petit-bourgeosi that have voted for Jibril, but as Marx noted the petit-bourgeoisie are not a class in the true sense. They waver between the two main classes. They form the basis of Bonapartist regimes. In Libya there is neither a bourgeoisie nor a working class of any size for them to waver between, so Libya is the classic example of a country where Bonapartism of one sort or another is almost inevitable. The petit-bourgeoise cannot act as ruling class, because they are themselves too differentiated. That is on top of all the other cleavages that exist in Libya.

    Either Jibril will bring in a sizeable Imperialist force to sustain his own Bonapartist rule, battering down the Jihadists, or else, Jibril will be swept aside by those Jihadis, which means the establishment of a Bonapartist regime in clerical-fascist garb, like Iran. neither alternative are benefical for workers. And, in Libya, those workers that did exist were employed by the State. Its those workers who are now being locked up, shot, tortured, stuck in concentration camps, or at the very minimum losing their jobs, as the neo-Liberals, and clerical fascists dismantle Libyan State capitalism.

    • Dan
      July 16, 2012 at 10:13 pm

      Well it sounds from your comment below as if I may be replying into the ether here Boffy, but I guess I can treat this as a sort of therapeutic ‘dear diary’ moment anyway if so!

      First thing to say is that I found your earlier comments fascinating and refreshing – clearly you are one of the few marxists who is wiling to stay consistently loyal to your theory, rather than distort it in the pursuit of some simplistic manichaen view of history, and all the more interesting for it.

      Unfortunately Libya seems to be the issue where your analysis is as limited as conventional marxism tends to be.

      Firstly, you didnt address the central issue of whether the intervention leading to Gaddafi’s downfall contributed to the current regional instability, or if his staying in power may well have made matters worse.

      Instead you trot out a depressingly standard leftist narrative, with the pr

      • Dan
        July 16, 2012 at 10:47 pm

        As i was saying…

        With the predictable emphasis on evil western plotting to steal the poor Libyan’s resources.

        This much is fairly mundane, and as usual neglects the fact that ENI remains the largest oil exporter in Libya, as it was before the war. Did several European countries really spend hundreds of millions of dollars just for this? At this point there is generally a flailing for some wikileaks document reporting one of Gaddafi’s regular claims that he was just about to nationalise the oil industry, taken as gospel despite him having made this claim several times in previous decade, and the rather obvious fact that he was doing perfectly nicely out of the status quo.

        Thankfully this element is avoided, but the next section of your argument is equally dire. Are you really suggesting that we should judge the validity of a police state by the percentage of the population that is willing to take actively take up arms against it? Im sure thats an election that any dictator in history would have been happy to allow! The idea that you can take any sort of proper survey of public opinion in a place like Libya was at the time of the revolution and take this as a fair judgement of the government is bad enough, but you take it to another level.

        The rest of the comment I will leave for now, but it reflects the same typical marxist flaws – neglect.of the influence of social and cultural factors in favour of only economic explanations, and an unwavering belief in the ability of these explanations to predict the future, despite so.much evidence to the contrary.

        It really saddens me that serious people on the left have ended up in such ugly positions on libya and syria, as you have here in your jumping on one piece of evidence to claim that there is no popular revolution or government massacres in syria, despite the masses of evidence to the contrary. It may well be that Tremiseh was in fact an instance of regime artillery and soldiers massacring hundrerds of poorly armed rebels, but does this.make it.something we should celebrate? In any case it has rather disproved this idea that the rebels are all well armed foreign fighters!

  13. July 15, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Any way after all that I’m bowing out because I have a lot of other things I have to write, and much of this stuff has been discussed previusly ad nauseum.

  14. Edgar
    July 15, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    Marx had changed his views on the Asiatic mode of production by the time he wrote the Grundrisse, I can’t recall where Emgels claimed that British rule had set back India by a century but I have come across it in other ‘Were Marx and Engels pro imperialist’ arguments. Engels, I think, argued that Britain reversed the trade flow to India, so Britain came to export more textiles to India than India were to Britain. They did this with protective tariff’s and dumping commodities on India. This ‘soft’ policy was backed by the gun and gunboat! Indian textile towns declined and India was milked by British financiers. It was becoming clear that by the late 1870’s India per capita income had declined markedly. Engels came to realise that Britain not only ended India’s development it forcibly underdeveloped it. It was only as the facts came in, so to speak, that the general assumptions he and Marx had come to were proved inadequate.

    The theory, which had underpinned their mistaken view of India, was forced to be revised. You can’t hold onto theory for grim death if the facts contradict them. Marxists can often be guilty of this.

    Many people were disgusted by the US crimes in Iraq but that didn’t stop people buying US goods, it doesn’t stop people buying US goods in the Middle East. The US is the dominant culture, empires never want to lose their dominance.

    The US arms traders are making millions and have been for a long time. Whatever they are producing, be it surplus value or just plain profit from cheating, they are reproducing themselves over and over again. So what if some spending comes from taxation? I view tax income as capital going to the ruiling class as a whole, unlike company profit, which goes to the individual owners and managers. This class capital is critical for the reproduction of the ruling class and the system, so I wouldn’t be quick to call it unproductive from a capitalist point of view. From the point of view of the working class I would certainly call it unproductive.

  1. February 3, 2013 at 8:56 pm
  2. February 12, 2013 at 1:35 pm

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