In Tripoli there have been several reports of security tightening and repression stiffening up — obviously in anticipation of a potential uprising in the city as the rebel forces move closer.
Apart from brief and brutally suppressed skirmishes by disaffected youth in some of the poorer suburbs of the capital there has been little activity on this front since mid-February in the week the insurgency began. At that point attacks by civilians on military installations and officers were defeated more by the extremely effective security measures of the regime then by any lack of will of the rebels in the city.
As the rebels move militarily closer there is a hope that this will act as the catalyst for the uprising to reassert itself in the heart of the regime.
Qaddafi, in conversation on Sunday with Kirsan Ilyumzhinov of the International Chess Federation, expressed surprise at what all the fuss was about. “I am not Prime Minister, not President, and not a King. I do not hold any post in Libya, and therefore I have no position I have to step down from”. The rebel forces are obviously working with a different narrative from that of the regime.
The physical isolation and potential elimination of the Qaddafi family clique is also the elephant in the room for the US and the UK. They are working towards that — masked by their public pitch of humanitarian intervention to stop attacks on civilians.
The different intervening powers are competing to win favour with the National Transitional Council in the east and benefit from the post-revolution settlement. Qatar — perhaps the most autocratic of the Gulf monarchies — has been seriously investing in free Libya.
Pictures of the Sheikh of Qatar adorn public buildings in the free zone. This is a measure of things to come, and is part of the nature of this kind of bourgeois revolution.
Worryingly there are also accounts of Free Libyan death squads taking out individuals perceived as government loyalists before they come before any kind of judicial process.
So we stand not for critical support for the NATO intervention (in terms of its consequences), and neither do we stand against it (in terms of the reality on the ground for a people facing massacre at the hands of pro-regime militias).
In a gesture reminiscent of a magical realist novel set in the declining days of the Soviets, Qaddafi has been playing host to the head of the International Chess Federation. The Russian chess master and former Russian provincial governor played chess with the dictator for two hours on Sunday — ironically at the same time as the Russian foreign ministry was making overtures to the National Transitional Council in the east, in preparation for diplomatically recognising it.
Both Russia and China, reading the cards on the table, have wavered and finally stepped back from supporting the loyalist Libyan regime. The Russians are still looking for some form of negotiated settlement but that looks increasingly unlikely.
Top British navy grandee Mark Stanhope has raised doubts about the finances of the NATO intervention, which has now been extended a further 90 days until the end of September, but the rebel forces have been making serious advances.
The uprising is about to take Zlitan, only 60 miles away from Tripoli. It has broken out of Misrata which is now making some moves back to normal life after being threatened with the slaughter of its population of half a million.
On Friday 10 June, the government forces fought back but were repelled and the initiative is clearly in the hands of the rebels. The old monarchist Tricolour is flying across western as well as eastern Libya now.
Zawiya, where a people’s uprising was brutally suppressed and its mosque razed to the ground by the regime. looks as if it is now in rebel hands. The rebellion amongst the Berbers in the Nafusa mountains south of Tripoli is continuing — again with great successes for the rebels on the Tunisian border.
Sahba in the Saharan south has just been taken by a people’s uprising. That was the gateway to Niger and Chad and a potential escape route for the Qaddafi clan into exile with one of its client regimes in Africa — regimes which were at the receiving end of the regime’s oil millions over the last 20 years and which provided some of the personnel for the mercenary forces used so brutally to crush the uprising in the early days of the civil war.
If the Free Libyan militias find a hostile population rather than a popular uprising in the cities that they liberate, then there could be an intensification of a revengeful death squad policy like that beginning to operate in the east.
Only with the rapid development of civil society and the reassertion of the democratic will of the Libyan working people can that revenge, understandable in its fury, be mitigated.
In any case, this is the moment of downfall for dictators. We can look forward one day, to see the red flags replacing the Tricolour, as the Tricolour replaced the green flags of this vile dictatorship. Red flags are already being seen in Egypt and have already been unfurled in the recent abortive revolution in Iran.
This checkmate is a step forward to that day.