The labyrinth of Tripoli

Submitted by Matthew on 9 July, 2011 - 5:19

As of early July, rebel forces are only 60 miles from the Libyan capital Tripoli.

The war is continuing in the Nafusa mountains to the south, and the rebels are advancing from the east, although Misrata is still being shelled by government forces.

Qaddafi is thought to be hiding out in hotels and hospitals. This kind of ending is what we hope for for all Shahs, Tsars, Caesars and despots of all kinds.

In desperation Qaddafi has called for attacks on civilians in Europe in retaliation for NATO attacks on loyalist forces — on homes, offices and families of those who are attacking him.

But the burgeoning complaint from rebel forces over the past week has been that NATO forces are holding them back and being too delicate about destroying enemy armour.

NATO is nervous about the consequences of the rebels taking Tripoli, in terms of civilian casualties and retaliatory hostilities; and the ragtag rebel militia probably isn’t in a fit state to take the city if there is any sustained opposition from loyalist forces.

The key to the taking of Tripoli is what it always has been — an uprising from the masses of the city itself — an uprising which hasn’t been visible since the brutally suppressed demonstrations back in February.

Glimmers of the insurrection are evident, but they will not amount to much until the city is on the verge of being taken.

However, Tripoli is surrounded, and Qaddafi can surely not evade capture or elimination for long now.

Qaddafi’s genocidal posturing has continued. His calls for a march to the western mountains are incoherent and in no way practical.

There remain both loyalist forces and loyalist civilians. Although recent pro-regime demonstrations in Green Square have been staged, there is still a large degree of support for Qaddafi in Tripoli. Any kind of warfare in the city is bound to be hugely bloody.

That is perhaps inevitable, outside of a negotiated settlement. That settlement can no longer include Qaddafi, Saif al-Islam and Abdullah al-Sanoussi, although it might be settled by a betrayal of Qaddafi by his immediate military clique who will be looking to save their own skins

It is clear that rebel forces and NATO are in close collusion. The rebels cannot do without NATO. NATO suspicion of the rebels is quite evident.

The transitional regime in Benghazi is amenable to NATO and clearly sees aid from the US, the UK, France and Italy as the reason why it was not militarily liquidated by loyalist forces months ago.

In the liberated parts of Libya, press freedom, multi-party democracy and a developing civil society look entirely on the cards. Little wonder that nobody in the east has any kind of Qaddafi-restorationist tendencies.

The decisive question is Tripoli. Tripoli itself is central only because of the figure of Qaddafi. The decentralisation and fragmentation of the old regime left little of state power in the city. If anything Misrata had more claim to be the financial capital of the state.

Tripoli is significant because it is where the symbolic power of the regime resides – invested in the personality of the ”Colonel” himself.

The future for us however critically resides in the masses of Tripoli and their will for freedom. We can neither trust or rely on NATO, nor forget about the people’s revolt and backhandedly support Qaddafi by way of clamour against NATO attacking him.


Submitted by Mark on Sat, 23/07/2011 - 11:26

By 'middle class intelligentsia' you mean the far left and their anti-imperialist, ideological hangers-on writing in places like the Guardian? Fair enough.
But isn't their problem not that they have a theory, but that their theory (denounce the US and UK in everything they do, while making an effective bloc with any opponent, no matter how vile), is wrong. And their theory is now banging up against the need to support the uprising against Qaddafi. So people who (mainly) quite genuinely want to see humanity liberated, are turned into helpers of Qaddafi's fascistic regime by failure of their idiot theory. There are signs that some on the left (e.g. inside the Socialist Party) are feeling the tensions between what they entered politics for, and their theory.
The answer's to change the theory, not abandon big ideas and simply allow the current to take us where it will.
(And frankly the problems with the SWP etc is not that they attend too many lectures, or read too many books, but that they read little and narrowly. For example, anyone who gets all they know on Ireland from a 30 page pamphlet by Chris Bambury is seriously fucked).
Of course theory is still important - or our movement is, in the end, pushed about by capaitalist social forces that have power, money, prestige, media, a set of ideas of their own... The battle takes place for ideas too.
There's something baby-and-bathwater about your postings. Of course I have some sympathy - look around at the SWP, Galloway and Seamus Milne. God help us.
Of course history is still relevant. In the longer run the mass movement, and the logic of struggles, will help us break these people, and the socialist movement will rise again as a mass force committed to workers' democracy. But the point is that those socialists who have sloughed off the Stalinoid nonsense of the socialist past must conciously help remake that movement. We must help shape the future, our politics must inform the movements of the future.

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