Martyn Hudson reports on the imminent fall of Qaddafi's regime in Libya.
The hopes and aspirations of revolutionaries across North Africa have apparently been vindicated by the fall of Tripoli, the lair of the despotic Qaddafi family, to the democratic Libyan revolution. But the remnants of the regime are still firing on rebel forces.
The victory in Misrata, where massacre was averted by its struggling and heroic population and the intervention of NATO forces had led to a westwards advance by the rebels. Over the weekend the key towns of Zawiya and Zlitan fell. The pro-regime troops in the decisive port of Brega in central Libya literally just walked away from their posts. In the south of Libya the stronghold of Marzuq was taken by Toubou tribal rebels. By Saturday evening the revolutionary forces lay poised outside of the city limits of Tripoli about to confront Qaddafi’s pro-regime forces - including crack security troops situated in key defensive points.
But the working masses of Tripoli had something to say for themselves. The utterly brutal crackdowns in the city back in February had seemed to intimidate Tripoli’s rebels and aside from minor uprisings amongst youth on some estates and neighbourhoods the rebellion seemed to be extinguished. But they were just biding their time to take their historic role in seizing their own city!
On Sunday morning the call to prayers was replaced in the minarets by the call to revolution. This signalled a mass uprising in the city. Thousands of activists in the working class neighbourhoods of Tajoura and the Suq al-Juma came out onto the streets and marched on key installations in the city. They captured the Muitiqa military base and stormed the residence of Mansour Daw, head of Tripoli’s secret police and security services. At the same time the rebel armies entered Tripoli and found their way already levelled by the working class revolutionaries of Tripoli itself. Suffice to say that the ideas of liberty and democracy had already paved the path to Green Square. From this point the rebels simply walked in to central Tripoli as pro-regime loyalist government members escaped or defected and thousands of troops left their posts and handed their arms to the rebels – having seen that the regime was coming to an end.
Qaddafi and his odious security head Abdullah al-Senussi are nowhere to be found. The National Transitional Council has offered clemency and the rule of law if they give themselves up. The idea of coming before the ICC will not be attractive as the evidence for mass murder and suppression of civilians is compelling. His three sons, however, are in captivity and this signals the end for a family who have acted as bloodthirsty Robber barons since the first 1969 revolution.
There is now talk of a second revolution and a second republic in Libya. Certainly, there are many who want to see the restoration of the Senoussi monarchy as part of a new post-war settlement. But the Senoussi family is in complete disarray with different pretenders to the throne.
There are strands of political Islam in the fighting groups of the free Libyan militias but they have limited influence.
There are also the fissures and fraction of the tribes in Libya – who supported the rebellion but it is clear that where civil society is emerging or about to emerge most of the rebels have rejected the whole concept of a tribal communalist settlement – as this is root and branch associated with the nasty divisive tactics of the ancien regime.
When freedom is achieved after such a long and bloody struggle there will be vengeance and accounts to be settled complicated by the many competing elements in the struggle so far and fighting may break out among the different factions of the rebel forces.
Working class self-organisation is limited and there is no trade union movement or independent political representation in Libya – largely because of Qaddafi’s wholesale elimination of activists and the clampdown on any independent freedom of expression and free press. Nonetheless this is where our solidarity must be focussed.
The Libyan people in Misrata and Tripoli have paid a high price for their freedom. The symbolic renaming of Green Square to Martyr’s square signifies that that memory of sacrifice will be part of that settlement. Certainly there will be little tolerance for any new would-be totalitarians in the new Libya.
This is a shared victory. On the one hand it is a victory for those men and women who have fought a long fight since the February revolution to liberate the west of Libya. Many are dead and maimed, many have lost family and at times momentarily lost hope that all of Libya would be liberated. But after setbacks and defeats they never lost the will to take the West of the country and topple the regime militarily.
On the other hand, and perhaps of more significance for the post-revolutionary period, it is a victory for the working people of Tripoli itself who in two days have taken back for themselves the "most dreamed of their objects" – their own streets, their own mosques, their own city. In this sense they have made their own future in that moment the working class areas of Tripoli erupted into rebellion and marched into their own Martyr’s Square.
21 August. Further reports and a Workers' Liberty statement will follow