Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Libya

Ashraf Dehghani

The NATO attack on Libya, or in other words, the transgression upon that country by the imperialist military forces under the pretext of “humanitarian intervention” has made it necessary for political organizations to analyze the situation and thus explain the reason for this attack Undoubtedly, in order to understand the truth and the true objectives of this attack one must rely on and study the objective realities rather than depend upon the mainstream media and what they claim and propagate due to their reactionary nature. Surely, an analysis can only be considered reliable and worthy of consideration if, through a dialectical method it extracts the truths from the depth of the exiting realities and presents them to the people.

Today, in analyzing the reason for the Western capitalist governments’ military attack on Libya, we are faced mainly with two claims, neither of which have any objective basis. The first claim which is propagated by the very imperialist forces and their overt agent provocateurs in order to hide their imperialist interests and aims, justifies and explains the attack as a “rescue” mission for the people of Libya from the hands of a dictator. Clearly the conscious people of the world who have already heard similar stories before concerning the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq,and have in practice learned the deceitfulness of such stories and will not buy into them once again.

The infamy of transnational capitalists’ bloody face is so clear that even their own covert propagators and right wing forces in general, whose main task is to justify imperialist policies and divert the people from learning the truth, cannot speak about the war without acknowledging that the justification given by the imperialist governments for waging a war on Libya is “deceptive” and “hypocritical”. This is true especially because in the face of the culmination of revolutionary movements in a region so critical and vital for the imperialists and where all mercenary regimes in the region are confronting the combative masses with total savagery and merciless suppression, the imperialist forces are not able to explain to the people of the world that if the concern is indeed “human rights” and “humanitarianism” then why have they turned a blind eye to the horrendous crimes taking place in Syria where people are killed by the armed forces of the ruling regime on a daily basis. Why does their humanitarianism not blossom in Yemen and Bahrain? Why is it that in the Summer of 2008, when the people of Iran in their million-people marches against the Islamic Republic were severely repressed, incarcerated, and tortured overtly even in the streets, the so-called humanitarian sentiments and feelings of Obama and Co. weren’t even phased yet today they express humanitarian concerns about mass executions conducted by the Islamic Republic?

The second claim has to do with the war in Libya, calling Gaddafi “autonomous”, a “nationalist”, and/or “disobedient” to his imperialist masters. Unfortunately, many groups and organizations, even those within the people’s movement, use this same unfounded claim in order to analyze the recent attacks. What has contributed to this error is basically the acceptance of the propaganda put forth in various circles about Gaddafi since the inception of his government in order to veil his deeds in the interests of the international capitalists- the very same propaganda that was disseminated years later about Khomeini whereby a man who had actually been placed in power by the will of the imperialists and consideration was pawned off as anti-imperialist.

By accepting the aforementioned propaganda, and since the American’s war of aggression in Libya as well as that of the other western governments has taken place within the context of the revolutionary struggles of the people of the Arab world, while comparing the tactics used by the imperialists in these struggles, some argue that apparently the U.S. has no major economic interests nor does it have the necessary influence in the Libyan army, therefore, it could not resort to the same policy carried out in Egypt, i.e. to make Gaddafi hand over the government to the army as Mubarak did. None of these claims have any basis in reality. Whereas once these unfounded claims about Gaddafi are cast aside and the reality itself is considered, and once Gaddafi’s actions in the interests of the international capitalists are taken into consideration, then we can clearly see that this dictator not only hasn’t been behind the other lackeys in providing “limitless” service in the interests of world capital, but in some cases he has even been ahead of the others. It has been merely four years since Gaddafi agreed to implement certain neoliberal policies at the cost of further poverty and misery for the people of Libya, and signed off enslaving agreements imposed upon Libya by the U.S., Britain, and France thus proving his loyal servitude to the Western powers. It is well known to most people that prior to the spreading of the flames of the People’s Revolution in the region and in Libya, Gaddafi was a favourite of the West; Sarkozy accommodated him with red carpet receptions, and American officials extended their kindness to him.

In refuting the fallacy that seemingly the lack of complete influence and control in Libya on the part of U.S. and Co. has prevented them from implementing the same tactic in Libya that they carried out in Egypt in confronting the revolutionary people and putting out the flames of their struggles, one must say that basically the expectation that imperialists should always and everywhere resort to a single tactic to defeat the people’s revolution is a mistake. In fact, the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt and the rapid wavelike development of the revolutionary people’s movements across the whole region has more than ever forced U.S. politicians to resort to a number of different tactics in order to confront the revolutionary masses and to ensure their long term strategic interests. For these reasons, it is not surprising that the revolutionary movement in Libya has been treated differently.

The aforementioned realities demonstrate that the reason to initiate a war in Libya cannot be explained by reference to Gaddafi’s so-called disobedience to the imperialist powers and/or seeing some sort of independence in him from the international capitalists. Instead, one must examine the interests of such powers as well as the new circumstances and necessities in the region, both in Libya and throughout the Middle East. The following will consider just that. But before doing so, let us review a brief history of Libya preceding the attacks.

The Tactic of Repressing Revolution in Libya

As we have come to know the flames of revolution in Libya had not yet fully spread and the combative people had not yet found the opportunity to continue and further develop their street protests when we learned of the “peoples” armed struggle against the Gaddafi regime initiated mainly in the eastern cities_ where most of the oil resources are situated (according to published sources, 80 percent of the known vast oil reserves of Libya exists in the gulf of Sidra on the east coast of Libya). Apparently with the first moves made by the people against Gaddafi’s regime, the military, which was for years the protector and the main pillar for sustaining the tyrannical and suppressive system over the people of Libya, abruptly collapsed and was so thoroughly torn apart that some of its factions join the combative people all the while maintaining its organization and internal structure!!

In the western region, the combative people were suppressed by Gaddafi and he remained in power while repeating his usual claim that the people of Libya still “love” him. Yet, in the eastern region the alleged people’s armed struggle against the regime very swiftly resulted in freeing a few of the cities, and by relying on these seemingly popular armed groups it was announced that “The Transitional Libyan National Council” was born (1). In this manner, following the formation of the first resistance movement of the Libyan people suddenly the political structure fell apart and a civil war was initiated. On the one side of this war were Gaddafi’s repressive forces and on the other, armed groups led by “The Transitional Libyan National Council” otherwise known as the “National Council.”

Certainly the collapse of a military that for decades played its role of an anti-revolutionary force in such a short period of time with the first signs of street protests would make any intelligent person wonder as to how this could possibly happen? Had it been the case that the Libyan military was rotten or corrupt from within, why did we not see any signs of it before? Were there any discrete hands involved in this who, while considering the rise of revolutionary movements in the Arab world and predicting that the Libyan people might rise up too, created the current situation? Simply put, did any organized units of the military in Libya split with the order given by a power superior to Gaddafi? Under the command of a powerful American agent like Heiser; the infamous American General who is well known by the people of Iran through his own confessions and other documents!? Iranians know only too well how during the heightening of the masses’ revolution in 1979, Heiser landed in Tehran without the knowledge of the Shah and held talks with senior military officials in Iran, giving them the U.S. government’s new orders.  Later on, everyone witnessed as to how the same military force which used to call itself the “king’s army”, now being informed of the U.S.’s intention in transferring power from the Shah to Khomeini, withdrew its loyalty to the Shah and was prepared to call itself the army of Islam and in service of Khomeini at once. This is an experience that the conscious people of Iran cannot forget when encountering similar situations in the region. However, while remembering this experience, a key question here is to be answered as well: what is the nature of the newly emerged “National Council” in Libya? Can this council be considered a popular force merely because it conducted an armed struggle against Gaddafi, i.e. the sworn enemy of the oppressed people of Libya? Do the characteristics and traits of a popular group that fights for the political and economic demands of the people exist within this council? All the facts here lead to a negative response.

The truth is that due to severe repressive conditions and long-term rule of a violent dictatorship in Libya, the people of this country have been deprived of the possibility to build popular organizations. Therefore, during the popular uprising against Gaddafi, they lacked the revolutionary organizations and there were no genuine popular and revolutionary groups in Libya that could represent the true demands and viewpoints of the oppressed people. Under these conditions, the joining of organized units of the military to the populace could have no other meaning than instead of being under the leadership of a popular organization and serve revolutionary objectives, these units took charge over the forces of unorganized masses and by placing themselves at the top, they tried to take the leadership of the rebellious masses who were fed up with the tyranny and brutality of Gaddafi’s regime.

From the inception of the civil war in Libya there have been material facts and evidence that showed there were powerful hands trying to divert the revolution of the Libyan people from its course.

According to Western mainstream media, namely the New York Times, immediately after the start of the civil war it was revealed that CIA agents (who were officially present in Libya with Gaddafi’s consent long before the recent events) had been in contact with the so-called insurgents and directly involved in conducting the war. It was also revealed that the U.S. had immediately dispatched additional agents to Libya in order to organize and strengthen the “insurgency.” Especially mentioned by most Western news agencies (including CNN), was a man named Khalif Haftar who for many years was in contact with the CIA living close to their headquarters. Following the early unrest in Libya he was immediately sent there and is now one of the notable leaders of the so-called rebels.  There is no doubt that had the “rebels” and the “National Council” really been a popular movement the CIA would never have established such a close relationship with them (the experience of the popular armed struggle in Kurdistan of Iran in the 80s against the oppressive Islamic regime and the American government’s position as well as that of other imperialists towards it- especially when Khomeini would throw sharp anti-imperialist slogans while the U.S. too would constantly refer to the Islamic regime as its enemy- is a clear testimony to this).

The official recognition of the “National Council” by France in itself also indicates that in fact here it is not the rebellious and revolutionary masses of Libya who are being strengthened by the joining of a faction of the army thus taking control over a part of the country, but rather it is indeed a part of the suppressive and anti-people army that is backed up and embraced by the plundering imperialist powers. It is clear that had the so-called “rebels” and the aforementioned council been genuinely popular in nature, and had they any relations to the oppressed people of Libya even in the slightest way, they would have not only been rejected by the U.S. and the CIA, but they would also have received the same kind of treatment that real people’s organizations receive throughout the rest of the world.

Giving a bit of thought to the above realities, one can decipher a similarity between how the people’s struggle was stifled and diverted by the U.S. and other international capitalists in Egypt and what went on in Libya. In order to extinguish the flames of revolution in Egypt the reactionary military was told to withdraw its support from Mubarak’s regime and to take control of the state. In Libya this task- through a process and mechanism that do not pertain to our subject for now – was left up to two splitting factions within the military. One faction of the military in Libya is suppressing the people under the leadership of Gaddafi, while the other faction which is now called “The Libyan insurgency” and “The National Council” is engaged in controlling and harnessing the people’s movement. 

Therefore, on the one hand, one of the roles of the civil war is to manipulate the people’s struggle and to squander their revolutionary forces (the same way in Iran right after the people’s anti-monarchy, anti-imperialist revolution of 1979, the Iran-Iraq war was used by the new regime of the Islamic Republic to manipulate and waste the revolutionary potential of the people, and to erase the actual objectives of the revolution itself from the equation). On the other hand, not throwing Gaddafi out of power just like Mubarak (even though this tactic in Egypt was used after weeks of massive popular protests), and propagating against him and depicting him as a monster and a brutal despot, laid the foundation for a military attack by the imperialist forces. It is also noteworthy, that considering the direct role of the U.S. in starting the civil war in Libya, in actuality the imperialist war in this country had already begun even before the NATO attack.

Today when Gaddafi’s crimes against the people of Libya have become a pretext for the U.S. and other imperialist powers to wage a war and interfere in the country’s domestic affairs, it is necessary to pay attention to this important issue that the conflict between imperialists and their lackey dictators by no means proves or provides any kind of independence for these regimes nor is it an indication of their ability to manoeuvre against or disobey their imperialist masters. The fact of the matter is that the imperialists or the global capitalists if you will, through intense exploitation of the cheap labour and the plunder of natural resources of the dominated countries gain an ultra-profit. In order to maintain their domination over these countries and guarantee the extraction of their enormous profits, they even wage wars on their own loyal lackeys depending on specific circumstances and necessities. This is what happened earlier in Iraq and Afghanistan; therefore, what is taking place in Libya is not entirely new. Essentially, in order to maintain their dominance in these countries and to oppose the revolutionary masses, imperialists will never tie their own destiny to that of their lackey dictators. This is a lesson that was repeated during the anti-imperialist and freedom-fighting struggles of the people of Tunisia and Egypt, and once again proved to be correct. As it was proven years ago during the Iranian people’s revolution in 1979 (where the imperialists, through a consensus in the Guadalupe Conference, sacrificed the Shah and discarded him from the political scene in order to defeat the people’s struggle thus maintaining the ruling capitalist system in Iran) and later on in the case of U.S. imperialism confronting Saddam Hussein in Iraq and their puppet regime of Taliban in Afghanistan.

What Are Imperialist Forces Trying to Achieve by Attacking Libya?

The objectives of this war should be examined through an understanding of the particular necessities stemming from the current revolutionary conditions in the extremely critical and vital region of the Middle East as well as its neighboring oil rich territories which are of foremost geopolitical importance for the international capitalists, especially with a consideration to the recent strategy of U.S. imperialism. Therefore, there is no doubt that the objectives of this war are by no means limited to Libya.

If the objective of the war was merely to suppress the struggles of the Libyan people, undoubtedly the Libyan anti-people army, as the backbone of the ruling system in that country, showed no mercy and confronted the upsurge of the oppressed people from the very outset with extreme savagery. In the course of this reactionary civil war too it continues the task of repressing the people’s struggles. Given this reality as well as the current level of the struggles and popular organization of the Libyan people, if there were no other factors involved, then there would have been no need for direct military intervention by the imperialist forces, and consequently Obama and Co. could have simply taken the same position they took in the heat of the bloodbath that the Islamic Republic created in Iran in the 1980s when the imperialists relayed to the people of Iran that they would not interfere in their internal affairs. Moreover, they could have also dealt with Gaddafi in the same manner they dealt with Khamenei.

It becomes a bit complicated when we turn our attention to the oil factor. The rich oil wells in Libya were in the hands of transnational corporations of many countries, from American to French, British, Italian, and Canadian. And neither the U.S. nor any of the others had a problem extracting the oil riches under Gaddafi. However, in the face of the emergence of popular uprisings in the vast Middle East which is the main artery that sustains and safeguards the profits of international capitalists, and in light of the fact that these revolutionary movements and the prospect of their further heightening and expanding threaten the constitution of Capital, then the existence of Libyan oil reserves which is among the least costly to extract and refine, becomes one of the most important factors in the NATO attack; a factor which the geopolitical situation of Libya adds to its overall significance. 

Situated by the Mediterranean, Libya has the shortest distance to the oil market in Europe, and also functions as a “gateway” for importing western goods into northern Africa. In fact, as “the gateway of Africa”, Libya functions as a grand highway for the West.

Understanding the importance of oil in the current war, however, is not possible without understanding the U.S.’s recent strategy in the region. In fact, only through understanding this strategy and what it necessitates, can one explain the main and real reasons for the war, and then point out its relation to oil particularly where the increasing contradiction among the global capitalists and the deepening of the current economic crisis on the one hand, and revolutions and mass uprisings in much of the Middle East and the Arab world on the other hand, have put the world capitalists (the imperialists) in a bleak situation; a situation marking their imminent demise where the bells knell the death of the decayed capitalist system altogether.

The said strategy- the basis of which was introduced toward the end of the Clinton Administration, was drawn in the midst of the increasing growth of the economic crisis in American capitalism, the decline of U.S. economic power vis-à-vis other imperialist rivals despite American military prevalence, and finally, the other imperialists’ growing strength thus the growing contradiction among them. As a result, this strategy finds its basis in the direct presence of U.S. imperialism in the dominated countries in order to maintain and guarantee its domination and mastery throughout the world.

Of course the old days of colonialism are gone and no imperialist power is able to establish those relations once again; relations which, due to the necessities of a certain stage of human history, would give a foreign power the ability to dominate and rule another nation for a long time. As a matter of fact, the experience of the U.S. attack on Afghanistan and later Iraq also demonstrates that the imperialists are not able to rule directly and that they have to establish local lackey governments. Considering the fact that U.S. strategy follows a policy of invasion and consolidation of its rule in the dominated countries, it has been able to disembark a large military force within the Middle East, building military bases and further militarizing the region.

As we know, since capitalism has reached its final stage, i.e., imperialism, all the countries all over the world, their natural resources and their markets constantly change hands among the imperialists and are divided and re-divided among them. Nowadays, as a result of the ever increasing penetration and expansion of imperialist capitals throughout the globe, capitalist relations have been established in practically all countries in the world whereby we witness various forms and manifestations of division of the markets and natural resources of the dominated world among the imperialists. In other words, if not so long ago a country was plundered and exploited totally or mainly by a single imperialist country, and considering the fact that the extract of super profit (this profit is different from the surplus value extracted from workers within the metropole  countries) constitutes the basis of imperialist policies in their colonies, today, the imperialists with their transnational corporations and through all sorts of pacts amongst themselves each according to their power and in various ways, collect and safeguard their share of this super profit. Under these conditions, what we witness in terms of U.S. reactionary and warmongering actions- which are based on its new strategy- indicates the fact that U.S. imperialism is trying to deconstruct the old pacts and divisions concerning the dominated countries to the detriment of its partners and rivals.

Considering different aspects of the new strategy of American imperialist policy in general (here focusing specifically on the Middle East) one must say that the U.S. policy is two-fold. On the one hand, by inciting bloody and reactionary wars the U.S. seeks to resolve its irresolvable crisis (through mobilizing the military industries and producing the means of death and destruction thereby boosting production and guarantying the capitalists’ profit) and on the other hand, by relying on its superior military, power the U.S. demands an ever greater share of the plunder of the dominated countries as well as consolidating its influence in the region. At the same time, by relying on war and military superiority and the construction of military bases in the region, the U.S. is trying to display a military formation before its rivals and maintain and perpetuate its hegemony. Clearly, controlling and dominating the masses and suppressing their struggles arethe essence of this strategy. Therefore, opposing the oppressed people of the dominated countries and harnessing their revolutions becomes even more urgent in this strategy especially in light of the rise of mass movements.

The attack of NATO (a military organization led by the U.S.) on Libya was carried out precisely in accordance with the same strategy and under the circumstances where the U.S. is beating the drums of war and pushing for military presence in oil rich and geopolitically vital regions in order to reduce the weight of its economic crisis, to get a bigger share of the plunder of the natural resources and the exploitation of the labor force of the dominated countries especially in oil producing regions, and to gain access to wider markets to export its goods in rivalry and opposition to other imperialist countries, and finally to repress people’s revolutionary movements.

Now, since the first bombs were dropped on the Libyan people by France, it is important here to deal with the role of France in this war.



As we know, before the Security Council of the U.N. issued a resolution to give legal justification to the air raids and imposed a no-fly zone on Libya so that the British Tornado and Typhoon jets could enter their bloody and reactionary campaign, it was France that insisted emphatically on attacking Libya. Interestingly enough, from the look of things, it seemed as if it was Sarkozy, as the current representative of French imperialism, whose voracious warmongering initiated the intervention of the imperialist forces in Libya. However, once we consider the whole truth it becomes clear that it was the U.S. who had already begun the war through the so-called Libyan “insurgents” and taken its leadership into its own hands (by CIA agents stationed in Libya and dispatching new pawns from the U.S.). It is important to note that France, as one of the U.S.’s powerful rivals in northern Africa, could not stay passive towards American activities in Libya, and let the U.S. treat its interests the same way they were treated during the invasion of Iraq.

The insatiable desire of French imperialism for attacking Libya, from whom France had hitherto enjoyed enormous profits, can be explained by two interconnected facts. First, along with Britain and the U.S., France is one of the main beneficiaries of Libyan high quality oil. Second, by imposing the war on Iraq and invading that country, the U.S. caused serious harm to French interests in Iraq. Essentially, the American invasion of Iraq annulled multitudes of military and economic contracts signed between Saddam’s regime and U.S. rivals, i.e., Russia and France. France also lost a part of its market in Iraq as a result of the invasion. Therefore, this time, France had to take the initiative and tie the U.S.’s hands, if you will, so that it would not once again and this time in Libya win the lion’s share of the profits by the force of its military might, and leave France high and dry. In other words, in light of its active military role in this war, France is trying to gain control in Libya towards its own interests thereby preventing other rivals, namely the U.S., from grabbing the imperialist super profit in Libya and leaving France with no profitable gains.

In conclusion, it is evident that in accordance with the new American strategy (the bases, the background and the execution of which were explained above), dividing the plunder of the oil and other riches of Libya- within a new arrangement amongst the imperialist- is one of the objectives of the imperialist war on Libya. Undoubtedly, this war is to the detriment of some imperialist forces, including China which since 2009, has been involved in exploration and extraction of oil from Libya (China imports 5 percent of its oil from Libya). However, as mentioned before, the recent attack on Libya is not merely limited to oil profits for capitalists. One of the main objectives of this war, just like Iraq and Afghanistan, is the militarization of the region and the ever growing presence of the U.S. and partially its European allies in opposition to Russian and Chinese imperialists.

Another vital and tremendously important point in this war is the efforts on the part of the U.S. (and other global capitalists involved) to strengthen their military forces against popular revolutionary movements in the region. To harness popular revolutions in the Middle East in order to continue plundering the natural resources and exploiting workers and oppressed masses in the region, and to perpetuate the imperialist domination in the region, are objectives that the U.S. and Co. are pursuing in this war.

But all of them; all capitalists and their governments know only too well that it is the imperishable power of the revolutionary masses in the Middle East that is able to oppose and challenge the imperialists, i.e., the main enemy of the oppressed people of the world, and that these masses through a decisive and valiant fight led by a communist leadership will be able to rise against imperialism and turn the Middle East into a graveyard for all capitalists. It is under these conditions where the ocean of the struggles of the revolutionary masses are rolling their stormy waves upon the whole of this very crucial and vital region of the world, the imperialists, more than ever, are resorting to war and violence and bloodshed. Through their reactionary and criminal actions once again they demonstrate and prove that Lenin was right when he defined imperialism as parasitic and rotten capitalism, and stated that the capitalist system is entirely fused with violence and reaction and has reached its stage of decay. Today, the oppressed masses and all those who are concerned with the emancipation, happiness and welfare of humanity, realize more than ever that it will not be long before the capitalist system is destroyed and socialism is built upon its ruins, whereby a new world becomes possible for humanity.


(1) Fars News Agency (in Iran) introduced the organizers of this council as “revolutionaries” and named some of them, when this council was “formed ten days after the start of the revolution on February 27th, [2011]”. Looking at the records of some of the members of this council show who were presented as “revolutionaries” here. Fars News Agency writes: “based on agreements among the councils of liberated cities on March 5th, “Mustafa Abdul Jalil”, the former Justice Minister of Gaddafi’s regime, and “Abdelhafed Abdelkader Ghoga” were recognized respectively as president and the official spokesperson for the “Transitional Libyan National Council.”

Members of the Transitional Council:

There are 30 members who met for the first time on March 5, 2011, in Benghazi, the second largest city in Libya. The most important members are as follows:

1. Mustafa Abdul Jalil, former minister of Justice, appointed as president.

2. Abdelhafed Abdelkader Ghoga, vice president and official spokesperson.

3. Ali Abd-al-Aziz al-Isawi, former Libyan ambassador in India, and Mahmoud Jebril, former head of the National Planning Council of Libya, now appointed as the head of the Council’s foreign affairs. 

4. Omar El-Hariri, among the officers involved in the 1969 revolution.

5. Abdel Rahman Shalgham, Libyan former Ambassador at the United Nations, appointed as the representative of the organization in other international institutions.

6. Among other members are Ahmed Al-Zabeer, who was incarcerated in Gaddafi’s prison for 30 years, and Salavi Adghili, and attorney Fathi Tarbel who represented the relatives of Abu Salim’s massacre, and Fathi Baja, a political Science professor.

The names of other members of the Council have not been disclosed due to security measure.

March 2011

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