The anti-imperialism of idiots: Libya and Egypt

President Gamal Abdal Nasser of Egypt (right) ...

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Read these two posts by Louis Proyect: “Qaddafi and the Left” and “Qaddafi and the Monthly Review” (re-posted at Kasama).

The complexities of imperialism and anti-imperialism: Andrew Coates reviews Mark Curtis on the British state and IslamismShiraz Socialist on Gadafi’s “anti-imperialist” friends.

Also: Carl Packman:

Gaddafi’s socialist supporters

His authoritarian dictatorship of the last forty years should spell out everything the left needs to know that support for him is misguided, but in spite of the fact he has incited a major civil war against protesters left wing leaders in Latin America have been positively supportive.

Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez enjoys good relations with Gaddafi, awarding the dictator the Orden del Libertador Simón Bolívar – something usually reserved for people offering outstanding services to the country. Recently he sent a tweet from his official twitter account saying: “Long live Libya and its independence! Kadhafi faces a civil war!”

Fidel Castro, too, has stated publicly that: “NATO is planning to take over Libya and its oil”, while President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua said he has phoned Libyan Gaddafi to express his solidarity.

Is Gaddafi socialist or a lackey of imperialism?

Chavez’ uncritical support for Gaddafi has once again caused embarrassment for the Venezuelan leader’s UK supporters. The closest tie is between Chavez and the International Marxist Tendency (IMT), who in 2009 made efforts to distance themselves from the support he gave to Ahmadinejad during the latter’s reelection. Alan Woods, one of the leading members of the Tendency, has written a piece for the IMT website condemning the use of force by Gaddafi, while explaining that rather than being a socialist he is actually responsible for “privatizations [which] encouraged foreign companies to open up shops in Benghazi and Tripoli”. He goes on to say: “As recently as last November The Economist published a glowing report about Libya, which it compared with Dubai.”

Andy Newman at Socialist Unity has noted that events taking place in the Middle East in 2003 made it wholly undesirable for regimes to present themselves as avowedly anti-American and Gaddafi’s Libya was one case in point. Gadaffi has always described himself as anti-imperialist, however he has never posed too much of a threat to the US (that is until the Lockerbie bombing – context and debates of which are too long to discuss in any detail here).

Even in spite of the well-documented meetings between Gadaffi, Berlusconi, Blair and others, the former should not be looked at primarily as a lackey of imperialism. However nor can he be viewed as a socialist. His ideology is not based upon the concerns of the people (which explains the large contingent rising up against him in Benghazi and other places) but upon a Nationalism that seeks to safeguard a ruling elite through whatever means possible. It’s durability is questionable; when Benghazi was lost Gaddafi ordered naval ships to attack it, however reports suggest there was major deliberation by the crew on what to do. As Woods, mentioned above, suggests, this shows early signs of a military in doubt over their leader.

And the Journeyman:

Those of us of a certain age will remember the WRP of the 1980’s with a mixture of horror and humour:In many respects it was a nightmarish  parody of a wannabe revolutionary organisation – complete with their  ‘Marxist College of Education’ where its  full-timers could learn the use of small arms and short-wave radios – and the monstrous leader Gerry Healy with his coterie of celeb hangers-on and harem of young female members subjected to a revolutionary ‘droit de signeur’ – in fact a leadership cult much  like the corrupt gurus of a sixties.

But most of all it brings back memories of the party’s  slavish admiration of Gaddafi’s regime  and his ‘green book’  pseudo-theory of third way Arab radical nationalism.

To quote a WRP congress resolution of 1980: “the Workers Revolutionary Party salutes the courageous and tireless struggle of Colonel Gaddafi whose Green Book has guided the struggle to introduce workers’ control of factories, government offices and the diplomatic service, and in exposing the reactionary maneuvers of Sadat, Beigin and Carter… We stand ready to mobilize the British workers in defense of the Libyan Jamahiriya and explain the teachings of the Green Book as part of the anti-imperialist struggle.”

Not surprising at the time the WRP’s extraordinary feat of producing a daily colour newspaper – The Newsline – was attributed to funding by Gaddafi. More sinisterly there were also rumours of Newsline photographers sending Libyan security services pictures of dissidents on demonstrations in London.[…]

But most importantly the story of the WRP show the  propensity of some so-called Marxists to grasp onto the most unlikely and dangerous sources of inspiration. Theirs’ wasn’t the first instance of this – and it won’t be the last –  Castro, Ho Chi Minh, Saddam  have all fulfilled this role – as has guerillaism,  ‘third-worldism’,  various nationalisms and most recently radical’ Islam.. all in the name ofanti-imperialism.

Ultimately I can only think that this phenomenon is born of desperation in dark times of political downturn and defeat – and a lack of confidence that the working class has the ability to re-assert itself politically.  But whatever comes out of the current events in Libya is testament to that ability.


1.Those on the left who have been cozying up to reactionary Islamo-mentalists  will have some answering to do – although if they haven’t already learnt from the experience of  Iran in 1979 I doubt they will now.

2. The organised working class still remain  the only section of society capable of securing a progressive democratic socialist regime in the region – or any region – not the amorphous ‘nation’ and certainly not a radical faction of the army.


See also: Farooq Tariq, BobFromBrockley.

4 Responses to “The anti-imperialism of idiots: Libya and Egypt”

  1. there were even some anarchists who supported Gaddafi:

  1. 1 War Age Of Imperialism
  2. 2 Libya and the politics of oil | New Politics Review
  3. 3 Looking back at 2011 « Anti-National Translation

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