Libya and the era of imperialist reconquest*
By Fred Goldstein
Published Mar 24, 2011 10:05 PM
However the rebellion in Libya began, it was both inevitable and entirely predictable that it would quickly become an opening for imperialist intervention and counterrevolution in the oil-rich North African country.
The fact that the “rebellion” received sympathetic, screaming headlines, ferociously hostile to the government of Moammar Gadhafi from the very beginning, should have been sufficient to put the entire anti-imperialist movement on guard. The boiler-plate propaganda about “massacres,” without the slightest evidence, was repeated as if it were the gospel truth. That should have been further evidence of the plans for “great power” intervention (“great” in their oppression, as Vladimir Lenin pointed out long ago).
The condemnations were particularly hypocritical coming from the mouths of the same imperialist powers that have been massacring oppressed people on every continent since the dawn of colonialism — from the slave trade in Africa to the cruelty of conquistadors in South America, the genocide of Indigenous peoples in the U.S., the colonization of India, up to the present-day campaigns against the Palestinians in Gaza, Predator drone massacres of civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan, to say nothing of the wholesale destruction of Iraqi society and the attendant mass killing of civilians.
There have been numerous rebellions and many documented massacres of unarmed civilians in recent months that have not spurred military action by the imperialist powers. Is it even conceivable that Washington would lobby or arm-twist the Arab League to provide a figleaf for U.S. intervention in support of protesters in Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia or Jordan? No, because these have been genuine rebellions against autocratic regimes backed by the White House and the Pentagon.
There have been no campaigns to get U.N. Security Council resolutions authorizing military action in any of these countries. No aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, missile ships, AWACS planes, spy satellites, etc., moved into position to support these genuine popular uprisings against moth-eaten reactionary monarchies that guard the interests of the U.S. and Western oil companies, as well as the strategic position of the Pentagon in the Persian Gulf region.
Bush, Obama & ‘regime change’
The fact is that the Obama administration, the British and the French have de facto put Libya on the “axis of evil” list started by George W. Bush in his infamous 2002 State of the Union speech, where he singled out Iraq, Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as targets for “regime change.” That is what “Gadhafi must go” means.
What these three countries have in common is that they all threw imperialism out of their countries during the rise of the socialist camp and the national liberation movements after World War II. They were part of a global movement that fought to establish economic and political independence from transnational banks, corporations and the Pentagon.
Libya falls directly into that category, having overthrown puppet King Idris and ousted imperialism in 1969 under the leadership of Col. Moammar Gadhafi. The Libyan revolution, like the revolutions in Iraq in 1958 and Iran in 1979, also nationalized Western-owned oil companies and shut down imperialist military bases. The fact that Gadhafi shifted toward the West later, opening up to oil companies and imposing International Monetary Fund-dictated austerity programs, is not enough to satisfy the voracious appetite of the corporations for profit. They want to take the whole country — lock, stock and barrel.
Libya & the era of reconquest
The invasion of Libya is part of a long-term trend on the part of the imperialist countries that began with the collapse of the USSR and Eastern Europe from 1989 to 1991. That trend is to reconquer territories and riches lost during the 20th-century rise of the socialist camp and the national liberation movements.
That is what the intervention in Libya is about. That is what the two wars in Iraq were about. And that is what the permanent threats to Iran and North Korea are about, not to mention the permanent blockade of Cuba, the military encirclement of China and the attempt to destroy the government of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.
In other words, the right to national sovereignty, self-determination and self-defense of formerly oppressed countries is obsolete, according to the doctrine of the New World Order.
The mad adventure in Libya, led by Washington and supported by Britain and France, shows once again that war and militarism are an integral feature of imperialism and of the monopoly-capitalist system upon which it rests.
During the first half of the 20th century, imperialist war was driven by inter-imperialist rivalry and struggles over which country would be able to loot the colonial peoples. During the latter part of the 20th century, war and the threat of war were driven by the struggle of imperialism against the socialist camp and the national liberation movements — the Cold War.
Now the permanent tendency of imperialism toward war and militarism is driven by the drive for reconquest of the territories lost in that period.
Imperialism & permanent war
U.S. imperialism now has two wars and a major post-war occupation going on simultaneously — in Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq. It has made northeastern Pakistan a free-fire zone for predator drones. Since the collapse of the USSR and Eastern Europe in 1989-1991, it has launched five wars of conquest — in Iraq twice, in Yugoslavia in 1999. in Afghanistan in 2001, and now in Libya.
It has threatened two other wars — one against Iran and the other against People’s Korea. U.S. troops have been at war continuously for the last decade.
Washington has five aircraft carriers, each accompanied by a flotilla of 10 destroyers, frigates and other warships in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea surrounding Libya. The French and the Italian imperialists each have a carrier in the area as well.
The entire imperialist world, with a combined gross domestic product of more than $20 trillion, a combined population of close to a billion people, and a combined military machine worth at least $2 trillion is bearing down on Libya — an underdeveloped, formerly colonized country of 6 million people with an economy of some $40 billion that is without the capability to defend itself militarily against the juggernaut facing it.
The French and the British capitalist governments were clamoring for a no-fly zone as a pretext for intervention and to guard their oil interests. But it was not until Washington got behind the effort, forcing the Arab League and the U.N. Security Council to go along and moving its military flotilla and air force into position, that the attack could begin.
Working class enters anti-war movement
These wars have cost trillions of dollars. They are eroding the economic foundation of U.S. capitalist society and imposing a huge cost upon the workers, the poor and the oppressed who pay for the wars, both with their tax money and with the loss of vital social services.
This plunge into a new war comes in the midst of a profound economic crisis, a jobless recovery, growing mass unemployment and a budding rebellion of the working class, which has shown itself in the Wisconsin struggle against union busting and austerity budgets.
On March 19 a mass anti-war march took place in Madison, Wis., that was attended by thousands of unionists and their supporters in a joint effort with the anti-war movement. This is a step forward in the U.S. in the direction of giving the anti-war movement a working-class character.
As the wars multiply and the attacks on the workers grow more severe, a genuine working-class rebellion against imperialist war will come onto the agenda. The working class is the only class that can put an end to imperialist war.