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Libya: The battle for the future

Muammar Abu al-Gadaffi, Libya’s brutal dictator, has used his armed forces to slaughter pro-democracy protesters, a vicious act unseen in Tunisia or Egypt writes Simon Hardy. It is estimated that thousands have been killed or wounded. Top officials of the biggest Tripoli hospitals, who were said to be loyal to Gadaffi, are understating the casualty numbers.

In Tripoli, his forces attacked unarmed demonstrators with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Gadaffi is battling for control with those police and army units still loyal to him.

The regime was built on a massive repressive apparatus for a country of only 6.4 million people – Gadaffi had at his disposal not only a 45,000-strong army and the police, but also a 74,000-strong array of special forces and militiamen. In this respect, Libya is similar to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf petro monarchies, where the oil royalties are used to arm and fund the armed wings of the state.

In addition, a large part of the working class – the most dangerous social force for all tyrants – consists of non-citizens who can be expelled at will. Gadaffi purposefully recruited foreign workers to run the economy. There are thought to be more than 1.5 million Egyptians working in Libya, 50,000 Bangladeshis, 15,000 Indians and a large number of Pakistanis.

Over 30,000 Turks make up the bulk of the Libyan construction and engineering industry. There are also many workers from sub-Saharan African states. Many of these workers are now fleeing the country.

Resistance grows

But Gaddafi’s iron grip on Libya is beginning to slip. It appears that sections of the army, and even the airforce, have broken from the brutal regime when ordered to attack their own people. Major-General Suleiman Mahmoud, commander of the armed forces in Tobruk, told Al Jazeera: “We are on the side of the people.” In the east of Libya and along the coast, the forces of the democratic revolution have triumphed. The popular forces have liberated the cities of Tobruk, Benghazi, Cyrenaica, Misurata, Derna and Bayda. And now these forces are closing in on Tripoli, the regime’s stronghold.

Despite the revolution hanging in the balance, a ‘humanitarian’ military intervention by US, EU or UN forces would be a catastrophe. The real purpose of such an intervention would be to ‘restore order’ – i.e. smother the living forces of the revolution and defend the ‘rights’ of the western multinationals to control the country’s oil wealth. In the end, it would most likely condemn the country to the hell-like existence seen in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obviously, the immediate task is to root out and destroy the dictator and his entourage of mass murderers, and to liberate Tripoli. But the youth, the workers and the rebel soldiers need to make sure that the fruits of the revolution are not stolen by the millionaires or elements of the old regime who went over to the revolution only at the 11th hour – those that want to maintain their power over the masses.

A revolutionary start

The popular forces that have mobilised against Gadaffi and formed action committees should expand these into councils of recallable delegates to run the liberated cities. Likewise they should form a popular militia, together with the rebel soldiers, to defend themselves against reactionary forces. When Gaddafi is dethroned, a provisional government – based on the councils of the risen people and the workers (including the Egyptian, African and other ‘foreign’ workers) – must call a sovereign constituent assembly to democratically decide how to run the country.

The workers and revolutionary youth must take the lead in making the revolution permanent, which means that they should not stop until the Libyan millionaires and the foreign multinationals are expropriated, and the economy is planned to assure a decent life for all who live in the country.

In order to achieve this, they need to form a revolutionary workers party, armed with an action programme and a strategy for socialism in Libya, in conjunction with revolutionary forces across the entire region. Together their goal must be a Socialist United States of the Middle East.

The eruption of class struggle in Europe and the US also points to the burning necessity to build a new party of world revolution – a Fifth International.

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