The State of Libya is a country in North Africa. It used to be one of the most wealthiest Arab nations thanks to its massive oil fields. However in the last four years, two civil wars and tribal sectarianism destroyed many dreams and hopes. Until October 2011, Libya was called; The Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, ”a state of the masses” according to its dictator; Muammar Gaddafi. The first Libyan civil war was fought between Gaddafi loyalists and opposition militias. Gaddafi was killed in the end and the Jamahiriya collapsed. However no freedom would follow. Sectarianism rose as militant groups turned on each other. In May 2014 the government of Libya split, causing a second civil war between its supporters and those who reject it!
In September 2015, the United Nations are trying to find a peaceful resolution to the ongoing civil war in Libya. The battle is no longer between Gaddafi loyalists and opposition groups. This civil war is a fight between the former rebels who fought Gaddafi, 4 years ago. There are four sides in this conflict and all four fight each other for control of Libya’s oil fields. The two biggest groups are the New General National Congress ( NGNC ) and the Council of Deputies ( CD ). Until May 2014, the old General National Congress ruled the State of Libya, after the Jamahiriya was overthrown in October 2011. But the central government was very weak, most political power lay in the hands of tribal forces who’s militias ruled the streets!
Khalifa Haftar is the military leader of the Council of Deputies and the man who tried to seize power in February 2014. The old General National Congress was controlled by Islamic politicians, who extended their mandate to stay in power. Khalifa Haftar and his supporters rallied and tried to overthrow the government. They called it Operation Dignity and were backed by Egypt, who did not liked the Islamic led government in Tripoli. New elections were held in a very chaotic Libya and the turnout proofed it, only 18% of all Libyans choose to vote. Still secular nationalists ( backed by NATO ) won and defeated the religious parties. However the moderate islamists rejected the elections on the ground that they were not free and fair. The elections were indeed used by secular nationalists to remove the religious opposition from the parliament!
Meanwhile radical islamists allied to the Islamic State ( ISIL or ISIS ) took advantage of the vacuum, created by the collapse of the Jamahiriya. With only a small force, they were able to capture Sirte, the hometown of Muammar Gaddafi. The IS supporters wish to build a Islamic theocracy in Libya on the model of the Islamic State in Iraq in Syria. Other Islamic forces called the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries took control of Benghazi, the city that stared the first Libyan civil war in February 2011. Although the Shura Council took control they would soon lose it again to forces loyal the general Khalifa Haftar!
Because the moderate islamists rejected the new government, they created the New General National Congress. Secular nationalists however formed the Council of Deputies and declared that the NGNC was illegal. Although Egypt and the western world support the new CD, the NGNC is supported by reactionary Arab states like Qatar, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates. As fighting broke out in May 2014, the CD was forced to flee Tripoli and relocate to the east of Libya. Meanwhile the radical islamists were able to expand their operations by capturing more shore towns. By now the Islamic State in Libya has control over seven towns and one airfield at Sirte!
Khalifa Haftar was made leader of the CD forces. He is backed by Egypt and the international community. Still this does not mean that this general is a alternative for Libyan workers and the poor. Because thanks to people like Haftar, Libya is now in chaos. After the collapse of the Jamahiriya, workers councils should have been formed to build a socialist society under workers self management. But this did not happen as most Libyans had no idea what to do after Gaddafi was gone. Many went on revenge killings by attacking those who worked for the old regime. There are enough reports about revenge killings, committed by anti-Gaddafi rebels. In September 2011, the Misrata Brigade carried out ethnic cleansing in the town of Tawergha. This town was build to house mostly African contract workers. The Misrata Brigade believed therefore that these Africans were loyal to Gaddafi. After the Jamahiriya was destroyed, the rebels went into the town and forced 24.000 people out, by burning their houses and looting personal belongings!
After capturing and killing many Gaddafi loyalists, the former rebels turned on each other. Mostly for old feuds between their local tribes, as Libya is still a very tribal based society. Muammar Gaddafi claimed that Libyans were united under him, but in reality he kept the tribes under control, by playing them out against each other for his favor. Tribalism was never abolished under the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and Gaddafi himself favored members of his own tribe; the Gaddafa, a branch of the Houara tribe. They come from Sirte and it is this town that was the most loyal to Gaddafi until the very end. With Sirte now under Islamic State rule, it is unknown how the late dictator’s tribe is living. It is very possible that the reactionary IS forces, have destroyed many graves and tombs of the Gaddafa’s as they are known to vandalize anything that stands in their way!
After militia’s loyal to the NGNC took control of Tripoli, the CD supporters fled east. They settled in Tobruk on-board a Greek cruise ship, that now serves as parliament building for the Council of Deputies. They made general Haftar to be their military leader and called on Libyans to reject the government in Tripoli. Although there is open civil war, the fighting is limited to skirmishes. This is shown by the relative low number of casualties after 1,5 year of fighting. Still the State of Libya is a failed state, the social security of the Jamahiriya is gone and many Libyans suffer from rising poverty. In this climate, a nostalgic desire to the past is growing. Libyans who once supported the uprising against Gaddafi are now starting to realize, that they won so little and lost so much. Their goal was to be free, but in the end they ended up trapped in a sectarian war between two rival governments and Islamic fundamentalism. Gaddafi was a brutal leader who enforced 40 years of dictatorship. But unlike Tunisia, Egypt and Syria, were people were exposed to poor living standards, Libya used to be one of the richest nations of Africa!
However we also need to point out that the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya was turning towards accepting capitalism. Gaddafi had made many moves towards a market economy after 2003 ( the invasion of Iraq ). The fact that a stock market was opened and that his wife owned an airliner proofs this. Profits made from private enterprises owned by the Gaddafi family, made his even more richer. His sons and daughter were living the life of royals and got luxurious houses. As the bourgeoisie grew, many workers realized that Gaddafi propaganda had lost its value. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, he could rally millions for his anti-capitalist ( also anti-communist ) Islamic-socialist ideology. But after seeing how good friends their ”Brotherly Leader” had become with capitalist leaders, many young Libyans were no longer believers in the Jamahiriya!
Today the supporters of Muammar Gaddafi claim that life was better in the past. They are not incorrect as life was better for many. The rebels who fought Gaddafi were also led by misguided ideas that NATO and the western world, stand for ”democracy” and ”freedom”. The same leaders who shacked hands with their oppressor, were greeted as ”liberators” by the Libyan people, who failed to see the hypocrisy of leaders like; David Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy and the biggest friend of Gaddafi; Silvio Berlusconi! Today the western leaders no longer speak about Libya. But their political and military actions in the Arab world, have led to a wave of people fleeing Libya, Syria and Iraq!
More then 1,5 million refugees have come to Europe, seeking safety and a better life. Right-wing populists use the failing living standards for Europeans as excuse, to spread ethnic hatred between European workers and Arab workers. Their tactic is working as many Europeans do not like refugees with a Islamic background. Many say that Muslims are backward and cannot adapt to liberal democratic societies. This racist way of thinking has become dominant, thank to right-wing populism over the last 15 years!
Also there is the general believe that refugees are giving more benefits like free housing, free health care and food. Because capitalist governments carry out massive austerity and social cuts, poverty and insecurity is rising among Europeans. The political left-wing is unable to deal with the anger as many social democrats are part of these capitalist governments. Moderate socialists may reject the cuts, but choose to fight their battles in parliament only. Meanwhile the streets are conquered by neo-nazi’s and populists who exploit the massive anger of ordinary workers against refugees and muslims!
Revolutionary socialists reject both the NGNC and the CD. We call on Libyan workers to rise up and build independent councils of workers to take political power. But most important, a workers party is needed on a socialist program. Such a party would offer a socialist alternative, to the millions who suffer from poverty imposed by capitalism. Western nations cannot be trusted because they want Libyan oil. The reactionary Arab nations have their own imperialist agenda, which only benefit their ruling classes. It is very possible that the State of Libya will be split up in different countries, as it was before 1951. The Kingdom of Libya under the corrupt king Idris, was a absolute monarchy like Qatar. Although politically independent, the economy and oil industry was owned by western capitalist enterprises. Gaddafi’s 1969 revolution ended western control over Libya’s means of production, which angered many oil capitalists. Western governments put their hopes on Khalifa Haftar and his Council of Deputies. Why? Because they are willing to bow to imperialism, as payment for NATO support back in 2011!
It is the goal of capitalist governments to put the oil back into the hands of western oil enterprises. This is why we must oppose Khalifa Haftar and his government. The reactionary regime in Tripoli serves the needs of the Arab monarchies and cannot be seen as a alternative either. Workers need to take power for themselves. This is the only way for Libya to survive as a independent nation!