by Yoshie Furuhashi
February 24, 2011
In his blog Lenin’s Tomb, Richard Seymour asserts confidently:
Because the trouble for the US and UK governments in this revolt is that they really, really don’t want Gadaffi to fall. Gadaffi is someone with whom they can do business. By contrast, the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, long a leading element in the resistance, is less likely to be so pliable.
Not so fast. All three components of his observation — what the US and UK governments want, whether the National Front for the Salvation of Libya is really “a leading element in the resistance,” and whether the NFSL is less pliable than Gaddafi — are open to dispute.
1. Is it true that the US and UK governments “really, really don’t want Gadaffi to fall”? I doubt it. The great powers are playing in Libya, in my view, the same game as they have in Tunisia and Egypt: at first, at a loss as to what to do, they back the regimes in power exactly as they are, since they have been good to them (Berlusconi’s first response to the Libyan uprising is the most emblematic of this initial Western reaction); then, seeing no way back to the status quo ante, they seek to manage the transition already underway whether they like it or not (they have long cultivated assets among the oppositions, too, precisely for this kind of eventuality). So, the imperialists’ Plan A was to see if Gaddafi could quell the uprising, as he had managed to put down many previous challenges to his rule. Now that Plan A is up in smokes, though, it’s time for them to shift to Plan B: try to find collaborators and to begin a new beautiful relationship. Some of the collaborators may be found in the elements of the ancien régime (e.g., the armies in the cases of Tunisia and Egypt); others may be found in the former opposition (e.g., the likes of the Egyptian Google executive Wael Ghonim, one of whose first tweets after the fall of Mubarak was to tell the striking workers who are seeking to establish a new just social order to go back to work and “work like never before”).
In Tunisia and Egypt, the continuing vigor of working-class protests, including industrial actions, has so far prevented Plan B from working as well as the empire hoped. (No doubt the Western power elites are working day and night now to come up with Plan C.) In Libya, however, the empire may get lucky, especially if it succeeds in passing off its assets as “leading members of the opposition” fit to rule post-Gaddafi Libya. That leads to the next question.
2. Is the National Front for the Salvation of Libya really “a leading element in the resistance”? How do we know? Ian Black, for instance, observes: “Exiled groups such as the National Front for the Salvation of Libya are thought to enjoy little support among the country’s 6.5 million people.” To be sure, much of the media are not only heavily relying on “information” from the NFSL but also presenting its leading members as credible alternative leaders as well as political experts, but that is all the more reasons to be skeptical. Recall the efforts to spin the Egyptian revolution first and foremost as a Facebook revolution engineered, behind the scenes, by Gene Sharp-reading, Otpor-emulating young professionals schooled in the Academy of Change in Qatar. That is a kind of performative speech: it’s not that those in charge of the MSM necessarily think the Egyptian revolution was really made by such characters — they must know that the coup de grâce was delivered by workers who, relying on tight bonds forged through “many years of meetings and joint struggle,” went on strike en masse, especially in strategic sectors such as the Suez Canal; rather it’s that the power elites of the West want them, rather than the organic intellectuals of the working class, to be the leaders of the post-Mubarak order and steer it into “a retrenchment of neoliberalism.” So, from the point of view of the propagandists looking to shape post-Gaddafi Libya in a way that furthers rather than damages the interests of capitalists and imperialists, what’s to like about the NFSL? That segues into the last question.
3. Is “the National Front for the Salvation of Libya . . . less likely to be so pliable” than Gaddafi? I’m afraid the NFSL will be even more pliable than the autocratic colonel that it has long sought to supplant. According to Richard Keeble, Jeffrey Richelson, and Joseph T. Stanik among other sources, the NFSL was an outfit funded by the CIA and Saudi Arabia during the Cold War. While more recent funding sources of the NFSL remain unknown, the young Libyans who are desperate to join the Great 21st-century Arab Revolt, when they do succeed in overthrowing the Gaddafi family, surely deserve a better leadership than the spooky specter apparently raised from the dustbin of the last century.
Gaddafi is finished. First rejected by the axis of resistance, now he is about to be abandoned by the West as well. That means it is all the more important to help the Libyan people defend their victory from would-be thieves of the spoils of blood shed for freedom.