The Libyan Crisis: Imperialism Prepares New “Democratic” Bombs

The world capitalist crisis is hitting the peripheral economies of the Middle East and those strategies linked to oil and gas production. It has moved masses of the dispossessed to action and unleashed competition between the various international imperialist line ups. France and Britain are already ready to intervene whilst the small Italian imperialism prepares to take on a major role in the operation making military bases available and mobilising all necessary air and naval forces.

Even if it is still early to take a definite position of the Libyan events because the situation is still moving and thus nothing definite has been decided except Western imperialism’s escalation towards military intervention camouflaged as a humanitarian mission. The Colonel’s days may be numbered but his strenuous defence characterised by the need to reconquer lost territory, above all oil areas continues, notwithstanding the fact that the international capitalist community has put in the field all its weapons, from the legal (International Criminal Court) to the economic: embargoes, economic sanctions and freezing of assets held abroad and finally UN Resolution 1973 which imposes a “no-fly zone” over all Libya. This is the premises for a possible future full-scale military intervention whether by air or sea or on the ground depending on the tactical demands of military coordination.

Nonetheless we can make three immediate observations.

  1. The first is that the revolt in Benghazi and other cities of Cyrenaica, as in some places south of Tripoli has broken Gaddafi’s enforced balance between his own tribe and the other Libyan tribes who for 40 years have been forced to submit to the political and economic dictatorship of the Colonel.
    At the bottom of this are the never satisfied demands for autonomy of the tribal bourgeoisie of Cyrenaica and the Fezzan and, not least, the chance to autonomously control the oil revenues which until a few weeks ago were the prerogative of the “Green” dictator. It is no accident that the first protest moves took place in the East of the country where a provisional government has already arisen. It has the task of controlling the oilfields and guaranteeing the use and exploitation of them for Western clients.
    The previous balance of power in the country was based on force. Gaddafi and his sons had absolute control of the army, the police, and the air force. They did not just control, but owned, the oil wells through the private management of national companies for gas and oil. This gave to the chief tribes, allied or submissive some crumbs from the already mentioned revenues according to their political value or their potential danger in the terms of (non) alignment in any struggle over the power of the “rais” himself. With this mould now broken, the bigger tribes like the Warfalla, who control a vast territory to the south of Tripoli, have mobilised against the regime. In 1993,in the middle of the international embargo against the Tripoli Government imposed after the Lockerbie bombing, the Warfalla had already attempted a coup d’état. Gaddafi brutally repressed it with dozens publically hanged and more than 2000 arrested. The Zuwayya who live in the central region between Tripoli and Benghazi, the Misurata and the Abu Llail, who control the area of pipelines in the eastern part of Cyrenaica have taken the initiative to ride the tiger of popular protest in an attempt to end a game that has been going on for 40 years. All the major tribes have small armies and a limited number of light weapons. In the initial period of the revolt they attacked barracks and weapons dumps. In the present state of things the Libyan revolt appears to be a tribal civil war, in other words between bourgeois factions for the political and economic domination of the country, the second oil exporting nation in Africa after Nigeria, and the twelfth in global terms.
  2. The second observation regards the possible fracture of the present balance on the Middle Eastern energy fronts with all the consequences that would bring. It is not for nothing that the USA, with the support of France and Britain, proposed the UN resolution, with the aim of ensuring that events in Libya were not left to themselves with all the dangers that would entail. The imperialist preoccupation is not only about the future destiny of Libyan oil and gas, important if not decisive though they are in the international energy balance, they are also worried about the extension of the crisis to the Arabian peninsula. The winds of revolt are blowing through Yemen, Oman, Bahrain, which all surround the south-east and south-west of Saudi Arabia, or rather the biggest oil producer in the world and the main supplier of the USA. If Riyadh were also to enter the eye of the storm it would lead to new positions being taken, to new military manoeuvres no longer contained by psychological deterrence or by creating “no fly zones” which for the moment allows air attacks to disrupt Gaddafi’s militias in order to convince them to listen to more pacific counsel. There is no joking when it comes to ensuring energy supplies from the Middle East. US imperialism has already produced two wars which have not yet ended, is strenuously battling for control of the trade and transport routes for black gold from Central Asia to the Mediterranean coast. A similar critical situation in the Arabian ports is already setting the weapons of war twitching. For now the United States is watching carefully to see what will happen … China too, already present in Niger, Nigeria, Sudan and Chad, would not be certain to just look on. All of this in the face of hundreds of thousands of refugees - victims of the nasty internal bourgeois quarrels and international imperialist games - about which they sing the usual litany of lamentation whilst doing nothing in terms of mere humanitarian aid.
  3. The third observation concerns the delay and lack of unanimity over the launch of resolution 1973. Out of the 15 members of the UN Security Council 10 voted in favour with five abstentions, comprising China, Russia, India, Brazil and Germany. This is no accident. It is not only the 1.5million barrels of oil from Libya per day that is at stake. It is also the role of France and Italy in the Mediterranean basin, the ambitions of Anglo-Saxon imperialism to play a role of control and domination, and the entire question of the Middle East and its energy supplies. In Bahrain, a small country but rich in oil, there is a civil war between the Sunnis (30% of the population who hold power and benefit from the oil income) and the Shiites (70%) who don’t get a penny from the oil payments. Sunni and Shia who in fact should go under their real name: a bourgeoisie of Sunni religious persuasion and a Shiite religious community who are fighting for political power, primarily determined by the economic situation. Behind this bourgeois line-up are the two imperialisms of the area: Shiite Iran and Wahabist-Sunni Saudi Arabia which, amidst a deafening international silence, has initiated a full-blown military invasion of Bahrain in order to guarantee a key anti-Iranian political ally. Even in Qatar the same scenario is being repeated, only this time the imperialist architects are Turkey and Iran.

All this is in the context of yet more tension. In Yemen Saleh has not hesitated to fire on the crowd with dozens killed. In Oman the situation remains edgy. In Saudi Arabia itself anti-Saud feeling is strong and insistent.

Within this framework it is natural for the respective imperialist fronts to act in defence of their own immediate and future interests. USA, Britain, France on one side. Russia, China, India, Germany and Brazil on the other. The prize is energy supplies amounting to 65% of the world’s needs. This underlines how there is another aspect to the Libyan question. The paws of the French secret services can be found in the Benghazi revolt in collaboration with the elements previously linked to Gaddafi and now fighting him for political leadership. This explains the speed with which Sarkozy recognised the legitimacy of the rebel government, the haste with which military actions began against the Colonel’s regime, and the disagreements with Italy and the US over NATO’s command of the military operations. Behind it all, obviously, is Libyan oil and French attempts to regain hegemony in the Mediterranean. This it lost to Italy which was well established in Libya several decades ago, a fact reinforced in the latest agreements between Gaddafi and Berlusconi.


For US imperialism (but not only the US) the major preoccupation is Riyadh: its capacity to resist, its oil, and world energy stability. Washington’s plan is to give NATO - fronted by the Europeans, with France and Britain in the front line - the task of controlling Gaddafi while the energy is reserved for whatever Arab front the situation eventually throws up.

As for the working masses of Libya, so long as they remain integrated in the tribal set-up, or take up the demands for freedom and democracy called for by the bourgeois opposition against the tyrant, there is no possibility of emancipation. Freedom and democracy at most would mean new, stronger political and ideological fetters, so that the same process of subjection and exploitation would carry on as it was before. It would not question the prime motor of this crisis: the settling of scores between the bourgeois tribes which have sprung up, or the alarming volatility of increasingly-voracious imperialism. In other words if they do not question the economic system which goes under the name of capitalism the merry-go-round of domestic and international interests will continue to turn with its macabre burden of crisis, civil war and imperialist arrogance.

The same thing applies to all the rest of the turmoil in the region. If the struggles limit themselves to the ‘conquest’ of democracy it means the end of any possibility of their developing an anti-capitalist agenda. It would signify the victory of this or that bourgeois faction in tow behind one of the fronts of international imperialism. Either a sign of a revival of class struggle will erupt on the Middle Eastern political scene in the form of a revolutionary political vanguard, or everything will go back to what it was before. Or almost, in a bloodbath, as in the usual imperialist script.

FD, 2011-03-24


The following comment was pasted here yesterday, but it was disappered for some reason, thus I'm addin it here again.Some thoughts on Libya and the new U.S. Imperialist strategy It is interesting in this context to note the historical context. Libya has, at least since 2006, been one of the West "ally in the fight against terrorism". Numerous are the Islamists, but also political dissidents in general, which languished in Libyan prisons and victims of torture.

As late as 2008 visited the then Foreign Minister of the United States, Condoleezza Rice, Libya:

A trade and investment agreement May also be signed and the two countries have been negotiating a military memorandum to co-operate on fighting terrorism.

This fight against terrorism, like I said already started, but a formalized cooperation was thus during processing. What we note is also the nascent interest in trade and investment, which is mainly the interest in oil reserves.Why the sudden interest for military intervention? - The strategic remapping of political and military relations of the U.S. with the existing regimes from the era of cold world war, for accessibility and operative control of regions oil, is the main reason behind a U.S. lead coming occupation of Libya. - The insurgency, which is supported, armed ( Egyptian regime is arming the Libyan resells) and financed by west or its Arabic allies has created a "window of opportunity" for the United States. There is now a chance for the U.S. to establish itself in North Africa that are characterized by their unrests ( if not directly or indirectly activated by U.S. or other major imperialists), and a military presence and close diplomatic ties with any new government, it is hoped, can influence the process in the whole region in the favorable direction for the new imperialist strategy of U.S. which actually started with Gorge Bush in white house by occupying Afghanistan and Iraq. Moreover in a situation where the oil fields around the world may reach the point where resources are exploited so that extraction becomes unprofitable, i.e. that was too expensive to extract compared to the amounts of oil can be extracted and sell ("peek oil", etc.), it becomes all the oil deposits of interest. So far, in particular, Italy was the country that took part of the oil in Libya, but of course there are - in the capitalist and inter-imperialist competition name - every reason for the U.S. and other European small imperialists to advance their positions:

The single largest importing country is rather Italy, who daily import 376 000 barrels of oil from its former colony across the Mediterranean. This represents 22 percent of Italian oil imports.

A parallel to the situation has now arisen, in which Libya live under a threat of military intervention, can be drawn to Iraq. Although Saddam regime for long periods was a ally to the U.S. As regards for supporting repression, torture and political repression of dissidents is worth to mention the CIA's major interest for the pro Moscow dissidents, CIA gave Ba'ath regime detailed lists of names of Saddam's opposition in Iraq, which gave the regime the opportunity to carry out an extensive and bloody "cleansing" of dissidents.

The oil:

-The companies that signed contracts on Tuesday (24 juli 2003, SvD-Näringsliv), is ChevronTexaco, ConocoPhillips, BP and Shell. The contract runs from August until year-end. The negotiations with other buyers will continue, said the source.

- At the end of June, the oil ministry Threw open six Oilfield and two gas fields for international bidding by 41 companies. (2008-10-14, Middle East Online) -And in a Kurdish area, there has long been pure "oil bonanza". Kurdistan Regional Government, KRG, handing out contracts for dear life. In an earlier article mentioned the matter:

The KRG awarded 12 new contracts to international firms over the past two weeks. On November 12, it said it Approved Five Production-Sharing Contract with European, U.S., and Korean companies. The Contracts are for the exploration and development of fields in the region's Irbil, Al-Sulaymaniyah, and Dahuk Governorates. Only fools do not learn from history; When the U.S. and other imperialist powers planning to occupy a country, this time Libya, in the name of democracy and freedom, we should know by heart what is the implication of a such intervention for the working class and other toilers in these places: poorification of the working class and other social stratums and a complete shattered socio-economic society.

We should also remember the immense suffering in the form of killing, bombing villages and cities, use of prohibited weapons and destruction as direct consequence of the U.S. occupation.Hamid M

Hi Hamid!

You are right when you argue about the economical agreements between the Western Countries and particullarly Italy with Lybia. I find very interesting the parallel with Saddam's regime. When CIA gave informations to Saddam's regime, it was definetly for class purpose: the "shoras" movement was dangerous for local and international stability, as it was strongly incompatable with any capitalist program of so called peace and stability.

Anyhow it is quite inevitable that local arab bourgeoisies fight political threats such as the islamists...! And it is likely that any future government in Lybia will have similar agreements with Western forces, as it is quite impossible to immagine a country that in capitalistic regime doesn't have commercial and political links, with its close and rich neighbours. The only alternative to this misery is workers power, any alliance with other imperialist forces is useless, because all wage system is wrong and unfair for the working class. But workers power will succeed only if it involves all the world! It's impossible to find local solutions to economic crisis, poverty or what so ever untill we don't talk about a real communist program, and there for not a simple political alternative to this situation, but a social alternative!


Your original comment (for which we thank you) is to be found at the end of the previous article on Libya. This one is an update. Anyway no problems with posting it twice and we hope others will follow you on this thread.

Hi KarimThe completely agree with you on the last/second paragraph in your comment in a sense that whole of Internationalist milieu take this as its point of departure and arrival for an internationalist platform and program. The main point in the text/comment was to take some attention on the situation in the Middle East and Arab region with the oil filed. The global behavior of the Empire in organizing all its allies and enemies behind the new imperialist policy for the region and the world is worth for the workers of world and particularly for the sections of the working class who are affected by this new imperialist game that the capitalist class is forcing on them with different methods; “jasmine revolution”, “Egyptian revolution” and now helping the “rebels” in Libya.The very primary consequences of this new Imperialist policy in the Muslim region, this time and next time can be China, is the socio economic and political deterioration for workers as a class.As an Internationalist, we need to be clear about what is all this capitalist media entertainment that major capitalist class is spending trillions of dollars in order to politically entertain, mainly the workers and secondly the population. Of course, I’m perfectly aware of the lock of resources (perhaps no interest at all) within the internationalist milieu to deal with the ideological and political an issues such as Imperialism. Anyway, we like it or not the workers as a class need to understand the political powers struggles which take place on political arena both globally and locally, to prevent itself to be drown into the chess game of ruling elite, where it will only comes out shattered either physically or mentally. To challenge the ideological machinery of the capitalist system is both difficult and next to impossible for the working class as a whole, when it has not managed yet to establish its own internationalist vanguard.Finally I must mention this, my main point was to emphasis on dangerous and fatal situation that workers in the periphery regions, this time Muslim area, are finding themselves; not enough with the capitalist exploitation, the unimaginable warfare platform imposed on them by the imperialist means. If they are lucky enough to survive the war, more probably they fall pray for a kind of Islamist-Fascist regime or in the social net of a permanent unemployment. Any damage or assault on sections of working class will weaken the proletarian perspective of a future internationalist revolution. I know this is like whispering in the deaf ears of a Euro-centrist who ironically consider themselves as pro-revolutionary and Internationalist.


I find your considerations all correct. There is no intent of Euro-centrism in my comment nor in the ICT. I believe that your struggle is our struggle: one class one war. There is no need to argue about this with us! :)