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The wave of revolution across the Arab world continues to spread faster than most of us can possibly keep up with, with protests continuing in Tunisia and Egypt as well as Libya, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, among other countries – and even beyond the Arab world. Even states in the US like Wisconsin are fighting their governments and citing inspiration from Egypt.
But one of the key fronts in the battle for mass democracy is Libya, where Gaddafi’s hold on power is being defended with some of the most extreme violence we’ve had reports of; he’s even used helicopters and fighter jets to bomb and mow down demonstrators, but it’s a testament to those who are fighting that not even this will stop them and it is their actions that will inevitably decide Gaddafi’s fate. It will be them, and not some outside force. I wanted to respond to some of the calls for US (or UN, Western, or any outside) intervention into Libya and why this would be a grave mistake for anyone who supports the Libyan revolution.
US Secretary of State (and no friend of mass democracy) Hilary Clinton has indicated that the US is leaving open a number of options in dealing with Libya as if it’s their fight, and the Navy have positioned aircraft carriers and other military vessels in the Red Sea and other locations around Libya. With sanctions now in place, the UN, NATO and other imperialist forces are discussing what to do. And I am opposed to any involvement from them whatsoever.
There are supporters of the revolts on Twitter that support intervention from these forces, but it is a grave mistake to support such things. Iraq is a clear example of what ‘democracy’ from the US means and it does not mean an end to violence. Have people forgotten about Iraq? Did they forget the millions killed by US troops? Did they forget that as soon as the US invaded it actually resulted in a surge of support for Saddam’s regime as people united against the US? There have even been protests in Iraq in the last few weeks that have been put down by US troops still stationed in the country, despite Obama’s façade of a withdrawal.
There is a very stark difference between ‘democracy’ in Iraq via the US military and democracy in Egypt by the masses of Egyptians themselves. It is only the masses that can liberate themselves. And an intervention from the West would not only destroy that, but also destroy more lives instead of saving them. Egypt proved that the people of the Arab world don’t need the US, that they can do it themselves, and do a damn better job. This is because of the power of mass struggle, as well as the working-class halting production, but also because their fight for democracy is genuine. The kind of democracy the US promises is a joke. The US has backed and continues to back dictators in the region such as Mubarak, have armed police and army forces trying to put down revolts, and only seem to remove their support when it looks like their ‘bastard’ is losing. When there are images of Egyptians holding tear gas canisters reading ‘Made in the USA’ you really have to wonder how anyone can think they’re a benevolent force in the region.
And this applies to not only the US, but other Western powers like NATO and the UN as well. The colour of the helmet or the banner the troops fight under changes nothing about the role they play, and foreign troops will always go into a country based on the interests of those powers not the people they claim to be saving. The fact that America’s mission in the Middle East failed, but Egyptians got rid of a dictator in just over two weeks makes the US not only irrelevant but counter-productive to any progressive change in the region, and so any attempts to back or support revolts after changing sides is an attempt to restore the false image of the US as a force for good.
Rather than the US, a much stronger force to end the violence and bring down Gaddafi quickly, is the power of the working class. After the people occupied Tahrir Square for two weeks, it was the workers in Egypt that dealt Mubarak his final blow. After three days of striking and production grinding to a halt, Mubarak could not hold on any longer.
In Libya, moving the struggle into the workplaces could be decisive not only because it would halt the flow or profits to the regime, but suppressing the struggle becomes much harder. It’s easy for them to mow down demonstrators in the streets, but if the struggle is inside factories and infrastructure owned by the Libyan state critical to the running of the economy, Gaddafi can’t exactly just bomb those to the ground or he would hurt himself.
It is clear that the Libyan people do not want and also need no involvement from the outside. The people of the Middle want no such thing either. The US and its allies need to remove all support for dictators in the region and get out of region completely. This fight is not theirs: it is the fight of the people using the power of the masses to turn the world upside down. And the role of the working-class in the Arab world is the key to bringing down these tyrants quickly and in the least violent way possible.
Benjamin Solah is a self-described ‘Marxist Horror Writer’ combining his love of horror’s dark aesthetic and his world view of revolutionary socialism. This article was originally published at his personal blog, ‘Blood and Barricades’; see: http://www.benjaminsolah.com/index.php