Sunday, August 21, 2011

No tears for Qadhafi; no cheers for NATO

Qadhafi is finished, as I rashly predicted he would be.  It looks like his personal bodyguards have surrendered, and rebels are marching through the centre of Tripoli.  Moussa Ibrahim, performing this tragicomical Ali role, reportedly claims that the masses are on their way to Tripoli to protect the regime.  Since he doesn't really believe this, no one else has to either.  I have no doubt that there will be riotous celebrations in Benghazi, Tripoli, Zawiya and elsewhere tonight.  The decomposition of the regime, just months after it seemed to have retaken control, will be what people are cheering for.  And only a churl or a regime loyalist would begrudge it. 

But mark the sequel.  The rebel army is commanded by someone who is most likely a CIA agent.  As far as I know, it has around 1,000 trained soldiers, within a total force of about 30-40,000 people (and within a population of 6.5m people).  It is directed on the ground by intelligence and special forces.  It isn't well armed, and it will probably now be either rapidly disarmed, or integrated into the post-Qadhafi state.  There may be a small number of jihadis among them, but these will either adapt, integrate, or be hunted down and killed on the basis of the new Libya's remit of fighting 'Al Qaeda'.  (Recall, preventing an 'Al Qaeda' takeover was one of the major justifications for intervention when the think-tanks started thinking tanks).  There is as yet no political force through which the masses could act independently of the new government, were they even of a mind to do so.  The rebels will be disarmed, and the initiative will rest with pro-US politicians and other ruling class spokespeople. 

As a result, I would strongly caution against getting carried away with the prospect of permanent revolution here.  I think the US and its allies will very quickly stabilise this situation.  There will be no analogue to 'de-Baathification'.  The old state structures will be preserved and adapted, and the new government will enjoy considerable legitimacy provided it delivers on a basic menu of elections and political rights.  Moreover, the parties that win those elections will likely be the more pro-capitalist elements allied to the ruling class factions in the leadership of the transitional council.  The government that now follows will be less oppressive and more democratic than the one it ousted, and it will probably be less sectional than the Qadhafi regime. 

It would be hard for the coming government to do worse than Qadhafi.  In one respect, however, they may do just that.  EU powers will certainly demand that the new regime hold to their promise to continue Qadhafi's policy of containing immigration from Africa to the EU.  Given the way that some elements in this rebellion have treated black and migrant workers - you know, lynchings and that - the EU can probably have full confidence in the new regime's handling of this remit.  It always made sense, of course, for the bourgeois elements of the rebellion to scapegoat black workers as the 'alien' elements, the fifth column depended on by Qadhafi.  In government, the temptation to resort to racist hysteria in order to frustrate and divide potential opposition will be magnified many times over.

So, I'm just saying, I don't think we're witnessing a revolutionary process here.  I think that's been halted a long time ago.  And it will take time and organisation before it resumes, if it does.