[Debate] On Yoshie and Gadaffi, Louis Proyect.

Peter Waterman peterwaterman1936 at gmail.com
Wed Aug 24 17:49:17 BST 2011

    February 27, 2011

      Qaddafi and the Monthly Review


Filed under: Libya <http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/category/libya/> — 
louisproyect @ 8:40 pm

MRZine appears to be the latest entrant 
<http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2011/furuhashi270211.html> in the 
anti-anti-Qaddafi current on the left. The use of the term “anti-anti” 
is appropriate since the grounds for being “pro”-Qaddafi nowadays are so 

I have found the term “anti-anti” useful over the years. I first heard 
it in Lillian Hellman’s memoir “Scoundrel Time” when she referred to the 
anti-anti-fascist left. It also pretty much describes people like Marc 
Cooper, David Corn and Michael Bérubé who wrote article after article 
red-baiting the anti-war movement while including pro forma statements 
from time to time about how wicked the invasion of Iraq was. As 
anti-anti-war activists, there was not much to distinguish them from 
all-out supporters of the war like Christopher Hitchens.

In the case of the left, we have pro-forma statements about Qaddafi that 
serve to establish the bona fides of the author. For example, the Party 
of Socialism and Liberation (PSL) editorialized 
“the Libyan government has ushered in neoliberal reforms that have 
stripped social programs and subsidies for the poor and increasingly 
turned over the country’s oil wealth to foreign corporations.” But what 
one hand giveth, the same hand taketh away. In the same article they 
state: “Protesters have hoisted Libya’s first national flag, that of the 
exploitative, U.S.-backed monarch King Idris (1951-1969) over the areas 
they have seized. Some in the Libyan exile community consciously call 
for the return of the Idris monarchy, but it is unclear how deeply this 
sentiment runs among those in revolt.”

Don’t you love that little business about “it is unclear how deeply”? 
The authors must have learned that from reading Time Magazine where it 
is often deployed on behalf of assertions like “It is unclear how deeply 
Noam Chomsky endorses the holocaust denial sentiments of the book whose 
author he defended.”

We should add in the case of MRZine that it is difficult to ascertain 
upon whose behalf editor Yoshie Furuhashi is speaking since the website 
functions pretty much as her personal blog. We know that her effusions 
for the Iranian clerical dictatorship was enough to prompt an outraged 
letter from dozens of Iranian leftists in exile and Barbara Epstein’s 
resignation from the magazine’s editorial board. My impression is that 
MR chief and /éminence grise/ John Bellamy Foster is too preoccupied 
with his professional pursuits to pay much attention. It is more likely 
that John Mage endorses this nonsense although being too savvy to write 
his own apologetics for Ahmadinejad under his own name.

Like the PSL, Furuhashi ensures her readers that she is not for Qaddafi 
in the first sentence of her article: “As everyone knows, Muammar 
Gaddafi is an authoritarian dictator.” Once this disclaimer is out of 
the way (reminiscent of those that appear at the end of anti-depressant 
commercials—”continued use might lead to your head exploding”), she can 
then roll up her sleeves and make the case implicitly that a color 
revolution is underway.

Mostly this is done by dredging up every tarnished figure who is angling 
to lead the people’s struggle. In doing so, she shows a dedication to 
the cause that far exceeds the PSL comrades who could only turn up the 
supposedly royalist flag flying at Benghazi rallies:

As the fate of Libya was being discussed by the powers represented in 
the NATO and the UN Security Council yesterday, among those most 
fervently calling for no-fly zones were Libya’s own UN ambassadors 
turned defectors, Abdurrahman Mohammed Shalgham and Ibrahim Dabbashi, 
making the same demand as the National Conference of Libyan Opposition 
(NCLO), an umbrella group of major Libyan exile organizations including 
the Libyan Constitutional Union (led by the so-called “Crown Prince” of 
Libya) and the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL, a tool 
of the CIA and Saudi Arabia during the Cold War).

Wow, scary stuff.

Not surprisingly, she aligns herself with “Latin American socialists” 
rather than obscure formations like the dregs of the Healyite movement 
in Britain or the vanishingly tiny PSL in the USA. After all, who can 
take exception to MRZine when it is on the side of the people referred 
to in the link for Latin American socialists below?

Thus it fell to a few goodLatin American socialists 
to do what they could to argue the case of Libya and defend its right to 
self-determination — that is, the right of the Libyan people, those who 
are for, against, or indifferent to the soon-to-be former Libyan regime, 
to sort out their own affairs, free from NATO or any other foreign 
troops — in the court of world public opinion.

As it turns out, the link is to a google search on Ortega + Castro + 
Chavez + Morales. For Ortega, it is a bit more than defending the right 
for self-determination. On the president’s website, he issued a 
statement that said Qaddafi is “waging a great battle, seeking dialogue 
but defending the integrity of the nation.” Perhaps this has something 
to do with Libya forgiving Nicaragua’s 200 million dollar debt last week 
but I will forgo using the weaselly “it is unclear”.

I have already discussed Fidel Castro’s errant thinking on Libya in 
another post but want to turn my attention now to Hugo Chavez, one of 
those “Latin American socialists” that Comrade Furuhashi uses as a 
cudgel against leftists having a bit too much enthusiasm for the 
anti-Qaddafi revolt.

Nicholas Kozloff reports <http://blog.buzzflash.com/node/12409> on what 
is much more than a marriage of convenience apparently:

WikiLeaks cables lay bare the tight diplomatic and political alliance 
between Qaddafi and Chávez.  In 2009, the U.S. Embassy in Caracas wrote 
Washington about an African-South American summit held on the Venezuelan 
island of Margarita.  Chávez had called the meeting in an effort to 
highlight the historic unity between long-oppressed continents, though 
such public relations efforts were severely undermined by the roster of 
participants which included autocrats like Qaddafi and Robert Mugabe of 
Zimbabwe.  According to U.S. diplomats, Chávez and Qaddafi congratulated 
each other on their “revolutions” during the ceremonies.  From there, 
the rhetoric got more and more ridiculous.  “The meeting with Gaddafi,” 
U.S. diplomats wrote, “provided the opportunity for rhetorical assaults 
on capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism.”

Bizarrely, Chávez declared “What Simon Bolívar [the Great Liberator of 
South American independence against the Spanish] is to the Venezuelan 
people, Gaddafi is to the Libyan people.”  Qaddafi then praised Chávez 
for “having driven out the colonialists,” just as he had driven out 
those in Libya. “We share the same destiny, the same battle in the same 
trench against a common enemy, and we will conquer,” Qaddafi said.  As 
if these exchanges were not preposterous enough, Chávez then took 
advantage of the occasion to award Qaddafi the “Orden del Libertador,” 
Venezuela’s highest civilian decoration, and presented the Libyan leader 
with a replica of Simon Bolívar’s sword. //

Now it should be clearly understood that there is nothing wrong with 
forming alliances with Zimbabwe, Iran or Libya. Countries that are 
trying to develop a foreign policy independent of imperialism will by 
necessity adopt a kind of socialist realpolitik. When the government of 
Mexico made the streets run red with the blood of student protesters in 
1968, it was understandable why Cuba remained silent. When Cuba had few 
friends in Latin America, Mexico’s PRI had a shred enough of remaining 
nationalism to stand up to the OAS and trade with Cuba. Furthermore, 
Cuba was in its rights to maintain diplomatic relations with Spain when 
Franco was dictator. Beggars cannot be choosers.

What is not acceptable is elevating despots like Mugabe, Qaddafi and 
Ahmadinejad into revolutionaries even though they have had 
confrontations with imperialism. We are not trying to build an 
anti-imperialist movement. Our goal instead is to build a socialist 
movement, which is alone capable of ridding the world of capitalism. In 
the final analysis, imperialism is the latest stage of capitalism and 
not some new economic system.

Finally, to look for simon-pure working class revolution in the Arab 
world in which elements like the National Conference of Libyan 
Opposition are not “players” is a sure sign that you do not understand 
how revolutions unfold. In many ways, these struggles from Libya to 
Egypt to Tunisia are like the revolution that put Kerensky into power. 
Despite Kerensky’s willingness to continue WWI and to deny peasants 
their land, the Bolsheviks defended his government against Kornilov and 
saw it as an advance against Czarism. Sadly, most of the ultraleft 
attacks on the mass movement in Libya can be read as an implicit 
endorsement of Qaddafi. When MRZine tells us that Ortega has the right 
understanding of what is going on Libya, what other conclusion can be drawn?

Lenin warned against seeing revolutions as some kind of pure proletarian 
struggle for power in which all the good guys line up against all the 
bad ones. After the Easter Rebellion of 1916, Lenin took on Leon Trotsky 
and Karl Radek who were concerned about the presence of “bourgeois” 
forces in the Irish struggle. Lenin replied:

On May 9, 1916, there appeared, in Berner Tagwacht, the organ of the 
Zimmerwald group, including some of the Leftists, an article on the 
Irish rebellion entitled “Their Song is Over” and signed with the 
initials K.R. [Karl Radek]. It described the Irish rebellion as being 
nothing more nor less than a “putsch”, for, as the author argued, “the 
Irish question was an agrarian one”, the peasants had been pacified by 
reforms, and the nationalist movement remained only a “purely urban, 
petty-bourgeois movement, which, notwithstanding the sensation it 
caused, had not much social backing…”

To imagine that social revolution is conceivable without revolts by 
small nations in the colonies and in Europe, without revolutionary 
outbursts by a section of the petty bourgeoisie /without all its 
prejudices/, without a movement of the politically non-conscious 
proletarian and semi-proletarian masses against oppression by the 
landowners, the church, and the monarchy, against national oppression, 
etc.–to imagine all this is to /repudiate social revolution/. So one 
army lines up in one place and says, “We are for socialism”, and 
another, somewhere else and says, “We are for imperialism”, and that 
will be a social revolution! Only those who hold such a ridiculously 
pedantic view would vilify the Irish rebellion by calling it a “putsch”.

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