Stop the massacre in Libya! Power to the people
A February 26 statement by the Socialist Alliance in solidarity with the people's uprisings in Libya and the Arab world
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The Socialist Alliance extends its full solidarity to the people of Libya now being brutally repressed for demanding an end to the corrupt and unjust regime of dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
Their courageous struggle, launched on February 15, for democracy and economic and social justice has resulted in hundreds, if not thousands, of people being killed. Civilians have been strafed and bombed from helicopters and planes, and snipers with high-powered rifles have fired into unarmed crowds. The regime’s murderous crackdown has concentrated on Benghazi - Libya’s second largest city, and the poorest – on the country’s north-east coast, but fighter jets and snipers have also been used against protesters in Tripoli.
Despite the ongoing threats by Gaddafi and his son Saif al Islam to carry out ruthless retribution against all who dare rise up against the regime, sections of the armed forces, several diplomats and some ministers have abandoned the regime. Two pilots flew their fighter jets to Malta rather than bomb their own people and another two are reported to have crashed their jets rather than attack civilians. Gaddafi has ordered the execution of troops who refuse to shoot their own people.
The Gaddafi regime has tried to seal off international knowledge of these events by blocking the internet and locking out journalists, but it is now clear that the people have not been defeated. There are reports that the east of Libya is now in the hands of popular revolutionary committees.
While the atrocities against the Libyan people unfolded, it was days before the United States, Britain and other Western governments were prepared to condemn the regime. The reason is that, despite Gaddafi’s radical posturing and anti-imperialist rhetoric, his regime is tightly enmeshed with the world’s major capitalist powers.
In the 1980s, Gaddafi came under attack from the US administration because he took an anti-imperialist line and gave financial and material aid to many national liberation movements at the time. The imperialist governments saw this as an attack on their presumed right to exploit Libya’s oil resources.
However, since Gaddafi’s rapprochement with the West in the late 1990s, which resulted in the lifting of sanctions by the United Nations in 1999, and Europe and the US in 2004, large Western corporations have flocked to Libya under the regime’s guarantee of access to huge profits. Several major US oil companies, including ConocoPhillips, Marathon Oil and Hess Corp, now have significant stakes in Libya. European companies such as British Petroleum, Italy’s Eni, Spain’s Repsol and Royal Dutch Shell have even biggest stakes in Libya’s economy, and there are now about 150 British companies operating in Libya.
Alongside the Western powers’ moves to get their hands on a share of the largest oil reserves in Africa, European governments have supplied Gaddafi with large amounts of arms and other military and electronic jamming equipment. Britain has been heavily involved in training Libya’s police, and has authorised the export to the Libyan state of tear gas and crowd-control ammunition.
These same Western powers that have for the last decade propped up Gaddafi’s rule in order to profit from the country’s oil wealth are now talking about direct military intervention to “restore stability” in Libya - that is, to quell the protests and secure their investments.
While the Libyan and Western capitalists have grown rich, the roughly half of Libyans who fall outside the oil economy have been impoverished. Unemployment is 30%, with youth unemployment estimated at between 40% and 50%, the highest in North Africa. Twenty per cent of Libyans remain illiterate, there are few work opportunities and decent housing is unavailable to many.
This situation, alongside the stifling political repression and the corruption in the ruling regime, have precipitated the current people’s rebellion.
The Libyan people were no doubt inspired by the massive mobilisations of people’s power that toppled dictators Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. The Socialist Alliance, too, takes great heart from all the people’s struggles for justice across the Arab world. These are not simply uprisings against Western-backed dictators, but the active expression of millions of people’s desire for an end to the policies of neo-liberalism that create poverty, unemployment and lack of opportunity for ordinary people. We pledge to continue to take action in solidarity with the people’s ongoing struggles in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria, Syria, Jordan and Djibouti.
The Socialist Alliance expresses its 100% solidarity with the Libyan people’s demands for democracy and social justice, and calls for:
· An immediate end to the massacre, and for Gaddafi and his henchmen to step down.
· The immediate release of all political prisoners in Libya.
· No Western intervention in Libya.
· An end to Western powers’ arms trade with Libya.
· An end to all Western military occupation and interference in the Middle East and Africa.