Thursday, 24 January 2013

AWL, Mali, Libya and The Islamists

More than a week after Imperialism, headed by France, invaded Mali, the AWL got round to providing their response – here, in an article by Colin Foster, a pseudonym for Martin Thomas. Its perhaps not surprising that the AWL waited to produce a response, because the bureaucratic centrist nature of their politics, means that every new event poses them with a problem of squaring their current response with their previous positions. In particular, how are they to square their current position, in relation to Mali, with their previous positions where they justified imperialist intervention in Libya, as well as defending the allies of Imperialism in the shape of the Islamists, and the Feudal, Gulf Monarchies.

The reality is that although the AWL, with their Third Campist methodology, based on syllogistic logic, see every event as separate from any other event, reality is far more complex and interrelated than that. Reality is dialectical. So, it was obvious, when events were occurring in Libya last year, this could not, and would not, be separate from events occurring elsewhere in the world, let alone in Libya's immediate neighbours, like Mali.

That is why, when it became obvious that things in Libya were not as straightforward as they first seemed, some of us cautioned against simply providing uncritical support for the “rebels”. It soon became fairly obvious that these “rebels” did not have massive and widespread support, amongst the people in Libya. Even if they did, Marxists would have had to be circumspect about exactly what the social forces were that were involved, before giving uncritical support. But, fairly early on, it was obvious that these “rebels” were largely based in Benghazi, and that a large part of the rebellion had been pre-planned with the assistance of outside forces. The “rebels” themselves amounted to no more than about 15,000 fighters, equivalent to less than 1% of the population, or about the same level of support that the left sects are able to obtain in British elections. Hardly, a basis for a revolution!

Even with the assistance of a massive bombing campaign by Imperialism, to clear the path for them, the rebels were able to make little or no progress over a period of many months. Even after a further huge intensification of the bombing, and the intervention of British, French, Saudi and Qatari Special Forces, forced Tripoli into submission, the rebels, and their Imperialist backers, took a further two months, imposing a humanitarian disaster in the process, to take control of Sirte.

The AWL not only backed the Libyan rebels, but they also justified the Islamist nature of those rebels. Echoing the argument that the SWP have used in the past, and that the AWL have criticised, when it was used to support Hamas, and Hezbollah, the AWL argued that after years of oppression under Gaddafi, it was not surprising that the Libyan rebels should hold reactionary views. See: AWL Dig Bigger Hole. In fact, as set out in the post above, it was not the only old AWL position they ditched in justifying their support for the jihadists in Libya, as they marched forward to the position of being Sharia socialists, long ago adopted by their fellow Third Campists of the SWP.

What was even more ludicrous in that attempt was one comment they made, where they claimed that the intervention of the Feudal Gulf Monarchies in Libya, now had to be seen as one of the ways in which bourgeois democracy was now to be brought about!  These are, of course, the same feudal regimes that batter their own populations, and that are murdering protesters in Bahrain!

The total hyperbole, and so much zigging and zagging that its like a day out at Alton Towers, comes out in the AWL's latest pronouncements, then, in relation to Mali.

The AWL write,

“On 2 April an alliance of Islamist militias, well-funded from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and with bases also in Algeria and Mauretania, ousted the secular MNLA and seized Timbuktu in their turn. By late June the Islamists dominated the north-west.”

In which case you would expect on the basis of their previous positions that the AWL would welcome that development! After all, the funding from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, is the same funding for Islamists that was provided, with the AWL's blessing, for them in Libya, and which is being provided to them in Syria. The intervention by Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, is intervention by the same feudal forces that the AWL previously explained to us, in relation to Libya, were the forces which we now had to understand were the vehicles by which bourgeois democracy was to be introduced!!!

Ever since the jihadists took control of Libya, after the fall of Gaddafi, the AWL have done all in their power to keep quiet about the consequences of their former allies assuming power. They have said next to nothing about the series of atrocities committed by the Jihadists in Libya, and their attacks against workers there. They have tried to present a picture in which the bourgeois forces of the TNC are in control, and the jihadists are being opposed by large numbers of the population e.g. here. This is rather like the reports that George Bernard Shaw sent back from Stalin's Russia, where he could see no signs of repression, or show trials.  Even by the AWL's standards it is a pretty weak, confused mish-mash of self-contradictory positions, based on bourgeois liberlaism, and constitutionalism.  Consistent with the AWL's method based on formal logic rather than dialectics it takes as real what is merely superficial i.e. the existence of an elected government, whilst then having to accept again and again that this elected government has no real control over the country!

Today, the UK Foreign Office has advised UK citizens to leave Benghazi because of a threat to them – BBC. It also comes, as its confirmed that some of the forces involved in the seizure of the Algerian Gas Plant, were the same forces that took part in the attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi.  The reality of Libya is that control of the streets remains in the hands of the militias, mainly the Islamist militias.  Its on that basis that the kinds of actions we have seen in Mali and Algeria are spreading out.  Even the Imperialists recognise that, if the AWL do not want to see it.

Of course, it is not fair to draw a straight line between Gaddafi's downfall and the coming to power of the Islamists in Mali. Nor, even if that were possible would it be justified to have opposed bringing down Gaddafi, if the forces ranged against him were genuinely revolutionary forces, even genuine revolutionary, bourgeois-democratic forces, of the kind Lenin describes, as deserving support, in the Theses on the National and Colonial Questions. But, the rebels in Libya were not even that. In many ways, like the forces now in Syria, they were merely agents of the Feudal Gulf Monarchies, and of Imperialism, engaged in a regional war of Sunnis against Shia, which itself is really a cover for a war of those same forces against Iran and its allies, and behind them Russia and China. If ever there were a situation in which a “Third Camp” position, of a plague on all your houses, was justified, it was here! But, the AWL failed even the test of its own political method. That's not surprising, because it has failed it in almost every other case too, where it was a matter of opposing Imperialism and its backers.

The situation is that the Tuareg's were utilised by Gaddafi as mercenaries. In return, Gaddafi supported the Tuareg's in their grievances against the Malian Government. The Tuareg's were also a useful support for Gaddafi in opposing the jihadists, who had for some time been trying to get a foothold in Libya, along with their attempts to win power in Algeria. Gaddafi ruled as a Bonapartist, keeping a lid on a whole series of explosive social cleavages, which as always happens when such a lid is removed, were necessarily going to explode in all directions.

After he fell, the Tuareg's took the ample supply of weapons they had been provided by Gaddafi, and turned their attention to resolving their own grievances. For a long time, the Tuareg's had opposed the jihadists, but in recent years, the jihadists have been building links with the Tuaregs, marrying themselves into important Tuareg families. When the previous corrupt Malian Government fell in yet another coup, that gave the opportunity for the Tuaregs to seize the day, but then they too were replaced by the jihadists. The jihadists have themselves a large supply of money and the latest weapons provided by the Feudal Gulf regimes, who have used them as mercenaries to overthrow regimes that might be potential support for Iran. That is why the sectarian war is being stoked again in Iraq.

But, the jihadists, as Bin Laden showed, are not simply puppets of these bigger players. They have an agenda of their own. Their operations in Mali are part of that, and sooner or later their operations against Israel will likewise be part of it. That is why Imperialism seeks to limit such rogue operations that conflict with its interests.

That some of the peoples of the region rally behind such forces is not surprising, for the reasons Trotsky condemned in the Balkans. There the Liberals, playing the same role that the AWL and other Liberal Interventionists play today, encouraged the belief that, if they rose up, even with wholly inadequate forces, and proclaimed “atrocity” Russia would come to their assistance, just as today they are encouraged to believe that Imperialism will come to their assistance. It can only lead to disaster, and given the nature of these forces it certainly can never lead to anything progressive.

Our role, as Marxists continues to be, not that of moralistic ambulance chasers, seeking to support these anti-working class forces, but to continue to argue the need for building support for the working class in opposition to them, and more importantly, to focus on where the real struggle for socialism resides – the struggle of the advanced sections of the global working class against Imperialism.


Boffy said...

Jim Denham at Shiraz Socialist appeared not to have been kept informed of the AWL position. Keen to oppose the StWC, he was only too keen to see the Malian Islamists get a kicking.

When Geoff Collier pointed out that this was rather at odds with the position adopted by his organisation, the best Jim could come up with was,

"Geoff: as far as I can make out the AWL article (unlike the STWC) doesn’t take amn position at all on the French intervention, but is merely an analysis."

Such are the contortions that the bureaucratic centrist is continually forced to perform!

Boffy said...

When I saw the AWL's article yesterday, Geoff Collier also had a comment posted to it to the effect that the position adopted in their article was at odds with Jim Denham's article.

Today, his comment seems to have disappeared. It would be interesting to know exactly, which of the AWL's specified conditions for deleting comments he had breached.

After all they claim,

"We welcome debate and encourage free discussion... We operate no political censorship".

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth, and it seems that their deletion of Collier's comment is just another example of AWL Bureaucratic Centrism.