Friday, 1 April 2011


[John Rees, national officer for the Stop the War Coalition in Britain]

Lizzie Cocker [facebook status]:
since when did empire arm real revolutionaries?

John Rees [Britain's Stop the War leader]: When the German Kaiser armed the IRA? When the German general staff sent Lenin and his comrades back to Russia in the sealed train? That is, Empire' assist revolutions when they think that doing so will further their aims. In this case when they hope they can trade arms for control of the revolution.

Lizzie Cocker: Do you believe the Libyan rebels are revolutionary John?

John Rees: I believe that it began as a popular revolution (in the same pattern as (Tunisia and Egypt) but the fact that it became a civil war (as some revolutions do) means that the West has siezed the chance to try and control it by means of military intervention, bribery etc...and that this is part of a wider attempt (Bahrain) to get control of the revolutionary process.

Lizzie Cocker: How do you define intervention. Would you have supported cutting of assets to Gadaffi? And would you as some members of Stop the War, including on television, have supported calls to "topple the tyrant" [Gadaffi] i.e. intervention?

John Rees: If the popular revolution topples Gaddafi, yes. Once the west intervenes I hope they lose. Same as I thought with Saddam.

Sukant Chandan: ^ And look what happened to Iraq.

Lizzie Cocker: Thank you for answering that one directly, re the west freezing assets? Personally, I have grave problems with calling to "topple the tyrant" while Hague et al the Daily Mail etc are calling for precisely that and what evidence do you have for your belief that this was a "popular" rebellion? I object to the word revolution, there is no such thing going on.

Sukant Chandan: I think its such a failure of western liberals (they call themselves leftists, I hear) to expose esp the brits and french hands in this thing, since the start, and since before the start. imperialism doesnt go to war in a few weeks or months, this has been in the planning for a long time.

Shame this has to be raised amongst brothers like John who should be right on top of all this.

John Rees: Well Lizzie you and I have different estimates of the revolution...but that shouldn't stop us working together against western intervention...unless of course you take the view that everyone who doesn't share you're view of Gaddafi is really a sell-out 'failure' who doesn't really oppose imperialism...

Sukant Chandan: no self-criticism what so ever, John?

Lizzie Cocker: John, your tone has changed? There is no need to make assumptions about my views, it stifles discussion. Can you answer my question about what evidence you have that the revolution is popular, I would like to see it, because I really have seen none. And also, what is your position on sanctions and freezing Gadaffi's government's assets?

Frank Natter: @John: The resigning ambassadors, the defecting airforce, Hague and Cameron's assertive and insinuations, the funding of the opposition to the tune of billions... - all hint at something more sinister. I have problems with your analysis John. Do you not see the hand of the British from the very start? As far as I am concerned, its naked before us.

Though I find the beginning v. cloudy, I am completely open to the possibility that there was a popular uprising of sorts. However, the media portrayal is highly problematic. The most frequent shot I have seen is "rebels" shooting AKs skywards. Substantive evidence has been conspicuous in its absence.

My concern is, the anti-war movement are just going to refer back to "illegal war" discourse?

If your analysis is right John, kudos. I will happily admit I am wrong. But, please don't just play victim to the government. You chose to ignore (or at least not vocalise) certain characteristics of this uprising - and for that responsibility must be taken. So much of this has just been a copy and paste job, propagandistically, from Iraq...

John Rees: No change of tone. The assets belong to the Libyan people. Now Lizzie its not an assumption of mine that you think STWC is a failure is it? Its what you wrote.

Lizzie Cocker: It is not about sharing my view of Gadaffi, I never really discuss my view of Gadaffi. This is about whether we should be party to the character assassination of Gadaffi that is being used as the no1 justification for the current bombs that are being dropped. On this note I do believe StW has failed because it has strongly given a platform to that character assassination. Such tactics is the oldest trick in the book since the Americas were invaded and Spanish royalty said you can only harm the Indians if they are cannibals, so the Spanish people were led to believe they were practically all cannibals.

Do you believe the west should freeze the assets of Gadaffi's government?

Lizzie Cocker: And do you have any evidence that the rebellion is popular inside Libya? Yes/No.

John Rees: And you also believe that STW failed over the Iraq war...I think that gives you the chance to build a stronger anti war movement based sticking up for Gaddafi's good character (which only yesterday the imperialists were only too happy to do)

Lizzie Cocker: John I would really appreciate if you could answer my questions rather than telling me about my own views of StW. I am happy to talk about them in depth, but I would appreciate if that discussion was not used to avoid answering my questions.

John Rees: I've answered rather more of your questions than you have mine. So why don't you just acknowledge that I can be as opposed to western intervention as you are and still support the Libyan revolution (precisely because I believe that the west will subvert the revolution and make it its creature). You know 'my enemies enemy is my friend' has got the left into some bad places over the years (as with those who thought they had to support Saddam in order to oppose the west).

Lizzie Cocker: I have asked the same question 4 times and it has not been answered. Can you admit that you have no evidence that this rebellion is "popular"? John, it's frustrating that you have put words in my mouth, I didn't say Gadaffi was my friend. I said empire is Libya's enemy and empire is using the character assassination of Gadaffi as the no1 tool to bomb Libya and try and oust Gadaffi and his government. I don't want to say anything about Gadaffi, and I don't think we should be saying anything about Gadaffi, if Libyan's voices weren't being censored, maybe they would be able to speak about Gadaffi. I want to talk about my government, which is lying about Gadaffi as an excuse to bomb his people and try and oust him. So where I can I will expose that they are lies.

If you are prepared to stand with me, why did StW today refuse to stand with Libyans demanding an end to foregin intervention because they support Gadaffi?

Lizzie Cocker: *ps I am Gadaffi's friend now, if he will have me :) He is the only force in Libya giving empire hell. We certainly aren't here.

Lizzie Cocker: The largest tribe in Libya, the Warfalla tribe, remains supportive of and fighting with Gadaffi.

Ten years since Iraq "and we haven't learned a damn thing" from a man who knows more than anything about empire than any of us - Mumia Abu Jamal!/video/video.php?v=10150134170099496&oid=41320112664&comments

James Wright: @ John " When the German Kaiser armed the IRA? When the German general staff sent Lenin and his comrades back to Russia in the sealed train?"

So now you are comparing the Libyan contra's to the IRA and to the Bolsheviks? Clearly that is a nonsense, but it is a fallacy I have heard put about by pro-interventionists and their third-camp enablers so maybe it is worth just taking a moment to put this argument into some context?

First of all, you are talking about an inter-imperialist war that was then been fought out on a near global scale, when the side that was facing defeat, the Germans, decided they had little to lose by giving a train ride to Lenin and giving a few rifles to the IRA in order to stir up a bit of trouble in their enemies back yards.

Okay, so where does that analogy go regarding Libya now? Is Libya in imperialist power bloc? Clearly not, it is a proudly independent, oil rich 3rd world nation that has been subject to genocidal colonial occupations over the years from the Italian fascists to the British Empire. It has been the stepping stone for European colonisation of Africa and the middle east.

Today, and since liberation 40 odd years ago, Libya has thrown off its colonialist shackles and developed a modern, prosperous society. It has become a major player in promoting African and Arab unity, investing billions in development programmes throughout the continent and creating the hihgest standard of living for its own people anywhere in Africa.

Libya has been a major backer of anti-imperialist struggles world--wide, particularly against our own English ruling-class with its arming of the IRA (and on a scale that the Kaiser never came close to).

Whatever Gaddafi's political flaws and errors in some respects, it is clear that since their revolution, Libya has been a major loss and a painful thorn in the side for imperialism.

So the comparison with Libya today, with the German and Austro-Hungarian Empire in the last year or so of the first world war is patently rubbish.

Now onto the Libyan contra's, the groups that you and many others on the Left are claiming are leading a 'revolution' and your comparison of them with the IRA and the bolsheviks.

Starting with the IRA. The IRA represented the armed struggle of the people of a nation under colonialist occupation.

Is Libya a nation under colonialist occupation? No. Not yet.

Are the contra's fighting against imperialist plans to colonise their nation? No, quite the contrary, they are the armed wing of a comprador section of Libyan society that wishes to sell their nations assets, ie oil, to the west and, as has been shown pretty conclusively, have been working under the umbrella of western intelligence services, esp MI6, for many years and are now being supported military by SAS "counter-revolutionary warfare" units and NATO bombers and cruise missiles.

The comparison with the IRA's struggle against British occupation could not be more inappropriate. Indeed a more apt analogy would be when Loyalist paramilitaries, also with MI6 and SAS assistance, planted bombs in the Irish Republic. However a far more historically accurate comparison would be with the Nicaraguan Contra's and the Bay of Pigs mercenaries in Cuba. Or the Iraqi National Congress if you want somewhere a bit closer to the region.

However I recall the SWP, of which you were a leading member of at the time, tended towards greater criticism of the Sandinasta's in Nicaragua than you ever did of the US created contra's. And you have always supported any right-wing rabble that has caused trouble in Cuba. I remember the SWP getting very excited when there were a few riots in Cuba in the aftermath of the collapse of the european socialist community. Which you also believed was a genuine revolution. Seriously, when will you learn the difference between counter-revolution and revolution? Or do you not really care as long as you can sell a few more papers off the back of it? But I digress...

Okay, well as for comparing the Libyan contra's to the Bolsheviks? Do I need to say more?

Whatever the validity of any grievances that may have been exploited to trigger this, they are now totally eclipsed by the glaringly blatant aims of the leadership of this rabble - and it now clearly is a rabble with little discipline and no stomach for a real fight -which would rather imply they have little to no self belief or idealism beyond driving around wearing shades and firing guns around randomly. Their only military progress comes in the wake of scores of bombs and cruise missiles clearing the path ahead. When they meet resistance they flee and bemoan that imperialism hasn't dropped enough bombs for them.

The racism of the Libyan contra's is well documented, carrying out pogroms against Libya's black community and their attititude to women can be seen by the glaring lack on any in their ranks!

Far from installing socially progressive policies of community self organisation and workers management, as you might expect from "revolutionaries", they have instead imported US academics to staff their "national oil company" and "national bank" for setting up deals with western oil companies as they privatise Libya's oil!

In what possible way does any of this compare with the bolsheviks and the Russian Revolution? Again, the comparison is absurd. And again, the real analogy is with what happend in those countries where socialism was overthrown in the 80s and in Iraq rather more recently, where the nationalised oil was privatised, state companies sold to western profiteers and local gangster for a pittance and the people thrown into poverty.

Is this really your idea of what revolution looks like John? Because to me, it just looks like imperialism doing what it does best. Fucking up the third world.

Musab Younis [From the eurocentric liberal-radical Ceasefire magazine]: ^ He wasn't comparing Libya's 'contras' to the IRA. The question was: "since when did empire arm real revolutionaries?" He simply gave an example of when an empire armed real revolutionaries.

James Wright: John was making a direct and deliberate analogy using the example of the IRA and the bolsheviks to purposely create the impression that the Libyan contras represent the same social forces.

His choosing them as examples is not coincidental to the analogy but central to the impression it intends to create.

Musab Younis: That was clearly your interpretation, but I see no reason to read his original statement as implying it.

James Wright: What other possible interpretation is there? Do you believe that the Libyan contras represent the same (or at least analogous) socially progressive forces as the IRA or the bolsheviks? Because John clearly does. If he didn't he would not refer to them as revolutionaries as he repeatedly does above.

His inference is clear. And he is wrong in every aspect of it from the historical context to the political equivalence.

James Wright: @ John who says, "Empire' assist revolutions when they think that doing so will further their aims. In this case when they hope they can trade arms for control of the revolution.", "I believe that it began as a popular revolution (in the same pattern as (Tunisia and Egypt) but the fact that it became a civil war (as some revolutions do) means that the West has siezed the chance to try and control it by means of military intervention, bribery etc...and that this is part of a wider attempt (Bahrain) to get control of the revolutionary process."

Of course it is very telling that John used the historically benign example (for europeans, if not Africans and asians) of the German Kaiser rather than, say, Hitlers support for the IRA and various Arab nationalist-revolutionary movements.

Or Japans support for the Indian independence movement.
Or Britain's support for the Malay communists against Japan
Or Britain's support for Tito's communists against Hitler's occupation.
Or even US support for Nasser against UK/France.
Or rather more substantially, the west's support for the Soviets against the Nazis.

But none of these fit in with the left's current narrative around Libya, that it is some sort of revolutionary movement akin to the Irish national liberation struggle (which the Brit Left never supported anyway!) or even the Russian Revolution (which they only supported until it stopped being a romantic fantasy for the liberal middle-classes).

But what they do all have in common is one fundamental feature - they all occurred within the context of sharp inter-imperialist rivalry and most within the context of world war.

This is most certainly not the same as what is happening in Libya.

There is one imperialist bloc (albeit with its own internal contradictions which we are seeing being played out in the jostling between UK/France and the US for primacy in the intervention) and this bloc has a unity of purpose - control of Libya and its resources (oil), and control over the mediteranean entry point to both Africa and the middle-east.

As for imperialism and revolution, of course imperialism will try to co-opt revolutionary movements if possible if there is no other choice!
But, as the examples above show, imperialism only goes for the risky gamblewhen they are in a desperate situation.

Because it is far easier to bankroll and arm the reactionary already in power to crush the revolution. He is already their man. So that is the logical, sensible choice.

This has been US counter-insurgency doctrine for decades. John beleives Gaddafi was already in imperialism's pocket. So why arent they backing him to crush 'the revolution'?

Why are they taking the much riskier gamble (economically and militarily) of trying to co-opt a revolution-in-progress?
It makes no sense, the scenario just doesnt work.

It does make sense though if they are not revolutionaries trying to overthrow a comprador gangster, but contras trying to overthrow a largely progressive and anti-imperialist state and social structure
and replace it with forces under their control who will build a system to their benefit. Forces that are already in the wests pocket, that are already drawing up their privatisation plans and their oil deals. This too has been US counter-revolutionary doctrine for decades.

Bay of Pigs, Nicaraguan Contra's, UNITA; Samoza, Batista, Savimbi. Imperialism's "sons of bitches". The Benghazi contra's are no different.

Fidel, Chavez they understand this. John Rees and the Brit Left clearly dont.

I know whose judgement and experience I trust.

Lizzie Cocker: "This has been US counter-insurgency doctrine for decades. John beleives Gaddafi was already in imperialism's pocket. So why arent they backing him to crush 'the revolution'?

Why are they taking the much riskier gamble (economically and militarily) of trying to co-opt a revolution-in-progress? It makes no sense, the scenario just doesnt work."

Exactly! It cannot be said that they thought they better back the rebellion, because it was a "popular rebellion" and therefore they better bet on the winning horse against the government. In Bahrain, Saudi Arabia etc they have done just the opposite.

1 comment:

  1. What are your comments on this...