the woolf that didn’t bark: the LSE-libya inquiry

Jack Staunton, a student at the London School of Economics (LSE) looks at Lord Woolf’s inquiry into the School’s ties to the Libyan state, and the nature of ‘corporate social responsibility’. 

In May this year the LSE’s Dr Satoshi Kanazawa posted a blog entry on the Psychology Today website, entitled “Why are black women less physically attractive than other women?”. Kanazawa offered an answer to this age-old question with a series of ‘scientific’ graphs and statistics. Such was the uproar that he was forced into an apology, taking a mere four months to put together a public statement.

Saif-al-Islam Gaddafi PhD, the first student ever to deliver LSE's Ralph Miliband lecture

But what did our hapless researcher retract: his racism? Objectification of women? No: he apologised for ‘causing controversy’ and ‘damage to the reputation of the School’ because he did not use ‘due consideration’ in his ‘use of language’. He was ‘not at all motivated by a desire to seek or cause controversy’, instead entirely motivated by ‘scientific curiosity’. For English readers, he meant: sorry you got upset, but I am so focused on my quest for scientific knowledge, I didn’t consider how my choice of words might hurt your sensitive feelings and the School’s ‘brand’.

Kanazawa’s promise to choose his words more carefully in future was enough for him to keep his job. What mattered to LSE was not the racist content of his outlook, but that his failure to use politically-correct language was bad for its reputation. And LSE takes its reputation very seriously. This, of course, is the same institution which, after championing the Libyan regime for eight years, abandoned it to the memory-hole in 2011 once Gaddafi’s own ‘brand’ became toxic. Media revelations as to the extent of LSE’s relations with the regime were such an embarrassment that the School felt moved to launch an investigation, the Woolf Inquiry. Continue reading “the woolf that didn’t bark: the LSE-libya inquiry”

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Defeat in Victory for Libyan Rebels?

Barry Biddulph rejects the notion that Western intervention in Libya has shown the possibility of any new, ethical, or progressive content to imperialism.

The victory of the rebels in Tripoli was seen to be dependent on NATO bombing, western weaponry, special forces, and planning by strategists in Paris, London and Washington. From the start of imperialist intervention in Benghazi, NATO has been bending the rebellion towards imperialist aims to secure a transition to a new regime compatible with western interests. This loss of independence and undermining of the rebellion from below was the reason why communists opposed the intervention and the no-fly zone.

Gilbert Achcar, moralising from the University of London, has argued it was not decent to oppose NATO Intervention and the no fly zone. He condemned the anti-imperialist left for not caring for real people on the ground (‘Popular Rebellion and Imperialist Designs’). The Alliance for Workers Liberty has echoed this denunciation, describing those who opposed imperialist intervention in Libya as morally degenerate. But anti imperialists cannot oppose revolutionaries in the Arab Spring and revolutionaries in general for supporting revolts by unarmed people’s against professional armies in Libya, Syria and elsewhere. Revolutions are violent and even attempts at peaceful revolution, as in Chile in 1970-3 can result in mass killings and defeat. Marx opposed any insurrection in Paris in 1871, but when the commune was crushed , he did not claim the leaders of the Paris Commune were morally responsible for 25,000 deaths. Fighting counter-revolution was an inspiration for the socialist future. Continue reading “Defeat in Victory for Libyan Rebels?”

any hope for libya?

Joe Thorne writes on NATO’s role in post-Gaddafi Libya, and whether its ‘humanitarian intervention’ is really cause to re-think anti-imperialism 

Less than a month before the fall of Tripoli, the BBC suggested that rather than a rebel victory, “what may emerge is a complicated deal struck between rebels and erstwhile Gaddafi loyalists to get the Libyan leader out of the picture and open up the way for a national transitional government.”

no tears for Gaddafi, no cheers for NATO

Indeed, I argued in the last issue of The Commune that this was precisely NATO’s strategy.  They saw such a compromise as the best means to ensure the political stability they want.  It would allow the NATO powers, as the brokers of any compromise, to play king-maker, and perhaps facilitate acceptance of foreign troops on Libyan soil, as ‘peace-keepers. But this was far from certain: the rebels were neither  NATO pawns nor idiots, and many would oppose such impositions.

In the event, Gaddafi’s army collapsed quicker than most had predicted.  The stalemate which had prevailed since late March was broken on 29th July, when rebel fighters in the West took five small villages in the plain below the Nafusa mountains.  This opened the way for the push to the coast and the taking of Zawiyah on 19th August, and the severing of the coastal artery supplying Tripoli with petrol and food.  Thus followed a collapse of morale in the loyalist army.

The end, then, was not so much the “grubbier” compromise that the Western powers were hoping for, but a far more straightforward rebel victory.  In consequence, the Libyan rebels are in a much stronger position to define the form of a new Libya than they otherwise would have been, and than NATO hoped they would be.  In consequence it seems, for example, that a Western base is off the agenda and there are signs that some rebel elements are resisting the imposition of ex-Gaddafi loyalists. Continue reading “any hope for libya?”

some notes on libya and imperialist intervention today

Joe Thorne spent a week in Western Libya during June.

The following is a series of disconnected notes responding to the questions which I am most often asked about my visit, which was an observer of, but not at all a participant in, events.  As a communist returning from a civil war – one which is, in some sense, a revolution, but ultimately no more than a bourgeois one – the most frequent question I’ve been asked is: is there any visible class or political division within the rebel camp?  The blunt answer to this, at least in the West, is: no.

A rebel flag is held aloft at a funeral in Nalut, Western Libya

The economic base

Within Western Libya, the every-day economy is not currently organised in a capitalist way (although by no means a communist one either).   Around 80% of the population have fled to refugee camps in Tunisia, and there are hardly any commercial businesses operating – perhaps a small shop selling cigarettes here and there.  All food is provided by international aid organisations or imported centrally by the rebels, and distributed for free.  Basics, such as petrol, are allocated centrally by the military council.  Hardly anyone works for money now: all those who have stayed are staying to fight, tend to the injured, do media or humanitarian work, or simply – as in the case of many older people – to stay in solidarity with those who are doing those things. Continue reading “some notes on libya and imperialist intervention today”

gaddafi in space

Jack Staunton reviews Suicide of the Astronaut by Muammar al-Gaddafi

Colonel Gaddafi is, without a doubt, one of the greatest science fiction icons of all time. Who could forget the 1985 Infocom game A Mind Forever Voyaging, where the Libyan dictator dies in a nuclear test predicted for 2011? Add to this the opening scenes of Back to the Future, released that same year, when Libyan gunmen shoot Doc Brown, angry that he has stolen Gaddafi’s plutonium to fuel his time-travelling DeLorean.

No less of a contribution to the genre is Gaddafi’s own sci-fi volume, celebrated 1998 collection Escape to Hell. The lion of Tripoli set pen to paper to lay bare the moral emptiness of our fast-paced, instant-thrills modern society. Continue reading “gaddafi in space”

imperialist intervention in libya: continuing the debate

This article by Mark was originally posted as a comment in our previous post.

'Topple the Tyrants' occupation at Saif al-Islam Gaddafi's house

I just want to say something about one of the reasons that has been used to advocate for either neutrality or support for western intervention and the no-fly zone. This justification is that by helping the rebels this will help the working class even if they are as yet unorganised, by creating a democratic space in Libya which can be used to further working class politics. However, after doing a little research, I’m sceptical that the rebels in the east of the country will allow much autonomy for working class politics.

Continue reading “imperialist intervention in libya: continuing the debate”

A Debate on Imperialist Intervention in Libya.

Opposition to the military intervention in Libya has been muted in the UK, and positions on the left have been exposed by the tension between support for democratic struggle in the Middle East and a deep distrust of Western motives. This is an edited version of an online discussion between Commune members between 20-25 March, which aimed not at expressing a final position but exploring some of the contradictions.


Continue reading “A Debate on Imperialist Intervention in Libya.”