Gilbert Achcar on Libya: a Pab who won’t scab

March 28, 2011 at 11:10 pm (africa, Jim D, Marxism, Middle East, trotskyism, truth)

Can anyone claiming to belong to the left just ignore a popular movement’s plea for protection, even by means of imperialist bandit-cops, when the type of protection requested is not one through which control over their country could be exerted? Certainly not, by my understanding of the left. No real progressive could just ignore the uprising’s request for protection — unless, as is too frequent among the Western left, they just ignore the circumstances and the imminent threat of mass slaughter, paying attention to the whole situation only once their own government got involved, thus setting off their (normally healthy, I should add) reflex of opposing the involvement. In every situation when anti-imperialists opposed Western-led military interventions using massacre prevention as their rationale, they pointed to alternatives showing that the Western governments’ choice of resorting to force only stemmed from imperialist designs.”


Gilbert Achcar, a member of the mainstream (“Pabloite“) Fourth International, refuses to scab on the Libyan revolutionaries… other “revolutionaries” aren’t happy

Here’s what Gilbert says:

“Cannot oppose if only way to prevent massacre

 “Given the urgency of preventing the massacre… and the absence of any alternative means of achieving the protection goal, no one can reasonably oppose [the UN Security Council resolution]…

“The Western response, of course, smacks of oil. The West fears a long drawn out conflict. If there is a major massacre, they would have to impose an embargo on Libyan oil, thus keeping oil prices at a high level at a time when, given the current state of the global economy, this would have major adverse consequences… Only France emerged as very much in favour of strong action, which might well be connected to the fact that France — unlike Germany (which abstained in the UNSC vote), Britain, and, above all, Italy — does not have a major stake in Libyan oil, and certainly hopes to get a greater share post-Qaddafi.

“We all know about the Western powers’ pretexts and double standards…

“The fact remains, nevertheless, that if Qaddafi were permitted to continue his military offensive and take Benghazi, there would be a major massacre. …The attack by Qaddafi’s forces was hours or at most days away. You can’t in the name of anti-imperialist principles oppose an action that will prevent the massacre of civilians. In the same way, even though we know well the nature and double standards of cops in the bourgeois state, you can’t in the name of anti-capitalist principles blame anybody for calling them when someone is on the point of being raped and there is no alternative way of stopping the rapists.

“This said, without coming out against the no-fly zone, we must express defiance and advocate full vigilance in monitoring the actions of those states carrying it out, to make sure that they don’t go beyond protecting civilians as mandated by the UNSC resolution. In watching on TV the crowds in Benghazi cheering the passage of the resolution, I saw a big billboard in their middle that said in Arabic “No to foreign intervention.” People there make a distinction between “foreign intervention”, by which they mean troops on the ground, and a protective no-fly zone. They oppose foreign troops. They are aware of the dangers and wisely don’t trust Western powers.

“The Egyptians are reported to be providing weapons to the Libyan opposition — and that’s fine — but on its own it couldn’t have made a difference that would have saved Benghazi in time. But again, one must maintain a very critical attitude toward what the Western powers might do.”

– Gilbert Achcar, writing in International Viewpoint

Barry Finger comments on Achcar and “anti-imperialism”, here


  1. jim denham said,

    Subject: TONIGHT: Libya, ‘humanitarian intervention’ and imperialism
    Libya: Marxists, ‘humanitarian intervention’ and imperialism

    A discussion and workshop hosted by London Workers’ Liberty

    7.30pm, Wednesday 30 March
    The Lucas Arms, 245a Grays Inn Road, Kings Cross, London

    The Western military intervention in Libya poses complex questions for socialists. Should we really oppose limited military action to aid the rebellion against Qaddafi (if that’s what this is)? Or is such opposition the only way to remain principled opponents of US, UK etc militarism and imperialism? If the US, UK, NATO have not changed their spots – and of course they haven’t – is “No intervention” the only thing we can say?

    Beyond that, is ‘humanitarian intervention’ just old-style colonial imperialism under a new guise? What do ‘imperialism’ and ‘anti-imperialism’ mean in today’s world?

    A discussion led by Workers’ Liberty’s Clive Bradley. All welcome.

  2. Barry Finger said,

    Exerpt from Paul Street on znet
    Of course the Western intervention isn’t actually primarily about saving those lives.  As the left socialist Achcar notes, it’s about oil.  More specifically, it’s about preventing a massacre that would have compelled the West to have imposed an embargo on Libyan oil in a time when oil prices are already quite high (primarily for structural reasons), feeding an ongoing epic capitalist recession that is fueling significant austerity and massive popular anti-austerity rebellion in the West itself as well as around the world. The last thing Obama wants as he approaches the 2012 election is a re-deepened economic crisis.  At the same time, the White House is certainly aware that, as Chomsky told me, “a massacre in Benghazi would have been blamed on Washington, something they didn’t want to face.”  Think like Obama from a realpolitik perspective on the potential deadly political consequences of letting Gadaffi move forward with a massacre: significant global and Western public outrage over standing to the side a worsened economic situation exacerbated by an inevitable embargo = a no-brainer self-interested equation for “humanitarian intervention.”
    Some U.S. Web “radicals” (their self-designation often reflects confusion between [a] stridency and cynicism of rhetoric and [b] depth of analysis/ knowledge) are uncomfortable with the notion that any U.S. and Western military intervention in what we used to call the Third World might happen to have a positive humanitarian impact in one instance.  They are afraid that their core identity as bad-ass, hard-core enemies of Empire (and of Obama)will be compromised. Let me (an early radical-Left critic of Obama and the author of a book titled The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power) assure these comrades that acknowledging this is in no way to go soft on Washington or the current administration and its commitment to the petro-imperial project. The analysis presented in this essay is as cynical, radical, and power-centered as any hard core leftist could want.

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