Thousands of people rallied to a march from Belgrave Square to the Libyan Embassy last Saturday, which then went on past Buckingham Palace to Downing Street and Trafalgar Square, to protest the re-emergence of chattel slavery in Libya. The march, organised by African Lives Matter, coincided with demonstrations in Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, and Glasgow.

Throughout the protest it was clear many had an understanding of just why this kind of slavery has come back, pointing the finger squarely at the imperialist institutions of the EU, NATO, UN. Britain is a major participant and beneficiary of their predatory wars of conquest, whether waged by sanction or by gun.

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This has been happening for years, largely ignored by western media and the governments that have supposedly ‘liberated’ Libya. Indeed, the statement from the UN that “the Security Council expresses grave concern about reports of migrants being sold into slavery in Libya,” rings hollow, given that it is occurring solely in regions controlled by the UN-backed ‘Government of National Accord’ (GNA).

Since the destruction of the Libyan state by the imperialist partnership between Britain, France, Italy, the US, and Canada, open-market slave trading has flourished in the areas controlled by the GNA, primarily in the cities of Zuwara, Castelverde, Sabratah, Garyan, Alrujban, Alzintan, Kabaw, Gadamis, and Sabha. The migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa who are sold at these auctions are then taken to work, or often transferred to what are essentially private prisons (often large, open-air cages) where their captors will attempt to ransom them back to their families for huge sums of money. They are poorly fed, kept in appalling conditions, and killed or left to starve if no money can be made from them.

The ‘left’ organisations in Britain such as the Socialist Workers Party that, while calling for no military intervention from the west, repeated bourgeois propaganda against Gaddafi and supported the same ephemeral and elusive ‘pro-democracy’ rebels as in Syria, should be ashamed to show their faces at such demonstrations. Neither in Libya nor Syria were there any progressive forces leading the opposition. In reality, the opposition forces were largely made up of Islamic extremist groups furnished with western support. It is, in part, their duplicity and misleading of the working class that cripples any effective anti-war movement.

The fact is that, so long as those leading the anti-war movement refuse to give solidarity to the forces that are resisting imperialist aggression on the ground, they will be keeping British workers divided from their real allies in the fight against monopoly capitalism and its wars, hindering them in the indivisible struggle for socialism and peace.

As Karl Marx wrote, no nation that enslaves another can itself be free. The failure to give consistent and wholehearted support to those defending Libya’s sovereignty with arms in hand can only weaken and divide the anti-war movement.

Why endure the unpopularity of standing by the Gaddafi revolution when you can have your cake and eat it, standing shoulder to shoulder with the BBC cheering on the rebels, whilst simultaneously posturing as ‘anti-imperialists’?

With the same glad heart, the same gentry lined up with Thatcher to cheer on Solidarnosc (or ‘progressive elements’ supposedly lurking within that anti-communist lynch mob) against the Polish workers’ state, helping prepare the ground for the subsequent liquidation of socialism.

‘Neither Washington nor Moscow’ was their mantra then, ‘Neither Gaddafi nor Nato’ is their mantra now. Will we wake next week or next month to ‘Neither Damascus nor Nato’, ‘Neither Tehran nor Nato’, ‘Neither Caracas nor Nato’ or ‘Neither Pyongyang nor Nato’? What about ‘Neither Beijing nor Nato’?

The true face of ‘humanitarian intervention’ in Libya (Proletarian, June 2011)

Further reading:

Chaos and reaction in post-Gaddafi Libya (Lalkar, July 2012)
Ethinic cleansing in Nato’s ‘new’ Libya (Proletarian, December 2011)
Support the Libyan resistance (Proletarian, October 2011)
Support the Libyan resistance against imperialism (Lalkar, September 2011)
Nato’s war crimes in Libya (Proletarian, August 2011)
Libya: The latest victim of imperialist predatory war (Lalkar, May 2011)
Hands off Libya! (Proletarian, April 2011)
Why do Marxist-Leninists support some non-socialist governments? (Red Youth, 22 July 2017)
Anti-war and anti-imperialism: where Stop the War fails (Red Youth, 15 December 2015)