[lbo-talk] Arab Spring: The Libyan Remix

Wojtek S wsoko52 at gmail.com
Fri Aug 26 04:53:56 PDT 2011

Dennis: "Carrol, you go on and on about how the revolution means that ordinary people in the US must get together, figure out how to radically change their society -- and do so. That's exactly what the people of Libya are doing. So they had help along the way -- it's called transnational solidarity, and we need more of it."

[WS:] Good point. I would emphasize the importance of the outside help in winning against domestic regime even more - most successful revolutions received such help.

As to some people pooh-poohing any movement that receives such help - I credit it to two tendencies, or perhaps one coin with two faces: knee-jerk anti-westernism and romantic populism. These two work as follows: social movements are good only inasmuch as they genuinely spontaneous, i.e. coming entirely from the low social status people. If they are tainted by outside help or support, they become suspect. By definition, anything of western origin, especially in the so-called Global South is bad - so anything that ostensibly stands against Western influence is good, and anything that receives any form of assistance or endorsement from the West is automatically suspect. Hence petty tyrants like Castro or Qaddafi are seen as generally good by the sole virtue of "standing up" against the evil West, and their autocratic rule is dismissed as temporary aberration "caused" by Western aggression. By extension, any popular movement against such petty tyrants is automatically suspect of "playing into Western hands." And if such a movements actually receives Western endorsement or help, that becomes the "evidence" that the movement is nothing more but a Western puppet created for the sole purpose of subduing Global South leaders who had the chutzpah to defy they Western masters.

This trope is predictable like bowel movement. As soon as a Western power endorses a movement elsewhere, you can safely bet that the chorus of self styled Global South champions on the US campuses and environs will condemn that movement as the pro-Western fifth column against Global South independence.

I personally remain skeptical about the outcomes of the Libyan revolt for several reasons, chief of them being that revolutions are ventures with very uncertain outcomes - those who start them and do the heavy lifting carrying them through are not necessarily the ones who prevail when the dust settles. Furthermore, I feel much better about a movement if it carries a hammer-and-a-sickle banner rather than national flags, not to mention religious symbols.


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