Libya’s relentless decline represents a continuation of the NATO war

New opinion polls, economic statistics and human rights reports from Libya point to one conclusion: western policy to keep Libya weak and divided is a resounding success.

Line graph. The percentage of Libyans who are thriving dropped from 31% in 2012 to 19% in 2018.

A poll released by Gallup this week demonstrates the increasing desperation facing Libyans even before the latest round of fighting began last month. The poll, based on telephone interviews with over a thousand Libyans conducted over July and August last year, reveals that record numbers of Libyans lacked money for food and shelter over the previous year, and a record low are deemed to be ‘thriving’. 43% said they lacked money for food at some point over the previous year – a number which has been consistently rising since the annual poll began in 2015 – whilst 37% said they had lacked money for shelter, almost double the 22% recorded in 2012. Respondents were then asked to give a rating between nought and ten for both their life today, and their expected life in five years, and were classified as ‘thriving’ if they gave an answer of at least seven and eight respectively. Only 19% did so.

 

A majority of 52% said their local economies were getting worse, quadruple the 2012 figure of 13%. Most damningly, perhaps, over a third of Libyans now say they would like to leave their homeland permanently.

 

The Gallup poll, however, is but the latest in a plethora of reports detailing Libya’s unrelenting decline since 2011. The UN’s Human Development Index, published annually, ranks 169 countries according to measures such as life expectancy, access to education, and healthcare. Under Gaddafi’s rule, Libya stood at an impressive 53 on the scale, in the top third of countries worldwide and officially classified as ‘high human development’, with the longest life expectancy and lowest infant mortality rates on the African continent. Since then life expectancy has dropped three years, from 74.5 to 71.6, under pressure of ongoing warfare and the collapse of public services, whilst the country’s overall ranking has dropped 55 places to 108, almost into the bottom third of countries overall.

 

Another indicator of decine comes from the UK Foreign Office’s biannual economic factsheet. The latest, published last month, reveals that Libya has an annual inflation rate of 23.1% – that is, its currency is losing a quarter of its value every year – whilst it ranks 186 out of 189 countries for ‘ease of doing business’, one place ahead of Yemen. Per capita income has fallen every year since 2011, and now stands at $6,692, a little over half its pre-invasion level of $12,250.

 

Amnesty International’s annual report makes even more devastating reading. In 2010, their Libya report did not record any ‘grave’ or ‘serious’ human rights violations, such as torture or extrajudicial killing,  that year. Fast forward to 2018, however, and we read that “torture was widespread in prisons, where thousands were held without charge,” adding that “many detainees had been held since 2011 with no judicial oversight or means to challenge the legality of their detention.” In particular, “migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers were subjected to widespread and systematic serious human rights violations and abuses at the hands of state officials”. The report adds that “Up to 20,000 people were held in detention centres in Libya run by…the Ministry of the Interior of the GNA. They were held in horrific conditions of extreme overcrowding, lacking access to medical care and adequate nutrition, and systematically subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, including sexual violence, severe beatings and extortion.” In addition, “armed groups and criminal gangs ran thousands of illicit holding sites throughout the country as part of a lucrative people-smuggling business”, some of whom, it noted, were selling off their detainees in open slave markets. Meanwhile “armed groups and militias abducted and unlawfully detained hundreds of people because of their opinions, origin, perceived political affiliations or perceived wealth,” including “political activists, lawyers, human rights activists and other civilians”. Whereas the 2010 report noted that “freedom of expression, association and assembly continued to be severely curtailed”, there was no suggestion that journalists’ lives were at risk. By 2018, however, “Journalists, activists and human rights defenders were particularly vulnerable to harassment, attacks and enforced disappearance by armed groups and militias aligned with various authorities of rival governments.” Overall, “an environment of impunity continued to prevail, leaving perpetrators of serious abuses emboldened and without fear of accountability”.

 

This massive deterioration of all aspects of Libyan society since NATO’s 2011 war – whether in terms of social welfare, economic conditions or basic human rights – has necessitated some serious intellectual contortions by its defenders. According to them, Libya’s collapse has nothing to do with NATO’s destruction of its state apparatus, but rather result from either Gaddafi himself (still causing havoc from beyond the grave) or from subsequent ‘mistakes’. Florence Gaub, for example – who, in a clear nod to her colonial intellectual lineage, calls herself ‘Florence of Arabia’ – argues in her book, The Cauldron, that “NATO’s intervention in Libya was soundly conceived and executed”. The reversal of all development indicators since 2011 is, for Gaub and co, attributable to policies before 2011 and after 2011, but never to the fateful events of 2011 themself; indeed, for such analysts, the intervention set the country up for a success which it foolishly squandered.

 

Yet the link between that intervention and Libya’s current problems is hard to deny: after all, it was precisely NATO’s war that destroyed the state’s security and public service infrastructure, and left power fragmented in the hands of the rival militias now slugging it out. Whilst Gaub and others are right that decisions taken since then – such as the ill-fated move in 2012 to pay militia wages without integrating them into a unified command structure, or the law the same year granting effective immunity from prosecution to militiamen – have helped entrench instability and factional rivalries, the reality is that this is not a divergence from, but rather a continuation of, 2011. When it comes to western policy towards the global South, Clausewitz gets inverted: politics truly is war by other means. And the aim of that war – as was clear in 2011 and has since become ever clearer – was nothing less than the permanent prevention of Libya’s re-emergence as a strong, unified, independent state.

The browning of the left part two: Alexander Dugin and the rise of ‘politically correct’ fascism

 

Image result for fascist dugin

Dugin, clever dickhead posing as a threat to US imperialism but ultimately sharing its goals

Alexander Dugin is quite possibly, after Steve Bannon, the most influential fascist in the world today. His TV station reaches over 20 million people, and the dozens of thinktanks, journals and websites run by him and his employees ultimately have an even further reach. You yourself have probably read pieces originally emanating from one of his outlets.

 

His strategy is that of the ‘red-brown alliance’ – an attempt to unite the far left and far right under the hegemonic leadership of the latter. On the face of it, much of his programme can at first appear superficially attractive to leftists – opposition to US supremacy; support for a ‘multipolar’ world; and even an apparent respect for non-western and pre-colonial societies and traditions. In fact, such positions – necessary as they may be for a genuine leftist programme – are neither bad nor good in and of themselves; rather, they are means, tools for the creation of a new world. And the world Dugin wishes to create is one of racially-purified ethno-states, dominated by a Euro-Russian white power aristocracy (the ‘Moscow-Berlin axis’) in which Asia is subordinated to Russia by means of a dismembered China. This is not an anti-imperialist programme. It is a programme for an inter-imperialist challenge for the control of Europe and Asia: for a reconstituted Third Reich.

 

Dugin represents a strain of fascism known as National Bolshevism, which first emerged in the years following the Bolshevik revolution and subsequent civil war. Some of the defeated remnants of the white army began to believe that if Bolshevism could not be overthrown by force, then perhaps its authoritarian currents could be developed and gradually pushed towards right wing ultranationalism. This was a classic infiltration strategy of taking over the left and destroying it from within. Under the leadership of Stalin, some of the National Bolsheviks were allowed to return to the USSR, and were partially rehabilitated in an effort to bring nationalist and patriotic credibility to Stalin’s government; essentially, both sides were using each other to legitimise and expand the appeal of their respective projects.

 

The current remained relatively marginal, however, until the Brezhnev era. Then, in the 1980s, the National Bolshevists joined forces with other ultranationalist trends to form ‘Pamyat’, an anti-Semitic and monarchist association which blamed a Zionist-Masonic plot for the Russian revolution, and indeed for pretty much all of Russia’s problems. Dugin joined its central council. But he apparently found it too ‘modern’, and sought to develop a more mystical and ‘traditionalist’ form of fascism. Following his expulsion from Pamyat in 1989 – after a failed attempt to change its direction – he embarked on a tour of western Europe, where he became influenced by French fascist Alain de Benoist’s Nouvelle Droite and developed close relationships with leading figures such as Jean-Francois Thiriart, Robert Steuckers, and Benoist himself. These figures had been instrumental in a developing a strategy of whitewashing and rehabilitating fascism by appropriating the slogans and concepts of the left and even liberals (see my piece in the last edition of Counterpunch), and were to be hugely influential on Dugin’s own political trajectory. De Benoist had advocated stepping back from the overt promotion of a fascist programme in order to focus instead on cultivating the intellectual terrain in which such a programme would again become acceptable. To this end he created a think-tank, GRECE (the “Research and Study Group of European Civilisation”) to wage a long-term ‘cultural-ideological struggle’ he termed ‘metapolitics’, based on a strategy originally advocated by the Italian communist leader Gramsci. Dugin, following some abortive attempts to enter politics directly (receiving less than 1% of the vote when he stood as a candidate to the Russian State Duma in 1995, for example), soon began to employ a similar strategy. His first journal, Elementy, founded in 1993, praised the Nazis and the Conservative Revolutionaries which preceded them, and published the first Russian translations of esoteric interwar fascist Julius Evola. Since then, he has founded or developed dozens of journals, think tanks, publishing houses and web platforms to spread his ideas, including Katehon, Geopolitika, Arktos, Eurasia journal, Editions Avatar, Voxnr.com, Arctogaia, Fort-Russ, the Centre for Syncretic Studies, the Duran, New University, Vtorzhenie (invasion), Eurasianist Review, Evrazia.info, Russian Time journal, the Global Revolutionary Alliance, The Green Star, New Resistance/ Open Revolt, the Centre of Conservative Research at the Faculty of Sociology of Moscow State University, the St Petersburg Conservative Club at the Faculty of Philosophy of St Petersburg State University, and the Amphora publishing house. A worrying number of them have gained traction amongst some on the left, their articles shared and posted unsuspectingly on social media by people who would never have dreamed of circulating material by more overt white supremacists like the KKK.

 

Much of this work is financed by the Russian billionaire Konstantin Malofeev, and the various platforms cover a wide base in terms of their appeal and intended audience. Some sites are more traditionally right-wing, whilst others appropriate more anarchist and workerist imagery and language. The US-based New Resistance is a case in point. New Resistance was founded by James Porazzo, previously leader of the more openly white supremacist American Front (modelled on the UK’s National Front) who once described Jews as “a filthy, evil people the world would be better without”, and is clearly part of Dugin’s global network, frequently republishing Dugin’s pieces, and with links to the site prominently displayed on Dugin’s Centre for Syncretic Studies and in his books. New Resistance issues classically leftist-sounding phrases like “Too often we in the working classes internalize the zero-sum, dog-eat-dog ‘logic’ of capitalism” and “Workers of all nations are cynically pitted against each other by the ruling classes, forced to wage military and economic warfare that is contrary to our own class interests” and even publishes stickers of communist freedom fighter Leila Khaled for its supporters to download. Their 11 point programme is a classic fascist mish-mash of traditional socialist wishlist, return-to-the-land tribalist nostalgia and right wing dogwhistles like gun ownership and overpopulation, and it is only when you get deep into the manifesto that the demands for ethnic purity and segregation become more apparent. Elsewhere, Gramsci’s understanding of ‘organic intellectuals’, rooted in the working class, gets twisted into support for a ‘New Aristocracy’.

 

Alexander Reid-Ross explains how these Duginist sites and think tanks then amplify their influence across the rest of the web: “Dugin’s thought pieces are read by journalists and editors with other sites like Fort-Russ, which claims to receive some millions of views per month. RT and Sputnik pick up stories and writers from sites like Fort-Russ and Katehon, elevating the Kremlin’s “spin” to more and more users. They then bring on leftist journalists from North Atlantic countries in order to make that spin more attractive to larger audiences in the West.” Fort-Russ’s own website confirms this strategy: “With 3 million readers a month, we have often featured ‘uncomfortable truths’ which ‘mainstream’ Kremlin backed sources like RT and Sputnik were unable to. We gave the raw story to readers before RT and Sputnik found the right angle to couch it in. As a result, many of our features and breaking stories have been featured by both of these outlets later on.” In December 2013, Dugin compiled a list of hundreds of politicians and intellectuals he sought to cultivate through involvement with RT, entitled “Countries and persons, where there are grounds to create an elite club and/or a group of informational influence through the line of Russia Today”. The list included rightwingers like Viktor Orban and de Benoist as well as leftwingers such as Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras.

 

At the same time as following this ‘metapolitical’ strategy, Dugin also had a role in developing and influencing almost every far right Russian formation that now exists. After co-founding the National Bolshevik Party in 1993, he went on to write the programme of the (grossly misnamed and deeply anti-Jewish) Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), and served as advisor for Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s (similar misnamed and fascistic) Liberal Democrat Party. Subsequently he has been advisor to the Speaker of the Duma and has established the Eurasia Party (2002) and the Eurasian Youth Movement (2005), whilst also briefly a leading member of the overtly fascist Rodina party. In 2008, he gained a professorship at the prestigious Moscow State University, and his textbook “Foundations of Geopolitics” is apparently required reading in Russia’s military academies. He is also close to the American far right, with links to former KKK leader David Duke, whilst one of his disciples, Nina Kouprianova, is married to leading US fascist Richard Spencer and him and Alex Jones feature on each other’s TV shows. But he has also attempted to develop links with left groups such as Syriza, whose former foreign minister Nikos Kotzias invited him to give a lecture on Eurasianism at the University of Piraeus in 2013 according to the Financial Times. Dugin even appears to have a role as ‘unofficial envoy’ of the Russian government, allegedly helping to broker the rapprochement between Turkey and Russia following Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian fighter jet in 2015.

 

Dugin’s outlook essentially boils down to a combination of “ethnopluralism” and what he disingenuously terms Neo-Eurasianism. Both ideas lend themselves well to the building of a ‘red-brown’ fascist-led alliance, as both have elements which are superficially appealing to the left whilst in fact providing theoretical cover for genocide and imperial war.

 

Following de Benoist, ethnopluralism purports to be based on a respect for the unique cultures of all peoples, urging an end to the high-handed universalist arrogance of imperial liberal modernity. Politically-correct fascists in the Benoist-Dugin mould often claim to support ‘Black Power’, ‘Red Power’ and so on, along with White Power: Africa for the Africa; Europe for the Europeans. The corollary of both, of course, is that non-Europeans should get the hell out, and immigration is presented as a threat to, or even a plot against, the essentialised traditional European culture Duginists support. Indeed, a key strategic aim of the Duginists appears to be the morphing of the antiwar movement into an anti-refugee movement, portraying war refugees as a weapon employed by Jewish financiers such as George Soros to dilute and weaken European culture.

 

Nevertheless, this hostility towards migrants as an impure degenerate influence on pristine European cultural tradition is matched with a flattery towards other ‘traditional cultures’, Islam in particular. Dugin has had some major successes in co-opting Muslims to his cause, his close collaborator (and fellow former Pamyat member) Geydar Dzhemal having set up his own fascist think-tank the Florian Geyer Club. Dugin’s 2014 book Eurasian Mission also claims that Sheikh Talgat Tadzhuddin, Chief Mufti of the Central Muslim Spiritual Directorate, is a supporter. Whereas the mainstream hard right have shifted, post 9/11, to a superficially ‘pro-Jewish’ (or at least pro-Israeli) position of unity against Islam, the Duginists appear to want to return the far right to its pre-9/11 tradition of courting right wing Muslims into a joint anti-semitic programme. Ethnopluralism is, by definition, antisemitic, for what Dugin calls “subversive, destructive Jews without a nationality” are, by their very existence, a threat to its conception of racially-purified, culturally homogenous, ethno-states. This does not, of course, rule out support for Israel as the potential basis of such a state itself, and Dugin’s Arctogaia has indeed cultivated links with ultranationalist Zionist groups whose conceptions of cultural purity resonate with his own.

 

What Dugin calls ‘Neo-Eurasianism’, meanwhile, builds on US fascist Francis Parker Yockey’s advocacy of a grand coalition against ‘Atlanticism’ and US power. Again, this is at first sight appealing to genuine anti-imperialists; after all, what could be more anti-imperialist than a policy to isolate and weaken the world’s leading imperial power? On closer inspection, however, Dugin’s Eurasianism amounts to a crude attempt to form a Russian-led white power bloc aimed at destroying China and preparing for grand inter-imperialist world war. Dugin’s Manichean and occultist view of world history posits an eternal struggle between a degenerate ‘sea empire’, a ‘Leviathan’ represented today by the Atlanticism of the US and UK in particular, and a Russian-led ‘land empire’ – a ‘Behemoth’ upholding traditional Slavic and European culture, and defending it against the Muslim and Chinese hordes unleashed by Atlanticist globalisation. Dugin’s “Foundations of Geopolitics”, whilst advocating a propagandistic focus on the USA (“the main ‘scapegoat’ will be precisely the U.S.”, as he succinctly puts it), sees the real enemy as China, which, he writes,must, to the maximum degree possible, be dismantled”. Thus, despite its apparent hostility to the US, Duginism’s immediate goal is in fact precisely the same as that of US imperialism – the destruction of China.

 

In fact, Neo-Eurasianism is a euphemistic misnomer for this project. The original Eurasianists of the interwar period – who, like the National Bolsheviks, arose from the remnants of the Russian white army in exile – were inspired by the Mongol Empire, and sought in some ways to recreate it. Dugin’s project, however, as Edmund Griffiths has pointed out, is essentially the reconstitution of the territories of the Third Reich (including the parts of Russia it never conquered) under joint German-Russian tutelage (the ‘Moscow-Berlin axis’ as he terms it). In this, he is close to his mentor Thiriart’s conception of a ‘white-power bloc’ from Lisbon to Vladivostock (and excluding all of Southwest and Southeast Asia). The real inspiration Dugin appears to have gained from classic Eurasianism was its strategy of the infiltration and colonisation of the left rather than direct confrontation with it.

 

Like Hitler, Dugin’s model for his future ‘Eurasian empire’ appears to be the British empire. Following the First War of Indian Independence of 1857 – the largest anti-colonial uprising of the nineteenth century, which took the British three years to quell – Britain began to focus more on cultivating ‘traditional’ (and preferably sectarian) leaders for the outsourcing of some of empire’s dirty business, with the ruling families of much of today’s Arab peninsula a still-existing product of this period. In the same fashion, Dugin’s vision for ‘Eurasia’ appears to be a vast collection of cultural-nationalist bantustans controlled by Russian-anointed gangsters (or representatives of the traditional, patriarchal natural hierarchy, to use Dugin’s own formulations) under overall Russian control. At the same time, Dugin’s flattery of Islam has a geopolitical corollary in his advocacy of a “continental Russian-Islamic alliance” – with Iran in particular – based on the “traditional character of Russian and Islamic civilisation”. None of this flattery, it should be noted, has prevented Dugin from applauding a US President who has made the strangulation of Iran a defining feature of his foreign policy, just as it has not prevented Putin from collaborating with this strangulation of his supposed ‘ally’, both by greenlighting Israeli airstrikes on Iranian forces in Syria, and by pumping extra oil to allow Trump’s blockade of Iranian oil. Far from it; indeed such actions only increase Iran’s dependence on Russia, illustrating the chauvinist nature of the ‘alliance’, both as it appears in Dugin’s philosophy and its realpolitik manifestation today.

 

Where ‘Neo-Eurasianism’ really reveals its compatibility with its supposed Atlantic enemy, however, is in its attitude to China. The dismemberment of China – identified in “Foundations of Geopolitics” as Russia’s chief regional rival – should begin, Dugin suggests, with the Russian annexation of Tibet, Xinjiang and Manchuria (as well as Mongolia) as a “security belt”. The ‘metapolitical’ cultivation of hostility towards Russia’s supposed rival is subtly but clearly underway throughout Dugin’s networks, as even a cursory glance at the Katehon website reveals. One article, entitled “China is on the warpath: who will be the first victim?”, tells its readers that “ the Chinese army [is] preparing for war…breaking the delicate balance that has developed in the world after the Second World War” as “One by one it pinches off the territories of the countries of the former USSR – Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan”. Its “aggressive aspirations” are also apparently revealed by its role in the South China Sea, though the article completely airbrushes out of the picture the increasingly belligerent US military encirclement and attempts to gain control over crucial naval ‘choke holds’ which are the obvious context and cause of China’s defensive actions. As such, the piece, with a little subediting for grammar, could easily have been a straightforward US neocon oped. Another piece – “Is there an alternative to the Chinese New Silk Road?” – attempts to discredit China’s Belt and Road Initiative as against the interests of the partner countries, and openly salivates about opportunities for Russia opened up by Trump’s economic war on China. In the sense Dugin’s geopolitics is little different from those of Kissinger, Brzezinski, Clinton or Trump: the sowing of division between Russia and China. The only difference is which of the two they flatter and which they attack at any particular moment.

 

Thus, ‘Neo-Eurasianism’ is far from being the anti-western, even pro-global South, initiative it is sometimes falsely seen as. It is the polar opposite of the ‘tricontinentalism’ of the 1960s and 70s, seeking instead to unite with one section of western imperialism (Europe) whilst actually fulfilling the geopolitical goals of the other (the destruction of China). This may well ultimately backfire for Russia. Indeed, the very fascist militias now waging war against ethnic Russians in the Donbass were but a few short years ago part of Dugin’s ethnopluralist networks.  

 

Given the lack of a social base for genuine socialism (anti-imperialist and internationalist) in the west, leftists can be utilised by fascism without fear. By helping to delegitimise liberal democracy, leftists can inadvertently help lay the basis for fascism, which is, I believe, the natural home of the western masses in eras of crisis. Dugin is in this way in some ways similar to Trotskyist groups such as the British Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) – harnessing anger at the injustices of capitalism and imperialism but using this anger to actually further imperialist aims, whilst never challenging, and in fact perpetuating, colonial attitudes. In the case of SWP, for all their revolutionary spiel, when push comes to shove, they support Brexit, campaign for imperialist parties at election time, oppose all successful third world revolutions, etc. With Dugin, meanwhile, his programme amounts to a geopolitical attack on the USA’s chief rival combined with the scapegoating of migrants for the cultural depredations of capitalism. Duginism is a classic fascist blend of ‘anti-elite’ rhetoric, demands for ethnic purification, and an imperial foreign policy agenda, all dressed up in politically-correct appeals to cultural distinctiveness and anti-western tubthumping. Its particular danger comes from the deep inroads it has made into anti-imperialist and leftist circles.

This piece originally appeared in Counterpunch magazine