From Socialist Voice, September 2009

Libya now part of mainstream capitalism

The kerfuffle about the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi last month belies the extent to which the European Union, Italy and Britain find themselves in alliance with the ruling circles of Libya.
     Much of the shouting and roaring was generated by the silly season in the media but also by the necessity for both the United States and European Union and the Libyan rulers to give the impression that they were standing up to each other. Brussels, and even more so Washington, prefer not to show the close relationship they have formed with Muammar al-Gaddafi since the latter joined up with them and, in effect, surrendered Libyan sovereignty. On the other hand, Tripoli needs its people to believe it is beating the West at its own games.
     The coup d’état of forty years ago was nationalist, Islamic, and populist. It improved the conditions of most Libyans and caused huge problems for the petrol-guzzling societies. It got rid of the monarchy and foreign military bases, and partially nationalised the oil industry. Its foreign policy was, to put it kindly, erratic and unpredictable. For a number of years Gaddafi supported many radical causes, some good and some bad.
     There were three early warning signals that might have alerted liberationist movements and the Western left to what was to come. One was his claim to have found a “third way”—whatever its nature, always a danger signal. The second was the continuous persecution and imprisonment of the mildest political reformers and secularists. The third was the absence of any serious labour rights.
     In 2003 the Libyan ruling class decided to join mainstream capitalism. They were welcomed with open arms, despite what might have been said publicly. After all, the country’s oilfields are said to be worth €70,000 million. The state assets, including the oil, are administered by the Libyan Investment Authority, which is preparing for the privatisation of everything and anything. BP and Shell have been taking over steadily in Libya in the last five years. In return, one might say, Libya has invested heavily in Italy (its former colonial occupier) and Britain. It has put a huge amount of money into the Italian state-controlled defence and aerospace company Finmeccanica. Gaddafi and Berlusconi seem to have formed a special relationship. They signed an agreement in August last year in Benghazi and have feted each other in their respective capitals.
     When the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership was relaunched, Libya was admitted as an observer and was also brought under the European Neighbourhood Policy Instrument. Brussels officials describe the relationship as one of “informal dialogue.”
     Since the beginning of 2009 the Libyan Investment Authority has bought £275 million worth of property in London and is rumoured to be setting its sights on other European capitals for long-term easy investments. (It is not unlikely that they will buy properties from NAMA if it gets off the ground.) Because Libya has more ready money than it can spend—more than 40 billion barrels of oil in reserve—it is a godsend to Western developers and financiers, who, in recession, want to get rid of unprofitable property for quick “readies.”
     The European Union and its member-states are enthusiastic in their efforts to get their hands on some of this money. There have been numerous meetings between the two sides, including one a few weeks ago between the heir-apparent (a bad concept in any system), Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, and that exemplar of refinement and former EU commissioner Peter Mandelson, at a villa in Italy owned by the Rothschilds. (Remember them? They haven’t gone away, you know!)
     From now on, the most oil-rich country in Africa will be an integral part of front-line predatory capitalism.

Postscript: The Scots were right to release Megrahi on the grounds announced publicly, his terminal illness. Furthermore, few people outside the United States believe he was guilty as charged in relation to the destruction of the plane over Locherbie. Ach sin scéal eile.

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