Saturday, 5 March 2011

Libya and such

This isn't 1936. North Africa isn't Spain.

Libya lies between Egypt and Tunisia, two countries in which radical 'people power' has brought about the removal of oligarchies. In Libya the same motion is on the cusp of plunging the country into civil war. That isn't a pleasant thought, but on the other hand I always fall back on the words of Thomas Jefferson: "We are not to expect to be translated from despotism to liberty in a feather-bed." No one can expect that, for whenever people rise up, the powerful react.

Our governments, once staunch supporters of the various dictators (in the interest of 'stability' in a particular region) now murmur that they must go, that there must be a 'peaceful transition', and vacillate between sanctions, no-fly-zones, intervention, non-intervention. Meanwhile there must be ordinary people like me who wonder what we actually can do, how we can support these popular uprisings. Are they our business? After all, we are ordinary people, much like the protesters and dissidents. Would we be interfering? After all, the protesters know their own conditions first hand and must seek their own appropriate solutions; we cannot liberate them, they have to want to liberate themselves. Would the oligarchs point to us and say we were proof of the interference of foreign, colonial, imperialist powers? After all, they'd say anything!

But sometimes I do wish that there was some way that the grassroots radical folk of the world could lend their weight swiftly and effectively to these struggles for democracy. There's a young woman inside this old woman who would gladly man a barricade for an anarchist militia and fight against oppression. The young woman inside this old woman feels that it's her fight, no matter where in the world it happens, feels that any struggle to build democracy from the ground is her struggle too.

Ah well. Like I said, this isn't 1936.

But talking of 1936, I was listening to a radio documentary (BBC Radio 4, naturally) the other day. It was about the young men and women who went off to join the (communist-organised) International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War. As you know, I have my opinions about the way Stalin manipulated the situation in Catalonia, and how the anarchist and socialist militias were stabbed in the back; nevertheless I applaud those young men and women, now old and very few in number, who volunteered and endured. One thing that I did not know was that the Government of the United Kingdom passed a law making it illegal for a UK citizen to join the International Brigades and go to fight in Spain. Damn 'em. Volunteers had to sneak out of the country with an overnight bag, pretending to be having a short holiday in Paris, or some such.

Here in the UK this week there has just been a bye-election in Barnsley, Yorkshire. There were two notable things about it. Firstly the candidate for the 'Liberal Democrat Party' (traditionally the third party in the UK) polled so few votes that he (she? I have no idea) fell behind candidates for the right wing UKIP and BNP parties and an independent candidate, forfeiting his/her deposit. Most commentators see this as an early verdict on that party's being in coalition with the Tories. Secondly, 65% of the electorate didn't turn out to vote. The young anarchist woman inside this old woman secretly dreams that this means that a majority of people are now heartily sick of the system and want to rebuild democracy from the ground up. This cynical old woman thinks apathy is more likely.

Here's another snippet: Those right wing gristleheads the 'English Defence League' are considering becoming a political party. Another: There was a poll recently which indicated that more people than ever regard immigration as a problem in the UK. Another: Those astroturfing stooges the Tea Partyites are attempting to block and overturn anything in the US that smacks of protecting the environment. Damn 'em.

Okay, if you guys want to declare war on me, bring it on! I'm old, but I'm not that old.


  1. For the first half of this post: can I just give you a big ol' hug?
    I think your "young woman" and I would be good friends.