Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
Mustafa Abdul Jalil, Gaddafi’s minister of justice and now chairman of the National Transitional Council
At the end of October, 51 voting representatives took part in the election by the National Transitional Council (NTC) of the academic and businessman Abdul al-Raheem al-Qeeb as Libya’s new interim prime minister. But many have never been publicly identified and no complete record of their votes is public. Around a dozen members make up the NTC’s executive committee, with most given ministerial-like portfolios. The NTC chairman, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, plays the role of figurehead and shares executive powers with the committee chair. Until his recent – likely temporary – retreat from power, this was the former interim prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril. The post-war NTC road-map is vague, with April 2012 elections and a constitutional convention promised beforehand.
The great continuity (only minus the Gaddafis) between the NTC now and pre-revolutionary Libya is striking. Libya has witnessed a political revolution, not a social or an economic one, and many of the leading actors remain the same.
The first revolutionary leaders came from the dissidents, the diaspora, and the Islamists. Among the earliest were future NTC vice chair Abdul Hafiz Ghoga and ‘minister for youth’ Fatih Turbel. These two dissident lawyers organised the families of the 1,200 Islamist – or accused Islamist – prisoners killed at Tripoli’s Abu Salim jail in 1996. The march that sparked the revolution was organised by these families to protest at the arrest of Turbel after he led an earlier anniversary vigil.
That 15 February protest was watched closely by an ad hoc network of educated, ‘wired’ Libyans abroad, energised by the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions. As demonstrations spread, news was collected by phone calls and texts to diaspora Libyans, spread to the western press, and back to Libya. The actions of Libyans living abroad were crucial to the rising’s survival.
By March there were two collections of neighbourhood committees trying to run and defend liberated Benghazi. Combined, they became the NTC. One was headed by Abdul Hafiz Ghoga, the other by Mustafa Abdul Jalil. Abdul Jalil was surely more prominent as he was Gaddafi’s minister of justice, dispatched to his native region to calm the protests that he instead joined.
As a judge under the old regime, Jalil’s stubborn refusal to follow diktat or prosecute political opponents made him a hero. So it was a surprise, not only that he survived, but that Muammar Gaddafi’s heir, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, made him justice minister in 2007.
After 2001, the Gaddafis set out to welcome western capital while avoiding western militarism. This eventually included controlled demonstrations of political openness. Saif was not foolish enough to give men like Abdul Jalil real power. Libya remained a state tightly ruled by the Gaddafi clan. But the 2007 burst of reform appointments is part of the pre-history of the NTC. They included Mahmoud Jibril, who was made head of the Libyan National Economic Development Board by Saif, and future NTC justice minister Mohammed Allagui, who was ‘human rights spokesman’ for Saif’s Gaddafi Foundation. Even critics of the NTC liberals have their skeletons. Sheikh Ali al-Salabi, who once called Jibril an ‘extremist secularist’, was Saif’s negotiator with former Islamist prisoners during their 2010 ‘rehabilitation’.
Most of those who rose in Saif’s reforms were like Jibril: fluent in international diplomacy and business, they had spent decades in the west, or had run businesses in the more liberal Gulf states. Their model is western-facing oil rentier-based capitalist development. They were the natural leaders of a new Libya.
When Jibril stepped down, many expected oil and finance minister Ali Tarhouni to lead the NTC into elections. Tarhouni, a former Seattle MBA professor, brought an ability to translate the NTC’s realities to westerners and a willingness to discuss its conflicts and failures. His denunciation of foreign, allegedly Qatari, arms shipments to militias might have been his undoing, and he was sidelined for the ‘unknown’ Abdel Rahim Al Keeb.
While he is set to be a marginal individual, Al Keeb’s background gives us a foretaste of the emerging Libya. A US‑trained engineer, he runs a Qatar-based oil industry engineering company, with large Libyan contracts since 2005. Al Keeb was no dissident. He is a rich man with extensive western, Gulf, and Libyan business contacts and no particular animus outside Gaddafi’s inner circle. As scion of a powerful old family from west of Tripoli, he has a status that predates both the revolution and Gaddafi. Al Keeb also bankrolled Tripoli-based rebels, whose military councils are the NTC’s greatest headache.
The coming Libya will be familiar to the old elites. The dissidents and intellectuals never really had a chance.
Tommy Miles writes at blog.tomathon.com
'Docs Not Cops' write that we must resist attempts to make our NHS any less universal
Louis Mendee explains the real human costs of climate change for the global south.
From climate change to automation to demographic shifts, Mathew Lawrence explains the challenges our economy will face in the coming decade.
Fifty years after the Abortion Act, women are still dying from being denied basic services, write activists from Feminist Fightback
We need to tackle the patronising ideology that lets Tory think-tanks sneer at social tenants, writes Emma Dent Coad
Acid Corbynism allows people to imagine a future beyond the paltry offerings of capitalism, writes Keir Milburn
'We wanted to use a shared love of the beautiful game to stand in solidarity with those living under occupation', writes Kate Hadley.
Priti Patel's shady deals are business as usual. Enough is enough, writes Eleanor Penny
Boris Johnson is a local disaster and a national embarrassment. He must go, writes James Clouting
The global elite have been stealing from society on an unprecedented scale, writes Tom Walker
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism
Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists
Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson
As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win
The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution
Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.
‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke
The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana
Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth
Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company
You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild
Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University
This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback
Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein
Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up
Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement
‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic
Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden
There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright
Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones
‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression
Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death
‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum