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
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Nick Dowson looks at the new wave of co-ops and community groups where people are building their own truly affordable homes
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun
Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh
With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook