Why the left fell out of love with Gaddafi

The hottest love is the soonest cold

A quick scan round the left wing blogosphere will teach you that Colonel Gaddafi is a very bad man. Over on counterfire we learn that he presides over a “murderous dictatorship”. Socialist Worker had him as guilty of “vicious repression”.
This is all a little bit strange. I am just, barely, old enough to remember when the left loved Colonel Gaddafi.

During the miners’ strike of 1984 – 1985, Arthur Scargill, bone fide hero of the left, sent a representative of the National Union of Mineworkers to Libya to see if Gaddafi would give them any cash. This came less than a year after one of Gaddafi’s thugs had shot dead 25 year old Police woman Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan Embassy in London so they cant pretend they didn’t know what a murderous scumbag he was.

Two years later, in 1986, a bomb planted by a Libyan agent went off in a Berlin disco killing three people; a Turkish woman named Nermin Hannay and two American servicemen, Kenneth T. Ford and James E. Goins. Ronald Reagan, about the most evil man in the world at the time according to the left, decided to hit back by bombing Libya in an attempt to topple the man he called a “mad dog”. The left excoriated Reagan for this, the dupes at the African Union protesting the attack on the “Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya”. No one was going to mess with their comrade in Tripoli.

The same year as left wingers were attacking Reagan for his ‘terrorism’ their friend Gaddafi was sending weapons to the IRA. Among the machine guns, rocket launchers and flamethrowers sent by Gaddafi to Northern Ireland was the explosive semtex. Some of this was used in the bomb the IRA detonated at a Remembrance Day memorial service in Enniskillen in 1987 killing 12 and injuring 63.

All is changed utterly now of course. The possible fall of Gaddafi is causing jubilation on the left. What changed?

In 2003 Gaddafi did a deal with the Bush White House in which he gave up his nuclear program and owned up to his various crimes in return for a normalisation of diplomatic relations. Tony Blair announced that Gaddafi was “very easy to deal with”. It would, perhaps, be a cheap shot to note that Blair had been a contributor to Marxism Today in the 1980’s.

From this moment on the Colonel’s card was marked in the eyes of the left. From standing up to Reagan he had become an American lackey.

Gaddafi hasn’t changed. He is brutalising the Libyan people and the left condemns him, but he was brutalising them all through the 1980’s when he was revolutionary flavour of the month. The difference for the left, as so often, is his relations with America. If you oppose the United States you can be as much of a bastard as you like, witness Hugo Chavez or Hamas. But be a pro American bastard and you are just a bastard.


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