The revolution in Libya was on a knife-edge as Socialist Worker went to press.
Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi decided that the only response to the wave of revolts in the region was a swift and harsh crackdown.
But the Libyan people rose in rebellion.
Tens of thousands of people risked death to take to the streets. Workers in the crucial oil industry, joined by others, walked out on strike.
Gaddafi’s desperate last stand—including ordering warplanes and navy ships to bomb cities and neighbourhoods—was matched by other harrowing tales. These include the discovery of a mass grave of soldiers who refused orders to fire on the people.
The sheer scale of the vicious repression has accelerated the collapse of the regime.
Libyan diplomats joined the revolutions. Embassy staff around the world walked out to join solidarity protests.
In Libya’s second biggest city, Benghazi, huge funerals turned into mass angry demonstrations. Protesters disarmed the police and set fire to state security buildings.
Demonstrators seized a radio station. They broadcast out to the revolution: “Today we can have victory. What is victory? Our freedom, our rights, our dignity. Libya is returning to the people.”
Word spread that the nearby city of el-Bayadh had joined the revolt. Then towns along the Mediterranean coast also declared for the revolution.
Religious and tribal leaders called on their supporters to rise up against Gaddafi.
One religious leader called on all Libyans to join the rebellion, but asked them not to destroy public and private property—only “regime buildings”, he said.
Gaddafi’s mercenaries were killing indiscriminately. But sections of the police, and some military units, were coming over to the revolution.
In Benghazi, after a massacre of protesters and conscript soldiers at a military base, tens of thousands of people swarmed into the streets.
Armed with sticks, stones and a few captured rifles, they cornered the heavily armed mercenaries and regime loyalists inside the main military base and the state security building. The state security building fell first.
Gaddafi’s elite commando unit arrived outside.
Cheers went up when the commanding officer declared that his troops had decided to join the revolution.
These troops, along with armed civilians, overran the base. The revolution in Benghazi had won an important battle.
The fate of the Libyan revolution remains uncertain, but it has shown that even under the most brutal dictators the spirit of these revolts is changing the world.