The Greening of the West

The Green Book by General Muammar al Qathafi. English translation available from Rising Press #3 p&p. inc. BM LCRN, London WC1 England

THE WESTERN WORLD must have its villains, and prominent among them is Muammer al Qathafi of Libya. Such villains function as a prop in the war against the West's own populations: "If you think it's bad here, just look at what they're up to!". Actual evidence of serious wrong-doing is often thin on the ground and rather unconvincing when presented at all.

With this in mind it is perhaps instructive to look at Qathafi's ideological text, The Green Book. Part One of The Green Book concerns the problem of authority in political society and centres on the conflict between two different conceptions of democracy, representative and direct, common to European thought over the previous two centuries.

Qathafi sees representative democracy as necessarily demagogic and fraudulent, as it encourages the development of a party system in which the people are broken up into interest groups which compete one against the other, undoing whatever constructive work may have been done, to the detriment of the nation as a whole. The relevance of this critique is obvious to the contemporary world, but Qathafi does not stop there; he also makes some constructive proposals for the replacement of the representative parliamentary system with the concept of popular rule. In this structure the people are divided into basic popular congresses which choose an administrative committee to replace governmental bureaucracies. Issues debated in these arenas are then passed up to the General People's Congress, which then makes legislative decisions appropriate for the nation as a whole. This conception of political authority is similar in essence to the Anglo-Saxon system of folk-moots, in which the village community participated directly in decisions concerning its destiny.

Starting from the understanding that fundamental economic problems remain unresolved despite the many reforms of recent decades, part two of The Green Book proposes socialism as the solution to the economic crisis. Qathafi identified the central economic and ergonomic problem as that concerning the nature of production, the relationship between the worker who produces and the product itself.

Although Qathafi's ideas on economic partnership and co-operation echo those of the worker co-operative movement in Europe, his approach seems to rely heavily on egalitarian conceptions of man, with demands for absolute equality in returns from economic activity and direct rejections of profit making in general. This raises questions concerning the level of returns against effort: if one person works harder or is more creative than another, does he not deserve a greater reward? Qathafi states that the boundary is crossed when another's needs are encroached upon, but beyond the basics of existence, "needs" are notoriously fluid and difficult to define. There is a tendency for such an egalitarian approach to degenerate into parasitism on the body of the more able and dynamic elements of the population. In the opinion of this reviewer the point is to keep economic equalities within certain boundaries and to maintain social mobility. This open but restrained structure should be aimed at achieving a balance in which there is sufficient scope for innovation for the able, without the severe inequalities which lead to class warfare and ultimately to the destruction of the nation. Part three of The Green Book is concerned with the social aspect of Qathafi's Third Universal Theory. Central to this is the importance of national identity, which is the expression of the need for group survival, and which has a tendency to reassert itself against the dominance of the various historical empires. Somewhat prophetically, Qathafi foresaw that the world was entering such a period of nationalist reassertion at the time of his writing; it will take many years for the full implications of this to become clear.

Moving through the social theory of The Green Book, we find a recognition of the importance of the intermediary groups between individual and nation, namely family and tribe, these institutions having the functions of basic social security, education and moral training. Qathafi's attitude to the social role of women reflects that of the European counter-feminists, who the fundamental worth and equality of women, while accepting the different social and biological roles of the sexes. The ideas described on educational methods are essentially libertarian, proposing that the choice of subject matter be left to the individual's choice (visions of a mad rush into Coronation Street studies!). This seems over-idealistic, given the evident failure of experiments in "child-centred" approaches in the British educational system over the past couple of decades.

It is of course difficult to get reliable information on countries and individuals towards whom the Western establishments are hostile, consequently it is difficult to judge how well these ideas work in Libya itself. However, this writer recalls reading one account of Libyan policy which describes the shock in Western ruling circles when issues of foreign policy and oil industry matters were put before the popular congresses. Imagine that in U.K. Ltd!

Whatever the reality in Libya, it is clear that The Green Book represents an attempt by an Arab leader to transcend the capitalist- Marxist paradigm, to reject the philosophies of economism in favour of one which recognises the need for national identity, participatory politics and social justice. The Green Book is not a panacea for all ills, nor should we make a cult of it in the manner of the sixties Maoists with their Little Red Books. It should however, be read by those seeking a better understanding of the world's dissident leaders and by those involved in the process of building a new ideology for a new world.

Peter White

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