Category Archives: Libya

Spanish history repeating on Libyan soil

Current events in Libya bring to mind similarities with the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) even if contexts differ. Yet both wars have captured world attention for their wishful idealism, a struggle for freedom and democracy against repression.
Spain was torn by war after decades of internal strife. The country’s ultra-conservative factions saw a military uprising against the democratic system as the surest road to political and economic stability, a bid to reinstate the iron calm of Primo de Rivera’s earlier dictatorship. The fascist rebels envisioned a swift, bloody coup yet faced the grinding reality of a 3-year war. Difficulties in communications were a factor influencing both sides.
The Libyan situation has been sparked by external events. Access by a segment of the population to the social media (FaceBook, Twitter, etc.) has been decisive in enabling information to spread. The Libyan people are seeking democracy and freedom after more than forty years of dictatorship.
However, like Franco and Mola (the military mastermind behind the 1936 coup to which Franco was a late addition), Gaddafi is employing foreign mercenaries because their brutality can be trusted when one’s own people must be slaughtered. Terror is a key strategy in repressing civilian populations. Mola’s exact words were: “We must spread terror… we must create the sensation of dominance by eliminating, unscrupulously and unhesitatingly, all those who do not think as we do.” And they are pertinent to Gaddafi’s strategy.
The Libyan people, like the Spanish Republicans in 1936, are poorly armed, untrained and lacking professional army officers, the majority of whom have remained loyal to Gaddafi. They are inspired by a will to overcome. Yet it remains to be seen whether this will be enough to triumph over the bullets and bombs of a highly trained army.
Lastly, the Non-Intervention Treaty which kept Britain, France and the USA from sending aid to the beleaguered Spanish government was a key element in the fall of Spanish democracy. Allied as this was to the siding of 75% of Spain’s diplomats with the Fascist uprising, and Germany’s and Italy’s flouting of the Treaty, many saw Spain’s defence as heroically doomed from the start. Yet still they fought and cried: “They shall not pass!” Today it looks increasingly doubtful whether the international community will pass from words to action with the ephemeral promise of a no-fly zone over Libya, but it’s looking as if Libya’s democracy will be stillborn.

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