THE COLONEL WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD ; Thirty Years Ago, Muammar Gaddafi's Green Book Branded Democracy a 'Problem'. Now, Not Even Pan-Africanism Can Save Libya's Leader from the Forces of Change. Peter Popham Reports ++ Libya Opens Its Doors to the West

By Popham, Peter | The Independent (London, England), March 5, 2007 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

THE COLONEL WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD ; Thirty Years Ago, Muammar Gaddafi's Green Book Branded Democracy a 'Problem'. Now, Not Even Pan-Africanism Can Save Libya's Leader from the Forces of Change. Peter Popham Reports ++ Libya Opens Its Doors to the West


Popham, Peter, The Independent (London, England)


The Great Leader did not disappoint. We might have asked for more, of course. He might have received us in his legendary tent, the one he brought to Brussels and Belgrade, his flock of camels cropping the grass outside.

He would have done us all a favour if he had ridden into the conference hall on a white stallion, his troop of cruelly beautiful, Uzi-toting female commandos sprinting alongside. But presiding over the 30th anniversary of his little Green Book, he was the man we had come to see, imperious behind his big sunglasses, this modern Ozymandias in a gleaming white dinner jacket with a cape around his shoulders, his jet-black hair teased into the familiar modified Afro, like a member of Mott the Hoople.

He published the Green Book on 2 March 1977, seven years after he seized power, aged 29, in a coup against King Idris, the West's stooge. Since then, millions of copies have been distributed. It is Gaddafi's answer to the Little Red Book of Mao, encapsulating what the colonel modestly calls the "Third Universal Theory" - following (and hopefully supplanting) those of capitalism and Marxism. Its subtitle is "The solution to the problem of Democracy", and the crux of Gaddafi's insight into that problem is summed up in posters in the desert town of Sebha during the celebration: "No representation without participation."

Parliamentary representative democracy, according to Gaddafi, is a fraud; what he proposed instead was (as he put it in his speech on Friday) "direct democracy as it was once practised in Athens" through "committees everywhere". Whether the Green Book revolution has lived up to its billing is a good question. But in one sense it has been a blistering success: it has made it impossible, ideologically and practically, for Gaddafi's opponents inside Libya to organise themselves into political parties. "Political parties introduce evil in society and society goes corrupt," Gaddafi declared on Friday. "Any attempt at this needs to be got rid of."

And so it came to pass. Given the clarity of the word from on high, and saturation levels of plainclothes cops at street level, dissidents of the Islamist or any other variety do not appear to have obtained a toehold in the country. When they have tried to in the past they have been vigorously dealt with.

But that does not mean Gaddafi is unopposed. As Libya shyly opens itself to outside inspection - normally it is impossible for foreign journalists to obtain a visa, but dozens of us were let in to attend the anniversary celebrations - it has become clear that a struggle is under way for the heart and the soul of the country. The colonel is on one side of the argument, and his brightest and most ambitious son, Saif al-Islam, on the other.

"There is a big fight going on between the old guard and the new," says a foreign resident of Tripoli whose position gives him a ringside seat on the action. A Western diplomatic source prefers to talk about "tension, more or less creative, between those who want to hold on to the status quo - which has kept the regime in place, with a quiescent population - and those who want to open Libya up, now that sanctions have gone, to the wide world".

The chasm separating these two views of the world, and of Libya's future, was apparent in the conference hall in Sebha. Inside, a succession of speakers hollered their undying admiration for the boss to an audience carefully segmented into soldiers, women, farmers and so on. "We are overwhelmed by joy," one screeched. "This is the dawning of a new age of glory."

"Glory be to him, father of the glory," cried another. "The dream that inspired the downtrodden has come true... The sun rose on 2 March 1977 and now it is high in the sky... we see the enemies of the masses falling down one by one."

Gaddafi acknowledged all this verbal prostration with a thin smile, then launched into his own speech without bothering to stand.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

THE COLONEL WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD ; Thirty Years Ago, Muammar Gaddafi's Green Book Branded Democracy a 'Problem'. Now, Not Even Pan-Africanism Can Save Libya's Leader from the Forces of Change. Peter Popham Reports ++ Libya Opens Its Doors to the West
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?