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(en) Alt. Media, Social Philosophy Of Russian Anarchism (Kropotkin) and of Muammar Al Qadhafi: An Essay In Comparison By Said Gafourov

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 8 May 2003 16:12:06 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

In the last quarter of the twentieth century Libya has been in the focus of
world attention. Unorthodox foreign and domestic policies, her challenge to
the developed countries together with a strategic geographic position and
great mineral (mainly oil) resources, attract special interest in comparison
with other countries of the Third World.
One of the most characteristic features of the country has been the Third
Universal Theory, developed by the Leader of the Libyan Revolution Colonel
Muammar Qadhafi, which was introduced as an alternative to both Capitalist
and Communist (i.e. Real Socialist) ideologies. This ‘new philosophy’ was
not only actively implemented in theory and in practice in Libya but was
also regarded as the most effective for other developing countries. Such
countries as Benin or Burkina Faso used elements of the Third Univeral
Theory in their governmental ideologies.
Many Western scholars considered Qadhafi’s ideology to be something
specifically Oriental, alien to the Western system of values and lying
outside the main stream of both Western and Eastern philosophies; or as a
simplification of an already simplified ‘Marxist philosophy’; or as a ‘real
socialism’ adapted for ‘tribal socialist princes’.

On the other side some Third World thinkers like Sami Hajjar suppose that
Qadhafi’s system of values lies within the framework of philosophical
traditions going back to the ‘Social Contract’ of Rousseau.
In 1973 the Ministry of Information and Culture of Libya published a
pamphlet “The Third World Theory: the Holy Concept of Islam and Popular
Revolution in Libya”.

The theory was later developed in the 1974 pamphlet “The Principles of the
Third World Theory”. At the end of the seventies, Qadhafi published 3 parts
of the well-known Green Book, summarising and systematising his theory.

>From our point of view, the possible influence (direct or indirect) of ideas
of European and Russian anarchism on Qadhafi, is at least worth discussing.

In the XIX century, the term “Anarchism” was used to define a rather wide
intellectual and political movement. Such diverse thinkers as Proudhon,
Stinner, Bakunin, Leo Tolstoy, Kropotkin and many others declared their
solidarity with Anarchism as a socio-philosophical theory. Although their
philosophical ideas were rather different, all of them had one thing in
common – they all believed that the main cause of injustice, social
oppression and exploitation of one human being by another was the State and
its political institutions.

Qadhafi’s vision of the Socialist society has been summarised as follows:

“1) The purpose of the Socialist society is the happiness of man which can
only be realised through material and spiritual freedom.
2) The material needs of all are to be assured, secure from arbitrary
3) Inequality of wealth, income and social status should be modest. Wealth
in excess of private needs should be public, not private, property.
4) Man should find fulfilment in his work not only in using the income he
derives from it”.
Peter Kropotkin – the founder of Anarcho-Communism and one of the most
respected theoreticians of Anarcho-Syndicalism defined one of the most
important human rights – the right of welfare which is “a possibility to
live as a human being and bring up children.” “Above bread and above
welfare, above collective property we can see a new world coming – a world
where we can love each other and satisfy our decent and noble desires for
the ideal... where there would not be the rich and the poor... a worker
would work at what is better for him, a research worker would make his works
without reservations, an artist would not make a profanity of his ideal of
beauty in favour of money”.

Thus we can see that the ultimate social goals of Qadhafi and Kropotkin are
similar. However, there are many more correlations in the particulars.

The first part of the Green Book (1976) begins with a description and severe
criticism of the traditional bourgeois social and political system. It is
important to mention that the methodology of this criticism is rather
similar to that of Kropotkin or Bakunin. In the introduction to the first
French edition of Kropotkin’s Bread and Freedom we read: “the first book by
Kropotkin ‘Paroles d’un Revolte’ was mainly devoted to the severe criticism
of the immoral and evil bourgeois society and called upon the energy of
revolutionaries to struggle against the State”.

According to Qadhafi the instrument or means of societal control (i.e. the
State) is the main political problem which has always stood before humanity.
Struggle for the “instrument of control” always led to the victory of an
individual or a party or a class and the defeat of the people. “Parliament
is a misrepresentation of the people, and parliamentary systems are a false
solution to the problem of democracy. A parliament is originally founded to
represent the people, but this in itself is undemocratic as democracy means
the authority of the people and not an authority acting on their behalf,”
states Qadhafi.
“Parliaments have been a legal barrier between the people and the exercise
of excluding the masses from meaningful politics and monopolising
sovereignty in their place”.

Qadhafi concludes that “It has thus become the right of the people to
struggle through popular revolution to destroy such instruments as the
so-called parliamentary assemblies which usurp democracy and sovereignty and
which stifle the will of the people” – this statement correlates with the
famous slogans of modern anarcho-terrorists like, “While evil bourgeois
society uses violence under the name of justice the justice of the
proletariat is violence”.

Generally speaking, for the Anarchists, the whole system of representative
democracy was the object of their sharp uncompromising criticism. Bakunin
described a parliamentary republic as a “quasi state of a quasi popular
will, which is supposed to be represented by quasi representatives in quasi
popular meetings”.

Kropotkin denied the idea that the state was necessary – he called it
“superstitions, which play the role of Fate in relations between people”,
and he believed that the self-organisation of small communities united on a
Federal basis was the structure that should replace the State which is an
‘apparatus of violence.’

He stated that the goal of “finding such a Government which can make people
obey, while still obeying society”, was not realisable, and pointed out that
“society tries to liberate itself by all possible means from any kind of
government and fulfil its requirements with free agreements between
individuals and groups, seeking one goal”.

We can see here that Kropotkin’s political ideals come back to the “Social
Contract” of Rousseau whom he regarded highly.
We can say that both Qadhafi and Kropotkin see the main internal
contradiction within existing societies as the contradiction between society
and state. Both of them use the concept of ‘popular masses’ which are the
moving forces of social revolutions; the masses are not divisible into
strata, classes, ethnic, confessional and professional groups. According to
Kropotkin, Anarchy was a “more or less reflected ideal of the masses”.
Qadhafi uses the term “people”, and authority of the People in general as an
indivisible entity is an alternative to the old unjust political order.

Perhaps we can say that social realities in Libya and in Europe during the
great French Revolution which actually determined the ideology of anarchy
were rather similar. The social stratification of society in both cases was
weak. Anti-feudal unification of all the third estate in France which
included the overwhelming majority of social groups, structurally was close
to unity of all the Libyans opposing weak and discredited royal power and
small comprador trade circles.

On the other side, subsequent polarisation and self-identification of
different social groups: proletariat, petty, financial and trade
bourgeoisie, peasants etc. must have and actually did conflict with their
integration into a unified civil society. Qadhafi once said that, “If
Revolution makes a mistake, revolution should be corrected”. This was said
at a moment of crucial social contradictions between an emerging bourgeoisie
and the Revolutionary Committees which represented the interests of
integrated society at a time of anti-colonial and anti-feudal revolution.

The system of People’s Congresses and Committees which from Qadhafi’s point
of view is “the only way to genuine Democracy” is really close to both the
spirit and letter of Kropotkin’s understanding of a future social
self-organisation of society. A people controls itself – this is the essence
of democracy according to Qadhafi. In other words, the political model is a
stateless form of popular power which is the ideal of anarchism.

Bread and Freedom by Kropotkin is to a large extent based on the concept
that the main function of society is t create and re-create material values
for the full and many-faceted development of a free individual. The main
slogan of anarchism is “freedom for everybody, welfare for all” and
Kropotkin writes that “in political economy, one should first of all study
the chapter on consumption”. Qadhafi, in his turn, thinks that the only
“legal” goals of economic activity are fulfilment of human demands and he
also starts a discussion on economic issues with the problem of consumption.

The similarity of ideas of the second part of the Green Book (devoted to
economic issues) and the views of anarchists is rather surprising – even the
structure of chapters in the second part and Bread and Freedom for example,
is very close.

The Jamaharisation practice in Libya corresponds to ideas of
anarcho-communists. The theoretical description of Kropotkin’s ideal society
– a federation of self-controlling communities – could be a theoretical
description of Jamaharian districts system which Qadhafi tried to implement
at the first stage of revolutionary transformation in Libya. The goal for
both the Russian thinker and the Arab praktik was elimination “of unjust
social relations”.

“He who owns the house where you live or the transport which you use or
money on which you live, he owns part or whole of your freedom. Freedom is
indivisible and in order to be happy a human being must be free”.

This statement could have come from a theoretician of Anarchy but it belongs
to Qadhafi. In his turn, Kropotkin writes: “As a matter of fact, in a modern
state the biggest obstacle to development and maintenance of the moral
level, necessary life in society is an absence of social equality...
‘Without equality in reality’, as they used to say in 1793, a sense of
justness cannot become common property. Justness must be equal for everybody
and in our society... the sense of equality has defeats at every step... we
can find justice only in a society of equals”.

According to Qadhafi a new socialist society is “a society which is
absolutely free. This can be achieved only by fulfilment of the material and
spiritual demands of a human being by liberating these demands from
oppression by other people”.

When defining goals in necessary economic activity in societal
transformation, Kropotkin stresses three main elements:
“1) elimination of salary, paid by a capitalist to a worker because it is a
modern form of ancient slavery and ‘krepostnoye’ ownership over a human;
2) elimination of private property in whatever is essential for society for
the production and social organisation of products of exchange; and finally,
3) elimination from the individual and society of that form of social
oppression – State – which serves the maintenance and continuity of economic
Qadhafi mentioned that “those who sell their working power whatever their
salary, are a kind of slave”, because they work not for their own benefit
but or the benefit of those who hire them. From this comes that changing of
form of property with it moving from one owner to another, which, even if it
is a Working class state in a Marxist tradition, does not guarantee the
rights of the worker in the process of production.

Qadhafi makes a concept that in Jamahiriya, the relationships of people in
terms of property are partnerships in managing common property. The same
concept was put forward by anarchists with their famous slogan – “everything
belongs to everybody”.

Qadhafi believes that the solution of this problem can be achieved by the
elimination of salary, and thus the liberation of humanity from slavery, and
a return to the “natural rules” which determined relationships of people
before the existence of classes, governments and laws. The official slogan
of Jamahiriya is “Not employees but partners”.

Kropotkin also qualified this approach to the relationships of human beings
in the process of production as “natural”.
The approach to the distribution and exchange of goods for these thinkers is
similar. Both use an analogy with a supermarket or shop in which “every
human being should take from common stocks exactly as much as necessary to
fulfil his needs” or “to everyone according to his needs”.

It is interesting that both are against the division of labour, considering
it to be unnecessary.

It may be interesting to compare real economic structures in Gulay-Pole and
Libya. We can point out that in agriculture, Nestor Makhno and Qadhafi
conducted the same policy. Both tried to encourage individual farming with
all the means they possessed. Kropotkin as a theoretician was encouraged by
the agricultural development of American private farms in the 1890’s and
came to the conclusion that small farms were historically progressive and
should unite to provide jobs necessary for all of them.

This idea sprang from the Russian tradition of praising ‘Obshina’ as an
alternative to capitalist order. ‘Obshina’ was a common ideal of Russian
traditional egalitarians like Lavrov, Tkachev or Hertzen.

The third part of the Green Book, which was published in 1979, was devoted
to social problems. Qadhafi believes that the main engine of human history
is a struggle between social and national (as a part of social) groups for
ascendancy over each other. And this struggle can be ended only after
complete elimination of one social group’s oppression by another group, or

>From this point of view his ideas are very close to the ideas of anarchists.
Kropotkin, describing future society, wrote of “free communities,
agricultural as well as urban [ie. land unions of people related to each
other because of place of living] and wide professional and craftsmen’s
unions (ie. unions of people by character of their labour) and communities
closely intersecting with each other . . . Together with these forms of
social organisation “thousands of unlimitedly different societies and unions
will appear because of a unity of private preferences resulting from common
interests: social, religious, artistic, scientific and those that have as
their goals upbringing, research or even simply entertainment”.

The Jamahiriya districts in Libya are very similar to the ideal of

Qadhafi specifies traditional forms of unification of human beings: family,
tribe and nation. The main factor for a harmonious society with the
elimination of internal conflicts between individuals, is the family.
An individual should develop in his family in a natural way. We can see here
the influence of Jean Jaques Rousseau’s concept of “The natural right of a
father” which is quite different from all the other rights which exist as a
result of the Social Contract.

A wider social structure which includes families, is a tribe. Kropotkin used
the term “local communities”. Social functions of tribes in the nomadic
society of Libya and local communities in European societies are, to a
certain extent, similar. Both provide for the co-existence of families and
are supposed to suppress conflicts. The author’s opinion is that in these
two theories there are similar social realities and structures with very
important functions being discussed in different terms.

It is interesting to mention the terms which the thinkers use. Kropotkin
called his theory ‘Anarcho-Communism’. However, when writing of the
precedents of Anarchism he recalled a term invented by the Russian historian
Kostomarov: – ‘Narodopravstvo’ (‘People’s Govern’) for the Novograd and
Pskov feudal republics. This artificial Russian word is probably the best
translation of ‘Jamahiriya’ from Arabic into Russian.
On the other hand, neither the Anarchists nor Qadhafi were very concerned
for the academic correctness of terms at the expense of political sense.
Semantic loadings of the word ‘anarchism’ as well as ugly translation of it
into Arabic prevented Qadhafi, who probably had not had access to Anarchist
literature, from choosing this term for his concept.

There are two basic differences between the philosophy of the Green Book and

First of all there is the understanding of the concept of “natural law”.
Anarchists accepted Rousseau’s thesis that all the social institutions
resulted from the Social Contract and that there were no NATURAL norms and
rules of regulation of relationships between people and customs. Traditions
are definitely not absolute and are subject to change.

On the other hand Qadhafi points out “laws of society are the sacred
heritage of society”. He means that they are objective reality which has its
roots in the religion and traditions of the society.

The attitude towards religion is the other big difference. Kropotkin is a
definite rationalist, materialist and atheist. Religion is the means of
exploitation by the state and the governing classes. However, Kropotkin was
very tolerant to individual faith and wrote about religious unions in the
ideal society.

For Qadhafi religion, on the contrary, has an intrinsic value and is one of
those basic foundations of society, which should not be criticised. This
author thinks that the reason for this difference is in the concrete
difference of political functions of religion in Christian and Islamic

In Islamic countries Islam has never been a separate political force – more
exactly religious and secular power are inseparable. Only Islam gives
legitimacy to rulers. Qadhafi as a praktik, realised this and used Islam as
a means to stabilise unity in the society using the egalitarian features of

This side of his practice is reflected in the Green Book: to provide for the
fruitful development of a nation, there must be a unifying religion and thus
social factor (ie. nationality) would correspond with religious factor and
thus the stability of a nation would increase. However, we should mention
that traditionalist Ulamaa (theologists) opposed the new theory in the
beginning and the official propaganda apparatus of Qadhafi even used a
metaphor about the struggle between the Green Book and yellow books.
(Traditionally, religious literature in the Arab world is published on
yellow paper).

In this work the author tried to delineate some similarities between the
ideas of anarcho-communism and the Third Univeral Theory.
If we accept the hypothesis of the author, the received position that
anarchism is a theory which has never been implemented in practice for a
reasonable period of time, should be reconsidered. An analysis of the social
and economic development of Libyan Jamahiriya can become an analysis of the
first relatively long attempt to apply ideals close or sometimes similar to
those of anarchy. Thus we could define Libya as an anarchist entity.

The correspondence of basic views of Qadhafi and Kropotkin in particular
could, in theory, be accidental. However, we believe that ideas resembling
those of the anarchists’ inevitably appear in those countries with a less
developed social stratification but which are in the process of joining the
world capitalist economy – like Russia, Spain and France in the nineteenth
century or Libya in the twentieth.

We perhaps can never know if Qadhafi accepted Anarchist ideas or whether the
socio-political climates in Europe on the eve of the XX century and in Libya
in the second part of the XX century resembled each other. But we can say
that Qadhafi’s education rather witnesses for the first hypothesis.

Qadhafi could hardly have had access to Proudhon, Bakunin or Kropotkin
material during his studies in the military college in Benghazi, but he
attended lectures on history in the Royal University of Benghazi where he
must have become acquainted with Enlightenment theories.
Kropotkin’s and Qadhafi’s ideas on the role of the state and basic questions
of the economy are similar. Differences on questions in the social arena are
often related to terminology and socio-cultural differences.

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