An old article from the 1980s describing Libya’s economic system. There were many problems with Qaddafi, but the reason he was so hated by the Western imperialists is that he expelled Western petroleum interests from the country and created the wealthiest nation on the African continent. The Western powers tried to cripple Libya’s economy with decades-long sanctions, before launching an outright invasion in 2011. Under King Idris, Libya was a backward, starving colony of the Western oil companies. Since Qadaffi’s fall, Libya has become a Somalia-like failed state with open-air Middle Passage-like slave markets.
By Mark Johnson
Libya presents an enigma. It is a thinly populated country on the margin of the Arab world, yet it appears to exercise a far greater influence than its economic and strategic importance would suggest. Last year it attracted not only headlines but President Reagan’s bombers as well. 1951 Libya has been regarded by Westerners as not much more than a useless tract of desert. Its main exports were ones they could largely do without: esparto grass used for paper, and scrap metal from relics of World War Two battles.
But then came oil. American companies played the leading role in opening up the oilfields and Libya was soon in the fast lane to economic development.
The process of rapid change dealt King Idris’ regime a fatal blow, and in 1969 a group of nationalist army officers under Colonel Muammar Gaddafi took power.
Gaddafi and his Revolutionary Command Council describe their philosophy as ‘socialist’ and ‘revolutionary’. As a ‘Jamahiriya’ – a state of the masses – Libya’s system of government is supposedly based on the exercise of power by the people. Libyans who disagree, arguing that the popular committees which formally run the country represent little more than a political party loyal to the colonel, get short shrift from the Government.