[Letters] Socialism: The Qaddafi versionIn Benghazi, The New York Times reports, mercenaries hired by a waning Qaddafi regime are bombarding the Libyan people indiscriminately, even shelling a mosque. But the dauntless sacrifices of Libyans and the horrors they’re enduring sound the death knell for the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. In the final spasms before the now ineludible death of his regime, Qaddafi has styled himself a “revolutionary,” swearing that he will remain in power and die a martyr.
In so vowing, Qaddafi may have presaged his own death and that of his inappropriately-named “revolution,” one that relegated Libya to over 40 years of maniacal tyranny. When we hear the appellation “socialist” today, it makes sense that we would think of people like Qaddafi and Hugo Chavez, who describe themselves as revolutionaries and draw on the language of class struggle in their adrenalized diatribes.
But just as big multinational corporations don’t represent “the free market” to all of us, so do the likes of Qaddafi and Chavez paint a very incomplete picture of “socialism.” In attempting to define socialism, Bertrand Russell very accurately mused that it is “rather a tendency than a strictly definable body of doctrine” and that any proposed definition was “sure ... to include some views which many would regard as not Socialistic.” He went on to delineate its necessary terms - “communal ownership of land and capital.”
But socialism, though perhaps quite unstructured, is not completely nebulous in those elemental tendencies. On the other hand, the Qaddafi permutation of socialism has been, by all accounts, more practical than philosophical, a variable and temperamental medley of views informed more by his personal idiosyncrasies than by ideological inclination.
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David D’Amato, market lawyer and news analyst