“Brothers, from the desert, a name always in the past associated with aridness and desolation, a Revolution has arisen. Only a few years have passed since its inception, people have, however, forgotten the events that happened shaking the town of Sebha in the late fifties like the birth pangs of a new and great hope. A few years later, the forgetful were astonished to hear the ringing cry which announced the first Proclamation of the Revolution from the city of Benghazi in the late sixties, that Proclamation which shook the land of Libya and demolished all idols and idolatry. Once again, people returned to their daily lives and considered the event a mere military coup like any other. But it was this event which transformed a reactionary kingdom into a progressive Jamahiriya, and which put into effect the evacuation of foreign armies.
“A few years passed, until the historic speech at Zuwara, given on the anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace, astonished and perplexed the minds of peoples. It was a speech which stirred up those people who had, once again, forgotten.
“Today, one thousand three hundred and ninety-seven years after the birth of the Seal of the Prophets Muhammad, upon whom be peace, and in the same place in which the idea of the Revolution first took shape in the town of Sebha in the heart of the desert, the Proclamation of the establishment of popular authority is made, echoing from one end of the earth to the other, announcing the birth of the Jamahiriya.
“From the desert, the dawn of a new age shines upon humanity, the age of the masses. For the desert is neither arid nor desolate. From the desert, and on this fateful day in the life of our people, nation and mankind, comes forth the ringing voice of a people announcing the establishment of the authority of the people, the birth of the Jamahiriya, the beginning of the age of the masses. From the desert, and in this twentieth century following the birth of Jesus Christ upon whom be peace, our people declare the end of the age of traditional republics, just as the French people declared to the world in the eighteenth century the end of the age of monarchies and the emergence of the republican age. The desert may not bring forth vegetation but it brings forth moral values and gives birth to eternal messages of civilization. Today, in a corner of that same desert, known as the Great Desert, the home of Arabs, Arab Berbers, Arab Tuareg and Tabu Tribes, the cornerstone of the age of Jamahiriyats, the age of the masses, is being laid.”
~Excerpt from a Speech By Muammar Gaddafi, March 2, 1977
Popular direct authority is the basis of the political system in the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. The authority is for the people who alone should have authority. The people exercise their authority through the popular congresses, the people’s committees, the syndicates, the unions, the professional associations and the General People’s Congress.
~ From The “Declaration On The Authority Of he People”
March 2, 1977
The celebrations were country-wide. They took place all over that immense land which stretches across almost 2,000 kilometres of Mediterranean shoreline and which thrusts deep into the Sahara where it borders several countries of the African continent. Inside Sebha, where on March 1977 the leader of the revolution Colonel Muammar al Qadhafi had read the “Declaration on the Authority of the People” at the end of an extraordinary session of the General People’s Congress, the people took to the streets to celebrate in colourful and traditional Arab custom the advent of a new era – the “era of the masses”, as described by Colonel Muammar al Qadhafi himself.
The General People’s Congress, the highest authority in terms of the then newly emerging novel order of governing, had endorsed the “Declaration”, thus investing the people of Libya with authority and putting into practice the theoretical and revolutionary concepts of the Green Book.
In Tripoli, the celebrations reached a crescendo as thousands of demonstrators, chanting revolutionary slogans, re-iterated their support for the revolution and welcomed the birth of the first “Jamahiriya”, perhaps best defined as Colonel Muammar al Qadhafi himself had explained to the meeting of the General People’s Congress in Sebha as meaning “of the masses”, signifying a complete break from all the traditional systems of government and the beginning of a constant process of revolutionary change permitting the people to possess power, wealth and arms. Overhead, military aircraft flew in tight-knit formations and the hundreds of ships lining the harbour of Tripoli blew their sirens adding to the tumult of the celebrations. Elsewhere, the country was vociferously awake, but the Green Square beneath the ageing walls of the Old Castle of Tripoli stole the limelight as the leader of the Revolution, Colonel Muammar al Qadhafi addressed an immense rally. He explained again, as he had done the day before at the meeting of the General People’s Congress in Sebha, how the theoretical concepts of the Green Book, designed to give authority to the people, were to be carried out in practice.
The Declaration itself gave a very broad outline of how this was to be achieved. It read in part:
“Embodying popular rule on the territory of the Great First of September Revolution, establishing the authority of the people, who alone should have authority;
“Declare their adherance to freedom and their readiness to defend it on their territory and everywhere in the world and to protect the persecuted freedom-fighters;
“Declare their adherance to socialism as a means to achieve ownership for the people and their commitment to achieve comprehensive Arab unity;
“Declare their adherance to spiritual values to safeguard morals and human behaviour as well as affirm the march of the Revolution, under the leadership of the revolutionary-thinker and teacher-leader Colonel Muammar al Qadhafi, towards complete popular authority and the stabilisation of society in which the people are the leaders and the masters in whose hands are the authority, the wealth and the arms – the society of freedom towards the final blocking of the road against all sorts of traditional instruments of government, be they individual, family, tribe, sect, class, parliament, party or group of parties;
“They also declare their readiness to crush, once and for all any attempt against the authority of the people;
“The Libyan Arab people, having regained through the revolution, their control over their present and future destiny, beseeching the help of God and adhering to His Holy Book as the everlasting source of guidance and of the law of society, issue the declaration announcing the establishment of the authority of the people and announce to the peoples of the world the dawn of the era of the masses.”
The Declaration also stressed four important points. The first laid down that the official name of Libya will be the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. The second point stressed that the Holy Koran “is the law of society” in the Jamahiriya. The third point concerned the authority of the people maintaining that “popular direct authority is the basis of the political system” in the country. It added that “authority is for the people who alone should have authority” and that the people “exercise their authority through the popular congresses, the people’s committees, the syndicates, the unions, the professional associations and the General People’s Congress.”
“The law defines their function” the third point concluded. The fourth point spoke about the defence of the homeland and read: “Defence of the homeland is the responsibility of every male and female citizen. Through general military training the people shall be trained and armed. Law defines the method of preparing the military cadres and the general military training.”
The “Declaration on the Authority of the People” essentially signified that all forms of traditional and orthodox government had ceased to function in the country and that a new order of governing, permitting the people themselves to become the only instrument of rule, had been born. In his address to the extraordinary session of the General People’s Congress in Sebha, Colonel Muammar al Qadhafi had explained the emergence of this new era, which he termed as the era of the masses and which he described as the logical and natural “next step” in the course of political development. He insisted that in the same manner that more progressive systems of government had, during the course of political development, overtaken former systems of rule, this novel order of governing, or better still the new revolutionary concept of popular authority conceived on that historic day in Sebha, represented an evolution of political development more progressive than the concept of the republic to which the French revolution had given birth centuries before and which the “Jamahiriya” had now superceded.
The Declaration on the Authority of the People effectively stresses three basic fundamentals: First that the people themselves must be the only instrument of governing because genuine democracy cannot be practised as long as power remains concentrated in the hands of the few who continue to act on behalf of the many: Second, that the people must possess their national wealth and the freedom to dispense with it because they are its real owners, and third that the people must also possess arrns to defend the homeland and the revolution. On this last point, the leader of the Libyan revolution has always been explicitly clear. He believes that in the same manner that a genuinely free people cannot depend on a section of the community for either administration or government and that, on the contrary a true definition of democracy means that the people must become the only instrument of rule, likewise the people cannot depend on a section of the community for the defence of the revolution. This responsibility should also be borne by all the people.
Addressing another immense rally in 1975 to mark the first anniversary of the institution of the authority of the people, Colonel Muammar al Qadhafi said:
“Wealth, power and arms should be in the hands of the people. When we have an armed people and when military training becomes general for all the Libyans and arms are distributed to everyone, then we shall not have soldiers whose specific job would be that of defending the people.”
He also made it very clear that “wealth should not be possessed by those who govern as is the case with other countries; socialism can be truly practised only if the wealth is in the hands of the people.” Today, more than three years after that historic assembly of the General People’s Congress in Sebha, the “authority of the people” has become a reality in this land now called the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in the sense that the people of Libya are now practising a novel order of governing which is based on none of the traditional systems of government, but on a revolutionary definition of democracy which permits neither the centralisation of power nor the political, economic or social exploitation of the masses.
This means that there is no authority in the Jamahiriya which acts on behalf of the people, because the people themselves are defined by this novel order of governing as the only instrument of rule. This revolutionary experiment essentially constitutes the basis on which this new order of governing, that is the “authority of the people” is founded. As a matter of fact, this “authority”, or in other words the right of the people to govern themselves by themselves, represents the practical implementation of the theoretical concepts of the Green Book.
In a nutshell, the Green Book can be described as a deep and detailed analysis of the world’s major political, economic and social problems and a revolutionary guide for their pragmatic solution – namely through this novel order of rule which is now emerging in the north African land.
Excert From “September One: A Story of Revolution” by Frederick Muscat
The People’s Power
Indeed, on March 2, 1977 corresponding to the 12th day of Rabi Al Awal of 1397 of the Hegira, according to the Muslim calendar, the Declaration of the Establishment of the People’s Power took place in Kahira, city of Sebha. This was the beginning of a new stage in the historical period following the September 1, 1969 Revolution.
The study of the “Declaration of Sebha” precedes, for methodological reasons, that of the spiritual and political bases of the Leader of the Revolution and also the principles and projection of the “Third Universal Theory” and the proposal formulated in the three parts of the Green Book.
The meeting of the General People’s Congress began on February 25 and ended on March 2, 1977. On that day, according to Muammar himself, the political, economic and social principles of the new Jamahiriya were established.
“What will the Libyan people announce to the other nations of the world?” asked the Leader to the numerous delegates meeting at the extraordinary session of the General Congress, “the setting up of the people’s power, the advent of the age of the masses, the application of the Third World Theory, the success of the Third Way from its starting point, surpassing all democratic experiences following schemes which have failed, and the end of dictatorial regimes.
“With the setting up of the people’s authority, a popular Jamahiriya will be created. With the setting up of socialism, the Jamahiriya will be called ‘socialist’. It will also be a Libyan, Arab, Islamic and African Jamahiriya, consequently, we can discuss its denomination which will have great importance. We cannot decide lightly, as certain new regimes have done, where the name has nothing to do with the nature of the regime.”
Muammar also stated: “We still cannot say it (the Jamahiriya) is ‘popular’ or ‘socialist’, since we have not achieved yet a state of popular and socialist government, but we can assign it new adjectives: if the authority of the people prevails, then it will be a Popular Jamahiriya, and if socialism is introduced, it will also be Socialist, but a socialism different from that of the East or West.”
Drawing out expressions from the Green Book and numerous speeches, Muammar continued by saying: “The law of society has been approved. It is the Koran. Together with the denomination of the Republic which will appear in the new Declaration, we will also set the law of society. If you accept the Koran as you have done before, then you must discuss the consequences. In this way you will no longer be governed by a Constitutional Declaration. We shall say no more: ‘According to the Constitutional Declaration…’ We will no longer have a Constitution. But if we incorporate the new law to the Declaration of the people’s power, the new law will never change. We must know the value of such historical things which will be included in this Declaration”.
Muammar is no doubt as cultivated as he is intelligent. If a great number of his works are criticised by some analysts who accuse him of being too simple, it is precisely because he must address his people in a language easy to understand. We must bear in mind that in spite of the intense literacy campaign launched by the Government, the large majority of the people sunk in the shadows of colonialism until 1969, is not capable yet of assimilating very complicated speeches, excluding the fact that a high percentage of the population still leads a nomad’s life.
All those of us who attended several international events held in the Jamahiriya, were able to ascertain how informed the Revolutionary Leader is on various sciences, a knowledge acquired after years of intense study of the Islamic, Catholic and compared theologies; of politics, philosophy, history, of the various literary and artistic manifestations and also of military strategy.
Muammar has the habit of explaining his views even for hours without the help of an aide memoire. Most of his speeches are heard throughout Libya with the respect and admiration with which students listen, to the oldest and most experienced professors.
No wonder the people call him, besides Leader, the ‘Master-Conductor’.
During the decisive meetings of the General People’s Congress which proclaimed the setting up of the Jamahiriya, he clearly explained the meaning of the proposals delegates were to discuss.
With regard to the procedures for the setting up of the People’s Authority, to its principles and to the way of exercising that power, Muammar said: “The people will exercise power through the popular congresses, the popular committees and the professional trade unions and finally through the General People’s Congress. Everything has been provided for in the Declaration and you will discuss it.”
Then he said that nobody could speak to him, after the final decision had been reached, about the Revolutionary Command Council or about Muammar Qadhafi. Besides, he added: “That would be contradictory… because the setting up of the people’s authority means that it is the people who govern. I will no longer govern, nor the Council nor anybody else. No such thing as leaders for the people – it is the people who are the leaders! No such thing as a government for Libya – the government is the people!” The reader who knows about political sciences might argue that this type of definition cannot go beyond simple theory, since such definitions must be impracticable in accordance with known historical experience.
However, as Aristotle once said: “Something new can always be expected from Libya”. But to clarify this point, a new chapter is called for.
Muammar went on saying: “When we speak of popular authority, we may no longer speak of a Council. Those are two contradictory things.
“Other contradictions: authority of the people and president, authority of the people and the prevalence of the struggle of classes, religions, tribes, families or parliaments.”
Muammar also urged the setting up of the people’s authority and the adoption of the corresponding rules to solve the “problem of democracy”, otherwise the question would remain unsolved and exposed to any sort of dictatorship existing in the world where “a party imposes itself over the people and governs on its behalf”, or else “small groups agree to dominate it”.
“The same thing applies for a tribe, a class, a religion, a family, an individual, an army, a band, a king, an emperor… all possible instruments of dictatorship in which the world continues to suffer”.
“Everything will end with the advent of popular power. Only the Koran and the laws passed by the people will remain. There will be no more statutes for the Arab Socialist Union, nor Constitution, nor parliament.”
“Once popular power has been set up, you will have rendered a great service to Humanity: the creation of a healthy society without political diseases or any other source of conflict.”
“That is the reason for political parties, coups d’etats, revolutions, religions or civil wars; every day there is a struggle for power. The reason is that power is in the hands of a fraction of society, while the remaining fractions fight to seize that power or divide it”.
“The people’s authority ends with that sort of struggles.”
While the international press criticised Muammar acidly, a significant chapter in present political history was being written in Sebha. A charismatic leader, with “Public Power” in his hands, supported on the enormous operative capacity of loyal Armed Forces, owner of the economic resources of one of the richest countries of the world, having all the possibilities at hand to set up a veiled dictatorial system following any of the classical models in fashion, has been capable, in this agitated XXth century, to transfer to the Libyan people the responsibilities which, no doubt, make the people for the first time a genuine protagonist of great decisions.
Only by knowing Libya from within, speaking freely and without protocol or any sort of “agreements”, it is possible to understand the reality of this flourishing Arab country and the high degree of decision achieved by the People through the highest body of the “Jamahiriya”, though of course, the great guidelines of government action have been inspired by the young Leader and ‘Master-conductor’.
The Declaration of Sebha is considered the base for the setting up of popular power in Libya, which became the first country in the world to put into practice such a political system.
The question of opposition to Muammar in many countries where accusations have been lodged without real foundation, are originated in the fact that this political system unveils the true nature of existing “democracies”, both in the countries of the capitalist block as well as in the communist block, also involving of course various regimes within the so-called “Third World”.
Then, when the final document was approved unanimously by the delegates at the General People’s Congress, Muammar addressed a vibrant message to the country.
The Leader said:
“In the desert, associated with drought and sterility, a Revolution was born. People have quickly forgotten past events which occurred in Sebha at the end of the 50’s and which were the prelude to a great hope. Further, they forgot the first call, the first communique of the Revolution made in Benghazi at the end of the 60’s, that communique which has shaken Libya, pulling down the idols. They carried on with their daily life, thinking perhaps that this was just another coup like many others. That event has ended with an old fashioned monarchy to set up a progressive Jamahiriya and has put an end to the presence of foreign troops in our territory.
“Some years have passed since the historical speech in Zuara. That was the anniversary of the birth of the Prophet.” A speech which shook spirits, and consciences! “If that has shaken you, it is to guide you better through a joint action, new and out of the ordinary.
“Today, on the Prophet’s anniversary, the idea of the Revolution has sprung; in Sebha, in the middle of the desert, where the Declaration of the people’s power is proclaimed and with it, the establishment of the Jamahiriya.
“A new age is born to Humanity in the Desert; the age of the masses… The desert is neither sterile nor arid. In the desert today, in this last part of the twentieth century, our people ends with the age of traditional republics, in the same way that the French nation announced in the eighteenth century the end of the monarchy and the advent of the age of the republics.
“Though the desert prevents grass from growing, it produces values and originates eternal messages to Civilization. Today, in the corner of this vast desert land of the Arabs, of the Berbers, of the Tuaregs and the Tobus, the milestone of the age of the Jamahiriyas, the age of the masses is born.”
Not one place in Libya was left without Muammar’s clarifying words, from the coastal region bathed by the Mediterranean to the deep desert, and from the agitated cities to the remote oases full of picturesque palm trees, where caravans necessarily stopped anxious for a resting place.
On March 2, to close the long and tiring sessions of the General People’s Congress, the “Declaration of Sebha” was read, which from that moment became the cornerstone of political and institutional life of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.
The following is the text of the “Declaration of the Establishment of the People’s Power”:
“In the name of the most gracious and merciful God.”
“The Libyan Arab people meeting at the General Assembly of popular congresses, popular committees, trade unions and professional associations (General People’s Congress), by virtue of the Revolution’s first communique and the historical speech of Zuara and guided by the principles set up in the Green Book; considering the recommendations of the popular congresses and the Constitutional Declaration of the 2nd day of Shawal of 1389 of the Hegira (December 11, 1969); the resolutions and recommendations of the General People’s Congress from its first session from the 4th to the 17th day of the Muharram of 1396 of the Hegira (January 5 to 18, 1976) and its second session of the 21st of Zul Kidah to the 2nd of Zul Hijjah of 1396 of the Hegira (from November 13 to 24, 1976).
“Believing in what was advocated by the September 1st Revolution (Al-Fateh) conducted by the revolutionary thinker and Leader Colonel Muammar Al-Qadhafi at the head of the movement of free unionist officers to end the struggle of the fathers and forefathers in order to establish a direct democratic regime where he sees the effective and final solution to the democratic problem.
“This people, assuming popular authority on the land of “Al-Fateh” in accordance with the power of the people which is not under the authority of one single person, declares its adherence to freedom, its desire to defend it within its territory and elsewhere in the world, as well as to protect the oppressed in the cause of liberty; declares its adherence to socialism in order to achieve the property of the people: it declares its commitment to achieve general Arab Union; it declares its identification with the moral values which guarantee moral and social human behaviour; it confirms the development of the Revolution, guided by the revolutionary thinker and Leader, Colonel Muammar Al-Qadhafi towards complete popular power; it confirms the consolidation of popular society, free society holding the power, wealth and the arms; it puts an end to all traditional instruments of judgement of the individual, the family the tribe, religion, class, parliament, one or several parties, and declares it is ready to crush any attempt contrary to the people’s power.
“The Libyan Arab people, after recovering its rights by means of the Revolution, after reconquering the control of its present and future with the help of God and bound by its Holy Book, source of the right path and of social laws, issues this Declaration of the Establishment of the People’s Power and announces to all nations in the world the birth of a new age for the masses.
1 – The official name of Libya will be: Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.
2 – The Koran is the law of society in the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.
3 – Popular direct power is the basis of the political regime of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. The power belongs to the people and only to the people. The people practices its power through popular congresses, popular committees, trade unions, professional unions and the General People’s Congress. The law sets the limits of its action.
4 – The defense of the homeland is responsibility of all men and women citizens. The people, who will receive armament, will be trained by means of general military training. The law rules the formation of military cadres as well as general military training.
The General People’s Congress.
Kahira, city of Sebha, on the 12th day of Rabi Al-Awal of 1397 of the Hegira, corresponding to the 2nd of March, 1977.”
The Declaration of Sebha became from then on the corner stone of the Libyan political system based on Muammar’s thinking formulated not only in the Green Book but also in a number of documents which have not been widely spread but which have great significance for their universal validity.
In many aspects, the ideas of this remarkable Libyan conductor are very similar to the Third Justicialist Position, drafted by General Peron as may be seen in subsequent chapters.
Excerpt From “Al-Qadhafi Operation Jerusalem” by Horacio Calderon