The Revolutionary Committees
Appearance of revolutionary committees in late 1977 marked a
further evolution of the political system. In response to Qadhafi's
promptings, revolutionary committees sprang up in offices, schools,
businesses, and in the armed forces. Carefully selected, they
were estimated at 3,000 to 4,000 members in 1985. These supposedly
spontaneous groups, made up of zealous, mostly youthful individuals
with modest education, functioned as the watchdogs of the regime
and guides for the people's committees and popular congresses.
As such, their role was to raise popular awareness, to prevent
deviation from officially sanctioned ideology, and to combat tribalism,
regionalism, self-doubt, apathy, reactionaries, foreign ideologies,
and counterrevolutionaries. The formation of the revolutionary
committees was a consequence of Qadhafi's impatience with the
progress of the revolution, his obsession with achieving direct
popular democracy, and his antipathy toward bureaucracy.
The introduction of the revolutionary committees added still
another layer to the political system, thus increasing its complexity.
The revolutionary committees sent delegates to the GPC. Under
Qadhafi's direct command and with his backing, they became so
powerful that they frequently intimidated other GPC delegates.
Reports of their heavy-handedness and extremism abound. In the
1980s, the "corruption trials" in revolutionary courts in which
a defendant had no legal counsel and no right of appeal were widely
criticized both at home and abroad (see Law and the Judiciary
, this ch.). The infamous "hit squads," composed of elements of
the revolutionary committees, pursued Qadhafi's opponents overseas,
assassinating a number of them. Violent clashes occurred between
revolutionary committees and the officially recognized or legitimate
people's groups and the armed forces. It became clear by the mid-1980s
that the revolutionary committees had frequently stifled freedom
of expression. Regardless of Qadhafi's intentions, they had clearly
"undermined any meaningful popular participation in the political
process," as Lillian Craig Harris, an authority on Libya, observed.
Data as of 1987