Since October 17, a mass uprising shakes Lebanon. On this day the Lebanese government has announced a USD 0.20 per day charge to use apps like Whatsapp to make calls.
This was the trigger for the largest mass mobilization since 2005, when Syrian troops had to leave the country after 29 years of occupation.
By Hassan Al-Barazili
The October revolution, as the Lebanese call it, has so far at least three very distinct characteristics compared to the 2005 mobilizations.
In 2005 the leaders of the sectarian parties were able to maintain their positions by dividing the population into two bourgeois political camps:
1) the March 8 coalition in favor of the permanence of Syrian troops led by Hezbollah, Amal movement and the SNSP.
2) the March 14 coalition led by Future party, Lebanese Forces, Kataib Party and Jumblat’s Progressive Social Party.
In the October revolution, by contrast, the masses as a whole rose up against all sectarian leaders, and each religious community against their own leaders.
Another important difference is the open content of class struggle against the privileged elites expressed in the October revolution.
Finally, another issue is that the October revolution occurs after the Arab revolutions of 2011.
Many slogans refer to the Arab revolutions: “The people demand the end of the regime”, “Revolution, revolution, revolution” and “the Lebanese people are one”.
The mobilizations extend across the country including the electoral bases of the Future party such as Trablous (Tripoli), as well as the Hezbollah electoral bases such as Nabatiyeh and Sour (Tire).
The central claim is the resignation of the whole cabinet and the call for new free elections without neither the division into electoral districts nor the representation by religious sects. That is, nothing less than the end of the sectarian regime inaugurated by the French mandate in 1926, confirmed by the National Pact and the 1943 constitution and maintained, with alterations, by the 1990 Taif agreements at the end of the Lebanese civil war.
The new government would be responsible for ending corruption, unemployment and austerity, assisting the poor, lowering the price of bread and fuel, ensuring electricity and drinking water 24 hours a day, collecting garbage, that is, ensuring decent life for the whole population.
Protesters, however, want to achieve all of this through peaceful mass participation, without confronting neither the army nor the security services.
First Challenge: To Guarantee the Right to Protest
The strength of the mass mobilization has so far guaranteed the right to protest despite skirmishes with the army that has orders to unblock streets and highways and some attacks by militias linked to sectarian parties.
However, the revolution is not in the interest of the sectarian parties as it targets directly their constituted power.
Therefore, at any moment the regime and its parties can unleash a wave of repression to end the October revolution.
For this they can use both state forces (army, police and security services) as well as militias linked to sectarian parties.
Historical experience demonstrates this.
The Lebanese bourgeoisie preferred to unleash the civil war in 1975 rather than allow the working class and progressive movements to overthrow the sectarian regime.
The same thing happened in neighboring Syria. The Syrian regime has resorted to the genocide of the Syrian people and the destruction of entire cities to prevent any democratic change.
Making a peaceful move is no guarantee to stay on the streets. On the opposite.
The only way to guarantee the right to protest is to organize self-defense and bring the soldiers and the lower ranking officers to the side of the revolution, breaking with the army generals that are linked to the sectarian regime.
In order to organize self-defense and defend the revolution, the formation of local and national coordination is needed, pointing to an alternative power of the workers and the poor people. In the midst of this struggle it is necessary a revolutionary leadership to carry out that task.
Second Challenge: To Overthrow the Sectarian Regime
Created by French colonialism, the sectarian regime proved itself very effective in keeping the working class, peasants and the poor divided.
Divided, the working class ended up maintaining its loyalty to the old bourgeois families that vied for political power in the country since independence.
The end of the sectarian regime is very dangerous for the Lebanese bourgeoisie. Even more if conquered by the action of the masses.
Its end will set in motion social forces, both workers and people’s demands that have been repressed for decades and will invariably turn against the bourgeoisie and imperialist interests in the country.
The only way to overthrow the sectarian regime is to deepen the ongoing social revolution.
Third Challenge: To Finish Austerity Policies
The Lebanese economy has been in crisis at least since the 1960s when the Intra Bank crisis exposed a new situation of the country in the international division of labor: from a petrodollar warehouse between oil-producing countries and American and European imperialism (the so-called “Switzerland of the East”), Lebanon has become an exporter of workforce and an importer of agricultural and industrial products that make the wealth of the national bourgeoisie.
Its status as subordinate economy in the international economic order becomes more dramatic if we remember that the world is heading towards an international recession, which makes any possibility of substantial international “aid” far away.
The only possibility for overcoming austerity policies is by adopting socialist policies: the nationalization of banks and big businesses are an essential condition for pooling resources to end unemployment and poverty, to secure cheap food and fuel, and to develop infrastructure for electricity, drinking water, garbage collection and investments in public healthcare and education.
Everything is Illusory, Except Power
Vladimir Lenin, leader of another October revolution, the 1917 Russian, wrote that “Everything is illusory, except power”.
He meant that any gains taken from the bourgeoisie are at risk while the bourgeoisie is in power.
It is necessary to remove the bourgeoisie from power. It is necessary to put the workers and the poor people in power. That is a socialist revolution.
In the struggle for power, it is important to be aware about who the allies are and who the enemies are.
One of the key institutions is the national army. Army generals seek to present the army as above the sectarian regime, but in fact it guarantees not only the sectarian regime and its constitution, but also the power of the Lebanese bourgeoisie and imperialism.
Within the army, the potential allies of the October revolution are the soldiers and the lower ranking officers. But they must break with the army hierarchy and move to the side of the revolution.
Another potential ally are the Palestinian and Syrian refugees. They hope for the victory of the revolution and the October revolution needs stick to their demands against xenophobia and racism in order to integrate them and overcome any nationalist detour.
Finally, there are ongoing struggles and revolutions in the Arab world and across the globe. The mobilizations in Iraq and Catalonia, the revolutions in Algeria and Sudan, and more recently in Hong Kong, Chile, Haiti and Kashmir, have put on the agenda building links between the struggles and revolutions all over the world. One way or another, they all have the same strategic enemy: imperialism and the subordinate national bourgeoisies.
A new wave of revolutions in the Arab world as the 2011 first wave shall be a decisive factor for the victory of the revolution in Lebanon along with the international solidarity that is under construction.