Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Investigating the Lebanese Left (Part II): Its Current Status

The Current Status of the Left

Check Part I
Communism as a rule bases itself as the spearhead of the Proletariat, embodied by the people’s vanguard party, in order to attain the goals and interests of the working class. The Lebanese Left has been far from attaining this goal, and when the Lebanese National Movement (LNM) was winning its battlefronts, the clash with the Christian Militias was not based on Class Struggle, despite the fact their Platform was based on demolishing the confessional system, application of transparency, placing supremacy to civil law above personal law, achieving optional civil marriage, and transforming the public sector from a 6:5 equation (6 Christians – 5 Muslims) to a merit system. Probably 1975 – 1976 was the peak for left-wing movements; however, this also includes the alliance to the PLO whose leader Arafat was establishing a state within a state inside Lebanon to strengthen his own forces.

The current situation is disastrous for the left. For starters, anyone claims to be leftist. I remember in the year 2000, members of AMAL movement and Future Youth (Sunni Harriri’s supporters) told me that they are leftists. The current bi-polarity has demolished any chance to attain a progressive left-wing based activism. For starters, the current bi-polarity is based 100% on mobilizing the masses in a sectarian manner which has forced the supporters of the Sectarian Parties (Lebanese Forces – Free Patriotic Movement – Future Movement – AMAL – Hezbollah – Progressive Socialist Party – others) to become more sectarian with a survival logic: “either they win politically and throw us out on a social level or vice versa.” No current progressive platform can be implemented and worse, be heard. I have been accused to be insane by both reactionary camps, while the term ‘traitor’ has been tagged on my forehead ever since I loud and clear declared that I oppose both camps. Worse, each camp accuses me with affiliation towards the other camp. Having described the situation on a personal level, I am sure that would provide my readers with a glimpse on the social disease from which the Lebanese are suffering from.

The Democratic Leftist Movement appeared on the scene quickly because its leader, Elias Attallah, was shoved by 14th of March and won him the Parliament (a plan of 14th of March leaders to establish hegemony on the politically assassinated). The problem is the DLM directly endorsed their platform, even on the economic level. Their logic is “being leftist is being supportive of 14th of March”. They rely on Monot St. nights for recruitment and they are still shrinking in size. They over-exhausted the memory of Samir Qassir and now people are leaving them.

The Lebanese Communist Party has been tackled a lot. The LCP is facing competition between two reactionary Stalinist Leaders, under the names of Khaled Hdaidi (current General Secretary) and Sa’adallah Mazra’ani (2nd in Command). The LCP strangely did a minor comeback on the LCP level or the Democratic Youth League (اتحاد شباب دمقراطي). The Youth League was given to a non-party affiliate to manage that section. In any case, last year, the LCP and its different branches called for a demonstration on May Day (May the 1st, known as Workers’ Day) and gathered 15,000 participants. Yet, it has to be recorded that most of the participants are non-party affiliates, such as Dr. Fawwaz Traboulsi. Ever since May Day, the LCP returned on the negotiation table with other parties, mainly those affiliated with 8th of March. Part of the success of the LCP miniature comeback is due the artist Ziad Rahbani’s revival on the political scene and swearing allegiance, in a Stalinist perspective, to the Party. When the first demonstration occurred, the DLM succeeded in mobilizing 5000 members on daily basis.

Whatever has been spoken does not reflect the reality of the left. The Left in Lebanon is far greater than that. Its numbers vary between 130,000 to 150,000 left-wing activists. Some people estimate up to 240,000 , but there is unknown number of how many left wing activists. The tip of an iceberg appeared when George Hawwi (General Secretary from the late 1960s – 1988) was assassinated in the elections of 2005. There couldn’t have been an event that gathered large numbers of activists that surprised all other parties. Most of the participants were non-party affiliated, although their parents were at a one moment members of the Lebanese Communist Party or the Order For Communist Work (OCW). In Down Town alone, the number of participants was estimated to exceed over 60,000, during the funeral ceremonies, while in Teghreen (Hawwi’s home town), the number of people alone exceeded 100,000. Such numbers were last scene in 1973-1975, specially in a rally that occurred in 1973 in the South which gathered 76,000 in the honor of Farajallah Helou (who was melted in acid by the hands of the Arab Nationalists of Nasser in Syria). The number that showed up during George Hawwi’s clearly reflected the number of free lance activists that are inactive due to lack of space. If such a number were active in a single institution with a progressive organization and platform, a lot can be achieved for the Proletariat over here as well as everywhere else (we apply Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution Theory).

Most of the ex- Party members of the LCP and OCW were dumped into the garbage bin once the civil war was active. A lot of the members, based on my interviews with ex-members, received their training in the Socialist Camp. Several other comrades turns out they can speak Russian perfectly well and when drunk, they reply “Da” rather “yes”. The party lost its grip when the Soviet Union collapsed (and a good thing too in order to build a true Proletariat movement). A lot of OCW simply scattered among different Right-Wing party members who are mostly now figureheads of the Government as well as opposition. Some names would include Hassan Krayem (with DLM), Ahmad Fatfat (with the Harriri), and Mohammad Beydoun (AMAL). Actually, most of the late Rafiq Harriri’s advisors were ex-OCW members. The DLM for example are behaving as scavengers to leech off those scattered comrades under the banner of “World Trade Organization is Social Justice for Lebanon”.

A lot of activist groups tried to build their own autonomous groups. The Anarchists are trying to establish their own groups, but ended up in failure. I will tackle those in the next post about chances and opportunities. The fact that the left is distributed between both capitalist reactionary camps does not mean the end of the story, for the battle continues.

In any case, the Left is far from the revolution. This does not mean we are a hopeless case in Lebanon.

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