Friday, April 13, 2007

Investigating the Lebanese Left (Part III): Opportunities and Threats

Check Part I and Part II

Opportunities and Threats

The most powerful tool to build a progressive platform which emancipates the proletariat despite race, gender, color, tendency, nationality, and religion is knowledge. Without knowledge, no radical movement will take place. The Democratic Leftist Movement (DLM) tried to do a last minute patch-work and ended up supporting any party in face of Syria.

The first step in understanding how to build a movement in Lebanon depends on a two-fold dimension in terms of knowledge. The first is understanding the history and its political/sociological/economical actors through out the history. In the end, a person would come to you and say: “why do I need to understand what Presidents Helou or Shamoun did back in the 1950s and 1960s? I care about the present!!”

In a summary, the present is due to the result of the past. The whole current crisis is nothing but one pit-stop among several pit-stops, and more would come. The present is the result of the past. Whatever happens, from a Marxist historical point of view perspective, it can be analyzed in order to evaluate the present and even predict the future.

The second dimension understands the whole world in terms how it functions. As Zinoviev stressed on the notion (at the 2nd Congress of the Third International), the Capitalists got their own international, we need our own international to face theirs. Capitalism has been evolving, while class difference has been on the increase. This has been the case through out the world, and not only Lebanon (although it is funny how the DLMers think that class difference would shrink once Lebanon enters the WTO). The whole world is interrelated as what Immanuel Wallerstein would call “the grid” or our simpler definition: a Matrix. Each nod effects the other. For example, Mexico’s economy crumbled down in 1994, most of the countries received shock-waves as a result of this collapsed economy. Chavez won elections recently in Venezuela, it had its impact in the Middle East. Over 3.6 Trillion dollars rotate on daily basis, and the WTO refutes to integrate the Tobin Tax (taxation on Direct Foreign Investment) on the basis that this is intervention on the freedom of the market, which to them comes a priority over stable markets. Nevertheless, it is important to understand the global and local dynamics from a Marxist perspective in order to build a progressive revolutionary platform (unless the Anarchists want to say Anarchist, but I know even they rely on our methodology to criticize Capitalism).

This of course involves the knowledge of what each leftist school preaches. For me, for example, Social Democrats in the 21st century seized to be leftists as their entire economies are based on what Schroeder said in his final term as “hailing Blairism as a third way” which has nothing welfare oriented rather privatization and market liberation. For me I say I am a Socialist, because as comrade Serrati said at the Second Congress of the Third International (1920): “I say I am Socialist because there is no Socialism but Communism”, I agree, the rest have evolved to become Social Democrats (who afterwards evolved towards the Right-Wing”.

This leaves me with two schools who at least preserved their revolutionary aspects, the radical schools of Communism and Anarchism. A lot of reactionary trends distorted these two schools’ aims (despite my heavy disagreement), but the core essence is their aims. For me, Stalinism is not even within the leftist school, it is a form of distorted socialism merged with Nationalism, one-man-show program, and selling out the Proletariat for Party gains. Tony Cliff called it State Capitalism; Ted Grant called it simply reactionary. My primary focus would be on Marxism in facing Stalinism and some “ultra-revolutionaries” who think the left is about supporting Hezbollah or liberating Palestine.

Again, as I mentioned earlier (in Part I), no one has a clue what is Marxism but self-proclaim themselves as Marxists, and some call themselves leftists because they think secularism is a leftist ideology). In any case, the world itself shrank in size, just as competition forced capitalism in less than a century to make the world small (specially with the breakdown of the Soviet Union).

The Internet itself created a large universe and made the world smaller. A lot of us use the messenger for example to exchange information and experience with comrades from all over the world. We are blessed with the greatest archive to exist in the Marxist History. Actually even the Anarchists use the archive called: “Marxist Internet Archive” (MIA) (link: www.marxists.org) which includes all forms of information on Marxism and other thinkers, as well as historical analysis and much more diversified topics. The immense material of the website makes us fortunate in order to inherit their experiences and victories, their errors and defeats, and most importantly, we learn from them. The DLMers would say such information are irrelevant to the current situation, excuse me Mr and Ms DLM, how the heck you define yourselves as the left, if you have no clue whatsoever about what the left is really about. Another person, from the LCP, would come and say: “these material are fascinating and nice to know about, but that is it”, wrong again, how about trying to find out why their party crumbled down to ashes, and more importantly why they are Communists? Why uncountable numbers sacrificed their lives while singing proudly the International?

Communication between the different comrades over the world has always been present, but at a much slower pace. Furthermore, the revolution in mass media paved way to expose Marxism to more people than ever. Contacts between the active internationals, such as the Defense of Marxism, Committee for the Workers’ International, International Socialist Organization, and the International Socialist Tendency, have taken place. In fact, I established contacts with all of them. My advocates however are the Defense of Marxism, for they have been successful to spread in 3rd World nations such as Pakistan, and the heroics of Lal Khan and his fellow comrades. The CWI have been rather controversial during the July War, but they have been also active in Palestine and Israel, while Comrade Yossi in Israel has written one of the finest pieces in attacking Zionism and shedding light on the Zionists’ shameful racist history.

Yet, different problems rose while communicating between the Internationals and the 3rd World Countries. Some of them failed to understand the situation of the nations on domestic level. For example, the IST were trapped in a certain Cliffite framework despite the fact Tony Cliff himself at a one point was rebelling against all stagnant figures. The IST blindly were trapped in the anti-Imperialist perspective, and believe that the RESPECT coalition can take place elsewhere as simple as that. Allow me to be clear, Galloway’s famous interview with Sky News was fascinating because he did shed light to the situation we are living in, but he is no revolutionary as the Palestinian Jew Tony Cliff. We can’t just blindly raise our finger against any anti-imperialist maneuver against the US. Hezbollah are not a solution to Lebanon, specially for their Proletariat. Moreover, we will do wrong the Proletariat to simply support any feudal or sectarian feudal system for in the end, our goal is the emancipation of the Proletariat. Already all Internationals agree that al-Qa’eda are much worse as a regime than the United States administration, and will never qualify as an ally (thank heavens for that). The IST have some hard working members in Lebanon, and they are willing to get their hands dirty to achieve their goals, but again, they should avoid to fall into the fiasco of the Opposition/Government, for in the long-run our goal is to establish a new pillar of a Marxist Movement out of the ashes of the old. I had several disagreements with them, but at least they are much better grounded than the rest. Patience is virtue, and it is not necessarily at our life time establish a revolution, rather if we can pave way for the next generation, or even the next five generations, then that route should be followed. Europe and its circumstances can’t be exactly replicated. I should note that the affiliates with the IST in Lebanon coexisted a powerful relief network which hit rank 3 during the July War after the Red Cross and Karitas.

The CWI and ISO have established contacts with several Lebanese activists, and they too are well-grounded in the ideology. When discussing with an ex-member of the ISO, I was fascinated how similar we thought, sadly that was on the individual basis. The organizations have been in conflict for a while (and they in turn against the IST) for petty syndicate laws, and then worked on increasing the gaps in order to establish their own influential spheres. These too followed were affected up to a certain extent with the powerful character with Cliff, but they expanded their sphere on others as well. Most importantly, when we say we are Trotskyites, it does not mean we worship Lev Davidovich Bronstein aka Leon Trotsky, but we separate ourselves from the Stalinists and their reactionary movements. Some of the comrades in the previous three internationals fell in the error of transforming Trotsky as an icon. All three internationals should be aware not to follow a superior attitude of the West (usually undermining the Comrades intentionally/unintentionally capabilities or rush them to be active).

The most as I mentioned have been my favorites have been the Defense of Marxism. I established contacts with couple of members from North America by chance. Our logic have been parallel, and I could not have agreed more with any international. I just wish that all the internationals drop their petty clashes, and unify for the sake of the Proletariat, but sadly that can never happen. The Defense of Marxism have been utmost patient, stressing on establishing the clandestine nucleus in Lebanon, and no matter how many years it took, the clandestine nucleus should be formed and solid. It should be based on the sciences of Marxism, and all members should be ready to expand the sphere and be practical on grassroots level. No matter how many “comrades” of the DLM or LCP that tell me this is a waste of time, and real emancipation starts from above, I would reply that this is not the way of the revolutionary, this is the way of the reactionary reformists who would do nothing but sell out on their supporters. I seriously doubt that life in Tsarist Russia was better than Lebanon now, but with mass building via establishing secret debate circles in different locations, then spreading to different streets, after the clandestine was forged, they eventually became prepared till the Bolsheviks’ revolution was isolated, and treason rose from the inside under the bloody reign of Stalin. Patience was what needed. Lenin and Trotsky refuted to reconcile with any person who deviated one step away from Marxism, and eventually they both took that beliefs to their grave. Lebanon at least allows freedom of expression (unless a feudal/sectarian politician is targeted), and chances are much easier with the availability of internet, because the success of the clandestine depends highly on the success of the flow of the communication. If there is no flow of communication, no progressive movement can ever form, whether from a horizontal or vertical management perspective.

The Independent Leftist Movements did their impact for almost a decade within the leftist sphere in Lebanon, but as I mentioned them in Part I, they were meant to create space in the absence of radical parties, not someone stupid from the DLM telling me that I have to be 14th of March to join their glorious shrinking movement or an LCP telling me we have to support Hezbollah in order to oppose the CIA agents in the government. What is even sadder, almost none of the “comrades” know that Lenin was not only a revolutionist, but also one fascinating economist. These acclamations are the cowards’ path to either attain opportunities to become leaders, or to avoid the real path of hardship and pain of establishing the underground vanguard party which will REALLY seek a better life for the Proletariat. We, as “leftists”, who I define as the revolutionaries, need to establish activist space to be existent, currently, we lack that mechanism, while the different factions of the left (be that Communist or Anarchist) clashing with each other and among each other. There is a saying that is popular in Lebanon that goes: “Every six comrades gather up, they open a store” indicating to what extent the left is divided.

I must stress to the revolutionaries, in case any clandestine should begin, the deadliest enemies would be those who claim to be leftist. The LCP, ever stuck with the greed to be the axis of the Lebanese left, would fight to the skin any potential radical movement to be active in Lebanon (and I assume that is the case elsewhere) not to exclude the right-wingers DLM with their hypocritical logic that “either you are with us or you are a Syrian Baathi agent.”

A lot of proposals have been given regarding the unity of the left, but the problem is where do we begin and how do we begin? Are the Durzi sectarian Progressive Socialist Party of the feudal/Sectarian lord Walid Junblatt leftists? They lost whatever socialism they had when Lebanon crumbled into militia cantons after 1984, and eventually dissolved the Lebanese National Movement. Someone proposed that the SSNP – Ina’am Raad faction can be tagged leftist, since he aimed to transform the party from a Syrian Nationalist to radical socialist party (and tagged by several current SSNP a traitor)? Are those Arab Nationalists who attempt to revive Arab Nationalism which inspired the Stalinists in the 1960s leftists? What about the DLM, whose sole foundation was to construct a unified left but ended up as puppies to Sa’ad Harriri and Samir Jaajaa? What about the PFLP of George Habbash’s faction? We all know the PFLP-General Command ended up to be a Muslim based rather a Socialist based perspective? George Habbash’s faction was Stalinist, mixed partial Marxist revolutionary goals. This faction is highly controversial as Leila Khaled’s famous operations still win the hearts of the plenty in the Arab World (including mine to say the truth, I really respect her courage).

The last to call for the unity of the left was the Lebanese Communist Party. Yet, experience taught us that the current leadership (as well as the post-1990 command) want nothing but hegemony of the left. On the last celebration of the Birth of the LCP, its general secretary Khaled Hdaidi called for the unity of the left in Lebanon, but afterwards the LCP’s star Ziad Rahbani delivered the most Stalinist speech ever heard: “If you are not part of the party, you are a parasite.” (I guess I am a parasite in that case so are tens of thousands as well). My analysis as well as others of the fellow comrades, the LCP did such an initiation to get the free lancers in working on the project separately, while the LCP isolates them and achieves political hegemony over them. If the LCP want to establish real unity, they should start with doing serious revision within themselves, as well as their Democratic Youth League.

About four years ago, there was another attempt to achieve a similar unity, which was called the Leftist Platform. The project, like the Khat el Moubashar (Direct Line) started with great hopes, but barely lasted two months. It at least brought the first real attempt to unify the left, while its cadres were the youth. Green activists or Socialist based Gay right activists even joined, along with the Independent Leftist Movements, Trotskyites, Communist Students (an off – shoot from the LCP and ended up dissolving itself within the DLM), as well as other freelancers. The disastrous result was they fought with each other, and the Leftist Platform collapsed. It should be noted that they were all youth during those meetings, and the only old person was none-ever but the clown Elias Attallah trying to establish hegemony like he did now with the ridiculous DLM.

Other left-wing organizations became active in Lebanon despite the fact they are not 100% leftist such as Green Line. Green Line started as a tiny NGO which grew to become one of the most powerful grass root organization on the ground not only to protect Lebanon from the environmental damage generated by Capitalism, but also to be a pioneer in facing corporate globalization. They may lack a revolutionary platform, but at least they achieved some down to earth goals on the ground, and they got radical factions that oppose any negotiations with the WTO and go straight against it.

Another group, left-wing in nature, and radical, but still has a long road to go is ATTAC. ATTAC on an international scale is diversified and suffered major blows. I will not dwell on the status of ATTAC on the international level, but will focus on Lebanon. Each group of ATTAC throughout the world has its own autonomy, some have been reformists others have been revolutionary. ATTAC Lebanon has been catching my attention lately with their released brochures, and seems they adopted the revolutionary side. They would prove important in Lebanon for alter-globalization activism and in the absence of any experienced movement in such a domain. After further investigation, ATTAC started with the wrong people opening it as a social club till the radicals established the real alter-globalization movement in Lebanon. Time will tell if they can have any impact or not specially the current generation has to a challenge to clear the blunders of the older generation, but based on the brochure I read, I think they might be on the right track, but still, like Green Line they are not a revolutionary party, specially the Proletariat’s Party. Their activism is based on supporting alter globalization movement and fix the system. They like Green Line are potential activist space for the time being.

The third category are Helem, the first NGO established in the Arab world whose task is to defend the rights of the Homosexuals/Queer/Bisexuals individuals to exist equally as those who are tagged as “straights”. Helem means in the English Language as Dream. Probably they did one a hell of an entry in the Lebanese Scene when they demonstrated against the US invasion of Iraq. While all traditional parties were demonstrating, a group of independent leftists, half of them reformists in nature, along with the Gay Movement did a symbolic parade that topped the news in the campaign, spearheaded by the different factions of the Leftist Platform, under the Banner of No War! No Dictatorship! (ie No to the invasion and no to Saddam). The Rainbow flag appeared the first time in Lebanon under much controversy, specially homosexuals/bisexuals were and still are persecuted on social level (and sometimes police level). The topic of Helem would deserve another post on its own, something I will hope to do soon. I will mention briefly some inputs I gathered on that NGO. It definitely takes courage to establish such an NGO despite the Arab or religious atmosphere (be that Christian or Muslim) we live currently; I would also like to add that a lot of the leftwing themselves face difficulty to digest such activists, specially those who embrace socialism/anarchism as the path to emancipate the society. Sadly, some gay activists became isolationists and focused on establishing themselves as a minority against the “straights”, or believe that the only solution to establish their existence is through gay coalitions. The left-wing gay movements tend to believe that the only way to achieve salvation to the society is through the emancipation of the society as a whole, similar to the left-wing feminists.

There have been a fourth NGO that aims towards Secularism, the Civil Society. This aims in promoting secularism, such as the “Conference of Secularism”, under the Patronage of the “Red Priest” Gregoir Haddad, but even within these activists, people fell into the error of opposition/government or 8th of March versus 14th of March. Within the movement, there have been secular activists who went against both trends, who are against both. Yet, secularism alone can’t be simply shoved into society. In any case, as I mentioned in my first part, being secular does not make you a leftist. Most of the hard-core business oriented business elites are secular usually in nature. The movement has been isolated, but at least it is like the others provides a miniature space for activism.

I stated some of the several “space” movements that aim to achieve couple of left-wing goals, but each is focused on a tiny aspect of the overall problem. They have been active but sadly they are not revolutionary parties. They can’t do change, they can only hinder what Capitalism will eventually bombard the people in Lebanon.

The most important factor dominating the Lebanese Left is the informal connections between different left-wing activists. To say the truth, Lebanon is not such a big place, and almost everyone knows everyone. Those informal nods are probably the closest thing to do an activity, as it appeared during the July War. A person wants to know something or needs a favor; Comrade X would give him Comrade Y for info. That is the case in Lebanon, but rarely anything works on a political level. I already displayed on a national scale how all such projects crumbled down without achieving any permanent results. Those networks are usually beneficial on academic or personal level, and sometimes like the whole nation is running in such a system, employment level (and not that much too). Those informal connections usually come in handy to break the ice between different organizations, but at the same time almost all the organizations (political and social) have something against the other, and end up scavenging in a competitive form, for glory. That is the case in most of the time, sadly. If there is a general interest to really rebuild the left in a progressive manner, then these informal contacts would prove handy.

The left has a long road to go through, and their members refuse to do the first most important thing to become at least leftist (depending on the school): Learn your history, and learn your ideology. That is why I am not affiliated with anyone in Lebanon because 90% each is scavenging against the other, specially on the political level. Platforms do not attract people, it is dogmatism that brings people, and not that many in the “Lebanese Left” since Sectarian elites are doing a better job, while the “Left-Wing” are caught up to encourage this sectarian movement or that.

In the end, the Proletariat are suffering, while clowns like the DLM would tell you: “The Proletariat would be victorious if 14th of March triumphs” while the LCP would go on an anti-thesis level: “The Proletariat would win if the CIA affiliated government is trashed.” To the DLMers, either disband or change your name. To the LCP, either learn what Marxism is really about or simply join Hezbollah. The radical ones in all political and institutional ones should leave those reactionary movements and form at least a unified revolutionary front.

No War But Class War

MFL

12 comments:

laila said...

hey
do you mind if i print this out? dont have time to read it on-screen!

Lalebanessa said...

Hi MFL,
Interesting read even for a non-marxist. Do you do requests? Can you write some more about the SSNP?

PS got the book (finally!)

MarxistFromLebanon said...

No Problem laila, I never knew you read my looooooooooong posts :D, it is wonderful to know such an artist like yourself visits me from time to time :)

Congrats La Lebanesessa, now you will see things my way.

I will write on the SSNP when I revive the Myth From Reality series :D

C. Sinnokrot said...

Very interesting read. I've read some of your posts. Very detailed in nature, which as you write, details the irregularities and differences of and between the left, and those who mis-identify themselves as "leftists". Being Palestinian, I especially appreciate learning your ideal brand of Marxism through the Arab (Lebanese) scope.

Renegade Eye said...

You are probably correct, that the Stalinist left in Lebanon, is your biggest danger if they were in power. They have a history of hating you.

Anonymous said...

Dear MFL
Extremely interesting post and blog ...
A few comments from a member of ATTAC Lebanon: you say we are not a revolutionary party. You are right we are not a party, but I firmly believe we are revolutionary: our aim is not to “fix the system” but to overthrow it and replace it (“another world IS possible”). For us, the 1rst tool to fight capitalism is education: self-education and public education. This is what ATTAC is all about, and I see u agree with us “The most powerful tool to build a progressive platform which emancipates the proletariat despite race, gender, color, tendency, nationality, and religion is knowledge”. We still have a long way to go, you’re right.
2- we do not just support alterglobalist movements, we are trying to fight globalization in the specific form it takes in Lebanon, while working at the same time with comrades from all around the world to fight it on a global scale.
Still have a long way to go, but I think we’re on the right track.
Best,
A member of ATTAC Lebanon

MarxistFromLebanon said...

Dear Member of ATTAC-Lebanon, can you please post your website in the comments section? Thank you for the feedback

C. Sinnokrot, welcome to my blog

Renegade, I agree with you about Stalinism as dangerous, but over here, they sort of developed their own logic, rather the KGB logic of terror, they are too crippled to do anything. The more dangerous than those are the DLM, since they promote right-wing goals under the banner of the left.

Cameron S. said...

Do you have any recommendations of books on the subject, specifically in Lebanon, Palestine, or Syria? My readings on the topic usually consist of work often from a European perspective. I cannot seem to find much (and do not know what is actually considered "good" in the middle-east) primarily becaus I live in the U.S., and book reviews and critiques are often extremely bias, or not offered at all.

MarxistFromLebanon said...

Dear Cameron S.

depends what topic, I can give you topics that are objective, for example, if I give you the strictly Hezbollah version, it is not objective, but the refereces I can provide (again depending on the topic) I can, primarily in naming things as they happened...

best regards and welcome to my blog
MFK

Anonymous said...

This is our website:
http://www.lubnan.attac.org/

Cameron S. said...

Marxism in the Arab world (or in the Levant). Different groups that operate. History of such groups. The effect the Soviet Union had on such groups. etc.

Khawwta said...

ya MFL
ma tafa2na tkhafif haki w t2assir l post.. zaghou 3youni wloooo
anyway Good one