Thursday, August 30, 2007

Regarding Bashir Gemayel's Elections: The Other Story

This is a post that I wanted to do last week, when Bashir's Election as President of Lebanon's memorial was then.

If there was a figure in the history of Modern Lebanon to be classified as a controversial figure, that figure would definitely be Bashir Gemayel. Ever since I was a child I was surrounded by people talking for years and years on Bashir Gemayel. In my area a lot hated him, and few secretly supported him, and in another area vice versa. I was always fascinated by how such young person became and remained the core controversy within Lebanon’s history, and I always wondered about him. Practically, my primary investigations regarding the Civil War has rotated mainly on Bashir Gemayel in the attempt to unlock all that we don’t know, and reconstruct what happened behind the scenes. I want to make it clear, I am not a Bashir Gemayel fan, not at all, but such a figure, whose past always haunts us in the present and day-to-day talk still, deserves the attention. The issue is approaching the whole issue of Bashir Gemayel (and the Civil War as a matter of fact) in pure objectivity in the search of digging out what happened, despite our political affiliations. Now, this post is not about the overall history of Bashir Gemayel, rather simply his election and it will be useful to pin-point briefly the events of 1982:

1) The PLO were a political dominant faction with economic roots embodied within Lebanon, mainly in West Beirut, they already were beaten by the Syrians but remained a powerful force.

2) Ariel Sharon became the Minister of Defense, and with that, he had a two-fold plan: Eradicate the PLO – Install an Israeli government satellite system in Lebanon which would become the 2nd Arab Country to sign peace with Israel.

3) Bashir Gemayel already emerged from the Zahli conflicts in 1981 as the primary candidate for the US to become President after a long path of bloodbath and after establishing complete domination over what became known as “Marounstan”.

4) December 5 1981: Ariel Sharon shows a sketch plan to Philip Habib on invading Lebanon up to Beirut. Philip Habib suspects a link-up between the Phalange Militia and the Israeli Army.

5) Late Jan. 1982: “Sharon scouts out Beirut, coordinates invation plans with his Lebanese ally Bashir Gemayel: Israeli Army (IDF) will trap PLO in West Beirut; Bashir’s milita, the Phalange, will go house to house killing trapped PLO fighters”

6) Syrian Army gets crushed and loses its hegemony over Lebanon, the Lebanese Forces and the Israeli Army link up in East Beirut, and Bashir Gemayel refutes to enter West Beirut, due to US pressure plus the fact the PLO are much stronger militarily. After almost total annihilation of West Beirut by the order of Ariel Sharon, the Israeli artillery stops, Philip Habib for different reasons succeeds in brokering a deal to evacuate peacefully the PLO, and towards the end, Bashir Gemayel is elected, in a most controversial matter, as President of Lebanon. Sharon welcomed the deal because the Israelis wanted Bashir Gemayel as the President of Lebanon.

The investigation will rotate on how legitimate is Bashir’s Gemayel elections as a President. We already know that once a Parliament votes, there is no turning back, as we have seen with the Parliament. My role is to display the other side of the story, in the quest of investigating such a heavy sensitive topic, and I will base my references on notes from the US diplomats, mainly Philip Habib & Morris Draper (Reagan’s elite Presidential Convoy), among other sources. My argument will be definitely towards against the legitimacy of electing Bashir Gemayel as President of Lebanon, and I will draw a parallel comparison to the current Emil Lahoud, despite the fact that the latter lacks any ambition, unlike the former. I shall delete any form of non-constructive or racist comments on the issue because I want to advocate a constructive debate in the most civilized manner. This shall be applied to potential participants from all political trends, the role is to reconstruct history in a most objective matter.

And here I shall quote from the book Cursed is the Peacemaker the following mentioned from the US perspective. In a summary, the Israelis were mostly all over Lebanon except West Beirut (then), and the Israelis surrendered the Port to Bashir Gemayel instead as agreed to the Multi-National Forces, led by the US Marines and supported by the French and the Italians in order to have a final chance on Arafat, and enforce again Bashir as President:

One of Several Incidents:

“And something promptly did. This problem came from out of nowhere. The Lebanese Parliament was scheduled to elect a new president on August 23, four days hence. Maronite Christian militia leader Bashir Gemayel was the only candidate. But the Muslims rejected him because he was Israel’s ally and stood to be Israel’s puppet. The only way the Muslims could deny him the presidency was by boycotting the election in parliament and thus preventing a quorum.”

So Bashir played some clever hardball: He used the evacuation as blackmail. Habib’s plan called for the Israelis to turn their positions at the port to the Lebanese army Friday night, August 20. The French would then move into the port Saturday morning so that the PLO could move out from the port Saturday afternoon. But now, on Thursday, Bashir had made a deal with the Israelis to turn over their positions at the port to his militia. Unless the Muslims allowed a quorum for the election, Bashir’s militia would not allow the French to land at the port. No quorum, no MNF (Multi-National Forces). No MNF, no evacuation. No Evacuation, no end to the [Israeli] siege.

After Philip exploded at President Sarkis, he had it with Bashir, but his plans also included Bashir Gemayel as a president and hence:

“He then had it out with Bashir. Habib’s position was simple: While he did support Bashir’s election, this thing was a lot bigger than that. It was not acceptable, Habib told him, to foul up the whole show by preventing the MNF’s arrival. If he did that, he would at one fell swoop destroy his Israeli support, American support, and what LITTLE Lebanese support he had outside of his own faction. If the evacuation fell through, the siege could well re-ignite – leaving Bashir to preside over a smoking wasteland of a capital with no friends inside or out. Was that the kind of presidency he wanted?”

“Bashir couldn’t back down without some way of saving face. “So Phil and Bashir dreamed up a nice little two-act play,” says Draper. The next morning Draper got representatives of France and the LAF (Lebanese Army) and “a whole lot of press together. On Phil’s behalf I marched down to the headquarters of Bashir’s outfit in the harbor and ostentatiously had a meeting with him ad his lieutenants to talk about what was going to happen in the evacuation.” Bashir’s men being suitable impressed with this public American show of their leader’s importance, he withdrew his threat.”

Now the purpose of citing this interesting incident, of many many interesting incidents is to show how closely the Israelis and the US collaborated, but how Bashir played on two ropes: one rope had Phil Habib written on it, and the other’s name is Ariel Sharon.

Now of course, the Israelis ever arriving to Lebanon, they never played by the book, and always hindered Phil Habib’s efforts to reach a constructive deal to get the PLO out of Beirut. Arafat finally accepted the plan after Sharon hindered it more than a dozen times by blasting West Beirut and blocking all communication lines (not to forget the excessive bloodbath Sharon shed on the streets), and got the Israeli assurances to the final draft, it was now Bashir’s turn:

“Habib got a reiteration of the Israeli assurances, then he and Dillon (US Ambassador to Lebanon) met with Bashir in the library of Dillon’s home at Yarze. The Boyish thirty-four-year-old Bashir, who had never really taken this odd little man named Arafat seriously, made several jokes, each quickly followed by “Ok, I know this is serious.” Diplomats cannot choose their counterparts, but must work with the ones there are. Habib bore in to impress upon Bashir the gravity of the situation. Both expected that Bashir was within days being elected president. However much he might despise the Palestinians and however much dried blood was on his hands, Lebanon’s next President could ill afford fresh blood on his hands. Bashir wore a wry smile that Dillion interpreted to mean “I guess I’ve got no choice but to cooperate, huh?” He again gave Habib his personal guarantee that the Phalange would not any action against the Palestinians remaining.”

The US and Bashir Gemayel During his Presidential Campaign

As the evacuation of the PLO began:

“The Third day of the evacuation coincided with the date appointed for the Lebanese parliament to elect a new president. Habib had an extraordinary role for a foreigner in the election. As Druze leader Walid Jumblatt reportedly told him, “You have become part of the system.” Habib had directed much of his energy over the summer toward preparing the Lebanese government to start reasserting its sovereignty, and he viewed the evacuation and election as the twin opening bells of that new era.”

“Habib and Dillon believed that, if anyone stood any chance of uniting Lebanon now, it was Bashir Gemayel. They both felt that, despite his bloody track record, he was the best hope Lebanon had. They felt he had matured greatly in he past year and had genuinely taken to heart their advice that he had to distance himself from the Israelis and to work with (not against) the Muslims so he could be president of all Lebanon”

Now here I would disagree as we have seen earlier on how Bashir Gemayel behaved in official meetings, and as well due to the [at least] Port incident. I, of course got a lot more examples, but I will prefer to leave them aside.

“The Muslims and Druze, however, believed that, if anyone could worse Lebanon’s divisions, it was Bashir. As one Lebanese official put it, “Bashir was anathema to all the Muslims and to all the Arabs. He was Israel’s puppet.” When Muslim children behaved, their mothers would sometimes tell them, “Don’t do that. Bashir will come and get you.” Walid [Jumblatt] tried to persuade Habib that the election of Bashir would be the ruin of the country and asked Habib to use influence to see to it that the next president WOULD BE ANYONE BUT BASHIR. Habib made an effort to seem impartial, replying that he was not in the business of electing Lebanese presidents, BUT that Bashir was clearly going to win.”

“That was a safe prediction. A Lebanese election bears little resemblance to the Western democratic ideal. Regardless of what anyone thought of Bashir, there was literally no other candidate. By the unique Lebanese formula of government, the president must be a Maronite, and NO OTHER MARONITE WAS SUICIDAL ENOUGH TO CHALLENGE BASHIR. And if he were not elected, at least one anti-Bashir Lebanese official believed, he would have taken power by force and maybe caused partition of the country.”

“Lebanese elections were notable also for foreign involvement, threats, violence, and suitcases of money. ON JULY 27 THERE HAD BEEN A DISCUSSION WITHIN THE STATE DEPARTMENT’s NEAR EASTERN AFFAIRS BUREAU OF DRAWING ON A CONTINGENCY FUND TO GIVE MONEY TO BASHIR “ in case he needs it to buy votes.” One official involved noted that “if he becomes president, we will be a valued adviser. Habib has influence.” But the CIA opposed “paying off Bashir,” and Habib recommended WAITING. As it turned out, Bashir neither needed nor got American money to bribe deputies he had plenty of his own.”

“WHILE BASHIR and his PHALANGE militia were BRIBING AND TERRORIZING parliamentary deputies to come vote for him, the Syrians were threatening deputies to stay home and thus prevent a quorum. The election had already been postponed for four days, and there was serious doubt whether it would be held at all. In the end, says Draper, Bashir was elected “ONLY BECAUSE BOB DILLON SWUNG a couple of Lebanese INTO BASHIR’s camp at the last minute and we told everybody we knew that the United States was supporting him. Even then it took hige bribes [by Bashir] to get across the last few votes. But Bashir didn’t get the money from the United States/” Habib told Washington that Bashir “HAS GOT MOST OF THE SHI”A PAID OFF. HE GOT SOME SUNNI. This is not Cook County, though: This is the Hatfields versus the McCoys with automatic weapons.” Indeed, the day before the election, one deputy was shot in the back and another kidnapped. On election morning, August 23, Bashir’s Phalange THUGS ESCORTED DEPUTIES TO THE ELECTION IN AN ARMY BARRACKS SURROUNDED BY PHALANGE GUNMEN WITH ISRAELI SOLDIERS IN THE BACKGROUND. Some deputies brought their own armed bodyguards, and at least one asked his Phalange escort to hold a gun to his back s others would think he was being brought there by force. Seventeen homes or offices of deputies who participated in the election were blown up.

“Bashir of course won, and Habib was delighted. In Christian East Beirut, Bashr’s stronghold, celebrations swirled all afternoon and all night with the standard Lebanese celebration of shooting in the air. Two of Habib’s Marine Liaisons were sitting in a villain Baabda that night, when the room suddenly filled with bullets whistling and flying everywhere. One Marine looked over the edge of the balcony and saw “this little girl about nine years old standing there holding a 9mm pistol just wanging away!”

Analysis of Bashir’s Election and Present Day Crisis

As far as we know, all presidents elected during the Civil War are to be approached with caution. There was no one Lebanon, and there have been several foreign factors intervening within Lebanon. President Sarkis for example was an agreement between the US and Syria, as well as several local actors who wanted to get rid of President Sulieman Franjieh (who became president as reaction of all local actors getting rid of the Shehabist regime). Eventually, a President in a civil war in itself will always represent a faction over the others, specially when we have different foreign actors on the military and political level. This can extend also to the Syrian Mandate as well, was Lahoud a democratic elected president, or a Syrian-shoved president? Camille Shamoun in the past tried to by-pass the major non-allied actors (mainly Kamal Jumblatt and Sa’eb Salam) to renew his presidency term, but we had a very tiny civil war.

So what about the most controversial figure in Lebanon’s history? Bashir Gemayel? In a nutshell, Lebanon couldn’t have been more divided than that era. Just for the fact Beirut was divided into a West and East Beirut, with two parallel central banks (one for East Beirut & one for West Beirut as President Sarkis did in alliance with Bashir Gemayel), everything was divided. Moreover, Bashir Gemayel was elected President on grounds were Israeli soldiers were present and accompanying the deputies to vote for him. We must not forget also that the equation 6:5 remained standing, so the Parliament (whoever was alive then) didn’t represent effectively all the actors on the ground.

This reminds us of Emil Lahoud and his renewal of his mandate, specially when a lot of candidates nominated themselves, while Lebanon was split by half whether to renew or oppose him, and in the end, had no choice but to renew. Syria wanted Emil Lahoud as a President, just as Begin/Sharon wanted Bashir as a president, and not to forget the conflicting interests of the Israelis with the US foreign policy. Bashir Gemayel also had the US diplomats swinging deputies in the last moment for the sake of electing Bashir Gemayel, and moreover, no one was suicidal to run as a candidate in face of him from the Maronite section (unlike President Sarkis versus Reymond Edde who suffered from couple of assassination attempts). With Israeli tanks, and West Beirut just a week and a half earlier was suffering from massive Israeli butchery from East Beirut, I really doubt young Bashir would have represented the whole. Even Philip Habib kept the US administration on standby to prepare cash transfers to Bashir Gemayel in case Bashir’s extortion/terrorist/bribery tactics failed. Actually, worse, the deputies had two way sufferings as well, either Bashir’s fists/Israeli brutality or Syrian threats from one side. Those deputies who yielded probably assumed that the Israelis were staying forever, specially Syria’s forces were narrowed down to a regiment trapped in West Beirut, and were gradually getting evacuated. The US muscled in powerfully for the mere fact that they told all deputies indirectly they are supporting Bashir Gemayel as the President of Lebanon. Sharon, who had the upper hand in almost all the issues, already invaded Lebanon, and having failed to permanently to annihilate the PLO, Bashir Gemayel was on his agenda regarding phase two. The mere fact East Beirut celebrated while West Beirut mourned the election of Bashir Gemayel showed a lot on the controversies of Bashir’s elections, and how legitimate he would have been.

Emil Lahoud fitted perfectly with the Syrian logic of imposing him as President, and renewing his mandate. He disregarded half of Lebanon (at least) in opposing his elections, and he was elected amidst foreign influences rather domestic agreement. The Parliament may have been surrounded by Lebanese Army troops, but also had Syrian 2nd Bureau checking on the on-going elections of Emil Lahoud. Just like Bashir Gemayel’s case, several MPs out of the blues changed their mind in the last second and decided to do a quorum to renew his mandate. Syria, like Israel from 1982 – 1984, also wanted a satellite government of their own inside Beirut. But unlike Israel, they had the US blessings to do so in 1990, and entered on a latter stage with massive contradictions with the US. The bi-polar situation of Lebanon in current days reminds us of the bi-polar state of opposing / supporting Bashir Gemayel. Technically, 14th of March should make it clear whenever reviving Lebanese Forces glory to mention Bashir Gemayel was elected in a building whereby the Parliament was surrounded by Israeli soldiers. To despise the Baathi is one thing, to disorient history as it happened is another. Probably one difference is that the whole primary actors of 1982 had automatics at their disposals.

Finally, how do we regard the elected presidents of the civil war? We had President Sarkis, Bashir Gemayel who didn’t make it to his inauguration, President Amin Gemayel, and later, Aoun self-proclaimed himself as a President, Rene Mou’awad who also died too early, and President Elias Hrawi towards the very end. Each had a circumstance, and each had different contradicting issues. Even currently as we approach the new Presidential elections, we still have heavy interferences, just like Saudi Arabia is doing its influences, they did it as support to Philip Habib back in 1982. So as far as we are concerned, most of the Presidents had foreign interferences. Whether the Presidents of the French Mandate, the Independence President/Cabinet (British vs. French), or on a latter stage, the rest… all had one way or another different levels of foreign interferences, and shoving one president in the face of the others. And if all are controversial, what about the president who linked his militia to the Israelis at East Beirut to become almost a single coherent unit while Israeli artillery and smart bombs headed from East to West Beirut.

Special Thanks

Last but not least, I would like to thank a friend of mine who is also a Lebanese Forces and knows who I am (for the past year). To say the truth, that LF supporter fully supported me to write these series for the sake of gathering information and reconstruct history, and that LFer never exposed my identity, rather supported me to write and more write about anything I can think of. Me and the LFer probably disagree 180% on everything, but at least we agree on digging out history, and respect the freedom to write freely.


Roy Boykin, Cursed is the Peacemaker, Applegate Press (2002), P. XXI
Ibid, P. 236
Ibid, P. 237
Ibid, P. 237
Ibid, P. 237
Ibid, P.239
Ibid ,P. 249
Ibid P.249
Ibid, P. 249
Ibid, P. 249
Ibid, P. 249
Ibid, P. 250
Ibid, P.250

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Remembering Leon Trotsky: Deutcher's Prophet Armed


While the Menchivics were arguing how to transfer Russia from feudal to capitalistic in nature, and the Second International was entering its recessionary crisis (plenty of different political & ideological reasons), a 25 year old foresaw, through his expertise in Historical Materialism and under the studies of Parvus that the seeds to establisk a Soviet is possible due to plenty of reasons. When the first Soviet (Workers Council) was built in 1905, Lenin and Julius Martove go "what is that". When the revolution ended, it ended with Trotsky's head up while the Tsarist army baffled that this young fellow was the transformer of a simple demonstration to the 2nd workers' revolutions and established the Second Workers' Council after the Paris Commune of 1871.

This piece is taken from Isaac Deutcher's Prophet Armed timeless masterpiece, that depicts the very end of the first Soviet (Second compared to Paris Commune), and how its organizer got arrested. The 1905 revolution was about to end with the Tsar's army entering the Soviet HQ, Trotsky at such a young age, 26, successfuly transformed a demonstration to a revolution and established the first Soviet in the history. The 21st Century Communists should learn from their history, and above all how the ideology is placed in the service of the Marxist Revolutionary. This is the second post about probably one of the most important figures/thinkers of Communism, and the saver of the Marxist doctrine from being misunderstood as Stalin's Mother Russia, I published the article last year, and thought it would be a good idea to republish it in the honor of a man who sacrificed everything for the sake of the Proletariat:

The Arrest

"From a balcony Trotsky shouted to the delegates: 'Comrades, offer no resistence. We declare beforehand that only an agent provocateur or a policeman will fire a shot here!" He instructed the delegates to break the locks of their revolvers befure surrendering them to the police. Then he resumed his chair at the Executive's conference.

A trade-union spokesman was just declaring his union's readiness ot join in the general strike, when a detachment of soldiers and police occupied the corridors. A police officer entered the room where the Executive was sitting and began to read a warrant of arrest. It was now only a question whether the Soviet would carry its own weakness and humilation with dignity. Resistence was ruled out. But should they surrender meekly, gloomy-faced, without a sign of defiance? Trotsky's pride and his sense of stage effect would not perit him to preside over so flat and disheartening a scene. But he could not afford any serious act of defiance, he could relieve the gloom of the situation only with humour. And so he turned the last scene of this spectacle into a witty burlesque of a bold performance. As the police officer, facing the Executive, began to read the warrant of arrest, Trostsky sharply interrupted him: "Please do not interfere with the speaker. If you wish to take the floor, you must give your name and I shall ask the meeting whether it wishes to list to you."

The perplexed officer, not knowing whether he was being mocke at or whether he should expect armed resistence, waited fo rthe trade-union delegate to end his speech. Then Trotsky gravely asked the Executive whether he should allow the officer to make a statement "for the sake of information". The officer read the warrant, and Trotsky proposed that the Executive should acknowledge it and take up the next item on it agenda. Another speaker rose.

"Excuse me", the police officer, disconcerted by this unheard of behavior, stammered and turned towards Trotsky, as if for help.

"Please do not interfere", Troskty sharply rebuked him. "You have had the floor; you have made your statement; we have acknowledged it. Does the meeting to have further dealings with the policeman?"


"Then, please, leave the hall."

The officer shuffled his feet, muttered a few words and left. Trotsky called upon the members of the Executive to destroy all documents and not to reveal their names to the police. From the hall below rose the clangour of broken revolver-locks-the delegates were carrying out Troskty's order.

The police officer re-entered, this time leading a platoon of soldiers. A member of the Executive rose to address the soldiers: The Tsar, he said, was at this very moment breaking the promise of the October Manifesto; and they, the soldiers, were allowing themselves to be used as his tools against the people. The officer, afraid of the effect of the words, hurriedly led the soldiers out into the corridor and shot the door behind them. "Even through closed doors", the speaker raised his vice, "the brotherly call of the workers will reach the soldiers."

At length, a strong detachment of police entered, and Trotsky declared the meeting of the Executive closed.

Thus after fifty days ended the epic of the first Soviet in history."

taken from Isaac Deutcher, Prophet Armed Trosky 1879 - 1921 ( Verso, 2003), p. 118 - 119

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Shame on LBC's Basmat Watn

A clip passed on LBC's Basmat Watan whereby a Lebanese ties a Palestinian and wears the Red Scarf (Koufieh), and takes a check from the Public Sector compensation, and then as he is fleeing, he dumps the Koufieh on the head of the tied-up Palestinian, and tells him: "I am a Lebanese who had to steal your identity to make cash from the state.... (laughs)... the immigrants of the Mountain (Mt. Lebanon/ al-Jabbal) till now didnt return, but a Palestinian?" and he runsaway

First, I want to say that even if this is intended towards the government, this is very racial towards the Palestinian civilians...

Second, opening the issue of Mt. Lebanon immigrants is illogical since a lot of the political figures of 8th of March never tackled such an issue while they were part of the government. (then it was Junblatt who took charge of the Immigrants' Box)

Third, Basmat Watan is known to be mostly Pro-Aoun (despite LBC is pro-14th of March)... and that is the type of extreme Nationalism that we expect from all of them...

Fourth, if people are so bothered by the presence of the Palestinian Refugee Camps and their residents, perhaps they can wonder why several militant groups rose over there due to bad conditions, specially most of the Palestinians (mostly lower class) never allowed to have full rights as citizens, while different reports warned about the aggravated sanitory and living conditions of the camps... so what are the Palestinian Refugees to the political officials (14th of March/Opposition)? Bargaining cards with the outside world?!

Fifth, already Racism has spread toward the Palestinians in Lebanon, due to extreme nationalist parties, Arafat's blunders in the Past, and of course, most recently to heavily politicized Nahr el Bared events whereby the Palestinians are suffering part of the accountability of the existence of Fatah Islam. Well, wasnt it the fleeing residents of Nahr el Bared, two weeks before the war with Fatah Islam broke out, were begging any official to intervene on an investigation that appeared on LBC itself?!

Sixth, whatever is racist it is replaced with reverse racism... so now people think they are getting even with the Palestinians due to the events starting since late sixties: first Palestinian Missile propagading from Lebanon and to Israel. Well guess again, this would cause both Lebanese and Palestinians to be more isolated than ever even though they both live in the same country. Moreover, a lot of Lebanese Christians are originally Palestinians given the Lebanese identity when the racist Zionist organization expelled them from their homes, and till now they dont dare to expose themselves as "Palestinian Christians"

Finally, specially to the Christian parties of Lebanon, such as Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement & Phalange Party, there is a joke that ends with nice ironic information "Jesus is Palestinian". As for the rest racist parties, they are not excluded. Till now, several AMAL movement members take pride in the "War of the Camps" against the Palestinians, while the old generation of the Sunni faction still remember the horrors of the PLO reign over "West Beirut" and blame it on the current generation of civilians who are neither combatants nor even politicians, simply civilians with minimum conditions of living. The Upper class Palestinians live equally like the rest of the Lebanese because money buys rights, while they drifted in general (interview with 12 different families) away from Politics and prefer to keep a low profile rather shed light on the situation. This may sound as a very subjective post, but yes, what to expect from a stupid post that attacks the government on the expense of the Palestinians...

No War but Class War

An Inspiration

There has been a blog I kept a close eye on for a while, and personally the author is a powerful person who teaches us inspiration for activism and productivity.

I cant say much except, respect and the purpose of such a post is to say: "Thank You"... hopefully the rest of the activists can learn a lesson or ten from you...

Hasta La Victoria Siempre

Remembering Leon Trotsky: Cannon: To the Memory of the Old Man

To the memory of the old man (Trotsky Obituary)
August 28, 1940

James P. Cannon

This speech was delivered to the Leon Trotsky Memorial Meeting
Held at the Diplomat Hotel in New York City
on August 28, 1940
It was first published in Socialist Appeal, September 7, 1940.

Comrade Trotsky's entire conscious life, from the time he entered the workers' movement in the provincial Russian town of Nikolayev at the age of eighteen up till the moment of his death in Mexico City forty-two years later, was completely dedicated to work and struggle for one central idea. He stood for the emancipation of the workers and all the oppressed people of the world, and the transformation of society from capitalism to socialism by means of a social revolution. In his conception, this liberating social revolution requires for success the leadership of a revolutionary political party of the workers' vanguard.

In his entire conscious life Comrade Trotsky never once diverged from that idea. He never doubted it, and never ceased to struggle for its realization. On his deathbed, in his last message to us, his disciples-his last testament-he proclaimed his confidence in his life-idea: "Tell our friends I am sure of the victory of the Fourth International - go forward!"

The whole world knows about his work and his testament. The cables of the press of the world have carried his last testament and made it known to the world's millions. And in the minds and hearts of all those throughout the world who grieve with us tonight one thought-one question-is uppermost: Will the movement which he created and inspired survive his death? Will his disciples be able to hold their ranks together, will they be able to carry out his testament and realize the emancipation of the oppressed through the victory of the Fourth International?

Without the slightest hesitation we give an affirmative answer to this question. Those enemies who predict a collapse of Trotsky's movement without Trotsky, and those weak-willed friends who fear it, only show that they do not understand Trotsky, what he was, what he signified, and what he left behind. Never has a bereaved family been left such a rich heritage as that which Comrade Trotsky, like a provident father, has left to the family of the Fourth International as trustees for all progressive humanity. A great heritage of ideas he has left to us; ideas which shall chart the struggle toward the great free future of all mankind. The mighty ideas of Trotsky are our program and our banner. They are a clear guide to action in all the complexities of our epoch, and a constant reassurance that we are right and that our victory is inevitable.

Trotsky himself believed that ideas are the greatest power in the world. Their authors may be killed, but ideas, once promulgated, live their own life. If they are correct ideas, they make their way through all obstacles. This was the central, dominating concept of Comrade Trotsky's philosophy. He explained it to us many, many times. He once wrote: "It is not the party that makes the program [the idea]; it is the program that makes the party." In a personal letter to me, he once wrote: "We work with the most correct and powerful ideas in the world, with inadequate numerical forces and material means. But correct ideas, in the long run, always conquer and make available for themselves the necessary material means and forces."

Trotsky, a disciple of Marx, believed with Marx that "an idea, when it permeates the mass, becomes a material force." Believing that, Comrade Trotsky never doubted that his work would live after him. Believing that, he could proclaim on his deathbed his confidence in the future victory of the Fourth International which embodies his ideas. Those who doubt it do not know Trotsky.

Trotsky himself believed that his greatest significance, his greatest value, consisted not in his physical life, not in his epic deeds, which overshadow those of all heroic figures in history in their sweep and their grandeur-but in what he would leave behind him after the assassins had done their work. He knew that his doom was sealed, and he worked against time in order to leave everything possible to us, and through us to mankind. Throughout the eleven years of his last exile he chained himself to his desk like a galley slave and labored, as none of us knows how to labor, with such energy, such persistence and self-discipline, as only men of genius can labor. He worked against time to pour out through his pen the whole rich content of his mighty brain and preserve it in permanent written form for us, and for those who will come after us.

The whole Trotsky, like the whole Marx, is preserved in his books, his articles, and his letters. His voluminous correspondence, which contains some of his brightest thoughts and his most intimate personal feelings and sentiments, must now be collected and published. When that is done, when his letters are published alongside his books, his pamphlets, and his articles, we, and all those who join us in the liberation struggle of humanity, will still have our Old Man to help us.

He knew that the super-Borgia in the Kremlin, Cain-Stalin, who has destroyed the whole generation of the October Revolution, had marked him for assassination and would succeed sooner or later. That is why he worked so urgently. That is why he hastened to write out everything that was in his mind and get it down on paper in permanent form where nobody could destroy it.

Just the other night, I talked at the dinner table with one of the Old Man's faithful secretaries - a young comrade who had served him a long time and knew his personal life, as he lived it in his last years of exile, most intimately. I urged him to write his reminiscences without delay. I said: "We must all write everything we know about Trotsky. Everyone must record his recollections and his impressions. We must not forget that we moved in the orbit of the greatest figure of our time. Millions of people, generations yet to come, will be hungry for every scrap of information, every word, every impression that throws light on him, his ideas, his aims, and his personal life."

He answered: "I can write only about his personal qualities as I observed them; his methods of work, his humaneness, his generosity. But I can't write anything new about his ideas. They are already written. Everything he had to say, everything he had in his brain, is down on paper. He seemed to be determined to scoop down to the bottom of his mind, and take out everything and give it to the world in his writings. Very often, I remember, casual conversation on some subject would come up at the dinner table; an informal discussion would take place, and the Old Man would express some opinions new and fresh. Almost invariably the contributions of the dinner-table conversation would find expression a little later in a book, an article, or a letter."

They killed Trotsky not by one blow; not when this murderer, the agent of Stalin, drove the pickax through the back of his skull. That was only the final blow. They killed him by inches. They killed him many times. They killed him seven times when they killed his seven secretaries. They killed him four times when they killed his four children. They killed him when his old coworkers of the Russian Revolution were killed.

Yet he stood up to his tasks in spite of all that. Growing old and sick, he staggered through all these moral, emotional, and physical blows to complete his testament to humanity while he still had time. He gathered it all together-every thought, every idea, every lesson from his past experience-to lay up a literary treasure for us, a treasure that the moths and the rust cannot eat.

There was a profound difference between Trotsky and other great men of action and transitory political leaders who influenced great masses in their lifetime. The power of such people, almost all of them, was something personal, something incommunicable to others. Their influence did not survive their deaths. Just recall for a moment the great men of our generation or the generation just passed: Clemenceau, Hindenburg, Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, Bryan. They had great masses following them and leaning upon them. But now they are dead; and all their influence died with them. Nothing remains but monuments and funeral eulogies. Nothing was distinctive about them but their personalities. They were opportunists, leaders for a day. They left no ideas to guide and inspire men when their bodies became dust, and their personalities became a memory.

Not so with Trotsky. Not so with him. He was different. He was also a great man of action, to be sure. His deeds are incorporated in the greatest revolution in the history of mankind. But, unlike the opportunists and leaders of a day, his deeds were inspired by great ideas, and these ideas still live. He not only made a revolution; he wrote its history and explained the basic laws which govern all revolutions. In his History of the Russian Revolution, which he considered his masterpiece, he gave us a guide for the making of new revolutions, or rather, for extending throughout the world the revolution that began in October 1917.

Trotsky, the great man of ideas, was himself the disciple of a still greater one-Marx. Trotsky did not originate or claim to originate the most fundamental ideas which he expounded. He built on the foundations laid by the great masons of the nineteenth century-Marx and Engels. In addition, he went through the great school of Lenin and learned from him. Trotsky's genius consisted in his complete assimilation of the ideas bequeathed by Marx, Engels, and Lenin. He mastered their method. He developed their ideas in modern conditions, and applied them in masterful fashion in the contemporary struggle of the proletariat. If you would understand Trotsky, you must know that he was a disciple of Marx, an orthodox Marxist. He fought under the banner of Marxism for forty-two years! During the last year of his life he laid everything else aside to fight a great political and theoretical battle in defence of Marxism in the ranks of the Fourth International! His very last article, which was left on his desk in unpolished form, the last article with which he occupied himself, was a defence of Marxism against contemporary revisionists and sceptics. The power of Trotsky, first of all and above all, was the power of Marxism.

Do you want a concrete illustration of the power of Marxist ideas? Just consider this: when Marx died in 1883, Trotsky was but four years old. Lenin was only fourteen. Neither could have known Marx, or anything about him. Yet both became great historical figures because of Marx, because Marx had circulated ideas in the world before they were born. Those ideas were living their own life. They shaped the lives of Lenin and Trotsky. Marx's ideas were with them and guided their every step when they made the greatest revolution in history.

So will the ideas of Trotsky, which are a development of the ideas of Marx, influence us, his disciples, who survive him today. They will shape the lives of far greater disciples who are yet to come, who do not yet know Trotsky's name. Some who are destined to be the greatest Trotskyists are playing in the schoolyards today. They will be nourished on Trotsky's ideas, as he and Lenin were nourished on the ideas of Marx and Engels.

Indeed, our movement in the United States took shape and grew up on his ideas without his physical presence, without even any communication in the first period. Trotsky was exiled and isolated in Alma Ata when we began our struggle for Trotskyism in this country in 1928. We had no contact with him, and for a long time did not know whether he was dead or alive. We didn't even have a collection of his writings. All we had was one single current document - his "Criticism of the Draft Program of the Comintern." That was enough. By the light of that single document we saw our way, began our struggle with supreme confidence, went through the split without faltering, built the framework of a national organization and established our weekly Trotskyist press. Our movement was built firmly from the very beginning and has remained firm because it was built on Trotsky's ideas. It was nearly a year before we were able to establish direct communication with the Old Man.

So with the sections of the Fourth International throughout the world. Only a very few individual comrades have ever met Trotsky face to face. Yet everywhere they knew him. In China, and across the broad oceans to Chile, Argentina, Brazil. In Australia, in practically every country of Europe. In the United States, Canada, Indochina, South Africa. They never saw him, but the ideas of Trotsky welded them all together in one uniform and firm world movement. So it will continue after his physical death. There is no room for doubt.

Trotsky's place in history is already established. He will stand forever on a historical eminence beside the other three great giants of the proletariat: Marx, Engels, and Lenin. It is possible, indeed it is quite probable, that in the historic memory of mankind, his name will evoke the warmest affection, the most heartfelt gratitude of all. Because he fought so long, against such a world of enemies, so honestly, so heroically, and with such selfless devotion!

Future generations of free humanity will look back with insatiable interest on this mad epoch of reaction and bloody violence and social change-this epoch of the death agony of one social system and the birth pangs of another. When they see through the historian's lens how the oppressed masses of the people everywhere were groping, blinded and confused, they will mention with unbounded love the name of the genius who gave us light, the great heart that gave us courage.

Of all the great men of our time, of all the public figures to whom the masses turned for guidance in these troubled terrible times, Trotsky alone explained things to us, he alone gave us light in the darkness. His brain alone unravelled the mysteries and complexities of our epoch. The great brain of Trotsky was what was feared by all his enemies. They couldn't cope with it. They couldn't answer it. In the incredibly horrible method by which they destroyed him there was hidden a deep symbol. They struck at his brain! But the richest products of that brain are still alive. They had already escaped and can never be recaptured and destroyed.

We do not minimize the blow that has been dealt to us, to our movement, and to the world. It is the worst calamity. We have lost something of immeasurable value that can never be regained. We have lost the inspiration of his physical presence, his wise counsel. All that is lost forever. The Russian people have suffered the most terrible blow of all. But by the very fact that the Stalinist camarilla had to kill Trotsky after eleven years, that they had to reach out from Moscow, exert all their energies and plans to destroy the life of Trotsky-that is the greatest testimony that Trotsky still lived in the hearts of the Russian people. They didn't believe the lies. They waited and hoped for his return. His words are still there. His memory is alive in their hearts.

Just a few days before the death of Comrade Trotsky the editors of the Russian Bulletin received a letter from Riga. It had been mailed before the incorporation of Latvia into the Soviet Union. It stated in simple words that Trotsky's "Open Letter to the Workers of the USSR"14 had reached them, and had lifted up their hearts with courage and shown them the way. The letter stated that the message of Trotsky had been memorized, word by word, and would be passed along by word of mouth no matter what might happen. We verily believe that the words of Trotsky will live longer in the Soviet Union than the bloody regime of Stalin. In the coming great day of liberation the message of Trotsky will be the banner of the Russian people.

The whole world knows who killed Comrade Trotsky. The world knows that on his deathbed he accused Stalin and his GPU of the murder. The assassin's statement, prepared in advance of the crime, is the final proof, if more proof is needed, that the murder was a GPU job. It is a mere reiteration of the lies of the Moscow trials; a stupid police-minded attempt, at this late day, to rehabilitate the frame-ups which have been discredited in the eyes of the whole world. The motives for the assassination arose from the world reaction, the fear of revolution, and the traitors' sentiments of hatred and revenge. The English historian Macaulay remarked that apostates in all ages have manifested an exceptional malignity toward those whom they have betrayed. Stalin and his traitor gang were consumed by a mad hatred of the man who reminded them of their yesterday. Trotsky, the symbol of the great revolution, reminded them constantly of the cause they had deserted and betrayed, and they hated him for that. They hated him for all the great and good human qualities which he personified and to which they were completely alien. They were determined, at all cost, to do away with him.

Now I come to a part that is very painful, a thought which, I am sure, is in the minds of all of us. The moment we read of the success of the attack I am sure everyone among us asked: couldn't we have saved him a while longer? If we had tried harder, if we had done more for him - couldn't we have saved him? Dear comrades, let us not reproach ourselves. Comrade Trotsky was doomed and sentenced to death years ago. The betrayers of the revolution knew that the revolution lived in him, the tradition, the hope. All the resources of a powerful state, set in motion by the hatred and revenge of Stalin, were directed to the assassination of a single man without resources and with only a handful of close followers. All of his coworkers were killed; seven of his faithful secretaries; his four children. Yet, in spite of the fact that they marked him for death after his exile from Russia, we saved him for eleven years! Those were the most fruitful years of his whole life. Those were the years when he sat down in full maturity to devote himself to the task of summing up and casting in permanent literary form the results of his experiences and his thoughts.

Their dull police minds cannot know that Trotsky left the best of himself behind. Even in death he frustrated them. Because the thing they wanted most of all to kill-the memory and the hope of revolution-that Trotsky left behind him.

If you reproach yourself or us because this murder machine finally reached Trotsky and struck him down, you must remember that it is very hard to protect anyone from assassins. The assassin who stalks his victim night and day very often breaks through the greatest protections. Even Russian tsars and other rulers, surrounded by all the police powers of great states, could not always escape assassination by small bands of determined terrorists equipped with the most meager resources. This was the case more than once in Russia in the prerevolutionary days. And here, in the case of Trotsky, you had all that in reverse. All the resources were on the side of the assassins. A great state apparatus, converted into a murder machine, against one man and a few devoted disciples. So if they finally broke through, we have only to ask ourselves, did we do all we could to prevent it or postpone it? Yes, we did our best. In all conscience, we must say we did our best.

In the last weeks after the assault of May 24, we once again put on the agenda of our leading committee the question of the protection of Comrade Trotsky. Every comrade agreed that this is our most important task, most important for the masses of the whole world and for the future generations, that above all we do everything in our power to protect the life of our genius, our comrade, who helped and guided us so well. A delegation of party leaders made a visit to Mexico. It turned out to be our last visit. There, on that occasion, in consultation with him, we agreed upon a new campaign to strengthen the guard. We collected money in this country to fortify the house at the cost of thousands of dollars; all our members and sympathizers responded with great sacrifices and generosity.

And still the murder machine broke through. But those who helped even in the smallest degree, either financially or with their physical efforts, like our brave young comrades of the guard, will never be sorry for what they did to protect and help the Old Man.

At the hour Comrade Trotsky was finally struck down, I was returning by train from a special journey to Minneapolis. I had gone there for the purpose of arranging for new and especially qualified comrades to go down and strengthen the guard in Coyoacan. On the way home I sat in the railroad train with a feeling of satisfaction that the task of the trip had been accomplished, reinforcements of the guard had been provided for.

Then, as the train passed through Pennsylvania, about four o'clock in the morning, they brought the early papers with the news that the assassin had broken through the defences and driven a pickax into the brain of Comrade Trotsky. That was the beginning of a terrible day, the saddest day of our lives, when we waited, hour by hour, while the Old Man fought his last fight and struggled vainly with death. But even then, in that hour of terrible grief, when we received the fatal message over the long-distance telephone: "The Old Man is dead"-even then, we didn't permit ourselves to stop for weeping. We plunged immediately into the work to defend his memory and carry out his testament. And we worked harder than ever before, because for the first time we realized with full consciousness that we have to do it all now. We can't lean on the Old Man anymore. What is done now, we must do. That is the spirit in which we have got to work from now on.

The capitalist masters of the world instinctively understood the meaning of the name of Trotsky. The friend of the oppressed, the maker of revolutions, was the incarnation of all that they hated and feared! Even in death they revile him. Their newspapers splash their filth over his name. He was the world's exile in the time of reaction. No door was open to him anywhere except that of the Republic of Mexico. The fact that Trotsky was barred from all capitalist countries is in itself the clearest refutation of all the slanders of the Stalinists, of all their foul accusations that he betrayed the revolution, that he had turned against the workers. They never convinced the capitalist world of that. Not for a moment.

The capitalists - all kinds - fear and hate even his dead body! The doors of our great democracy are open to many political refugees, of course. All sorts of reactionaries; democratic scoundrels who betrayed and deserted their people; monarchists, and even fascists - they have all been welcomed in New York harbor. But not even the dead body of the friend of the oppressed could find asylum here! We shall not forget that! We shall nourish that grievance close to our hearts and in good time we shall take our revenge.

The great and powerful democracy of Roosevelt and Hull wouldn't let us bring his body here for the funeral. But he is here just the same. All of us feel that he is here in this hall tonight - not only in his great ideas, but also, especially tonight, in our memory of him as a man. We have a right to be proud that the best man of our time belonged to us, the greatest brain and strongest and most loyal heart. The class society we live in exalts the rascals, cheats, self-seekers, liars, and oppressors of the people. You can hardly name an intellectual representative of the decaying class society, of high or low degree, who is not a miserable hypocrite and contemptible coward, concerned first of all with his own inconsequential personal affairs and saving his own worthless skin. What a wretched tribe they are. There is no honesty, no inspiration, nothing in the whole of them. They have not a single man that can strike a spark in the heart of youth. Our Old Man was made of better stuff. Our Old Man was made of entirely different stuff. He towered above these pygmies in his moral grandeur.

Comrade Trotsky not only struggled for a new social order based on human solidarity as a future goal; he lived every day of his life according to its higher and nobler standards. They wouldn't let him be a citizen of any country. But, in truth, he was much more than that. He was already, in his mind and in his conduct, a citizen of the communist future of humanity. That memory of him as a man, as a comrade, is more precious than gold and rubies. We can hardly understand a man of that type living among us. We are all caught in the steel net of the class society with its inequalities, its contradictions, its conventionalities, its false values, its lies. The class society poisons and corrupts everything. We are all dwarfed and twisted and blinded by it. We can hardly visualize what human relations will be, we can hardly comprehend what the personality of man will be, in a free society.

Comrade Trotsky gave us an anticipatory picture. In him, in his personality as a man, as a human being, we caught a glimpse of the communist man that is to be. This memory of him as a man, as a comrade, is our greatest assurance that the spirit of man, striving for human solidarity, is unconquerable. In our terrible epoch many things will pass away. Capitalism and all its heroes will pass away. Stalin and Hitler and Roosevelt and Churchill, and all the lies and injustices and hypocrisy they signify, will pass away in blood and fire. But the spirit of the communist man which Comrade Trotsky represented will not pass away.

Destiny has made us, men of common clay, the most immediate disciples of Comrade Trotsky. We now become his heirs, and we are charged with the mission to carry out his testament. He had confidence in us. He assured us with his last words that we are right and that we will prevail. We need only have confidence in ourselves and in the ideas, the tradition, and the memory which he left us as our heritage.

We owe everything to him. We owe to him our political existence, our understanding, our faith in the future. We are not alone. There are others like us in all parts of the world. Always remember that. We are not alone. Trotsky has educated cadres of disciples in more than thirty countries. They are convinced to the marrow of their bones of their right to victory. They will not falter. Neither shall we falter. "I am sure of the victory of the Fourth International!" So said Comrade Trotsky in the last moment of his life. So are we sure.

Trotsky never doubted and we shall never doubt that, armed with his weapons, with his ideas, we shall lead the oppressed masses of the world out of the bloody welter of the war into a new socialist society. That is our testimony here tonight at the grave of Comrade Trotsky.

And here at his grave we testify also that we shall never forget his parting injunction - that we shield and cherish his warrior-wife, the faithful companion of all his struggles and wanderings. "Take care of her," he said, "she has been with me many years. Yes, we shall take care of her. Before everything else, we shall take care of Natalia.

We come now to the last word of farewell to our greatest comrade and teacher, who has now become our most glorious martyr. We do not deny the grief that constricts all our hearts. But ours is not the grief of prostration, the grief that saps the will. It is tempered by rage and hatred and determination. We shall transmute it into fighting energy to carry on the Old Man's fight. Let us say farewell to him in a manner worthy of his disciples, like good soldiers of Trotsky's army. Not crouching in weakness and despair, but standing upright with dry eyes and clenched fists. With the song of struggle and victory on our lips. With the song of confidence in Trotsky's Fourth International, the International Party that shall be the human race!

Taken from here

Monday, August 20, 2007

Short Run Goals Vs. Long Run Goals

Bumping into ex-activists, personally I keep wondering how far our goals are in Lebanon. With everyone being involved in “fighting Iran” or “Fighting Israel”, no one has tackled the real core issue which haunted Lebanon (and Mt. Lebanon in the 19th Century) with blood baths, wars, and the sort.

A 14th of Marcher would tell me that “A Strong State is needed once Hezbollah is disarmed!” Fine, I can understand people are terrified from having out of the blues a war and seeing their children bombed to kingdom by a ruthless cold blooded army out of retaliation. Second, let us assume this tiny nation would assume such a strong state with a mighty army to sustain it despite all those tiny armed groups, the country will never stand economically. The Lebanese Diaspora remains to increase in number, and more than ever. Someone may say: “Services” is the solution, yet I cant imagine us competing with the Gulf, and their immense wealth. Rather, the gulf supports certain elites, and in case money would spread around, it will go to the elites. The assumption of the Liberals that wealth would be generated in large quantities can’t hold true, there is no such logic that the top elites will make so much money to the extent that money will spill downwards to the people. If that is the case, Latin America, Saudi Arabia, and Iran would have witnessed a gigantic economic boom, and the welfare of the people would have expanded. Rather, unemployment rate increases, and the rich simply get richer.

However, this article is not about Political Economy and world Economics.

Ok, what about an 8th of Marcher? He/She would tell me “We are fighting Israel and protecting our land and demolish starvation from thieves!” Again, that scenario can’t stand still. The governments in the past had figureheads of 8th of March (most famous two probably would be Michel el Murr and Asa’ad Herdain). The 8th of March were always part of the economical gain to gain advantages. Now the core alliance of the Opposition is made of two parties that never stepped foot in the government during the Syrian Mandate (unless we consider the Free Patriotic Movement dating back to Aoun’s days as a ‘Prime Minister’), but all their allies were part of it. In fact, Hezbollah for almost two years were participants of the government and took part in the privatization process of the Electricity Institution. Now the other half of the hypothesis: “Resisting Israel and US imperialism”. Again, the scenario cant take place at a Lebanese scale, because even the previous more gigantic international institutions and countries failed to block US penetration on political or economical (which instigates political) level. Hezbollah’s monopoly of the resistance can be given credit to Syria, who can keep a close eye on them due to their alliance with Tehran. Furthermore, the “Resistance Movement” itself is lost due to the fact of “where is the resistance active”. When a youth was killed in hooligan riots, he was proclaimed by Nasrallah a “Martyr of the Resistance” since the whole open demonstration is aimed in fact to oust out a US supported government. Yet, the US government supported in the first two years the Seniora government, which also included directly 2 ministers of Hezbollah. In fact, resistance today is such an over-rated word, because a lot believe they are fighting for Israel while the other half of Lebanon is tagged as “traitors”. Furthermore, the FPM’s economical platform is close to that of Seniora’s.

However, the purpose of this article is not to discuss what resistance is, and who the poor people…are

And here I begin the purpose of my post… short run versus long run goals. Now of course, we all agree that part of the problem is Sectarianism. Now if we look at the problem as a whole, Lebanon as a country is doomed for constant wars and instability. Plus, Lebanon will always be a gateway for foreign powers to intervene (actually since Prince Fakhridean II with his alliance with Tuscany in the face of the Ottomans). Now, the first impression of Lebanon is that Lebanon is divided into two sectarian hostile camps that will not stop till one dumps the other in the sea. Moreover, the people love each other as long as their “Sect-Leaders” love each other. The most beautiful example is seeing the supporters of Aoun and Nasrallah loving each other (to a certain extent) when they allied with each other. Another beautiful example is the Sunnis of Harriri and Christians of Jaajaa/Gemayel loving each other because their leaders love each other. All of this, and we didn’t tackle the institutional corruption of all the parties in hiring their “own people” into the public sector (most famous would be probably Nabih Berri and his Shiite supporters). So the country is doomed… plus of course, we got resistance to Israel through a religious party that is building networks similar to the Muslim Brotherhood, and of course Syria and Israel remain destabilizing factors for the safety of the whole nation. All of this of course is accompanied with bad economical situation, almost zero welfarism, and the class breach remains expanding as the rich get richer and the poor poorer. Did I forget anything? Oh yeah, and we can add tiny terrorist groups popping out of the blues and the whole country is on the verge of war in case one member of a political group slaps the other on the cheek.

The problem is throughout Lebanon’s history, the legislators and previous governments never thought about a long-run goal. Probably the only person who did was Kamal Junblatt when he decided to annihilate sectarianism and enforce a progressive reform plan; however, the sad part of the story that he had to depend on Yasser Arafat to balance militarily against the Christian dominated Lebanese Army, and one day we will discuss in details how the PLO messed up in Lebanon since that topic deserves an article on its own.

So let us look at the first independent government spearheaded by Prime Minister el-Solh (well before he got sniped out). The President and the government were freed from the French due to the National Pact. The aim of the unwritten National Pact of 1943 is to get rid from the French. The Christians and the Sunni Muslims (along with the Druze) agreed to unite against the French for short term goals. The Sunni Muslims gave the Christians too much institutional and constitutional power to sway them that they have to get rid of the French and they don’t need the French mandate. When both Bchara Khoury and el-Solh were shaking hands, they doomed the nation for chaos in the future because such power declined to the Christians would be one of the several wars to explode in the future, primarily the Left versus the Christians. Yet, President Khoury and Prime Minister el-Solh never thought about the disasters of their National Pact, and almost lost its legitimacy in 1958 (ie 15 years later), because they were thinking of short-run gains and personal power. The fact President Khoury tried to renew his mandate proves my point, specially President Khoury’s brother was so much involved in illegal activities, that people bestowed upon him the title “Sultan”.

Now, we jump in time to the reign of the Camille Shamoun, which witnessed the birth of several institutions; however, all “civilization privileges” were made mainly in Beirut, parts of Mount Lebanon and Northern Lebanon, the rest of the country was left-out. The parts left out were primarily Shiites in nature, and they were excluded from “Shamoun’s Building Lebanon Campaign” because they didn’t generate profit and gain to that stubborn leader. Rather, they were excluded, and later suffered from Israeli retaliation and butchery due to Palestinian offensives. Actually when the Israelis invaded Lebanon in 1982, several Shiites greeted the Israelis with rice, along with the Maronites. They remained excluded from the political formula (or actually undermined with Shiite feudal puppies in allegiance with stronger Sect leaders), till 1970, when it was seen important to grant the South some attention in order to win over the Shiites towards the Christian side by creating the “South Council” and spearheaded by Moussa el Sadr (and in the same year the Council suffered from a lot of accusations related to corruption). Again, if the governments of the past thought in the long-run all Lebanon should equally benefit from the governmental welfare, none of the current leaders would have worried about Hezbollah’s rise to power because poverty, lack of a welfare system, Israeli bombing, and other factors pushed the majority of the Shiites to embrace Nasrallah as their saint.

A third incident would be of course, the case of Pierre Gemayel versus Kamal Junblatt. Kamal Junblatt wanted to strip off all Sect leaders from their privileges, and made sure that his direct allies were secular parties, such as the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Lebanese Communist Party, and Order for Direct Action, while he was leader of the Progressive Socialist Party (when Socialism meant something for that party). Pierre Gemayel didn’t want those benefits lost, because he thought the Christians would be over-run by non-Christian Lebanese. So a civil war broke out, and Kamal Junblatt depended on a swift victory since the army would weaken and lose plenty of its members to their sects, and Pierre Gemayel wasn’t simply willing to see his life’s work go down the drain and witness the Christians becoming Lebanese like all Sects (as well as fear from the Palestinian factor). So, the war broke out, and none of them expected it will last for almost a decade and a half. From the civil war itself, it has dozens of short-term goals thought over at the expense of the long-ones. Henry Kissinger discusses heavily how Israel-Syria-USA-and the Lebanese Christian Elites invited the Syrians over to disarm the PLO and save their skins (since the PLO and the Lebanese National Movement swept about 81% of Lebanon), but eventually such a short run goal cost Lebanon to be puppet for Syria till 2005 things took a different turn, and more “Sponsors arrived to the scene”.

I will not go with the details why people are Sectarian and support blindly their leaders, but the logic would flow on how to solve such a huge problem? The Taef Agreement/Constitution is barely holding on, no Camp (14th of March/Opposition) is willing to step down till the other is politically destroyed. Yet, that can never take place, with the primary leaders/actors got their own support, instead, the solution for these two camps is to dump the other in the open sea, and that means civil war, which we didn’t returned to that stage yet

So, what do we mean by long-run goals. When Lebanon was created in 1920 out of the blues, more than 80% objected to the French regarding that, and primarily the Greek Orthodox Sect and the Sunnis, and demanded a unity with Faysal’s Syria. Ever since then, chaos and sectarianism as increased, and now it means we have to listen to what Archbishop Mar Nasrallah Sfeir has to say, or Mufti Qabbani and Sheikh Fadlallah what they have to say. Moreover, short run goals and policies are being done without proposing the real issue of salvation for this messed up nation: Civil Marriage and the Separation of Religion from the State. People since childhood are brought up to think in a sectarian sense one way or another. A Durzi can only marry a Durzi is one example. Inter-Christian sects means a bit of turmoil for the families, but it is there. What equates to the Durzi in tragedy is the Tashnag ultra-nationalistic concept of “Armenians only marry Armenians”, and of course, in the cases between the Sunnis and Shiites finds the extended families rather hostile. And of course, no family in general inside Lebanon (and majority of outside) would support inter-sect marriages.

So, what is the short run goal? Saving Lebanon? Lebanon First?! What logo you want to call for? The situation remains the same, it is run by powerful Sect Leaders that need each other to form coalitions. Now, the only time Civil Marriage witnessed a proposal was in the late 1990s, it caused a drastic fiasco, while all religious figures (Muslims first, followed with Archbishop’s during a later stage aggression on Civil Marriage). The President to propose it, during the Syrian Mandate, was Elias Hrawi. Most of the Sect Leaders refuted it due to pressure from their tools of brainwashing: the religious figures. Walid Junblatt’s son got married in a civil marriage fashion, but his followers oppose civil marriage and prefer to see the a Durzi marrying a Durzi. I cant think of a more important long-run goal to save Lebanon from bloodshed other than civil marriage. At least the gates of marital marriages would be open, and the isolation of sects would not be almost complete…. It will weakens and the Sect-Leaders would be much weaker as well…

This is something to ponder upon, you want to save “Lebanon from Bloodshed”, start building a secular society. This is the long goal at least. May be then proposals can have a meaning for candidates rather blindly following their leaders because they fear ‘the other’ would kill them!!!

Short Run Goals are a waste of time and lead us to vicious circles, the long run ones are much fewer in number, but they are the cause of salvation for this devastated nation in restoring people from slitting each other’s throats under the logic of “self-security”.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Dialogue One: 14th of March "Leftist"

(An Encounter with a typical “Lebanese Leftist” who supports 14th of March)

At a certain pub 1

X : So what are your political affiliations?
Me: Does it really count?
X : Yes, everyone is something
Me: So what are you?

(X raises his head up proudly)

X : I am a Leftist
Me: Interesting, what type of a left?
X : Nothing special, just a leftist, what about you?
Me: You wont love mine, I am a revolutionary Marxist, old school
X : (shocked) really?
Me: Hell yeah, the very old school of Marx, Engels, Rosa Luxemburg, Lenin, Trotsky
X : Interesting, I thought you guys are extinguished
Me: Nope! People like you try to sell on the Proletariat using our name
X : You even use the term Proletariat still?
Me: What type of a leftist you are if you are not representing the Proletariat?
X : (Raising his head proudly): I am a Lebanese Leftist
Me : You mean March 14th Left?
X : Yup, the only true form of the left…
Me: Sorry, for me only revolutionary schools of the left are leftists, such as the Communists and the Anarchists,
X : These are outdated, real leftists are those who support March 14th
Me: Sorry, but I consider the greatest bullshit in the world is to say bluntly that a person is leftist out of the blues without any idea to guide it,
X : I am, I am fighting for Lebanese freedom
Me: I thought as “leftists” we opposed any form of Nationalism
X : That is the old school, it is dead…
Me: Well, we will continue our talk later, till then, rethink your ideas about the Left

(Same X at Pub II, while I was sitting and drinking my lovely Vodka on ice)

X : Excuse me, aren’t you the one who I met in Pub 1?
Me: Indeed, still surprised?
X : Well yes, you blew my mind with your words, how can you in the 21st Century call yourself a supporter of the Marx and Lenin?
Me: You may add Leon Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg, and over 250 other thinkers
X : But that is illogical, how can that be? Communism is dead!!
Me: Is it? It lived shortly in the Paris Commune of 1871, Soviet Petrograd in 1905, and the early years of the Soviet Union
X : But the Soviet Union is dead
Me: But the words of Marx and Lenin are still true. Lenin predicted that the Soviet Union would collapse once the revolutions in Germany and Warsaw failed. Whatever happened afterwards, continued as predicted by Marx, and Engels
X: What do you mean by that? There have no Proletariat Revolution, and the classes still exist!
Me: What do you mean by that? In fact how do you that this is the only thing predicted by Marx or Lenin?
X : (Silently) Because Capitalism won!!
Me: Wasn’t the purpose of the Bolsheviks is to overthrow Capitalism by triggering a domino effect? Or You think they were bunch of Russian Nationalists?
X : I do not really know
Me: Allow me to ask one more question, have you ever read the German Ideology by Marx? Or Das Capital? Sort of we are living in the shadow of their books.
X : No, I haven’t
Me: Then how the heck you are judging me that Marxism failed when you refute to read Marx! By the way, didn’t you know Marxism and Communism cover everything from Historical Materialism, to Dialectical Materialism, to Poetry, to Economics, to History, Sociology, Music, Science of Revolution, Anthropology, and even were the early authors of International Political Economy?!
X : No, I haven’t, I think that the reality is to fight Syria’s claws from taking over Lebanon?
Me : By supporting one reactionary ultra nationalist camp against its similar antithesis?
X : It is not that, but this one is the lesser evil, unlike your awaited revolution!!
Me: Awaited Revolution? That is what Communism is about for you? Personally I support Communism because it is the only salvation for the people, because all other solutions would be hopping from one solution to another…. What is your alternative? Specially you seem you got no clue about economical world relations?
X : (Hesitant) I got no alternative
Me: Ok, you got no alternative, you never read neither Marx nor Lenin, but you attack them anyways, and you got no platform and no nothing. You think there is no class struggle, and it is a nationalist cause, and allow me to add, that you said the other day that the real left is to be 14th of March, which aims to bury Lebanon with the WTO. Tell me something, why the heck you call yourself leftist again?
X : Listen, my friends are waiting for me at the table
Me: Till we talk again
X : Indeed
Me: One last thing, to be secular does not mean you are a left-wing, and there was a comrade back in 1920 who said: “I say I am a socialist because there is no socialism but Communism”
X : (Smiling): Till we talk later
Me: (Raising a toast): Cheers

(X keeps bumping into me from one pub after the other; however, he just says hi and runs away, I doubt that he decided to read Marx in any case, we got a long road to go for emancipating the working class)

No War but Class War

PS: Coming Soon, a discussion with a member of the Lebanese Communist Party

Monday, August 06, 2007

Regarding Matn Elections: Insanity, Racism, Sectarianism

Everyone is cheering “we have won”, “we protected democracy”, and “they caused it and we taught them a lesson. Probably yesterday’s elections proved the exact opposite in Matn, this probably the only elections whereby no party won, and worse, the proletariat became more divided.

Through the past two weeks, escalations rose to new level. One faction regarded the other as “Syrian Dogs” or “US Agents”. Each slammed the other with accusations, and the history was re-opened in a “nice” way to attack the other. Allow me to say something, anyone who attacks the history of Amin Gemayel and Aoun’s participation from 1982 till 1989 are idiots and ignorant in Lebanese history. And if one sides with one of these two due to this era, they are more sheep. The purpose I say that is because the history of Amin Gemayel and Aoun in 1982 is the same, they worked together, and they loved each other. Their history is one, and I wrote couple of articles on them here, and there.

Aoun promoted Gemayel as the butcher, and as the man who invited the Syrians over. He seems to forget that he was the one responsible for Tel el Zaatar massacre (Check the early episodes of al-Jazeera), and he was part of the federation plan of Bashir Gemayel and Antoine Najm, which included the invitation of Israel over to install a puppy government under Bashir Gemayel. Aoun was actually responsible for protecting Amin Gemayel while he was forging the US sponsored peace treaty with Israel, which became known as the 17th of May Agreement. Gemayel also is responsible for the kidnappings of the Lebanese in “West Beirut” during his early reign of terror, but Aoun seems not to revive it because he was part of that dirty process.

Both claimed to represent the Christians. Gemayel doesn’t hide it, he belongs to a fascist party (hence the name Phalange). Aoun had a secular movement which he demolished in order to evolve and become a Christian Sect Leader. From a movement that demanded Civil Marriage became a movement that strictly demanded a proper Christian Leader that was Aoun. Aoun’s quest for presidential powers and his insanity about how “self-virtuous” he is got him to ally with his arch-enemies, whom he dubbed as terrorists.

The importance of such election is important. While Beirut was taken for granted that Harriri dominated the Sunni Street, Matn never really had any in-official referendum (or official). A lot of things took place after the 2005 Parliamentary elections. For Starters, Aoun swept most of the Christian areas under the promise he is a strong leader who will defend Christian interests. In his face, he had the Lebanese Forces/Phalange, Hezbollah, AMAL, Future, and the feudal Progressive Socialist Party. He won the hearts of his audience. He returned exile (which was a five stars location in France), and directly entered elections. His sole target is the Lebanese Presidency. And he swept… he had pro-Syrian allies who desperately needed his alliance to bandwagon in order they remain in the political game, he needed them in order to attempt to gain majority of the Parliament, and he was almost successful. He after all revived Christian glories. He took for granted that the Christians will follow him because they simply love him. What happened in Matn and the ousting of Nassib Lahoud was evident, he was the most powerful Christian figure who dominated with a landslide. The locations where he lost, it was on a minor difference.

Things took a difference change. Assassinations remained on-going without Aoun reacting to them because they were in the other camp. The first tides of change for Aoun was the assassination of Jubran Tuieni, a 14th of March and the Alliance with Hezbollah who till this very day he calls it “understanding” rather “alliance” His obsession for more power when he ran a candidate against Ghassan Tuieni had a nice hatred generated towards him . Eventually, his allies opened a full scale war with Israel which dragged the whole Lebanese into the war with Israel, and he remained attacking the government. Christians began to lose confidence with him, and the non-Muslims FPM (who were there to oppose Syrian hegemony) already left in majority the party because Aoun started to promote his Free Patriotic Movement as Christian. The third change was the assassination of Pierre Gemayel, whereby Aoun still reacted coldly, and that in return also shoved Christians to switch sides. Actually Pierre Gemayel Jr.’s assassination was really a major slap in the face for Aoun, who took for granted that the people support his decisions no matter what because he is simply Aoun. Pierre Gemayel came from a family that represents the heart of Christian Sectarianism and “Christian glory”. The Fifth migration of sectarian Christians from his Camp to the other is due to his on-going stubbornness to carry on with the sit-in and refuted to cancel it when they failed to oust the government. Actually, his key role in the civil disobedience in January, with casualties falling for all side, also participated in this transfer. Last was his insistence that he is the consolidation president between both camps and insisting on it, but he neglected totally the Iranian/Syrian factor active in Lebanon. With the last elections, results showed how he lost a huge number of supporters. He barely won against Amin Gemayel, and not with ‘Christian votes’, rather with his allies’ help, he no longer can claim he represents the Christians.

The results of Matn are disastrous for Aoun. Now, he cant totally rely on himself to sweep elections, rather he has to depend on ex-Syrian officials (like the Mafioso Michel Murr and the SSNP) to win. Amin Gemayel’s stubbornness to promote the traditional logic of Christian glory (inherited from his father Pierre Gemayel) caused Aoun to lose such a number. Amin Gemayel for starters had a lot of factors to assist him. For starters, he was the perfect candidate to be nominated by March 14th Alliance because he was the father of a recent “Christian Martyr” (his son) and the brother of the Christian popular, the butcher Bashir Gemayel (another Christian Martyr). Moreover, Aoun’s blunders and over self-confidence has shoved a lot of supporters to his side since the ‘Change’ he promised didn’t materialize in Matn, specially with his alliance to the most powerful figurehead Michel Murr, actually Michel Murr was second in command of the coalition which Aoun himself spearheaded: Reform and Change. No change occurred, rather his blunt alliance with the pro-Syrian Social Nationalist Party and Baathi Party allowed 14th of March to capitalize on it and promoted Aoun as a “Syrian Dummy”. Furthermore, the logic of 14th of March that only a 14th of Marcher would inherit a parliamentary seat of their assassinated martyr paid off, because a lot of voters came to vote as “No to assassinations”, and henceforth Aoun was contributing to justify the assassination of the politicians of the opposing camp (so far all assassinations were directed against 14th of March figures on the political level). This campaign pushed the seculars in general to vote against Aoun.

So where Aoun went wrong so that Amin Gemayel would bring balance to Matn against him? How did suddenly a Man who swept Matn barely had his goon, Camille Khoury, winning on few hundred votes (406 votes)? For starters, the Free Patriotic Movement, unlike 14th of March, base all their conversations on citing and quoting Aoun. Second, the candidate, Camille Khoury was just a name, while the battle was dubbed as Aoun versus Gamayel. Actually, during the electoral campaign, only Aoun was the figure head along with his two relatives, Alain Aoun and Joubran Bassil. No picture of Camille Khoury appeared during elections (except in tiny few locations) while the portraits of Aoun or the Orange flag (representing Aoun rather his supporters) were pinned on the route. Whenever Camille Khoury appeared, he tried to promote himself as a Christian figure. His exact words were that “each vote for me would restore Black Friday for the Christians”. Eventually, what Aoun allowed him to win were his non-Christian base, unlike the 2005 results. His primary votes came from the ultra-Nationalist Armenian ally, the Tashnag, whose members in general regard themselves as Armenians stuck in Lebanon, and the decisive votes came from the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, which generated couple of thousands of votes which allowed him to win. So the question is, did Aoun learn that can he promote himself as the most powerful Christian? His insanity or his pride might drive him to do so. Worse, his campaign on blaming everything on the government and disregarding the background of his allies is not paying off. Rather, his claim as “sole Christian representative” collapsed.

This will give Aoun rough time, and will provide him with an aftermath which he does not want. Already his “Open Demonstration” to oust the government has failed, now he lost more bargaining powers with his allies. Aoun’s strength with the Opposition came from the fact he is the most powerful Christian figure, obviously he is not after Amin Gemayel’s votes came from hard core Christian fundamentalists and moderates who were fed-up from the situation of Matn being under the warlord Michel el Murr, or worse, the Matn became more bi-polar than ever, which caused the division line to be clearer. There was no room between for a third way in it, a third candidate was running, he barely got any votes. Aoun may have won with a couple of hundred of votes, but his losses are too much to claim such victory (and we all know he will go self-proclaiming himself as the sole defender of the people). For starters, Hezbollah till NOW never announced Aoun as their presidential candidate and they are keeping their options open for a nice business deal with 14th of March, specially informal meetings between Saudi Arabia and Iran are still on-going. Second, Aoun’s bargaining powers have shrunk in size, despite his 400 vote difference victory, he now has to rely on the Opposition parties who still currently maintain good relations with the Baathi regime. Third, adopting and supporting the Islamic resistance didn’t have a ring tone when Bush literally proceeded to freeze accounts of Lebanese supporting the Opposition. Fourth, he is still re-writing history with facts that are too much known, such as accusing Rafiq el Harriri with giving the Lebanese citizenship to foreign workers, while fact goes that over 8,000 foreign worker were allocated in Matn (Murr’s Domain) so that Aoun’s primary ally, Murr wins. So technically, Joubran Bassil cant tag all past woes on the current government because all his allies were part of the government/ or participated for the sustainability of Syria. Last, the ever on-going alliance between the Tashnag and Murr saved his skin, whereby the Tashnag MP Bakradonian told the Armenians: “Vote for Freedom, Vote as the Tashnag Says so”. Worse, Aoun made it clear if his candidate loses, he would accuse his rivals with cheating. Ironically the opposite occurred, with the double vote incident.

Probably Michel el Murr saved Aoun’s candidate from losing elections, but that didn’t face-safe Aoun in the eyes of his allies, as he had the SSNP/Tashnag/Murr on his side in the face of the Lebanese Forces/Phalange. Aoun’s vulgar language probably also shoved voters when he used the term: “Bil Zinnar wil Naizil” (English Translation: From My Belt and Downwards).

As for Amin Gemayel, the other war criminal, he had all the favors going for him. For starters, he is the father of an assassinated Minister, and he was running for his position. Second, he comes from the Gemayels; this family had political power since the 1930s, and historically they were the primary spearheads of the two year war (the Lebanese Front). Third, he relayed a message that any opposing figure to his campaign justified that the political assassinations are favorite, specially there is a close number of chairs between the Opposition and Government inside the Parliament. Fourth, he fully took advantage with Aoun’s alliance with the likes of pro-Syria such as Baathi and SSNP parties. Amin Gemayel also fully placed the Christians in an era between 1966-1975, when Lebanon underwent war preparations to ‘defend Lebanese Sovereignty’ (instead of the Palestinian, the word was replaced with Syrian). Worse, whenever Aoun was vulgar with his replies, he promoted himself as the sane calm politician. Moreover, Matn, like the whole of Lebanon, was severely polarized into two reactionary camps. Talk shows benefited him most as a candidate and part of 14th of March. Sadly, the Phalange/Lebanese Forces link came back in balance of power against Aoun’s coalition, and Aoun’s domination over Mt. Lebanon was restored, in favor of 14th of March. What Amin Gemayel and his allies did in Matn gave relief sensations to his ally Junblatt and any location where there is Christian availability, because the Matn is a good indicator of how Aoun’s size shrank, and is gradually becoming more and more dependent on his allies. Last but not least, Gemayel and the other war criminal Jaajaa’s accusation on Aoun, which was splitting the Christians and defending Matn from Syrian Claws also was successful.

The Proletariat has been thrown into further divisions between two versions of ‘Christian Sectarianism’ and Lebanese Nationalism. So far, just for the fact a drastic number of Aoun’s supporters has shifted from one side to another, this shows sectarianism has reached a new level. The Phalange and Lebanese Forces have been historically known to be Christian Parties, while Aoun is trying to compete with their form of Sectarianism in order to further promote himself as a perfect ‘Christian’ candidate. Kids repeat what their parents what them to be. I haven’t seen so many kids during elections repeating sectarian words or racial to the “other side”. I am of course referring to both sides.

The elections started out peacefully in Matn, with each supporters doing mini rallies in Matn. A convoy had cars mixed of FPM and Phalange, it was a nice scene at least. However, as things started to hit up, Aoun prematurely announced victory and asked his supporters to bring their Parliamentary Representatives to go to Jdeedi.

The fact Amin Gemayel was elected was for the same reason Aoun’s goon received votes in general: “representing the true line”. Yet, the driving force of the election campaign for both Aoun and Gemayel was “who was more Christian”. After the elections, Aoun didn’t dwell on that fact, rather he dwelt on the idea “the people have spoken”. So, what is wrong with this picture? NONE OF THEM PROPOSED A REAL PROGRESSIVE PLATFORM. It is rather a political struggle for territorial gains and muscle showing. Shame on any secular who voted for Amin Gemayel or Aoun’s candidate: Camille Khoury.