Originally published as part of the “Social Revolt in Iraq and Lebanon” post, now named “Social revolt in Iraq”
“Mocking Lebanon’s political dynasties and handing-down of power from father to son, one protester held up a sign that read: “Electile dysfunction.” Others criticised the heavy-handed response of security forces on the first two days of protests, with one banner reading in English: “Don’t throw tear gas, we can cry by ourselves.” – here
A combination of the return of manipulated sectarian clashes and genuine conflict as movement seems to break with pacifism
“Demonstrators want to see the entire ruling class gone from power…Supporters of Hezbollah and Amal waved the groups’ flags. Earlier, they had chanted: “Shia, Shia” and slogans in support of Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. On the other side, demonstrators chanted: “Revolution, revolution”… fighting apparently broke out when Hezbollah and Amal supporters blamed other demonstrators for making offensive comments about Nasrallah…The ground was strewn with rocks. A motorcycle was set on fire.”
” We hope that through the revolution, we will be able to get back this property and turn it into public space for discussions and gatherings without security constraints or physical appearance concerns or class-based distinctions.”
Sure, the limitations of this take are pretty obvious, but…See entry for 15/11/19 for more information and comments.
Right side: “Iran on our mind”
Left side: “From Baghdad to Beirut.. One revolution that won’t die”
Interesting Al Jazeera report about assemblies in private parking lots reserved normally for the rich
“These private parking lots lie in the heart of the upscale Beirut Central District run by a private corporation, Solidere, which has effectively transformed the heart of the Lebanese capital into an island for the rich. On any normal day, Solidere private security guards do not allow street vendors, let alone any sort of public political gathering or performance, in the manicured district. But now the security guards are nowhere to be seen as thousands flood the streets daily. It is not just the occupation of this “private” space by average citizens that is extraordinary, it is the unprecedented discussions and open public forums taking place under dozens of flimsy tarps. In one tent, a debate is raging over whether protesters should return to blocking highway traffic (as they had done in the first two weeks of the now month-old uprising), or whether children should be allowed to boycott schools and join the protests. “We are a war generation, we used to go to school under the bombs,” said one middle-aged woman, standing on the sidelines holding a microphone. “Our kids are learning the best civic education here, they are cleaning the streets, they are recycling, things they never learn in schools.” She then took aim at the minister of education, who called for schools to reopen after weeks of road closures. “We don’t have to listen to you minister, you have to listen to us now.” The crowd erupted in applause as one man shouted “Bravo, Bravo” clapping enthusiastically. …”We don’t need these Zuama [tribal chieftains],” she continued. “Not the Sunni, Shia, Druze or Christian ones, and I’m for blocking the road.”…New groups are organising in Lebanon, not around party ideology or sectarian dogma, but around everyday issues …”The people are the source of power today – not the ministers, not the members of parliament, not the zauma,” said another woman to applause…The calm discussions are suddenly drowned out by heated arguments in another tent. One man shouts, urging the protesters to retake the nearby downtown highway. “Is this a revolution or is it an activist movement?” a middle-aged man posed. “If this is a revolution, everything is allowed, there is no need for a discussion. We don’t have to ask for permission to occupy streets or attack ministries.” The moderator disagrees: “We are here to discuss tactics and all voices should be heard.”
Judging from some of my own experiences in France, this hints at aspects of the problem of ideologies of horizontalism and direct democracy. Whilst a certain horizontal form is necessary in certain respects it can also just become a brake on putting ideas into action – endless discussions without consequence. Fetishised, horizontalism is a critique of dominant forms of organising without a critique of the content and aims of organising. But effective struggle needs to unite form and content – you can’t fight alienation by alienated means but you also can’t fight alienation with petrified content. The guy at the end of the above quote – “We don’t have to ask for permission to occupy streets or attack ministries.” is essentially right – and if I was in his situation I’d have gone off and organised with those people who were in agreement with what I wanted to do rather than hang around to interminably try to convince others so as to get a majority. Descriptions of other discussions later on in this article show that there are lots of specialised activists, aiming to change the nature and image of the state without seriously confronting it (some of whom will become part of the future ruling class), very present in these discussions. But the moderator is also partly right – discussion is necessary to develop both the reasons for such actions and the tactics needed to carry them out, though given the fact that state spies may well be in the crowd a certain discretion would clearly be necessary.
“ President Michel Aoun told the nation in a televised address Nov. 12 that Lebanon will descend into a “catastrophe” if protesters do not return home and allow Lebanon to work normally again. Protesters, however, took to the country’s streets soon afterward, blocking roads with burning tires in various parts of Lebanon and marched toward the president’s Baabda Palace on Nov. 13. Security forces blocked demonstrators from reaching their destination, and closed the highway leading to the president’s residence….Amid gasoline shortages, limits on cash withdrawals at banks and threats to salaries and many critical imported goods, workers from a variety of industries in Lebanon had gone on strike prior to Aoun’s speech to protest a wide swath of issues related to the continuing economic crisis….Earlier in the day [Nov.11th], strikes took place as employees from Alfa and Touch, Lebanon’s two state-owned mobile network providers, demanded salary guarantees, and bank employees left work to protest after some workers were exposed to violent threats after bank branches limited the amounts of money consumers could withdraw. A general strike called for Nov. 12 also included roadblocks across the country, and marches by students to state institutions after schools had been closed.”
“On Wednesday, protesters blocked major highways with burning tires and other debris, saying they will remain in the streets despite the president’s appeal for them to leave. Schools and universities were closed and banks remained shuttered…Highways linking Beirut with southern and northern Lebanon as well as other roads in major cities and towns were also closed on Wednesday. In Nahr al-Kalb north of Beirut, protesters closed a tunnel by parking their cars inside it while a nearby highway was filled with debris. In Khaldeh, on Beirut’s southern entrance, tires were set on fire and sand barriers closed a vital highway. Black smoke billowed from several locations in and around the city on Wednesday. Near the country’s only international airport, travelers were seen dragging suitcases as they continued on foot to the airport, after protesters blocked the highway. The place where the first fatality in the protests, Alaa Abou Fakher, was shot in the Khaldeh area was decorated with roses and a Lebanese flag was placed nearby. He was the first to be killed in direct shooting related to the protests, though there have been four other deaths since the demonstrations began.”
“The Lebanese people started their protests against the entire ruling class. These include militia leaders Walid Jumblat, leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, formerly a client of the Syrian regime and since 2005 a client of Saudi Arabia and the U.S.; and Samir Ja`ja`, leader of the Lebanese Forces party, which started as an Israeli surrogate militia responsible for the worst war crimes of the civil war and is now aligned with the Saudi regime. Others include the financial moguls of the militias: Najib Miqati, a billionaire from Tripoli who made his fortune in Syria and Lebanon from telecommunication monopolies and Muhammad Safadi, a billionaire member of parliament from Tripoli with Saudi connections. Displays of lavish lifestyle by members of the ruling class — who celebrate million-dollar weddings in the south of France and flaunt their private jets, yachts and mansions (in Lebanon and abroad) — have recently deepened the anger of people living paycheck-to-paycheck. The resentment of the populace was so wide that for a while it suppressed the sectarian divisions that has long plagued the Lebanese people (and the rulers often stoked those tensions in order to suppress class resentment and mobilization across sects)…The infiltration by the mass base of traditional political bosses loyal to the Saudi regime into the demonstrations (especially the bases of Jumblat and Ja`ja`) may have been intended as a way to divert the protests in a direction favorable to the U.S.-Israel-Saudi alliance. It is up to the protesters to stay vigilant and exclude from their ranks those whose only wish is to protect the ruling class and its interests.”
“Today there is no economic activity in the country,” said Salame. “Imports are getting difficult to channel because the banks are closed, and opening letter of credits is more difficult than it was before.” The governor, who has held office since 1993, also warned that the country risks defaulting on its ballooning debt. Lebanon has one of the highest debt-to-GDP ratios in the world.” In a world dominated by money, particularly in the currrent form of neoliberal capitalism dominated by finance and fictive capital, it’s invariably those at the bottom of the hierarchy that pay for an economic collapse. Without a movement that goes further by seizing the total social product in order to redistribute what’s useful and necessary whilst destroying what’s useless oamongst the products of this “wealth”, the masses of individuals are trapped by an abstraction that’s materialised in the form of the need for money. Until they go further and block not only the roads but seize all of social space and try to connect directly to international movements, it’s like smashing Dr.Frankenstein’s science lab without attacking the monster itself. Without such an aim, an aim which was at least understood by a significant section of the working class over 100 years ago, movements will almost always try to find a “good government” which turns out to be just as bad as the last.
“Lebanese demonstrators set up barricades and parked cars across key roads on Monday to protest corruption and press their demands for a radical overhaul of the political system. The protesters defied pleas from top leaders and sought to keep Lebanon on lockdown for the 12th consecutive day by cutting off some of the main thoroughfares, including the main north-south highway”
Protests resume in all cities and villages; banks & schools close…Hezbollah tries to intervene against protesters (more on this here)
“Euphoric crowds partied deep into the night Sunday, leaving political and sectarian paraphernalia at home to gather under the cedar-stamped national flag, dance to impromptu concerts and chant often hilarious anti-establishment slogans.They were back in front of the houses of government and on the main Martyrs’ Square on Monday to listen to Hariri’s announcement, which was broadcast on loudspeakers. The crowd erupted into shouts of “revolution, revolution” when Hariri finished his address. “We want the fall of the regime,” they went on. “This is all just smoke and mirrors… How do we know these reforms will be implemented?” asked Chantal, a 40-year-old who joined the protest with her little daughter and a Lebanese flag painted on her cheek…Hariri detailed some of the measures taken by his fractious cabinet, including a programme of privatisations, a decision to scrap new tax hikes and halving the generous salaries of ministers and lawmakers….Schools, banks, universities and many private businesses closed their doors Monday, both for security reasons and in an apparent bid to encourage people to join the demonstrations.”
“There are a few key ways in which these latest protests differ from those in 2005 and 2015. As in 2015, but unlike in 2005, they are part of a genuine grassroots movement that has not been directed by any political party. They are cross-sectarian in a broader sense than those of 2015. They are taking place across Lebanon, rather than only in Beirut. And they are demanding the fall of the government from the outset, while criticising political leaders from every sect. Although the number of people on the streets was much higher in 2005, the current protests are much larger than those of 2015. They are also taking place in regions where such public action used to be considered impossible, particularly in southern Lebanon where people from the Shia community have been publicly denouncing traditional Shia leaders, including Nasrallah. The government’s response to the current protests has been its usual carrot-and-stick approach: walking back on proposals to increase taxes while cracking down on the protests through violence. Neither has deterred the protesters, who have vowed to stay on the streets until the government falls. For the first time, people are demanding accountability from the leaders of their own sects as well as from the government at large, and protesters in Sunni strongholds like Tripoli are expressing solidarity with protesters in Shia strongholds like Tyr. Civil society groups involved in the protests are also devising tactics to counter the violence and facilitate mobilisation (one group offered free scooter rides to protest sites) and creating a reform roadmap for the Lebanese state. For the first time, the protests are a condemnation of the political status quo that has, since even before Lebanon’s 15-year civil war, been largely recycling the same faces (or their relatives and descendants) in parliament, the cabinet and high-level positions in the civil service and military… The protests have only been taking place for a few days but the protesters already show a growing awareness not only of the governmental tactics typically used to try to diffuse popular movements but of their own needs as citizens, regardless of class or sect. This alone is a revolution in a country where the political system is, for the most part, a modern version of feudalism. “
“The people want the fall of power!”, “Revolution! Revolution!” There were tens of thousands of Lebanese in the streets across the country Saturday, for a third day of mobilization against the political class accused of corruption, an unprecedented movement since a long time in Lebanon. Despite … heavy intervention by the police on Friday night and dozens of arrests, the ranks of protesters have continued to grow, especially in… Beirut and Tripoli, the second largest city in the country. Saturday, during the day and even in the evening, unlike the two previous nights of clashes between rioters and police, the Lebanese were gathered in a good-natured atmosphere. Only a small clash between protesters in front of the mosque al-Amine was reported late evening…gatherings also took place in Akkar, where clashes with the security forces left three wounded, and in Zghorta in North Lebanon, Baalbeck in the Bekaa, Jal el-Dib in the Metn but also in Zouk in Kesrouan. Several roads were blocked by barricades of burning tires and dumpsters erected by protesters . In the morning, the army reopened highways, while volunteers cleared the city center which yesterday had been turned into a battlefield. Many shop fronts were destroyed, some were burned, dumpsters and burnt tires littered the ground….”They must leave, all of them” In front of the mosque al-Amine, young people were gathered during the day, they brandished a banner. “My message is our banner, they must leave, we want our children to have a future, we do not believe in their promises, we will stay until they leave,” says Roula…Some politicians were enormously insulted, and in the crudest terms, by the protesters. Essentially Gebran Bassil, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Head of the CPL, as well as Speaker of Parliament and Chief Amal, Nabih Berry. The wife of Berry was also the recipient of unflattering slogans … Though Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, was also targeted, the slogans were not so massively taken up“
Massive clashes in Beirut (videos and links)
“Protesters in the capital blocked the road to the airport with burning tyres, prompting a heavy deployment by security forces. Near government headquarters in central Beirut, violent confrontations broke out between protesters and security forces as demonstrators tried to storm the building. Security forces fired tear gas to disperse protesters, after the Internal Security Forces (ISF) said clashes wounded 40 of its members. Protesters also sparked a large blaze near the Mohammad al-Amin mosque in Downtown Beirut…Besides the capital Beirut, protests erupted in the southern city of Sidon, the northern city of Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley, before spreading to other areas..Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Choucair said that the government had reversed its decision to tax calls on messaging apps following the unrest.”