Dead Men Left

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Lebanon and Paul Foot

Shot by Both Sides, after seeing the pro-Syrian occupation demonstrations in Lebanon:

Nonetheless, can the pro-war camp please shut up with the gloating until we've found out what the fuck's going on in Lebanon? Fortuitiously, this is likely to take until about 2010.

They'll probably ignore it, but Socialist Worker has been carrying a series of informative reports from Lebanese socialists. Most recently, Ghassan Makarem writes:

The demonstrations calling for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon converge on Martyrs Square in downtown Beirut. The square is better known as Solidere, after the multi-billion dollar property company partially owned by former prime minister Rafiq Hariri.

...Hariri’s neo-liberal policies left the country with $40 billion debt, 30 percent unemployment, and an unbridgeable gap between the 5 percent who have everything and the vast majority who have nothing...

The opposition leadership is drawn from factions of Lebanon's domestic ruling class, consisting of those around millionaire Waleed Jumblatt and former Prime Minister General Michel Aoun. The (still) ruling faction, those Makarem describes as "the loyalists", remain committed to Syria. Another, more scattered collection, have various reasons for opposing the troop presence. Understanding this gap between them, and their mass base of support, seems critical.

Though the US previously backed Syria, pushing for its move into Lebanon in 1976, and restating its support during the 1991 Gulf War, the regime there has fallen somewhat from favour in Washington. The shift in the US' position has enabled those leading the opposition to move very rapidly after Hariri's assasination to demand a withdrawl of Syrian troops. They are, as Jim Muir writes, a fissiparous bunch and it is not that a united opposition could be sustained through their own resources - without, at least, the diplomatic support of the US and other major powers. Makarem continues:

...The opposition say they have come together to save Lebanon from the Syrians. Their main target are Syrian economic migrants employed in the businesses of people such as Hariri and Jumblatt.

At least 11 Syrian workers have been murdered over the past two weeks. The opposition claim that, since Lebanon is fighting for its independence, these attacks are acceptable. Missing from the demonstrations are the Shias who make up Lebanon’s largest, and poorest, religious group...

The great majority of those who gather daily at Hariri’s grave are there out of a genuine concern that the growing political crisis could lead the country into another civil war.

Many people are unhappy about Syrian interference in Lebanon and the presence of thousands of Syrian troops and the hated secret police—the mukhabarat.

Not all the demonstrators belong to the parties who make up the opposition or support their politics. There is no question that Syrian presence in the country and their sponsorship of a faction of the ruling class should end.

But we cannot let the genuine calls for peace and freedom be hijacked by Lebanese war criminals, the US and France.

Alex Callinicos places Lebanese events in the context of an increasingly sophisticated set of techniques to push (principally) US interest through "democratic revolution", as seen in Ukraine, Serbia and Georgia. Chris Harman concludes that the role for socialists, faced with mass movements demanding democracy, but clearly (and cynically) led by US stooges, is to absolutely support the demand for greater democracy, but to place them alongside calls less acceptable to Washington ears: for an end to privatisation, for example, and for fully-funded public services.

It is a conclusion very similar to that reached by Paul Foot in his last book, The Vote: there will be no sustainable political democracy without economic democracy. That elements of the left have abandoned one, prefering "left-liberalism" to challenging economic power, should not prevent the rest of us maintaining clarity on this elementary principle.