Popular Uprising in Lebanon: “Resign or Hang!”


Statement of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 9 August 2020, www.thecommunists.net




1.             The militant mass demonstration in the centre of Beirut on 8 August represents a new high point in the revolutionary process which opened in Lebanon in autumn 2019. Thousands of people clashed with the army and police, several ministries were stormed and temporarily occupied, and the offices of the Association of Lebanese Banks trashed. According to Al-Jazeera, at least 728 people have been wounded. One policeman was killed during the clashes. The mood of the demonstration was extraordinarily militant. “Resign or hang,” said one banner at the demonstration. Another slogan was “Leave, you are all killers”. People also chanted the most famous slogan of the Arab Revolution beginning in 2011 – “the people want the fall of the regime”.


2.             These militant mass protests have been triggered by the devastating explosion in the port of Beirut which shattered the city last Tuesday. This catastrophe killed more than 150 and wounded over 5,000 people. About 60 people are still missing. Over 300,000 people had been rendered homeless, as much of the city has suffered from huge material damage. According to officials the blast could have caused losses amounting to $15 billion – an economic disaster for a country which has already defaulted this year for the first time ever because of its monstrous debt exceeding 150% of economic output. At the same time, it is estimated that 50% of Lebanon's population are already living below the poverty line.


3.             While the cause of the explosion is still under investigation, there is strong indication that about 2,750 tonnes of highly explosive ammonium nitrate, which is used in making fertilisers and bombs, had been stored for six years without safety measures at a port warehouse. Hence, the devastating catastrophe is rightly enraging popular hatred as it reflects once more the criminal incompetence and corruption of the ruling elite.


4.             However, it would be wrong to exclude the possibility of outside sabotage, or more concretely, of a cyber-attack by Israel. Various officials in Lebanon and internationally (including US President Trump) have indicated such a possibility. One Israeli right-wing politician, Moshe Feiglin, even praised the explosion as a “gift of god”. Such an attack would not be surprising since this is exactly what the Zionist state has done repeatedly against Iran in the past months. Given the current tensions at the border of Israel and Lebanon (after the Israeli air force killed a Hezbollah fighter in Syria) and the severe domestic crisis of the Netanyahu government, such a cyber-attack could help Tel Aviv as it forces Hezbollah – which is part of the current government – to focus on the political crisis in its own country.


5.             It is evident that various imperialist powers try to exploit the Beirut explosion for their own political interests. Behind their offers to “help” Lebanon lurks their desire to increase their influence in a very volatile region in which nearly all Great Powers – the U.S., the EU, Russia and China – have high stakes. This is the real purpose of the virtual international “donor” conference launched by French President Macron and which shall be attended by US President Donald Trump and other top state leaders. Unsurprisingly, French imperialism is particularly keen to strengthen its position in the former colony where it had operated since the 16th century. President Macron visited Beirut the day after the explosion and attacked the government in a patronizing way. He said that “France will never let Lebanon go” and that “the heart of the French people still beats to the pulse of Beirut.” As an article of the Associated Press noted, “It was almost as if Emmanuel Macron forgot that Lebanon is no longer a French protectorate.” Pro-French Christian circles in Lebanon have even initiated an online petition asking France to temporarily restore its mandate, saying Lebanon’s leaders have shown “total inability to secure and manage the country.” Numerous critiques in Lebanon as well as in France have denounced Macron’s interference as creeping neo-colonialism in order to extract political concessions from Lebanon in exchange for aid. Some aptly called the French President “Macron Bonaparte, a 21st century Emperor Napoleon”.


6.             In response to the mass demonstration on Saturday, Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab called for early parliamentary elections. This is an obvious attempt to pacify the current revolutionary situation. The government is fully aware that it has lost all legitimacy given the devastating economic crisis, increasing misery for the popular classes, political corruption as well as the powerful mass protests since nearly one year. All these contradictions have accelerated now dramatically with the explosion in Beirut’s port. Hence, the government fears that it could be swept away soon by a violent popular uprising. New parliamentary elections could deflect this mass anger and offer a new chance for the political elite to “renovate” itself without endangering the political and economic capitalist order.


7.             The Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) strongly welcomes the new upsurge of the mass protests against the reactionary government. We warn against any attempt of the regime to lead astray the popular uprising by calling new elections. This is nothing but a diversionary maneuver which shall buy time for the ruling class and which would again leave political business outside of popular control. People could cast a ballot once and, after this, all decisions would be made via political horse trading and manipulations. Likewise, the RCIT strongly warns against all attempts by France and other imperialist powers to exploit the crisis for expanding their influence in Lebanon. Do not forget, all the corrupt politicians in Lebanon and the whole Arab world could only stay in power for so long because they have been closely linked with imperialist states and their corporations. Just remember Trump’s characterization of General Sisi in Egypt as “my favorite dictator”! And Assad would have been buried by the insurrectional masses long time ago if he would not have got such massive financial and military aid of Russia!


8.             The workers and poor have no reason to trust any politician of the establishment or any imperialist power. It is also important to reject any attempt of arch-reactionary forces (e.g. like the right-wing Christian Kataeb party of Samy Gemayel, a long-time ally of Israel) to exploit the current protests for their own maneuvers. There should be no doubt: all the established parties are allied with one or the other imperialist power. While the right-wing Christian parties or the forces around Hariri want to pull Lebanon in the Western camp, Hezbollah and its allies rather lean to the Russian-Chinese camp. All of them are enemies of the people! Likewise the masses have also no reason to trust the army as it is not an institution “above politics” but an armed instrument of the ruling class.


9.             No, the workers and oppressed must only trust their own strength! The RCIT calls the popular masses to organize themselves in action councils at work places, neighborhoods, universities and villages. Likewise it is important to build self-defense committees – as a first step towards workers and popular militias – defending the masses against the police and army. The people should overthrow the whole ruling elite by staging a nation-wide, indefinite, general strike leading to a popular insurrection. The goal must be the creation of a workers and poor peasants government based on popular committees of action. The insurgent masses should convoke a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly. Only such a strategy can enable the major task of rebuilding Beirut after its massive destruction without imperialist re-colonialization.


10.          It is the view of the RCIT that an authentic government of the workers and popular masses should nationalize the key sectors of industry, service and finance under workers control and without any compensation of the capitalists! It should organize a public employment program under control of the workers and popular organization. Such a program could abolish unemployment and poverty and help reconstructing the country.


11.          It is equally urgent that workers and popular organizations around the world rally in solidarity with the Lebanese people. They should demand from their governments and all imperialist institutions (like the IMF) to immediately cancel all debts. Furthermore, they must force their governments to send aid without any political conditions so that Beirut can be rebuilt.


12.          The RCIT emphasizes that that it is crucial to link the popular uprising with other liberation struggles. The first step should be to support the Syrian Revolution which began in March 2011 and where the masses are still holding out in Idlib against the overwhelming occupation forces of Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and they lackey Assad. Likewise, the insurrectional people need to link to the mass protests in Iraq. It is equally crucial to declare their unlimited support for the Palestinian liberation struggle and for the struggle to smash the Zionist state. The goal should be, as we said in past RCIT statements, to work towards a single Intifada of the entire Middle East – from Baghdad and Beirut, Idlib, Tripoli, Sanaʽa, Gaza, Cairo, Algiers, Khartoum to Teheran!


13.          In order to implement such a perspective, revolutionaries need to unite in building revolutionary parties – in combination with building a Revolutionary World Party! We urge activists to unite on the basis of a program of socialist liberation and solidarity with the struggles of workers and oppressed in other countries. Join the RCIT in tackling this great task!




International Bureau of the RCIT




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The RCIT has published a number of documents on the second wave of the Arab Revolution that can be accessed on a special sub-section of this website: https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/collection-of-articles-on-2nd-wave-of-great-arab-revolution/.


Our latest statement on Lebanon is here: Lebanon and Iraq: Forward with the Popular Uprising! 12 May 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/forward-with-the-popular-uprising-in-lebanon-and-iraq/.


Our documents on the Syrian Revolution can be accessed here: https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/collection-of-articles-on-the-syrian-revolution/.