Explosion in Lebanon

Friday, 21 August 2020 14:21

Explosion in Lebanon


            Ammonium nitrate, abandoned in quantity of 2,750 tons, for 6 or 7 years depending on the source, in the port and at a short distance from the center of the most important city of a small country of the Eastern Mediterranean. It was the immediate cause of the explosion in Beirut on Tuesday 4 August, which resulted in at least 220 deaths, 7,000 injured and the destruction of the homes of some 300,000 people. Among the dead, many workers and the total destruction of the office of the Lebanese Seafarers' Union; although this is not only a labor massacre: it is the crude expression of the decomposition of the structures of a bourgeois semi-state. The port, jointly operated by two State agencies, the Beirut Port Authority and the Customs Authority, housed the wheat silos that feed much of the city, which were destroyed. And it was the country's main communication route. Capitalist anarchy and a broken state are the explanation for the deflagration.


            Luego de la conmoción inicial, las calles de Beirut volvieron a la efervescencia que viven desde septiembre del año pasado. Las movilizaciones, atizadas por la destrucción de la ciudad que endilgan correctamente al gobierno burgués y sus funcionarios, llevaron al enfrentamiento con las fuerzas represivas, a la toma de ministerios durante el fin de semana, hasta la caída del gobierno del primer ministro Hassan Diab el lunes 10/8. Aunque también se pide la cabeza del presidente Michel Aoun y del parlamento en pleno, lo que habilitaría el adelanto de las elecciones. Este “que se vayan todos”, que se identifica con el carácter espontaneo y con falta de claridad de objetivos de las movilizaciones con elementos semi-insurreccionales, no constituye un programa y deja abierto el debate sobre cómo debemos responder los revolucionarios y la vanguardia ante el problema del poder.      

            After the initial shock, the streets of Beirut returned to the effervescence they have been experiencing since September last year. The mobilizations, stirred up by the destruction of the city, which correctly blames the bourgeois government and its officials, led to the confrontation with the repressive forces, the seizure of ministries during the weekend, until the fall of the government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab on Monday, August 10. Although the head of President Michel Aoun and of the entire parliament is also being demanded, which would enable elections to be brought forward. The slogan "all of them must go", which is identified with the spontaneous nature and lack of clarity of objectives of the mobilizations with semi-insurrectional elements, does not constitute a program and leaves the debate open on how we revolutionaries and the vanguard should respond to the problem of power.


Pandemic and mass processes


            In Lebanon, the process of struggle has been going on since September last year, leading to the fall of the previous Prime Minister, Saad al-Hariri, in November. These are not two independent processes: the economic and social crisis in the country exploded simultaneously with the mobilizations in Iraq, and also in other regions of the globe, where the processes in Ecuador, Chile and other Latin American and Caribbean countries stand out. These processes, driven by the beginning of an accelerated fall in the growth of the world economy and a tightening of the credit market, which led to the debt crisis in Lebanon and Ecuador, were not defeated. The pandemic and the reactionary rehearsal of the quarantine policies of the different States, at most, marked an impasse but did not close the processes at all, much less solve the structural elements that determined them. On the contrary, the pandemic accelerated the crisis of world capitalism in an explosive way. In Lebanon, in fact, the first mobilizations took place in the middle of the quarantine. All this, long before the massacre in the port of Beirut, which is an element that further inflames the mood of the sectors in struggle.


Imperialist Decomposition


            In order to understand the elementary forces at work in Lebanon, we have to dimension the situation of the so-called Middle East region as a whole. The outbreak of the crisis in 2008, of which the current one is a continuity, but not a linear one, produced a process of class struggle in the region for the break-up of the old state institutions, which led to the fall of decades-old dictatorships (Mubarak in Egypt, Ben Ali in Tunisia, Gaddafi in Libya). This process of struggle was defeated and diverted into fratricidal confrontations led by counter-revolutionary leaderships such as Islamism or bourgeois nationalism on the one hand, and the open intervention of imperialism and its agents, in particular the Israeli gendarme, an enclave imposed by imperialism to maintain order in the region. The defeat of these processes did not mean a solution to the old problems, quite the contrary. Imperialism, in the advance of the process of its structural rot, sharpened all the contradictions, deteriorating even more the structures of the semi-States, which in the Middle East in particular are aberrant constructions imposed in the period between wars by compromises between the old colonial metropolises: France and England. The current stage of the crisis, exacerbated by the pandemic, accelerates the centrifugal tendencies that pressure every semi-State in the region. And it is on these tendencies that we can understand the influence of Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and so many other semi-States that defend the interests of sub-bourgeoisies that are trying to survive to the shaking of the equilibrium of the state system and the economic and social anarchy determined by imperialist decomposition.


            In particular, the open crisis of the Lebanese semi-state became an exposed fracture from an acceleration of capital flight from the financial sector in mid-2019, which led to the  evaluation of the pound and a 60% inflation, increased unemployment and hunger, from the rise in the price of basic foods such as wheat and bread. This social situation becomes a Dantean picture if we add to it the number of Palestinian refugees and, more recently, those from the Syrian exodus caused by the civil war. After the fall of Hariri, the Diab government decreed the default of the debt, which reaches a whopping 170% of the country's GDP. Negotiations with the IMF to enable one of its rescue credits, conditioned by the well-known adjustment measures, crosses over the situation, until today. After the explosion of the port, Macron also appears as a supposed benefactor, conditioning in turn a rescue of UN donors to an independent investigative commission, that means, managed by the former metropolis based in Paris, for the reconstruction. From the military aspect, the siege of the Israeli defense forces on the border is a constant, more so after the 2006 war.


            The inability of the Lebanese sub-bourgeoisie to control the port and the banks, the two economic pillars of the country, proves their degree of parasitism, and the absolute breakdown of the state they run. The centrifugal forces determined by capitalist anarchy and imperialist decomposition undermine their own foundations. The workers' movement must oppose this tendency towards barbarism by means of workers' control of the branches, starting with the necessary reconstruction of the infrastructure. Clearly, this is not possible without confronting to the end the forces of the military bureaucratic apparatus that remain in place.


A "national" way out?


            Sectors of the left, such as the Argentinean New MAS or the PTS, are ignoring these structural elements that determine the current crisis in Lebanon. Or they only consider the international determinants from a geopolitical point of view, such as the PO. It is undeniable that Lebanon has been determined since its constitution as a bourgeois state by a mosaic of ethno-religious communities that have led to a spawning of political regime at its peak. The Lebanese regime is an agreement between political-religious factions that aims to ensure a "balance" between the different bourgeois and petty-bourgeois leaderships: the president must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister, a Sunni and the president of the Legislative Assembly a Shiite. It is an illusion to solve this problem through a constitutional-type reform (Constituent Assembly), democratizing the regime on the basis of a "French-style" proportional voting system. Although it may seem contradictory, it was that France of the bourgeois revolution -and its equality before the law (abstract equality)- that determined that determined form of the bourgeois regime in its former colony, but it is not: the semicolony did not develop in the image and likeness of the metropolis, its deformations under the law of uneven and combined development are determined by the development (decomposition) of the imperialist system. And this happens with the whole region. It should not be forgotten that the creation of these "independent" and separate semi-States in the Middle East is an imperialist abortion, crowned in 1948 by the creation of Israel.


            Para acabar con la dominación imperialista en la región, con los mandatos de Francia y demás potencias europeas, de EEUU y el FMI, que negocian sus términos de dominación sobre terreno literalmente arrasado, el programa es el de la destrucción de Israel y la lucha por una Federación de Repúblicas Socialistas de Medio Oriente, como forma estatal de la dictadura del proletariado. Es necesario preparar una dirección obrera a la altura de los procesos que seguramente se profundizarán. Es lo que fundamenta el llamado que desde la COR Argentina y la TRCI venimos haciendo a una Conferencia Internacional de aquellas corrientes que defiendan la dictadura del proletariado, que intente abordar la crisis de dirección revolucionaria al calor de la situación mundial convulsiva.

            To end imperialist domination in the region, with the mandates of France and other European powers, the U.S. and the IMF, that negotiate their terms of domination on literally razed ground, the program is that of the destruction of Israel and the struggle for a Federation of Socialist Republics of the Middle East, as a state form of the dictatorship of the proletariat. It is necessary to prepare a workers' leadership that able to live up to the processes that will surely deepen. This is the basis of the call that we have been making from the Argentinean COR and the TRFI to an International Conference of those currents that defend the dictatorship of the proletariat, that tries to tackle the crisis of revolutionary leadership in the heat of the convulsive world situation.


First published in Spanish on www.cor-digital.org, 08/13/2020

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