Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Resigns After 13 Days of Massive Protests

In a massive victory for the masses mobilizing in the streets of Lebanon, Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation as well as the cabinet’s on Tuesday. For real change, it is time for the working class and youth to take the reins of leadership in the country.

Sou Mi

October 30, 2019
Facebook Twitter Share
Getty Images

For the last 13 days, the streets of Lebanon have witnessed some of the largest demonstrations in over a decade. From Tripoli in the north to Tyre in the south, people have gathered in the streets in the tens of thousands to protest austerity and a corrupt, clientelist political regime. What started as a protest against a tax on Whatsapp calls soon transformed into a full-blown indictment of an establishment that has increasingly worsened socio-economic conditions for the masses.

Lebanon has been in a state of paralysis for almost two weeks as schools, banks, and numerous businesses have remained shuttered after protesters took control of and blocked major roads. Calls for a “revolution” rapidly increased over the period and, as encaptured in the signature chant of “all of them means all of them,” the protesters have unequivocally demanded the ouster of the entire political establishment. Mass protests throughout last week drew over a quarter of the country’s population to the streets while this past Sunday nearly 170,000 people joined a human chain that spanned the whole country. General strikes, occupations, and blockades have further displayed an overwhelming rejection of the neoliberal politics that have divided and exploited the population for years.

Hariri Resigns

Although Prime Minister Saad Hariri was quick to repeal the “WhatsApp tax” after the first wave of mobilizations, protesters consistently pushed for more. In the face of a general strike, Hariri announced a set of reforms ranging from cuts to salaries of some current and former ministers and lawmakers to increases in pensions and back housing loans. His reforms, however, also included a set of public spending cuts that would pave the way for the privatization of essential services. In Lebanon, where over a quarter of the population lives in poverty and the national debt is 150% of the GDP, these “reforms” meant more austerity and offered no real change. Protesters overwhelmingly rejected these proposed reforms, knowing they can win more – the ouster of the regime.

In the face of this growing unrest, Hariri, on Tuesday, submitted the government’s resignation to President Michel Aoun, fulfilling one of the main demands of the movement. In a televised statement, Hariri said, “this is in response to the will and demands of the thousands of Lebanese demanding change.”

While the resignation represents a victory for the protesters, it is also a critical turning point in this current crisis. As of Wednesday, Auon has requested Hariri to continue leading a caretaker cabinet until a new one can be formed, effectively keeping him in power. It is likely that Aoun, who has to appoint Hariri’s replacement, will be unable to find consensus and will likely reappoint Hariri as Prime Minister to form a new cabinet. Such a move by the political establishment would do nothing but preserve the status quo that protesters have been fighting against for nearly two weeks. Hariri’s resignation also comes amidst increasing violence by Hezbollah supporters who have attacked protesters and ransacked protest sites in Beirut after their leader, Hassan Nasrallah, delivered an address criticizing the protests and warned Hariri against resigning.

What Next?

These October demonstrations have been the largest mobilizations in Lebanon since the Cedar Revolution of 2005 forced the withdrawal of Syrian troops from the region. Although Lebanon has seen mass protests and uprisings in recent years – during the Arab Spring and in 2012 and 2015 – these current mobilizations have far surpassed the others in scope. 

One of the main causes for this success has been the unequivocal participation of the working class and youth. While protests in the past have largely been localized in Beirut and represented petty-bourgeois interests, the ongoing movement has spread to industrial and agrarian sectors across the country.  This reflects a deepening anger at the political establishment and increased radicalization of the masses. Tripoli, a city in North Lebanon that has one of the highest concentrations of the working class and the poor, has transformed into a new locus of power for protests.

The youth and the working class in Lebanon are not alone. Across the world, the masses have taken to the streets in increasing numbers to confront the political establishment. Earlier in October, indigenous people in Ecuador rose up against the dissolution of fuel subsidies, forcing the government participate in negotiations with their movement’s leaders. In Chile, millions are organizing on the streets against neoliberalism, calling for the ouster of the president and the implementation of a Constituent Assembly. In Iraq, tens of thousands have descended upon Baghdad’s Tahrir Square to call for the end of the corrupt political regime. These are part of a long and growing list of instances of class struggle, including those in Haiti, Sudan, Puerto Rico, and more. The youth and the working class in Lebanon, as in other countries across the world, are coming into their power to challenge an exploitative capitalist system that has benefited from their oppression for far too long.

In Lebanon, from the early days, the protesters put forward two demands – for the resignation of political establishment, and for the appointment of impartial judges to run the country until new elections are called. But without organs of leadership within and of the working class, Lebanon is doomed to perpetuate the cycle of exploitation that is responsible for the iniquity of the current socio-economic condition. Over the past weekend, the military as well as members of Hezbollah have violently repressed protesters, from forcibly removing them from the streets to destroying and looting their camps. Hariri’s resignation creates an opportune climate for these alternate, bourgeois leaderships to fill the vacuum of power. But Hezbollah is not the only possible actor: the working class and youth that have been mobilizing could take full leadership–if they fight for it.

As professor and activist Rima Majed writes, “the past few days have shown the start of the emergence of a new class-based alliance between the unemployed, underemployed, working classes and middle classes against the ruling oligarchy.” In a country where the labor movement has been co-opted by the capitalist class, resulting in the systemic erasure of labor rights and protections, there is now an opportunity to foster organization that represents the interests of the most radical sectors of the movement, namely the working class, the youth, and women. Their role in the protests has been undeniable; when the leaders of the unions refused to call a general strike, the radicalized masses enforced one on their own by blocking major roads.

The demands in the streets is clear: “the people want the fall of the regime.” The working class in Lebanon has shown its capacity to force radical change, one that should not be squandered on half-wins. The outcome of the ongoing struggle will depend on whether a working-class alternative can be articulated and organized, one that targets capitalism as the root of people’s sufferings and recognizes the domestic and foreign bourgeoisie as their main enemy.

Facebook Twitter Share

Sou Mi

Sou Mi is an activist based in New York City.

Middle East-Africa

Women in Gaza: “Sleep Is a Luxury We Cannot Afford”

November 25 is the International Day Against Gender-Based Violence and organizations and activists from diverse countries around the world are calling to mobilize for a Global Feminist Action for Palestine.

Andrea D'Atri

November 25, 2023

Palestinian Self-Determination and the Fight for Socialism

In this article, we discuss four different strategies for fighting for Palestinian Self-Determination and why we must fight for a workers' and socialist Palestine.

Josefina L. Martínez

November 24, 2023
A man stands in the wreckage of a home in the West Bank.

Dispatches from the West Bank

While Gaza faces bombardment, violence in the West Bank has also been escalating with little media attention. A Palestinian nurse from Nablus sends his dispatches from the West Bank chronicling the increasing targeting of and violence on Palestinians in this region.

Means and Ends: A Debate on the Left over Hamas’s Strategy

Support for the self-determination of the Palestinian people does not mean the revolutionary Left should refrain from criticizing the program, strategy, and methods of Hamas.

Matías Maiello

November 14, 2023


All That's Left, the podcast from Left Voice.

#AllThatsLeftPod: What the Historic UAW Victory Means for the Working Class

In this episode of the podcast, we discuss the historic UAW victory, its shortcomings, and the tasks for the future.

Left Voice

December 5, 2023

The New Hollywood McCarthyism Emerging Around Palestine

Over the past week, a new Hollywood McCarthyism has emerged: multiple people in Hollywood have jobs and representation over their support of Palestine. We must denounce and fight these attacks which weaken the movement and scare supporters into silence.

Sybil Davis

December 3, 2023
A UAW sign is held next to a "Free Palestine" sign

The UAW Has Called for a Ceasefire. It’s Time for All of Labor to Stand Up.

The UAW International union has joined calls for a ceasefire and is exploring how to divest from Israel. This is a step which should inspire union activists to take up the fight to bring their union into the fight against Israel's attack on Gaza and the struggle against imperialism.

Rose Lemlich

December 2, 2023

Robert Habeck Wrote a Play Praising a Right-Wing Mass Murderer

Germany's Green vice chancellor strikes many as an idealist who has been struggling with the tough realities of government. Yet before he was a national politician, he wrote a play that opens a window into a dark soul.

Nathaniel Flakin

December 1, 2023