As the Israeli air force, armed by US imperialism, bombs the villages of southern Lebanon, destroys the infrastructure, and murders civilians – mostly children, the elderly, and disabled people – the Lebanese government of Fouad Siniora “regrets” that the “international community” won’t intervene to stop the offensive, and hopes that the principal sponsor of Israel, the United States, will consider that enough bombs have been dropped by now for a cease-fire to be instituted.
It’s nothing new that in war those who suffer most are the workers and poor people. The current Israeli attack against Lebanon is no exception: not only do they make up the majority of the refugees, but thousands of immigrant workers, mostly servants, chauffeurs and housekeepers from the Philippines, Vietnam, Sudan and elsewhere, were left to fend for themselves by their Lebanese bosses who fled the bombing, leaving their workers without money, and in some cases locked up in their houses.
However, despite these hard times the Lebanese people are far from blaming Hezbollah for the destruction and death caused by the Zionist troops: according to the polls more than 80% support the resistance against the Israeli aggression in Lebanon.
But to be able to defeat the attack from Israel and imperialism, the limits of the Hezbollah militia’s resistance must be overcome. The broad masses of workers, peasants, poor and oppressed people must take the stage, transforming the current resistance into a broad struggle for national and social liberation.
The government of the Lebanese millionaires is allied with imperialism
The current “national unity” government in Lebanon only protects the material interests of its prosperous businessmen in construction, tourism and finance. Prime Minister Siniora is part of the multimillionaire political elite that has governed the country since the end of the civil war. His predecessor, the multimillionaire businessman Rafik Hariri1, amassed a fortune that made him the fourth richest politician in the world. But while his family inherited around 16.7 billion dollars after his assassination in February 2005, the “inheritance” that he left the Lebanese workers and people is a heavy burden.
The post-war “reconstruction programme” led to a foreign debt of 35 billion dollars, which amounts to 185% of the gross national product. Under the guidance of the IMF and the World Bank, Hariri launched a neoliberal structural adjustment plan which combined the well-known recipe of cutbacks in public spending, privatisations, high taxes and attacks on wages. Unemployment stagnates at 20% of the population, and poverty is at 30%. This situation has provoked a deep social polarisation between the comfortable middle layers of society, who have enjoyed booming business conditions, and the working class2, which has led important struggles like the general strikes of 2003 and 2004. Siniora was one of Hariri’s business cronies and the minister of finance in his government, responsible for the increase in foreign debt3 and the “structural adjustment” programmes.
Hezbollah’s limitations for leading a true national liberation struggle
Doubtlessly, Hezbollah has been strengthened, at a national level and throughout the whole Arab and Muslim world, as a legitimate force of resistance against Israeli oppression. This is because despite being a militia of limited size – calculated to be around 6,000 fighters – it is the only one that confronts the powerful Zionist military, in contrast to the pro-imperialist politics of not only the Lebanese government but also the major Arab countries: Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. The Lebanese army has stayed on the sidelines of the conflict while its country has been brutally attacked by the Zionist army. It has left the resistance in the hands of the Hezbollah militia when its forces are ten times larger, revealing the bourgeois and pro-imperialist character of its generals and commanding staff who report to the government of Siniora.
Far from corresponding to Bush and Blair’s caricature as a band of fanatics and terrorists, the truth is that Hezbollah is an organization with broad popular support. Over the years, Hezbollah has developed an extensive aid network that includes health and education services for the poorest sectors, which although they are mostly located in the Shi’ite neighbourhoods and villages, help the local population regardless of religious belief. This, along with its resistance against Israel, has allowed Hezbollah to increase its influence and political power in Lebanon year after year, extending its base to sectors of the urban middle class.
In the last elections in 2005, Hezbollah gained 14 seats in parliament through a combination of anti-imperialist rhetoric and the rejection of the neoliberal plans of preceding governments, a programme combining social reform with religious ideology.
But despite its denunciations of the Lebanese regime, Hezbollah participates in the “national unity government” of Siniora, which came to power under the influence of the United States through the so-called “cedar revolution” and the withdrawal of Syria from Lebanon. The Hezbollah Minister of Energy has not resigned from the cabinet, even though the Lebanese government hasn’t taken the least measure to confront the Israeli attack.
Despite its anti-imperialist rhetoric and its armed actions against Israel, Hezbollah, due to its social character and political programme, will not transform the current conflict into a true national and social liberation struggle. Though it might tactically declare its opposition to the forceful imposition of Islam and consider itself allied with the oppressed people of the world, including non-Muslims, its strategic objective is the establishment of an Islamic state in Lebanon, inspired by the 1979 Iranian revolution and Ayatollah Khomeini.
The Iranian theocracy that created Hezbollah, that appointed its “spiritual leader”, and that decisively influences its political orientation, is profoundly reactionary. Expressing the interests of the bazaar bourgeoisie4, it drowned the budding social revolution in blood in 1979, and established a completely repressive theocratic regime, which although it has major differences with the US, preserved the capitalist character of the country. Iran, moreover, for its own strategic reasons, supported the US invasion of Iraq by means of its associated organisations there. Along with Syria, which also maintains relations with Hezbollah, it intends to capitalise on the situation in Lebanon in its own interests and not those of the exploited masses of the region.
The active intervention of the mass movement
In order to stop Israel’s current attack, the enormous energy and fighting spirit of the workers and oppressed people of Lebanon must be set in motion, through a programme that unites the resistance to imperialism with the struggle against the local exploiters and the political elite grouped together in the so-called “March 14 coalition”5, which is not looking after the interests of the exploited and oppressed Lebanese people, and which in the face of the attacks has been negotiating the disarmament of the Hezbollah fighters in accordance with the demands of the imperialists.
A truly revolutionary programme must begin with the unconditional defence of the Lebanese resistance against Israeli military aggression and the international struggle for the defeat of Israel, the United States, and their allies. Nevertheless, the resistance against an infinitely superior army cannot be limited to the Hezbollah militia, which exercises a monopoly over the armed struggle, reserving for the “civilians” the role of passive supporters, victims or refugees. It’s necessary to proceed with the general arming of the working class and poor population, which would enable them to defeat the Zionist state’s ground invasion troops in every village, giving a mass character to the resistance, which is the only way to defeat enemies as powerful as imperialism and the Zionist state. At the same time, the revolutionary programme must orient towards the rank and file of the Lebanese army, to win them over so that they break with the collaborationist policy of the government.
This struggle must have a strategic perspective, beyond gaining a “moral victory” over the Arab agents of imperialism and Israel. All necessary means must be used to defeat the Israeli attack, including raising the demand for the expropriation of the imperialist businesses and the big local businesses, as well as appropriating the enormous fortunes of the millionaire politicians.
Despite the frequently heroic character of the struggles that the masses of the region have undertaken, such as the two Palestinian intifadas or the Iranian revolution of 1979, these have been headed by leaderships without a strategy for victory.
As well as being in the frontline of the resistance, in order to succeed it is also necessary to overcome the current leadership (whether Islamic or Arab nationalist) by fighting for a revolutionary programme, policy and strategy so that the working class of the Middle East, leading the poor peasants, the oppressed youth and all the region’s exploited people, can decisively defeat the terrorist state of Israel, the United States and the corrupt Arab bourgeoisies, advancing towards a Federation of Socialist Republics of the Middle East.
|↑1||A Sunni Lebanese politician, he was prime minister between 1992 and 1998 and for a second term from 2000 to October of 2004, when he resigned amidst a wave of workers’ protests. He began to accumulate his fortune during the civil war, building deluxe hotels and other construction projects for the Saudi monarchy. The Saudi royal family granted him citizenship and named him as their representative in Lebanon. With this support, he was able to move from the construction business to oil and finance, extending his investments to Paris and Houston. He died in Beirut from a terrorist attack in February 2005. The US blamed Syria for his assassination, which precipitated the so-called “Cedar Revolution” led by the Christian and pro-imperialist sectors in Lebanon.|
|↑2||The Lebanese working class is composed of about 1.6 million wage workers, of whom 62% are employed in the service sector, 31% in industry, and 7% in agriculture.|
|↑3||According to an article in the liberal Lebanese “Daily Standard”, based on the latest report of the IMF on Lebanon’s debt, “in 1988 the debt was less than one billion dollars (…) however in the next ten years it grew to 16 billion dollars in 1998 and doubled to 35 billion dollars in 2005”.|
|↑4||A traditional sector of the Iranian bourgeoisie, essentially commercial and tied to the Shi’ite clerics, which did not benefit from the “modernising” plan implemented by the Shah in league with imperialism before his fall.|
|↑5||It unites Washington’s clients in Lebanon, among others: the Future Movement (Hariri’s Sunni political party), their Druze allies led by Walid Jumblatt, the liberal Christians and the forces of the Lebanese Maronite Christian right wing. It also includes the Democratic Left Party (founded by ex-stalinists). It is named after the mobilisations that were organised on this date for the withdrawal of Syrian troops.|