Lebanon : General strike call for 7 May

Beginning of a United Workers’ Movement

General strike call for 7 May

Despite the big political crisis that the country is going through and despite the historical complexities to the continuous crises which, in some cases, led to civil wars – such as in 1958 and 1975 – and despite what is happening today after the 14th February 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafiq El Hariri and the Syrian pull out, a renewed economic crisis directly linked to the sectarian and capitalist system has come to the fore. Today, we see the beginning of a mass workers’ movement and an increase in class consciousness among a section of workers, like the teachers’ union and the other trade unions which have started to unite, bit by bit, around the common issue – the bread crisis.

In the last period, the country has witnessed a number of movements within which trade union leaders, communists and other left groups have played a decisive role. Through these movements, this capitalist system, which has been veiling itself in religious sectarianism with foreign backing, is now being further exposed. Information and statistics of the companies and corporations which dominate the Lebanese economy have been published and highlighted, like the fact that three big companies dominate and hold 50% of the economy today. The state sector rates which the government is complaining about are nowhere near the national debt which has reached around $45 billion. These movements are also pointing out that this same government, which is backed by the so-called “International Community”, in other words the world capitalist super-power, does not want to raise the minimum wage but what is now being proposed is only an approach closer to the Paris 3 or ‘donating nations’ conference line regarding wages: to freeze public sector and military wages.

The government aims to, through these measures, push public sector workers to leave the state sector in the search for a decent earning, a living and a more stable future. The movements have also uncovered the real aims behind the government opposition, which, at times, criticizes the government’s economic plans and, at other times, makes deals with the government on the backs of workers. Moreover, in the past, opposition leaders have often undermined and brought down determined trade union and workers’ movements.

The General Workers’ Union (GWU), which is supportive of the opposition, has called for a general strike on 7th May. Despite differences between trade unions, communists and the left with the GWU, they all declare to be behind the general strike. In addition, the Left Meeting for Discussion, which brings together most of the left and communist groups, has announced its commitment to join all future industrial action already planned.

Workers in Lebanon are in urgent need for a united workers’ movement, which is the only force that can provide a way out of this strangling economic crisis for working class families. Today, 30% of families live below the deep poverty line and 60% on the way to deep poverty. It is not justified that the housing and banking sectors possess the wealth, while other economic sectors are collapsing one after the other. Therefore, all trade unions and left revolutionary parties are now being called upon to make a historical stand next to workers and to play a supportive and mobilizing role in all industrial actions and workers’ movement to make a genuine and true change in society – the only guarantee to put away war and poverty.

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May 2008