Build a united workers’ movement to fight for living wages
The following is the text of a leaflet distributed by CWI Lebanon members on a demonstration in Beirut in opposition to the Lebanese government’s economic policies.
Time to build a new workers’ party
There is no doubt that the living conditions which workers in Lebanon have been enduring are a direct result of government policies, dating back over a long period. The rise in oil and metal prices have led to a sharp increase in the prices of commodities, basic foods, transportation, communication, energy and water (which risks being polluted by government and state institutions). There has also been a rise in tuition fees, health care and medication costs. The increasing numbers of mobile merchants on bikes or with trolleys, selling foods and sweets, is one indicator, among many others, of the poverty and the loss of job opportunities which people have suffered. The number of deaths among children and the elderly as a result of poisoning or malnutrition in poor and deprived areas also indicates that the masses are now paying the price for the failures of successive governments.
This tragic situation did not move the government to act. But actions taken by workers and the threat of a movement of workers and trade unions, who are demanding wage increases and social security forced a government decision to increase monthly wages by LBP200,000 (US$133,33). This measly measure insulted a section of workers and employees and angered another section of them for not being implemented in all companies and sectors and for all workers.
On 18 November 2008, teachers led the way with their industrial action and prepared the ground for initiating the beginning of a united workers’ movement around the demand for living wages. They rejected the government’s concession as it comes along with an attack on teachers’ conditions through the introduction of contractual teachers deprived of their basic rights, such as access to the national social security fund.
The question today is: how long will the government keep ignoring the demands of the majority of the people, the working class, 60% of whom suffer from deep poverty and around 30% of whom are unemployed? The answer is that the government, like its predecessors, along with the opposition parties, does not represent the interest of workers and the poor, but is represents the politics of the ruling class, the capitalists and the employers, who enrich themselves and build their wealth through exploiting and impoverishing ordinary people. So, while they enjoy luxurious lives in their palaces, the majority of the people in Lebanon experience poverty and deprivation. And when necessary to protect its capitalist and feudalist interests, the ruling class divides workers along religious sectarian lines to the point of dragging society towards civil conflicts.
It is time to unite working people and the poor against the governing parties and to build an alternative workers’ party which can struggle for a planned economy to meet the needs of all and for a genuine socialist society where the majority rules for the benefit of all people.
The CWI calls and campaigns for the trade unions and movements of workers and the left to take the necessary steps towards building a workers’ party which can stand up against the neo-liberals and the capitalist system, and which can unite, through a class movement, workers and the poor in Lebanon> This can link up in solidarity with workers’ movements in the region, and the world, in the fight for a real alternative – for democratic world socialism.