Lebanon: No illusions in the new government

The conflict is between two sides of the same coin!

Here we publish the text of a CWI Lebanon leaflet, distributed on a national demonstration against high living costs on Sunday 30 January in, Central Beirut

For the defense of living conditions – for the building of a workers alternative!

A prime minister goes and another comes along, but no prospect for change. The new government will carry out policies not significantly different from its predecessors. There will not be an end to privatization, nor will there be government funding in agriculture, industry and public services. Nothing will change for workers and the unemployed. There will not be any improvement in living standards, because the capitalist approach is the same, with the same motives; for profits for the big companies, at the expense of the working class.

The ruling class in Lebanon, with its successive governments since 1992 have been “slashers” of the national economy and pledged itself to the policies of the IMF and the World Bank, for the benefit of the powerful banks. This has meant starvation of public services, corruption of departments, and cuts in industries and agriculture. Imports are promoted. The only export is that of youth, who represent 41% of the workforce and who face high unemployment.

While the ruling class jostles for power, ordinary people in Lebanon are watching the uprisings of workers and young people in Tunisia and Egypt, where dozens of people have been killed and face punishment for demanding action to reduce prices and for democracy. Similar to the conditions of young people in Tunisia and Egypt are those of youth in Lebanon, who are today queuing in front of the doors of the embassies in search of a livelihood, despite the difficulties in getting approval for immigration. While inflation rates for 2010 were 12%, jobs are being cut and unemployment has risen to over 30%. Productive sectors of industry and agriculture are driven out or controlled by monopolies, and financial market speculation.

Both the "opposition" and the "pro-government" forces exploit the despair felt by working class youth who see no solution to their problems and do not see an alternative to the economic situation, which includes the most expensive phone bills in the world and high taxes on gasoline. As work abroad and migration are no longer an option, some young people today feel it is necessary to fight for change and to hold the corrupt leaders and the big thieves of public funds accountable. There is a stronger mood for changing the country, against the ruling elite which has governed since the previous period and is today sitting in palaces – the brutal sectarian neo-liberal capitalists who divide the working class into opposition and pro-government supporters.

What is happening in Arab countries like Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Yemen, Jordan and others is only the beginning of change. In Lebanon, sectarianism will not stop the working class from rising up against the reactionary regime which breeds poverty and wars, and which is based on the principle of "divide and rule".

The time has come for the building of a mass workers movement that can unite the working class:

• For the intensification of workers’ struggles to confront neo-liberal economic policies

• For an escalation in the class struggle united around demands for a workers alternative

• For the rejection of privatisation and for government funding of the public sector

• For the nationalisation of the big companies under democratic working class control and for the use of the wealth to finance public services

• For the building of a mass workers’ party that unites the working class against poverty and sectarianism

• For a struggle for genuine democratic socialism

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January 2011