Lebanon: “Down with the sectarian system”

Against sectarianism and capitalism – for a workers alternative!

CWI members in Lebanon have been building for and intervening in protests and meetings leading up to the 10,000 strong demonstration on 6 March under the slogan of, "the people want to topple the sectarian regime" with the leaflet published below. This movement has grown from a few hundred individual activists linking up on facebook (including CWI Lebanon) and spread to thousands of youth, taking action in the streets (many of whom do not have facebook accounts, but have responded to the call to topple the sectarian regime). The slogans raised by most youth and working people have been class demands – showing the potential for workers’ unity against the corrupt, sectarian capitalist class.

We put forward the need to build a movement against corruption, poverty, unemployment and high living costs, which are the issues uniting the masses of workers and the poor against sectarianism, and we argue for workers and the poor to build their own political alternative.

CWI Lebanon

To bring down the sectarian system, it is necessary to unite around demands for a better livelihood!

For the building of a movement against corruption, high living costs, unemployment, poverty and civil war!

Against sectarianism and capitalism – for a workers alternative!

The economic crisis, and the Arab revolutions against price rises, unemployment and for democratic rights, have had an effect on the Lebanese people. A new movement is arising against corruption, poverty and unemployment among young people in particular. The initiative was started by activists who called for the action under the slogan, "Bring down the sectarian system". The demonstration on 27 February, which brought together about 2,000 protesters, showed the mood against the corrupt and sectarian ruling class, holding it responsible for the sectarian wars, poverty and racism.

The demonstration saw demands being raised by protesters for better living standards for young people, workers and the poor in Lebanon – a reflection of their deteriorating conditions. This movement, with economic slogans on housing, social security, unemployment, education, corruption and the wasting of public money, shows the potential of such a movement to unite the working class, employees with low incomes, the unemployed, small farmers, the poor and all oppressed people.

This action was exceptional in the stormy weather and exceeded the expectations of those who have questioned the will of young people to struggle. It also broke the fears which were created around the demonstration, with threats and provocations, which ended with the kidnapping of activists distributing a leaflet mobilising for the demo. The demo took place despite the fact that some reactionary right-wing parties campaigned on the Internet to intimidate the organisers, including warnings in regards to the chosen assembly place, a symbol of the civil war. "Revolt against the system" was among the most popular chants, and the main demands were for real change, “For a secular state” and for “social justice”.

Since 27 February, the mainstream parties have been trying to seize upon the anti-sectarian movement in order to protect their own interests, which reflect the fear of such a movement growing and from economic demands of everyday issues being raised against the corrupt and sectarian ruling class. This movement could spread to the popular areas that have been paying the price for the recurring crises. The ruling class of business leaders, and the families of the former feudal class, and the current capitalist class, are using sectarianism to divide working people in order to facilitate the process of exploitation and plundering (the policies of "divide and rule"). But we are witnessing today a new generation of young people, rejecting civil war and forming a real opposition. Young people are calling for an end to the plundering of the wealth of the country and for an end of exploitation of workers and the poor in this continuously renewed sectarian system.

We are witnessing a growing rejection of sectarianism, which is used by the local and regional (and international) capitalist ruling class in its struggle over positions in power. We see today a larger section of the Lebanese masses disgusted at the succession of the same political and economic policies, and the recurring crises between the "majority" and "minority" in government, using the same old empty slogans of "national unity" while they divide the country into sects to be led by them, in order to exploit the workers for private profit. We fight for the true unity of the working class and not that of the ruling class that kills and steals under the banner of "sectarian balance." They are traders and businessmen – we are workers and the poor, the youth and the unemployed.

It is necessary to translate the growing desire for change among youth, who have no illusions in any new government, into demands for fundamental change, which challenge the ruling elite, posing and discussing alternatives to its economic policies of privatization and impoverishment of the masses for profit. We want state funding for agriculture, industry and the public sector, under the control of ordinary workers and staff. We want a living minimum wage which matches the real cost of living. Workers and the unemployed need to build their own alternative for their own class, which is exploited by capitalists sitting in their palaces and large companies. We want to improve our living standards and end the capitalist approach – to profit at the expense of the working class and the poor – and end the sectarian divide.

In order to overthrow the sectarian regime and sectarian ruling class it is necessary to move against the capitalist class in Lebanon, which has been represented by successive governments for decades. This class has become a symbol of plunder of the country’s wealth, and is responsible for economic policies subject to the diktats of the powerful IMF and the World Bank. They have led to the hollowing-out of our institutions, corruption of departments, attacks on industrial and agricultural production to promote imports, and the only export being that of young people who make up 41% of the workforce and face high unemployment.

What generated the revolutions and uprisings of the Arab peoples, of youth and workers in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, was the deteriorating situation in living conditions as well as the oppression by the tyrants. The Arab ruling class is now being held responsible for the economic and political crises. Hundreds of deaths were sacrificed under banners of popular and class demands related to price hikes, unemployment and for democratic rights (like the right to form an opposition, to organise, and for trade union rights). These do not differ much from the conditions of youth and workers in Lebanon, who find themselves also in front of the doors of embassies in search of a living, due to 30% unemployment, and the decline in productive sectors of industry and agriculture, unable to compete with large corporations and monopolies, financial and market speculation, and the real estate sector.

We need to build a political and economic alternative for the benefit of the working class which is increasingly in need of change and of holding the corrupt thieves of public funds accountable. Young people are increasingly calling for a change of the whole ruling elite, which has been ruling the country for decades. These sectarian leaders are neo-liberal businessmen and capitalist beasts who exploit religious sentiments to try to divide the young working class, as supporters of their sectarian parties.

What is happening in Arab countries is only a beginning of change, and in Lebanon sectarianism will not generally stop the working class from rising up against the reactionary regime which breeds poverty and wars. It’s time to put forward a genuine socialist alternative, to bring down the rotten sectarian capitalist system. It is time to work for the building of a mass workers movement that can unite the working class, and raise and discuss the real socialist alternative:

We demand

• Unity of the masses of people against the ruling class, with demands to end sectarianism and corruption.

• For a programme that represents an alternative for workers and the poor, and that can build a mass movement against sectarian politics and impoverishing economic policies.

• For raising the minimum wage and reducing the prices of basic materials and housing. For the strengthening of the public sector, including education, health care, social security and pensions, and for jobs to improve living conditions.

• For the building of a workers’ movement that can unite the working class and fight for the eradication of poverty, sectarianism and racism.

• For the struggle for genuine democratic socialism .

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