The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Hezbollah on the Side of Social Order

Jan 1, 2024

This article is translated from the December 27 issue, #2891 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

On October 8, in support of Hamas, Hezbollah launched rocket attacks against Israel from southern Lebanon. To maintain its image as a fighting organization, this Shiite Islamist party could not remain aloof from the conflict, so long as it claims to make resistance to Israel a priority. However, neither it nor its Iranian sponsor seem to want an escalation with Israel and the United States.

It was in 1982 that Hezbollah (The Party of God) burst onto the Lebanese political scene in reaction to Israel’s occupation of the south of the country. Ravaged by civil war, Lebanon had become the arena in which the powers of the region clashed, each supporting various militias formed along sectarian lines.

Hezbollah, which grew out of the Movement of the Disinherited, benefited from financial and military support from Iran, buoyed by the prestige of the revolution that had brought the ayatollahs to power and ousted a regime subservient to the United States. Hezbollah broadened its social base by organizing networks of assistance to the most disadvantaged around mosques and used social demagogy to establish itself as the exclusive representative of the Lebanese underprivileged, assimilated to the Shiite fraction of the population. But while Hezbollah claimed to help the poorest, it expected them to remain submissive to the bourgeois order it defended, not hesitating to repress any dissent.

In 1997, for example, a revolt by the poor population of the Bekaa region was put down by the Lebanese army with the military support of Hezbollah. In 2004, when workers mobilized by the CGTL trade union were subjected to army repression that left four dead, Hezbollah justified it by invoking a red line that must not be crossed. Fiercely opposed to the class struggle, Hezbollah also violently fought its rivals, particularly left-wing organizations that had some influence among workers. In 1987, for example, Sheikh Nasrallah, who still heads it today, had some thirty Communist Party cadres assassinated, including Mehdi Amel and Hussein Mroué.

Over time, thanks to its militias, armed and trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, this fundamentalist party has earned a reputation as a fighter. It has seen the Lebanese Communist Party rally behind it in the name of the anti-imperialist character of Hezbollah’s struggle against Israel, despite its reactionary character and the attacks it has suffered.

In 2006, during Israel’s fifth war in Lebanon, when the Israeli air force destroyed the infrastructure and razed part of the cities of southern Lebanon and the suburbs of Beirut, Hezbollah militiamen fought fiercely. Israeli troops entering Lebanon had to turn back after a month of fighting. While the Lebanese army proved incapable of doing so, the fact that Hezbollah was able to keep Israel at bay further boosted its popularity. With its anti-Western rhetoric and support for Hamas, Hezbollah established itself as a pillar of resistance to Israel and a champion of the Palestinian cause.

Since then, its military power has grown and its political weight has increased in Parliament, the government and throughout Lebanese society. It calls for national unity to defend the interests of the Lebanese owners against their rivals, but also against the exploited classes of Lebanon. So, in 2019, when the population rose up against the government and its corruption, Hezbollah repeatedly sent its men to confront the protesters in Beirut and the southern regions.

Despite their aura as fighting organizations, Hezbollah and Hamas are not the representatives of the poor masses in Lebanon, the West Bank or Gaza. In the fight for their emancipation, the exploited classes of Lebanon and the entire Middle East will have to forge their own communist, proletarian and revolutionary organizations. They will find many enemies in their path, including reactionary bourgeois organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas.