Oct 28, 2019
The following article is translated from Lutte Ouvrière, the newspaper of the revolutionary workers group active in France.
On Thursday, October 17, demonstrations broke out in Lebanon once again, this time after the government announced a new tax on calls made using an internet app, WhatsApp. This tax has already been repealed under the pressure of the population, but the demonstrations and protests continue across the country.
The demonstrators demand the removal of all the country’s political leaders. They express their anger against the frequent shutoffs of water and electricity, the growing unemployment, and the inflation which presses more and more heavily on working people. Some must worry whether they can eat.
The current government was formed at the beginning of the year after long negotiations between Saad Hariri, ally of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, and Hezbollah, an Islamic party allied with Iran. The new government took austerity steps to force the population to pay for an enormous national debt, 86 billion dollars—that is, more than all the goods and services produced in Lebanon for a year.
Last year France’s government gave Lebanon an 11-billion-dollar loan, on condition that the country impose austerity against the population.
It is notable that protestors expressed anger against representatives of all their own religious sects, whom they accused of pillaging the country. They chanted, “All of them, We Say All of Them.” Some politicians who showed up at protesters’ meetings were expelled, but then they showed their true faces: these expelled politicians ordered their thugs to shoot at demonstrators.
In the face of the growing demonstrations, Prime Minister Saad Hariri last week announced an end to all new taxes directed against the population in the 2020 budget. The head of Hezbollah supported this move, expressing his fear of “the danger of a popular explosion.” But these measures have not calmed the anger of the demonstrators. Their mobilization has for the moment united the country’s bitter religious divisions, because all are determined to make the government fall.
The Lebanese political system organizes the division of power among the clans that run the different religious communities and accumulate fortunes at the expense of the population. By identifying the cause of their problems as the religion-based political system, the demonstrators accuse the ruling class that enriches itself at their expense.