Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

The Impossibility of Perceiving the Lebanese Revolution as though Hezbollah Does not Exist

The Impossibility of Perceiving the Lebanese Revolution as though Hezbollah Does not Exist

Monday, 9 March, 2020 - 11:00

A third wave of the Lebanese revolution. With that, the essential problem remains the same: a large religious sect, through force and coercion, is excluded from participating in it. The sit-ins that took place in Beirut’s southern suburbs have been described as timid and weak; this, despite the fact that the socio-economic situation of its residents calls for bold and strong sit-ins.

This has many consequences with regard to the ability to constantly stifle the social and the class dimension of the revolt. Even a decision like the most recent one regarding banks, whatever one thinks of it, could not present itself as an economic decision. It was recycled politically, which, in the Lebanese sense means sectarianly. The decision was then quickly annulled.

Time after time, then, it seems impossible to contemplate the Lebanese revolution as though Hezbollah is a contingent detail, or as though it does not exist. When it succeeds at putting one of the county’s larger sects outside the revolution, it succeeds at thwarting the revolution’s plan, creating a cross-sectarian bloc as an alternative to the powers that be or, in the meantime, as a strong and critical faction from within the government.

For with October 17, a process of rough-hewing the sects’ edges and identifying with the nation from outside the sectarian narrative began. The revolution did not propose “abolishing” sectarianism, which no rational person would think of doing, neither did it suggest the abolition of the particularities of sectarian groups, because such a declaration would be tantamount to adopting an authoritarian and despotic strategy. Its demands are far less radical and far more modest.

It was clear, with the eruption of the revolution, that sectarianism and its system were in a crisis of their economy, political services, management of the political process and its representation. This is what facilitated the explosion on October 17. Nevertheless, Hezbollah, as a sectarian (and religious) faction, was not in crisis, and it went on bragging about rockets, fighting in Idlib, and threatening enemies and foes. The economy of the party depends on Iran and is thus affected little by what happens to the Lebanese economy. Hassan Nassrallah has been clear about this since the early days of the revolution.

More importantly, it is the only party within Lebanon's ruling configuration that is armed. If the army were unable, for an internal or external reason, to repress, the party would proceed to do the job. It is a party fighting wars on two fronts, so it cannot avoid thinking of an internal political and economic situation that suit its wars, or at least, adapts to them. On the other hand, it is futile to bet on division within the party based on social issues or a clash over class representation. Potential talk of such a scenario are forbidden, and they cost blood.

Thus, it is possible to speak of two sectarianisms in Lebanon. One is soft and has been softened by its defeats, making it open to compromise and even submission and susceptible to the defection of some of its elements. The other is rough and armed; it boasts of its victories, or what it perceives to be victories, and sees that Lebanon cannot accommodate two revolutions.

Only it is the revolution. This has been evident since 2015, that daring to denounce the figures of soft sectarianism, including Aounist figures, is possible, while it is forbidden to dare to similarly denounce the figures of rough sectarianism. Consequently, the revolutionary promise to create the new cross-sectarian bloc could not be kept, and a long historic project is now entrusted with keeping it. But what are the details of this project, given that the passage of time is not neutral and does not mean much in itself?

It is, in addition to raising a more refined awareness of the unitary nature of the Lebanese’s interests and continuing to agitate against their impoverishment and against the banks, waiting for Hezbollah to weaken and pushing, within the boundaries available to us, towards this solemn end.

The issue is not one of "blind hatred" for the party. The issue stems from its position as the last protector of the governance of thieves (kleptocracy) as a result of the degree of success of its adaptation to kleptocracy. It is true that the American sanctions led to some tension between them, but one nighttime bomb on a closed bank was enough to restore most of the mutual trust. After that, things were subsequently restored, though with a little bit of tension, which is part of any relationship between any two allies.

Let us note, for example, that the party is preventing the economic anesthesia that is traditionally begged for Lebanon from countries in its region and in the world. Could one who does not tolerate anesthesia tolerate more radical remedies? Thus, the desperate Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, is left to announce "the state's inability to protect its citizens''.

Indeed, waiting for the party's weakening and the push in this direction brings in another factor that, given the Lebanese situation, does not receive much attention: the balance of power outside Lebanon. In light of Iran's strength (and that of the regime of Bashar al-Assad), it is impossible for a revolution in Lebanon to succeed; rather it is impossible even for major achievements to be made against the rule of thieves. Sporadic riots and thoughtless violence may appear in response to impoverishment policies. Courageous voices may provide us with new evidence of the regime’s scandals, and despite its improbability, the ruling elite may offer some of the banks crumbs of what they had stolen. But this is one thing and change is another. The case of Iraq may not differ much.

Here, a brief revision of what happened in Central and Eastern Europe could be useful: in 1953 former East Germany rose up. In 1956 Hungary rose up. In 1968 the former Czechoslovakia rose up. In 1980-81 Poland rose up. But all those revolutions were defeated, and those countries did not change until the Soviet Union itself collapsed later that decade.

Other opinion articles

Editor Picks