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Against Sectarian Violence and Its Neoliberal Roots: A Call for a Citzen’s Lebanon
by Attac Lebanon
13 May 2008

Attac Lebanon’s analysis of the current dramatic escalation of violence in the streets of Beirut

The violence in the streets of Beirut is the climax of verbal sniping and attacks that has been accumulated for the past 2 years even faster than the national debt. The source of these verbal volleys and the gun battles in the stress is found in all the sectarian leaders and politicians speaches, those same leaders who control the political and economic system of Lebanon.

* First, the Opposition have used the General Labor Confederation’s call for a general strike for it’s own purposes. It instrumentalised the workers’ socio-economic demands to create political pressure on its rivals in the government.The leadership of the union is allowing itself to be coopted by the political designs of the Opposition. Indeed, as soon as they were on the ground, the “protesters” forgot all about demands of the workers.

* On the other hand, the government has recklessly implemented plans for its own interest, mostly congruent with the US vision for the “new Middle East”. Its leaders have presided over the collapse of the Lebanese state structure, where its institutions have been virtually paralyzed and its self-serving, sectarian parliamentarians have made the parliament a moribund and irrelevant institution. In the sectarian system that it has reinforced, the government talks about electoral majorities and minorities as if it were a secular system without democratically adhering to the political and demographic realities of Lebanon.

Attac Lubnan saw the general strike as a critical opportunity for all workers in Lebanon to pressure the government to increase the minimum wage and redress key needs of the country’s citizenry, increasingly forced to live in conditions of poverty, malnourishment and economic, political and social insecurity in a time of a global “economic tsunami”.

Attac Lubnan denounces the recurrent use of the social and economic claims by the opposition for political gain. Isn’t it strange that the demands of the workers, farmers and poor have disappeared in the speeches of opposition leaders? Isn’t it strange that the General Labor Confederation has not condemned all militias for destroying what could have been a mass action to pressure the neoliberal government to alter its suicidal and opportunistic economic plans?

Attac Lebanon strongly asserts that the crisis has been precipitated by the sectarian system. Sectarian political praxis has reconfigured itself in the era of globalization and Lebanese reconstruction to further enfranchise the wealthy and ruling-elite in Lebanon, to further cede the inalienable rights of the people to multinational corporate interests, and to engineer a society that fundamentally works against the rebuilding of Lebanon on principles of democracy, social justice and economic equity.

We in Attac Lubnan, reiterate that the Lebanese sectarian system institutionalizes poverty, competition and scarcity, whereby sectarian leaders position themselves as intermediates between their co-religious hungry and the government. The ruling elite become the sole remediators to the fundamental social and economic needs caused by self-serving neoliberal policies such as privatization and the erasure of workers and agricultural protection.

Attac Lebanon condemns actions of all militias in the street. Their actions parade their blatant disregard for the safety and well-being of tens of thousands of innocent Lebanese. Yet, we recognize that their behavior is outstripped by the culpability of their sectarian leaders.

In the torrent of this violence just as in the swells of daily violence caused by the state’s economic negligence since the end of the last civil war, we in ATTAC LEBANON exert our democratic right not to choose between the neoliberal party and its antisocial policies that only have led to a widening gap between the rich and the poor; or the party that pretends to be a social movement, but exploits economic injustice and democratic under-representation for its own interests.

Therefore Attac Lubnan calls for a secular, democratic culture. We call for a national discussion that must exclude political elites who should be barred from political life. The national discussion should comprise of community members throughout Lebanon, including but not limited to labor leaders, farming cooperatives, environmentalists, civil society organizations, local NGOs, women’s rights activists, human rights activists, Palestinian representatives from the refugee camps, children advocacy organizations, minorities, student organizations, intellectuals, scholars and artists. The goal of this discussion would be the forging of a new political system for Lebanon that would represent the interests of the broadest spectrum of its people not ruling of the elites or the wealthy or international investors.

Attac Lebanon