Dear Comrades! Today we are commemorating Comrade Engels at a critical juncture. The world, the entire humanity, is now entered in what is called the anthropocene epoch. That means the planet’s ecosystem is in an unsustainable situation and commemoration of Engels and his great works assumes paramount significance in this context. We know that as co-author of Marx, Engels had published many works jointly with Marx. However, in pursuance of the relevance of our present discussion, let me confine to the importance of Engels as the leading Marxist theoretician and pioneer in applying dialectical materialism not only to political economy and history but even to nature, science and society.
There is an oft-repeated allegation that Marxism’s concern was only with economy and not environment and ecology and that it was oblivious of the destructive impact of capital accumulation on nature. As such, postmodernists, post-Marxists and even neo-Marxists together with liberals and NGO theorists are working overtime to put the stamp of technological optimism, materialistic determinism, etc. on Marxism. But this is a baseless allegation. From the very beginning, the concern of both Marx and Engels was not only on the exploitation of workers but also on the plunder of nature by capital. For instance, in Capital Volume I, Marx has clearly pointed out how the two sources of human existence, i.e., labour and nature (soil) are made unsustainable or destroyed by the onslaught of capital.
In fact, Engels in his book The Condition of the Working Class in England published in 1845 had taken up this issue in a detailed manner. In this classic work, Engels while explaining capital‘s brutal exploitation of workers under the factory system, had brilliantly explained the horrendous environmental and epidemiological conditions imposed by Industrial Revolution. Engels in his book has beautifully explained how capital accumulation is associated with periodic epidemics, toxic contamination, pollution, and all around devastation of the working class including poor nutrition and high mortality rate arising from high levels of environmental and ecological destruction as capitalism advanced. That is, the idea of Engels that capitalism has always been connected with ecological destruction and plunder of nature was not casual but inalienable to Marxism from the very beginning. And Engels could be seen carrying forward this perception in his 1878 book Anti-Duhring too.
Of course, after the death of Marx in 1883, Engels had to edit and complete Capital Vol. II and Capital Vol. III (respectively published in 1885 and 1894) along with organising and publishing the uncompleted notes of Marx as Theories of Surplus Value also known as the Fourth Volume of Capital. Engels had to take up this huge task while performing his critical role as the foremost authority, theoretician and propagandist of Marxism including his task of organising the working class till his death in 1895.
Therefore, Engels did not get enough time to concentrate on the book Dialectics of Nature which he started to write in 1872. Even though he worked on it for 10 years, that is up to 1882, it remained an unfinished work, and after the death of Marx, Engels had little time to concentrate on it. Hence before his death, Engels entrusted the manuscripts of Dialectics of Nature to Bernstein who was not interested in publishing it. However, in 1924, Bernstein handed it over to Einstein who could grasp the importance of the book. As suggested by Einstein, it was Riazanov who first brought out a rudimentary form in 1927 and a final form appeared in 1935, and ultimately, the full fledged edition of Dialectics of Nature with JBS Haldane’s Preface was published in 1939. According to Haldane, who admired Engels‘ application of dialectics to physical and natural sciences, had Engles’ method of thinking which no environmentalist at that time could even think been known earlier, the transformation of ideas in science would have been smoother and beneficial both for scientists and activists.
Of course, mechanical materialists and positivists have alleged that Engels in Dialectics of Nature had emphasised on materialist conception of nature instead of history and have criticised Engels for, what they said, not taking dialectical materialism in the proper perspective. Such a criticism is far-fetched since, as Haldane pointed out, while exposing the destructive dimensions of unhindered encroachment on nature, in Dialectics of Nature Engels himself had highlighted the interrelationship among science, nature, society and development from a dialectical-historical perspective. For, drawing lessons of the so called development ranging from ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Greece and Asia Minor and Middle Ages to Colonialism, Engels vividly explained how human intrusion in to nature and destruction of forests that reached its zenith in the irreparable damages to tropical forests in Africa and Asia had destroyed the very basis of human existence. Underlying in this analysis is a dialectical link between oppression and exploitation on the one hand and destruction of nature on the other. Of particular relevance in this context is Engels’ reference to the so called primitive accumulation that Marx explained in Capital and the environmental degradation associated with it.
Though Dialectics of Nature was published after Lenin, the Marxist perspective on development that called for a harmony with nature had been there in Lenin’s agenda from the very beginning. As a reflection of this approach, vast tracts of protected land called Zapovedniks were kept forever wild as acknowledge-ment of environmental protection, and Lenin himself signed this into a law in 1921 to put the same on legal footing. This trend continued such that even when Soviet Union collapsed in the late 1980s, it had 330000 square kilometres of Zapovedniks. And in the industrialisation debate of the 1920s, though this perspective on ecology was there, a one-side emphasis on development and theme of Catching up with the West slowly got prominence followed by the entry of American experts and Fordist methods of factory organisation in to Soviet Union in the 1930s. After the 1970s, the so called modernistic conceptualisation that development is an absolute principle got official acceptance in China too.
As such, by the 1970s when the collapse of welfare capitalism coupled with mounting environmental problems pushed imperialism into a an irreversible global crisis, even official agencies like the UN and a whole set of NGOs were forced to come forward putting forward certain reformist propositions for the environmental question along with neoliberal prescriptions. However, on account of the ideological political setbacks suffered by the International Communist Movement, in spite of the Marxist contributions of Engels in this regard, the Left could not take up the required task in the proper perspective. On the other hand, together with unhindered financial speculation which is the major form of neoliberal accumulation, unhindered plunder of nature also became a major avenue of super-profit by corporate capital. And with the turn of the 21st century, as I have mentioned in the beginning, this has now driven humankind to an ecological catastrophe quite characteristic of an anthropocene epoch which is manifested in the frequent emergence of zoonotic viruses, the latest being COVID-19.
In this critical situation, it is indeed heart-warming that Engels works pertaining to science, nature and society are getting more attention from both Marxists and different sections of well-meaning people the world over. The ecological consequences of capital accumulation under colonialism that Engels unravelled especially in Dialectics of Nature under colonialism in the 19th century have grown further and become horrific now. Thus together with the commodification of labour, neoliberal corporatisation has now accomplished a commodification of nature too. Therefore, in conformity with the positions already laid down by Marx and Engels, the working class and oppressed people today have to strive for a de-commodification of both labour and nature.
Under today‘s profit-led development paradigm, the sustenance of humankind is at stake on account of the onslaught of capital both on labour and on nature. It is from this perspective that CPI (ML) Red Star in its Party Program has incorporated the contradiction between capital and nature and ranged it along with the other major contradictions including that between capital and labour. Therefore, along with the resolution of the other major contradictions, resolving the contradiction between capital and nature has also become the task of communist revolutionaries and the International Communist Movement as a whole. With these words, let me conclude, comrades.
Thank you. Revolutionary Greetings to All.
(Presentation by Comrade PJ James)
Dear friends and comrades around the entire world!
Today the ICOR is ten years old and sends you warmest revolutionary greetings on this occasion! On October 6th, 2010, 90 years after the October Revolution and the founding of the Second International in Berlin, we celebrated its founding in an international festive ceremony. The Founding Resolution summarized: "The time is ripe to counter highly organized, globally linked international finance capital and its imperialist world system with something new - the organized power of the international revolutionary and working-class movement and of the broad masses in a new stage of the cross-border cooperation and coordination of the practical activity.” Words were followed by deeds! The ICOR has been consolidated and strengthened. Founded by 41 revolutionary organizations and parties on four continents, it has grown to include more than 60 member organizations on all five continents of the world. Congratulations on these successful ten years and many thanks to all ICOR organizations for their great efforts, their persistent work; many thanks to all those for their selfless commitment in taking over functions and responsibilities - from the first groundbreaking Main Coordinator Stefan Engel to the newest pending ICOR admission applications from Portugal and Siberia; to all friends of the ICOR and all allies all over the world. The basis for the growth and attraction of the ICOR are the far-sighted fundamental guidelines and principles decided ten years ago, when they are actually being lived and realized:
- In the face of many remaining differences among the revolutionaries of the world, common organization on the basis of ideological-political core questions: revolutionary overcoming of the capitalist/imperialist system; perspective of socialism/communism; necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat; leading role of the working class; a clear dividing line to revisionism, anarchism and Trotskyism.
- Each organization decides itself in which activities of the ICOR it participates – however, if a commitment is made, it must be carried out reliably!
- Ideological-political unification step by step with seminars, the right of every organization to make monthly contributions to discussion on the website and, last but not least, with resolutions which only become valid with the majority consent of the ICOR organizations. In the year 2020 alone, 15 resolutions on the burning issues of the time were drawn up on the initiative or with active participation of many ICOR organizations.
- Financial independence. Everyone pays a self-defined contribution - but this reliably. The ICOR finances its work exclusively from membership dues, donations and imaginative financial activities. It is free of debt.
- Proletarian culture of debate, mutual respect and attention to the sovereignty of the member organizations.
- Policy of open doors for membership or cooperation with others.
The main task of the ICOR is the practical coordination and cooperation on these foundations. It has already taken important steps in this direction:
- On four internationaldays of struggle of the ICOR - May Day, March 8th, the days of commemoration and struggle against war and the environmental day of struggle - the ICOR organizations strive to become active together on the basis of a common call with demonstrations, awareness-raising meetings and publications.
- Practical solidarity in the struggle for democracy, freedom and socialism with the climax of the solidarity pact with the Kurdish liberation struggle; the construction of the health-care center with 177 brigadists under most difficult conditions, today a maternity clinic in Kobane, where thousands of babies have been born in the meantime.
- A highlight was undoubtedly the ensemble for the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution - starting with publications and activities in the individual countries, an international seminar with 60 participating organizations from 40 countries and the climax of activities and demonstrations in St. Petersburg from 05.11. to 09.11.2017.
- The continental coordinations organize joint campaigns or also seminars, such as on the environmental issue, on new phenomena in the imperialist world system, for example on the controversially discussed question of the new-imperialist countries.
- ICOR organizations appear together militantly and critically at international conferences such as the World Climate Conferences of the UN.
- The ICOR initiated and supported campaigns with other revolutionary associations like with the ILPS against nuclear power in the year 2011.
- It is an active partner and driving force of non-party affiliated associations worldwide. For example, the important international coordination of miners and automotive workers or at two world conferences of grassroots women so far.
- Oriented toward the future are the conferences of peasants and agricultural workers, which have already been held several times regionally and are planned as worldwide events in the future.
- Together with the ILPS, the ICOR has meanwhile taken the initiative and created essential preconditions for the worldwide building of an antifascist and anti-imperialist united front.
These jointly achieved successes cannot be valued highly enough. They stand out attractively from the deserved decline or the splits of revisionist, Trotskyist or sectarian-separatist alliances. Without exaggeration and with pride we can therefore say today: the ICOR has become the living and initiative exponent of the revolutionary associations of the world. Without splits, signs of disintegration or liquidationist quarrels. But nothing would be more foreign to the ICOR, nothing would be more inappropriate than complacency. Considering the tasks that the future poses for the revolutionaries of the world, the ICOR is still in its infancy and still has a lot to learn and build up. It faces enormous challenges to put its guidelines and principles into practice consistently and at all times. Above all, it must further develop actual practical cooperation and coordination. It must be even more determined to identify, discuss and clarify the present burning ideological-political questions on time and to work consistently on awareness-building and organizing. We are currently experiencing the deepest world economic and financial crisis, intensified by the corona pandemic. The transition to a global environmental catastrophe is accelerating. Mass poverty, mass unemployment, millions of refugees, hunger, epidemics and wars are attacking and threatening the foundations of human life. The inter-imperialist competitive struggle with the growing number and aggressiveness of the various imperialist forces is intensifying and extremely dangerous. The exploitation and oppression of the international working class are being pushed to the extreme. The double exploitation and oppression of the masses of women and the brutal violence against them is intensifying. The youth are only provided with a future in capitalist barbarism! The ruling powers respond to class and mass struggles with state terror, the fascistization of the state apparatus and the suppression of the revolutionary forces. One of their main methods today is openly reactionary or modern-looking anticommunism. Its representatives pretend to be critical of capitalism, but declare it to be without alternative, all efforts to find a revolutionary perspective to be pointless, and they rant against the alleged "Stalinists" and "Maoists". Today anticommunism is more and more proving to be a decisive obstacle in the consciousness of the masses, for the development of class consciousness and for the decision to fight for democracy, freedom and socialism. Primarily for this reason, scientific socialism still has a relatively weak influence in the world's major struggles and movements. However, in the deepened crisis-proneness of the imperialist world system, the ruling powers are often no longer able to govern in the old way. The masses increasingly do not want to live in the old way. In more and more countries, general societal crises are emerging and worldwide the accelerated tendency towards an general societal crisis of the imperialist world system. The working class, especially the international industrial proletariat, is making its voice heard with determined struggles. Women are rising worldwide, especially in mass movements against discrimination and violence against women. Environmental activists are increasingly recognizing the need for society-changing orientation. The youth of the world rebel against exploitation and oppression, against racism, fascism, state terror, militarism, environmental destruction and anticommunist patronizing. The biggest problem in these diverse struggles is the often missing or too weak forces of Marxist-Leninist party building in the individual countries as well as effective international cooperation. Our entire attention must be focused on the dialectics of targeted party building in the individual countries and the decisive strengthening of our international cooperation in the ICOR and the anti-imperialist united front. The ICOR looks optimistically to the future. We live, work and fight for our socialist, communist ideal of freedom. The political situation in the world is crying for a solution. Never before, alongside the immense destructive forces, have the material conditions for the construction of socialism been so pronounced as today. Let us work even more resolutely to fulfill our historical societal role! Let us take the 10th anniversary of the founding of the ICOR as the occasion for a great initiative: Revolutionary organizations of the world - join the ICOR and the anti-imperialist united front! Draw your consequences from the fact that today the imperialist world system can only be fought and defeated in a coordinated way across borders. Overcome skepticism or doubts and place your trust in the power of our common, critical-self-critical process of learning! We call upon the member organizations of the ICOR:
- Be determined in winning members - for the party in your own country, for the ICOR and the anti-imperialist united front.
- Invest more efforts of your parties in the international work!
- Strengthen your initiative and activity in the actual practical coordination and cooperation, especially on the continental and regional level.
- Let us identify, discuss and clarify the ideological-political core questions in the preparation of the international socialist revolution even more consistently .
2021 marks the 150th anniversary of the Paris Commune, the establishment of the world's first dictatorship of the proletariat. Wouldn't this be an excellent opportunity for the ICOR organizations to meet with other revolutionaries of the world to discuss the lessons of the Paris Commune, to apply them to today and to join forces even more closely? We do not yet know how the corona pandemic will continue - but we will find ways and means. The international revolutionary and working-class movement can, must and will become a force superior to imperialism. Forward with the building of ICOR, the anti-imperialist united front and strong revolutionary parties in all countries! Workers of all countries and oppressed peoples, unite! Forward in the struggle for democracy and freedom, forward to international socialist revolution.
Presently humanity is passing through an unprecedented crisis when all over the world it is almost paralyzed under the Covid19 pandemic, with no hope an early control of its very fast infection. But the ruling system in all the countries along with the mainstream media are indulged in diverting attention from the intensification of climate change or global warming, basic reasons for the outbreak of viruses like SARS in 2003, then MERS in 2012 and now the Covid19 with extremely high capacity to spread, or about the fast melting of huge glaziers in North and South poles, or about the receding of glaziers in Himalayas, about the super cyclones, wild fires as the one raging in US for weeks and so many other cases of destruction of eco-system and bio-diversity exposing how the corporatization/neo-liberalization under the capitalist imperialist system have taken the imperialist loot of nature to extreme levels. As the ruling system in all the countries which is becoming increasingly fascistic, stubbornly persists with very same policies, humanity is facing the danger of ecological catastrophe and threatened with even extinction of human species.
As the ecological destruction becoming increasingly dangerous following the imposition of neoliberal policies from the 1970s, there were numerous protests by people forcing the imperialist powers and their junior partners in power to convene climate conferences which were coming out with many proposals like Kyoto Protocol. But, the imperialist countries were not ready to cut down the energy consumption or to control the consumerist lust. So, all these proposals remained only in paper, they were not implemented. In Madrid Conference most of these powers withdrew from even these conferences, and the token climate conferences have also coming to an end. Even after the Covid19 outbreak and possibilities for more dangerous viruses surfacing and natural calamities breaking out, like the corporates allowed to loot the workers to any extent they want by throwing out even the existing labour rights, they are allowed to neglect all restrictions on environmental protection in spite of repeated warnings from the scientists and the concerned people’s movements.
It is imperialist barbarism and arrogance of the ruling system in action. It is a great challenge we have to take up urgently. The CPI(ML) Red Star calls for united action at national and international level to throw out the capitalist imperialist system and create conditions for protection of nature and creating an egalitarian society.
CC, CPI(ML) Red Star
To Fully Understand what is happening in Lebanon today we have to delve, to some extent at least, into the history of Lebanon. Lebanon lies on the eastern born of the Mediterranean Sea and has some of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world like Beirut, Sidon, Tyre and Byblos. It finds mention in the Old Testament as a place from where goods were imported to Spain and ships returned with Gold, Silver, Ivory, Apes and Peacocks – the land of the Canaanites and, later, the Phoenicians. Bordering Syria, parts of Lebanon have historically been parts of Syria and vice versa.
The city states of Lebanon later became part of the Persian Empire. Alexander conquered Lebanon in the fourth century BCE from where it passed into the Seleucid Empire. Christianity came to Lebanon in the 1st century CE and it was an important centre of Christianity as was the rest of Syria and most of Anatolia. Lebanon became a part of the Byzantine Empire in the 4th century and was divided into two diocese which included large parts of Syria also.
In the 3rd to 4th century, an ascetic living in the region of Mount Lebanon formed a new sect within Christianity. He was Saint Maron and his followers came to be known as Maronite Christians. Though he preached a certain mysticism and asceticism, the Maronite church was always considered to be in complete communion with the Church of Rome.
In the beginning of the 7th Century, as a result of the Roman – Persian wars Lebanon again came under the Sassanid Persians. In the 7th Century itself, Muslim Arabs conquered Syria. Though the official language became Arabic and the official religion was Islam, much of the populace was slow to convert. The maronite Christians retained their religion and culture as also their Aramaic language to some extent and, to avoid persecution from Muslims, moved into the region around Mount Lebanon.
In the 11th Century the Druze faith emerged from a branch of Islam. The Druze do not consider themselves Muslims. They are an Abrahamic religion who profess that all the Gods therein are one. They only allowed proselytising between 1017 when Hamza ibn Ali ibn Muhammad was allowed by the Fattimid Caliph to preach his creed to 1043 when the Druze faith stopped accepting new converts. The Druze faith spread in Southern Lebanon.
Towards the end of the 11th century crusader knights from Europe had invaded this area. Responding to the call of the Byzantine Christians these knights set out on the crusades to “free the holy land” from the Arabs. Frankish nobles (from what is now France) established kingdoms in what is now Lebanon, such as the Kingdom of Jerusalem (founded in 1099 by Godfrey of Bouillon) and the County of Tripol (founded in1109 by Bertrand of Toulouse). These crusader kingdoms lasted for almost 200 years.
In the end of the 13th century Lebanon was conquered by the Mamluk Sultans of Egypt. Lebanon later passed between various Muslim rulers till the Ottomans consolidated their rule in the region. During the wars between the Mamluks and the Ottomans, the Amirs of Lebanon linked with Salim I of Syria who granted them semiautonomous status as long as they acted as his tax farmers. The Ottomans then ruled Lebanon through two main families, the Ma’an who were Druze and the Shihabs who were sunni muslims converted to Maronite Christian. The Ma’ans ruled Lebanon from 1517 to 1697. The main ruler was Fekhreddine II who can, in a sense be said to be the founder of Lebanon. He dreamt and fought for full freedom for Lebanon in vain and was finally executed for his troubles. He built close trade links with Venice and the Medici’s and modernised Lebanon in line with the renaissance. The Ma’ans were followed by the Shihabs. They ruled also as vassals of the Ottomans but the conflict with the Druze who found themselves being marginalised during the Maronite rule continued. The internecine warfare in Lebanon continued into the nineteenth century with the French backing the Maronites and the English backing the Druze and the Ottomans using both. Finally, in 1860 Napoleon III sent a large contingent of troops to Beirut to impose a partition. Druze control on the ground was recognised and the Maronites were confined to a hilly region cut off from Beirut and the fertile Beqa valley. Resentments grew in this period. This arrangement was ratified by the Concert of Europe. (The Concert of Europe may be said to be the precursor of the League of Nations formed by the Germans after the revolutions of 1848.)
We have had this peek into Lebanese history only to understand the demography. The Druze and the Maronites were always the ruling class but there were other sects, mainly of Muslims, both Sunni and Shia. The Maronites and Druze were always at daggers drawn and mostly always controlled by foreign powers who played them out one against the other.
During the 1st World War, contemplaing the defeat of the Ottomans and the collapse of their empire, the English and the French had already signed the Sykes Picot agreement about how to divide “spheres of influence” in the future independent states to be carved out of the Ottoman empire. However, after the war, the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and the San Remo treaty of 1920 made the final arrangements which were finally ratified by the League of Nations in 1921. By the mandate of the League of Nations the French were given the authority to rule over all of what was called Syria which included the five districts that now form Lebanon. In the 1919 Paris Peace Conference a Lebanese delegation led by a Maronite Christian claimed a large amount of territory to the east which would otherwise have been in Syria. This was accepted in San Remo. Due to this the demographics changed. Now the Christians (all types – not only Maronite) formed just a bare majority of 52%. The Sunni Muslim population increased by eight-fold and the Shia population by four-fold. In 1926 the modern Lebanese Constitution was drawn up. It was said to be an attempt to balance power between the sects but the French made sure that their Christian allies would dominate. The President, by the Constitution, is required to be a Christian (in practise, a Maronite). The Prime Minister had to be a Sunni Muslim. The proportion of representation in parliament at that time was fixed at 6 Christians to 5 Muslims. The President had veto power over any legislation that parliament passed. In time, the proportion of Muslims grew as did the unrest.
During the 2nd World War the rule of Lebanon passed to the puppet Vichy Government of France which was controlled by the Nazis. They allowed Lebanon and Syria to be used as a transport route for the Nazis to Baghdad. The British fought to get control of Lebanon and Syria. On 26th November 1941 General Catroux of France announced that Lebanon would be free under the Free French Government2 in 1943 elections were held in Lebanon and Parliament abolished the mandate. At that time an unwritten national pact was adopted. The main points were:
Maronite Christians not seek Western intervention, and accept an Arab-affiliated Lebanon, instead of a Western one
a Muslims abandon their aspirations to unite with Syria.
a The President of the Republic and the Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces always be Maronite Catholic.
a The Prime Minister of the Republic always be a Sunni Muslim.
a The Speaker of the Parliament always be a Shia Muslim.
a The Deputy Speaker of the Parliament and the Deputy Prime Minister always be Greek Orthodox Christian.
a The Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces always be a Druze.
a There always be a ratio of 6:5 in favour of Christians to Muslims in the Lebanese Parliament
Besides this, the national pact also made a division of the seats among the various religions. Five muslim sects were recognised (including the Druze) and 12 Christian sects (including the Maronites) and the Jews were recognised as a separate sect. There was a further sub-division of power among these sects.
Though Lebanon went through a period of relative peace and prosperity till the 1970s, history was posing a new challenge in its Southern sector.
In 1948 Zionist mobs massacred and occupied Palestine. 110000 Palestinians are said to have crossed the northern border of Palestine into southern Lebanon. Many more also came in during and after the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict. Lebanon became a base for the Palestinians wanting to fight for their homeland. Due to this it also became the target of US and Israeli troops and bombings. Opinion was divided and sharply polarized in Lebanon about the Palestinians with the Muslims mainly supporting the Palestinians and the Maronite Christians mainly opposing.
Many other nuances of the situation need not detain us now. Tensions in Lebanon grew in the internal population till 1975 when they exploded into open civil war in Lebanon. There was a tangled network of sectarian militias operating throughout the country. Added to these were Palestinian armed groups, the Israeli army and their proxies, the Syrian armed forces and forces of other foreign powers including two peace keeping forces – one by the UN and another by a group of countries after the 82-83 peace accord. All of Lebanon was a military camp with travel even within Beirut becoming impossible without special permits from myriad forces who controlled portions of the city. The civil war ended in 1990 largely due to the Taif Agreement of November 1989. The main points of this agreement were that the Muslims would not try and merge Lebanon with Syria or some other Arab nation and the Christians would not look to the West while reducing the power of the Christians by making the proportion in Parliament as 1:1 between Muslims and Christians and removing the veto and overriding powers of the President (except in National Emergencies). All the militias (except Hezbollah) were disarmed and gave up control of their respective areas to the Lebanese Armed Forces. Hezbollah was allowed to remain as a defensive force (in part in recognition of the attacks coming from across the Israeli border).
In the end after the Taif Agreement the Lebanese parliament consists of a complex calculus. Lebanon is divided into 26 constituencies that are then grouped into five regions: Beirut, Beka, Mount Lebanon, North Lebanon, and South Lebanon. Each district has a certain number of parliamentary seats determined by district population. Of these districts, Beirut is the largest and elects 19 deputies while Minié is the smallest and elects only one. What makes Lebanon’s system unique is that each district reserves seats for different religious groups, ensuring representation of all minorities. Taking Beirut as an example, of the 19 total seats, 9 are reserved for Muslims and 10 for Christians (further divisions are made among the groups ensuring that the proportion of seats allocated to Sunni, Druze, Shi’a, Greek Orthodox, Maronite candidates represents the districts demographic reality). The final result ensuring a 64-64 split among Christians and Muslims looks like this (Other sects, though recognised are small and included in other larger sects, eg. Ismailis are included among the Shias).
Nor is this confined only too Parliament. The system was self propagating and therefore ensured that the seats in Civil Services (down to even what we would call class IV) and other important allocations like recruitment into the armed forces are all made in this proportion.
This is the sectarian system which rules Lebanon. Some may say that it resembles the reservation system in India. There is a crucial difference. The system of reservation in India has been made to aid an oppressed section of the people. In Lebanon it is all pervading. It has nothing to do with ending oppression only with preserving religious power.
We have to see the present turmoil in Lebanon in this context. Lebanese politics has never been simple to follow. For instance, lets start with Rafik Hariri, supposedly one of the main architects of the Taif agreement. He was a billionaire builder and the first post civil war Prime Minister of Lebanon from 1992 to 1998 and again from 2000 to October 2004 when he resigned. He was assassinated in early 2005. The Hezbollah was strongly suspected of having a hand in his assassination. In fact, only in August 2020 the Special Tribunal on Lebanon has found the 4 accused Hezbollah members not guilty. In the 2018 elections, the Future Party of Rafik Hariri, now headed by his son Saad Hariri suffered a setback and the Shiite parties, Hezbollah and Amal had big gains. In sptie of this, after the 2018 elections Saad Hariri became Prime Minister with the backing of the Hezbollah till October 2019. (Rafik Hariri’s personal fortune is said to have increased from $ 1 billion when he became Prime Minister to over $ 16 billion when he died.)
In October 2019 massive protests broke out in response to the Government’s new tax on various items like petrol, tobacco and VOIP (including whatsapp calls). All this was in response to the deteriorating economic condition of Lebanon due to corruption and flawed fiscal policies. Also the western powers were not in a mood to help Lebanon since the 2018 elections where the Hezbollah had emerged as one of the main forces. In this situation the economy was falling. In response to the protests, Saad Hariri resigned as the Prime Minister in November 2019. In December President Michel Aoun invited a former finance minister, Hassan Diab to form the cabinet and his cabinet was installed in January 2020.
Covid has worsened the economic situation. There is uncertainty and chaos everywhere. Hassan Diab made attempts to appeal to the IMF but this is controlled by the US. The US and the Western powers seem to have imposed an undeclared blockade on Lebanon due to the influence of the Hezbollah. In April the Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah made a statement that if the western powers were unwilling to help China would help.
China is known to have a keen interest in Lebanon. It would be a vital part of its One Belt One Road initiative, situated as it is at a strategic point on the Mediterranean and being a perfect point for trade links between Asia and Europe. Israel and the US are, of course, against this Chinese initiative. China has been giving extensive aid to Lebanon and has been the largest exporter to Lebanon since the past few years. Some reports say that in this year (after Covid and the western undeclared blockade), 40% of Lebanon’s imports are from China. In May the Chinese delegation met the leaders of Lebanon and promised help in Lebanon’s failing electricity system (It is normal in Lebanon to have eight hours of power cuts every day), in building a coastal railway and in building a tunnel to directly connect the Bekaa valley. In the end of July the US embassy issued a statement accusing China of pulling Lebanon into a Debt trap. The Chinese responded with a statement saying that their aid is always without any political strings attached.
At present though there is a lot of different forces in the demonstrations ranging from sectarian forces to forces backed by foreign powers, there is large trend within the movement which wants an end to the whole sectarian system and the introduction of a proper democratic system. They suggest the immediate formation of an independent government of experts which will oversee the formation of a sort of constituent assembly to discuss and make appropriate changes in the Constitution ultimately leading to a properly democratic and non-sectarian parliament. The Lebanese Communist Party is a part of this this trend. The ICOR has also issued a statement in support of this trend. It will be the duty of all democratic forces all over the world to protect the independence of the Lebanese, to see that no foreign powers are allowed to intervene at this crucial moment and to back the non-sectarian trend in the movement of which the Lebanese Communist Party is a part.
International Report Adopted by Central Committee of CPI (ML) Red Star In Its Meeting on 23rd August, 2020
The International Situation has taken various twists which basically bear out our earlier analysis that all the contradictions at the international level are intensifying. The main notable events in the period from our last meeting are the protests in Lebanon, the protests in Belarus and also the approaching US elections. All these show that along with the sharpening economic crisis within these countries and attack on the masses which has worsened the national situation, it also reflects the intensification of inter-imperialist contradictions as the US imperialists facing serious challenges to its world hegemony making frantic moves to prolong it. In Lebanon there was clearly an attempt by the Diab Government to move towards a more clearly marked pro-China stance. On the other hand, the military establishment in Lebanon is clearly under the influence of the USA. It is this contradiction that is intensifying in Lebanon. The one clear progressive trend in this situation within Lebanon is that led by the Lebanese Communist Party which has called for a re-emergence of the forces which took part in the 17th October movement on the basis of an anti-sectarian platform. The protest in Belarus is clearly taking the form of a confrontation between the Western imperialist powers led by the US on the one hand and Russia on the other. (see the ICOR resolution on Lebanon)
The US presidential elections, on the other hand, show a different aspect. As the approval ratings of Trump are falling, states like Florida and Wisconsin which Trump had won in last elections, are today firmly in the Democratic camp as per the opinion polls. The same trend can be seen with Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. The CNT/MDA survey found that 43.4% of those polled see the government as “bad” or “awful,” up from 31.0% in January. “Good” or “great” evaluations slipped to 32.0% from 34.5% in the previous poll. Bolsonaro’s personal approval rating fell to 39.2% from 47.8% in January, as disapproval rose to 55.4% from 47.0%. These trends coupled with the protests in support of George Floyd and other protest all over the world (including Lebanon and Belarus) show that the people are fed up with the ultra-right-wing governments and may indicate their desire to stop the trend of growing fascism in governments all over the world.
The US brokered agreement signed between Israel and the UAE, with the latter agreeing to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel is another big gain for the Zionist state. Before this bokered by US, the Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994 also had established full diplomatic relation with Israel, violating the former understanding among the Western Asian countries that before full statehood is achieved by Palestine, such diplomatic relations will not be established. The latest success of the Zionist state even when it has threatened further attacks on Palestinian areas is a setback to the progressive forces, and it has intensified the challenges before the Palestinian people further.
However, the same problem as before is still confronting the people. They do not see the left or the revolutionary forces as a viable alternative in any country. The revolutionary left has not been able to put forward radical alternative plans for the people to live and flourish in the present situation – not only the situation of Covid19 pandemic, but the general situation where the economy was on a massive downturn even before it. The revolutionary left has not been able to popularize its ideas of an alternative system – be it in education, in healthcare, in transport or an alternative to the present economy and democratization of the society as a whole. Thus though the people are seeing the present system is failing them, they are unable to see any viable alternative. This situation is fraught with the danger of some other forces like religious fundamentalism or regional chauvinism coming to the fore. This situation also underlines the grave need for the revolutionary left to regroup and unite so as to become capable to put forward a radical alternative.
During the recent times ICOR has tried to become more active. Uniting with ILPS, it has called for building an Anti-Imperialist, Anti- Fascist United Front. ICOR has also called on its constituents for speeding up party building and to raise the level of struggles. It is in line with this, statement was issued on the danger of war (in the context of remembering the 6th and 9th August nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by US) and also on the developments in Lebanon. The Asian coordination committee of ICOR also sponsored a webinar on “Imperialism, Fascism and the Danger of War” in which parties from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Australia took part, via zoom. This was also streamed live on the party’s Facebook page. Our letter of greetings to the Congress of the PPSD (Tunisia) is given below. n
Message of Greetings to Party Congress of PPDS
The General Secretary and all delegates, PPDS, Tunisia
We congratulate you on your party congress to be held soon. We have always considered the PPDS Tunisia to be a close fraternal organization. We hope that this Congress will further that unity and brotherhood.
Today the world is passing through unprecedented times. Though the corona is such a great pandemic, the ruling classes all over the world are converting it into a farce by not giving proper care to the people and, at the same time, using the cover of the pandemic to enforce new laws and policies with which to exploit the working people. The same situation obtains throughout the world and therefore there is need, more than ever before, to have strong international unity of the working class and of all the toiling masses.
Imperialism today, faced with severe economic crisis, is transforming into fascism all over the world. This also clearly outlines the need to build up a strong anti-imperialist anti-fascist unity on an international level. We know that the PPDS has taken its role in such unity seriously through its work in ICOR and through the work of building up an anti-imperialist anti-fascist front. We hope that this Congress will clarify some of the important issues in fighting the attacks of the ruling classes and in building such an united front at the national and international levels.
Wishing you the best for your congress once again.
GS, CPI(ML) Red Star n
ICOR Resolution: Lebanon is Exploding!
Lebanon has been a land of tears and struggles! In October 2019, starting on 17th October a movement built up in Beirut against the government politics. It called for building an independent and democratic Lebanon. It also contains a majority of forces who are opposed to the politics of the USA and Israel which are trying to destabilize Lebanon and use it as a base for containing Islam. Though this movement was dampened due to the onset of the worldwide Covid 19 pandemic, the protests continued into January 2020.
Where Beirut was once known as the “Paris of the East”, since decades it has been become the target of Israeli and other bombings. The explosion of bombs has become the norm in Beirut rather than a novelty.
On 4th August there was a massive explosion in the port of Beirut which left dozens dead and thousands injured and 300 000 homeless. This has also been attributed to Government corruption and apathy by the people. We firmly reject the latter!
There were again massive protests which called for the resignation of the Government and the formation of a democratic government. The protesters took over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and rechristened it as the “Ministry of Revolution”. On 10th August the Government of Hassan Diab who had taken over in January did resign and has been asked to continue by the President Michel Aoun till a new Government takes over.
The US and China have been blaming each other of fostering one force or the other in their attempt to control this important part of West Asia. Chinese aid to Lebanon is well known and the US is now blaming China for laying a “debt trap” forgetting that the largest debt trap has been laid by the IMF which is controlled by the USA. On the other hand the Israeli bombings of Lebanon with the approval of the USA are too brutal to be forgotten. We call upon the people of Lebanon to resist all attempts by all foreign powers, to take in their justified struggle for bread, freedom and democracy.
For the right of self-determination of the Lebanese people! For a revolutionary change according to the will of the masses!
At this time we support the call of the Lebanese Communist Party (LCP) who have given a call for the movement of October 17th to come together once again. They rightly demand a policy in the interests of the working class and the broad masses of the population and want to build a truly democratic and progressive Lebanon. We call upon all democratic forces in Lebanon to come together and for all sections of workers and other toiling masses to get organized and fight for this goal. The ICOR supports this movement in solidarity and in the spirit of the Middle East Conference of the ICOR and together with revolutionary forces in Lebanon promotes its revolutionization for a democratic and socialist Lebanon.
Strengthen the revolutionary forces in Lebanon and the ICOR!
Workers of all countries, unite!
Workers and oppressed peoples of the world, unite!
Forward with the construction of the ICOR!
August 6 is commemorated world-wide as Hiroshima Day. On that day, and again on August 9 at Nagasaki, atomic bombs were used for the first time. Their use against civilians was a war crime.
On August 15, Japan announced its surrender. That day (August 14 in the US and Europe) was long celebrated throughout Asia as Victory over Japan Day (VJ Day).
The defeat of Japanese imperialism, part of the fascist Axis bloc, was at the same time, the beginnings of US imperialism’s violent assault on the peoples of the world in its quest for total domination.
Today, 75 years later, the world economic and financial crisis and the Corona pandemic are driving global imperialist rivalry and the rightward development and fascistisation occurring in many countries.
US imperialism emerged relatively unscathed from war against the fascist powers and embarked on a ruthless path towards superpower status. It faced a challenge from Soviet social-imperialism until the latter’s implosion in the 1990s, and recently has been confronted by China, where a restoration of capitalism has seen that country take the road to imperialist ambition.
The rivalry between the US and China is particularly acute in our Asian region with each power playing a dangerous game of economic and military push and shove against the other. At the same time, the pandemic is being used to erode people’s rights and to cushion the capitalists’ economic crisis by placing greater economic burdens on the shoulders of the working people.
Under these circumstances, it is imperative that we find ways to lift the level of struggle against imperialism and fascism.
Hiroshima Day rallies and other commemorative events, even with social distancing restrictions, will provide opportunities for participation and correct messaging.
But we must also build organisation. That is, we must strengthen and broaden our own individual parties and organisations as well as building the membership, reach and influence of the ICOR-ILPS initiative of the International Anti-Imperialist and Anti-Fascist United Front.
On August 6, support the call to:
Fight imperialism, and end military provocations and war exercises in our region!
Fight to defend democratic rights and freedoms and end state-driven trends to fascism!
Build the International Anti-Imperialist and Anti-Fascist United Front!