Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 19 August 2020

Revolutionary mood in Lebanon following horrific explosion

Only a united working class movement for socialism can solve the acute crisis

Damage to buildings and apartments in Beirut after the massive explosion in the city's port on 4 August. Many other areas of the capital were reduced to rubble

Damage to buildings and apartments in Beirut after the massive explosion in the city's port on 4 August. Many other areas of the capital were reduced to rubble   (Click to enlarge)

Judy Beishon, Socialist Party executive committee

In the face of daily furious protests on the streets, one by one Lebanon's government ministers resigned, until the whole cabinet resigned on 10 August, knowing it had no authority to continue.

It had only lasted seven months, after the previous government was also brought down by a massive protest movement.

This current round of struggle is spurred on by an enormous additional reason to pursue the goal of fundamental change - the devastating explosion on 4 August that brought terrible loss of life, widespread injuries, and significant damage to around half of Beirut.

It was reported that there was little celebration at the fall of the government, as Lebanon's working people know that in itself it won't change anything.

Many of the same ministers remain in place in a 'caretaker' capacity. The same political elite - part and parcel of the ruling class - remains in place, pulling the strings over and above the government.

The protesters see that situation clearly, and therefore demand "all must go - that means all", including the multimillionaire president, Michel Aoun, and the speaker of parliament Nabih Berri, both octogenarians who were among the sectarian leaders in the 1975-90 civil war.

Documents have been revealed since the explosion which show they both received warnings about the danger of the explosive material being stored in the port.

It has been reported that an initial investigation into the explosion is to be spearheaded by a judge who is a relative of Berri, showing that endemic corruption, nepotism and attempts at self-preservation continue at the top.

The prime minister who resigned, Hassan Diab, placed the blame for the explosion and the economic crisis on the corruption that he admitted "is rooted in every part of the state", and accused the 'political class' above him of trying to make scapegoats of his cabinet.

No doubt he and his colleagues have, in part, been pawns of the elite. They were put in place as a 'technocratic' government in an attempt to cover up the blatant corruption and self-interest of those above them in power.

Diab was a university professor before being shunted into the political arena. Nevertheless, they have been complicit with the ruling class in upholding what is a completely rotten, degenerating capitalist system.

The parliament reconvened on 13 August - its first session since the explosion - to carry out the legal requirement of ratifying a two-week state of emergency that had been imposed.

Rotten ruling class

No one believes that this drastic law is about dealing with the emergency of the immense damage caused by the blast, not least because it has mainly been volunteers from among ordinary people who have engaged in the clear-up process, not the authorities.

Rather, it is aimed at giving increased, special powers to the military to use against the outraged protesters - powers to use curfews, ban public gatherings, censor the media, and place civilians in front of military tribunals, among other draconian measures.

That legislation indicates the extreme weakness at the top, not any strength. The authority of the political representatives of the ruling class has crumbled and they are immersed in chaos, with no agreement on how to govern.

Some propose early elections, others fiercely oppose them. Aoun has the power to simply appoint a new cabinet without elections taking place.

Others tout the idea of a 'national unity' government of all the parties, or some kind of emergency transition government.

There could be another attempt to create a government of hands that appear to be 'clean' - of technocrats rather than people directly from the completely discredited political parties.

But the Lebanese people have already experienced that kind of rule over the last seven months. Knowing that, capitalist strategists have in desperation even mooted the idea of bringing back the former prime minister Saad Hariri, who was ousted by last autumn's protest movement.

Neither the ruling class as a whole nor any of its competing factions can produce a replacement government that could possibly deliver what the population is crying out for: an end to the economic crisis, poverty and hunger; and now, those responsible for the port explosion to face trial and justice.

Establishment figureheads will no doubt use the dire state of the economy as a stick to try to ward the movement off from turning on the capitalist system itself.

They will argue that new loans won't be obtained unless a new pro-capitalist government is installed.

But loans from the international finance institutions will come in tandem with an insistence on more austerity measures for ordinary people - that's being made clear.

So saving capitalism with loans as one of the aims would only be for the benefit of the super-rich, not everyone else.

The Financial Times gave a warning to the Lebanese capitalists when it wrote in an editorial: "The ruling elites must finally realise their own futures are at stake.

"As the country edges ever closer to being a failed state, Lebanese hopelessness is exploding into rage" (12 August).

This appeal for "discussions on political and electoral reform" is an attempt both to prevent revolution and to restore a new version of the 'old' Lebanon, which once was a relatively stable base for imperialism in an Arab Middle Eastern country.

Also fearing that working people in Lebanon will take matters into their own hands, the spokespeople of western capitalist powers have been hypocritically chorusing for an end to the corruption that is deep-rooted in the Lebanese regime.

Institutionalised sectarianism

Meanwhile, ambassadors from the US and France have landed in Beirut to try to influence how friendly the next government will be towards western imperialist interests.

They have no more capability of formulating a path that could satisfy the protest movement than does Lebanon's elite.

The above-mentioned Financial Times editorial summed up their paralysis, by saying: "The sectarian-based political system designed to keep the peace between the country's myriad sects and religions has over decades institutionalised the powers of warlords and political dynasties, while embedding a culture of cronyism and corruption.

Ultimately, that system requires a complete overhaul if Lebanon's ills are to be addressed. That is a vastly complex - and nearly impossible - task.

It would be unrealistic at this stage to expect powerful political factions to simply step aside, or for Hezbollah, the militant group that supported the outgoing government, to give up its arms".

It is true that the "powerful political factions" won't simply step aside. They will have to be removed.

Carrying out that task can be done by a mass, united working-class-based movement, but only if it is well-organised and prepared for it, and only if it is armed politically with an alternative way of organising society.

The only alternative that would involve taking power out of the hands of the elite minority and placing it in the hands of the majority, to create a society in the interests of the majority, is socialism.

This is because the very essence of socialism is public ownership and workers' control and management of all the main sectors of the economy, together with democratically decided planning of all the resources in society.

Under Lebanese capitalism, the incredibly wealthy ruling elite use the confessional system imposed at the end of the civil war to profit by having their own spheres of influence.

The 1942 constitution, agreed under French rule, set the rules that the prime minister has to be a Sunni Muslim, the president a Christian, the speaker of parliament a Shia Muslim, and there are many more sectarian rules and criteria.

If a capitalist-controlled constituent assembly is placed on the agenda, with the idea of rewriting the country's constitution, the sectarian leaders from the different religious and ethnic blocs would try to maintain a carve-up of power between themselves.

This could lead to another terrible outbreak of war, if they at some stage decide to continue a conflict of interests by military means.

Given its location, Lebanon is immediately affected by events in Syria and Israel, and regional rivalries, including the currently growing tensions in the eastern Mediterranean between Turkey and a developing Greek-French alliance.

In any case, there is no distribution of power between them that could end the corrupt, inept rule of the ruling layer.

The underlying, central problem is capitalism itself - a system that causes division, racism and conflict, in the interests of capital accumulation for those at the top.

As long as it exists, minority groups - of which there are many in Lebanon - will fear being discriminated against, and in fact all subsections of the population, however large, will fear that, because crisis-ridden capitalism can't offer decent living standards to either the working class or the middle layers - professional workers, small business owners, etc.

So it is essential that non-sectarian grassroots unity, which has been a feature of the protest movement so far, is continued and built on further.

The movement has made clear that it has no confidence in any of the capitalist politicians in the sectarian parties that make up the present governing system.

There is no shortage of determination and courage among the protesters - once again battling daily against heavy repression, including tear gas, and attempting to storm state institutions.

The level of anger is seen in the effigies and invocations of the political representatives of the elite hanging from gallows. "Prepare the gallows because our anger doesn't end in one day," has been one of the messages doing the rounds on social media!

The way forward

For a successful transformation of power to the majority, the organisation by the working class of its own non-sectarian political party is needed.

This would be able to discuss out and arm itself with a political programme in its own interests as a class.

The election of action committees in workplaces and local communities across Beirut to organise basic aid and support for people following the explosion, would be a start to developing democratic workers' organisations, acting independently of pro-capitalist bodies.

They would be able to link together on a city-wide basis, to form a democratically-organised form of workers' council in Beirut, which could be repeated in other towns and cities across the country.

And rather than any kind of capitalist constituent assembly, a revolutionary constituent assembly must be demanded and fought for - where delegates from working people can democratically decide to remove the present political and economic system and create a new government of workers' representatives, fully accountable to those who elect them.

People in Lebanon are suffering terribly from the effects of multiple crises. The end to this situation lies in their own hands; and it is only a matter of time before they move to carry out the revolutionary events they so urgently need, supported by workers internationally.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • We must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our Fighting Fund.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation £


Your message: 


In The Socialist 19 August 2020:

Socialist Party news and analysis

Students 2 : 0 Tories - Protests work!

Student protests force government retreat

"As a working-class student, I already faced struggles"

Tory track and trace failure

Tory planning deregulation: a charter for building profitable slums

NHS workers demand improved pay - 15% for all now!

International socialist news and analysis

Revolutionary mood in Lebanon following horrific explosion

Mass protests and strikes rock Belarus

Leon Trotsky

80th anniversary of Leon Trotsky's assassination

Yorkshire: Celebrating the life and ideas of Leon Trotsky


September school return must be safe for all workers and students

NHS pay

NHS pay: unions must take fight to U-turn Tories

Socialist history

75 years since the publication of Animal Farm: From 'two legs bad' to 'two legs better'

Workplace news and analysis

300 Covid cases at Northampton food plant - management to blame, not the workers!

PCS union: Vote Yes in DWP ballot! Reject longer opening hours

Support the Tower Hamlets council workers, vote for Hugo Pierre!

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Black Lives Matter: this generation is willing to stand up and fight

We can't take any more cuts

Nottingham: oppose the far right and attempts to divide us

Your donations help us campaign

Leeds: Little London residents are celebrating

To push change we need to be organised - why we joined the Socialist Party

Sheffield: Support Sue

Brighton: Another luxury development

The Socialist: back to weekly soon


Home   |   The Socialist 19 August 2020   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:


triangleReflections on the Lebanese tragedy one year on

triangleBeirut's devastating port explosion one year on

triangleSheffield Socialist Party: Crisis in Lebanon

triangleEast London Socialist Party: Revolutionary mood in Lebanon


triangleCaerphilly and RCT Socialist Party: 10th anniversary of the Arab Spring

triangleWho represents the Palestinians?

triangleStop war on Gaza demo, London 15.5.21. Socialist Party members were at the many protests across Britain

triangleBradford Socialist Party: 10 years since the Arab Spring


triangleMovement challenges Iranian regime

triangleSyria: Is an end to the war in sight?

triangleSyria threatens sectarian middle east war





For workers' unity against war in Ukraine



One year after the military coup in Myanmar



Canada: Prime Minister Trudeau invokes Emergencies Act to end 'Freedom Convoy'



Ukraine: Workers' unity against capitalist warmongers and imperialist meddlers



CWI video on Ukraine



Pro-market Socialist Party wins Portugal's election



Oxfam 'Inequality Kills' report



Tamil Solidarity protest against repressive Sri Lankan regime



Ukraine: Workers' unity needed


Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland: Bloody Sunday 50 years on


Burkina Faso

Coup d'état in Burkina Faso



France: Education workers and students walkout



School students strike in Austria



Trade unionists in the USA fighting back



Murder of Ashling Murphy sends shocks waves across Ireland and beyond

triangleMore International articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: [email protected]

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 077 7221 5281

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 078 0983 9793



Alphabetical listing

August 2022

July 2022

June 2022

May 2022

April 2022

March 2022

February 2022

January 2022