Hanna Saleh

October 17, Lebanon’s Path to Salvation

Lebanon's October revolution is in two days. The country has not witnessed anything like it in its history. It surprised those who took part in creating it before surprising anyone else. It revealed citizens' refined awareness, especially that of the youths whose awareness and vision were crystallized on the vertical sectarian divisions that have been entrenched since 2005. This hastened the crystallization of the demands - rights of the overwhelming majority, which united around its interests in the face of a political cabal that included all the sectarian leaders whose violations of the people's rights and dignity became so cruel as to become humiliating.

From the first hour of October 17, until a million Lebanese took to the streets, followed by the revolt of the Lebanese diaspora around the world, the regional and sectarian divisions were broken. Lebanon, where an extremely broad youth movement was surging, seemed to be a monolith for the first time in its history as it was undergoing its deepest national reconciliation. The public squares that brought people together proved that the October Revolution is the project for forgoing the civil war and a culture of factionalism that pushes for disassociation from the other. It repudiated all positions - constants, which are, in their depths, hatred amplified to facilitate the people's subjugation and exploitation!

What Lebanon has been undergoing since October 17 is remarkable, and it is still going on in various forms. It differs from all other Lebanese events, from civil conflicts, some of which were referred to as revolutions, to the 2005 independence uprising that had managed to shake two security regimes and played a major role in the expulsion of the Syrian regime's occupation forces...All of these events were top-down, led by parties from the political class, whose interests had been undermined, gains receded, sectarian representation had been unfairly undercut or were seeking a bigger share of the pie of domination and profit, driving them to mobilize followers and beneficiaries.

These mobilizations would sometimes go as far as stirring civil conflicts, all of which left fatal imprints on the country's demography and end with a consensus on renewing the settlement between parties of the sectarian political system who have been governing Lebanon since its independence. They have perhaps been ruling the country since the declaration of Greater Lebanon. Their composition has never been adjusted, except during the epoch in which the regime, which forged a coalition that brought together the war's militias and money, thereby enabling the political clique to make internal decisions while ensuring the clique's subordination to the regime and its furthering of the regime's goals. This state of affairs persisted, with Tehran declaring Beirut to be among the four capitals it dominates!

For many decades, civil conflict, especially the civil war, entrenched sectarian leaders' hegemony, who came to shape events. Abiding by the political custom of "no victor and no vanquished", they emerged victorious, though to divergent extents, after every phase, while deep wounds afflicted the people who paid the price with their lives, livelihoods and ways of life. But after October 17, the situation switched. The people had been pushed too far, and the people who had discovered that fraternity untied them took the streets, filling public spaces with peaceful protests. The rhetoric significantly changed; youth and women forcefully and equivocally expressed themselves. With that, prevalent norms were broken, thus de-sanctifying all the sectarian leaders: "all of them means all of them" are responsible for Lebanese' humiliating oppression and the assault on their rights. The whole ruling clique disappeared, and politicians moved around in secrecy. The convoys and manifestations of strongman thuggishness were absent. The political speeches' rhetoric transformed; though it was disingenuous, it affirmed a new imperative: after October 17, this is no longer acceptable, and this and that are not allowed...!

The political class cracked, and it was no fleeting event, Hariri's announced the government's resignation under pressure from the protests despite the red line which Hassan Nassrallah drew to prevent it and despite the protection provided by the president and parliament which lost its legitimacy by the movement that prevented it from convening several times.

This development pushed the armed faction clinging to decision-making in the country, Hezbollah, to the forefront of defending the ruling clique's defense of the sectarian-quota-based spoil-sharing regime that safeguards corruption. Its unmasked face was exposed as an armed force that threatens civil peace, security, prosperity, and stability, sending a stern message that change is not allowed to the Lebanese people and their revolution! In the end, Hezbollah failed to achieve its goal by diverting the revolution away from its goals. Despite the organized attacks and the push for violence to distort the revolution's image, especially with the attacks on public and private property, Tyre's Alam Square maintained its symbolism, as did the Nabatiyeh Square and the Mitran Square in Baalbek, preserving the revolution's national character and its inclusivity!

The revolution triggered a general shift. It is as though the time has come for a new nation that repudiates sectarianism and despises factionalism. The revolution cultivated joy and brought smiles back to our faces despite the gloomy climate and the spread of poverty and invasion. Citizens regained hope and the revolution transformed into a school that illustrated the path to breaking the chain of tyranny and retrieving the hijacked state. Everyone became aware that retrieving rights necessarily entails real political change and arriving at the reconfiguration of authority. Because the corruption clique that desertified the country and chained it with debt and impoverished it after embezzling public money and the deposits and transferring stolen money abroad, it cannot implement any rescue plan, as such as plan would undermine its interests and puts an end to its impunity.

The Lebanese October revolution has yet to achieve its desired change. As a matter of prudence, it is worth noting the negative effects of the lack of organizational structures, as well as the absence of competent leadership in the movement. Nonetheless, the October revolution presented the country with the only recourse to stop the collapse and catch a breath, namely the imperative to establish an independent government of a prime minister and members. This demand became a patriotic one and now garners the approval of the Arab and international community. This would not have been possible if the revolution had not succeeded in exposing the system's corruption, its weaknesses, and its incompetence in managing the crisis. But the corrupt system did not blink after the crime of the 4th of August that overthrew the facade government as it rushed to secure its permanence through the delineation of borders with Israel, a move that was backed by Iran and accepted by Hezbollah, amid continues efforts to persist spoil-sharing and wrestle to secure seats in the government

It is clear today that the political class has expired. As it fell domestically, it fell internationally, as evidenced by what the French president said to describe it. Yet, it persists due to its reliance on illegal arms and the absence of an alternative that, in turn, necessitates establishing a wide opposition front and a safety network that expands across the country; gathering the young generation and competencies; developing the means to defend an atmosphere of peaceful protests; and contributing to the development of a well-led political alternative that is capable of improving peaceful struggles under the rules of the constitution to continue the march of liberating Lebanon from a blatant political occupation imposed by a network of plunderers backed by foreign powers!