Hazem Saghieh

The Secret Behind this Animosity for October 17

Lebanon’s October 17 revolution was not victorious, and it failed to change the course of governance in the country or prevent the aggravation of its collapse. It also was unable to elect a substantial parliamentary bloc that could turn the tables and impose a new way of doing things. Moreover, in the final analysis, it ceased to exist a little more than three years ago. Why, then, did Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah show so much animosity towards it in his latest speech?

The explanation is no minor detail. For the first time, we saw Nasrallah discuss the revolution bluntly and boastfully: The United States brought this chaos and vandalism to Lebanon. As for him and his party, they were on the front lines in repressing it.

Why did Nasrallah issue this belated verdict, which, at first glance, he seems to have volunteered to make though no real reason called for doing so?

In all likelihood, Hezbollah and co seek to turn the defeat of October 17 into a major turning point that establishes a “new” Lebanon- just as crushing the 1968 revolution in Czechoslovakia was made into a foundational moment that introduced the second chapter of that communist state’s life.

As for those who defeated October 17, they are the saviors of the people, whom they rescued from the clutches of conspiracy. And so, Hezbollah pins a new medal on its chest, putting alongside its many others: liberating the country, resistance, fighting terrorism, demarcating the country’s borders, ensuring the people dignity etc…

The presidential elections render this task more pressing. Indeed, those with the lion’s share of the credit for saving us from the conspiracy ought to receive the lion’s share of the vote that decides the new president of the republic.

While it was relatively watered down in his speech, this is what Nasrallah had effectively been saying. He spoke of a president that would not stab the resistance in the back and reminded us of the “successful” tenures of Emile Lahoud and Michel Aoun, tasking the head of his parliamentary bloc, Mohammad Raad, with the vulgar and blunt statements: “In the confrontation over who will become president, we know who we want and are taking action to ensure that the figure we want becomes president.” As for whom “we want,” he is a “president worthy of our resisting people".

All of this makes clear that Hezbollah, armed with its “victories,” the most recent of which was the border demarcation agreement, does not want to make any concessions to anyone. It wants to impose a “president worthy of our resisting people,” betting on the desperation of the others and their exhaustion to repeat what happened when they agreed to make Aoun president on that inauspicious day in 2016.

These are some of the things he warned us of in his speech slandering October 17: those who defended the regime and ensured its survival will become this regime’s exclusive kingmakers.

However, if defending this regime was the direct, practical reason for much of what was said, done, and threatened, it came against a backdrop that explains the deeper reasons why there is no love lost between Hezbollah’s resistance and the October revolution. This background, which could perhaps be called the theoretical underpinnings of the party’s position, is based on the following:

- The resistance of Hezbollah is an act of perpetual violence; weapons are its cause, goal, and tool. The October 17 revolution presented itself as a civic, peaceful and reformist act.

- Hezbollah’s resistance represents the armament of one community in the face of others. The October 17 revolution sought to establish a popular and national movement that cut across sects and communities.

- Hezbollah’s resistance presents itself as targeting a foreign enemy, hostility to which, in Lebanon and elsewhere, is often used to reinforce the status quo. The October 17 revolution was born in response to the way in which the country is governed and its rampant corruption.
- The resistance of Hezbollah, as the faction deciding questions of war and peace, undermines the state. The October 17 revolution strengthens the state by developing democracy and stressing the values of transparency and accountability.

-The resistance of Hezbollah necessarily implies linking Lebanon to the Iranian and Syrian regimes. The October 17 revolution rallied against the idea of turning the country into an “arena” where regional conflicts play out.

- The resistance of Hezbollah seeks to have ideology decide political questions, while the October 17 revolution seeks to transform Lebanon into a normal country whose policies are determined by its interests.

The two, in the end, are polar opposites. One wants to keep things as they are, guarding this status quo with guns, for which it deserves its label as the defender of the status quo that “has the resistance’s back.” The second wants things to change and make defending the status quo and the catastrophic rates of corruption, which are justified under the pretext of fighting the enemy, impossible.

The two theories collided before, in 2005. The response to the emergence of a new national agenda in the wake of Rafik Hariri’s assassination was to provoke the war of 2006, inflame tensions, and burden political life with the same old agenda.

The two theories also clashed in Syria, and so the fighters of Hezbollah headed there to repress those who had been demanding freedom, change, and human dignity, and to solidify the position of Bashar al-Assad and his regime.

It is a perpetual clash stemming from the essence of things. It goes up and down, but it will not end unless one side suffers an obliterating defeat.