Hanna Saleh

On Fundamentalism of the October 17 Revolution!

Is it true that fundamentalism dominates the climate created by the October 17 revolution, hindering the crystallization of “solutions” through the election of a president who could save the country and set it on the right track?

Is it fair, at a time when collapses are destroying the lives of the Lebanese people, during which the majority of them were impoverished, to say that Lebanon’s October is “dogmatic” and “moves unilaterally, refusing to acknowledge other versions of the truth?” Some of those spewing this nonsense have gone as far as claiming that the October forces “greatly oversimply matters and have a dogmatic understanding of the collapse.” Some have gone even further, claiming that these forces seek to evoke the “fury of the hoards and exploit their animosity for the others.” This nonsense totally ignores the fact that collapse has shattered people’s lives, holding citizens responsible for the opportunism of the country’s rulers and the hijacking of the state. It leaps over the reality of the situation affirmed by the World Bank, which called the crisis an ongoing crime perpetrated by the political class and stressed that the elites dominating the country have not taken any steps to mitigate it.

There are many questions and just as many pre-prepared answers. Panic has taken hold of the regime, both those who are “pro-government” and those in the “opposition,” after the message they received from the ballot boxes, which suggested that the political scene could potentially change radically. They worry that the era in which sectarian forces monopolize parliamentary seats and share the wealth of the country could come to an end. That is why a comprehensive reading of what the revolution stands for its strong emphasis on integrity, citizenship, and respecting the constitution, as well as its repudiation of moral contamination and political corruption- demands that we think deeply about the events of the past two decades. October 17 found its way into every community in Lebanon, even seeping into “safe environments.” This took Hezbollah by surprise, and so it hurled an array of accusations against the Octoberists, to whom it attributed a series of egregious crimes, including treachery. They did so for no other reason than the October revolution’s bend to build the modern state of law and take Lebanon out of the hell it is currently in!

Two junctures shaped the past two decades. The first was the Independence Uprising of 2005, which shook the security apparatuses in Beirut and Damascus, forcing the occupying Syrian army out of the country. As for the second, it is the October 17 revolution of 2019, which led to the first historical reconciliation turning the page on the civil war. Through it, people discovered what unites them, allowing them to overcome decades of sectarian incitement during which they were living in physical proximity to one another but as sectarian rivals and when the language of “us and them” dominated! Their coming together thus made the difference when they demanded their rights from “all of them means all of them.”

The people’s massive achievement on March 14, 2005, exceeded expectations. An estimated 1.5 million citizens took to the streets that day, while the organizers had expected a third of that figure! Men and women of all ages came together to raise their country’s flag and demand justice and the foundation of a modern state that can safeguard its citizens and ensure equality of opportunity, as well as a single, united army. Most importantly, they wanted to see an end to violations of the constitution and the law, and they insisted on freedoms and social justice.

The Independence Insurgency spooked its sectarian leadership, and it was thus prevented from becoming a revolution. And so, the decade of domestic “wheeling and dealing” began. It guaranteed the interests of the members of the Quadripartite Alliance that brought March 8 and March 14 forces together, leaping over the interests of the people and the hopes that they had pinned on reimplementing the constitution and building a state of law. This alliance sent shockwaves across the Christian community, shaking their confidence. Meanwhile, it isolated the Shiites opposed to the thuggery of Hezbollah, which would have negative repercussions in the future. Despite this, voters gave March 14 a parliamentary majority in 2005 and 2009. However, March 14 did not even try to rule in the name of the majority.

The Independence Insurgency was deliberately aborted, and the national balance of power it spoke to was broken after the “rivals” came together. This reinforced the sectarian-quota-based spoil-sharing regime and disregard for the constitution, which has become treated like a point of view. The “deal” has always had apologists and supporters. They claim that after the civil war, the Lebanese regime came to be based on a “consensus” among the main sects: Maronites, Sunnis, and Shiites- in practice, between their leaders. The lack of a “consensus,” they add, would have sparked civil conflict! This argument was based on the assumption that sectarian quotas are based on estimates of the size of each community with respect to the others. It thus disregards the rights of the people and the interests of the country, allows the statelet to chip away at the state, and mainstreams corruption.

They came together under the roof of a single government, putting their hands on the state’s resources and sharing power. They did this under the guise of mendacious claims, the most prominent of which is defending sects’ rights. They looked the other way as Hezbollah took control of the country’s land crossings, its airport, and its port and expanded its parallel economy, and robbed the state.

Over a decade before the revolution erupted, they put they seized the deposits in the country’s banks, close to 120 billion dollars, to cover deficits, build clientelist networks, and share the spoils of billions going into the country’s electricity while it offered absolutely nothing. As a consequence, the collapse accelerated, unemployment grew, and tens of thousands of skilled workers left the country because they found no alternative solutions. The country became closed off because of the policies that Hezbollah had imposed on it, especially the presidential “deal,” and the systemic pillaging of the country aggravated to the extent that it now threatens its survival.

The October 17 revolution did not erupt in a vacuum. A criminal clique laid the groundwork for it. The great collapse pushed the revolution that erupted in the country’s four corners. The broad sense of resentment to the parties exploded: the overwhelming majority was pitted against a political class, its supporters, and its associates.

From the very first moment, their slogan was: “all of them means all of them” are responsible for bringing the Lebanese to their knees. The compass of the revolution set the destination: liberating the hijacked state and reinstating the constitution. and retrieving sovereignty. The formation of a government independent of the regime is a necessary prerequisite. The Octoberists did not lose sight of the significance of building a mass movement for the confrontation of the forces in power led by Hezbollah. The latter was on the frontlines defending the sectarian-quota-based spoil-sharing regime, declaring that that parliament would not be overthrown and that Aoun would remain in Baabda. Eventually, the number of votes for the Octobirsts would confirm that the “historical bloc” of their political project is the alternative!

Three years after the revolutions and the snowballing of crises, the priorities of the “pro-government” and “opposition” forces of the regime are to abort any attempt to save the country. Meanwhile, the ruling clique has united in endorsing the violation of the constitution and the abandonment of sovereignty and wealth to the enemy, all to polish its image abroad and strengthen its position domestically! As those who are lucky smuggled their money abroad, the people received a hidden “haircut” to their deposits, aggravating the collapse of the currency’s value, the state’s bankruptcy, the unemployment crisis, and inflation!

All of this affirmed that no reforms are possible from the inside. This theory has failed and lost out to the privileges of the men clinging to their seats and using their positions of power to build their wealth. When they looted the country’s private and public wealth, starved the people, and broadened the crisis, they showed just how strongly they would stand against any reforms. Indeed reforms are an existential threat, and so the political class cannot be part of the push for change.

After October 17, people are no longer afraid. It brought down the attempts to terrorize, crush, and co-opt it. It will soon become organized within a framework. It is fundamentalist in its loyalty to the people and their hopes. It knows that electing a paper tiger president is not as significant as liberating the state, retrieving its capacity to make its decisions and rebuilding the country. The illegitimate arms would thus become scrap metal, and it will not lose sight of the need to force the opportunists who depended on these arms into early retirement.