[This article was written in Arabic by Khalil Issa and translated into English by Hanna Petro]
When the left loses all the material elements of its steadfastness, as a result of its mistakes on the one hand and because of surrounding local pressures on the other, it is usually left with nothing but the political-ethical discourse as a principled stance on the basis of which to fight. In the end, being a leftist is to side with justice against oppression, with the victim against the perpetrator, with the exploited against the exploiter. This is the moral position that keeps us leftists after the (near) death of the Lebanese left, as an organized political movement.
Today, in the midst of the broad revolutionary protest movement—which is demanding freedom in all corners of Syria and which has faced terrifying repression that resulted in more than 1100 deaths and ten thousand of people detained, most of whom are members of the Syrian toiling class, peasants and workers—came the latest memorandum from the political bureau of the Lebanese Communist Party (issued on April 20, 2011), reminding the Syrian people that it has the right to “mobilize through all peaceful and democratic means for the sake of social, political, and economic reforms and the combating of corruption.” Conversely, it fails to name any martyrs and murder victims in Syria, and “wishes that [the Syrian government] be quick in implementing all the reforms put forth by President Bashar al-Asad.”
The ambiguous position of the party becomes more distinguishable when we see a long speech about “Syria confronting internal strife, which imperialist America and Israel strive towards in cooperation with some of the collaborating forces inside and outside of Syria, which are [themselves] steeped in reactionary politics.” But there is something we do not understand: Which fitna [strife] is the Lebanese Communist Party referring to? And why do we want to mention the fitna specially, when the discourse should be against oppression, murder, and terrorism? Have the national opposition members in Syria like Michel Kilo, Aref Dalila and Yasin al-Hajj Salih—who are all “comrades” by the way—suddenly become agents of the imperialist “circles?” Or has the absurd fitna theory, which constitutes an offshoot of the “conspiracy” theory, become an alternative to all the positions that must be undertaken by a party which is supposed to be the “party of the people” par excellence?
The position of the Communist Party on what is happening in Syria is a failure on both the ethical and political levels. Here, [the failure is in] the sense that politics [is supposed to] be genuinely serving the interests of the oppressed classes; [and this] makes the party one with a rightwing leadership. It practically rejects the change demanded by the toiling class and the workers in Syria, as well as adopts the regime’s “external conspiracy” narrative. All that remains for the comrades of the political bureau is to participate in the propaganda against the protesters, calling them “conspirators” or “armed gangs.” This is especially [the case] since [the Communist Party’s] Secretary General Khalid Hadada confirmed once again the centrality of “the conspiracy against Syria” in an article of his in al-Safir newspaper (May 28th, 2011). If he rejects the security solution in Syria, he also repudiates “attempted bullying by the outside.”
Here, we ask Comrade Khalid Hadada which of the protestors in Syria today is asking for bullying by the outside? Or have these verbal pretexts always been present–because the history of imperialist intervention in the region is well known and destructive—[so as] to make us produce an unethical political position, which completely ignores what is happening on the ground in Syria? Why is imperialism inserted where it is not, that we start to see imperialism not where it truly is. What dialogue is the Communist Party calling for while, for example, Azmi Bishara says in one of his latest media appearances that “it is clear that there is dialogue. Unfortunately, only dialogue pertaining to reform, but there is an instigation to murder and shoot at those who demand reform.”
Given that the communist leadership is rightwing to this degree, this does not summarize the entire problem. Many–not all, of course—of the Lebanese leftists, both from within the [Communist] Party and outside of it, are convinced that what is happening in Syria is the doing of the “Salafis” or the “Anglo-Americozionist-Saudi-Qatari” conspiracy. Here, the ever-present phobia of the Conspiracy mixes with a "secular sectarianism," to use the expression of Syrian author Yasin al-Hajj Salih. Many leftists now repeat the repudiation by poets like Adonis and Saﬁdi Yusuf of “the coming out of revolution from the mosque,” or that what is happening is nothing but a verse of “the West’s making.” Here, secular sectarianism consciously or unconsciously inflates a minority sensibility that is horrified by the cries of allahu akbar [Allah is great], and gives life to a sick elitism that does not see a sufficient “revolutionary consciousness” among the Syrian masses. The communist comrades boast that they [themselves] do possess it [i.e., the revolutionary consciousness] just as those who claim to possess the keys to paradise. This might also reflect a class disdain expressed by a small bourgeois leadership towards workers and peasants who are being killed.
What is constantly demanded is that the Revolution be in accordance with the standard of a distressed left, which only defines itself by the discourse of “secularism.” (By the way, here we ask whatever happened to the call of “overthrowing the sectarian regime?”) If it is understood that the regional standing of Hizballah, namely its rockets and the military resistance against Israel, is a fundamental issue to be lost or gained when it takes a stance on what is happening in Syria, we do not understand what political loss is being avoided by the Communist Party, which in recent years has become akin to a “desert mirage” on the Lebanese political scene. Or maybe there is another interest that pushes the “communist” leadership to act in this manner; and we do not know it.
Today, we have come to the presence of a “secular sectarian” Lebanese left, which has retired from its duties, vacillating between a Lebanese nationalist vision and an Arab nationalist position in the archaic sense of the word. It is intellectually lazy, politically cowardly, folkloric, carrying a vulgar Marxist discourse with an opportunistic tendency, and not self-sufficient; such that it adopts a narrative of injustice starting with the “imperial West” and ending with lamentation over the “injustice” committed by the other Lebanese sectarian parties towards it. When the left does not question ready-made answers, it becomes (in a sense) a “religious” left. The Lebanese left is united with all the oppressed peoples of the world, with the exception of the Arab peoples. Maybe it is because those [Arab peoples] are in their depths [really] still ... “Muslim", meaning they are not “secular” enough!
There is a deeper problem facing leftists and communists on the theoretical level. It is the “freedom” called for by the crushed Arab masses from [the Atlantic] Ocean to [the Arab] Gulf. In and of itself, this was an expression of a dignity, lost because of regimes that govern in a `local` colonial fashion. Thinking about this issue is more important today than our endless pleas for analyses by the martyr Mahdi Amel or the economic determinism that Marxism itself has surpassed. Many traditional communists consider the subject of “democracy” as a “bourgeois” issue. They ignore the fact that the right to vote, the right to express one’s opinion, and [the right] to form political parties was never a “liberal” gift, but something that came as a result of struggles fought out by the working class and the peasantry. For this [reason], the loathing of political freedom by describing it as “bourgeois freedom” is at the root of stances [that are] neglectful of the demands of the masses, which want `dignity` before anything else.
Today, there are three matters which constitute the rightwing leaning of Lebanese “left”: the secular sectarianism which was transformed into a politics of identity; the disease of elitism, which despises the struggling classes; and the absence of intellectual renewal because of the repeating of deaf leftist prayers, which claim to answer every worry and complaint. We are in need of a new left. From this [premise], [this is] a call to the comrades in the Communist Party to become aware of the historic role that they must view [things] from, as well as to cease having the infantile and purely “emotional” relationship with their established party ... simply because it is the “Communist Party.” We say this, hoping that the left will return to the left and the Communist Party to its communism. Circumstances indicate that hard times will befall on this country [Lebanon], and then we will truly need this new left.
The original Arabic version of this article can be found here.