As the 2022 elections draw closer, sectarian leaders are making a show of force to renew their legitimacy vis-à-vis foreign powers. Meanwhile, bank owners are seeking to further write off their losses at the expense of the rest of society. Against these attempts at impoverishing us further and pushing us to emigrate, we continue our struggle against this regime, a struggle that has been ongoing since 2016, in defence of our dignity, under campaigns such as “The Civil State” (“الدولة المدنية”), “Where did our gold go?” (“أين ذهبنا”), “Your Future Is Gold” (“مستقبلك ذهب”), and “Where’s Your Pension Fund” (“وين صندوقك”).
We view these elections as a space for confronting the regime, promoting our political vision and project, connecting with and gaining the trust of the people, and orienting the public debate away from empty slogans and clichés towards the heart of politics – that is, people’s daily lives. What we are living through today is not our sealed fate; despite its hardships, it presents an opportunity to put an end to 50 years of disorientation, violence, and emigration. Despite the current harrowing situation, the only option we have is to confront this criminal sectarian political system by targeting its financial and political cores. As the prospect for change diminishes, our determination only grows stronger: we can, indeed, turn this crisis into an opportunity.
The financial losses were sustained by banks in cooperation with the Governor of the Central Bank and under the protection of the sectarian leaders. However, these losses are a burden on all of society, as they affect both the funds of depositors and pension funds (including retirement, healthcare, and education coverage for thousands of union members and their families), and also the incomes of all residents who earn in Lebanese Lira. The latter group are particularly affected by increases in the money supply (i.e., printing of Liras) which have led to currency devaluation and thus a reduction in purchasing power. We reiterate that these monetary decisions, which go hand in hand with arbitrary notices (التعاميم) by the Governor of the Central Bank, aim to write off the losses of the banks at the expense of society. The losses affect not only bank deposits – be it those in Lebanese Lira or US Dollar – but also those who emigrate as a result, the organisations that shut down, and the employees whose salaries have lost their value.
Until price and cost indicators stabilise, the state must direct tax revenues, to the greatest extent possible, towards productive investments and local production rather than the import of goods and the export of human capacities. This transformation would thereby contribute to the alleviation of structural deficits that have accumulated in our balance of payments. It must also be accompanied by reforms in the tax code in correspondence with the requirements of this phase, rewarding all of those who, through their work and investment, contribute to building a strong and balanced economy.
It is imperative to confront the financial circle, especially those banks that have failed to meet their contractual obligations. One of the main objectives of this confrontation is to contribute to the restructuring of the banking system in a way that is compatible with the needs of society (e.g., for lending), before any negotiation with creditors is concluded. In conjunction with the restructuring process, bank owners must be held accountable for the consequences of their abuses towards depositors and pension/social funds, whether in foreign currencies or Lebanese Lira, and in proportion to their misdoings.
It is no secret that the electoral law was designed to fit the exact requirements of the sectarian leaders through their usual methods of bribing, blackmailing, and cheating. This was achieved without any obstruction, as the outside world watched in silence. We are not naïve – we do not expect the new parliament to now take legislative action after its deep slumber. This is not a parliamentary system; this is a council of sectarian leaders. In the very name of democracy, we oppose what is happening. We need a transitional government with legislative powers to avoid the structural deficit created by a system of sectarian organisations, and to speed in addressing the consequences of bankruptcy. We vow to uphold clarity and to reject selling illusions. Thus, we recognize, now that we are in this situation, the crisis can only be addressed fairly through a government with exceptional, legislative powers.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is supposedly a bailout institution that lends money by forcing countries to adopt policies that, in short, can be summed up as measures of austerity, expansion of the tax base, liberalisation of trade, deregulation of the labour market, and privatisation of public companies. In our case today, the IMF is being used to float the interests of the financial circle and, in its shadows, the political circle. There will be no aid until the losses are clearly identified and their distribution is revealed. An agreement with the IMF is being portrayed as a redemption arc for the regime, which has been unable to identify and distribute losses according to a clear socio-economic vision that preserves society. This portrayal is clearly unfounded and insincere. If the regime were to sign the deal, it would be a disaster with unknown consequences, especially if it does not exempt vital sectors (health, education, etc.) from the requirements of expenditure cuts.
We were never convinced by the de facto regime that was installed upon the end of war in Lebanon: neither in the days of bribery, nor in those of extortion. The losses that have accumulated today are the result of decades of losing gambles with only one clear and inevitable result, no matter how long it was delayed. The regime – run by the coalition of sectarian leaders and reliant upon the emigration of our youth, the acquisition of funds and their consequent distribution as aid, and succumbing to the interests of foreign countries at the expense of our society and country – has been disrupted today with the disruption of its financial tool. Today, at the behest of the sectarian circle, this tool is taking its turn to attack and liquidate society, along with its capabilities and its public property, in an attempt to produce a new mutant of the regime, no less dangerous than the current one.
We therefore completely refuse the restoration of the regime that was in place. The current situation imposes a rupture and an escalation of confrontation, rather than any involvement in the frameworks of the regime.
Our choice of a civil state does not arise from an ideological standpoint, nor from an exhausted slogan. In Lebanon, the only state that is possible is a civil state, and not a military or a religious state, each of which would be repressive in its own way. The non-state experiment that borrows its legitimacy from that of the sectarian leaders has failed, and it has proven that it is unable to establish a society or secure the interests of its people. Therefore, the only possible legitimacy for the establishment of a capable state in Lebanon is civil legitimacy. This civil state would derive its legitimacy from its ability to grant equal and fair rights, secure the interests of society and protect it from local and foreign risks, secure its economic and social stability and manage its legacies and contradictions while preserving the inalienable freedom of belief.
Dealing with our reality has become a necessity. The fear of reality and living under the illusion of the sectarian components are what brought us to where we are now. Proposing decentralisation in the existing sectarian system may come to nurture the role of the sectarian leaders in their respective territories. Decentralisation is a thin proposal to treat symptoms, and can not be considered a solution. The Lebanese crisis (represented by the inability of the sectarian leaders to make decisions, the financial collapse, the banking sector collapse, the debt crisis, and the crisis of relations with the outside) cannot be resolved without the establishment of a state – and a central authority with civil legitimacy. The starting point for the establishment of this state is its ability to deal with reality, grant equal and fair rights, and complete a census of the actual residents, in order to distribute responsibilities and resources in a balanced manner to integrate the territory and enhance the effectiveness and capacity of the state and its competitiveness in its region.
Decentralisation is just one formula, among others, adopted by a state to regulate the procedural performance within it, and therefore it is neither good nor bad in absolute terms. Its usefulness is based on the proximity of taxpayers and service beneficiaries from those who manage public funds and perform public services, to intensify the taxpayers’ interest and supervision. This presupposes the presence of three conditions: that the decentralisation is based on the actual residents within each of the regional units; that these units are balanced in terms of their resources and the needs of their resident;, and most importantly, that the state that undertakes the formulation of public policies, including the distribution of tasks within it, is effective and capable.
Protecting society and its members and preserving their dignity is the basis for building a productive and solid economy, and a prerequisite for financial stability. The collapse of the health sector, the devaluation of people’s incomes, the bankruptcy of the trust and pension funds, and the need to establish basic rights and a new system of relations that breaks the clientelistic relationship between the sectarian leader and “his group” – these are all compelling reasons to place universal health coverage as a priority during the recovery period, no matter how little reserves we have left. These rights build for the future and secure a social wage for residents that preserves their dignity.
Our goal is for the educational system to secure specific functions, including: strengthening the civil legitimacy of the state, nurturing critical thought, fortifying intellectual freedom, producing knowledge, developing capabilities to manage demand, and keeping pace with the transition process by integrating after-school training. The social considerations posed by the economic crisis allow us to refocus education on its economic and political functions. Primary education through high school would become compulsory and free, up until secondary school, provided that the state covers the costs of education in contracted private schools in return for their commitment to a single curriculum and on terms that facilitate class and sectarian integration. On the other hand, non-cooperative educational institutions would be treated as commercial institutions. Higher education would also be restructured to tie it to the needs of the needed and directed economic transformation.
The six sectarian leaders bear direct responsibility for wasting resources and giving advantages to our enemy Israel. This is nothing new for a regime that has failed to protect its natural and financial resources, squandering them through quotas – the primary disruptor of the political system. Once again, the leaders are disagreeing over their shares of gas and oil, with the aim of selling people a false hope of returning to “blissfulness” and reactivating their clientelistic channels, hoping that this gas will ensure the continuation of their regime. For us, this oil is a tool to build an actual economy. The duty of any authority with civil legitimacy, and its need to strengthen this legitimacy, is to strive with the utmost effort to achieve the highest possible gains for society.
Relationships between states are relations of interests. These relations are not limited to friendships or fraternity, and thus the only party responsible for these relations and interests is “the state.” The state is the tool that deals with the external as such in order to achieve its domestic interests, taking into account the risks and consequences. Often, the aid is offered to serve the creditor first, even if it passes through state institutions. The most important thing that remains is to measure the feasibility and balance between the interests of the donor and those of the grantee, knowing that conditional and renewed external support is an unsustainable solution. Begging is the sectarian leaders’ weapon to elicit money and distribute it as a means of bullying at home. The alternative to this is the establishment of rights to ensure that any foreign aid remains a resource distributed by the state to enhance citizens' gains within its public budget.
It is unacceptable for Lebanon to deal with the ongoing negotiations on Syria from the position of the receiving spectator rather than the initiator. The fate of Lebanon is inevitably linked to the future of Syria due to considerations of geography, demography, asylum, and the economic and financial interdependence of the two countries. Lebanon's interest lies in building a mature relationship with Syria as an external state governed by common interests. It lies in the presence of a strong, undivided Syrian state, whose function is above all to protect society – a state that guarantees freedom of political and monetary action.
The approach to the subject of refugees is not a humanitarian philanthropic one, nor is it a cheap political investment through racist incitement against refugees. It is necessary to develop solutions based on a realistic, rather than imaginary, reading of the issue of asylum. The solutions needed are ones that take care of Lebanon’s interest and protect its society, and, in return, guarantee the substantive rights of refugees, especially on the issues of education and health. Such solutions should remove the weight of displacement and turn it into a vital element in building a solid and productive economy.
In the past decades, unbalanced relations with the countries of the region were established, which translated into deep interferences, in different forms, with the Lebanese regime and society. While the countries of the region worked to secure and promote their interests, which is a natural path adopted by countries in their foreign policies and relations with foreign countries, each of the six sectarian leaders sought to “satisfy” their respective foreign funder and supporter. This was done in order to implement these foreign interests in Lebanon, as if the sectarian leaders were delegates of a foreign country rather than representatives of Lebanon and its interests. This matter was reflected in shameless interventions in Lebanon's affairs, for which the foreign countries are not to be blamed. The blame lies on those who were entrusted with protecting the Lebanese and their interests.
We believe that the Lebanese society, represented by a capable state that guarantees its interests above all else, has a great opportunity to establish balanced trade, as well as political and cultural relations with the countries of the region. These relations can secure a share for our economy in their markets that are connected to the global economy, and the Lebanese state would work to assess the interests and options of these states in our country.
The civil state that we seek, and which works to protect the Lebanese as a single society – rather than a group of different societies – works to achieve gains from the intersection of interests that a political circumstance may generate with another foreign state. This strategy is considered one of the axioms of the political action of any state in determining its foreign policies.
Lebanon has no neutrality regarding its economic interests, security, and the safety of its children and of those residing in its territory. We are the initiators rather than the spectators of what is being formulated for the region and for Lebanon; we will strive to be a cornerstone in these negotiations rather than a neutral recipient or an easy prey on the tables of states and in their respective negotiations.
The sectarian exclusivity of the resistance puts the national goals of the resistance action and the sacrifices of the sect itself in constant danger from the ongoing sectarian conflict. We seek to frame the relationships, capabilities, and experiences that the Lebanese have accumulated at home and abroad in the fields of trade and manufacturing, as well as combat and the military, within a single national project. The national position and project include benefiting from any achievement or ability in society in order to build a capable state. Otherwise, we must claim that the state can be built without taking advantage of the achievements and resources achieved by sectarian groups in society. Accordingly, we do not see the military capabilities and resources that Hezbollah has accumulated as a burden on Lebanon. Rather, in the process of building the state, these capabilities can become resources supporting the establishment of a state that protects its children from dangers, challenges, and foreign interference, including the expansionist and fragmentary danger of the Zionist project. If these capabilities are framed in a national civil project that deals with the Lebanese society as one, it becomes the antithesis of the racist and fragmentary Zionist project.
We are fully aware of the high cost of enmity. Our enmity to the Zionist project is not borne out of an emotional position. Rather, our enmity is a political position because we recognize the Zionist project as a real, existential threat to society, and in turn, our enmity needs to go beyond a slogan. Rather, it is a project translated into public policies that protect society from Israel’s aggression against the economy, politics, environment, telecommunications, water, and resources in Lebanon.