Protests force government resignation in Lebanon

"PEOPLE POWER", "the cedar revolution", boomed the Western press
after mass protests in the Lebanon forced the resignation of the
pro-Syrian prime minister Omar Karami and his government.

Since the assassination of billionaire opposition politician Rafik
Harari on 14 February thousands of people have defied the government’s
ban on protests and demanded its resignation and the removal of Syrian
forces from the Lebanon.

Syrian troops, currently numbering around 15,000, have been in the
country since the start of the 15-year long civil war in 1975/76.

Western governments especially the US but also France – the former
colonial power (French president Jacques Chirac was politically
connected to Harari) – have insisted that Syria (an "outpost of tyranny"
according to George Bush) ends its occupation.

Bush hypocrisy

Bush has, of course, brushed aside calls for US and coalition forces
to leave Iraq and has also ignored demands to pressure Israel’s Ariel
Sharon to withdraw from the Palestinian territories.

Syria’s dictator, president al-Assad, already under pressure from US
imperialism, vehemently denies assassinating Harari but undoubtedly has
agreed to Karami’s resignation to try and head off the developing mass
protest movement against Syrian occupation. But the pro-Syrian
president, Emile Lahoud, remains in post.

Assad has also hinted at troop withdrawals but strategically fears
that imperialism will then dominate Lebanon and threaten his regime.

US Republican neo-conservative Paul Wolfowitz has hailed the ‘cedar
revolution’ as the further spread of Western democracy in the region.
For proof, the White House points to the flawed elections in Iraq and
the occupied Palestinian territories and Egypt’s announcement of ‘free’
presidential elections.

However, what the region’s masses desire is genuine democracy and an
end to poverty, unemployment and exploitation. In fact, only by
expelling imperialism and ending the rule of capitalism internationally
can these demands be met.

A danger in the Lebanon is the absence of a mass socialist workers
party to unite the different population groups. The latest
constitutional crisis will be exploited by imperialism and the local
sectarian capitalist politicians whose actions could easily plunge the
country back into internecine warfare.

The mass protests of the last week appear to have been dominated by
Sunnis, Christians and Druze, without the mass participation of Shias
who make up 40% of the population.

Already, pro-government rioting in Tripoli has lead to the shooting
dead of an opposition supporter. And last week, before the government
fell, the Syrian-backed Hezbollah movement paraded 150,000 supporters in
Beirut’s southern suburbs to mark the holy Shia festival of Ashura.

Lebanon’s working class has a long tradition of struggle which it
must build upon to create the socialist forces needed to fundamentally
change society.