Towards a more convivial left?

In Lebanon, in this revolutionary moment, there is a heated debate between two camps. The first one believes that the current youth uprising, calling for toppling the sectarian political regime and replacing corrupted politicians is simply a secondary contradiction that would harm the principal contradiction, that is, the current struggle against imperialism in the region, especially, the one dating from 1948, when Israel was created and 900,000 Palestinians expelled. The second camp, which I belong to, thinks that the demands of the uprising are urgent, while the ‘resistance’ to imperialism and Israeli colonial practices is simply important at this moment in Lebanon. In the same vein, the ‘resisting imperialism’ camp allies itself with the Syrian regime (ignoring its brutalizing, authoritarian nature and systematic deployment of torture) merely because this regime has been supportive of the Lebanese resistance (Hezbollah). Likewise, the Lebanese people must endure the corruption of the resistance camp, or at least that of their allies, in the name of the main contradiction with imperialism.

I found the debate in Latin America followed much the same lines. The extraordinary congress of the Latin America Sociological Association (ALAS) held in December in Lima and attended by 3,300 participants was one of the sites of such a debate, regarding specifically Venezuela and Bolivia. Some (rightly) argue that one needs to denounce the military coup in Bolivia, but also denounce Juan Evo Morales, who previously acted against the Constitution (which does not allow more than one re-election). This topic was confirmed by a referendum called by the former government itself. Along the same lines, they argue one should denounce the personal power monopoly of President Nicholas Maduro in Venezuela and raise the same question regarding both Bolivia and Venezuela: why did the two leaders, Morales and Maduro, not properly institutionalize their political parties in a way that other leaders emerged? Why are there no second leaders in many leftist (but not only leftist) political parties, that can run for office at the end of the original leader’s term? The same question can be asked in relation to other “progressive” regimes, such as those in Syria and Yemen, along with other republican regimes that have paved the way for the succession to power of their sons. Is there no possibility of resistance under democratic regimes?

So, the main problem is not in theorizing what the two main and secondary contradictions are, but rather dealing with the mechanisms of the defunct type of authority that Ibn Khaldun wrote about, and after him Max Weber, that relies on charisma or tribal/familial allegiances (Asabiyya), rather than legal legitimacy (i.e. the rotation of power through election, respecting basic rights, freedom and citizenship).

Why does the “resistance” camp want to consider that the main contradiction to be addressed leads to the liberation of Jerusalem, while ending the sectarian political system, giving Lebanese woman the right to grant her nationality to her children, or giving the Palestinian refugees basic rights, such as the right to work and ownership, are secondary contradictions that should simply be postponed?

All of these contradictions are important, but what is urgent among them today is not necessarily the same as yesterday, and what is urgent here may be no more than just ‘important’ there. The Arab peoples cannot be held hostage to the Arab-Israeli conflict, construed as the main conflict for two thirds of a century, while tyranny and brutalizing regimes are always considered secondary.[1]

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