An uprising is underway in the streets of Beirut, following the huge explosion that rocked the city on 4 August, killing at least 200 people. The blast was caused by the combustion of a huge neglected stock of ammonium nitrate, which has been held in storage by the government since its seizure from a ship six years ago. Fury over the state’s negligence has further catalysed the mass protest movement (termed the ‘October Revolution’) which emerged late last year to challenge the corruption, neoliberalism and state sectarianism that dominate official Lebanese politics.
On Saturday 8 August, protestors and revolutionaries stormed government buildings in Beirut – they took and occupied the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Environment, Association of Banks, and Ministry of Energy and Water. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was named ‘the new revolution HQ’, while many started calling Beirut ‘the capital of the revolution.’ Government forces have shot live ammunition at protestors as well as rubber bullets and tear gas. Injured people are being treated in the street, as Beirut’s hospitals are already at breaking point and two of them were destroyed in the explosion. Despite the repression, protesters have succeeded in driving state forces back in many places, at least temporarily, and many protesters believe the current government will fall imminently.
The following statement comes from Ta’amim al-Masaref [Nationalisation of the banks], a left-wing collective working within the broader revolutionary movement, targeting the Lebanese Association of Banks and highlighting the corrupt connections between Lebanese and international ruling-class interests through Lebanon’s financial institutions.
Comrades, we are trapped.
We are trapped between the barbarism of capital accumulation and the subsequent nonchalant greed it enables.
As our lives become more worthless by the hour, we are trapped between the military machine deployed to defend private property at all costs, and the ruling class it has vowed to uphold.
We are trapped between the death cult that is capital accumulation and its tendency to accumulate, store, bargain for better deals, negotiate and accumulate further, even at its own risk. Especially at our expense.
The August 4 blast is an immediate and irreversible ramification of the ruling class’ deliberate indispensability of the masses. The capitalist, neoliberal system was built at our expense, and always – without exception – seeks to serve the interests of the ruling class. It will never be more evident and salient than it is today the extent to which our lives are regarded as expendable and worthless.
But the blast does not propagate evenly. It rips apart working-class neighbourhoods relentless and with impunity. Wave after wave, we can feel our precarity laid bare as our windows and doors shattered, and our buildings collapsed. The explosion both accelerates our condition and decelerates business as usual. It is in this spatio-temporal reality that we are trapped.
Our livelihoods are closest to the epicentres of destruction. How could they not be, when our livelihoods depend on reproducing chaos, zombie capitalism, and our destitute condition? It slows uncovers their violence and their gentrifying displacement. As their interminable towers merely tremble, their children are kept safe by our comrades, domestic workers.
This regime functions precisely as it was constructed to: to exploit us, displace us, crush us and kill us, unapologetically and without hesitation.
They are untouchable even in defeat. They are indestructible even in catastrophe
But they are unreachable no more.
As thousands of families remain stranded and homeless, it is now our duty to occupy their luxurious homes. The ones purposefully kept empty as a form of class war, as an undying bourgeois sneer. We must occupy what they think is theirs. We must occupy what is, in fact, ours.
As this catastrophe steadily becomes militarized, it is our duty to fight against the unfolding military coup that is going to be perpetually imposed on us.
As we are living through famine, hunger, and poverty, it is our duty to supply for our comrades. To fight for food sovereignty. To divorce dependency from our bellies.
We must demand justice for our dead. For our victims.
We do not need any investigations. We know who the culprits are. Structurally, yes it is the ruling class, its third-party tradesmen, middle-men, technicians of doom, and trades of destruction.
We must form neighbourhood committees, and workers must control their own destiny, both in the production and reproduction of wealth. We must rebuild our own homes. We must share them with our comrades.
We must open public schools. Transform them into temporary hospitals for the wounded.
We must honour our dead. Celebrate their lives. Continue their fight.
We must not let them force us into normalisation. Nothing that we have lived through in our lifetimes, and in the last year, has been ‘normal’.
As we look at Palestine and Syria, we know that our struggles are intertwined, as are our regimes. Millions of Syrians, Palestinians, Sudanese, Algerians and Arabs have fought their regimes in an open war of manoeuvre that has not said its last word. We are nothing if not a continuation of this war.
We must gather the strength to emulate our comrades in 1982 who fought against the Israel onslaught of Beirut. We will fight capitalism at home as we have previously fought imperialism.
We must be inspired by our Syrian comrades who have lived through thousands of the regime’s barrel bombs and Islamist occupation.
We must draw inspiration from our Sudanese comrades in their organising and from our Algerian comrades in their perseverace.
Comrades, the time has come for us to organise and obliterate capitalism and its enablers.
It is now time for rage. For revenge. For justice. It is time to obliterate this regime, by any means necessary. We need to organise, and we need to organise now.
And with that, death to the system that kills our comrades.
Since publication, this article has been updated to remove inaccurate wording on the role of Hezbollah.