Over the past decades, the world witnessed numerous progressive uprisings and anti-capitalist revolts whereby the masses had explicitly expressed their dreams of a free world on the top of it is social justice. One of these uprisings is the ongoing October 17 uprising that swept Lebanon five months ago.
Before the outbreak of COVID- 19, the country was witnessing critical conditions resulting from the periodic crisis that the political system always produce. With the outbreak of Coronavirus, these conditions are said to accumulate and produce multiple effects; one of which is an expected global recession. Such a situation, if not addressed, would lead to increased levels of poverty and unemployment at a time when numerous companies stopped paying wages to their laborers as a result of the closure of public and private sector institutions, along with the quarantine imposed by almost all countries affected by COVID-19.
In this context, the economic effects resulting from Coronavirus pose serious threats to the lives of millions of people, especially the poor, unemployed, daily-workers, and different segments of the working class. Various political elites in almost all countries that experience the COVID-19 outbreak had not addressed the needs of their people before nor ensured their essential rights. In Lebanon, and in light of the endemic economic crisis that the country is facing, several companies had downsized their labor force or payed their workers half- salaries and sometimes less. Citizens belonging to the working class, especially those who are retired or small depositors are believed to face an extra layer of challenges in light of the banking sector policies which limit their cash withdrawal ceilings, and the instability of the exchange value of US Dollar to Lebanese Pound.
The COVID-19 outbreak in Lebanon came in parallel with strict measures that banks are imposing on the Lebanese population in full support from the country’s political leaders. Citizens whose money is deposited in foreign currencies are now left with no option except transferring them to the Lebanese Lira and therefore losing a substantial portion of their value; a process labelled by many as an indirect haircut. These conditions threaten the lives of the Lebanese people amid the health problems which are increasing on their burden as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. It is expected that severe economic, educational, and financial losses will unfortunately take place and altogether would pose critical challenges to the status of teachers’ wages, the efficiency of the online learning methods, and the official exams. Our party considers that wages and salaries of teachers is of utmost importance and the government should pay them regardless of the conditions that surrounds the country.
Based on the above, the Lebanese Communist Party (LCP) calls on the government to undertake serious measures that would protect the lives of its people, especially the poor and marginalized. Specifically, LCP calls to:
• First, the government should provide a monthly allowance to each family especially to daily workers and to the citizens who are employed in organizations that had stopped paying wages. This measure should be undertaken in parallel with strengthening the social security net, specifically through the provision of comprehensive health coverage to all citizens. This health plan could be financed by revenues of progressive taxation and we hereby see the opportunity to advocate for this demand. Such a plan could be financed if the government taxed large depositors, in addition to taxation imposed on the wealth and assists of the oligarchy. Those aristocrats had excessively benefited from contacts made with the government and its public administration and privatization projects. The country’s financial oligarchy made huge profits from excessive borrowing processes which were sponsored by the subsequent governments. Millions of dollars generated from financial leverage (Eurobonds) need to redirected to support the laborers who lost their jobs in the current crisis. Our party considers the current situation that the country is passing through as the biggest opportunity to overthrow the rule of the oligarchical elites and reform the Lebanese economy. The only way to achieve this is through a haircut that should target large depositors and this can alone lead to cancellation of public debt. As a result, a large proportion of money which is currently allocated to finance the public debt would be instead used to finance the cost of wages and salaries of all workers and ensure their social protection.
• Second, LCP stresses the central role that the government should play in its efforts to address the COVID-19. In this context, the party condemns campaigns done by the sectarian political parties aiming to help citizens because some of them are used to reinforce patronage networks between the political leaders and the masses. Such efforts despite their importance at the time being but they should not be an excuse for the state to not play its role in the provision of social services. Instead, the state should play its role to the fullest degree in terms of social protection rather than solely relying on private contributions. In light of this epidemic, the state should direct all its resources and capacities to return looted public funds. On a related note, LCP condemns attempts of some municipalities to turn COVID-19, from a global virus whose impacts reach the entire globe and require international solidarity, to an event that intensifies sectarian and political cleavages among the Lebanese population.
• Third, The government should allow small depositors to access their bank accounts and withdraw from them whatever amounts they need and in any currency they want. In this context, our party warns the Lebanese authorities from any procedures that aim at freezing the deposits, transferring them, or transferring their value to Lebanese Lira. The shortage of dollars should not be put on the burden of poor people. In fact, the minority of the Lebanese population who benefited from certain privileges and accumulated wealth should now contribute to restoring the economy and this should not be only the responsibility of the working class. The deposits of the working-class, if available, will certainly contribute to social well-being while deposits of financial oligarchy are always used to generate profits on the expenses of others’ people effort.
• Fourth, our party condemns what the security forces did last night when it used the mandatory curfews as a pretext to remove the tents of protestors in the Beirut downtown area. This action came in spite of the fact that all protestors took measures that comply with government’s regulations on personal hygiene and safety. LCP considers that October 17 uprising will never die because its supporters are the active citizens who stood against government policies. One of these policies was the judiciary’s decision last week to release Amer al Fakhoury- a well-known collaborator with the Israeli enemy who was tasked to beat Al Khiyam detainees in South Lebanon during its occupation. Our party re-affirms that what the Lebanese stood up for during October 17 uprising was the corruption that they can no longer handle. With the outbreak of COVID- 19 in Lebanon, and its potential consequences on different levels, on the society and economy, one could say that this global epidemic virus came to prove to all Lebanese that their uprising was a just and rightful movement because their political system is based on corruption, nepotism, and alignment to foreign powers.
Finally, the Lebanese Communist Party salute and acknowledge the enormous effort of physicians, nurses, and all NGO’s volunteers. There will be one day when People who are in quarantine today and suffering from limited mobility will put the entire capitalism in the same quarantine level.
The Lebanese Communist Party
March 28, 2020