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ابراهيم الأمين

الخميس 14 تشرين الثاني 2019

 وقائع اجتماعات «المنظمات غير الحكومية»
 برامج الحكم البديل والتمويل… ومن التقى كوشنير؟

للحراك الشعبي هوية مفترضة يقول الناشطون إنها تتعلق باستعادة الدولة الحقيقية. المشترك الوحيد الفعلي بين كل من يصرخون في الساحات اليوم هو المطالبة بإسقاط رموز السلطات الحاكمة في لبنان جميعاً. ويجتهد الحقيقيون منهم، وحتى المزوّرون، بالتأكيد أن لا وجود لأجندات أخرى غير المطالبة بتغيير حقيقي في بنى السلطة أو حتى النظام. ولكن، لدى التدقيق، يمكن التمييز بين مطالب ذات طابع فئوي، وأخرى لمجموعات تطالب بإنتاج آليات جديدة لقيام سلطة تمنع القهر بكل أشكاله السياسية والاجتماعية والإنسانية. أما ما يصرخ به الجمهور لجهة عدم الحاجة إلى قيادة أو ناطقين أو ممثلين يفاوضون باسمهم، فلا يعبّر بدقة عمّن يمكن تسميتهم بـ«الوجوه المعبّرة» عن تطلعات قسم كبير من المشاركين في الاحتجاجات. وهؤلاء يسردون وقائع كثيرة تراكمت حتى لامست حدّ الانفجار الكبير، قبل أن يصمتوا عندما يُسألون: كيف يتم التغيير السلمي؟ وعبر مَن؟ وبواسطة مَن؟

لنعد إلى البداية.

لا يحتاج عاقل في لبنان إلى معرفة طبيعة الانقسام القائم حول آلية إدارة الدولة. وهو انقسام له خلفية طائفية ومذهبية ومصلحية. وقد أدت التسويات بين أركان القوى النافذة إلى تعميق الخلل على صعيد البنية الإجمالية للنظام، ما جعله مُنهَكاً حتى وصلنا إلى مرحلة الموت. وهذه الحقيقة التي يعاند أركان الصيغة في رفضها. وبما أن الانهيار حاصل حتماً، فإن الغضب الشعبي الذي كان يقوم مرات بصورة قطاعية، تجمع هذه المرة على شكل احتجاج عام، شارك فيه قسم كبير من اللبنانيين، سواء من نزلوا إلى الشوارع أو الساحات أم من لازموا منازلهم. لكن الحقيقة الأكيدة أن اللبنانيين أعلنوا، هذه المرة، أن الصيغة القائمة سقطت. إلا أن أحداً لم يتحدث عن بديل جاذب لغالبية لبنانية جديدة تُتيح بناء الجديد.

لكن، ماذا عن التدخلات في الحراك القائم، قبل اندلاعه وبعده؟ وهل صرنا في وقت مسموح فيه السؤال عن بعض الأمور وعرض بعض التفاصيل التي تفيد في الإجابة عن أسئلة كثيرة حول هوية المستفيدين والمستغلّين؟ وكذلك حول قدرة أهل الحراك على حمايته من الخطف أو الأخذ صوب مواجهات تخدم أركان الصيغة الساقطة أو رعاتهم الخارجيّين؟ وطالما يصعب توقع تفاهمات وطنية كبيرة على صيغة جديدة قريباً، فإن البلاد أمام خيارين: إما ترميم الحكم الحالي في انتظار لحظة تغيير جذرية تحتاج إلى عناصر جديدة؛ وإما الاستمرار في حال الفراغ القائمة على صعيد الحكم، مع ما يصاحبها من مخاطر الفوضى وما هو أكثر (بالمناسبة، هل كنا نحن خلف الفوضى القائمة عندما حذّرنا منها باكراً؟).

(مروان بوحيدر)

عند هذه النقطة، يبدأ الانقسام الكبير في المقاربات مع من يعتقدون، واهمين، أن المسألة محلية مئة في المئة، ويتماهون مع شعراء الكبة النية والتبولة وفخر الصناعة اللبنانية والوحدة الوطنية وبقية الزجل السخيف!

لا بأس، هنا، من الحديث بصراحة عن التدخلات. داخلياً، هناك قوى وجهات مختلفة صاحبة مصلحة في استخدام الاحتجاج لإحداث تغييرات تصبّ في مصلحتها، أبرزها قوى 14 آذار التي خسرت الكثير منذ عام 2005. وهي لم تخسر محلياً فقط، بل خسرت كل عناصر الدعم النوعي في الإقليم والعالم، وتشعر بوهن كبير نتيجة التراجع الذي أصاب المحور الإقليمي – الدولي الذي تنتمي إليه. هذه القوى تريد نسف التسوية الرئاسية التي قامت في الأعوام القليلة الماضية، لكنها لا تريد نسف النظام لأنها، تاريخياً، من المستفيدين منه. وهذه حال وليد جنبلاط وسمير جعجع وفريقهما، كما هي حال قوى وشخصيات «خرجت من المولد بلا حمص» رغم انخراطها في الصراع الداخلي. ويضاف إلى هؤلاء خليط من الشخصيات التي يمكن أن تُطلق عليها تسميات كـ«التكنوقراط» و«الاختصاصيين» ممن ينتشرون في كل مفاصل لبنان تحت عناوين المنظمات غير الحكومية والمجتمع المدني وتوابعهما. وهؤلاء، باتوا اليوم في صلب الحركة السياسية الطامحة إلى امتلاك مواقع في السلطة. وهم يقولون، صراحة، إن عجزهم عن إنتاج أحزاب سياسية يجعلهم أكثر حرية في العمل ضمن أطر ذات بُعد مهني أو قطاعي أو مدني.

اليوم، يمكن أيّ مواطن الانتباه إلى أن كل من مرّ على قوى 14 آذار لا يشعر بالذعر جراء ما يحصل في الشارع، وإلى أن يتصرف على أنه جزء من الحراك الشعبي. وحتى من يتجنبون الظهور مباشرة في الساحات، ولو بغير رضى، لا يتصرفون كما لو أن ما يجري يستهدفهم. بل يتصرفون من موقع الداعم. وفي كل مرة يُتاح لهم التحدث، يعلنون «تبني مطالب الناس». وهو لسان حال كل من في هذا الفريق. كما تجدر ملاحظة أن كل من له علاقات جيدة مع السعودية والإمارات العربية المتحدة وأميركا وفرنسا وبريطانيا، يتصرف براحة وفرح إزاء ما يحصل في الشارع. وهؤلاء ليسوا سياسيين فقط، بل بينهم أيضاً اقتصاديون وإعلاميون وناشطون وناشطات وخبراء!

في المقابل، يمكن أيّ مواطن الانتباه إلى أن كل خصوم 14 آذار، من حزب الله إلى حركة أمل والتيار الوطني الحر وكل من هو في موقع الحليف للمقاومة، يتصرفون بقلق كبير إزاء الحراك. ويمكن من دون جهد كبير ملاحظة أن الشعارات والهتافات التي سيطرت على المشهد الإعلامي الخارج من الساحات، ركّزت – ولا تزال – على هذا الفريق ورموزه، كما يمكن بسهولة ملاحظة حال القلق، بل وحتى الذعر، التي تسود لدى جمهور هذه القوى في الشارع. ويمكن، أيضاً، ملاحظة أن الناس العاديين الذين يقفون إلى جانب المقاومة، والذين بكّروا في النزول إلى الساحات للمشاركة في الاحتجاجات، خرجوا منها تباعاً بمجرد أن سمعوا ملاحظات مقلقة من السيد حسن نصرالله حيال ما يجري وما يُخطَّط له.

كذلك يمكن، من دون جهد استثنائي، ملاحظة أن وسائل الإعلام والإعلاميين الذين بنوا امبراطورياتهم وشركاتهم الموازية عبر الاستفادة من هذا النظام ومن كل من تعاقب على الحكم فيه، ومعهم جيش من رجال الأعمال العاملين في لبنان وخارجه، يقفون إلى جانب الحراك، بل يتغنون به بلا تردّد. ويفاخرون بحروبهم ضد الفساد، وهم الذين استغلوا كل أنواع التسهيلات المصرفية والإعلانية والقانونية للحصول على مكتسبات لا يمكنهم الحصول عليها في ظروف طبيعية.

اجتماعات لغالبية الجمعيات غير الحكومية في مكاتب للاتحاد الأوروبي والأمم المتحدة والوكالة الأميركية

خارجياً، لم تبق جهة تعادي المقاومة إلا ورحبت بما يجري، من دون أي استثناء. من عواصم سياسية ومؤسسات اقتصادية أو إعلامية أو خلافها. ويذهب كثيرون في المحور السعودي – الأميركي إلى اعتبار ما يجري على أنه مرحلة الانتفاضة ضد النفوذ الإيراني في لبنان (اقرأ حزب الله وسلاح المقاومة). بينما كانت روسيا، ومعها الصين وإيران، تبدي خشية سابقة (نشرت «الأخبار» مقابلة مع السفير الروسي في بيروت قبل اندلاع الحراك حذّر فيها من فوضى تعد لها أميركا في لبنان).

ببساطة، يمكن قراءة ما يعتقده الأطراف من نتائج لهذا الحراك. وهذا ما يجعلهم يرحبون به أو يحذرون منه، من دون أن يعني ذلك أن النتائج ستصيب في نهاية المطاف ما يريده كل منهم. وهذا رهن أداء الأكثر حضوراً ونفوذاً في الساحات، ومدى قدرتهم على تنظيف صفوفهم من اللصوص.

هل من خطة غربية؟

إلى جانب كل ما سبق، وبرغم الحساسية المُبالغ فيها عند مشاركين أو ناشطين في الحراك إزاء الحديث عن استغلال لهم أو وجود مؤامرة، صار من الواجب ذكر العديد من العناصر التي لا يرغب كثيرون في سماعها، ومنها:

أولاً، ما إن انطلق الحراك حتى انطلقت ماكينة عمل فريق الخبراء والناشطين والاختصاصيين المرشحين لتولي مناصب حكومية بديلة. وبعد مرور نحو شهر على الحراك، خرجت الأحاديث إلى العلن، عن اجتماعات عقدت في مكاتب هؤلاء، بحضور ممثلين عن «الجمعية الدولية للمدراء الماليين اللبنانيين -LIFE»، وناشطين ممن كانوا منضوين في مجموعة «بيروت مدينتي» التي خاضت الانتخابات البلدية الأخيرة في العاصمة، إضافة إلى ممثلين عن حزب الكتلة الوطنية بقيادته الجديدة وناشطين عادوا وانضووا في تجمعات مثل «وطني» الذي تتصرّف النائبة بولا يعقوبيان كما لو أنها قائدته، وممثلة عن جمعية «كلنا إرادة» التي تعرّف عن نفسها بأنها مجموعة من الشخصيات اللبنانية العاملة في القطاع الخاص خارج لبنان، وتهتم بأن تشكل «مجموعة ضغط» من أجل الإصلاح السياسي والاقتصادي في لبنان.

قوى 14 آذار تريد نسف التسوية الرئاسية لا النظام لأنها تاريخياً من المستفيدين منه

ولم يكن قد مرّ وقت طويل على انطلاق التجمعات الكبيرة في الساحات، حتى انعقدت الاجتماعات بصورة مختلفة، وأكثر كثافة، بمشاركة غالبية الجمعيات والمنظمات غير الحكومية أو التي يحب روّادها تسمية أنفسهم بالحراك المدني. وكان بعض الاجتماعات يُعقد في مكاتب تخص ممثليات للاتحاد الأوروبي أو الأمم المتحدة أو الوكالة الأميركية للتنمية الدولية، وهي الجهات التي تموّل غالبية هذه الجمعيات. ويحضر اللقاءات إلى جانب ممثلي هذه الجمعيات، موظفون من المؤسسات الغربية والدولية، وفي بعض الاجتماعات حضر دبلوماسيون من رتب متدنية.

خارج لبنان، كانت الحركة تدبّ في ثلاث عواصم رئيسية. في واشنطن، دعت مراكز دراسات أميركية إلى عقد ندوات حول الأزمة اللبنانية، وإرسال رسائل إلى الإدارة الأميركية والكونغرس، إضافة إلى لقاءات عقدها ناشطون من قوى سياسية، بينهم فريق التقى صهر الرئيس الأميركي جاريد كوشنير الذي وعد بنقل الصورة إلى الرئيس دونالد ترامب. وقد تم جمع الوفد اللبناني الذي التقاه من عدة ولايات أميركية. أما في باريس، فإلى جانب التحركات الشعبية التي قامت دعماً للحراك في لبنان، عُقدت سلسلة اجتماعات مع مسؤولين في وزارة الخارجية، وأخرى مع المعنيين بملف لبنان والشرق الأوسط في جهاز الاستخبارات الفرنسية الخارجية الذي يديره السفير الفرنسي الأسبق في لبنان برنارد إيمييه. أما المدينة العربية التي تحسّست حكومتها من النشاط العلني، فكانت إمارة دبي التي رفضت إعطاء الإذن لمجموعة لبنانية بالتظاهر تضامناً مع الحراك الشعبي، ثم نبّهت الحكومة هناك «المتبرعين» من تحويل أي أموال عبر المصارف العاملة في الإمارة إلى لبنان، مع إبراز خشية أن تكون الأموال ذاهبة عن طريق الخطأ إلى جهات معادية.

اللافت للأمر أن مجموعة «life» كانت حاضرة في غالبية هذه الاجتماعات والتحركات. لكن الأهم، هنا، هو أن ممثلي هذه المجموعة سارعوا، منذ اليوم الأول، إلى الحديث عن الحكم البديل. في بيروت أثارت مندوبة «كلنا إرادة»، وآخرون من «بيروت مدينتي»، إمكان الشروع فوراً في خطة لتنظيم إطار تنسيقي، والإعداد لورقة عمل تحت عنوان «حكومة الإنقاذ البديلة». وفشلت مساعي هذه المجموعة في جذب شخصيات وقوى وجماعات مشاركة في الحراك. بينما تعمّدت إبعاد مجموعات أخرى، لا سيما من هم أقرب إلى الحزب الشيوعي. والحجة الدائمة، هي نفسها التي استُخدمت مع الفرنسيين أثناء التحضير لزيارة الموفد الفرنسي، بأن الشيوعيين ليسوا أصحاب نفوذ قوي، وأنه يمكن الاستعانة بشخصيات مدنية واقتصادية تمثلهم، ويكون هؤلاء من أصحاب وجهات النظر الأقل تطرفاً تجاه التغيير الجذري في النظام الاقتصادي.

* غداً: عدة الشغل من الشعارات إلى الأهداف

The neo-colonial corruption of Christian extremists and bankers in Lebanon (2/2)

Lebanese demonstrators gather during an anti-government protest in the northern town of Amioun near the port city of Tripoli on November 8, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Lebanese demonstrators gather during an anti-government protest in the northern town of Amioun near the port city of Tripoli on November 8, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

November 08, 2019

By Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker Blog (cross-posted with Press-TV)

(Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of the books ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the upcoming ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’. He can be reached on Facebook.)

The West and Israel actively thwart democracy all over the Muslim world by fostering myriad forms of corruption – why should we believe it is any different for Lebanon?

Part 1 in this series, Hiding the West’s ongoing neo-colonialism in Lebanon via blaming Iran, analysed the desperate and absurd propaganda that Iran and Hezbollah are the primary targets of Lebanon’s recent anti-corruption protests: Every single Lebanese person I’ve ever asked has said that France is the power behind the scenes.

Shia have long been forced to be a junior, impoverished partner in the dysfunctional Lebanese system. Despite being the democratic majority, they are its biggest victims – isn’t it obviously nonsensical to put the blame on them?

So who has been reaping benefits from the racist, anti-democratic Lebanese structure?

Were Western media to be believed there has also only ever been one armed militia in Lebanon: Hezbollah. I guess the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) was Hezbollah fighting Hezbollah? The main reason that the West’s train only runs one way – on tracks of anti-Iran and anti-Hezbollah propaganda – is because there is not enough paint in the world to whitewash the negative consequences of their decades of support for extreme-right militias, puppets and mafias in Lebanon.

The groups which the West dares not describe are akin to France’s National Front, but with heavy weapons. That’s not hyperbole: French National Front members fought in Lebanon during the Civil War.

The West loves to promote their fabricated “Sunni-Shia conflict”, but the bloodiest and bitterest feud in Lebanon has been between two Maronite Catholic Christian groups, now led by Michel Aoun and Samir Geagea. There are very few column inches devoted to these two groups, despite wreaking so much violence against their own Christian communities and fomenting so much disunity in Lebanon.

The corrupting influence of Israeli-backed Christian extremists and hereditary power

The problem is not their religion, of course, but political ideologies which are indisputably constructed around Western fascism.

They lead Lebanese corruption not because of their religion, of course, but because history proves that they have led the segment of Lebanese society which has been the most privileged by the meddling capitalist-imperialist forces of the 19th-21st centuries. This is not an article to denigrate Lebanese Christianity in the slightest, but to accurately recount Western imperialism and to debunk its current propaganda.

Both Aoun and Geagea spent decades serving the raw power of the Phalangist paramilitary movement, which was modelled and named after the Spanish fascist party. It existed to fight socialism and to enforce policies which segregated wealth and power based on religion. Like all fascist movements it claimed a racist scientific basis: it espouses that Maronite Christians are “Phoenicians” and thus genetically different Arabs.

Geagea is widely considered the biggest and most treacherous criminal in Lebanon – he was the only warlord who went to jail in the 1990s – and yet most outside of Lebanon do not know his name. He was a commander in the most vicious militia in Lebanon for decades because of this ruthless ideology, and also because they were armed, trained and fought with the Israeli Defense Forces. Fighting alongside Israelis against their fellow Lebanese – what can be more corrupt than this? In terms of death tolls these Israeli-backed Christian militias have been responsible for the worst crimes in wartime Lebanon, with rapes, torture and mass murder at places like Sabra, Chatilla and Karantina.

It would be wrong to take away from these facts that “Lebanese Christians are more brutal and corrupt than Lebanese Muslims” – the point is that these neo-fascist, Israeli-allied groups have proven themselves to be incompatible with modern democracy in Lebanon. It should be little wonder why the mainstream media doesn’t like to mention Geagea, who is now reportedly funded by the US and the Saudis.

These far-right Christian militias were opposed by the Lebanese army, which Christian powers always made purposely weak out of fear of the democratic Muslim majority. Furthermore, the Lebanese army has customarily been commanded by a Maronite, with Christians also historically comprising the officer posts.

Michel Aoun was a commander, but he was not an extreme sectarian like Geagea. Nor was Aoun interested in money – his nickname, “Napol-Aoun” reflects his lust for power and titles. However, Aoun’s son-in-law, Gebran Bassil, to whom Aoun controversially bequeathed the presidency of his party, is a reputed money shark who now reportedly manipulates the dottering Aoun.

The Hariris, the Aoun clan, Walid Jumblatt (whose family has perched atop a hereditary Druze hierarchy for centuries, creating their own corrupt patronage system) and Geagea (the former “monk-warrior” married into a hugely rich and powerful family) – it cannot be stressed enough that these familial, hereditary, inequality-rooted “clan powers” are an enormous component of the multi-generational corruption problems in Lebanon which protesters are loudly decrying.

Maronite control over the army has been diluted but not ended: a council of generals – six Christians and six Muslims – now reigns. It’s an improvement, and the commander cannot act unilaterally, but still reflects long-standing Christian domination and manipulation of the Lebanese state.

Maronite control over the army is obviously a neo-colonial concoction, but it’s also a recipe for total disunity and insecurity, something which Israel has been quite pleased about. Certainly, a representative, patriotic, real Lebanese army would be anti-Zionist, as the far-right Christian faction could only necessarily be a minority.

What Syria was able to do during their occupation was to end the power of these minority militias and provide military security. This weakening of the Franco-Israeli axis, along with the advent of Hezbollah, allowed Lebanon to finally stabilise itself in preparation for the next logical step it is now on the brink of for the first time ever: true, modern democracy.

However, Lebanon has to deal with the problems of sectarianism as well as the huge obstacle faced by all pro-democratic protesters worldwide today – bankers.

Geagea, the central bank and Western-allied corruption

After Aoun and Geagea returned from over a decade of exile and prison, respectively, in 2005 they instituted what we can fairly call “neo-Phalangism”: profiting from the corrupt patronage systems which they violently established during decades of Western-backed, Christian sectarianism.

As Geagea once said: Samir Geagea the fighter died in prison. Indeed – he is now a resented politician who seeks to preserve an unjust status quo. Geagea’s four ministers just resigned from the government, and yet it was a purely cosmetic move designed to distract from his own long-running corruption allegations — his party was rebuffed when they tried to take part in protests.

It shouldn’t be surprising that he immediately gave his support to the Lebanese Armed Forces – he is a pro-Maronite sectarian at heart, and his adversary Aoun has aged out. Geagea obviously supports calls for the army to “restore order” because re-militarising Lebanon would increase his power the most. It is not as if Geagea’s history shows that he wants true democracy for all Lebanese, and this fundamentally puts him at odds with Lebanon’s tolerant youth class and seemingly the majority of every other class.

Geagea’s other main ally shouldn’t be surprising, given his Western ties: the central bank.

Riad Salamé has headed Lebanon’s central bank for a stunning 26 years. The former Merrill Lynch employee and Maronite (giving Maronites long-running control over the army and the banks) has totally escaped criticism despite obviously atrocious economic results: On his watch Lebanon has become one of the most unequal societies in the world, pushed 25% of the country below the poverty line, and acquired one of the largest national debts in the world (mostly owned by Lebanese). Lebanese banks do their utmost to thwart Hezbollah, and to compound-grow the wealth of their 1%.

This lack of criticism for central bankers is entirely in keeping with every other Western-allied central banker: no matter what happens, they are never held accountable nor even criticised precisely because their neoliberal policies invariably succeed in increasing the wealth of the 1% and decreasing the wealth of the average person.

The role of the central banker in the West and their allies is – as modern Europe shows – more important than which party takes parliament or which politician wins the presidency. It is even more important in Lebanon where banking is the only robust economic sector. Foolishly, the Lebanese follows neoliberal dogma and makes their central bank independent from their government, unlike China, Iran and other modern nations.

On a personal level Salamé is the personification of the lavish-living fat cat, with billions in family wealth. He does not fear any criticism, much less legal reprisals – what he fears is that Washington and Tel Aviv’s orders to strangle Hezbollah will eventually provoke retaliation.

In 2017 Geagea made the Lebanese central bank’s true master perfectly clear, according to the Lebanese daily L’Orient-Le Jour: “

Lebanese banks conform totally to the directives of the Central Bank, which coordinates perfectly with the US Department of the Treasury.…

The crimes and failures of Geagea and Salamé are so rarely reported on during Western coverage of the corruption protests because they are the links between Washington, Israel, Paris and the incredibly corrupt 1% in Lebanon. The idea that Hezbollah could be the target of corruption protests more than that quartet beggars belief.

The West prefers to act as if Western-backed Lebanese sectarianism only extends to the legislative and executive branches, but for decades money and guns have remained under the control of the Christians so they could build corrupt patronage networks alongside the Western 1%. That the Hariris had to go to Saudi Arabia to make their money is significant. The Shia and Hezbollah have no money, of course, and no friends in Western central banks.

The problem, again, is not Christians or Christianity but the aristocratic (bourgeois) structures penned by Westerners, who also supported fascist and corrupt sectarian militias, and who are all-too willing to support such groups today if the status quo is threatened in an Israeli neighbour full of Palestinian refugees.

Lebanon’s Christian community must concede that it has been given anti-democratic, preferential treatment for a century, and that this has been a huge factor in creating endemic corruption and injustice. However, we must not forget the sky-high inequality of Lebanese society: many poor, not well-connected Christians are also longtime economic and social victims of this system which all Lebanese are saying they now want changed.

Pointing out the role of Christians in Lebanese corruption is not racism on my part because it is the accurate history of colonialism in Lebanon. Conversely, the total lack of accuracy in similar Western allegations towards Hezbollah and Iran is precisely why they are pathetic, racist, scapegoating distractions.

It should be clear that Lebanon cannot become a modern democracy when all their key institutions – and we must not forget to include the military and the central bank – remain so sectarian in nature.

What Lebanon needs is not more sectarianism or even technocratism – the “European solution”, which inherently rejects a role for public opinion in shaping public policy – but a meritocracy. Unfortunately, many are pushing Lebanon to continue following the Western model, which is based on ruthless power (capitalism), arrogance (imperialism), racism (sectarianism and Islamophobia) and hypocrisy (liberty for those with enough money to buy it).

Hiding the West’s ongoing neo-colonialism in Lebanon via blaming Iran (1/2)

 

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by Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker Blog

I have spoken with many in France’s huge expatriate Lebanese community – and from all groups – and not a single person has ever claimed that Iran was the power behind the scenes in Lebanon. Without fail I was told that this title belongs to France.

It shouldn’t be surprising: France completely devised modern Lebanon.

Many Lebanese don’t like to be reminded of this, but Lebanon is an artificial nation which France constructed entirely on the basis of racism: just as Zionists to the south wanted a “Jewish nation”, Lebanon was hacked off of Syria in 1920 to create a new Christian-majority nation.

That’s a “no longer relevant” tale of divide and conquer to some, even though a few centenarians may still remember the actual event.

France also devised Lebanon’s sectarianism-enshrining, woefully unmodern constitution, which has ensured divisive identity politics ever since.

Thus, just as Israel is a little part of the USA in the Middle East, Lebanon is the older, French version. The saying, “Beirut is the Paris of the Middle East” could not be more correct.

And yet, were an alien to visit and read Western mainstream media coverage of the recent protests in Lebanon it would not imagine that France ever had any role in Lebanon, much less a prominent role there today.

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Instead, Western headlines and reports all push the totally absurd claim that Iran has somehow become the neo-colonial master in Lebanon. Somehow – and via the poorest, most marginalised sectors of Lebanese society, no less – Iran has been able to usurp a century of French power.

Furthermore, despite the century of French involvement it is not France but Iran which is responsible for the corruption that has pushed so many Lebanese into the streets.

Apparently Iran took power and also became corrupt so very quickly that the Lebanese themselves didn’t even realise it! The idea is laughable.

Or perhaps: the Lebanese themselves don’t know what is actually going on in their own country – the West knows better.

These are the kind of ideas only a Westerner could believe.

The reason is simple: advertising works. Astute observers already realise that when it comes to the Middle East every problem – big or small – is blamed on Iran in the West.

However, what’s rarely examined is how this very real Iranophobia allows the West to obscure places where their neo-colonial machinations could not be more obvious, such as in Lebanon.

If it’s not Iran then it must be Hezbollah, but it can never be France

If the West cannot destroy Iran in 2019 they will happily settle for destroying Hezbollah.

There are two types of political parties: those which citizens fight to destroy (like the Yellow Vests and the three mainstream political parties in France), and those which citizens fight to preserve. There is no doubt which camp Hezbollah belongs to.

Hezbollah is the “Party of God” and the party of Lebanon’s poor, but many insist they are not a political party but a larger “resistance movement”. Amal is a political party allied with Hezbollah, and Western media coverage is doing their best to lump both in with the older, Western-aping, billionaire-backed parties which are the true cause of the recent corruption protests.

Hezbollah has always said they would never turn their guns on Lebanese, and even if the West doesn’t want anyone to know that the Lebanese certainly do. They know that without Hezbollah southern Lebanon would be called “Northern Israel” today. Or, nearly as badly, it would still be the State of Free Lebanon, that stillborn Israeli client from the early 1980s which no country besides Israel recognised. (That’s just more “no longer relevant” history to Western mainstream journalists of course.)

The West hates Hezbollah for the same reason Lebanon supports it – Hezbollah is what ensures Lebanon’s security from repeated, deadly, infrastructure-ruining Israeli invasions. After the 2006 war with Israel most Sunnis and an estimated 50% of Christians supported Hezbollah – that’s hardly sectarian hatred.

After saving the Lebanese from Israel on multiple occasions, the undeniable and enduring popular support of Hezbollah and Amal comes from their education, health and other social welfare organisations. Southern Lebanon is most notable not for being mostly Shia but for its extreme poverty, which was the result of decades of neglect from Paris-allied Beirut. Hezbollah and Amal helped reverse that, to the extreme embarrassment and consternation of France, Israel and their many sectarian militias, mafias and political puppets in Lebanon.

And yet despite being so late arriving to power, despite being anchored in the poorest regions, despite decades of neglect from Beirut, and despite illegal and inhuman US-led sanctions on Hezbollah… the West wants us to believe that Hezbollah and Amal are the ones responsible for the corruption at the heart of the current protests!

One has to wonder: if these two groups are so corrupt then where is the money, because it is certainly not in southern Lebanon?

The idea that Hassan Nasrallah, who can make a fair claim to be the most popular Muslim leader and hero in the world currently, is about to fall due to decades of corruption in Beirut is an absolute fantasy which can only be taken seriously in the West.

Again, what we have here is another situation where Western propaganda is aiming to manipulate legitimate unhappiness created by long-tenured Western client politicians in order to deny the West’s neo-colonial culpability. The legitimate demands in Yemen, Palestine and Iraq are all being portrayed as being caused by an Iranian neo-colonialism which does not exist, when the real culprit is the very real and very accurately-named Western neo-colonialism.

The West, of course, may speak of neoliberalism but never neo-colonialism.

The long-running source of corruption in Lebanon: Western-allied, neoliberal & neocolonial puppets

I would imagine that up to this point a Lebanese reader has been quite bored – I have only relayed things which he or she already knows quite well. But perhaps a Lebanese expatriate in Brazil or the United States – who cannot visit Lebanon so easily and who foolishly relies on the Western mainstream media – may not know some of these things.

What most Lebanese know quite intimately is that they no longer have a “real” economy. Their export capabilities are so woeful that scrap iron was their third top export in 2017, at just $179 million.

This is unsurprising, because Lebanon’s longtime function was to serve as France’s Middle East banking haven, with Switzerland-level secrecy laws dating to 1956. However, they have increasingly been replaced by Qatar and other Persian Gulf nations.

Banking is still a strong sector of their economy, but now mainly due to the huge number of remittances (only 4 million Lebanese live in Lebanon but there are an astonishing 8-12 million living as expatriates).

All this wouldn’t be a problem if Lebanon had a strong government to centrally plan and direct their limited economy, and also a government which cared for their 99% instead of their 1%, but Lebanon has neither of these things. The reason for this has nothing to do with Hezbollah, but everything to do with the real root of the current protests.

After the Taif Accords in 1989 and the fall of the USSR in 1991, Rafic Hariri, who became Lebanon’s richest man/prime minister thanks to earning billions via construction with the House of Saud, embarked on the massive “Horizon 2000” privatisation plan, which sold off the major industries and real estate of the Lebanese people. Hariri, in classic Western fashion, privatised the people’s wealth mainly to himself, but also to French companies.

Hariri’s “There Is No Alternative” (to neoliberalism) plan also included massive efforts to attract foreign investment, which ballooned the national debt – the funds were not spent on the poor, of course, but lined the pockets of the rich. France is always the one who organises the regular international debt conferences to restructure Lebanon’s debt, reaping compound interest payments all the while. Rafic Hariri was yet another Arab aristocrat who yoked his people to Western debtors for generations.

Hariri also banned protests and encouraged bribes and kickbacks to the army in order to continue his neoliberalisation drive totally unfettered.

For these reasons (i.e., he made them rich via ruthless self-interest) the assassinated Hariri is worshiped in the West as a true martyr to the neoliberal faith, whereas his corruption in Lebanon was infamous and resented. The most common phrase about him is, “He treated the state as if it was his home.”

His son Saad could have hardly done worse, but he certainly has tried: $16 million to a bikini model mistress, getting abducted by the Saudis and then resigning on their TV, etc. Saad Hariri has held so very many closed-door meetings with France’s president over the past decade that I truly just got tired of covering it for PressTV – I think he must have a private room at Élysée Palace?

What I have described is three decades of oligarchic economic corruption, mismanagement and economic far-right neglect, and here is the bill: At 158% Lebanon’s debt to GDP ratio is the 5th highest in the world, just behind Greece.

Few commentators go further, however: Lebanon’s external debt to GDP ratio is only around 45%, implying that there is a lot of money in Lebanon but held – in an inherently corrupt manner – by extremely few hands. And this is certainly the case: Lebanon’s richest 0.1% own the same amount of wealth as the poorest 50 percent, making Lebanon one of the most unequal countries in the world.

Lebanon is thus an economically rudderless, economically unequal and economically corrupt nation, and it is quite obvious that none of this happened because of late-arriving, poor-loving Hezbollah or Iran.

It is absolutely preposterous to believe that Iran or Hezbollah is the source of Lebanon’s inequality and corruption, and thus that they could be the true target of protesters. The Western Mainstream Media – mostly privately owned, incredibly chauvinistic – is trying to sell an anti-Iran/anti-Hezbollah conspiracy even though the Lebanese themselves will not be fooled by it for one second.

The West, especially France, created, applauded and profited Lebanon’s economic corruption via their unstinting support for the corrupt and despised Hariris, and also Israel’s expatriate-inducing, infrastructure destroying invasions. France’s role in saddling Lebanon’s economy with two million of Syrian and Palestinian refugees is also glossed over by the Western mainstream media, of course.

I hope the true profiteers of Lebanon’s misery will finally be called to account. The Lebanese know who has robbed them, and it is not Hezbollah, Nasrallah or Iran.

Part 2 in this series will give more details on the corrupt Lebanese politicians of today, most of who are associated with violent militias armed and funded by France and/or Israel.

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of the books I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China and the upcoming Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism. He can be reached on Facebook.

 

السذاجة

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ابراهيم الأمين

الثاني من نوفمبر 2019

من باب التوضيح: الناس المقهورون الذين نزلوا وينزلون الى الشارع من حقهم ليس إسقاط الحكم والحكومة فحسب، بل قلب هذا النظام من أساسه. ومن حقهم القيام بكل ما يلزم لاستعادة حقوقهم وحمايتها، بل وعليهم الاعتراض الدائم من أجل إسقاط هذه التركيبة والصيغة الطائفية، والذهاب نحو دولة مدنية حقيقية، فيها قوانين واضحة وزجرية تمنع عودة المرض الطائفي الكارثي. ومن باب التنويه أيضاً، فإن من نزلوا وينزلون الى الشارع من حقهم قول كل شيء، وفعل أي شيء، ورفع أي شعار يخدم قضيتهم.

وما هو ملازم، في هذه الحالة، رسم علامة استفهام حول كل أبناء النظام الذين ينضمّون الى الحراك، متضامنين أو داعمين أو مساعدين. لأنه في لحظة الانفعال التي لا تزال تتحكّم بحشد من الانتهازيين والمراهقين، يتحول الأمر الى سذاجة تقارب حدّ من يغلق عينيه عمّا يدور حوله، وحول العمل الجاري من أجل استغلال قضيته لأهداف أخرى.

وللسذاجة فصولها في مقاربة بعض التطورات والوقائع المتصلة بما يجري منذ عشرين يوماً. واقتراب موعد تأليف الحكومة سيصدم معظم المشاركين في الحراك، عندما يسمعون أسماء المرشحين لتمثيلهم في الحكومة وكيفية اختيارهم، وكيف سيتم الترويج لهم تباعاً. وهؤلاء يتوزّعون على منظمات العمل المدني (مدني!!)، الى جانب خبراء الأحزاب «غير المتطرفة». ويمكن قراءة بعض الأسماء في اللائحة، لتجد مرشحي «بيروت مدينتي» و«حزب سبعة» الى «ناشطي» المنظمات الداعمة لحقوق الإنسان ورفض العنف، مروراً برجال سنسمع أنهم أهل قانون واستقامة لأنهم حصلوا على ورقة مبايعة وقّعها فضلو خوري، ما غيره… وسيواصل «المفاوضون الحقيقيون» استبعاد أي رمز من رموز اليسار الحقيقي، لأنه «متطرف يريد تحطيم الدولة». وسيتم استبعاد أي علماني حقيقي لأنه «يعرّض التركيبة اللبنانية للاهتزاز».

وللسذاجة في عدم مراقبة ما يجري من حول الحراك فصولها الغريبة. ولنأخذ مثلاً ما تفعله السفارات الغربية.

السفيرة الأميركية اليزابيت ريتشارد ملّت الانتظار في بيروت منذ انتخاب الرئيس دونالد ترامب، وهي تعاني الأمرّين. من جهة، لم تعد سفارتها مصدر القرارات الأميركية بشأن لبنان. وهي تستمر في تسقّط الأخبار عن موعد اختيار من يخلفها في منصبها. ومن جهة ثانية، هي مضطرة الى الاستماع الى اللبنانيين على أنواعهم، وتجيبهم بقليل من الكلمات وكثير من الغمزات والضحكات، وتترك لهم التفسير، علماً بأن مساعدين لها، وبينهم من يتولى مهمات غير دبلوماسية لكنه يحمل صفة دبلوماسي، يتولون الشرح بإسهاب. لكن للسفيرة، كما كل الدبلوماسيين في لبنان، نظرتهم الى السياسيين اللبنانيين. وهي نظرة غير محترمة مع الأسف، ليس بسبب الفوقية الأميركية فحسب، بل بسبب الدونية المفرطة عند جماعات لبنانية معتنقة لثقافة القناصل منذ زمن بعيد. وما تتمناه ريتشارد قبل مغادرتها بيروت غير قابل للتحقق، لأن من ترغب في الاجتماع به (يعرف بعض القريبين منها أنها تقول إنها ترغب في ذلك من كل قلبها) ليس من النوع الذي يرحب بها!
السفيرة التي تشرح أحياناً أنها من فئة الناس العاديين في بلادها، تهتم أيضاً لـ«مشاعر المواطنين الرافضين للفساد». وهي التقت قبل أيام، برفقة مسؤولين من السفارة، شخصيات لبنانية؛ بينها مصرفي تعرف أنه على صلة بقوى 8 آذار. لكنها تميّزه لناحية أنه يفضل حياة أميركا على حياة إيران. وتعرف أن روح عمله مرتبطة بقرار وزارة الخزانة الأميركية. وتعرف أن ميوله الشخصية ليست حيث يقف الآن سياسياً. لكنها تفضل أن تستمع منه الى بعض المعطيات، كما بعض الأسئلة، التي تفيدها في بعض الأمور. وتستمتع بتحميله كمية من الرسائل التي تعرف أنه سيحملها على وجه السرعة الى مرجعيته السياسية حيث القناة المباشرة مع حزب الله.

المصرفي الشطّور فعل كل ما توقّعته السفيرة تقريباً. عاد بمحضر عن اللقاء. من كان موجوداً وماذا دار في اللقاء، ومن سأل ومن أجاب ومن قدم إيضاحات. وكيف كانت تعابير الوجوه، وخصوصاً أنه استفاد من وجود إعلامي في اللقاء كان له دور في الحوارات والإيضاحات. لكن المهم، أن موجز ما نقله المصرفي هو الآتي:

ــــ حرص الفريق الدبلوماسي الأميركي على نفي «أي علاقة لنا بما يجري، لكن تحقيق المطالب يحتاج ربما الى استمرار التظاهرات وأي أساليب احتجاج أخرى، بما فيها قطع الطرقات». وعبّر الفريق عن قلقه، على صيغة أسئلة، عن احتمال حصول «توتر مسيحي ــــ مسيحي في حال تركّز الحراك في مناطق معينة وانحساره بعيداً عن جمهور أو مناطق حزب الله».

«رسائل التحذير الضرورية»، عندما تأتي من سفارات ودول، لا يكون فيها أدنى حرص على سلامة المواطنين

ــ يملك فريق السفارة نظرة سلبية الى الوضع الاقتصادي والمالي، ويتحدّث عن صعوبة في توقع خروج لبنان من الأزمة (بالمناسبة، قال سفير أوروبي بارز إن تقديرات واقعية تقول إن لبنان يحتاج الى 5 سنوات على الأقل للخروج من النفق الاقتصادي الحالي إن باشر إصلاحات كبيرة). لكن الفريق الدبلوماسي الأميركي يرى «إيجابية» لناحية أن «واقع لبنان اليوم سيجعل المسؤولية تقع على ميشال عون وحزب الله».

ـــ إشادة متكررة بقائد الجيش العماد جوزيف عون «الذي يبدو أنه أفضل من يعرف لبنان من بين جميع المسؤولين، برغم أن ميشال عون هو من اختاره لمنصبه، لكن واشنطن تتحمّس له بعدما تعرفت إليه وهو محلّ احترام المؤسسات الأميركية وستواصل دعمه في منصبه ودعم الجيش».

ــــ اعتبار أن دور وسائل الإعلام يمكن أن يتجاوز ما تحتاج إليه السلطة، بل يمكن أن يكون رافعة ليس فقط لشعارات بل لشخصيات من خارج النادي المعروف. وفي تدقيق جانبي، مع أحد المسؤولين في السفارة الأميركية، يكون الحرص واضحاً حيال «انتباه» الإعلام الى «منع الترويج لمحتجّين متطرفين يريدون تغييراً جذرياً لتركيبة النظام، لأن الواقعية تفترض العمل على تغيير سياسة النظام وسلوكه، ومعرفة أن الإصلاحات المطلوبة هدفها لا يتعلق حصراً بإرضاء الناس، بل باستعادة ثقة المجتمع الدولي».

لكن الأمر لا يتوقف هنا بالنسبة إلى الإحاطة الخارجية بالحدث اللبناني. لأن ما هو أهم يتعلق بدور الأجهزة الأمنية والعسكرية. و«رسائل التحذير الضرورية» بعدم التعرض للمتظاهرين، عندما تأتي من سفارات ودول، لا يكون فيها أدنى حرص على حياة المواطنين وسلامتهم. وحتى لا يجتهد أحد، يكون الجواب الغربي واضحاً: «ممنوع على القوى الأمنية القيام بأي نشاط أو إجراء من شأنه إحباط الاعتراضات القائمة، والمطلوب هو احتواء التحرك لمنع استغلاله من الطرف الآخر»، علماً بأن هذه «النصائح» تترافق مع مطالبات بإجراءات خاصة لحماية السفارات والقنصليات والمؤسسات الغربية، وتسهيل مغادرة من يشاء من الرعايا الأجانب. بالمناسبة، هل هناك من سأل كيف ترك الجيش (والقوى الأمنية) الطرقات مقفلة أمام مسافرين، بينما تولى تأمين خط سير آمن لقافلات تنقل رعايا السعودية وغيرها؟ بالإضافة الى عدد كبير من الأسئلة حول دور الأجهزة الأمنية في بعض الأنشطة وخصوصاً ملف قطع الطرقات أو منع فتح بعضها.

لكن السذاجة تأخذ منحى أكثر خطورة، عندما لا ينتبه الناس المقهورون الى من بات يقف «إلى جانبهم» في الحراك. تذكّروا هذه اللائحة: القوات اللبنانية، حزب الكتائب، وليد جنبلاط والحزب الاشتراكي، قيادات 14 آذار، فؤاد السنيورة ورضوان السيد مع كامل فريق الانقلاب المستقبلي على سعد الحريري، قيادة الجيش وقيادة قوى الأمن الداخلي، الجماعة الإسلامية، جميع المنظمات غير الحكومية وخصوصاً تلك المموّلة من حكومات وجهات غربية، الجامعة الأميركية والجامعة اليسوعية، أرباب الفساد من «المتبرعين» من أصحاب شركات الترابة والاسفلت، وحشد المقاولين وممثلي الشركات الناشطة في الأعمال التجارية العامة… وصولاً الى الولايات المتحدة وفرنسا وبريطانيا والسعودية والإمارات العربية المتحدة وقطر وتركيا… ومحمد دحلان!

السذاجة هي في الإصرار على عدم رؤية كل هؤلاء، وعدم القطع بينهم وبين الحراك. فبقاؤهم مؤثرين على المسرح، سيعني ضياع اللحظة، وتبديد السبل التي تسمح بالوصول إلى الأهداف التي من اجلها خرج الناس إلى الشوارع.

Iranian Company Replaces China in South Pars Project: Minister

Iranian Company Replaces China in South Pars Project: Minister

October, 06, 2019 – 14:15

TEHRAN (Tasnim)

Iranian company PetroPars has taken over a project on development of phase 11 of the country’s South Pars gas field as a Chinese contractor dropped out of the project, oil minister announced.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said PetroPars has undertaken to carry out the unfinished project to develop phase 11 of South Pars gas field after the Chinese contractor left the project.

The Iranian company is going to install the first jacket (steel frame supporting the deck of a fixed offshore platform) in the phase 11 of South Pars to produce 500 million cubic feet of gas by March 2020, Zanganeh added.

In July 2017, French company Total signed a $1 billion deal to develop the South Pars gas field in cooperation with China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) and PetroPars.

But the French pulled out of the deal in May 2018 in light of a decision by US President Donald Trump to pull his country out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Later, the CNPC formally replaced Total in the project, but it suspended investment in Iran later in December 2018 in response to US pressures.

The investment halt followed four rounds of talks between Chinese officials and senior US authorities who urged CNPC to refrain from injecting fresh financing in Iran.

South Pars is the world’s largest gas field.

Top Economy stories

Switzerland: the political system and the cold arrogance

by Paul Schmutz Schaller for the Saker Blog

Switzerland: the political system and the cold arrogance

Since more than 125 years, Switzerland has a very interesting tradition of popular votes. There are three situations which lead to a popular vote:

a) (Small) changes of the constitution, proposed by the government and approved by the parliament.

b) (Small) changes of the constitution, proposed by a popular initiative, which needs to collect 100’000 signatures (not online!); actually, there are 5.44 millions who are entitled to vote so that 100’000 are about 1.84% of all.

c) New laws or changes of existing laws, proposed by the government and approved by the parliament, if there is a popular referendum, which needs 50’000 signatures.

In the last 10 years, there were 85 popular votes, with very diverse subjects, for example: social and economical questions; questions of immigration and asylum; questions of environment, energy, and nutrition; taxes; transport (roads, railways); medical questions; security and army. Of the 85 popular votes, 16 were of category a) (13 of them were approved in the vote), 46 of category b) (6 of them were approved, against the recommendation of the government), and 23 of category c) (in 16 cases, the proposal of the government and the parliament was approved). Hence, in 16 of the 85 votes, the government did not win. The participation was quite variable; usually, it is between 40% and 50%.

Please do not think that these votes are something like “people” against “elite” or “working class” against “monopoly capital”. Such votes do not exist in reality, at least not in Switzerland. Nearly each vote is the result of some divisions among the ruling classes. Each side tries to convince the population that it supports the real interests of the people while the other side defends only egoistic, particular interests. Of course, in most cases, there are huge differences concerning the financial resources of the two sides. Moreover, the press is in the hands of very few people (as usually in Western countries), which gives them a big advantage. Nevertheless, they are not omnipotent and it arrives that their money and their propaganda is not well targeted.

By the way, the results are usually not overwhelming clear. Only sometimes for subjects of category a) since in these cases, a popular vote is necessary even if there is no serious political opposition. Aside from such cases, there was only one popular vote in the last 10 years, where the losing side got less than 20%. The subject was a popular initiative of a small political party, which demanded a radical change of the tax system without being able to simply explain how the new tax system would work. They got only 8%. On the other hand, close results occur regularly.

Some examples of popular votes

Let me now discuss some examples. As in many other countries, the financing of the retirement is a problem in Switzerland, due to important changes in the age structure of the population. Generally speaking, I think that the Swiss population is quite aware of the problem. However, obviously, right wing parties and left wing parties greatly differ on the method how to solve this problem. In this situation, a quite creative idea emerged in the parliament. In 2017, the government had lost three popular votes, two concerning the retirement and one concerning tax relief for commercial enterprises. The first two were lost mainly due to the opposition of right wing parties while the third was opposed by left wing parties. So, the parliament proposed a combination of the two subjects, considering that both sides would have some advantages as well as disadvantages. This proposition was clearly accepted in a popular vote in 2019.

The immigration question has occupied the Swiss population since at least 50 years. In 2014, a popular initiative for the limitation of the immigration was accepted in a popular vote by 50,3% against 49,7%. This was almost a political sensation, which had some immediate consequences. Since the result was close and very unexpected, some people quite quickly proposed to repeat the popular vote. However, one must underline that these were rather amateurish people, politically speaking. No important political party, which was among the losers of the vote, gave support to this proposition and a second popular vote will not happen. On the other hand, popular initiatives are usually formulated quite generally and it is up to the parliament to elaborate the precise laws. In this case, the winners of the vote were not satisfied with the elaboration of the parliament.

Switzerland has the reputation of being a beautiful country and I shall not say the contrary. Protection of the environment has a long popular tradition in this country. In 2012, a popular initiative was accepted with 50.6% against 49.4%. It demanded the restriction of the construction of secondary residences, which was mainly a problem in the touristic regions of the Alps. This result also was a huge surprise. In this case, there were no demands for repeating the vote; however, again, the winners were not completely satisfied with the successive elaboration of the laws by the parliament.

In a popular vote in 2014, it was rejected that Switzerland buys new fighter jets. This also was an important defeat for the government. Many Swiss think that fighter jets are expensive prestige objects. Clearly, the subject is not closed and more popular votes will come. I wonder whether the recent experiences with Yemen and Saudi Arabia will have some influence.

My last example is from 2013 where a popular initiative – called fat cat initiative – was accepted with 68,0%. In the history of Switzerland, this was the highest score for a popular initiative which was not supported by the government. The subject turned around the excessive salaries of top managers. The vote was a kind of protest against the parallel world in Switzerland, formed by the top managers of big enterprises and their sponsors. Ordinary Swiss people have no access to this world, which functions in its own way. I would think that few people have the illusion that the acceptance of this popular initiative will change much. But it was a warning to this parallel world, indicating that the population is not completely defenceless against them.

In the light of the Swiss experiences, let me make some comments about the most famous popular vote in the world of the last years, namely the vote on Brexit of June 2016. Recall that the participation was 72.2% and the result was 51.9% to 48.1%. In the international press, this was characterized as a close vote. Moreover, prominent politicians, for example former prime minister Blair, almost immediately demanded a repetition of the vote, based among other things on online petitions. From my point of view, this all is nonsense. A difference of 3.8% cannot be judged as close, considering also the high participation and the fact that the British government was against Brexit. The actual prime minister Johnson may be what he is, but for me, his main argument – that one has to respect the popular vote on Brexit – is completely legitimate.

A government of national unity

The Swiss government consists of seven members, called federal council. In principle, each one has the same power; the president changes each year by a rotation principle. Federal councils are elected by the parliament. As a consequence of the system of popular votes, the Swiss government is a government of national unity, not by law, but by tradition. Important political forces are integrated in this way. In the last 80 years, there are three essential examples. Beginning in 1943, the worker and trade union movement was integrated and has – since 1959 – two members of the government. Since 1971, Swiss women are entitled to vote and now, a Swiss government without women is unthinkable (actually 3 of the 7 are women). In connexion with the problems of immigration, the Swiss party with the clearest position against exaggerated immigration became the most important party. As a consequence, this party has now 2 members of the government.

Again from a Swiss point of view, the political system in France is not effective. It systematically excludes large parts of the population, in particular the parties of Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon. It is obvious for me that the protest movement of the “Gilets Jaunes” is a consequence of this exclusion, provoked by the political system.

The next elections for the Swiss parliament will be on 20 October 2019. In December 2019, the new parliament will elect or re-elect the 7 federal councils. Concerning the parliament elections, everybody expects important gains for the green and ecological parties. This will then raise the question whether one of the federal councils should be from an ecological party. Such questions are among the most discussed and most interesting in Swiss politics.

Generally speaking, the Swiss population is very content with the political system. Usually, the approval rating of the government is much higher in Switzerland than in other Western countries.

Relations with the European Union (EU)

Switzerland is not a member of the EU, but is surrounded by countries of the EU. Therefore, the relations with the EU are crucial. Some 25 years ago, the EU was quite popular in Switzerland. But this has very much changed. Today, it is merely seen as a necessary evil to have good relations with the EU. Paradoxically, the majority in Switzerland seems however to be opposed that other countries leave the EU.

Recently, the Swiss government has negotiated a new bundle of treatises with the EU. For the EU, the subject seems to be settled. However, in Switzerland, the result of the negotiations will have no chance in a popular vote (which necessarily will be held). The Swiss government is aware of this situation and looks for some improvements. I must say that I am looking forward to a confrontation between the Swiss population and the EU concerning these new treatises.

Why are there dissidents in Switzerland?

One cannot say that the Swiss political system is bad. As I said, the country is quite beautiful and, moreover, quite rich, modern, and open to the world. So, why are we not all happy? Why are there dissidents like me? Of course, I can only give my own explications. By the way, if you read “About the Saker” on this website, you will easily conclude that the Saker is a Swiss citizen, but not particularly happy about his experiences in Switzerland – to say the least.

From an abstract point of view, you can say that Switzerland is a typical Western country. Take as an example the fact that the “approval rating” in the Swiss population of countries like Russia, Iran, or Syria is very small. And since the case of the Occident in the world is utterly unfair, it is only logical that you become a dissident if you live in a Western country. Ok, this is a simple formula, which moreover is not wrong. However, in some sense, it completely misses the point. I claim that nobody becomes a dissident just by rational reflection. What really matter are life experience and a protracted confrontation with the society.

I would say that a dissident is somebody who expects nothing more from his or her country. Who no longer looks for being integrated. Not because of revenge, but because of he or she has tried hard for some reasonable time, but did not find any possible way. Accordingly, I completely lost my faith in Switzerland. I would not longer appreciate being identified with Switzerland. I owe nothing to this country. Ok, I admit that I was disappointed when Roger Federer lost the Wimbledon final despite having match points. And I would support Swiss football team (soccer, for Americans) against most other countries, including China and Russia (but not against Syria, Iran, or Venezuela). But this is more nostalgia, than anything else.

In fact, I consider Switzerland as a boring country. No positive dreams, no ideals, no engagement, no ideas, not even serious discussions. Only chilling defence of the achievements – which, in principle, is not wrong, but the problem is the “only”. And above all, an intolerable arrogance against all that is not glorifying Western hegemony.

“But you have the right of expressing all this criticism.” I hear this argument since 50 years. But only recently, I understood what is thoroughly wrong with it. It suggests that criticism is the aim. But no, I was not born for criticizing. Looking for critics was never my first reaction, except maybe very occasionally in my youth. Ok, I had my own ideas – but for constructive reasons. What I was looking for was the opportunity to contribute to the society as well as possible. But again and again, I was frustrated. The society did not at all care about my contributions. They wanted just my subordination to the existing order. So, finally, I lost interest and became a dissident. Obviously, this made me more calm and easy-going. And as the Saker says: “The deserts are filled with submarines.”

Why France’s 20- and 30-somethings hate the Yellow Vests

Why France’s 20- and 30-somethings hate the Yellow Vests

by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog

It’s a question which needs be asked, but we can’t wait for the French media to answer it because they have almost totally stopped reporting on the anti-government movement for several months.

The first poll on the Yellow Vests since late March (“!”, and then “?”) finally came out two weeks ago. It was so eagerly gobbled up by a French media hungry for objective knowledge on the Yellow Vests that as many as two media talked about it. I missed it because I have already wasted a minimum of 3 hours of my life doing fruitless Google news searches for “Yellow Vest poll”.

The headline of Ouest-France newspaper, by far the most read Francophone paper in the world, was typically “negative-no-matter-what”: “A majority of France have had enough of the Yellow Vests”.

That’s a pretty bold statement considering that this majority is just 52%, which must be within the poll’s margin of error.

The headline could have fairly been: “A majority of France still supports the Yellow Vests despite all the state repression and media negativity”. Considering what a historic anti-government movement this is – the French have just avoided a 9th consecutive austerity budget expressly because of the Yellow Vests – objective journalism would have prioritised the “support” angle and not the “oppose” angle.

More poll tidbits to munch on for those who care about public opinion (which means you are obviously not a Western politician):

Vesters are now openly opposed by retirees (63%), executives/management (61%) and technicians/professionals (58%). However, they are openly supported by workers (52%), rural citizens (47%), the National Front party (64%) and the (true, not far-) leftist Unsubmissive France party (80%). Per the pollers: “The Yellow Vests remain popular with those segments of the population which were at the origin of the movement.

One final poll petit-four: 93% of those who support Macron’s party are against the Yellow Vests, while another recent poll showed that 98% of Macronistas think he is doing a good job. What this reminds us is that there is a hard-core Macronista base for whom he can absolutely do no wrong. I assumed such adoration was limited to 60+ year old single women dreaming of a winter-spring romance (an incredibly winter-spring romance), but it is a solid quarter of the population. This rate of genuine support is actually unchanged since the election in 2017: a quarter of France just adores this guy, no matter what, and apparently no amount of violence can change that.

Let’s get to the point of this column

One segment of society which does not support the Yellow Vests is the 20- and 30-something crowd.

This is based on my regular attendance at Yellow Vest demonstrations, and also many months of informally talking with this age group (of which I am quite nearly a part of). I’d like to pass on what I think are the reasons for their opposition:

  • We must remember that the Yellow Vests are primarily a middle-aged phenomenon – the average of those marching is probably 50 years old. This age group is the one which is most motivated because they are nearing retirement and they see just how bad austerity will make things for them. This generation will not do anywhere as well as their parents, and they are rightfully upset – they really had no chance to “succeed”: they found jobs (or can’t find any job) which will provide the personal nest egg which is required in the Anglo-Saxon system, which is the system that neoliberal austerity seeks to disruptively impose on France. The main problem is that French wages have always been far lower, and taxes quite higher, than their Western counterparts because the deal was that they’d have low wages but a much better social safety net. This deal has been terminated during the Age of Austerity, and Macron’s absurd, inhuman “one-size-fits-all” pension reform is the coup de grâce. Therefore, this segment of society – not professional, working class, low savings, not university educated, not thrilled with their job but still as vital to the functioning of society as you or me – is leading the revolt because they know that if they don’t… they will be working their low-paying job until they are 64 or their knees give out (whichever comes first), and then have a pittance of a pension to boot.
  • What about the young adult Parisians? Firstly, this is an old persons’ town – you have to have money to live within its highway walls. But are you talking about those who were raised in Paris? I guess you mainly referring to those who grew up in the rich Western areas – that place I go and look at like a tourist (seems nice over there), with all their fancy little kids and quiet and trees. People who grow up in these areas are rich – these are the very Macronista urbanites who are young, terrifying and want to eat their elders. They view Macron as their leader, God and role model. So young adult Parisians manning the barricades? Fuggetaboutit. This holds true for all of France’s cities.
  • What about the working class adult urbanites? Like in my area? Do you mean the Chinese, the Hasidic or the Arabs? All of these worker bees crammed into small, noisy apartments were likely turned off by the immediate and totally false smear that the Yellow Vests were racist. Also, the working class is often quite busy working.
  • What about the poor city suburbs, surely they are sympathetic? Indeed, the poor Muslim, Arab and Black areas are all totally sympathetic to the Vesters. However, they are not stupid – they know that if they go to the Vester demonstrations in any city the cops will absolutely, undoubtedly wage police brutality on them first. This truth is so very, very, very self-evident to Muslims and people of Color that we cannot even imagine that many of you cannot accept this, and we just turn and walk away when we start getting blamed for not leading the Yellow Vest charge. People from these areas have been totally marginalised… but when you need cannon fodder, then we get an engraved invitation? LOL, thanks, but no thanks. Nobody cares about the opinion of these areas/groups anyway, but I can report that the Vesters do indeed have their sincere moral support. Finally, Muslims and Blacks probably compose around 5-8% of France – if they did join en masse only 1 out of every 20 Vesters or so would be a non-White, anyway.

And here is the main reason why French Whites – who are the majority among the 20- and 30-somethings in France – do not support the Vesters.

  • I was surprised at the immediate antipathy for the Yellow Vests among the young White French adults I talked with in Paris, but who are the young White French adults in Paris? These are the primarily the people from small towns who are creative types and who move to the urban areas in order to flee the small-town culture, people, mores and activities they found so very stifling. The Yellow Vests are a primarily rural movement, and – as I have described their primary social-class makeup – France’s young urbanites seem to view the Vesters as the older classmates/bullies who made fun of them for being arty and weird and urbanite-aping back in their small town – many 30-somethings in Paris moved expressly to get away from these types! Therefore, it is unthinkable for them to side with the Yellow Vests, and after only the very first couple of demonstrations Parisian young adults seemingly all turned against the Yellow Vests, in my experience. These Parisian young adults see a faded, generic, poorly drawn forearm tattoo on many a Vester, and then they look at their own fancy tattoo (a Chinese character, a magic symbol, or some emblem of personal motivation or social defiance) and they think: “To hell with those White Trash – I never got invited to their parties and I want to lead a different lifestyle.”

So there you have it in a nutshell. Many French people actually made the move to the big city from the small town because they fundamentally resent the people who primarily compose the Yellow Vests.

There are other reasons:

  • Paris attracts young adults from all over the world – where are they? The Western expatriates living in France feel similarly or even more hostile than their French counterparts, in my experience. Many absurdly view Yellow Vests as outright reactionaries, mainly because they have absolutely no idea what the hell they are talking about when it comes to “French culture + class struggle”. These Western White expats simplistically view Vesters as extensions of their own “Brexiteers”, “basket of deplorable American rednecks”, etc., and do not feel the need to dig any deeper than such a superficial comparison – many of these immigrants would have a hard time understanding even if they tried, such is their unfamiliarity with a class lens. Bottom line: they are not about to stop the “Western expat party” and get tear gassed for any Yellow Vest, that is certain.
  • France, contrary to Anglophone media claims, is not a socialist country: aristocratic snobbery permeates and runs amok in the culture here as only it can on the Old Continent. It’s worse in Paris, but “I reject you first” is the initial war a French person declares upon meeting someone. The young adult urbanites in France have not at all been inculcated with class warfare and class solidarity, but identity politics: they identify with their fellow “bobos” (bourgeois bohemians), hipsters, artists and pretty young people. Have a shoulder tattoo I can’t see and not a wrist tattoo? Not cool enough. Next please. Swipe left. Je m’en fous.
  • France was an individualist country even before the rise of neoliberalism, I imagine, but rapacious neoliberalism surely leads to a fundamental lack of sympathy: Young urbanites here simply cannot imagine – nor do they try to – the grim future which 50-year old Yellow Vesters know to be a rapidly encroaching fact.
  • Furthermore, young people are dumb, (If you were paying me for this I’d look it up and provide the link but you’ll have to just take my word for it): I read a recent poll which said that something like 10% of young French people think Macron’s radical reforms will not actually reduce their own pensions, LOL! Sure… you’ll be the one who is special. Vesters are old enough to know better to get involved with this movement.

Given all these facts, we must realise that these urbanites want revenge on the class which primarily composes the Vesters – they don’t want to see them win, and they have repeatedly told me they don’t want them marching anymore in their hipster paradise areas of Paris.

I use the strong word “revenge” because I have found this to be a hugely important motivator in Western capitalist society. These young (smug, stupid, classist, fake-leftist/rabid neoliberal) anti-Yellow Vesters want not only a huge chunk of the pie, but they also to show all the people they left behind what a big shot they lost.

This is not hyperbole – this is what “competition” truly is. Western society (being anti-socialist and rabidly individualist) is fundamentally predicted on competition, and thus these types of feelings can be found plastered on billboards as a form of encouragement.

Finally, it is not “cool” to be a Vester in the French mainstream, and 20- and 30-somethings in the West prize “cool” above all. If you think famous actors, musicians, artists, thinkers, ballplayers, etc. are showing up/have ever showed up to Yellow Vest demonstrations… you must think these people don’t fear losing their social status more than anything – then they would have to get a real job.

“But Ramin,” you object, “how can cool people not be at the Yellow Vest demonstrations when YOU are there?”

Thank you. It seems paradoxical, indeed, but there’s an easy explanation: I turn 42 next week.

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of “I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China”.

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