On a recent visit to Beirut I had the opportunity to see for myself the last 10 days of the sit-in reported in last month's issue (May SR) and speak to some of the activists involved in the protests.
This was at a critical moment as it looked like the intifada was being squeezed on all sides, and the need to both explain this and take things forward was urgent. The left in Lebanon looks and sounds like the left anywhere else at the moment. It is young, active, full of confidence and very open to discussion and ideas. The success of the globalisation conference in Beirut nine months ago meant that a delegation was sent to Porto Alegre, and they are hoping to send people to the European Social Forum. Plans are also being made for an Arab Social Forum at the end of the year either in Beirut or Cairo. So out of the protests has come not just a new layer of activists, but crucially a much higher level of organisation and confidence.
Many of these activists are conscious of being part of a new left right across the Middle East. They can sense that something significant is happening. Some have been around for a number of years waiting for the space to break out of the hold of Arab Nationalist politics, and some are completely new. So they are struggling with the same issues as the rest of the international movement. Al-Yasari, the first left wing newspaper for a generation, was launched as a result of the protest. The aim is to use the paper as a link between all the activists as the struggle develops. The paper will be carrying arguments for the left to go back to the demand for a democratic secular state of Palestine, and the right of return, whilst at the same time arguing for rights for Palestinians in the camps now. So this means raising the question of fighting for jobs, water and full property rights for Palestinians amongst Lebanese workers and supporting the battles that are brewing over privatisation.
The combination of the economic and military aims of US imperialism, and the bankruptcy of Arab nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism has created a space for a new left to develop. Each time Al Jazeira shows demonstrations from London, Rome, or Washington their confidence grows and the sense of being part of an international fight deepens.