Long live the Worker… in Lebanon

This is just hilarious. Do you know that in London where you have one of the oldest tradition of Labor syndicates (hell if I’m not mistaken, historically the first labor syndicate), today on the 1st of May, “the worker’s day”, everybody is working?

I think the only place on the planet where the whole country is paralyzed is in Lebanon. Funny, because, isn’t it the country where you basically don’t even have a proper Labor syndicate? Isn’t it the country where workers are not represented and never really mobilized for their rights because they are basically bribed by their various confessional lords?

So I don’t understand, there is no coherent labor organization who could succeed in doing anything cross-sectarian for the public interest in the history of Lebanon, yet workers are celebrating something today. I am very curious as to what they are celebrating. Please somebody give me one good reason for them to sit idle today. The “1st of May” is actually a way to buy labor forces off by giving them a symbolic gift (a day in their name) so that they shut the fuck up and continue accepting the main partitioning of resources between elites.

This is why the 1st of May is like any other celebrated day ‘religious’ or not. It has the same objective: to keep the oppressed dormant, quiescent and in denial of his real situation. Whether it is the birth of a prophet or some ‘liberating’ day of one sort or another, any occasion is good for Lebanese to sit idle and wait for “the other” to change things for them.


8 Replies to “Long live the Worker… in Lebanon”

  1. bech,

    are you familiar with the context of the lebanese may 1? when was it implemented, the historical reasons for it becoming a national holiday, etc.? (i’m asking out of ignorance …)

    of course, it may just be that we are trying to show the world how civilized we are 😛

  2. Yes, labor mvmts are so cohesive, ideologically pure and effective everywhere else … 😉

    Have you ever thought to consider why the Federalist Papers read like the 18th Brumaire (honest question) ?

  3. I have never said that apo. I just think they are more functional in some other places of the planet.

    manar, I don’t think there is something peculiarly “Lebanese” about the 1st of May. We just adopted it from other countries. Like Valentine’s day or something.
    Now, maybe leftist parties and others made some interesting contributions to this day somewhere in the history of the country. but I would seriously doubt it.

  4. Agreed.
    O am sure our “communist” buddies will not like that. 🙂

    The LCP was out, as usual, with their “vertical Lebanese flags with the hammer and sickle”; I guess with the dates march 8/14 reserved for the others, they deserve a date of their own… at least then they will be able to boast that they have actually done SOMETHING. It’s funny that they talk about so-called CLASS struggle and internationalism when each of these so-called “communist” movements carries its national flag. Couldn’t help but notice this — I was looking at pics of May Day “demonstrations” in Israel and Lebanon. At least the Lebanese have changed the flag and one can argue that the LCP is not really carrying the national flag PER SE, and that its flag could only be an indication of the communist BRANCH in Lebanon (though if that were the case, they would arguably have to be called CP in Lebanon and not LCP). Mmm!

  5. Ok, everybody works on May 1st in the UK, but they always have a day off the first Monday of May, so that even when May 1st is a Sunday for example, they still get a day off work.
    I dont think its particularly hilarious…

    Now comparing this bank holiday to any other religious day is slighlty out of place i believe. Ok i dont know how things work in Lebanon and what the day means for people there, but May 1st is a day that the workers gained for themselves and that is celebrated in memory of long-lasting struggles against the bosses and capitalism.
    It is not a day given to you because of religious principles that are imposed on you to remind you that you are not in control and that some superior force decides in your name.
    Its quite the opposite.

    Now you may say that at the end of the day its just another day off work taming your sense of revolt.
    1 I think that any day off work is good to take and that it means something for people, families, etc…
    2 I dont think it tames any revolt. All over the world demonstrations are organised, associations and unions get together, and ok, some of it is just pure spectacular rebellion, but its also a good way to assess the forces in presence, the determinations, and its a way to get people together in the streets against capitalism.

    Ok its just a day, its not much, and unions have ever only been at best reformist and progressist organisations, and more often reactionary and conservative, but they’re not the only ones taking the streets on May 1st. And if a radical change should take place, it will be in the streets, where many ordinary workers gather and fight capitalism on May 1st.

    Still nothing hilarious there…
    So, sorry Bech, but, not agreed…

    A short link to what Rosa Luxembourg had to say on May 1st (sorry its in French) :

  6. eh gros,

    first of all I was referring to what May 1st signifies in Lebanon and how it is not backed by any concrete actions. In Lebanon syndicates etc. have never done anything for the worker. but they get this worker’s day as a gift for doing nothing in the first place. Of for just existing as a useless bureaucratic parasite. It’s not like they have a tradition of mobilizing collectively like in certain parts of Europe.

    Second even in Europe don’t rejoice too much with this worker’s day. Because it really looks like workers are being bought off. don’t work this day but be well disciplined for the rest of the year. It is exactly how slaves were accommodated a couple of centuries ago (for example slaves had the right to go in the forest and have some time alone before coming back to the house and work, I can tell you more about that if you want).

    Techniques of buying off exploited forces is paradoxically most of the time the result of the effort of these same forces thinking that the won a battle ‘against the system’.

  7. Hey fatso,

    Ok, you are probably right about Lebanon, and the way things happen there sounds rather ironical or even a bit depressing.
    I take your point and I partly agree, but still in most parts of the world, the day stands as a symbol of resistance against oppresion. And though the power of such celebrations can be easily diluted into lazy self-satisfaction, I still believe that remembering such things, the past struggles and victories of the working class over capitalism is important. It can be inspiring and uplifting, maybe only as a reminder that it is actually possible to change things and win battles against capitalism.
    And fighting for reforms is not necessarily incompatible with a broader revolutionary struggle.

    Its interesting that you mention slavery though Im not sure which period of slavery youre referring to. However as far as most of the Atlantic trade is concerned, I believe that whenever granted any freedom, the slaves were seldom allowed to go roaming free in the forests without any control. Simply because they would never have come back from the forests, which is where marroon societies took refuge. The marroons were organised as free communes, fighting slave-owners and planters and challenging the whole system (as the zapatistas are doing now for example). And on the contrary, whenever a slave would get near them the marroons would not allow them to go back to the plantations because they feared they would reveal where they were hiding.
    Anyway, marroons organised robberies, mutineries, lootings and it is interesting that you mention slavery because slaves and marroons are a prime example of people that kept fighting against oppression, against capitalism (slavery developed in parallel with capitalism and was a concrete application of capitalism as a system) to finally reach their goal. Although there were many factors that contributed to bring slavery to an end, slave resistance was a key one, rarely recognised by official history.

    To come back to the original subject, I think the working class should draw inspiration from slaves and the slave resistance (which is actually partof its history too as many white workers joined the resistance and helped the abolitionist movement to reach its target).
    It should draw inspiration from any battle won against capitalism, whether a small or a major one, and this is one of the roles of May Day.

    Obviously, another function that the day serves is to allow workers to rest and enjoy a day of freedom. And any day off paid work is good to take and cant be bad as such for the struggle. Once again it may not be much (in terms of victory against capitalism or in terms of freedom), but as the writer Panait Istrati used to say : ‘Un seul jour libre, c’est déjà mieux que toute une vie humiliée’.

    So in the end I think we probably agree my dear Bech. Your criticism goes to places where the real meaning of May 1st has been lost (or was never there in the first place) and to people who take the day for granted, just as any other day. Im sure theres places where such things happen and once again, celebrations can quickly be emptied of their true substance, but on the whole I believe that the day serves a good cause, should be remembered, and I tend to think that in most cases it is celebrated as it should. Its in that sense that I think it shouldnt be too quickly discarded and also because, once again : ‘un seul jour libre, c’est déjà mieux que toute une vie humiliée’.

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