Adonis Diaries

Archive for February 11th, 2013

Complicating the Class-Divide: New Contractor Bourgeoisie in Lebanon Politics: Rafik Hariri clan, Najib Mikati, Muhammad Safadi, and Issam Fares…

Before the civil war (1975-1989), Lebanon was ruled and controlled by the “comprador” bourgeoisie class (importing from developed nations and selling to the regional States) and their attached commercial/financial banks who manipulated the feudal/tribal/sectarian structure of Lebanon landscape.

During the civil war, Lebanese immigrated in trove to greener pastures and left the space to the sectarian warlords militias leaders. The warlord leaders split the country into sectarian cantons, displacing, transferring and remodeling the mixed communities into “cleansing” de facto closed societies.

The moslem Sunnis preferred to migrate to the new Arab Gulf Emirates and Saudi Arabia. A third of Lebanon work force migrated there within a decade: from 50,000 in 1970 to over 210,000 in 1980. Those struck wealth were in contracting civil work, basically working as subcontractors to Emirs and princes who had the proper connections.

Late Rafik Hariri PM, Najib Mikati PM, finance minister Muhammad Safadi, and vice PM Issam Fares were among these new contractor bourgeois…

The Moslem Shia migrated mostly to west Africa where they joined relatives and struck wealth through adventurous trade deals.

The Christians immigrated to the US and Europe for higher education, and most of them never contemplated to return home to settle. Why?

Most opportunities after the war were allocated to the Moslems, particularly the educated Sunnis who filled the vacant institutions, managed and administered foundations of the new breed of contractors, public civil work, and controlled side institutions attached to the Sunni prime minister

For example, the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR),  communication ministry, internal police force in Beirut, internal intelligence gathering section, Solidere, Sukleen, appointing the governor of the Central Bank and the minister of finance…

This new landscape was an immediate result of the Taif Constitution that expanded the political strength of the Prime Minister at the expense of the President of the Republic.

The business-politicians and neoliberal technocrats in the Future movement network of Rafik Hariri constituted a force for neoliberal “reforms” that appeased the US administration as to the financial policy direction of  the State of Lebanon.

The Hariri clan network had three main purposes:

1. Privatizing State-controlled entities by acquiring them for cheap since they had the liquidity and were backed by Saudi Arabia, and

2. Pegging the Lebanese currency to the US dollar in order to incur far more debt than necessary on the government and insuring total control of the financial condition, mainly to blackmail their rival political leaders into  difficult situation that only the Future movement of Hariri can untangle this volatile condition… (More details in a follow-up article “Applying neoliberal mechanism on Lebanon”)

3. Controlling the city center of Beirut through the chartered company Solidere

For over 2 decades, the Hariri clan were given the financial responsibilities through appointing the governor of the Central Bank, the minister of finance, and controlling the municipality of the Capital Beirut.

After the civil war, Rafik Hariri filled the vacuum of the Sunni leadership, thanks to the total backing of Saudi Arabia, which was the main loan guarantor for the infusion of international lending multinationals. The Hariri network of clientelists and media empires (TV and dailies) strengthened their electoral votes in the Sunni communities.

The Hariri clan was successful in 3 dimensions:

1. Reaching political offices like Prime minister, ministers, deputies, governors of public institutions…

2. Gaining control of public institutions to further their economic agenda, especially creating and controlling side institutions directly linked and attached to the PM

3. Gathering popular following, particularly among the Sunni community, the Druze and a few Christian parties

Saad Hariri, son of Rafik, monopolized the Sunni political leadership and contributed to the widening rift between Sunnis and Shiaas.

Najib Mikati PM and Muhammad Safadi had to climb a stiff road for claiming a political representation of the Sunni communities. Particularly, that the Future movement allied with the Sunni conservative and extremist Moslems like Lebanese Moslem Brotherhood, the extremist jihaddist wahhabi, the A7bash, the Jund al Sham, the Jamaa al Islamiyya

In fact, it was the Future party that financed and covered the many “terrorist” activities of these fringe Sunni organizations, such as in the Sirat Donnieh, the Palestinian camp of Ain Bared, the massacre committed in Halba, and lately what is happening in the large town of Ersal, confronting the army.

The new neoliberal Contractor class is a level added in class interpretation of Lebanon political structure.

How this new Contractor class acquired its wealth in the billion? (To be followed)

Note: From a chapter by Hannes Baumann in “Lebanon after the Cedar Revolution” by Are Knudsen and Michael Kerr.

A song for change may moves you: And the customs continue unperturbed

Dahbia recalls, as she was 9 year-old, the song of her favorite Kabyle (Algeria ethnic group) singer Nouara:

“You have all sang my beauty

You all have lauded my sense of honor

Nobody cared for my rights

As if an animal.

My eyes are wide open now

And I’ll exact my account.

I’ll never forgive my father,

Marrying me against my will.

At the wedding ceremony, I was still playing…”

The women in my home, old and young, were moved by the song.

And nothing changed in this custom.”

Dahbia was retrieved from school at the age of 9: She was confined at home, among the women.

Dahbia was no longer permitted to step outside her home: The younger girls had the chores of bringing in what was necessary from outside the premises.

The grandmothers were free to go outside, anywhere they wanted: At this age, they are not that appealing to succumb to any dishonoring calamity… And not because they demonstrated their traditional sense of “honor”

The job of Dahbia at 9 was to be readied for marriage.

And Dahbia loved to go to school and learn. No crying or knocking at the hearts of aunts and uncles to relent produced any softening to the decision of  being secluded at home. Nobody would listen.

When her dad returned from France to town for a month vacation, all he had to say was: “If tamgharat (the eldest woman) has decided, it will be her will. I can do nothing to change her decision…”

Since that day, Dahbia’s father never looked at her the same way: Her childhood was over and his daughter is to be prepared to become a woman.

Dahbia experienced deep depression, and the tamgharat appeased her mother saying: “Time will overcome her illness.

I remember Yvonne, a young French teacher who failed in her love affair and came to teach in town. Pretty soon, Yvonne succumbed to the same illness of Dahbia. Time is the only cure…

Even in France, Maghrebi immigrant families forbid their girls of 13 to step outside their apartment to play.

Once you resign yourself to admit what was unacceptable, you feel like resuming the “normal” flow of daily life: You eat, sleep and occasionally you laugh.

Dahbia’s lot was to accept becoming a wife, a mother of a large family, unconditionally obeying her husband…

We start to elevate the “Makhtoub”(destiny) to a mythical truth.

Maktoub has very large shoulders that can carry all our failing, a weight as light as feather…

Note 1: An extract from the French book “Our fathers are gone” by Dalila Bellil

Note 2: The favorite Kabyle singers were: Nouara, Idir, Khedidja, Matoub Lounes, Cheikh el-Hasnaoui, Djurdjura, Dahmane el-Harrachi




February 2013

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