[Re: Why ]

Abu Nasr abu-nasr at SPAMusa.net
Sun Jun 18 08:59:05 MDT 2000

Dear Comrades!

I think Sevag is right, the sectarianism has developed and remained due
largely to outside forces, i.e., imperialism.

Of course we know that like feudal estates in Europe which were not classes in
the capitalist sense, the Ottoman empire ruled on the basis of its "milla"
system.  Each religious community or "milla" ("millet", in Turkish) had to
recognize the Ottoman Sultan and pay a tax and in return that religious
community's religious leaders could rule their own community pretty much
independently as regarded their community's affairs, i.e., their laws, social
regulations, religious activities.  Note that this also created elites within
each religious community that were extremely conservative.

That laid the basis for religious-communal differences that predominantly
Christian Europe found useful to exploit as soon as it could.  And it has done
so constantly and it has built its whole philosophy on these differences.
Similarly the French in North Africa were just preoccupied with the
differences between Berbers and Arabs -- differences almost forgotten
sometimes by the North Africans themselves.  It was divide and rule.  And if
you think the expulsion of France in 1943 has ended all the sectarianism, just
read the Lebanese constitution.  And this was definitely not the choice of
popular politically conscious Lebanese of all the sects.  They say, for
example that Arab nationalism arose among the minorities.  Why?  Because they
wanted to eliminate the sectarian line dividing them from Muslims.  Even the
anti-imperialists Islamicists of the old "aristocratic" generation like Shakib
Arslan tried to unite different sects against imperialism through his
newspaper "La Nation Arabe".

Of course there is sectarianism in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere too. Even
outside the Arab world, Pakistan was partitioned from India on sectarian lines
in the 1940s.  But in Lebanon the sectarianism was embedded officially in the
constitution so any political battles almost had to become sectarian since it
was predictable that the ruling classes would seek to defend their interests
by appealing to "their" sect members to fight for them on a sectarian basis.
But what sustained these ruling classes except an international capitalist
order of which they were an integral part?  Lebanon was a huge banking centre
in the Arab world up until the Civil War and the Oil boom moved lots of that
to the Gulf, and that emphasises the comprador nature of the rulers of at
least Maronite and Sunni background.

The Civil War degenerated into sectarianism, but pretty much as in the
colonial period, the "great powers" had interests that they pushed by
sectarian proxies.  The west, obviously was interested basically in the status
quo, and they played groups against each other.  Just most recently the
Zionists tried to tell the Lebanese Christians that if the south were
liberated they would all be massacred by Shii Hizb Allah partisans, etc.  This
is a good example of how the imperialists try to play sects off against each
other to keep their own interests intact.

With revolutionary greetings!

Abu Nasr

"sevag " <sev at cyberia.net.lb> wrote:
Dear Commrades:
    I am thrilled to see the level of interest and understanding in the
posts and i hope we'll have more feeback from our Commrades from Latin
America on Lebanon, specially that the societies of the 3rd world are not
that different from each other.
    Imperialism is not just a phase that a country passes through, nor is it
something that fades away when imperilaism as a direct military control over
the 3rd world ends. It remains in the culture and institutions of the 3rd
world society, thereby not having any geographical location or boundaries.
    What i mean is that there should be such cultural divergence or
contradictions in other 3rd world countries caused and brought to the
surface by imperialism and which still shapes the behavior of these
societies world wide.
    In the Lebanese context this traditionalism is mainly identified on
secterian divisions but more importantly on specific classes within each
sect. These classes true that they are the monopolizers of the political
system in Lebanon, but they are very much self-interested but howveer must
adhere to their other classes in their sect for support. The nucleus which
gives them the legitimacy is the mass support of their sect. But as Commrade
Riad put, they are pretty mcuh self-centered.
    Now the question imposes itself: Does this secterian differences arise
from the society, or is it imposed on the society by the system?
    Most people would argue that the first is correct because of many
different reasons. However, we should put some time zones. True that at the
back of the Lebanese mind there was a such secterian identity and ideology,
but what i am trying to say is that these differences mainly emphazied by
imperialism and manifested itself in the Lebanese political system,
re-imposed itself on the Lebanese regardless of the latter's belief in it.
Hence, imperialism caused seceterianism and its emergence as a dominant
social and political force, which initself caused the creation of the
independent Lebanon, which intself being a secterian State divided the
society mroe strongly along secterian lines. And i would even argue that
this State dividing the social forces along such lines was sometimes even
agianst the will and the want of the people itself.
    Such ties still persist in the Lebanon today, and I think the ills of
imperlaism shapes the societies of the 3rd world. This imperialism that
ended (more or less) in the 1st half of the 20th century, continued to play
its role by new means, mostly global capitalist means. Such similarities
could be found in the different countries of the 3rd world, and I want to
argue that it shapes to a very large extents the social and political
institutions of these societies.
    I wait for your posts, and thank you.

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