[Marxism] Hezbollah: a bourgeois party modeled on Tehran (The Militant)

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sat Aug 19 12:21:59 MDT 2006

Vol. 70/No. 32 August 28, 2006


Hezbollah: a bourgeois party modeled on Tehran

In a recent opinion piece published in the New York Times, Robert
Pape, a political science professor at the University of Chicago,
compared Hezbollah, the organization in Lebanon targeted in the
recent Israeli assault, to the “multidimensional American
civil-rights movement of the 1960s.”

The Workers World Party presented a similar portrait of the group,
saying in an August 10 statement that Hezbollah has “rallied the
forces fighting against Zionist expansionism” and “taken up the
mantle of the resistance to U.S. imperialism.”

Other middle-class radicals protesting Tel Aviv’s bloody invasion of
Lebanon have presented similar views.

But these are not accurate portrayals of Hezbollah, or Hizb’Allah,
the “Party of God.”

Hezbollah is a bourgeois political party, not a religious group, with
extensive capitalist investments. Its primary goal is to set up an
“Islamic Republic” in Lebanon, modeled on the government of Iran, its
main backer. It was founded in the early 1980s by a group of Shiite
clerics working with the government of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in
Iran. These clerics remain the central leaders of the group.

Khomeini’s government came to power after the 1979 Iranian revolution
that toppled the U.S.-backed regime of the shah. That was a profound
political and social upheaval that opened political space for workers
and peasants, women, youth, and oppressed nationalities. The
cleric-dominated bourgeois regime, however, unleashed a
counterrevolution attempting to stifle the gains of the working-class
revolt that threatened the interests of the propertied classes.

Hezbollah’s founders in Lebanon adopted the same name used by
extralegal squads in Iran that physically attacked workers’
organizations that didn’t agree with the course of the Khomeini
government. That course led to the reversal of most of the gains of
the 1979 revolution.

“Iran’s financial involvement in the bulk of our development and
social services is not a secret,” said Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah,
Hezbollah’s current general secretary, according to Ahmad Nizar
Hamzeh, author of In the Path of Hizbullah.

Hezbollah’s military forces were trained and are supplied by the
government of Iran in cooperation with Damascus.

These ties have enabled Hezbollah to develop a vast system of
political patronage, public works, and social services through which
the party ensures support in local and national elections.

Among its key sources of funds are “Hizbullah’s business investments,
taking advantage of Lebanon’s free market economy,” says Hamzeh in
his book. “While figures are not available about Hizbullah’s
investments, reportedly the party has established a commercial
network that includes dozens of supermarkets, gas stations,
department stores, restaurants, construction companies, and travel

A 1996 poll to determine popular support for Hezbollah in southern
Lebanon, said Judith Palmer Harik, a professor of political science
at the American University of Beirut, showed that “44 percent of the
Shiites sampled of high socio-economic status indicated affiliation
with Hezbollah.”

Roots of Hezbollah

Hezbollah emerged in the early 1980s as one of the groups that took
part in the resistance to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and
subsequent occupation of part of the country by Tel Aviv at the time.
But it was modeled from the beginning after the capitalist government
in Tehran.

That government came to power following a mass popular insurrection
led by the working class that toppled the Iranian monarchy. The
movement that overthrew the shah had the potential to lead to workers
and peasants taking political power. However, there was no
working-class leadership strong enough to push the revolution in that

As an editorial in the July 7, 2003, Militant said, it is not true
that “the current Iranian regime, in a warped form, is a defender of
the remaining gains of the revolution.” The editorial pointed out
that “there remains little momentum from the 1979 revolution today.
It’s been more than 20 years since the early 1980s when the Iranian
toilers poured to the battlefront to defend their country from the
U.S.-inspired invasion by Baghdad aimed at destroying the gains of
the anti-shah revolt.

“The great revolution against the monarchy did strengthen the Iranian
nation vis-à-vis imperialism. It was truly one of the magnificent
popular revolutions of the last quarter of the 20th century. But
after 24 years the gains in the relationship of forces have been

>From the early years of the revolution, the Khomeini government used
not only state power but goon-type forces to target workers’ groups
and others it felt may threaten the interests of the propertied

In her book Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution, historian
Nikki Keddie says the Khomeini regime had ties to “paralegal forces
the violent groups called hezbollah. These groups disrupted
demonstrations and attacked dissidents.”

Targets included socialists and trade union leaders who sought to
advance independent working-class political action.

It is those methods and that course that Hezbollah’s leadership has
worked to emulate, not the working-class traditions of the U.S. civil
rights movement.

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