THE ISSAM FARES INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC POLICY AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS
IFI held the book launch of “The Labour Movement in Lebanon: Power on Hold” by Lea Bou Khater on Tuesday, November 8, 2022 at the Basile Antoine Meguerdiche Conference Hall (IFI Auditorium).
The book narrates the history of the Lebanese labour movement from the early twentieth century to today, its structure, victories and defeats, including the assaults of neoliberal policies on labor, as well as the repression of any form of resistance being central to the feasibility of the economic post-war reconstruction period. Bou Khater argues that the series governments that dismantled social movements to reorganize the state towards neoliberalism, have played a role in guaranteeing financial gains to the business elite, without facing any of opposition. Indeed, historical factors provide answers as to why the labor movement was absent during the recent 2019 uprising, what this reveals about the economic system today, and how this absence impacted the uprising, aware that the struggles of workers in the past define future power struggles.
Moreover, Bou Khater reveals that the labor movement is not truly independent from the government or political parties, which explains why trade unions acted differently in different political contexts. In fact, the struggles and agreements between the elite and political parties always resonated at the level of the union, therefore contributing to its weakening, disintegration, and cooptation. Bou Khater also highlights the extent to which the Lebanese state intervened in labor unions through regulations, budget allocation and authorizations, among others.
Following the author’s presentation, a discussion was led by Jamil Mouawad - Visiting Assistant Professor, Nikolas Kosmatopoulos Assistant Professor, both at the Department of Political Studies and Public Administration at the American University of Beirut, along with Joseph Daher Instructor at the University of Lausanne. Speakers dealt with the way the political opposition represented in parliament today is dealing with the labor workers, explaining that the sectarian system is dividing the labor movement and using repression as a tool to destroy any kind of possible mobilization of labor workers. The discussion also concluded that the reason behind targeting the labor movement is that historically and in western societies, labor movements have played a key role in democratizing countries and granting rights.
For more information on the book.