The Democratic Left Movement: We Are the Heart and Soul of March 14
By: Afif Diab
Published Sunday, December 2, 2012
Where might one find the Democratic Left Movement today? The political party – which had strong momentum when it was founded in 2004, ostensibly as a new model for the Lebanese left – has quickly fallen into an organizational limbo.
Once viewed as a political movement that would play an important role in reviving Lebanon’s left, it is today in need of revival itself.
Amid internal disagreements over its role, the DLM has declined in both influence and presence. The remaining members of the leftist party, which has seen many defections and resignations since its inception, believe that there are good explanations for its decline.
Speaking to Al-Akhbar, DLM Secretary Walid Fakhreddine said the movement has since initiated “an internal dialogue in preparation for re-launching itself with a renewed national momentum.”
Fakhreddine explained that the DLM’s short history has been marked by two main phases: “A constituent one where the movement gained momentum in the leftist scene, by offering a national model and contributing a martyr to the country, namely journalist Samir Kassir;” and a second phase of decline due to “assassinations targeting the leaders of the March 14 [political alliance],” of which the DLM is a part.
According to the DLM secretary, “This took its toll on the movement, which could no longer operate with an effective popular capacity throughout the country, leading to a shrinking number of supporters.”
Fakhreddine does not deny that there has been some organizational “underperformance” by the DLM, saying that for this reason, the movement decided in its last conference to “pump younger blood into its leadership with a view to strengthen its ranks and come up with a program that is better suited for the current period.”
In addition, this program “would be able to rally the secularist-leftist base in the country around the slogans of March 14 (e.g. freedom, sovereignty, and independence) and its vision for building the state.”
Even though Fakhreddine said that the DLM “was founded to fulfill the need for a Lebanese leftist-secularist political movement that crosses sectarian boundaries,” there is apparently no place for the Lebanese Communist Party (LCP) in this vision.
Indeed, the DLM and the LCP “are on opposite sides when it comes to which vision for Lebanon we want to have.” For one thing, the LCP, according to Fakhreddine, is part of “the Syrian-Iranian axis, while we are part of the pro-sovereignty and pro-independence public opinion.”
The secretary also pointed out that there was a significant disagreement between the two parties over the goal of overthrowing the Syrian regime.
“We support the Syrian revolution and the rebels, and we are in favor of toppling the dictatorial regime in Syria,” he said. At the same time, Fakhreddine confirmed that his party was “on good terms with the LCP’s Salvation Movement, which is opposed to the leadership of the party.”
The DLM does not see the LCP as the leading light of the left in Lebanon. Fakhreddine contended that the party, of which his movement is an offshoot, is “in shambles, having become completely distracted from national Lebanese concerns, and subservient to the de facto regime in Syria.”
“The LCP is now fully aligned with the schemes of the Mumana’a, or pro-resistance camp, and is under the control of Hezbollah and Syria,” he added.
Here, Fakhreddine underscored the fact that former MP Elias Atallah, the current chairman of the movement, “was a leading member of the Communist Party, and once spearheaded the anti-Syrian faction within the LCP leadership, which rejected Syrian dominance over the party and the Lebanese National Resistance Front (LNRF) [of which the LCP formed a part].”
The mention of MP Atallah and his role in the DLM opened the door to talking about how much he dominates and influences the movement. Fakhreddine said that Atallah “fought both Israel and Syria,” and is a “founder of the LNRF and is today at the heart of the battle with the Syrian regime.”
Fakhreddine praised Atallah for his “realism,” and for “voluntarily stepping down as the secretary general of the DLM to make room for younger leaders.” He then emphasized that the former MP “is keen on continuing the dialogue with the boycotters of the movement, and to broaden its popular base.”
It may be worth noting here that many of the most prominent founding members of the DLM, such as Elias Khoury, Nadim Abdul-Samad, and Ziad Majed, among others, have been absent from the political and organizational activities of the movement. Yet the DLM has reiterated that it remains a core component of the March 14 alliance, of which it believes itself to be “the heart and soul,” as Fakhreddine stressed.
The DLM secretary is working hard today on holding sessions for dialogue with members who have drifted away or who have decided not to take part in the leftist movement’s activities.
Fakhreddine believes that his movement’s primary “concern” today, aside from its internal issues, is “for March 14 not to deviate from its pro-independence and state-building vision.”
“We in the General Secretariat of March 14 sometimes play a contrarian role and raise our voices when we sense that the policies of the March 14 factions fall short of our core principles,” he said.
The DLM secretary also rejected allegations that his group was subservient to March 14 and that it did not diverge much from its overall position.
He said, “We also opposed the Doha agreement and its consequences, and rejected the Syria-Saudi Arabia formula [where both countries coordinated mediation between Lebanese politicians]. The DLM has thus been able to maintain its distinct and independent position.”
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.