‘Optimism as a political act’: mourning the loss of Bassem Chit

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Bassem Chit during one of the numerous demonstrations he attended. (Photo: Facebook friend of Bassem)

By: Yazan al-Saadi

Published Thursday, October 2, 2014

On October 1, 2014, Bassem Chit passed away prematurely after a heart attack at the age of 34.

Chit was a Lebanese socialist, an influential activist, and a bona fide revolutionary who struggled relentlessly for social, political, and economic rights for all in Lebanon and in this turbulent region. He played a vital role in establishing and developing a number of important activist and research organizations in Lebanon such as Helem, Lebanon Support, and the Socialist Forum.

I knew little about Chit on a personal level, yet he imparted a profound and positive impression during our discussions on the sidelines of protests or during quieter moments in a cafe, where we waxed and waned about developments in the country and the region over a seemingly endless supply of cigarettes and caffeinated beverages.

A discussion with Chit does not end when the mouth goes silent or when we've said our good-byes. Rather, the concepts and propositions that arose in these discussions tend to remain much longer, demanding attention and thought.

Chit staunchly opposed sectarianism, patriarchy, tyranny, imperialism, economic exploitation, and all other forms of oppression that have played a role in shackling our societies for so long. He struggled tirelessly against these forces, never wavering on his core principles of the inalienable right for dignity and liberty of all peoples. This, in particular, is all too rare in our world of pragmatism, compromise, and opportunism that have cracked and neutered many activists, politicians, and other influential individuals.

Chit did not compromise and he was all the better for it. As the Socialist Workers Party in Britain wrote of his death, "Bassem’s death is an enormous loss to the cause of revolutionary Marxism in the Middle East and indeed the world. We pledge that his memory will inspire us to even greater efforts for the cause to which he dedicated himself so single-mindedly."

Chit was an intellectual powerhouse, and wrote prolifically on Lebanon and the rest of the region for many leftist print and online publications. His writings – in Arabic and English – can be read on sites like the Socialist Review, Socialist Worker, Lebanon Support, and al-Manshour.

This was his last public statement, posted on his Facebook page, on September 28:

ISIS is the product of the poverty of geopolitics, from imperial and regional rivalries mixed with a history of despotism and oppression. And those who are attempting to 'rid us' of this mess are exactly the ones who created it in the first place. And using the same structures, tools and strategies that forged something like ISIS in the first place, is not going to end it, but rather create the conditions for its transformation into something different, and not necessarily something better.

In a rare video of Chit speaking at the 2008 Marxist Festival, the topic titled, “Class Struggle and Resistance in Lebanon,” one can clearly see a mind pregnant with ideas and fury, capped by a delightful sense of humor.

Chit's loss is great for the next generation of activists in Lebanon and the region. The outpouring of grief, not only by those close to him, but by many within different quarters in the country and beyond, barely conveys how important he and his work were.

As one of his close friends wrote online in regards to his passing:

“You taught me what tireless, revolutionary struggle looks like and that optimism is, above all, a deeply political act. You left an indelible mark on this world, now a poorer place for your loss.”

Most of all, Chit was a humanist, leaving behind family and friends who were affected by his warmth and compassion. If nothing else, this deserves recognition.

Yazan al-Saadi is a staff writer for Al-Akhbar English. Follow him on Twitter: @WhySadeye


I met him over coffee in Beirut - we talked for 2 hours.

Like the author of the article said, you leave and the discussion never ends. It goes on in your mind. We did not agree on everything, but I was in the presence of a ball of energy, a true dreamer and believer in change and in the power of people to make the dream a reality.

Great loss.

A dreadful loss of a good, courageous man.

I had first met him during the July-war in 2006, when he was the coordinator of Samidoun in Zico house. I knew him as a militant activist but above all as a warm-hearted and upright man. I wouldn'd say that about many. I mourn his loss!

Saw him speak in London. Within a few sentences he struck me as exceptional. Forty minutes without notes. The range and clarity. A true Marxist.
Michael Douglas

I am really shocked to hear about Death of Baseem Chit.I had never met him but on Facebook we interacted many times and through his writings on Lebanon and Middle East i came to know many fact about terrorism, imperealist design and neoliberal barberism etc.
Red Salute to Baseem Chit.
With regards
Aamir Hussaini
Revolutionary Socialist Pakistan

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