Collective Action digest
22 October 2019
October 2019 collective action trends
- Since Thursday 17 October 2019, 151 collective actions have been mapped, all linked to socio-economic grievances.
- The collective actions that are part of this movement make up, thus far, 43% of the total number of collective actions mapped since the beginning of the year (348).
- Main modes of action employed since the 17th of October consist of:
- Demonstrations (100%)
- Sit-in (12%)
- Road blockade (86%)
- Tire burning (80%)
- Most protesters often employed more than one mode of action during the same mobilisation.
- 86% of the collective actions mapped since the beginning of the year (299 collective actions) were linked to access to socio-economic rights.
Focus on the October Protests: The importance to look at mobilisations in a long-er temporality
On October 17, 2019, numerous protests have spontaneously taken place across the country, all directly linked to access to socio-economic rights, corruption, and policy grievances.
Mainstream reporters and politicians have quickly labelled the mobilisations as “whatsapp” protests, as they were supposedly triggered by cabinet’s decision to tax Voice Over Internet Protocol calls such as Whatsapp, Viber, and Messenger calls. In fact, collective actions rejecting austerity measures, regressive taxes, rising public debt, growing inflation, and deteriorating living conditions have led to ongoing forms of protests, some more visible than others, such as the latest cycle of protest that the country has been witnessing since yesterday.
Observing and mapping collective actions in a long temporality allows to deconstruct generalisations on Lebanon's social mobilisations, and show that people in Lebanon are continuously mobilising, using various modes of action, and in response to a diversity of grievances not merely limited to partisan and/or confessional affiliations.
The accumulation of social and political organising
Indeed, the current mobilisations are *not* new: various groups have been mobilising for years notably around social and economic demands: last year, in 2018 we mapped 179 collective actions (this year witnessed a decrease in the number of collective actions mapped as it coincided with the Parliamentary elections), 419 in 2017, 468 en 2016, 324 in 2015. The main demands have focused on wages and the salary scale, the new rent law, and increasing prices and inflation among others, illustrating the socio-economic difficulties faced by people. In this perspective, these mobilisations are not unexpected, nor surprising.
Mobilisations cycles and framing protests demands
Moreover, and over the past years, individuals and groups have been mobilising across the country and beyond sectarian divides. While such collective actions have often remained invisible (or less visible), mobilisation cycles in 2011 with the “isqat an nitham al ta’ifi”, and in 2015 on the waste management crisis show a certain continuity in the overarching demands of mobilising actors, around slogans such as “al cha’b yurid isqat al nitham (al ta’ifi)”, or “killun ya’ni killun” (rejecting all political leaders), or demands around accountability including financial and economic accountability and accountability of warlords among others.
In framing the protest movement, and through their slogans, protesters are making direct links between the sectarian consociational regime and the structural economic challenges, as well as the collusion between financial and political interests and the capture of state revenues by the business/political class.
Hence, this contributes to show the accumulation and build up of successive punctual collective actions and movements over time, thus steering away from normative and linear perspectives on these mobilisations, and predictions or expectations on outcomes of the protests.
So far, one of the main outcomes and breakthroughs of this latest mobilisation is that it has contributed to breaking the boundaries of fear and clientelistic and patronages relations with traditional sectarian and political zu’ama, notably in the regions (Tripoli and Tyre, for example).
Ultimately, all these street mobilisations underline the urgency of a new social contract whereby citizens reclaim the Lebanese state. A social contract that is based on social justice, redistributive policies, and progressive taxes.
The Map Of Collective Actions In Lebanon, developed by Lebanon Support, tracks mobilisations across Lebanon by groups of people whose goal is to achieve a common objective.