Introduction
Where are the workers
in The labour movement in Lebanon
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The Beirut explosion on 4 August 2020 was a poignant manifestation of a dysfunctional political system marred by high levels of corruption, incompetence and neglect. Prior to the explosion, the system’s dysfunction and resulting social and economic grievances had already culminated in social unrest in 2019, referred to as the October Revolution. The Lebanese uprising has, however, brought to the fore the conspicuous absence of Lebanon’s labour movement in political dissent. The General Confederation of Workers in Lebanon (GCWL) did not call for any strikes or demonstrations in support of the popular protests. Why was the labour movement absent from the Lebanese uprising? What does this reveal about the economic and political systems in Lebanon? How does this absence impact the uprising? The book addresses the trajectory of the workers’ movement in Lebanon by answering two questions. What are the impediments that shaped the trajectory and scope of the labour movement? And what is the impact of the state’s co-optation of the labour movement on the political and economic system in the post-war period and today’s protests against Lebanon’s sectarian-liberal model? The argument of the book grows out of extensive fieldwork in Lebanon, beginning with a three-year period between 2013 and 2016, and supplemented by follow-up fieldwork in 2019. The research design relies on the review of Arab-language archival and secondary sources plus semi-structured interviews with pivotal actors in trade-union politics.

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