The Lebanese Communist Party: The secret to constant failure

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Members of the Lebanese Communist Party hold a commemoration in September 2013 for the Lebanese National Resistance Front that fought against Israel during the Lebanese civil war. (Photo: Marwan Tahtah)

By: Nahed Hattar

Published Friday, October 24, 2014

The Lebanese Communist Party (LCP) is one of the most influential political groups in the Arab Levant – established and rooted in an environment of cultural enlightenment imbued with a humanitarian and revivalist spirit, under the shadow of a liberal regime. This was characteristic of Lebanon in the past century. But the LCP was unique among Arab communist parties for its cultural and intellectual output, on one hand, and involvement in armed resistance, on the other. This gave it a glorious image in Lebanon and in the Arab world.

Historically, the LCP faced a perpetual dilemma. Its size as a party had always been greater than the space allowed by sectarianism in Lebanon and it will always collide with the unbending Lebanese system. This was prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union and before the party was marginalized in the 1990s under the Taif Agreement, which was built on an understanding between the Shia resistance and the Sunni compradores, under the auspices of Syria. However, its revolutionary dreams continued, through martyr Mahdi Amel's – intellectually sound but fantastical – theorization of a socialist revolution in Lebanon, led by the communists.

But the reality of Lebanon's internal structure and geopolitical position would not allow the communists – realistically – to do more than make demands and be involved in progressive struggles. The historical political initiative, however, is not possible for any Lebanese outside the organic relationship with Syria. All major political events in the country, positive and negative, are linked with Syria. All the regional and international attention to this country is based on its links with Syria. Yet on three occasions, the LCP registered a historical loss, leading to its marginalization. First, it broke from the Syrian Communist Party [in 1964], confining itself to the narrow Lebanese arena. In the 1970s, it stood with Fatah against Damascus. Then, it disengaged itself from the patriotic war being fought by Syria since 2011.

Instead of the natural nationalist "dependence" on a center in Damascus, Lebanese communists chose a deformed dependence with feudal Mukhtara [the historic home of the Jumblatt family], which contradicted the very existence of their party. Instead of abiding to the strategic nationalist direction of President Hafez al-Assad, the Lebanese communists stood behind Fatah and the Palestinian factions. With them, and their sectarian Lebanese allies, they indulged in a war that should not have been theirs. It led to removing the Maronite bourgeoisie from power and replacing it with neoliberal Sunni-Gulf compradores. The Sunnis joined Hariri's project and the Shia saved themselves through the Syrian-Iranian Resistance project. They went to the Amal Movement and Hezbollah, while the Christians retired and their presence receded on all levels. Thus, the communists lost a potential social democratic reservoir ready for wide-scale mobilization. Those were later picked up by the Free Patriotic Movement, after it clearly understood that the Lebanese cannot be isolated from Syria. You have to be either with it or against it to attain a position in Lebanon, the region, or the world.

Hostility towards the Syrian nation-state is an old tradition within the ranks of the Lebanese Communist Party. It was validated in the Joint Forces coalition with Fatah. This ultimately became an expression of a sectarian project, internally, and a Saudi one, externally. Its leadership then headed to the Oslo agreement in 1993. It was painful to see Lebanese communists holding up their arms in the face of the Syrian Arab Army, when it entered Lebanon to save it from a dark sectarian war and to prevent Palestinian factions from using Lebanon as a hostage on the way to the negotiations table with the Israeli enemy. Later events would confirm which political position had been correct, for Lebanon, Palestine, and the Nation. Syria chose the project of resistance, continuing the struggle against Israel and confronting the West while its adversaries chose the bosom of the US and the Gulf and the path of making concessions.

When Harirism, or Arafatism, inherited an identical sectarian line, the same relations with Gulf states, and the same project, it turned from being a state within the state into seizing the state. From Arafatism, Harirism also inherited hundreds of "leftists," formerly from the Joint Forces and brought them together with their former enemies in the Phalanges and the Lebanese Forces. In a recent statement, LCP Secretary General Khaled Hadade said that his party was closer to the March 14 movement in 2005, but became estranged following its suspect position on the 2006 Israeli aggression on Lebanon. Did Hadade really expect March 14 to be hostile to Israel? Where is the Marxist political analysis here? Where is the reason and information to begin with?

Hadade later described how the LCP parted ways from the March 8 movement in 2008, because it rejected to be part of its battle – meaning the battle to nip the internal and regional conspiracy against the resistance in the bud. Today, he sees both sides as "equal," since both are "reformist." But he is with the Resistance, as if it was a totem and not a realistic movement based on local, regional, and global orders and alliances.

The Lebanese Communist Party is not facing an organizational or financial crisis. It is a crisis of deficiency, mystification, and a liberal inclination in building the political vision and understanding Lebanese geopolitics and the historical stage. For the LCP to be true to itself and aim to be a local and regional power, it must initiate a call to form a leftist front to join the battle in Syria against religious fascism and the US-Gulf-Turkish aggression, a task taken up by Hezbollah and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar English's editorial policy. If you would like to submit a thoughtful response to one of our opinion pieces, send your contribution to our submissions editor.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


The opposite is what any leftist progressive body or movement needs. (Not just in Lebanon but all Arab countries)

Disassociation from any sectarian or right based political bodies (e.g. Hezbollah and others, Hamas) no matter what? Even with veils of resistance, religion, nationalism, etc.

Disassociation from Any Arab regimes, kingdoms, dictators, status quo liberal regimes (e.g. Syria Assad Baathist) not to mention Arab capitalists (many forms here).

Do not use the Palestine struggle for allying with such players who present the same threat (could be argued to be a greater threat)

Build a united progressive leftist front with an ambitious ceiling based on social justice and the Marxist tradition. Focus the struggle on building within the societies and for the people!

Sweden (people) acknowledged the Palestinian state because it has “social justice”, “freedom” and “power” (not mutually exclusive) to do so!

Work that way (inward) and then only then you can truly resist. Resist the closer injustices and build a nation before you look further? After disguise the limits!

The writer has it backwards, deliberately or not?

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