Progressive Socialist Party

Lebanon Table of Contents

Founded in 1949 by members of various sects who were proponents of social reform and progressive change, the Progressive Socialist Parlty (PSP) has been represented in the Chamber of Deputies since 1951. The party flourished under the leadership of Kamal Jumblatt, a charismatic--albeit somewhat enigmatic--character. Jumblatt appealed to Druzes because of his position as zaim, to other Muslims who were disenchanted with the traditional political system, and to members of some other sects who were attracted by his secular and progressive rhetoric. By 1953 the PSP claimed some 18,000 adherents, and in the 1964 Chamber of Deputies it could count on as many as 10 deputies.

Despite its nonsectarian beginnings and secular title, by the early 1950s the party began taking on a confessional cast. By the 1970s, this tendency was unmistakably Druze; this point was demonstrated in 1977 when, after Kamal Jumblatt was assassinated (perhaps by pro-Syrian Agents), his son, Walid, assumed the party leadership, continuing Druze control of the party.

Over the years the PSP has alternately cooperated with and opposed many of the same parties. For example, in 1952 it helped Camille Shamun unseat Bishara al Khuri as president; then, six years later, it was in the forefront of groups calling for Shamun's ouster. Moreover, from 1960 to 1964, when Jumblatt and Pierre Jumayyil served in the same cabinet, they spent much of their time vilifying each other in their respective party newspapers; then in 1968 Jumblatt allied with Jumayyil and Raymond Iddi (also seen as Edde) in the so-called Triple Alliance.

A reformer willing to work within the system, Kamal Jumblatt played an active role in politics, serving in the Chamber of Deputies and in several cabinets. Although philosophically opposed to violence, Jumblatt was not reluctant to pursue a military course when such action seemed necessary. The stalwart PSP militia was involved against the government during the 1958 Civil War, took a modest part in the Lebanese National Movement throughout the 1975 Civil War, and fought against Phalangist troops and the Lebanese Army in the 1983 battles in the Shuf Mountains.

The Jumblatt family shared leadership of the Druze community with the Yazbak clan, led by Majid Arslan. Although divisions between these two branches have sometimes been wide, the coordinated Druze defense of the Shuf Mountains in 1983 and 1984 helped close the rift. In addition, the Yazbaks suffered several setbacks that drew them closer to the Jumblatt confederation. First, Arslan's son, Faysal, became discredited when he allied with Bashir Jumayyil and the LF before and during the 1982 Israeli invasion. Then, they lost their traditional leader, Arslan, who died in 1983. Consequently, by 1987 most Druze were united behind Walid Jumblatt as leader of the PSP and its formidable militia.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress