Lebanese Communist Party

Lebanon Table of Contents

One of the oldest multisectarian parties in Lebanon, the Lebanese Communist Party (LCP) was formed in 1924 by a group of intellectuals. Over the years, the LCP has had very little impact on Lebanese politics and has been unwavering in its support for Moscow. The party was declared illegal by the French Mandate authorities in 1939, but the ban was relaxed in 1943. For about twenty years, this single organization controlled communist political activity in both Lebanon and Syria, but in 1944 separate parties were established in each country.

During the first two decades of independence, the LCP enjoyed little success. In 1943 the party participated in the legislative elections but failed to win any seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The LCP again ran for election in 1947, but all of its candidates were defeated; in 1948 it was outlawed. During the 1950s, the party's inconsistent policies on pan-Arabism and the Nasserite movement cost it support and eventually isolated it. Surviving underground, the LCP in 1965 decided to end its isolation and became a member of the Front for Progressive Parties and National Forces, which later became the Lebanese National Movement under Kamal Jumblatt.

The 1970s witnessed something of a resurgence of the LCP. In 1970 Minister of Interior Kamal Jumblatt legalized the party. This allowed many LCP leaders, including Secretary General Niqula Shawi, to run for election in 1972. Although they polled several thousand votes, none of them suceeded in claiming a seat. But the LCP's importance grew with the arrival of the civil disturbances of the mid-1970s. The LCP, which had established a well-trained militia, participated actively in the fighting of 1975 and 1976.

Throughout the 1980s, the LCP has generally declined in power. In 1983 the Sunni fundamentalist movement in Tripoli, Tawhid (Islamic Unification Movement), reportedly executed fifty Communists. In 1987, in union with the PSP, the LCP fought a weeklong battle with Amal militants in West Beirut, a conflict that was finally stopped by Syrian troops. Also in 1987, the LCP held its Fifth Party Congress and was about to oust George Hawi, its Greek Orthodox leader, and elect Karim Murrawwah, a Shia, as secretary general when Syrian pressure kept Hawi in his position. Hawi, who had been a close ally of Syria, was reportedly unpopular for his lavish life-style and for spending more time in Syria than in Lebanon. Murrawwah was probably the most powerful member of the LCP and was on good terms with Shia groups in West Beirut. Nevertheless, between 1984 and 1987 many party leaders and members were assassinated, reportedly by Islamic fundamentalists.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress