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The Lebanese Communist Party (LCP)[n 1] is a communist party in Lebanon. It was founded in 1924 by the Lebanese intellectual, writer and reporter Youssef Ibrahim Yazbek and Fou'ad al-Shmeli, a tobacco worker from Bikfaya.
The Lebanese Communist Party was officially founded on 24 October 1924, in the Lebanese town of Hadath, south of Beirut. The first meeting was made up of union workers, who formed independent unions for the first time in Lebanon (Previously, labor unions were controlled by the French). The meeting was also attended by scholars, academics, writers and journalists who were active in promoting the ideas of the French Revolution, and who were familiar with the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. The party was founded to cover the area held under the French mandate, which is now Syria and Lebanon. Initially, the party's name was "Lebanese People Party", in an attempt to evade the French ban on "Bolshevik" activities.
The party was declared illegal at first, but the ban was relaxed during World War II. For about twenty years, the LCP organized communist political activities in both Lebanon and Syria, but in 1944 the party was split into the Lebanese Communist Party and the Syrian Communist Party.
During the first two decades of Lebanon's 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 ran for election again in 1947, but all of its candidates were defeated and the party was outlawed in 1948. During the 1950s, the party's inconsistent policies on Pan-Arabism and the Nasserite movement cost it support and eventually isolated it. The party was active against the government during the 1958 uprising. In 1965, the LCP decided to end its isolation and became a member of the Front for Progressive Parties and National Forces, which later evolved into the Lebanese National Movement (LNM) under Druze leftist leader Kamal Jumblatt. In the mid-1960s, the U.S. State Department estimated the party membership to be approximately 3,000.
The 1970s witnessed something of a resurgence of the LCP. In 1970, Kamal Jumblatt, as Minister of the Interior, legalized the party. This allowed many LCP leaders, including Secretary General Nicolas Shawi, to run for election in 1972. Although they polled several thousand votes, none of them succeeded in gaining a seat.
During the Lebanese Civil War
During the early 1970s, the LCP established a well-trained militia, the Popular Guard, which participated actively in the fighting at the start of the Lebanese Civil War. The LCP was aligned with the mostly Muslim LNM-Palestinian coalition, even though its membership was mainly Christian (particularly Greek Orthodox and Armenian).
Throughout the 1980s, the LCP generally declined in influence. In 1983, the Tripoli-based Sunni Islamic movement, Islamic Unification Movement (Tawhid), reportedly executed fifty Communists. In 1987, together with the Druze Progressive Socialist Party, the LCP fought a week-long battle against the Shi'a militants of the Amal in West Beirut, a conflict that was 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, in favor of Karim Mroue, a Shi'a, as Secretary General. However, Hawi remained in his post. Hawi, who had been a rising opponent of the party's complete dependence on the Soviet Union, was reportedly unpopular for his idealism and unwillingness to compromise his ideology. Mroue was probably the most powerful member of the LCP and was on good terms with Shi'a groups in West Beirut. Nevertheless, between 1984 and 1987 many party leaders and members were assassinated, reportedly by Islamic fundamentalists.
After the Lebanese Civil war
The end of the Lebanese civil war was in sync with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Two back-to-back congresses saw the exit of Hawi, Mroue and other prominent leaders of the party, which left it in a major crisis. The congresses witnessed the election of Farouq Dahrouj as the new secretary general of the party. Hawi returned to the party as head of its national council (formerly the central committee), but later abdicated in the 1998 8th congress, which saw the second election of Dahrouj as secretary general. The party was then led by Dr. Khaled Hadadi, who was elected in the 9th Congress in December 2003. Saadallah Mazraani, who was Vice General Secretary under Dahrouj, remained in the same position under Hadadi.
The party is led now by Hanna Gharib.
The party participated in the 2005 parliamentary elections in several regions but did not win any seats. In Southern Lebanon, vice general secretary Saadallah Mazraani won 8,886 votes in the second district, and Anwar Yassin, a former detainee in Israel, received 18,244 votes in the first district. Former general secretary Farouq Dahrouj obtained 10,688 votes in the Bekaa third district.
In the 2009 legislative elections, the LCP ran independently with candidates in five districts but failed to win any seats. In a formal statement, the LCP commented that "the 2009 elections widened the gap already existing because of the sectarian system," and, while expressing dismay at its electoral showing, analyzed and attempted to justify the party's performance.
On 21 June 2005, George Hawi, a former secretary general of the LCP, was killed in a car bombing in Beirut. Hawi, a recent critic of Syria, claimed a few days before his death that Rifaat al-Assad, uncle of Bashar al-Assad, Syria's current president, masterminded the 1977 assassination of Lebanese opposition leader Kamal Jumblatt. Allies of Hawi accused pro-Syrian forces in the Lebanese-security apparatus for the assassination. Émile Lahoud, then president of Lebanon, and the Syrian government denied this allegation. Foreign governments, including the White House, strongly condemned the killing.
The bombing occurred two days after Lebanon's 2005 elections ushered in an anti-Syrian majority in parliament and less than one month after Samir Kassir, a left-wing Lebanese journalist and political figure, was assassinated in a bombing.
The Lebanese Communist Party is one of the few Lebanese parties that have affiliations throughout different sects and regions. It is present in most Lebanese districts, but its strength is greatest in South Lebanon. This structure gives the party a national presence, but at the same time weakens its representation in the local and central governmental bodies including municipalities and parliament. The party, as other traditional communist parties, operates through several popular organizations to recruit and spread its political message. These organizations include the Union of Lebanese Democratic Youth (youth organization), the Committee of Woman's Rights (Women's organization), the Popular Aid (Health organization) and the General Union of Workers and Employees in Lebanon (labor union).
The smallest organizational structure is a branch, usually found in a town or village. Several branches belong to a Regional Committee (usually made up of 5-10 branches), then every few regional committees belong to a Governorate (Mohafaza). The party has now an estimated membership of around 5000 members.
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