The Communist Movement in Syria and Lebanon

The Communist Movement in Syria and Lebanon

The Communist Movement in Syria and Lebanon

The Communist Movement in Syria and Lebanon


This is the first comprehensive work in any language to examine the development and growth of the communist movement in Syria and Lebanon. Drawing on party documents and literature, as well as interviews with key players conducted over a 25-year period, the authors examine the movement's evolution, intra-party struggles, and fragmentation over the course of the twentieth century.

From its foundations as a unified movement in 1924 as the Communist Party of Syria and Lebanon, the party separated into two branches. The authors describe the origins, characteristics, and dynamics of both parties, showing how each reflected the domestic environment in which it operated.

The Ismaels' study also provides an important chronicle of the ongoing struggle for political power in the Middle East and the reverberations from the collapse of the Soviet Union. With significant insights from a wealth of Arabic language sources inaccessible to most Western scholars, they offer a window onto one of the major political experiments of this century, documenting communism's great promise for the Middle East and its devastating disappointments.


On a pleasant summer evening in 1968, I completed a public lecture at the American University in Beirut entitled The Crisis in the Communist Parties of the Arab World. This lecture was subsequently published in the American University of Beirut's oldest academic Middle East journal, the Middle East Forum (vol. 45, no. 4, 1969), which, seven years later, ended over sixty years of publication as one of the first casualties of the civil war.

A discussion ensued after the lecture in the Faisal coffee shop opposite AUB campus, which used to be the gathering point of an intellectual circle. My friend, the late Bulend al-Haydari, a distinguished Iraqi poet and independent Marxist, was at that point in exile in Beirut, driven from Iraq after the Baathist coup of 8 February 1963, having almost lost his life following a humiliating arrest. He introduced me to one of the people from the audience who had joined us, the late Dr. Hussein Mroué, a distinguished leader in the Lebanese Communist Party. They both began raising some issues that they thought were already being dealt with in the turmoil taking place at that time in the party. Dr. Mroué shook his finger and said, "You have good ideas and I think you should follow the debate raging in the Lebanese Communist Party." I began, from that lecture, to follow his advice. He was assassinated almost fifteen years later during the civil war and was one of the most missed intellectuals of the area. My friend, al-Haydari, who continued to live in exile in England, arranged for some meetings, first with his friend, Mohammed Dakroub, the devoted Lebanese communist who was then secretary of the party's journal, al-Tareik. He gave me a complete set of the journal, which was my first schooling in the thoughts and intellectual foundations of Lebanese communism; years before he wrote his magnificent book on the subject. He even went as far as writing some useful, introductory ideas. Soon after I met the charismatic intellectual founder of the Lebanese Communist Party of fifty years earlier, Yusuf Ibrahim Yazbak, still vigorous in his late seventies and still intellectually full of life and . . .

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