Academic journal article Arab Studies Journal

A Tale of Two Communists: The Revolutionary Projects of the Lebanese Communists Husayn Muruwwa and Mahdi 'Amil 1

Academic journal article Arab Studies Journal

A Tale of Two Communists: The Revolutionary Projects of the Lebanese Communists Husayn Muruwwa and Mahdi 'Amil 1

Article excerpt

This article deals with two communists and their intellectual and social development in light of their political commitment in "revolutionary times." It follows the changing and sometimes synchronous notions of enthusiasm, commitment, hope, despair, and ambivalence marking revolutions and revolutionary ideas. The article engages the lives of Husayn Muruwwa (1910-87) and Hasan Hamdan, better known by his pen name Mahdi 'Amil (1936-87). It looks at how these two intellectuals witnessed and sought to realize a revolutionary project. The revolutionary project, which conceptualized a new political vision and ideas of change, was one of the core themes in their life worlds. It expresses itself in the two men's activism, commitment, and intellectual production.

Muruwwa and 'Amil represent two of "the most prominent intellectuals"2 of the Lebanese communist tradition. They were active members in the Lebanese Communist Party (LCP) from the 1950s and 1960s, respectively, until their deaths. Both men are symbols of a broader leftist "intellectual workshop"3 of ideological discussions, debates, and trajectories that took place in Lebanon and unfolded transregionally. As part of a wave of anticommunist assaults by different militias during the 1975-1991 civil war, unknown gunmen assassinated the two men in Beirut in February (Muruwwa) and May ('Amil) of 1987. Although the two assassinations were never formally solved, many communists accuse the Shi'i militia and party Harakat Amal of the two murders.4 They did not die in battle. Muruwwa was at home and 'Amil walking in the street. Their symbolically loaded deaths, together with their long history of communist commitment, led to their iconization among leftist/communist and activist circles in the Arab world until today.5 Vijay Prashad recently evoked both men as examples of a "continuing battle between religious fundamentalism and communist doctrine."6

This article traces the early experiences of the two intellectuals, their revolutionary ideas, and their witnessing of uprisings and revolutions in different settings. It engages both men's involvement in the LCP from the 1950s-1960s onwards, thus exploring theirs and the party's intellectual trajectory after the second party conference in 1968 until the end of the 1980s. Finally, the article places the emotional and the social at the center of a life-long intellectual "revolutionary" endeavor.

Researchers have addressed the LCP's development after the 1968 party conference and its involvement in the Lebanese National Movement (LNM) during the Lebanese civil war.7 However, scholars have not explored the LCP's intellectual production.8 Similarly, studies on Muruwwa and 'Amil have not addressed their intellectual labor as inextricable from their revolutionary endeavors and political commitment.9

This revolutionary project was never a single static phenomenon. It was a constantly shifting process driven by personal choices and experiences. An overall commitment to the idea of change within a communist-Marxist outlook framed this project. In their early writings the two intellectuals reflected on experiences of colonialism and imperialism, gradually adopting the theory and vision of a socialist revolution. In later stages, Muruwwa and 'Amil reflected on this theory and practice in the specificities of the Lebanese condition. As the Lebanese political climate radicalized at the end of the 1960s, leading ultimately to armed conflict from 1975 onwards, the two men's projects shifted. They started to espouse a more pragmatic agenda that included the triumph of the left-wing national coalition; the defeat of the right-wing "bourgeois and imperialist" coalition; the establishment of a Lebanese secular, democratic state; and the liberation of Palestine. The embrace of armed struggle was one way to realize these objectives. As we will see, the two communist ideologues buttressed their pragmatism with revolutionary rhetoric.

Life History and Revolution: Muruwwa and 'Amil

Both Muruwwa and 'Amil studied and lived abroad before they chose to be based in Lebanon in the 1950s (Muruwwa) and 1960s ('Amil). …

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