Trans. Dr. Adel Beshara
Was the revolution that Saadeh declared on the Beshara el Khouri's Regime in July, 1949, an act of treason intended to destroy the newly-independent state, or an act of self-defense provoked by the careless actions of the Regime? The answer to this question has never been - and may never be - known. But this communique, which Sa'adeh released on the eve of the Revolution, sheds an important light on this issue. It contains a chronology of the events leading up to the proclamation of the revolution, and an outline of its course and objectives. It is advisable, however, to read it in conjunction with Qadiyyat al-Hizb al-Qawmi (The Case of the National Party), which the Ministry of Information in Lebanon compiled in 1949, in order to establish who was the guilty party in this tragic episode in post-independence Lebanon.
On Thursday evening, June 9, 1949, several hundred members of the "Phalanges Libanaises" gathered in front of the printing building of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) in Philip el-Khazin Street of al-Jimmaizah Quarter of Beirut. After listening to provocative speeches by Phalangist speakers, the rally then launched into an armed attack on the printing press and administrative offices of the Social Nationalist newspaper, resulting in varying injuries, some seriously, to five of our Social Nationalist comrades. The attackers also set fire to the printing paper stock and destroyed some of the [printing] machines using machine guns during their attack.
Not long after the incident, on the same evening, the Lebanese Cabinet was convened by the President after he was telephoned at the Fadduls house, where he was spending the evening playing cards. In this meeting, the government decided to take advantage of the [Jimmaizah] incident and suppress the [Syrian] Social Nationalist Party through a campaign of reprisal and terror. The Jimmaizah incident served as a screen concealing the real intentions of the government which, however, became to be revealed almost forty-eight hours after launching its campaign. The measures adopted by the government quickly took the form of a full-scale campaign which was unmistakably such to all observers. In the same night, immediately after the cabinet meeting, the army commander, General Fuad Shihab, summoned his staff and issued orders to units from the Lebanese Army to move into certain areas of Beirut, while other units were sent to the hills and other districts of the Lebanese Republic to assist the gendarmerie and police in their campaign of sweeping arrests. Within few hours, they had detained hundreds of members and officials from the [Syrian] Social Nationalist Party who were taken by surprise while sound asleep in their beds.
The two primary targets of the campaign were the Leader's residence in Ras Beirut so as to arrest him and to confiscate his papers, and the Central Office of the Party in Rue Ma'rad. Although the campaign failed to capture the Leader, it succeeded in seizing the records of the Party from the Central Office.
The military campaign against the Party did not end here. It continued to build up until it reached a very high point in terror in all the areas of the country without exception. Police raids went on day and night and hundreds of Social Nationalists were imprisoned in a highly skilful and planned operation. SSNP employees in the public service were also discharged by the government and most of them were arrested without any specific charge or justification. Throughout the harassment and house searching that took place, lasting over three weeks, the members of the Party did not put up any resistance save for isolated incidents of individuals trying to flee from the rough tactics of the police. In fact, to this very moment, as the revolution against repression and armed tyranny is declared by the [Syrian] Social Nationalist Party, the government's campaign is showing no sign of subsiding.
The campaign of terror and reprisal against the [Syrian] Social Nationalist Party is, without a doubt, a glaring violation of the civil and political rights by the Lebanese state, and an unparalleled tyranny against its people. It is reminiscent of the days of the first tyrannical state which did not respect the will or right of the people because in those days only the will of the absolute ruler counted. While it was generally a prince or a king back then, in this age of ours, it is being exercised by a gang of political bandits.
It is also clear from the statements issued by those in power to the press regarding the ferocity of the operation, that the government is responsible for the destruction of property and the torture of innocent people, and that it has tried to justify its attack on the Party and its members on the pretext that the Public Security Department [PSD] has been informed by its secret agents that a rebellion was planned by the [Syrian] Social Nationalist Party to take effect on ...
We really do not know whether the government has actually received any reports [from the PSD] or whether these reports have any real informative value. But judging from the way the government is behaving, it seems that they have either been fabricated or they don't exist at all. If there are actually any reports containing accurate information and names, what stoped the government from raiding any specific cite or centre in which the plot was evidently underway, or to indict anyone whose name appeared in these report. Moreover, if there are any real or factual reports, why then did the government fail to locate a single ammunition dump allegedly reported [by the PSD]. Instead, it has carried out a full scale attack on those areas with a strong Party concentration, indiscriminately arresting its officials, big and small, and its rank and file members, which proves that there was a premeditated plot on the part of the government to annihilate the Party, rather than merely to arrest a handful of conspirators in order to foil a plot or to avert an alleged coup d'etat.
The government has followed the rule "strike first and then proceed to look for justifications." But although none of its anticipated justifications materialized, the government proceeded on with its ferocious campaign, raiding houses in all the districts of Lebanon and taking people in for no particular reason other than for belonging to a legal party, licensed by a government which has brutally turned against it. The policy pursued by the government is a violation of democratic principles and a breach of the civil and political rights of its citizens. It is an intolerable injustice.
This is not the first time that those in power who control life and political rights in Lebanon, have behaved in this manner toward the political forces which aim to spread the principles of democratic rule and fulfil the free will of the people which these rulers have carelessly wrecked by they own selfish aims. The same rulers had previously approved a series of measures, contrary to the principles of free thought and free speech, against the Leader of the [Syrian] Social Nationalist Party on the day of his return from South America. Indeed, no sooner had the Leader arrived [in Beirut] and delivered a speech in which, apart from his to wish to maintain the prevailing situation in Lebanon, he expressed his views on current political affairs, the government issued instructions to the Public Security Department to arrest him. It then fabricated a groundless case against him built upon false allegations, and then proceeded to bring it before the legal system to track him down legally, flouting with the principles of freedom and justice and with the basic need for public security and social and political integrity that would guarantee the rights and dignity of the people and lead them in the direction of an economic and cultural revival. As a result of this, the [Syrian] Social Nationalist Party was forced to resist the government with arms for seven months until eventually the government backed away from its repressive stands. Moreover, between 1947 and 1949, the government used every conceivable form of obstruction and restriction against the [Syrian] Social Nationalist Party and outlawed its rallies in public squares, as the time when it would not allow the party to stage a mass rally in Beirut and elsewhere, on November 2, 1947. Another example was the time when it tried to disperse a modest gathering organized by the Beirut Executive branch of the Party on February 28, 1949, on the eve of the birthday anniversary of the Leader-Founder of the [Syrian] Social Nationalist Movement, although the meeting was being held in a private garden. That attempt nearly ended in a clash with a throng of young men attending the celebrations. Having failed in its bid, the government then proceeded to ban the official ceremony which the Party was planning to hold in the Normandie Hotel on the day of the Leader's birthday. Consequently, the Party was forced to celebrate in a comrade's private house in an atmosphere of intimidation by the secret police which spoiled the social nature of the occasion.
Despite widening its campaign of investigations and terror to all districts of Lebanon, the government failed to find any real justifications with which to sway the public opinion. It then signalled to some newspapers, that usually tailored their coverage to the wishes of the Prime Minister [Riad al-Solh], to publish false reports alleging the discovery of large dumps of arms and ammunition in the Leader's house and documents linking the Party to Israel, as well as other fabricated accounts. It is clear from this that the government, and its proxies in the judiciary and the press, are prepared to use any justification even if they are false.
What must be pointed out is the sheer ferocity with which the campaign was carried out. The police were instructed to shoot anyone who tries to escape from the face of repression. At one stage, they fired on a group of Social Nationalists in Ayn Annoub, and on fellow comrades Mounir al-Shi'ar at Eynab and Fouad Farah Moufrej who was hit in the hand and thigh and imprisoned despite his injuries. In most cases, the forces taking part were trigger happy although their victims were only unarmed people attempting to escape from the armed terror.
Those who currently exercise power over the Lebanese people through methods of terror, rigging of elections, and violent intimidation of the emerging political forces that embody the principles of a new social life, have trampled the free will of the people. These are the people who have stood as a stumbling block in the way of social freedom and have waged war on the general political principles which insure the welfare and progress of the people. They have cynically damaged the well-being of individual and family life and carelessly exposed the life of law-abiding individuals to danger and their families to fear. They have set to out to degrade human beings through terror and violence and, consequently, turned into a dangerous type of political or governmental brigandry, to say nothing of the corruption with which they infested the offices and bureaus."
On the basis of this: The [Syrian] Social Nationalist Party declares this government, which has exposed the public welfare to danger and its safety to jeopardy, tyrannical and disloyal to the will of the people. The Party wishes to reaffirm here its commitment to the declaration it had previously made regarding the current parliament which formed from the flagrant forgery of the elections that took place in 1947 in an atmosphere of harassment and systematic intimidation of politicians and opposition leaders, i.e., that this parliament is unlawful and does not represent, in any way, the true aspirations of the people. The party thus declares the popular revolution in order to achieve the following objectives:
1 - To bring down the government and dissolve the parliament in order to invalidate its legislative resolutions relating to internal politics which were largely the outcome of private bargaining.
2 - To form a [new] government which would restore to the people the rights, freedom and will that were wrested from it.
3 - To draw up a modern constitution emanating from the will of the people that would replace the present constitution, which lacks sound constitutional character, guarantee full equality of civil and political rights for the people, and base political representation on the national interest instead of the confessional or narrow clannish interests.
4 - To let the previous political circumstances pass.
5 - To consolidate the Lebanese independence on the basis of the free will of the people.
6 - To uphold all international treaties and agreements concluded until now.
7 - To protect public security and private property.
8 - To counter communist threat to the Social Nationalist renaissance and to liberate the workers from communist political feudalism.
9 - To achieve the following Social Nationalist reforms:
- Separation between religion and the state;
- Debarring the clergy from interfering in political affairs and the national judiciary;
- The removal of all barriers between the various sects and denominations in society and in education;
- The abolishment of feudalism and the organization of the national economy on the basis of production, labour justice and the higher interest of the nation and state;
- The establishment of a strong army capable of playing a crucial part in determining the fate of the nation and the homeland.
10 - To purge the Administration of bribery, corruption and despotism.
11 - To set up a national economic policy based on the economic unity of [geographical] Syria and the necessity of a stable industrial-agricultural development.
12 - To erase immediately the injustice inflicted on the workers and farmers.
13 - To put an end to capitalist monopoly and tyranny.
14 - To release and compensate the prisoners who were unjustly detained [during the reprisal campaign].
15 - To reinstate every Social Nationalist and anyone else who lost his job during the campaign of detention and persecution.
16 - To reinstate and compensate every Social Nationalist who was discharged from the public service on account of his membership to the [Syrian] Social Nationalist Party.
17 - To suspend all regulations that nullify civil and political rights.
This Lebanese government, which has betrayed the freedom of the people and abused the rights of its members, has, through lack of any bounds and its abrasiveness, left no other course but to revolt in defense of [our] sacred freedom, and the life and aspirations of the people. The major People's Movement has accepted the challenge and declared the revolution.
Therefore, noble people! To revolution against tyranny and treason.
The High Command.