The Progressive Socialist Party or PSP (Arabic: الحزب التقدمي الاشتراكي, al-hizb al-taqadummi al-ishtiraki), also known as Parti Socialiste Progressiste in French, is a political party in Lebanon. Its current leader is Walid Jumblatt. It is ideologically secular and officially non-sectarian, but in practice is led and supported mostly by followers of the Druze faith.
The party was founded on 5 January 1949, and registered on 17 March the same year, under notification N°789. The founders comprised six individuals, all of different backgrounds. The most notable of these was Kamal Jumblatt (Walid Jumblatt's father). The others were Farid Joubran, Albert Adeeb, Abdallah Alayli, Fouad Rizk, and George Hanna. The PSP held in Beirut the first conference for the Socialist Arab Parties in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Iraq in 1951. From 1951 through 1972 the party had between three and six deputies in parliament.
The PSP in the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990)
Under Kamal Jumblatt's leadership, the PSP was a major element in the Lebanese National Movement (LNM) which supported Lebanon's Arab identity and sympathised with the Palestinians. Despite Jumblatt's initial reluctance to engage in paramilitarism, it built a powerful private army, which proved to be one of the strongest in the Lebanese Civil War of 1975 to 1990. It conquered much of Mount Lebanon and the Chouf District. Its main adversaries were the Maronite Christian Phalangist Kataeb Regulatory Forces militia, and later the Lebanese Forces militia (which absorbed the Phalangists). The PSP suffered a major setback in 1977, when Kamal Jumblatt was assassinated. His son Walid succeeded him as leader of the party.
From the Israeli withdrawal from the Chouf in 1983 to the end of the civil war, the PSP ran a highly effective civil administration, the Civil Administration of the Mountain, in the area under its control. Tolls levied at PSP militia checkpoints provided a major source of income for the administration, which succeeded in providing a high standard of social and public services.
The PSP played an important role in the so-called "Mountain War" under the lead of Walid Jumblatt: after the Israeli Army retreated from the Lebanese Mountain, important battles took place between the PSP and Christian militias. PSP armed members were accused of several massacres that took place during that war (31 August 1983: 36 civilians in Bmahray, 7 September 1983: 200 Christian civilians killed in Bhamdoun, 10 September 1983: 64 in Bireh, 10 September 1983: 30 in Ras el-Matn, 11 September 1983: 15 in Maasser Beit ed-Dine, 11 September 1983: 36 in Chartoun, 13 September 1983: 84 in Maasser el-Chouf, and many others...).
Military structure and organization
The PSP military wing, the People’s Liberation Army – PLA (Arabic: Jayish al-Tahrir al-Sha’aby) or Armée de Libération Populaire (ALP) in French was raised early in 1976 with the help of Fatah and initially comprised 3,000 lightly-armed fighters drawn from the Druze and Shia Muslim communities of the Shouf. Other sources however, place its numbers as high as 5,000.
At this stage a predominantely infantry force provided with light weapons drawn from PLO stocks or pilfered from LAF and ISF barracks, the PSP militia also fielded by 1977 a small mechanized corps made of gun-trucks (Land-Rovers and Toyota Land Cruisers, GMC, Ford, Mitsubishi and Nissan light pick-ups, plus Mercedes-Benz Unimog light trucks) equipped with heavy machine guns, recoilless rifles, and Anti-aircraft autocannons. Neutral during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon of June 1982, the PLA was quietly re-organized and expanded late that year by Walid Jumblatt, who turned it into a disciplined fighting force structured along conventional lines, with ‘Commando’, armoured, mechanized infantry and artillery units provided with Soviet-made armoured vehicles, field guns, Howitzers and MBRLs.
Heaquartered at the Druze town of Baakline in the Shouf, the PSP militia by 1983 aligned 17,000 troops – 5,000 uniformed regulars, backed by 12,000 male and female reservists staffed by a qualified, Soviet-trained Officer corps. It was subsequently enlarged in the wake of the Mountain War, with the inclusion of 960 Druze soldiers (900 privates, plus 60 Officers and NCOs) of the Lebanese Army’s Fourth Brigade after its disintegration in September 1983.
This allowed the PLA to seize seven US-made M48A5 main battle tanks (MBTs) and a number of M113 APCs for its own armoured corps, further strengthened in 1985 with the arrival of some 70 T-54/55 MBTs, BTR-60 and BMP-1 APCs supplied on loan by Syria and the USSR, which they employed in the War of the Camps waged that same year against Nasserite and PLO militias in west Beirut.
They also fielded a powerful artillery corps equipped with Soviet 122 mm howitzer 2A18 (D-30) and 130 mm towed field gun M1954 (M-46) pieces, along with truck-mounted BM-11 130 mm and towed BM-12 (Chinese Type 63) 107 mm MBRLs, coupled by Man-portable, shoulder-launched Soviet SAM-7 ‘Grail’ AA missiles which were used to bring down two Lebanese Air Force Hawker Hunter fighter jets during the 1983-84 ‘Mountain War’.
Administrative organization and illegal activities
The stronghold of the PSP/PLA laid in the Jabal Barouk area within the Shouf, which they turned into a semi-autonomous canton in the early 1980s, known unofficially as the ‘Druze Mountain’ (Arabic: Jabal al-Duruz). Centred at the Druze town of Baakline – the PSP political and military HQ – the canton comprised the Shouf proper, including the historical towns of Moukhtara (the Jumblatt family’ feudal seat near Beiteddine), Deir al-Qamar, Aley, and Bhamdoun. At west Beirut, the PSP controlled since May 1985 the Druze-populated Karakol quarter, parts of Rue Hamra and a large portion of Rue Watta el-Msaytbi; the latter a small Druze street that housed the Party’s main political offices in the capital city.
A well-organized civil service network, the ‘Civilian Administration of the Mountain’ (CAM), was set up on October 1, 1983 at Beiteddine, headed by an eight-man supreme council that included a central committee and a general congress. The CAM's own 23 bureaus provided everything from education to medical care and also employed 2,000 seasonal workers in agricultural and industrial projects in the Shouf. Upon the inclusion of the Iqlim al-Kharrub coastal enclave south of Beirut into the canton in 1984-85, a Druze-run ‘Holding’, the COGECO group, was made responsible for running illegal activities at the ports of Jiyeh and Khalde, including importation of fuel from Iran, drug-trafficking and gambling at clandestine permises.
Beiteddine was also the home of the PSP media services, responsible for editing its official newspaper (Arabic: Al-Anba’a) and operated their own radio station, the “Voice of the Mountain” (Arabic: Iza’at Sawt al-Djabal) or “La Voix de la Montaigne” in French. In addition to Palestinian and Syrian backing, the PSP/PLA received further military assistance from Libya and the USSR, whilst the expatriated Druze community in the United States provided financial support.
The post-war years
Since the restoration of constitutional rule in 1989 PSP was the major ally of Syria in Lebanon and its leader Walid Jumblatt was in close relations with the Syrian Army and intelligence generals in Lebanon, namely Ghazi Kenaan and also with the Syrian Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam. PSP participated in a number of governments, but, after the Syrian Accountability Act and the UN Resolution 1559 and the change of the balance of powers in the region after the occupation of Iraq, joined the opposition and took up a position opposed to the role of Syria in Lebanon's politics. Unlike some opponents of the Syrian presence, he did not oppose the presence of the Syrian army per se, but contended that the Syrian intelligence services were exerting undue influence.
Following the passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, calling for a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, Jumblatt was particularly prominent in the opposition. However, he was opposed to the demand that Hezbollah be disarmed, and insisted on maintaining relations with the Shia Islamist party. Later, he has drifted into sharp opposition towards the group, and has decided to support their disarmament, claiming that Syria and Iran are trying to take over Lebanon through Hezbollah.
Walid Jumblat called for dismantling of the communications system of Hizbollah on May 5, 2008, which created a huge response from Hizbollah and its allies, and eventually things turned to violence after May 7, 2008 and it ended with Hizbollah control over Beirut and the evacuation of all offices of PSP. The political realization of the ground control of Hizbollah was translated though Doha agreement in Qatar on May 16, 2008.
In late January 2011, Jumblatt declared that he supported the Hizbollah and Syria stance. Currently PSP, Hizbollah and several other Lebanese political parties share a "national unity government" in Lebanon.
- Amal Movement
- Lebanese Communist Party
- Lebanese National Movement
- Lebanese Civil War
- Mountain War
- War of the Camps
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