What can Syria’s progressive opposition learn from the story of the Labor Communist Party?

This article is the first in a two-part series by Joseph Daher examining the history of Syria’s Labor Communist Party. Article first published on Syria Untold

Rateb Shabo, a Syrian leftist political activist, was jailed for 16 years in the 1980s and 1990s—including three years in the government’s notorious Tadmur Military Prison—for his membership in the opposition Labor Communist Party [i]. His recent book, The Story of the Labor Communist Party of Syria (1976-1992): A Chapter of the History of the Left in Syria (al-Maraya, 2020), is a must-read window into progressive political resistance to the Assad regime from the 1970s to 1990s. 

Of all the leftist parties opposed to the Syrian regime, the Labor Communist Party (LCP) experience is likely the richest in terms of activism and political vision. The party has characterized itself with vibrant democratic internal debates and structures in comparison to other leftist and communist organizations, which featured a lack of pluralism and had a Stalinist heritage.

Different political tendencies existed throughout the history of the LCP, debating their analyses of the political context, as well as what kind of interventions were needed and the best way forward for the party. Similarly, the political practice and theory of the LCP were much more dynamic and non-dogmatic in comparison to other leftist parties, which were mostly rooted in Stalinist ideology. The party subscribed since its origins to an internationalist approach, linking the fate of the popular classes throughout the region and the world. The Soviet Union was not spared criticism from the LCP’s members, especially regarding its policies towards the affairs of the region.

Party members were from all ethnicities and religious sects of Syria, making it likely the most diverse among leftist parties in the country. Women also had a significant and, in later years, growing presence in the ranks of the LCP, though were largely absent from leadership positions (p.191). Alongside the initial involvement of women in the first steps of the p