Sa’adeh’s Refutation of ‘Lebanese nationalism’ – Part 3
Our Social Nationalist doctrine is a social thing and the Lebanese entity is a political thing
By Dr. Edmond Melhem
To some Lebanese, Sa’adeh’s theorization about Lebanon meant nothing but contradiction. How could he respect Lebanon and at the same time insist on Syrian unity? Some Maronite clerics and politicians, it will be shown later, even accused him of being an enemy of Lebanon and his party of wanting to annex Lebanon to Syria. Sa’adeh realized that confusion and suspicion hovered over his party’s intentions in Lebanon. He felt that he was either misunderstood or the subject of deliberate false propaganda. Whatever the case, he believed that propagandists of Lebanese separation committed a grave error in confusing a “political question” with a “national cause”. To him, Lebanon constituted a political question arising from circumstantial factors, whereas the life and unity of the Syrians formed a national cause arising from natural, socio-economic and historical factors. Advocates of Lebanese nationalism, in his opinion, failed to distinguish between the two.
However, Sa’adeh tried in vain to explain how he would reconcile his doctrine of Syrian nationalism with his claim that he respected Lebanon. In response to his antagonists’ accusations, Sa’adeh gave an interview to the correspondent of An-Nahda in an attempt to acquit his party and clear any suspicion concerning its attitude towards Lebanon. From his answers, Sa’adeh appeared positive towards Lebanon, denying all accusations that he wanted to demolish the state. He considered himself and members of his party [in Lebanon] as Lebanese citizens entitled to exercise their civil rights within the state and for the best interest of all Lebanese. He also made this point:
Our Social Nationalist doctrine is a social thing and the Lebanese entity is a political thing and we do not confuse the two. If utility or political conditions necessitated the establishment of the Lebanese entity, the question from this aspect remains a purely political one and there is no justification to turn it into a national issue. Because of this those who consider the [Syrian] Social Nationalist Party a party that exists solely to demand Syrian unity err or misunderstand its cause. Those who try to panic the ultras among the Lebanese by saying that the party wants to annex Lebanon to Syria are deliberately making false propaganda.
In this statement and others, Sa’adeh seemed to be saying that the special reasons for a separate Lebanon from Syria should not prevail for ever. Lebanon is bound to Syria by natural and historical factors. His acknowledgment of these special reasons and his acceptance of Lebanon as a political existence imply a contention that the day would come when these special reasons would vanish and, consequently, the Lebanese themselves would seek the abolition of the present artificial frontiers.
Whatever the case, Sa’adeh, it may be worth emphasising, made it clear that he would never attempt to demolish Lebanon or stand against the will of its people. Rather, he would respect this collective will and the right of the Lebanese to self-determination. A question needs to be raised in this context. “If Sa’adeh was prepared to respect the will of the Lebanese people, why then did he oppose the propagandists of Lebanese nationalism and their desire to separate Lebanon from Syria?” The answer to this question is implicit in what Sa’adeh meant by “the will of the Lebanese people”.
Sa’adeh, it can be inferred from his writings, distinguished between a real will and what was only a spurious will. The former emanates from the people’s awareness of their social and historical reality and from the development of their national consciousness to such a point that they become aware of their common interests as well as common unity and destiny. In other words, the Lebanese will express their real will when they replace their traditional loyalties and primordial sentiments with a genuine national consciousness. At this stage then, they will be able to comprehend their social, economic, cultural and historical ties with people in the rest of natural Syria. What the propagandists of separation proclaimed and wanted could not be seen by Sa’adeh as real will but as spurious will. The reason was because they sought to assert an independent nationality based on sectarianism and utterly devoid of its essential prerequisites.