Return Speech of 1947

by Antoun Saadeh




 

On March 2, 1947, Saadeh returned to Lebanon to a monster welcome after spending almost nine years in exile. Upon his arrival, he delivered the following speech to a massive crowd which came practically from all over geographical Syria to welcome him back. The importance of this speech cannot be emphasized not only because it rocked the Lebanese political system to its foundations, but, more importantly, because it determined the course of events for the next two years, leading up to Saadeh's arrest and swift execution in the early morning of July 8, 1949.

Fellow Social Nationalists

Today is the happiest day I have ever experienced in my life. For I have come back after almost nine years separated from you in the diaspora to join this growing multitudes of our adherents which represents a nation that, in its strong thrust to live in history, would never allow any enemy to bury it. After fifteen years of disciplined struggle, unparalleled anywhere else in the world, we stand today as a living nation victorious over all the foreign designs which aimed to keep this nation fragmented into contending denominations and sects, all of which have an equal heavenly origin, and to which our social nationalist teachings came offering a single unified religion designed to raise this nation to their level, to find in them its long-term guidance.

Today, our flags flap triumphantly in the wind without the flags of the occupying foreigner present at their side. If it is our flags that fly today, the credit for that is due to your teachings, your faith, your work, and your united struggle.

We have now reached a stage in our independence which, however, we do not see as the furthermost limit of progress that we should attain in life. It is just a step among many more undertaken by this great and powerful nation, though, an important step the credit for which, I again reiterate, is due to your work and disciplined struggle.

You are different from the other groups in the nation which worked and struggled in an improvised fashion, often in disagreement with each other. You had, in fact, to work at one of the most difficult stages in the course of this independence. But you did not do so in an opportunistic manner or under the protection of British bayonets, just as in the past, when you declined to work under the protection of German or Russian bayonets, or any other country for that matter.

You struggled on your own on behalf of this nation and by yourself you redeemed its honour at a time when your leaders, those directing the renaissance, were in shackles in prison. But your leaders held their heads high and their will was unshaken. They remained true in their resolve, refusing to bow their heads or to retreat by even a single hairdbreath from the supreme demands around which we had made our stand. And you [pointing to the masses] embodied the sincere hope of the nation. Like true faithfuls, you did not abandon your leadership neither in the time when it was in the prisons nor in the time in which it was - and remains - in the field of battle, in the field of actual fighting, whenever the need should demand.

As you were carrying out your unaided unity and struggle, you could hear voices soaring from within the other groups of the nation praising and glorifying the foreigners, and advising the people to bow heads to their guns, warplanes and bayonets. Indeed, you were the one who redeemed the honour of this nation. Your stand during those stormy times was nothing but the stand of the nation.

This is the outstanding fact about this independence and this first step, which we maintain has to be followed by other steps until the nation wins that final hope to which it constantly directs itself.

By prevailing over all the rumours which the occupying foreigner spread and which spoke to certain sicknesses of souls in a portion of our people, Day after day, and in every hour of your life, the people have come to realize that, contrary to such foreign-inspired rumours, you are not the enemies of Lebanon and of the Lebanese entity which the Lebanese people clearly desire.

Indeed, your nationalist endeavour was the most authentic expression of the will of the nation in Lebanon, in hinterland Syria, in Palestine, in Jordan, and in Mesopotamia. The Lebanese entity. What is the real meaning of the Lebanese entity? Is it an iron mould in which thought in Lebanon can be placed to implode into itself? Or is it a sphere of safety, a point from which thought can proceed to diffuse brotherhood throughout the whole nation, to spread unity and unify ranks, and to unite the whole nation on a single future from which we refuse to deviate even by one hairdbreath.

What is it that the Lebanese desire from their entity? Is it to have light themselves while the surrounding region can remain enshrouded in darkness? If there is light in Lebanon, it is only to be expected that this light should spread itself out throughout the whole of natural Syria. Could we accept that we Lebanon could have a light without all compatriots in our nation having a share in it? That can never be. [Pointing to the masses] This is the Lebanese entity and this is the authentic expression of the sublime feelings and the grand aims embodied in the Lebanese soul.

Anything other than this is baseless. It does not represent Lebanon or the will of the Lebanese people at all.

The Lebanese entity depends for its legitimization on the will of the Lebanese people. In all its positions, the party has demonstrated that, on this issue, it places the will of the people above every other consideration. The fact that the party was ready to cooperate with the Lebanese Administrations in everything touching on issue of sovereignty, even in times when it disagreed with their internal policy, clearly shows that the party does not want to impose anything on the Lebanese people.

You also have clearly demonstrated the groundless of yet another false rumour namely that the Social Nationalists are the enemies of the Arabs and Arabism. If there is in the world true committed Arabism, it would be that found in the ranks of the Social Nationalist Party.

What is the meaning of the Arab League which represents the Arab World today. Does it carry out the concept of the utopian enthusiasts of Arabism who want an Arab empire and an Arab national unity? Or does it rather implement the construction of a Front of Arab nations for which your party has argued and which would act as a deterrence to foreign designs and a force that would have weight in deciding wide political issues and thus be the effective means to realize the wills of this group of nations? Today's Arab League is the realization of that for which the Social Nationalist Party has called. We have been the group pursuing real Arabism while others pursued a false Arabism. We are the front of the Arab World, its heart, and its sword and protecting shield.

We have emerged victorious over the occupying country in this sector [of the Syrian homeland], and also over what is even more deadly than its artillery and weapons -over all the falsifications with which that country strove to alienate the people from its own cause. You have often heard the charge that the Social Nationalist Party was working for the interests of foreign states. They even named these states claiming that they were Italy and Germany, in a joint alliance. [During the Vichy interval], these two countries were occupying our lands through a treaty with France: they had two committees that used to sit in our country. But did they ever intervene on behalf of the leaders of the Social Nationalist Party still imprisoned by the State that had that treaty with Germany and Italy? Nothing of that sort ever happened! You are the only group that worked on behalf of the nation without depending on the bayonets of foreigners of any kind. Those ordinary members of the nation who were alienated from you through vicious propaganda today realize this fact very clearly. And they stand with you because you are redeeming their honour in the most critical of situations. Fellow Social Nationalists! I want to use an analogy to depict the condition of the independence in which we are now in. I want to use parallels from prison life. Many of you may not have actually entered the prisons to fully grasp the comparisons I am about to draw, but you will still understand something of that life through the reports you have heard.

In the present state of independence, the nation is outside the prison cell in which it was held. It has come out of the prisons inside the large building that Imperialism prepared for it, but until this time it still remains behind the great wall which surrounds the complex of the prison building. We are presently outside the prison cells but still behind the wall. The doors which lead inside are open while those that lead out are still watched over by the jailers who, unfortunately, are usually recruited from our own people.

This is the state of independence in which we are today. Other groups want to celebrate it and act like a child on the festival day brought brocaded garments with shinning buttons, some of them in the form of a field marshal's uniform, some others like that of an admiral, and some like the uniforms of the commander-in-chief of an Air Force. But in reality they are nothing more than costumes. Other groups may want this kind of destiny for the nation but such mere appearances cannot deceive us. We will never waste our time looking for games to play in life.

Fellow Social Nationalists!

Our struggle is continuing and you must never allow yourselves to forget that Palestine is part of Syria. This southern wing remains, as you know, mortally threatened. The Social Nationalists are determined to save Palestine fro Jewish designs and their collaborators.

You may from time to time hear those who say that delivering Palestine would be at the expense of Lebanon and the Lebanese and something in which Lebanon cannot get involved. In reality, saving Palestine is the most Lebanese of enterprises, just as it is a core matter for hinterland Syria, as well as, of course, a core matter for the Palestinians. The Jewish threat to Palestine is a threat to the whole of Syria, a threat to all its entities.

I would stress once again that there is no need at all to turn these entities into prison houses. Let us rather turn them into citadels in which the nation can shield itself as it prepares to leap from their ramparts onto those with designs on its rights.

I am instructing you fellow Social Nationalists to return to the field of battle.

Fellow Social Nationalists!

I would like to have had time enough to shake the hand of every one of you and get to know you individually, but time is running out and does not suffice. But I am determined as ever to visit your various regions and call in to see you.