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Syria and Iraq, Baathists

Steven Isaac


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Three main currents of socialist thought flowed through the Arab world during and after World War II: the Baath Party's version, shared by Nasser , and the options promulgated by the region's various communist parties. None could be considered independent from the others. The history of Arab communists is often a story of rivalry and occasional cohabitation with other movements. The Baathists were active beyond just Syria and Iraq, which saw their most signal successes, and concomitant disappointments. Michel Aflaq, a Sorbonne-educated Syrian Christian, is one of the two primary founders of the Baath movement. Exposed to Marx during his studies in France, Aflaq associated for some time with communists in Syria after returning in 1932. While he declared his fascination with communism ended by 1936, others cite him as a confirmed party member until 1943. His co-founder, Salah al-Din al-Bitar, likewise went to France for university education and returned to Syria as a teacher. Frustrated by France's interwar policies, the nationalism of both men significantly influenced their attitudes toward the West, such that even western socialism was viewed as another form of imperialism. From 1940 onward, Aflaq and Bitar considered forming a political party based on their nationalism, but the failure of the Rashid Ali revolt in Iraq in 1941 and the Lebanon crisis of 1943 finally galvanized ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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