The Communist Movement in the Arab World

By Tareq Y. Ismael | Go to book overview

Preface

Although the specific experience of communist parties in the Arab world has varied from country to country, a certain common evolution underlies their individual histories. The key to this commonality lies in the two powerful, and often contradictory, forces which have shaped a distinctly “Arab” communism: the Soviet-dominated world communist movement, and cultural, economic, and political conditions in the Arab world.

With the exception of the Sudanese Communist Party, all the major communist parties in the Arab world were founded under the aegis of the Comintern. All looked to a world communist movement dominated by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) for political and ideological leadership and material support. With this acceptance of the Soviet orthodoxy came an uncritical acceptance of the canons of Soviet Marxism-Leninism-Stalinism and a concomitant failure to formulate independent social analyses of the specific conditions within the Arab world.

However, as Soviet support and control over Arab communist parties began to weaken following the death of Stalin, the Arab communist movement was forced to attune itself to local circumstances and sensitivities. It was by means of this process, through the interaction of forces of conformity and adaptation, that a distinctive Arab communist discourse was born. However, this does not mean that, at the movement's inception, Arab communists were merely an appendage to the Soviet Union or the Comintern. Rather, communism in the Arab world developed as an approach to post-colonial liberation in which local issues interacted with a theoretical framework in an attempt to explain these Arab social, economic, and political realities. Nevertheless, despite the attempts by Arab communist parties to adapt to local issues, the harsh treatment and oppression by regional governments eventually led to a virtually complete dependence on the CPSU. As a result, local and regional issues, along with Marxist-Leninist theory, became secondary to Soviet global policy and the destinies of Arab communist parties became intertwined with the fortunes of the Soviet Union. Despite this dependence, however, they had a profound impact upon the political discourses in the region and all domestic political entities were forced to address the issues raised by the

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