The Communist Movement in the Arab World

By Tareq Y. Ismael | Go to book overview
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The Soviet legacy

After the Seventh Congress of the Comintern (1935), ideology in the Soviet Union became an explicit tool of state policy. In effect, this represented the subordination of ideology to state interests. The change in the relationship between ideology and state in the Soviet Union had a profound impact on the development of Arab communist parties. This chapter examines this impact over the course of the twentieth century.

Arab communist parties under Stalin

Under Stalin, the Soviet State conceived of the Arab communist parties primarily as a tool of Soviet foreign policy. Stalin was highly suspicious of genuinely popular and successful revolutionary groups, since such groups were correspondingly less reliant on Soviet assistance and, hence, less amenable to Soviet control. To counter the independence of Third World communists, Stalin insisted on rigid discipline within, and tight Soviet control of, foreign parties, despite the often-detrimental effect this had on their political appeal. 1

As a result of both the popular front tactics which were promulgated at the Seventh Congress of the Comintern (1935), and the intensification of great power conflict in Europe, particularly the rise of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, the colonial question receded into the background. At the Congress, the Comintern re-emphasized the utility of the united front and communist parties were directed to renew alliances with national bourgeoisies against [international] imperialism. 2 Indeed, one slogan, which emerged from the Congress, was the statement that “the work for the creation of an anti-imperialist front is the main task of the communists.” 3 Arab parties followed the Congress's instruction by forging tactical alliances with some of the same parties they had broken with following the Sixth Congress in 1928. This shift to align with the bourgeoisie was seen especially in Iraq, where the communist movement supported the military coup of 1936, and in Syria, where, between 1936 and 1945, the movement cooperated (and even offered to amalgamate) with al-Kutlah al-Wataniyah and other bourgeois parties.


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