The Communist Movement in the Arab World

By Tareq Y. Ismael | Go to book overview

6

The crisis of communism in the Arab world

Retrospect and prospects

With the decline of the colonial powers and rising dissatisfaction with the West in the Middle East and North Africa at the end of World War II, Arab communist parties were presented with an opportunity to become a leading element in the overall revolutionary movement in the region. However, their inability to lead successful revolutionary action, which could have effected radical social and ideological transformations, resulted in the forfeiture of this opportunity first to the forces of Nasserism and other indigenous revolutionary movements and, more recently, to the Islamic movements, which assumed this transformative role. This failure to act can be attributed to important shortcomings in both the theory and the praxis of the Arab communist parties.


Problems at a theoretical level: Arab communists and “scientific socialism”

Analytically, the Arab communist parties were heirs to a form of dialectical materialism which has its roots in Hegel, Marx, and Engels by way of Georgi Plekhanov, Lenin, and Stalin. 1 This form of dialectical materialism stood, and for many still stands, as the epistemological and ontological core of the Arab communists' world-view, thereby providing the “science” to their socialism. Based on these principles, as filtered through Marx and, later, communists, the Arab communist parties tried to recognize and transform the world in which they lived by propounding the general laws of development of nature, society, and of human thought and action. 2

In practice, however, the majority of the analytical literature of Arab communist parties is notable for its inability to make any significant theoretical contributions to social thought. Arab Communist literature - which is full of praise for the insights provided by dialectical materialism - tended to be uncritical in content. Furthermore, the literature is indicative of a tendency toward an overly submissive application of allegedly universal socialist principles as propounded by the Soviet Union, resulting in a simplification of Marxian scholarship. 3

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