by A. V. SHERMAN
THE SURPRISE which the political developments of recent years in Egypt and Syria have occasioned is as good a hint as any that our ideas not only on Arab nationalism, but also on Communism, are due for critical revision, and that, so long as this apparently painful task is put off, we shall be due for further cycles of the illusion and disillusionment which have characterized the attitude of allegedly 'informed circles' on Middle Eastern affairs during the past decade.
In this essay I should like to suggest that the assimilation and 'Arabization' of Communist techniques and ideas by Arab nationalist movements was not accidental, a product of the whims or personal idiosyncrasies of one or two leaders, nor was it the fruit of a mistake made by the West at some point or other in 'antagonizing the Arabs', or failing to 'win them over' by some stratagem or other. On the contrary, it resulted from the inherently authoritarian tendencies of the Arab nationalist movements themselves.
I shall further suggest that Communism, as it reaches the Arab nationalists, is not a creed of social revolution aiming at justice for the underdog and based mainly on the aspirations of peasants and workers; it is the ideology and technique of ruling classes (or aspirants to power); of soldiers and bureaucrats. These ideas and techniques, far from leading towards the establishment of a new and more advanced form of society in the Middle East, serve to provide the military-bureaucratic classes with instruments and rationalizations for re-establishing the traditional Middle Eastern despotism,