Revolutionary Iraq 1968-1973

CHAPTER THREE

THE PARTY AND THE REVOLUTION

THE INITIAL STAGE

SECTION ONE

THE PARTY'S EXPERIENCE

The Arab Ba'th Socialist Party had many tasks to achieve. It had to consolidate revolutionary authority and the Party's leadership of the Revolution. Essential problems of regional and national nature had to be faced while revolutionary transformation was launched and protected from conspiracies. The Party had to forge its own way relying solely on its profound faith in its national ideology of democracy and socialism and on its self confidence and the faith of its daring and experienced fighters, and the masses. The Party in fact had no ready example to follow, linking practical application with detailed programmes. All the Party had was faith and a wealth of experience full of lessons and, at times, bitterness.

Of course, the ideology of the Party was, is and will always be the inspiration and the guide for the masses showing the way for unity, freedom and socialism. However, it wasn't an easy matter, under the circumstances, to draw up clearly and progressively a detailed and effective programme and put it into immediate application. The task in fact was very difficult, complex and costly. Ups and downs were inevitable, always keeping the strategic aims in sight, until it was possible to define the main features of the Party's own revolutionary experience and enable it to help and influence the Arab revolutionary movement as well as the revolution in the Third World.

Thus was the difficult task when the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party took over control of power in Iraq. The Party was able to redouble its efforts to meet the challenge for the following reasons.

1 - The new revolutionary experiment in Iraq came in the wake of many complex experiences, especially in Iraq and Syria, which gave the Party a bad image, caused splits and shed anxiety on the future. The Party had to struggle after July 17th 1968 to obliterate the negative effects of these earlier experiments and pave a new course at the same time.

2 - The Revolution came after the Arab June (1967) defeat, which created an upheaval in values and standards and tension throughout the Arab World and its revolutionary movement, the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party included. That phase required an exceptionally high level of thought and action to meet the grave challenge. Any ordinary programme which would have been considered sufficient and satisfactory before the defeat, now came seriously short of meeting expectations. Ideologically, the Party was in a crisis. For in the sixties, it faced the complex requirements of government equipped only with its primary and basic notions which accompanied its birth and emergence in the forties and fifties under less demanding conditions. Development of ideology which began with the Party's attainment of power in Syria and Iraq by 1963 incited many negative reactions and saw the beginning of division. All this was natural enough. But after the setbacks of November [1963] and February [1966], the need for ideological development increased.

Again, because of the negative climate around the Party under these new conditions such as isolation, campaigns of slander, and despair, the attempts at ideological development important and advanced as they were, carried the imprints of that phase.

The Arab Ba'th Socialist Party, having to face again the task of leading the revolution in Iraq after July 17-30th 1968 had to redouble its ideological efforts in order to strike a balance between challenge and response in all fields of thought, programming and action.

Slogans had to be compatible with ideological content and both had to be on a level with the objective requirements of the actual situation. The Party had to have a creative and dialectical approach while keeping in sight the strategic revolutionary horizon of unity freedom and socialism.

It is obvious then that the Party had to face its destiny and forge its own revolutionary path, relying mainly on its own resources and the Arab mass revolutionary movement. Anxiety in such a case was inevitable. Even uncertainty of correct application of the Party's principles resulting in a sort of discrepancy between thought and application often occured. Pragmatism was often resorted to in facing the situation. However, this was not the central feature of the Party's experience. It will never be the central feature in the coming phase, even though some similar phenomena are to be expected.

The past phase has been like a difficult birth, full of experiences, problems, success, failure, progress and retreat. The driving force of the phase has always been the principles of the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party, its strategic aims of Arab unity, freedom and socialism and the faith of Party fighters in their historical role within the movement of Arab revolution.

SECTION TWO - TWO VIEWS ON EVALUATING THE EXPERIMENT OF FEBRUARY 8TH

Any Party in the Place of the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party, having first taken over power then being forced to relinquish it and finally succeeding in regaining it as it did in 1963, would naturally feel very sensitive vis--vis its past experience. Thus, the Party had the first experience at the back of its mind constantly in the wake of reassuming power in Iraq after the Revolution of July 17th-30th 1968.

The Party was determined this time to avoid any such thing as happened on November 18th 1963 and to prove to the masses that the new experience was to be different in methods and results from the first failed experiment.

It was necessary therefore to evaluate the earlier experiment correctly and draw from this evaluation the correct theoretical and practical conclusions.

The Eighth National Congress held in Damascus in April 1965 had, upon the request of the Seventh National Congress, reviewed a report by the National leadership concerning the Party's experience of power in Iraq in 1963. The Congress adopted that report which was later published in a pamphlet and circulated.

The report was useful at the time for the Party and the masses, in spite of the fact that it had been prepared hastily and when the Party was preoccupied with the crisis in the Syrian Region. The report mainly provided some answers, proved to the public that the Party had made a serious effort to study the reasons for failure and contributed to some extent to the formulation of a united point of view in the ranks of the Party.

The Party however, soon faced another setback on the 23rd of February [1966] which brought back the climate of discord and uncertainty which had the effect of erasing many of the positive results of the re-evaluation of the Eighth National Congress.

The Party upon gaining political power in July 1968 didn't find all the necessary answers in the report of the National Leadership. Of course, times had changed and new problems and circumstances had to be faced daily. New views and evaluations of the experiences of 1963 arose. The views can be summed up under two main trends: First, some comrades thought that the failure of that phase was due to the kind of alliances, existence of rightist elements in leadership and hesitation in embarking upon radical and revolutionary social transformation which would win the support of the masses.

The second view, held by other comrades, was of the opinion that the 1963 experience was characterized by negligence and haste in taking political, economic and social decisions, clashes with allies and conflict with other political forces. Such and similar reasons led to the failure. The first group of comrades may have perhaps exaggerated their fear of hesitation in declaring the revolution, purging sensitive government machinery of corrupt and bad elements and making the necessary political, economic and social changes. They were pressing for swift action. While the other group of comrades were, on the contrary, exaggerating their demand for cautious and well considered measures required by the Revolution and its principles. They insisted on a slow pace towards political, social and economic progress and on caution in trying to implement the democratic and socialist principles of the Party.

In reality, both outlooks were one-sided in t heir interpretation of the causes of failure of the previous experiment and in drawing the right conclusions for the present stage. The 1963 experiment did not fail because of too much so-called "left" or too much so-called "right". The main reason for failure was the leadership's failure in achieving a balance between the ideal and the possible and consequent inability to make accurate calculations of stages and possibilities and a graduated practical programme to achieve the essential targets.

The leadership of the 1963 revolution (i.e. the leadership of the Party at that time) failed to practice its role as a leadership of a revolutionary Party. The Party machine was left without precise and comprehensive central guidance. The Party, consequently, was unable to act as a vanguard revolutionary institution leading the revolution as it should, regardless of the prevailing circumstances and the risks. It lost the initiative, and thus regression became simple and possible.

After the Revolution of July 17th-30th 1968, it became necessary to confirm the correct analysis of the February experiment at every turn and every significant problem facing the Party in order to draw the right conclusion and make the right provisions.

The cohesion of Party leadership, practice of its duties in leading the Party and the Revolution in a serious and disciplined manner and its adherence particularly in the first stage of the Revolution had the effect of achieving the required balance in the Party and the Revolution, and avoiding adventurism on the one hand and indecision, isolation and timidity on the other.

All Party fighters were very careful to make their revolutionary experiment succeed and avoid catastrophes like those of 1963 and 1966.

This had the greatest effect in keeping the Revolution balanced and on a forthright ascending course regardless of obstacles, complex requirement, risks and the need for exceptionally judicious decisions.

SECTION THREE -- THE PARTY IN POWER LEADING THE REVOLUTION AND FACING IMPERIALIST AND REACTIONARY CONSPIRACIES

The urgent task of any revolutionary Party taking control of political power, is to corroborate and protect its authority against attempted conspiracies and encirclement and to strengthen its effective leadership.

Ever since the purge of Al-Nayef and his clique on July 30th, the Party's regional leadership moved in full force to a position of leadership in the new regime by filling the Revolutionary Council which has been composed since then of the regional leaders in addition to three members from outside its ranks. This formula however, was neither official nor overt. The new cabinet was mainly composed of Ba'thists, friends of the Party and allies. Ba'thist military officers who had retired or been relieved of their duties were immediately returned to service, in addition to Ba'thist reserve officers. (Some of these measures had been initiated since July 17th).

The Party began gradually to ask Party members, friends and allies to fill sensitive government posts.

The process of consolidating political power was hard and full of complications. It required a gradual and balanced plan and various formulae which at times seemed conflicting but were in fact connected by the same vision of the future.

As mentioned before, the psychological state and the after-effects of the 1963 experience made any immediate large scale purges intolerable. It wasn't advisable to start any drastic purging of suspect, reactionary and corrupt elements, even those dangerous elements in the army, security forces and sensitive state departments. A different method with more flexibility was required to achieve the same objectives without haste and with careful consideration and attention to the balance of power in the country. Care had to be taken to give every individual a chance to renounce his previous leanings and practices and behave like a good citizen.

This source of action which proved its worth and wisdom, proved also costly to the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party. The Party leadership had to be always on the alert for a possible diversion, always on the lookout, under the constant pressure of events and circumstances , internal and external. They had to be highly qualified, efficient wise and cool.

Such a method could not have been very clear in all of its aims and justifications. But it was the only safe method to be followed and evolved gradually in accordance with various developments. One of its drawbacks was that the leadership could not explain everything to Party members for reasons of security and secrecy. For the secret intentions could not be divulged without endangering the implementation of the plans. Taking into consideration the anxiety among Party members created by uncertainty, the leadership had no alternative but to depend an the educative effect of the struggle of Party members and the confidence enjoyed by the leadership. Party cadres were no less careful to guard their young Revolution against any repetition of November 18th, by adherence to discipline and patience. The lesson of that experience taught us that formulae and tumultuous methods in taking over control of power in leading a revolution were easy and perhaps comfortable, but did not produce positive results, only disaster as happened at the end of the 1963 experiment. The wise, patient and balanced method, on the other hand, may be nerve-racking and full of embarassing questions, and even accusations, but it is in the end the correct revolutionary way which will lead the Party and the masses step by step along the road of achievement... and victory.

Objective necessity wasn't the only reason for sticking to the gradual way in placing Party members in governmental posts. There was also the difficult question of Party cadres which were not sufficient for the government apparatus and the ever-expanding Party work. The Party cadre wasn't yet sufficiently qualified in government work. For the Party's experience in government administration had been short-lived and in any case full of errors and mistakes. Few Ba'thists had had any experience in government administration because of their former life of struggle, prison and exile. The vanguard of the Party had carried the main burden of struggle in former times and had had to bear the brunt of the regime's vengeance, hence it had little time for study of training in government.

The Party had to follow various and complicated forms in placing Party members in sensitive governmental positions. This was by no means free of blame and embarrassing situations, but on the whole it was successful.

For some time, there was confusion about Party and official roles. The roles were mixed without any theoretical and clear definition of borders. For some time also, many comrades thought themselves to be in charge of everything in government with the power to intervene in the smallest day-to-day affairs. Such unrealistic views of self-importance produced many misunderstandings and severed their relations with other non-party colleagues. Some Party members thought that the authority of the Party could only be measured by the number of posts occupied in government. Consequently they called for the filling of all jobs, from minister down to the office boy, with Party members. This was not only mistaken, but was also impossible.

Some steps by the Party in placing Party members in sensitive government posts were necessary but they produced some negative results. For such Party members soon lost all sense of proportion and committed many errors through arrogance. In many cases, the Party found itself compelled to reconsider such cases and consequently make changes in appointments. Those sudden jumps also produced a sort of illegitimate competition among Party members for higher government posts with attendant moral and material privileges. Expectations of some rose high because some equal members of the Party were placed in high positions by the leadership. Such a phenomenon inflated some egos to the extent of opportunism. Some attitudes became negative and irrational.

Some segments of the public could not swallow easily the sudden steps which the Party was compelled to take. The situation was manipulated by some resentful reactionary groups and political circles, not without justification, and found ready response in many quarters including the Party's base. Some Party members with grudges because of failure to function or because of unsatisfied expectations were particularly critical because they viewed government positions as places of privilege rather than burdens of responsibility in serving and leading society.

The Party, succeeded during the past phase in consolidating its leadership of the state and the mass organizations to an extent that makes it capable of safeguarding the regime and apply its programmes, but it must be pointed out that the phase was not free of many errors and negative aspects. It lacked the necessary ideological endeavour to analyze the phenomena and problems facing the Party and to point out the clear theoretical and practical solutions.

In spite of this, comrades who have assumed their responsibilities in the various government posts and popular organizations, have done so with a high degree of honour and efficiency and have played an important role in applying the Party's programme to safeguard the interests of the masses and realize their aspirations.

The Party has been able to protect its Revolution bravely and efficiently with a minimum of losses, in spite of difficult circumstances on the internal, Arab and international levels. The Revolution's authority has been consolidated and strengthened against all forms of conspiracy, sabotage and encirclement. During the past five and half years, imperialist countries such as the U.S., Britain and other reactionary regimes in the area have mobilized all of their political, technological, material and highly developed informational potential to bring down the Revolution. Some of their conspiratorial attempts even reached the stage of actual execution such as the conspiracy of January 1970. Other attempts were strangled at birth. The leadership of the Party, strugglers and vigilant masses who have maintained the security of the Revolution bearing hardships and taking on the most difficult of missions have always been on the alert for any danger and they have struck at the right moment.

The efficiency of the Party, its apparatus and the solid support of the masses have frustrated the attempts of the imperialist and reactionary states and their intelligence networks which used to boast of their successes in many countries, particularly in the Third World. In Iraq they failed because they were balanced to the point of nervous and irrational behavior.

To face imperialist and reactionary conspiracies and their intelligence plans required the Party leadership and the Revolution to make a constant and good study of the balance of power, at home and abroad, and to have an intelligent and accurate estimate of the "next blow" in view of the prevailing circumstances so that the Revolution would not be taken by surprise. A high degree of flexibility was required together with exceptionally complex formulae which were not always easy to divulge and explain on a large scale.

Success in this field was not confined to the mere frustration of conspiracies, but surpassed expectation in discovering elements and tactics while still in the preparatory stage. This afforded the Party and its machinery excellent experience in the means of imperialist and reactionary intelligence services. We can safely say that imperialist and reactionary governments, in spite of all their attempts at connivance, were never really a serious threat to the authority of the Revolution.

We can also say that the Iraqi arena, which had always been full of conspiratorial cliques, bands and groups of various political types and leanings which were on the payroll of imperialist and reactionary intelligence, is now comparatively clean. The Iraqi field is comparatively clean, because of the efficiency of the Party and its energy in confronting plots and conspiracies. No one now inside the country can pose a serious threat to the authority of the Revolution. It is now also virtually impossible for any imperialist or reactionary plot to succeed by the familiar methods.