Revolutionary Iraq 1968-1973
The political state of the Party as, regards both size and quality, is determined by its own internal strength together, of course, with other external conditions. The internal strength of the Party, on the state and national levels, is measured by such determinants as the unity of thought, cohesion, extent of the organizational base and the quality of leadership on all levels. External considerations include the relationship of the Party to the masses, the measure of respect and confidence, the ability of the Party to mobilize and move the masses, the moral organizational strength of the Party through the ranks of the armed forces and the amount of goodwill and respect for the Party in the Arab and international circles. These are the basic considerations that have determined size and quality of the movement of the Party before and after the assumption of power and in the execution of revolutionary tasks when in power.
In order to form an objective estimation of the nature and size of the Party's political movement before and after the assumption of power on July 17th 1968, we must look into the state of the Party in Iraq and the Arab world between November 18th 1963 and July 17th 1968.
The Party, during this period, suffered bitterly from schism on the regional and national levels and from the after effects of the previous political failures in Iraq and Syria. This was a problem to be reckoned with in addition to the permanent responsibilities of fighting Zionism, imperialism and reactionary dictatorial forces, while being subjected to all brands of repression in the Homeland.
On November 18th 1963, the Party's hegemony in Iraq failed causing a great disappointment to the Party and the masses in Iraq and the Arab world. The shock was tragic in spiritual terms, moral size, as well as in the loss of the revolutionary gains and the loss of many Party martyrs who fell while bravely fighting the regressive move.
A second blow was dealt to the Party in Syria two years and a few months later on the 23rd of February 1966 when the February clique in Syria managed a military coup against the national authority of the Party as represented by the National Command. This set-back of February 23rd produced a totally new situation which was exceptionally dangerous and complex. A situation whereby the party was ruled by the force of arms under false pretences of ideology, organization and political principles. A grave vertical and horizontal split within the Party followed, producing situations of deep conflict and chaos. The psychological, organizational and political effects of such a split were particularly disturbing in Iraq.
The first schism took place after November 18th while Party members and adherents were in a painfully stifling situation, suffering from physical and mental terror. Campaigns of political slander were directed against them by the regime and many other political quarters while being daily subjected to criticism and reproach by the people for previous errors.
The majority of the leaders of the splinter group were former leaders and cadres of the Party in Iraq. They put all their weight behind winning over the rank and file of the Party in Iraq.
The Party in Iraq, however, started to gather strength, though under great stress, after the question of legitimacy was decisively settled in the 7th National Congress held in Damascus in February 1964. Party fighters started to blaze their future trail with a higher morale and greater confidence. The Party found itself more cohesive than before, in spite of the large-scale repression by the Aref regime after the events of September 5th 1964 and the many consequent losses suffered by the Party. It felt, as did the masses also, that it could challenge the Aref regime on a large scale. New leaders on all levels, were being born after the experiences of November 18th and September 5th. Those leaders proved their worth by rallying the rank and file of the Party around them for the new drive. Hardly had the wounds of the first schism healed and the effects of the Aref campaign on September 5 been forgotten before the February 23rd walk out on the Party in Syria came along. It was a hard blow. I t came while a large section of the regional Party leaders in Iraq and a large number of the Party's members and supporters were in prison . Any new gains and achievements in matters of organization, thought and policy were again exposed to danger and chaos. The Party plunged again into whirlpools of internal splits and conflicts and remained so until an extraordinary regional congress was held in September 1966 when a new regional leadership was elected.
Organizational measures were adopted at this congress and later had the effect of isolating the February clique who formed by themselves another organization using falsely the name of the Party. The widening breach in Iraq and the psychological and organizational effects that followed resulted in the loss of a considerable section of Party leaders, members and supporters. Some fell under the weight of despair or terror and others were swept away by the schisms into splinter groups.
The Party found itself under these circumstances in a very difficult and complex situation having to challenge the Aref regime while avoiding its blows to simultaneously fight the schismatics ideologically, organizationally and politically while trying to rebut their false accusations. The Party had to do all this while trying at the same time to mobilize the masses and regain their absolute trust and reestablish credibility.
The shortcomings of the Party regimes of February 8, 1963, in Iraq and March 8, 1963, in Syria were now all thrown on the shoulders of the Party. For the splinter groups soon washed their hands of the Party and became its worst enemies by levelling at it grave accusations. The public image of the Party was tarnished and mistake-ridden.
The Februarists, on the other hand, manipulated the errors of the March experiment and the Party's negative relations with other parties and political forces. They started to claim to the masses that they represented merely a new and more progressive line in the Party!
The conflict between the Party and the February deserters was by no means equal. The Februarists were in power in Syria and they could use the government and regime for their ends, while the Party had no props other than the working masses and its poor fighters to face the harshest circumstances.
While the deserters were able to flood their organizations and the street with glossy pamphlets sponsored by officia1 circles, the Party had nothing more than a worn-out Roneo mimeograph machine. Our Party fighters, dismissed from their government jobs, imprisoned and exiled were passing through particularly difficult times.
Meanwhile, the February regime in Syria was communicating with the Aref regime in Baghdad and making many visits to the Iraqi capital, thus providing their supporters in Iraq with a useful umbrella and enabling them to move politically under less hazardous conditions. At the same time, 1 they were providing the Aref regime with information about the Party and with advance warning against its activities and intentions. Scandalously, they proclaimed from Radio Damascus the dismissal of the Iraqi regional leadership, thereby exposing them to the regime and the danger of arrest and endangering the very existence of the Party. The Februarists' Arab and international alliances opened doors for their supporters in Iraq to deal with various political circles, while the Party was constantly under false propagandist attack and isolated.
On the national level, the Party was undergoing similar harsh times on the organizational, political, psychological and material levels. Many Party leaders were under arrest, while a few remained at large but under fear from possible attempts on their lives by the influential machine of the Februarists in their countries or abroad.
Party organizations at home and abroad were in no position to give financial and administrative assistance to the national leadership save a very little help unequal to the requirements of conflict with the Februarists.
During the years prior to the Revolution, great efforts were made to hold the Ninth National Congress of the Party. Only in February 1968, two years after the regressive move in Syria, was it possible to hold the Congress. The Party had by then passed through the longest period in its history to deal with an emergency situation.
The Arab Ba'th Socialist Party had to face at this stage the most serious challenge of its career, which had always been full of great challenges and complex situations.
The challenge this time concerned the very existence of the Party: its future, its relations with the masses and leadership of the revolutionary movement.
The February separatists had usurped the name of the Party, taken over the government in Syria and made significant Arab and international alliances. They had thus put the Party face to face with the question of survival.
As mentioned previously, the struggle between the Party on the one hand and the Februarists and other reactionary and dictatorial Arab regimes on the other was never equal. The gap in potential and opportunity was extremely wide. In the context of things as they stood, time was not on the side of the Party. For in spite of the Februarists false position and their repudiation of the aspirations of the masses, their continued control of power in Syria and usurpation of the name of the Party for many years would have given them in effect a defacto recognition regardless of any resistance or acts of exposure. They would have enjoyed such a recognition regionally, nationally and internationally. A rectification of such a situation, at that time, would have been well high impossible.
Add to this the confusion of the masses born out of the Party's failures on February 8th and March 8th and the identification of the Party with all the errors of those events, which would require a doubling of effort to communicate again with the masses. Such was the dilemma facing the Party.
What then was to be done to extricate it from such circumstances and present the Party according to its true ideology, slogans and methods? And how to amass sufficient power to pull in the Arab arena struggle where the Februarists were sufficiently existent while the Party aspired to lead the masses revolutionary movement and carry out its national struggle for unity, freedom and socialism?
Many new factors, however, were pressing the Party to think of new ways and means to take over power: The new state of mind among the people and Party ranks after the failures of February 8th and March 8th; both of which failed and turned against the Party in Iraq and Syria; the new climate arising out of the June 5th defeat, which was blamed by the masses on the Arab so-called liberated regimes; the tidal current which was swelling among Arab intellectuals in search of ways to a new revolution; the Palestine Resistance Movement which had created yet another great emotional upsurge among the Arab youth and strugglers. All of these factors profoundly influenced the thinking of Party leaders and members.
Objective analysis of the Arab situation at t hat stage, however, showed that the pre June social forces in power were still in possession of considerable influence and authority in spite of the weakening effect of the June defeat and the great urge among the masses for social change. The trend therefore was to topple those regimes at one stroke in any single Arab country.
The Arab Ba'th Socialist Party had, in the context of the above mentioned circumstances and the revolutionary movement in the area to choose one of two alternatives. Either to abandon compthe idea of taking over power in any Arab country at that stage and embark on a long term programme of popular struggle under the assumption that the Party and the Arab revolutionary movement were starting again from scratch; or to search for a new way of effecting revolutionary change and assuming power in any Arab country, taking into consideration the requirements and standards of the new phase which should be more revolutionary and more radical. From such a position, the Party would be in the forefront of the mass movement moving towards national and social objectives, in confirmation of the true identity of the Party and the reality of its principles and objectives and of its leading role in the Arab revolutionary movement.
The Party organization in Iraq had clearly unequivocally opted for the second alternative. The option wasn't new. It had been in the hearts of all since November 19th 1963, i.e. since the Novemberist regression.
This will remained strong and persistent over the years from 18 November 1963 to 17 July 1968. Despite all the fresh events and developments both internal and external, the Party had always felt that the true fight must be to win political power in Iraq and prove the possibility of a mature, integrated, revolutionary experiment under the leadership of a popular revolutionary Party which would be the model and the launching base of a pan-Arab revolutionary movement to unmask the distorted regimes of the pre June defeat and to fight imperialism, Zionism and reaction.
1. November 18th 1963 is the date of' the reactionary military coup led by Abdul Salam Aref and other rightist and suspect elements against the Party's revolution of February 8th 1963 in
2. In September 1964 the Aref regime in Iraq conducted the most repressive campaign against the Party and its partisians in a desperate attempt to liquidate it. The campaign reached its peak on 4-5 September 1964, and thousands of fighters filled the prisons old gools