Monday, 11 February 2008

ELIAS FARAH - IDEOLOGUE OF BAATHISM

EVOLUTION OF ARAB REVOLUTIONARY IDEOLOGY
Elias Farah

A Note from the Co-Editor of Al-Moharer

The Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party regards all Arabs as being
part of one nation both in the cultural and spiritual
sense. The different countries, in which they live, make up
a politically and economically united homeland. In the
Party's documents, the Arab homeland means all the Arab
countries. Each of these is a "qotr" when translated, means
country; in the Ba’ath context, it should be read as
province or region.

The adjective "qotri" (provincial, regional) is used when
referring to an individual country. The adjective "qawmi"
(national), is used when referring to all the countries,
which make up one homeland. Thus, the national leadership
deals only with matters concerning the whole homeland. Each
regional directorate deals with matters within its own
country, for example, the Lebanese or Jordanian Regional
Leadership.

The word Ba’ath can be translated as meaning revival,
resurgence or renewal. Hitherto, resurgence seems to be the
meaning which is preferred by Arab intellectuals and
foreign Arab experts.

Dr. Elias Farah is a prominent Arab thinker who was very
close to Michel Aflaq. He is the author of many books and
articles on the subject of Arab Thoughts and Ideology, as
advocated by the Ba’ath Party. Dr. Farah was able to
explain the thoughts of Michel Aflaq and introduce them
both nationally and internationally.

As Michel Aflaq said "Thought is itself a force in history
and a priceless revolutionary one. The simple fact of
inserting the Arab cause in the framework of global theory
is a primary contribution towards enabling the Arab
revolutionary movement to set out on a firm foundation..."

I was honored to know these great men and as a tribute to
them and to the thoughts and ideology they carried, I will
introduce some of their writings to the non-Arabic esteemed
readers.

Revolutionary Regards,

Ibrahim Ebeid


Introduction

To gauge the measure and the power of Arab revolutionary
ideology and pierce its secret, we need only call to mind
the conflicts which opposed the various ideologies
prevalent in Arab territory throughout the history of the
present Arab struggle, i.e. over the last quarter of a
century.

On the one hand, the total inability of the previous
dominant ideologies to grasp the reality of this particular
phase of history stands revealed. These, in fact, succeeded
in defining neither its essential contradictions nor the
general laws imposed by the struggle, on which the life of
the Nation hinges today. In other words, they proved
incapable of perceiving the meaning of the polemics over
the contemporary Arab experience or of understanding the
bond linking it with the new revolutionary current in the
countries of the Third World; here nations and proletarian
masses —victims of injustice— have associated
class-struggle against exploitation and under-development
with the struggle for national freedom, in the face of
colonialism and fragmentation.

On the other hand, this ideology, to which both a movement
and a party are affiliated, has become the supreme guide
for revolutionary action of the Arab Nation in its
entirety, because it expresses faithfully and precisely the
aspirations of the people and the proletarian Arab masses;
it has, moreover, outlined the path for the Arab struggle
and defined both its line of conduct and its objectives.

Arab revolutionary ideology has at last, after passing
through various stages, reached maturity. It is now
following its natural evolution, which will lead to full
development and renewal and which corresponds to that of
historic reality and thought in the Arab world.

A study of the evolution of Arab revolutionary ideology
cannot be separated from the study of the movement which
has developed and grown under its impetus. This ideology,
while contributing to the success of the Arab revolutionary
movement, was concerned with both the positive and negative
experiments of the movement.

Arab revolutionary ideology crystallized and developed
parallel to the movement's evolution. It was, therefore,
inevitable that it should suffer the consequences of the
crises shaking it. From the very outset, the practical
application of the ideology with its watchwords Unity,
Freedom and Socialism, brought about a crisis which
revealed the backwardness of the Arab revolutionary
movement in relation to its theory. In spite of attempts to
draw the lesson from constant modifications, the movement
was unable to master or amend the situation or change its
course.

This backwardness of theory was the cause of the
deterioration created by the political and economic changes
which took place in certain Arab Regions during the
sixties. Political and economic decisions, which have often
been revised, lost their scientific revolutionary
character; these were stamped by political opportunism and
were devoid of socialist planification and a national
dimension. Changes were, consequently, restricted to a few
Regions, unrelated to the Nation as a whole, and were in
opposition to the teaching of global Arab revolution. These
changes appear as heterogeneous and demagogic
improvisations, unrelated to the revolutionary values on
which Arab revolutionary ideology has always insisted,
remained superficial and even discredited them in the eyes
of the popular masses.

Opportunists and climbers, thinking only of themselves and
the preservation of their own interests, made of power a
counter-revolutionary force, in contradiction with the
interests of the Arab revolution. During the sixties their
role was confined to slowing down the activity of true
militants — those who soldered their destiny to that of the
Arab revolution and the proletarian masses, those who
fought under the flag of Arab revolutionary ideology.
Opportunists who spread confusion were, however, doomed to
fail. They accused Arab revolutionary ideology of being the
cause of their ill-success and taxed it with backwardness,
inefficiency and obsolescence; they accused it of
stagnation and made the doctrine out to be incapable of
renewal. Their desire was to wrench it from its principles
and alienate it from its vocation. They also attributed to
it principles belonging elsewhere.

The state of uneasiness which followed on the failure of
the experiment in unity (and revealed the need to return to
the origins of the ideological crises which had shaken the
Arab revolutionary movement) was accompanied by a feeling
of resignation and, at the same time, by one of hatred for
the movement itself. The latter became the target of
attempts to destroy and defame it and of falsifications
aiming at the annihilation of its strength. In other words,
these maneuvers attacked the movement's ideology. Out of
this state of things, confusion was born between a sincere
desire for genuine renewal on the one hand and, on the
other, attempts, hidden behind a call to resurgence, which
were simply a parody and a deformation of truth.

The Arab revolutionary movement was unable to rise to the
level required by its ideology, but the latter, on the
other hand, was able to hold its ground at the level
required by the particular phase in history. The movement,
in fact, deviated from its own basic theory and failed to
submit it to necessary study and analysis. Its analytical
methods did not enable it to discover the close, reciprocal
bonds which link together Unity, Freedom and Socialism, and
it failed to solder these objectives indissolubly with a
skilful tactical strategy for political struggle. The
movement was kept prisoner by the very genius of its
ideology — of which it was proud and which it continued to
defend — without ever conjugating its efforts to fathom its
real content. The day the movement was forced to go into
action, it encountered a crisis which buffeted it just as
much as its ideology. Those in power, who regarded the Arab
revolutionary movement and its ideology as a means to their
own ends and to ensure success, gave full rein to their
hatred for the movement's ideology "like backward children
who expect their father to provide for all their needs or
like juvenile delinquents who commit crimes to revenge
themselves on their fathers for giving them life".

Some of these offspring became professional liars and
slanderers and tried to avenge themselves in a thousand and
one ways on the ideology which forms the basis of the Arab
revolutionary movement. The most treacherous of these was
lip-service to the ideology, while doing everything
possible to distort, destroy and plot against it.

The aim of our present study is to denounce the
conspiracies being hatched against Arab revolutionary
ideology and which try to deviate it from its vocation,
retard its evolution and veil the contradictions which
exist between Union in theory and its practical application
in the framework of the Arab revolutionary experiment. It
also aims at indicating the healthy, natural way for this
experiment to evolve.

Ideology

Dr. Elias Farah

Our era is characterized by the accentuated importance of
ideological strife. Many people are convinced that
political action can only reach the level now required if
basically consolidated by an ideological line, i.e. by a
coherent system of thought known as an "ideology", capable
of giving -specific direction to a human group. The word
itself is relatively new. Previous to the Enlightenment
(the century preceding the French Revolution), politics
were defined as an occupation, activity or experience
reserved for those who, at the King's command, carried out
specific functions and conducted affairs of state.

In 1690, a book called "A Treatise concerning the true
original extent and end of Civil Government" by the English
philosopher John Locke, was published in London. Locke was
a fierce opponent of both individual and absolute power and
of the concept of divine right. In this work, he described
the searching of conscience which was sweeping Europe at
the time, and suggested a new ideological, political and
critical orientation, which was the fruit and the
expression of an ideology based on empiric philosophy, as
already set out in his previous work, "An Essay concerning
Humane Understanding".

The philosophic tendency which characterized the
Enlightenment can be resumed in the five words:

1 – Individual

2 – Reason

3 – Nature

4 – Happiness

5 – Evolution

It differed from philosophical thought in the classical
sense. It was not seeking abstract truth and it did not
stop at pure theory, but sought rather the general
direction of an ideology aspiring to realization in various
domains of a profound change in human behavior. The French
men-of-letters, Montesquieu, author of "L'Esprit des Lois"
(Spirit of the Laws) and Rousseau, author of "Le Contrat
Social" (The Social Contract), laid the foundations of an
ideology highlighting the greatness and hegemony of the
People. In the same way, the slogan of the French
Revolution "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" opened the way
to ideological tendencies which were to leave their mark on
the 18th century. It was Napoleon, apparently, in a spirit
of disparagement and contempt, who coined the word
"ideology" to designate theoretical reasoning unrelated to
fact. It was not until the 20th century that the notion of
"ideology" began to clarify and diverge to some extent from
abstract philosophic concepts and metaphysical speculations
and began to define comprehensive ideas on which society
could be based. These ideas take into consideration the
evolution of history and act upon it indirectly through the
political organizations which adopt them.

"The Encyclopedia of the 20th Century", published in 1931,
defines ideology as "a system of ideas taking form in
political or social belief and inspiring the actions of a
government or a particular party". In Lalande's
"Vocabulaire Technique et Critique de la Philosophic" (6th
edition, 1958) the Marxist interpretation of the word
"ideology" is given as "a thought which expresses the vital
interests of a particular social class".

In the Larger Soviet Encyclopedia we find a
Marxist-Leninist definition: - "Ideology is the science
concerned with study of the laws governing natural and
social evolution". This definition corresponds to a
coherent and finalized entity, with which the working class
and communist workers' parties all over the world claim
kinship.

In his book "Les Ideologies Ne'gro-Africaines
d'Au-jourdhui", published in Paris in 1965, L.V. Thomas
gives a more elaborate series of definitions:

1 - Ideology, in its wider meaning, is a system of ideas to
which a social group is affiliated, and which expresses
just as much the centers of interest as the interests of
the group.

2 - Ideology, in its restricted meaning, is "a system of
ideas elaborated with a view to action, expressing a
particular vision of reality and acting as an impetus to
change and transform the actual state of things".

3 - Used derogatorily, ideology is "an unattainable
mythical ideal, either well behind or well in advance of
reality". This is Karl Marx's definition. (Ibid).

In the light of these definitions, ideology appears as a
system of ideas, a vision of the world and of the state of
society, which can serve as a basis for any common action.
It bears no resemblance to individual thought -having
neither its elasticity nor its malleability - because it
constitutes a programme of action. The distance separating
ideology and philosophy is comparable to that which
separates applied and pure science. Ideology is primarily
concerned with political and social science, but is in no
way limited to these fields. We can now make a distinction
between two different types of ideology — between partial
and global ideology and between religious, nationalist,
fascist, democratic, bourgeois, socialist, liberal,
communist and subversive versions.

To tell the truth, ideology, in its accepted definition,
prepares the foundation of a "party".

At the beginning of the 19th century, the concept of
ideology began to take form. In the middle of the 20th
century, parties founded on a particular ideology came into
being. Ideology acts as an intermediary between religion,
philosophy and science on the one hand and society on the
other. No social re-birth can dispense with it, for it
helps to concretize the global image of reality. It enables
us to situate the context of an evolutionary stage within
society and also to place it in relation to global
evolution and the whole of humanity.

The concept of ideology has evolved. Mannheim has
emphasized several aspects of this in his work "Ideology
and Utopia", in dealing with the transition from the phase
of partial to that of global ideology (in other words, to a
global vision of the universe) and presenting ideology as a
subject for study in a new scientific branch —sociological
knowledge1.

During the 19th century, Marxism was able to extirpate
ideology from its Utopian frame-work and to confer on it
scientific status.

At a later date, the Third World underwent experiences
enabling it to elaborate ideologies as a result of
reflection and a struggle to evolve sound theory in the
very areas of the world most exposed to injustice, where
the most extreme aspects of fragmentation and
under-development are encountered, thereby constituting the
most favorable conditions for the outbreak of revolution.

These experiences helped to consolidate ideology and added
an even stronger revolutionary content, with a more
sincere, more realistic and more human aspect. Ideology was
no longer a static collection of ideas and prejudices; it
had become a kind of dialectic, an expression of the unity
of theory and practice — of theoretical and practical
strife.

Present-Day Societies are Ideological Entities

In so far as they are ideological entities, present-day
societies, by the very evolution and nature of our era, are
characterized by the presence of several ideological
currents — all the more so in countries going through
revolutionary stages. For them revolution is not simply a
political and social phenomenon, but is the bearer of a
civilizing, cultural and intellectual mission. It radically
transforms both the vision and concept of life in relation
to a given society and the values on which it is based.
Revolutionary ideology is born during the period of
transition which prepares society to attain another way of
life — a new way destined to efface the traces of all that
went before. This is the ineluctable issue for any nation
engaging in a fight against colonialism, fragmentation,
under-development and class-exploitation in all its forms.
As Jacques Arnauld reminds us in his book, "Du Colonialisme
au Socialisme", the principal characteristic of major
revolutions is that the renewal of social, economic and
political structures is not for them an end in itself. This
thirst for renewal tends to produce another kind of man,
heralded and introduced by the new ideology. It is for this
reason that all revolutionary movements, regardless of
their tendencies, confer on ideology, unequivocally, the
role of the matrix of history.

Although considering modes of production as the foundation
of all doctrine, dialectical materialism emphasizes the
importance of revolutionary awareness and of the principle
that the individual attains freedom through his recognition
of the laws governing historic and social evolution. In the
same way, schools which believe in the intervention of
matter, instinct, and biology, and behavior, physical and
social environment are in agreement in conferring on
ideology a primary role in human experience today. The
revolutionary character of a transitional phase, during
which radical mutations take place, brings into evidence an
ideology's universal nature; it deepens and spreads because
it reflects the awakening of a global, general awareness.
Ideology is thus a vital necessity, inherent in the very
nature of a transitional phase, and an inspiration to the
revolutionary and popular vanguard. In the measure that
class-structure and vanguard organization incarnate
revolutionary ideology with a maximum of fidelity,
political action and the ideological standpoint adopted
increase in stature and become endowed with a historic,
civilizing message.

Ideological frailty and lack of strategic perspectives, on
the contrary, reduce political action to superficial
tactical operations, incapable of an effective impact on
reality. There are many incidents in history to illustrate
this truth. In Russia during the 19th and 20th centuries,
many revolutionaries confined themselves to political
action and partial reforms, having at their disposal
neither strategy nor a well-thought-out revolutionary
ideology and were, in consequence, doomed to failure. They
were content with revolt against standing social and
political frameworks, and this enabled the communist
movement to triumph, because it was in a position to
overthrow traditional dogmas. It even succeeded in freeing
minds and hearts from the sequels of the preceding phase,
and enriching militant action with an integral
revolutionary vision and an organization created within the
framework of a definitive revolutionary strategy.

Theory, Strategy and Practice

Strategy: Strategy is the general political tenet from
which devolves a revolutionary movement aiming at the
realization of essential objectives during a specific
period in history.

Tactics: These are the political policy which corresponds
to a relatively short phase; they trace out the path for
the revolutionary movement and establish its direction.

If they are to assume the ideological and historic aspect
of their mission —in other words, raise policy to the level
of revolutionary action and endow it with a historic
mission— political leaders must not base themselves on
revolutionary ideology alone, but also on scientific
analysis and strategy. They are then in a position to
analyze conditions and a given situation objectively and so
guarantee the success of an undertaking.

Political strategy is a scientific and practical expression
of reality, evolving in the direction which offers the
means to concretize revolutionary ideological data, and to
furnish a scientific explanation of the evolution of social
reality. The ability to control such evolution depends
essentially on political strategy. It follows, therefore,
that any political strategy of a scientific revolutionary
nature must be buttressed by a theory capable of grasping
social evolution in its entirety during a specific phase in
history. It is, therefore, of capital importance for
political strategy to build on a precise ideological
foundation; it can then abandon the confused, empirical
domain of improvisation and rise to the level of
revolutionary, scientific action, taking into account the
march of history and the laws governing social evolution.
The fact of drawing inspiration from a particular ideology
guarantees it from deteriorating into a straight-forward
tactical operation, i.e. an adaptation to conditions not
yet integrated by ideology. The absence of a link between
theory and strategy transforms tactics into strategy — into
a kind of chronic illness, resulting from total submission
to practical necessity, and preventing a vision of social
evolution during a given period of history. Strategy thus
finds itself amputated from its ethics and deprived of its
fundamental values, reduced to maneuvers, opportunism and
partial solutions2.

On the other hand, the bond uniting political strategy and
revolutionary ideology confers on the revolutionary
movement the aptitude to foresee contradictions, i.e. to
anticipate events and revise alliances before it is too
late. In this way, a revolutionary movement avoids being
left on the fringe of events, avoids blunders and formulae
tending to abolish its revolutionary character. Political
strategy draws, from ideology, its ability to interpret
incomplete phenomena; and thanks to ideology that the whole
is not sacrificed to the part. Theory is enriched, in turn,
by close contact with the evolution of reality in its
relation to political strategy. Mutual interdependence and
interaction between strategy and ideology constitute a
basis on which unity of theory and practice in
revolutionary action can stand firm. From strategy they
draw an inexhaustible source of riches for the benefit of
theory, and a perennial source of discovery for
revolutionary thought, and enable the latter to evolve as a
result of its permanent contact with every-day reality.
They equally enable ideology to follow without interruption
the general, historic evolution of the Nation and the
period. If this interaction, this link between political
strategy and ideology is to bear fruit, a third condition
is absolutely necessary: a revolutionary organization,
combining originality of theory, strategic prudence and
wisdom and organic soundness, must exist. This condition
fulfilled, the party is in a position to put its theory
into practice and control events, to hand on its knowledge
to the masses and benefit from their support. The creation
of the link between strategy and ideology is, therefore, a
vital necessity and a sine qua non in the elaboration of an
"organizational theory", its structure and essential
content drawing inspiration from ideology and its details
conforming to political strategy. This binding link can
only be consolidated when objective conditions are found to
be ripe for large-scale revolutionary action. Then is the
time for the transition to the phase characterized by
strategic and ideological action to take place. Tactics
then adopt a strategy in conformity with the moral and
practical values exacted by theory.

The success of liberation experiments of a national and
social order in the Third World —which constitute, in the
highest sense of the word, the framework of a revolutionary
stage— is to be attributed essentially to the link
connecting theory, strategy and tactics. Nationalist and
socialist movements can only acquire a historic
revolutionary character in the Third World if they fill
their ideological gap. They will have to crystallize a new
revolutionary ideology, capable of forestalling change and
explaining important contradictions. Only in this way can
they eliminate definitively the dregs of traditional and
incomplete revolutionary ideologies, which deal with a
single aspect —among so many others— of the problems of
nations and proletarian masses, who are the victims of
injustice and exploitation in this part of the world.

Notes

1 - Barrion: What is Ideology?, translated by As'ad Rizq:
Beirut -1971

2 - Cf. Introduction to the Political Report of the XXth
National Congress, p. 10

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