Quoting an interview with the veteran socialist, Akram Hourani, Kamel Abu Jaber reports that when asked to whom he felt closer—a British socialist or a Saudi Arabian Sheikh, Hourani replied, “the Saudi Arabian Sheikh without any question.” Events of the past few months, culminating in the lightening war of June in the Middle East, strongly bear out the accuracy and the paradox of this position. In the midst of crisis, the socialists of the Arab Ba’th (Resurrection) Party did not hesitate to unite with some of their less progressive brothers; the link was Arabhood rather than socialism. But this choice cannot be attributed solely to the exigencies of war, it is part of the complex nature of Arab socialism and its most sophisticated variant, the Arab Ba’th Socialist party. Committed partisans of the Ba’th would claim that there was less evil in an alliance with a feudal Saudi Sheikh than in one with the heirs of the imperialist tradition in the Middle East. But Western socialists, even those fully capable of understanding such an evaluation, would be wise to question the history and theory that have been accumulated in its defense. The history of the Ba’th party is an excellent introduction t...
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