Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party – Syria Region
Founding and early years: 1947–1963
The Ba'ath Party, and indirectly the Syrian Regional Branch, was established on 7 April 1947 by Michel Aflaq
(a Christian), Salah al-Din al-Bitar
(a Sunni Muslim
) and Zaki al-Arsuzi
According to the congress, the party was "nationalist, populist, socialist, and revolutionary" and believed in the "unity and freedom of the Arab nation within its homeland."
The party opposed the theory of class conflict, but supported the nationalisation of major industries, the unionisation of workers, land reform, and supported private inheritance and private property rights to some degree.
The party merged with the Arab Socialist Party
(ASP), led by Akram al-Hawrani
, to establish the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party
in Lebanon following Adib Shishakli
's rise to power.
Most ASP members did not adhere to the merger and remained, according to George Alan, "passionately loyal to Hawrani's person."
The merger was weak, and a lot of the ASP's original infrastructure remained intact.
In 1955, the party decided to support Nasser and what they perceived as his pan-Arabic policies.
Syrian politics took a dramatic turn in 1954 when the military government of Adib al-Shishakli
was overthrown and the democratic system restored.
The Ba'ath, now a large and popular organisation, won 22 out of 142 parliamentary seats in the Syrian election
that year, becoming the second-largest party in parliament.
The Ba'ath Party was supported by the intelligentsia
because of their pro-Egyptian and anti-imperialist stance and their support for social reform.
The assassination of Ba'athist colonel Adnan al-Malki
by a member of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party
(SSNP) in April 1955 allowed the Ba'ath Party and its allies to launch a crackdown, thus eliminating one rival.
In 1957, the Ba'ath Party partnered with the Syrian Communist Party
(SCP) to weaken the power of Syria's conservative parties.
By the end of that year, the SCP weakened the Ba'ath Party to such an extent that in December the Ba'ath Party drafted a bill calling for a union with Egypt, a move that was very popular.
The union between Egypt and Syria went ahead and the United Arab Republic
(UAR) was created, and the Ba'ath Party was banned in the UAR because of Nasser's hostility to parties other than his own.
The Ba'ath leadership dissolved the party in 1958, gambling that the legalisation against certain parties would hurt the SCP more than it would the Ba'ath.
A military coup in Damascus in 1961 brought the UAR to an end.
Sixteen prominent politicians, including al-Hawrani and Salah al-Din al-Bitar
– who later retracted his signature, signed a statement supporting the coup.
The Ba'athists won several seats during the 1961 parliamentary election
Coup of 1963
The military group preparing for the overthrow of the separatist regime in February 1963 was composed of independent Nasserite and other unionist, including Ba'thi officers.
The re-emergence of the Ba'tha's a majority political force aided in the coup; without a political majority the coup would have remained a military take over .
Ziyad al-Hariri controlled the sizable forces stationed at the Israeli Front, not far from Damascus, Muhammad as-Sufi commanded the key brigade stationes in Homs, and Ghassan Haddad, one of Hariri's independent partners, commanded the Desert Forces.
Early in March it was decided the coup would be brought into action March ninth. But on March fifth several of the officers wanted to delay the coup in hope of staging a bloodless coup .
It was presumed that the Nasserite were preparing a coup of their own which effectively canceled the delay.
The coup began at night and by the morning of March eighth it was evident that a new political era had begun in Syria.
Ruling party: 1963 onwards
, the Regional Secretary of the Syrian Regional Branch and state president
The secession from the UAR was a time of crisis for the party; several groups, including Hawrani, left the Ba'ath Party.
In 1962, Aflaq convened a congress which re-established the Syrian Regional Branch.
The division in the original Ba'ath Party between the National Command led by Michel Aflaq
and the "regionalists" in the Syrian Regional Branch stemmed from the break-up of the UAR.
Aflaq had sought to control the regionalist elements – an incoherent grouping led by Fa'iz al-Jasim, Yusuf Zuayyin, Munir al-Abdallah and Ibrahim Makhus.
Aflaq retained the support of the majority of the non-Syrian National Command members (13 at the time).
Following the success of the February 1963 coup d'état
in Iraq, led by the Ba'ath Party's Iraqi Regional Branch
, the Military Committee hastily convened to plan a coup against Nazim al-Kudsi
The coup – dubbed the 8th of March Revolution
– was successful and a Ba'athist government was installed in Syria.
The plotters' first order was to establish the National Council of the Revolutionary Command
(NCRC), which consisted entirely of Ba'athists and Nasserists, and was controlled by military personnel rather than civilians.
However, in its first years in power, the Syrian Regional Branch experienced an internal power struggle between traditional Ba'athists, radical socialists and the members of the Military Committee.
The first period of Ba'ath rule was put to an end with the 1966 Syrian coup d'état
, which overthrew the traditional Ba'athists led by Aflaq and Bitar and brought Salah Jadid
, the head of the Military Committee, to power (though not formally).
After the 1967 Six-Day War
, tensions between Jadid and Hafez al-Assad
increased, and al-Assad and his associates were strengthened by their hold on the military. In late 1968,
they began dismantling Jadid's support network, facing ineffectual resistance from the civilian branch of the party that remained under Jadid's control.
This duality of power persisted until the Corrective Revolution
of November 1970, when al-Assad ousted and imprisoned Atassi and Jadid.
He then set upon a project of rapid institution-building, reopened parliament and adopted a permanent constitution for the country, which had been ruled by military fiat and a provisional constitutional documents since 1963.
Assad significantly modified his predecessor's radical socialist economic
policies, encouraged several wealthy urban families to increase their activities in the private sector, and allowed limited foreign investment from Arab Gulf
Assad continued to rule Syria until his death in 2000, by centralizing powers in the state presidency
Hafez's son, Bashar al-Assad
succeeded him in office as President of Syria and Regional Secretary of the Syrian Regional Branch on 17 June
and 24 June respectively.
At the beginning, Bashar al-Assad's rule was met with high expectations, with many foreign commentators believing he would introduce reforms reminiscent of the Chinese economic reforms
or those of Mikhail Gorbachev
in the former Soviet Union
Bashar al-Assad's rule was believed to be stable until the Arab Spring
took place; the revolutions occurring in other parts of the Arab world acted as an inspiration for the Syrian opposition, leading to the Syrian Civil War
from 2011 onwards.
It is generally believed that the Syrian Regional Branch plays a minor role in the conflict, having been reduced to a mass organization
, and real decision-making taking place either in the military, the al-Assad family
or Bashar al-Assad's inner circle.
Despite this, the party remained loyal to the government almost in its entirety throughout the civil war, probably out of concerns that the overthrow of the al-Assad family's rule would result in its own demise as well. Several militias were formed by Ba'ath Party volunteers to fight against insurgents,
with the most notable being the Ba'ath Brigades
The civil war also resulted in a referendum on a new constitution
on 26 February 2012.
The constitution was approved by the populace, and the article stating that Ba'ath Party was "the leading party of society and state" was removed
and the constitution was ratified on 27 February.
The Regional Congress is supposed to be held every fourth year to elect members of the Regional Command. Since 1980, its functions have been eclipsed by the Central Committee, which was empowered to elect the Regional Command. By 1985's 8th Regional Congress, the Regional Command Secretary was empowered to elect the Central Committee.
The 8th Regional Congress would be the last congress held under Hafez al-Assad's rule.
The next Regional Congress was held in June 2000 and elected Bashar al-Assad as Regional Command Secretary and elected him as a candidate for the next presidential election.
Delegates to the Regional Command are elected beforehand by the Regional Command leadership. While all delegates come from the party's local organisation, they are forced to elect members presented by the leadership. However, some criticism is allowed. At the 8th Regional Congress, several delegates openly criticised the growing political corruption and the economic stagnation in Syria. They could also discuss important problems to the Regional Command, which in turn could deal with them.
Regional Congresses before the Regional Branch's dissolution in 1958
- 1st Regional Congress (March 1954)
- 2nd Regional Congress (March 1955)
- 3rd Regional Congress (9–12 July 1957)
Regional Congresses held after the Regional Branch's reestablishment
- 1st Regional Congress: 5 September 1963
- 2nd Regional Congress: 18 March – 4 April 1965
- 3rd Regional Congress: September 1966
- 4th Regional Congress: 26 September 1968
- 5th Regional Congress: 8–14 May 1971
- 6th Regional Congress: 5–15 April 1975
- 7th Regional Congress: 22 December – 7 January 1980
- 8th Regional Congress: 5–20 January 1985
- 9th Regional Congress: 17–21 June 2000
- 10th Regional Congress: 6–9 June 2005
Extraordinary Regional Congresses
- 1st Extraordinary Regional Congress: 1 February 1964
- 2nd Extraordinary Regional Congress: 1 August 1965
- 3rd Congress of the Regional Emergency: 10–13 and 20–27 March 1966
- 4th Congress of the Regional Emergency: September 1967
- 5th Regional Emergency Congress: 21–31 March 1969
- 6th Regional Congress of the Emergency: June 1974
The term Regional Command (Arabic
: Al-Qiyada Al-Qutriyya) stems from Ba'athist ideology, where region literally means an Arab state.
According to the Syrian Constitution, the Regional Command has the power to nominate a candidate for president.
While the constitution does not state that the Secretary of the Regional Command is the President of Syria, the charter of the National Progressive Front
(NPF), of which the Ba'ath Party is a member, states that the President and the Regional Command Secretary is the NPF President, but this is not stated in any legal document.
The 1st Extraordinary Regional Congress held in 1964 decided that the Secretary of the Regional Command would also be head of state.
The Regional Command is officially responsible to the Regional Congress.
The Regional Command is supposed to be subordinate to the National Command, and official media portray it as such to stress the government's commitment to Ba'athist ideology.
Since al-Assad's rise to power, the National Command has been subordinate to the Regional Command.
Before the schism between the Military Committee led by Salah Jadid
and the Aflaqites, and the ensuing 1966 Syrian coup d'état
, the National Command was the leading party organ.
The Regional Command has been a powerful institution in Syria until its disbandment.
The Regional Command was disbanded in February 2016.
The Central Committee (Arabic
: Al-Lajna Al-Markaziyya), established in January 1980, is subordinate to the Regional Command. It was established as a conduit for communication between the Ba'ath Party leadership and local party organs. At the 8th Regional Congress held in 1985, membership size increased from 75 to 95. Other changes was that its powers were enhanced; in theory,
the Regional Command became responsible to the Central Committee, the hitch was that the Regional Command Secretary elected the members of the Central Committee.
Another change was that the Central Committee was given the responsibilities of the Regional Congress when the congress was not in session.
As with the Regional Command, the Central Committee is in theory supposed to be elected every fourth year by the Regional Congress, but from 1985 until Hafez al-Assad's death in 2000, no Regional Congress was held.
The Military Bureau, which succeeded the Military Committee,
oversees the Syrian armed forces
. Shortly after the 8 March Revolution
, the Military Committee became the supreme authority in military affairs.
The party has a parallel structure within the Syrian armed forces. The military and civilian sectors only meet at the regional level, as the military sector is represented in the Regional Command and sends delegates to regional congresses. The military sector is divided into branches, which operate at the battalion level. The head of a military party branch is called a tawjihi
, or guide.
In 1963, the Military Committee established the Military Organisation, which consisted of 12 branches resembling their civilian counterparts. The Military Organisation was led by a Central Committee, which represented the Military Committee. These new institutions were established to stop the civilian faction meddling in the affairs of the Military Committee. The Military Organisation met with the other branches through the Military Committee, which was represented at the Regional and National Congresses and Commands. The Military Organisation was a very secretive body. Members were sworn not to divulge any information about the organisation to officers who were not members in order to strengthen the Military Committee's hold on the military. In June 1964, it was decided that no new members would be admitted to the organisation. The Military Committee was built on a democratic framework, and a Military Organization Congress was held to elect the members of the Military Committee. Only one congress was ever held.
The lack of a democratic framework led to internal divisions within the Military Organisation among the rank-and-file.
Tension within the organisation increased, and became apparent when Muhammad Umran
was dismissed from the Military Committee. Some rank-and-file members presented a petition to the Regional Congress which called for the democratisation of the Military Organisation. The National Command, represented by Munif al-Razzaz
, did not realise the importance of this petition before Salah Jadid
suppressed it. The Military Committee decided to reform, and the Regional Congress passed a resolution which made the Military Organisation responsible to the Military Bureau of the Regional Command, which was only responsible for military affairs.
Central Party School
Ali Diab is the current head of the Ba'ath Party's Central Party School.
The party has 19 branches in Syria: one in each of the thirteen provinces, one in Damascus, one in Aleppo and one at each of the country's four universities. In most cases the governor of a province, police chief, mayor and other local dignitaries comprise the Branch Command. The Branch Command Secretary and other executive positions are filled by full-time party employees.
and Salah al-Din al-Bitar
, the two principal fathers of Ba'athist thought, saw the Ba'ath Party as a vanguard party
, comparable to the Soviet Union's Communist Party
, while Al-Assad saw it as a mass organisation. In 1970 he stated, "After this day the Ba'ath will not be the party of the elect, as some has envisaged ... Syria does not belong to the Ba'athists alone."
Since 1970, membership of the Ba'ath Party in Syria expanded dramatically. In 1971, the party had 65,938 members; ten years later it stood at 374,332 and by mid-1992 it was 1,008,243. By mid-1992, over 14 percent of Syrians aged over 14 were members of the party. In 2003, the party membership stood at 1.8 million people, which is 18 percent of the population.
The increase in membership was not smooth. In 1985 a party organisational report stated that thousand of members had been expelled before the 7th Regional Congress held in 1980 because of indiscipline. The report also mentioned the increased tendency of opportunism among party members.
Between 1980 and 1984, 133,850 supporter-members and 3,242 full members were expelled from the party.
The increase in members has led official propaganda, and leading members of the party and state, to say that the people and the party are inseparable. Michel Kilo
, a Syrian dissident, said, "The Ba'ath does not recognize society. It consider itself [to be] society."
This idea led to Ba'athist slogans and tenets being included in the Syrian constitution. In 1979, the Ba'ath Party's position was further strengthened when dual party membership became a criminal offence.
According to Subhi Hadidi
, a Syrian dissident, "The Ba'ath is in complete disarray. ... It's like a dead body. It's no longer a party in any normal sense of the word." Hanna Batatu
wrote, "Under Assad the character of the Ba'ath changed ... Whatever independence of opinion its members enjoyed in the past was now curtailed, a premium being placed on conformity and internal discipline. The party became in effect another instrument by which the regime sought to control the community at large or to rally it behind its policies. The party's cadres turned more and more into bureaucrats and careerists, and were no longer vibrantly alive ideologically as in the 1950s and 1960s, unconditional fidelity to Assad having ultimately overridden fidelity to old beliefs."
It is rumored[by whom?]
that Al-Assad discussed the possibilities of abolishing the Ba'ath Party when he took power in 1970. According to Volker Perthes, the Ba'ath Party was transformed under Assad; Perthes wrote, "It was further inflated such as to neutralise those who had supported the overthrown leftist leadership, it was de-ideologised; and it was restructured so as to fit into the authoritarian format of Assad's system, lose its avant-garde character and became an instrument for generating mass support and political control. It was also to become the regime's main patronage network."
The Ba'ath Party was turned into a patronage network closely intertwined with the bureaucracy, and soon became virtually indistinguishable from the state, while membership rules were liberalized. In 1987, the party had 50,000 members in Syria, with another 200,000 candidate members on probation.
The party lost its independence from the state and was turned into a tool of the Assad government, which remained based essentially in the security forces. Other parties that accepted the basic orientation of the government were permitted to operate again. The National Progressive Front
was established in 1972 as a coalition of these legal parties, which were only permitted to act as junior partners to the Ba'ath, with very little room for independent organisation.
Syrian People's Council elections
- ^ "Syria's Conflicting Powers Develop Separate Education Curriculums". Atlantic Council. 23 December 2015. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
- ^ "Profile: Syria's ruling Baath Party". BBC. 9 July 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2019. Many posts in the public sector, the military and government were generally reserved for Baathists, which helped boost party membership. By 1981, some 375,000 people had joined the party. By 2010, this number had reportedly risen to 1.2 million - nearly 10% of the population.
- ^ Perthes, Volker (1997). The Political Economy of Syria Under Asad. I.B. Tauris. p. 156. ISBN 1-86064-192-X.
- ^ Tejel 2009, p. 149.
- ^ a b Kostiner 2007, p. 36.
- ^ George 2003, pp. 66–67.
- ^ a b c George 2003, p. 67.
- ^ a b Peretz 1994, p. 413.
- ^ Finer & Stanley 2009, p. 149.
- ^ a b c d e Federal Research Division 2004, pp. 211–212.
- ^ a b Federal Research Division 2004, pp. 52–53.
- ^ Podeh 1999, pp. 152–153.
- ^ a b Rabinovich 1972, pp. 36–39.
- ^ a b Seale 1990, pp. 76–78.
- ^ George 2003, pp. 68–69.
- ^ Seale 1990, pp. 149–150.
- ^ "Syria Between Two Transitions". MERIP. 15 June 1997. Retrieved 23 February 2021.
- ^ Federal Research Division 2004, pp. 199–200.
- ^ Rabil, Robert (2 June 2005). "Baath Party Congress in Damascus: How Much Change in Syria?". Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Retrieved 9 July 2013.
- ^ a b al-Amin, Ibrahim (9 July 2013). "Syria's Baath: A National Sideshow". Al Akhbar. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
- ^ Aron Lund (13 January 2014). "The Baath Battalions Move into Damascus". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
- ^ "Syria to hold referendum on new constitution". BBC World News. BBC Online. 15 February 2012. Retrieved 26 February 2012.
- ^ Chulov, Martin (27 February 2012). "Syrian regime rockets bombard Homs". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 14 March 2012.
- ^ "Presidential Decree on Syria's New Constitution". Syrian Arab News Agency. 28 February 2012. Retrieved 14 March 2012.
- ^ a b George 2003, p. 73.
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- ^ Zîser 2007, p. 70.
- ^ "How Russia is quietly pushing political reform in Syria". Gulf News. 15 February 2016. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
- ^ a b c d Federal Research Division 2004, p. 215.
- ^ a b George 2003, p. 70.
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- ^ "National leadership workshop Arab world in the Heart of Regional and International Conflict"(PDF). The Ba'ath Message. Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party – Syria Region. 10 June 2000. p. 2. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
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- ^ Kedar 2006, p. 228.
Journals and papers
- Brechner, Michael (1978). Studies in Crisis Behavior. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 0-87855-292-8.
- Cooper, Tom (2015). Syrian Conflagration. The Civil War 2011–2013. Solihull: Helion & Company Limited. ISBN 978-1-910294-10-9.
- Federal Research Division (2004). Syria: A Country Study. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4191-5022-7.
- Finer, Samuel; Stanley, Jay (2009). The Man on Horseback: The Role of the Military in Politics. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7658-0922-3.
- George, Alan (2003). Syria: Neither Bread nor Freedom. Zed Books. ISBN 978-1-84277-213-3.
- Kedar, Mordechai (2006). Asad in Search of Legitimacy: Message and Rhetoric in the Syrian Press Under. Sussex Academic Press. ISBN 1-84519-185-4.
- Kostiner, Joseph (2007). Conflict and Cooperation in the Gulf Region. VS Verlag. ISBN 978-1-84511-269-1.
- Moubayed, Sami M. (2006). Steel & Silk: Men and Women who shaped Syria 1900–2000. Cune Press. ISBN 1-885942-40-0.
- Perthes, Volker (1997). The Political Economy of Syria Under Asad. I.B. Tauris. ISBN 1-86064-192-X.
- Seale, Patrick (1990). Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-06976-5.
- Peretz, Don (1994). The Middle East Today. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-275-94576-6.
- Podeh, Elie (1999). The Decline of Arab Unity: The Rise and Fall of the United Arabic Republic. Sussex Academic Press. ISBN 1-902210-20-4.
- Rabinovich, Itamar (1972). Syria under the Baʻth, 1963–66: the Army Party symbiosis. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 0-7065-1266-9.
- Reich, Bernard (1990). Political Leaders of the Contemporary Middle East and North Africa: a Biographical Dictionary. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-313-26213-6.
- Roberts, David (2013). The Ba'th and the Creation of Modern Syria. Routledge. ISBN 978-1317818540.
- Sharp, Jeremy (2011). Syria: Issues for the 112th Congress and Background on U.S. Sanctions. DIANE Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4379-4465-5.
- Tejel, Jordi (2009). Syria's Kurds: History, Politics and Society. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-203-89211-4.
- Zîser, Eyāl (2007). Commanding Syria: Bashar al-Asad and the First Years in Power. I.B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1-84511-153-3.
Last edited on 9 April 2021, at 03:34
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