The Arab Ba'ath Movement and The Rise of the Baath Party in Syria

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Contrary to popular beliefs, civil activism and civil society has managed to thrive in the Middle East. Social movements on a variety of topics have occurred despite the lack of democracy and democratic institutions in certain countries. One popular movement was the Arab Ba’ath Movement which eventually led to the formation of the Baath Party. By analyzing the movement’s history, ideological stance, goals, the actors, dissenters, and international aspect, one can determine how and why the movement flourished in Syria.

Syria was granted de jure independence from the French in 1941. However, the country was not truly independent until 1946. For the next twenty-five years, the country would be launched into extreme political instability and party factionalism. In the beginning, the parties were moderate and pushed for economic and social reforms to match. But, as the 1940s came to an end, these liberal parties lost their legitimacy. The rural workers and urban poor were growing unhappy with the current state of affairs and started advocating for more radical changes in the political and economic realm.

During this time period, Baathism, which eventually evolved into the Arab Baath Party in 1947, became very prominent in the Arab world. Started by Michael Aflaq and Salah al-Din al-Bitar, the movement was created in Damascus due to the intense nationalism that was sweeping the country in response to the British and French control of the area. The movement gained legitimacy by using sources that Arabians could identify with: history, religion, nationalism, development, freedom, and socialism (Gerner and Schrodt 112).

However, Baathism didn’t appeal to everyone in Syria. The urban Sunni middle class especially wasn’t attracted to Baa...

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