Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Relations Between Regim and Opposition in Syria

The Relations Between Regim and Opposition in Syria, and the Political Activitiy of Yasin al-Hafiz and Ilias Murqus. The Abstract of my Dissertation

This research studies two Syrian intellectuals, Yasin al-Hafiz and Ilias Murqus, who had great impact on the New Arab Left, which formed towards the end of the nineteen fifties, beginning of the nineteen sixties. The first point of origin of the research is the presence of a significant affinity between the "ideology" and the "political environment"; that is, the relation between (ideological) "text" and (political) context. The significance of the latter, in terms of the study, is that alongside the comprehensive explanation concerning the written ideology of Yasin al-Hafiz and Ilias Murqus, a broad interpretation of the political events must be provided, in order to clarify, to the best possible extent, both the written ideology and their political activity, vis-à-vis the internal developments in Syria, on the one hand, and the encompassing developments in the Arab world on the other.

Since Yasin al-Hafiz and Ilias Murqus were initially active as an "oppositional group", first against the Syrian Communist Party, of which both had been members, and later against the Ba’th Party, which came to power in 1963. The second point of origin is the presence of an oppositional "political pattern of behavior". Their activity against the Ba’th and its leaders, despite the contribution of al-Hafiz and Murqus to remolding the Party's ideology in 1963, raises many questions concerning the motives, reasons and consequences of their political activity at the time, and the ideological controversies that surfaced throughout the following years.

The Ba’th Party had become a byproduct of its leader; thus, given time the regime turned hegemonic, and totally oppressed any oppositional organization for power. Moreover, any signs of internal opposition, within the party, were mercilessly oppressed by its leader at that time; the same merciless oppression which Yasin al-Hafiz encountered. Thus, the political activity of Ilias Murqus and Yasin al-Hafiz is examined respective to certain characteristics in the conduct of an opposition against a regime, and within the boundaries that the regime sets for the opposition.

The third point of origin is the presence of traits common to the majority of oppositional movements usually active in states without democratic heritage. These traits demonstrate the political and ideological development of the opposition, as a type of gradual political growth, which is sometimes rapid and sometimes gradual.
In order to examine the political activity and ideological development of Ilias Murqus and Yasin al-Hafiz, I opted to analyze the events respective to a political-behavioral model, throughout four primary stages:

A. The stage of ideological crystallization.
B. The stage of penetration into the political system.
C. The stage of political protest.
D. The stage of violent protest.

In order to examine the political events and processes that affected Yasin al-Hafiz and Ilias Murqus, the study at hand is composed of eight main chapters, and an additional chapter of appendixes:
The 1st Chapter deals with the relations of regime and opposition from a descriptive perspective; that is to say, a review of the theoretical literature in the field, and substantiation of the research hypotheses, according to the 4 stage model. In order to establish the model, I chose to briefly present two examples of oppositional movements active in non-democratic states – one in Egypt and one in Iran.

The 2nd Chapter deals at-length with the political events in Syria, till 1957, which brought about union between Syria and Egypt. These events affected the Syrian political arena, since it emerged that many Syrians were 'fed-up' with the dilapidated democratic political order present till that point. This period in time forged the political culture in Syria for many years to come, ultimately bringing about the expulsion of Yasin al-Hafiz and Ilias Murqus from the Syrian Communist Party, on account of the question of unity with Egypt.

The 3rd Chapter deals with the ideological crystallization of Yasin al-Hafiz and Ilias Murqus, which ultimately brought about conflict with their own party – the Syrian Communist Party, which finally brought to their expulsion from the Party, together with a number of their followers.

The 4th Chapter deals with the penetration of Yasin al-Hafiz and Ilias Murqus into the political system, following the Ba'th coup d’éta of March 8, 1963. This chapter contends with their influence and contribution to the crystallization of the Ba’th Party's new ideological platform, and the motives behind the Ba'th officers expulsion of the Marxist faction from the Party – of which al-Hafiz was a prominent member. The contribution of al-Hafiz to the molding of the Ba'th Party's political profile was renowned; yet this recognition did not earn him 'extra points' among the Ba’th officers.

The 5th Chapter deals with the political and intellectual activity of al-Hafiz and Murqus, following the expulsion of al-Hafiz from the Ba’th Party. The chapter also contends with their attempts to establish a new political party with a Marxist ideological orientation, as well as with the contribution of Murqus and al-Hafiz to the New Arab Left, which evolved throughout the nineteen sixties.

The 6th Chapter examines the oppositional activity in Syria and the reactions of the regime to this challenge. During the nineteen seventies, the Party of al-Hafiz and Murqus joined the oppositional organization which acted against the regime; though the ideological emphasis of the Party, and the newly established organization, was not Marxist – but rather "democratic", which was a result of the ideological shift Yasin al-Hafiz underwent following his stay in Paris between 1966-1967, and following the implications of the Six-Day War, which only empowered his 'European experience’.

The 7th Chapter discusses the events which led to the Six-Day War, June 1967, the implications of which formed a turning point among many intellectuals in the Arab world, among which was also Yasin al-Hafiz. This chapter deals at-length with the people and the events that led to the War, and the 'literature of lessons' learnt from it, written after the Six-Day War.

The 8th Chapter is a summary and evaluation of the political and intellectual activity of Yasin al-Hafiz and Ilias Murqus.

The Appendixes come at the end of the research phase, and include one chapter from the book of Ilias Murqus (translated into Hebrew), which deals with the Arab communist parties, and the Syrian Communist Party in particular, from a critic's standpoint. This chapter, which is presented as an appendix, is designed to give an impression of Murqus's writing and get a view of things from his perspective that, to a degree, reflects also the convictions of Yasin al-Hafiz. The appendixes also include a list of Syria's presidents and prime-ministers; a list of the political parties in Syria; the platform of the Democratic National Union, as published in Arabic; articles in Arabic about Yasin al-Hafiz; the appendixes chapter concludes with the booklet of "Some Theoretical Points", as published in Arabic in 1963, among which Yasin al-Hafiz was one of the active participants in its composition. The latter constituted the foundation for the new ideological platform of the Ba'th Party at the end of 1963.

Principal Sources: prioritized by significance.
As far as I know, no comprehensive research has been conducted about the political and intellectual activity of Yasin al-Hafiz and Ilias Murqus – from the 1950's till their decease. The comprehensive study of Tareq Ismail & Jacqueline S.Ismael, from Calgary University, regarding the Communist Party of Syria and Lebanon doesn’t shed light either on the initial organization of Murqus and al-Hafiz. The aforementioned absence of comprehensive resources obliged a thorough review of Arab press since 1955, so as to follow the initial political build-up of the two.
The influence of Yasin al-Hafiz, in forging the ideological platform of the Ba’th Party in 1963, has been reviewed in the publications of Itamar Rabinovich, Devlin and in the series of articles by Goldberg, which was published in Hebrew; though the political activity of Yasin al-Hafiz and Ilias Murqus, after 1964, cannot be found in academic literature. Furthermore, as far as I know, no studies have been conducted into “The Revolutionary Workers Party", which was established by al-Hafiz and Murqus; moreover, no research has been conducted on the activity of the Party following the decease of al-Hafiz in 1978. The MA thesis I had submitted to the Tel-Aviv University, in The Departmentof Political Science, which dealt with “The Revolutionary Workers Party" till the end of the 1980's, constituted, in-part, a basis for the Ph.D. doctorate at hand.

Primary Sources:
The writings of al-Hafiz and Murqus, newspapers, news reports and archive documents collected from the Foreign Office Archive in London (PRO) – primarily covering the period of August-October of 1957; as well as documents from the Information Department of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, part of which is kept in the “Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies", at Tel-Aviv University. The review of Arab press was primarily conducted in the Press Archive of the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel-Aviv University.

Secondary Sources:
Books and articles dealing with the political and intellectual history of Syria in; Hebrew, English, German and Arabic.

Underlying Talks:
Given the relations between Syria and Israel, only few communications have been made with Syrian academics via email.

Rules of Transliteration from Arabic to Hebrew:
In order to ease the reading, I transliterated according to the conventional conduct in academic papers and Israeli press, and not according to the complete rules of transliteration used by The Department of Middle Eastern and African History, at Tel-Aviv University.

Footnotes were created according to conventions of the Israeli academy, though with a slight modification in order to facilitate linking the content to the source; for example, instead of stating Ibid, p. 1, the name of the author was written and part of the title of the book or paper; for example - Seale, Asad. p.1.
Furthermore, I used the footnotes to write a brief biography about the persons the study covers – as much as biographic material could be found – with the aim of completing the picture about their lives and life-work in the course of time.

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