This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #51, “Pan-Arabic or Pan-Islamic ‘Socialism.’”
From: “Our View Of Arab History”; A speech given in 1955 in Aleppo, by Elyas Farah for the Arab Ba’th Socialist Party.
Contained in: “Arab Revolutionary Thought in the Face of Current Challenges”; Madrid 1978; pp.281-303.
“The socialist principles of the ancient Arabs, which was called “Moslem socialism,” was composed of “sadaqa” (alms-giving), “zakit” (tithing) and “al-ihsAn” (charity). The objective of Arab socialists today is the total suppression of misery and the exploitation of Man by Man, in such a way that, throughout the width and breadth of the Arab homeland, there is not a single man who needs to be given alms, no one who awakens pity, compassion, commiseration or forbearance. What Arab socialist are aspiring to today is a fair distribution of wealth, the establishment of a vital minimum revenue for every citizen, the nationalization of public services and important means of production, and the guarantee of equality of opportunity for all citizens, without distinction.
Is not this idea of socialism, for which the Arab Socialist Bath Party has militated for a long time, although of the 20th Century, in conformity with the Prophet’s attitude concerning life, the spirit of Islam and Divine Will?
Modern societies turn today to more and more radical solutions to their problems. In their first enthusiasm, the ancient Arabs gave proof of a socialist attitude, ever questing for new schemas and systems as close as possible to the socialist ideal. They disdained everything connected with pure formalism, everything rigid and congealed, or which might endanger in one way or another, evolution towards this ideal.
To resume the differences between our attitude with regard to the past and that of reactionaries, we may state that ours is a scientific and creative one, attached to all that is fundamental and substantial and open to the future. Theirs, on the other hand, is only preoccupied with superficial and secondary matters, and sacrifices both the present and the future (with all their potentialities) to the past. Our attitude is deeply rooted in our authentic history. We preserve its essence and we retain its spirit -the same spirit which, in olden times, impelled revolution and the renewal of existence. It is this same spirit which impels them today on the road to progress.
The attitude of the “Chou’oubiyyine” (anti-Arabs)
As for the anti-Arabs and internationalists (Stalinists), they claim to be the only detainers of scientific, progressive thought, but they wish to sever us totally from our past. In fact, their attitude is an emotional and unreflective reaction to the fanatical, sectarian attitude of conservatives.
Reactionaries want a past, devoid of a present and a future, while pseudo-progressive elements want a future without a past. To those who oppose nationalism and claim that any nationalist ideology is fundamentally reactionary, we ask the following question; “What is progressiveness?” Is it the undoing of all temporal and spatial links? Is it not absurd and contradictory to wish to undo such links, when Man cannot live other than in a clearly-defined temporal and spatial framework? Does being progressive imply that one recognizes no national past? Does it imply the severing of oneself from national reality? Anti-nationalists behave like cosmopolitans who maintain no living contact either with their nation or with their history. The “universalistic and anti-nationalistic” attitude of pseudo-progressive elements proves that they flee in advance of the human realities of the Arab Nation. They neglect the national problem, which is, irrefutably, the key to genuine internationalism. Their progressive attitude is simply a denial and a escape; it is vitiated from the start. Their humanitarianism is bodiless, poverty -stricken, sterile. They remind us of a phrase of Goethe, the famous German philosopher which comes to memory in this connection: “I hear a great deal about humanity, but I see only men”. We can tell them that the peculiar genius of a nation resides in the links it sustains with its past, its present and its future, and that the message which it hears for humanity can only be safeguarded in the same measure that these links are safeguarded. If we sever the past from the present and the future, we take the risk of suffocating our genius and alienating the identity of the nation; we risk deviation, if we lose sight of the principles which can keep us from downfall, from reversals, from unsurmountable contradictions and alienation.
Kant, in his time, called for universal peace, though his own country, Germany, was divided up into innumerable, tiny states. Filled with despair, the Germans lacked confidence in the future. Kant’s appeal for world peace was, in fact, only submission to the fact of -Balkanization- and concealed an entreaty to colonialists. His action, in the last analysis, intoxicated the German nation and diverted it from its primary objectives, freedom and unity. When German national anthems began to awaken vibrations in German hearts, and arouse their national conscience, when revolt began to grumble and hope and confidence in the future filled the hearts of youth, Fichte, in his “Letters to the German Nation”, launched his famous appeal for struggle for the Unification of Germany. In this way, he placed his finger on the knot of the problem. He understood that the path to world peace and the key to any solution of a human nature in Germany required the preliminary resolution of German national problems -to remedy its state of weakness, save it from disunion and withdraw it from foreign domination.
Fichte was a nationalist; he was even the leading philosopher of nationalism. This made him more humanistic than Kant, for he shared in the Nation’s salvation, rather than in its intoxication.
Any man who is unconscious of his historic roots, and devoid of the feeling that he belongs to a human community (composed of many million people, ‘all of whom make up the succeeding generations of the community) and who lacks a feeling of responsibility for the safe-guarding and the perpetuation of a certain heritage, can only be poor in spirit, and his life will be of mediocre and insignificant quality. Nameless, colourless, with no distinctive sign, such a man would resemble rather an object or a number than a human being.
Among those who have denied their appurtenance to the Arab Nation, there are those who, to fill the gap, adopt a foreign culture. To them, we may say that any culture, and form of logic, any theory transposed to our land, without enabling us to draw from it something useful for our cause, naturally adaptable to our existence and our deepest aspirations, anything imported and liable to assimilate and despersonalize us and place our destinies in the hands of others, is, as all other unfounded, artificial solutions, inapplicable to our reality and incapable of finding in us an echo.
Arab nationalism, as expressed in the struggle for unity and the Nation’s freedom, and for the establishment of socialism, is the deepest, most positive and most vibrant aspect of our existence. It is this which gives meaning to our lives. If we are unable to protect it, we shall lose our personality, our very own genius and we shall end up totally dehumanized.
Our national cause is the starting-point of all genuine existence. If this ceases to be the case, deviations will be inevitable for us, and our culture, by becoming foreign to our reality and bearing the stamp of individualism, will become simply a mirror reflecting ideas coming from abroad.
Internationalists (Stalinists) live among us in body only; their souls are elsewhere. They approach our problems with criteria of foreign origin and a spirit which has no relation to our own reality. They have become deeply alienated by exchanging their own feeling, ideas, and souls for feelings, ideas and souls borrowed from elsewhere. Losing sight of the fundamental principles of intellectual activity and action, they have seriously gone astray and, when they find themselves unable to recover their own identity, they saddle themselves with a borrowed personality of an artificial nature.
We can only profit from theories, ideas and experience to which we can adhere, without abandoning our personality. Even if such ideas are the fruit of other nations’ efforts, they can act as a stimulant for us; they can help us to understand our problems, to defend our cause and to transform the reality in which we find ourselves. Only loans that we can control and use knowingly, are capable of adaptation to our national history and of assisting us in our march towards progress. Those who approach the problem of nationalism from the point of view, both exclusive and totalitarian at one and the same time, who look on this phenomenon as part of an inseparable whole – the human cause, in general – are making a big mistake. They consider nationalistic ideology as an obstacle to the progress of humanity, as a danger, liable to play havoc with nations, and even as a fundamentally antihuman phenomenon, and pass judgements on it, coloured by their ideas concerning nationalistic experience in Europe. Such experiences, however, were from the very beginning, made on a basis of grave error and dangerous prejudice. They can, therefore, in no event serve as a criterion or as a point of reference.
When soundly experienced, nationalism is the natural source of and the principle of all permeability to true internationalism. The Arabs know that nationalism is their safest guarantee for human feelings and for the development of a truly universal culture in their society.
Their national awareness maintains them at the level of their message and their responsibilities towards the international community. Arabism is the pivot and the source of all authentic existence. Without it, danger becomes imminent, alienation and intellectual confusion inevitable. It is the gate through which we gain access to the stream of human civilizations. Internationalism which does not start from this point, is severed from our national cause, and has no connection with a historic message, remains superficial, abstract and without impact.
Those who hark back to the tragedy of – National Socialism – in Europe to prove that any form of socialist nationalism is condemnable, and also that Stalinist internationalism is alone valid for humanity as a whole, base themselves on doubtful ideas and criteria of no logical value. When they pronounce “judgements without appeal” of this sort, against all forms of nationalism, they are inveighing against the racist and aggressive ideas which developed in Europe in very specific circumstances, marked by a certain degree of intellectual and moral decadence. Evil was inherent neither in nationalism nor in socialism – two genuine human principles – but in the fanaticism of those who spoke in the name of sacred values, and equally in the reactionary attitudes adopted by European socialist and nationalist parties. The fact that some nationalist movements veered towards chauvinism, racism and fanaticism, in no way proves this to be a general rule, to be applied obligatorily to any movement arising out of nationalist ideology. In the same way, the fact that some European socialist parties chose the parliamentary method, does not mean that this is the only way open to socialist parties in the world or that it is the safest, the most rational and the most natural. The experience of the East, as in the West, are equally for us sources from which we can draw innumerable lessons to guide us in the struggle we are making with our people, building on a new vision of life.
The present, the future and ourselves
We have discussed the attitude adopted by reactionaries with regard to our national past, but what about the present? Reactionaries believe our present condition to be decadent and vitiated, but they are in no way convinced, when they speak in this way, that such conditions should be reviewed and transformed according to scientific plans of modern conception. They think, on the contrary that decadence fell upon us because we deviated from the formulae of the past, which gave birth to an illustrious Arab civilization. According to them, we ought to reintegrate these formulae in their entirety, in order to rectify the situation. They propose no other alternatives, in their certainty that structures of the past are eternally valid. They do not stop with the present. Their attitude holds also for the future. In accordance with reactionary beliefs, those who try to divert the Arabs from the formulae applied at the time of the splendour of Arab-Moslem civilization, are the basic element in our Nation’s alienation and bewilderment. In the last analysis, they want our present and our future to be enclosed in a veritable straight-jacket made up of the structures and formulae of the past.
Stalinist internationalists and anti-Arabs also consider our present to be unsatisfactory; but they do not believe that a solution can be found within and be thoroughly adapted to our personality. In their eyes, the degradation of our present situation is due to the fact that we have not succeeded in getting rid of all the factors which make up our identity and distinguish us from other nations. They aspire to a future completely foreign to us, a made-to measure future but of a borrowed mould, a future in which we should be totally dependent on those who created for us an identity which does no belong to us. Reactionaries and anti-Arabs share the same attitude, which is a grave menace to Arabism. They are foreign to our truth and do their best to alienate us from it. Reactionaries look on Arab society as if it were still in childhood, as if the events and experience of our lives had altered nothing! They have a totally erroneous idea of social life. It is as if, for them, the earth had never turned since ancient times with its high degree of Arab civilization. Do they not resemble in this an adult trying to wear the clothes he wore as a child? If we followed their ideas, should we not be childish in our intellectual formulation, in our feelings and behaviour? Their ideas are, evidently, against Nature, for no child can remain a child forever… except in death. The logical end of reactionary thought is simply the suppression of the present and the closing of the gate to the future. For them, nothing is to be expected from the future. All we have to do is to ruminate on our past and allow it to consume itself in our hearts, destroying with it our present and our future, smothering our aspirations and… our foresight. The past, in the view of reactionaries, resembles a grave in which to bury all creative spirit, all talents and all freedom.
Stalinist internationalists and anti-Arabs have an abstract, “quantitative” view of our society, as they have of all others. Their approach kills both the qualities and the genius peculiar to each nation. They have a vision always the same – of people, nations and human societies. Which deprives each one of its “raison d’etre” and that which is its essence. Their form of internationalism always ends by becoming “cosmopolitanism.”