back of the army and lacking an organized mass base meant the Bath regime

Back of the army and lacking an organized mass base

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back of the army and lacking an organized mass base, meant the Ba’th regime started as littlemore than a handful of officers and intellectuals entrenched at strategic levers of military andbureaucratic power, its claim to power challenged by a wide array of other forces. Survivaldictated a drive to concentrate and expand power in which a distinctive state took form, mixingsectarian asabiya and military rule with Leninist political organization and carrying out a‘revolution from above’.I – The struggle to concentrate powerThe diverse coalition of officers and politicians who seized power in March 1963, united by littlemore than their opposition to the ‘separatist regime’, shared power in a Revolutionary Counciland a new council of ministers, but immediately began to fall out. Amidst this struggle, Ba’thist officers successfully carried out the first prerequisite for theconsolidation of power: from strategic positions in the high command and crucial coup-makingunits which they had secured on the morn of the coup, and in alliance with Colonel Hariri, theypurged hundreds of conservative or Nasserite officers, chiefly of urban Sunni upper-middle andmiddle class background, while a massive recruitment of Ba’thi village youth and reserve officersturned the army into a rural bastion and shield of Ba’thist rule. At the outset, from dire necessity,Ba’thist power was being rooted in control of state office, coercive military command, andnetworks of trusted clients. But the cost was a severe crisis of legitimacy and the hostility of widesectors of the politically attentive public. That the emerging Ba’th leadership was by now increasingly ‘minoritarian’ – Alawi, Druze, andIsma’ili – and predominately rural and its rivals were chiefly urban and Sunni, gave the conflictbetween the regime and the opposition a predominately urban-rural and sectarian rather than aclass character. While the Ba’th’s now chiefly rural base was de-mobilized, the urban oppositionwas mobilized and concentrated. As such, in the first two years of its rule the Ba’th found itselfvirtually isolated in the still urban dominated political and dependent on military repression tostay in power; it was probably only the fragmentation and organizational weakness of its rivalswhich allowed it to survive.Meanwhile, the Ba’th was sharply divided within. Some wanted an Arab federation, pursue amoderate socialism and preserve some democratic freedoms. Young radical intellectualssucceeded in fusing Marxism-Leninism to Arab nationalism in a new radicalized version of Ba’thdoctrine. The new doctrine gave ‘revolution in one country’ priority over Pan Arab union. With policies in this idea, first priority was given to political organization in the countrysidewhere land reform would break the hold of landlords over peasants and enable the Ba’th tomobilize them.
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