Thursday, August 25, 2011

Ba'thism vs Nasserism

"Say what you will about Nasser's regime, its repression and unforgivable responsibility for the 1967 defeat (although shared with the Ba'thists and the Jordanian potentate), but it can't be compared with the Ba'thist regimes in Syria and Iraq. It never produced the rich class we see in Iraq and Syria. Furthermore, Egypt under Nasser witnessed a great cultural and artistic revival: think about how Egypt led the region in movies, poetry, literature and political culture. There was nothing comparable under the rule of the Ba'th. Remember that Naguib Mahfouz wrote his best novels under Nasser. No such cultural environment was permitted under the Ba'th. Even right-wing writers, like Tawfiq al-Hakim, Taha Husayn and Mahfouz, wrote feely and received government recognition. If Mahfouz had lived under the Ba'th, he would have had his fingernails pulled. In my opinion, the Egyptian movies of that era were better than those of any other. Finally, the Nasserist regime was the only Arab regime that knew how to skillfully and effectively infuse Arab culture with themes of resistance and progressiveness. Nasser always spoke of the poor. Can you imagine Bashar speaking about the poor? A poor person for Bashar is when his cousin Rami Makhlouf has only $1 billion in the bank." (Nasser vs the Ba'th, The Angry Arab,, 18/8/11)

"At about this time [1969][Hafiz] Asad and Nur al-Din Atasi called on Nasser in Cairo. At the best of times the Egyptian leader had mixed feelings about Syria and Syrians. They had clamoured for union with Egypt and then seceded, dealing him a body-blow. They had sucked him into the catastrophic Six Day War from which he never recovered. But now, in the last months of his life, all venom spent, he wearily asked his visitors about other Syrian Ba'thists whom he had known. He learned that one had been killed, another languished in jail, a third was in exile. 'Ah, you Ba'thists', he exclaimed. 'You're so harsh with each other! When we in Egypt formed our Free Officers movement we agreed that if we ever fell out, each of us would be free to return to private life'. In this as in so much else, the Syrians were not ready to follow Egypt's example." (Asad: The Struggle for the Middle East, Patrick Seale, 1988, p 153)

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