chapter  3
17 Pages


The Ba’th ascent to power in a military coup should not disguise the fact that it represented a delayed outcome of the political mobilisation of the fifties. A whole new political elite of a distinctly plebeian, rural lower middle class “ex-peasant” social composition decisively displaced the traditional oligarchy (Van Dusen 1975; Drysdale 1981). Its outlook —a combination of radical nationalism and populism-was shaped by these social roots and the social struggle of the fifties. The goal of the new Ba’th leaders was not just another coup but a revolution. Nevertheless, the Ba’th’s road to power, on the back of the army and lacking an organised mass base, meant the Ba’th regime started as little more than a handful of officers and intellectuals entrenched at strategic levers of military and bureaucratic power, its claim to power challenged by a wide array of other forces. Survival dictated a drive to concentrate and expand power in which a distinctive state took form, mixing sectarian asabiya and military rule with Leninist political organisation and carrying out a “revolution from above.”