The rise of the Ba’ath party in Syria in the 20th century: The role of pan-Arabism and Arab socialism

Politics & Civil Society in the Middle East

By Alyazya Akhazraji (2019)

  • The information in this paper is limited due to the word limit

The rise of the Ba’ath movement marked the first half of the 20th century in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iraq. The Ba’ath is an Arab socialist movement founded in the late 1930s and early 1940s by Michel’ Aflaq, an Orthodox Christian, and Salah al-Din Bitar, a Sunni Mulsim (Devlin, 1991; Larkin & Kerr 2015). This period featured “intense nationalist activity in Palestine, Greater Syria, and Iraq […] against the continued direct control of the area by Britain and France (Galvani, 1974). Thus, a lot of middle-class and pluralist political parties rose (Larkin & Kerr 2015). The pan-Arab socialist narrative was instrumental to the rise of the Ba’ath because the movement itself “was the first to advocate Arab Socialism and to formulate its characteristic” (Lenczowski, 1966). In 1956 it developed into a political party and became a driving force in Syrian politics. Eventually, it came into governance via a coup in 1963 (Lenczowski, 1966; Larkin & Kerr 2015). Pan-Arabism and the movement’s secular ideas and lack of religious identity made it favorable to the population. There are more factors at play on an international, regional and internal level that allowed the Ba’ath to rise. However, this paper focuses on the influence of pan-Arabism on the development of the Ba’ath movement as a political party in Syria from its formation to the 1963 coup. In order to do so, it discusses the effects of the United Arab Republic as a pan-Arab state as well as its failure. It explores anti-western and anti-Israeli Syrian sentiments and their alliance with Palestinian refugees. Furthermore, it explains France’s reaction to the rise of pan-Arabism and its influence on Syria’s internal politics.


Brand, L. (1988). Palestinians in Syria: The Politics of Integration. Middle East Journal, 42(4), 621-637. Retrieved from http://www.jstor./stable/4327836

Devlin, J. F. (1991). The Baath Party: Rise and Metamorphosis. The American Historical Review, 96(5), 1396-1407. doi:10.2307/2165277

Fildis, A. T. (2012). Roots of Alawite-Sunni Rivalry in Syria. Middle East Policy12(2), 148-155.

Galvani, J. (1974). Syria and the Baath Party. MERIP Reports,(25), 3-16. doi:10.2307/3011567 

Gambill, G. C. (2001). The Political Obstacles to Economic Reform in Syria. Middle Eat Intelligence Bulletin. 3(7).

Keilany, Z. (1980). Land Reform in Syria. Middle Eastern Studies, 16(3), 209-224. Retrieved from

Khatib, L., Lefèvre, R., & Qureshi, J. (2012). State and Islam in Baathist Syria (pp. 3-11). Fife; Scotland: University of St Andrews Centre for Syrian Studies.

Larkin, C., Kerr, M. (2015). The Alawis of Syria: War, Faith and Politics in the Levant. New York: NY, Oxford University Press.

Lenczowski, G. (1966). Radical Regimes in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq: Some Comparative Observations on Ideologies and Practices. The Journal of Politics, 28(1), 29-56. Retrieved from

Lust, E. (2014). The Middle East (14th ed.). Los Angeles: Sage/CQ Press.

Salem-Murdock, M. (2019). Anthropology and development in north africa and the middle east. Milton: Routledge. (2019). Retrieved

Torrey, G. H. (1970). Instability in Syria. Current History (Pre-1986), 58(000341), 13. Retrieved from

4 thoughts on “The rise of the Ba’ath party in Syria in the 20th century: The role of pan-Arabism and Arab socialism

  1. Wow, this is great. I loved how you put references at the bottom, it helps me if I ever find myself having to write about the rise of the Ba’ath Party. This post was really interesting!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.