This doctoral workshop will explore Arab Marxism in both historical and thematic perspectives. The struggle for political participation, social justice and legal equality was a key element of radical socialist and communist movements that emerged in Arab countries before and after World War I. These movements mobilized the masses, organized the workers, formed political parties and called for political demonstrations or, in some instances, for armed revolution. The spread of radical ideas among workers, the middle class, and intellectuals mirrored the growing integration of Arab societies into a globalized economy from the nineteenth century onwards.
Ideologically, the main domestic opponents of Marxist/Communist movements in many Arab countries were Arab nationalist and Islamist movements both of whom connected citizenship rights to national and/or religious identity and strove to establish a homogeneous nation. In contrast, the radical left recruited followers from all sectors of Arab societies, especially from religious and ethnical minorities as well as members of foreign nationalities. Women participated also in communist/Marxist movements, but sources reveal the male-dominated cultures inside these movements and the little attention they gave to the struggle for women’s rights.
In spite of the political differences, communists throughout history formed part-time alliances with nationalist, Islamists and authoritarian states, often with detrimental results. Moreover, the rigid structures of communist parties did not favour internal democracy. After 1990, the communist movement lost influence and many former supporters moved onwards to liberal or Islamist ideas, as part of an often bitter learning process. The remaining as well as newly emerging leftist groups are experimenting with new forms of organisation, mobilisation, action, and ideological mixture. A higher sensibility for questions of citizenship rights is characteristic for the post-Communist left. In the recent civil uprisings of 2010/11 and 2019/2020 in many Arab countries, many leftist movements are present, but they represent mainly one contested ideological current among others.
The following themes will be addressed in particular:
1. Socialist and Communist Movements before and after World War I
2. Women Participation and Women Rights in Marxist/Communist Movements
3. Communist/Marxist Movements and Religion
4. Leftism in the Recent Uprisings in the Arab World