Arab Revolutionary Thought in the Face of Current Challenges
By Elias Farah 1973
Prepared by Al-Moharer team
The Generation of Nationalization and Liberation*
Today, in a spirit of joy, each of us reaps the fruit of his own labor. Intoxicated with the joy of success, our beloved students walk up one after another to the platform and receive their diplomas, earned by long years of work and perseverance.
The members of their families present here follow them with their eyes, and dare not to believe what they see. Their professors, these skillful artisans, are at this moment feeling the joy a worker feels before the product of his work, that of a peasant before his harvest, and that of an artist at the moment of creation and invention.
The Revolution, that of July 17, 1968, the Arab Baath Socialist Party, artisan and guide of this Revolution, all the patriotic and progressive forces in the country, the militant alliance between the Arab and Kurd nations, in short, all the forces of progress directed toward good and working for the prosperity of the country, welcome this event with pleasure, since it is loaded with meanings which go well beyond those generally comprised in academic traditions.
This event is a window, which opens onto the future. It is the symbol of a new birth: that of many generations of new workers. Rich possibilities for hope and a variety of capabilities have appeared. The evolution, the growth and the resistance of the individual and of society as a whole have been affirmed.
This celebration is a pause where work finds its recompense, where learning meets with life, the university and society. The joy of the individuals and the institutions has become one with that of the entire nation. Divided and exploited, the proletarian and under-developed nations consider that their desire to struggle will be reinforced in the future. The future is the very essence of their existence and their presence in history depends upon it.
This academic tradition bestows great joy, overwhelming everyone —parents, students with degrees, professors, members of the administration and their leader, the dean— as well as the entire society, with the atmosphere of festivity which, at one and the same time, brings to mind the solemnity of prayer, the rationality of organized matters and the sumptuousness of marriage. Memories, dreams and hopes are here joined together.
Who among us, among the professors of the university, would not on this occasion remember the celebration at the end of the academic year when, his studies finished, he thus left student life? Were these celebrations anything other than splendid and happy dreams for those who have just finished their studies? Those who will still continue their studies no doubt direct all their hopes toward the near future, toward that happy moment at which they would like to quickly arrive, where they would be able to stand in the highly-coveted place of those who, today, are celebrating their success.
We congratulate all those present here for their work and wish that, in this joy, each one of them would be able to feel the pleasure of these memories dreams and hopes.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In this eternal city, Al-Maws**, which in the past served as a crossroads and bridge between countries and civilizations; "Al-Hadbâ" ***, which has always known how to stand up to the course of events and which has always been the cornerstone of any fair military line, we are here for this celebration where culture and militancy have become one. During the radiant and decisive days of our beloved Iraq, the days that witnessed the nationalization of petroleum (June, 1972), thus erasing the memory of the June defeat, newly permitting the Arab nation to savor the joy of great victories, the University of Al-Maws gave a new generation of workers to the society, a new generation which we have the joy —it will have all the honor— of naming "the generation of nationalization and liberation".
We are actually celebrating two events at the same time, and the joy of those students with degrees has become one with that of the people: the celebration of great victories and that of great historical responsibilities. In fact, the university, as well as the professors and the students with degrees, is today confronting new kinds of historical responsibilities, whose significance is greater than ever.
For the first time in the contemporary life of Arabs, an Arab country has succeeded in shattering the yoke which the petroleum companies had closed onto the national economy which, deprived of its independence, witnessed the obstruction of its evolution. The wealth of petroleum could thus not be employed as a weapon to combat the colonial-Zionist alliance, which is at the origin of the disunion, under-development and oppression in our homeland and is responsible for the defeats, which have been inflicted upon it.
For the first time since the defeat of June 5, a giant has appeared on the scene; he is determined and proud, defying the dangers and resisting the distress which has spread out since June, as well as opposing plans that aim at serving defeatism and despair. Authentic bridges have been set up between reality and our ambitions. A new stage has been inaugurated where the Arabs from the Ocean to the Gull have recovered their momentum and resumed their unified struggle, as it was in the course of the fifties. With eyes turned toward Baghdad, they express satisfaction with the achievements that have taken place, and are ready, with their leaders, to open a heroic page of our history where the struggles will be able to break down all factors of weakness, deterioration and defeat.
It is in this general context of nationalism, which has thus permitted the opening of a new and ascending path for the Arab Nation that we celebrate this new generation of graduates. But from the very fact of this historical event, where the people have retaken control of their wealth, this celebration of the year’s end takes on a particular meaning, a scope which it had never before experienced. The students who are leaving the university know which responsibilities are awaiting them. They are designated as actual soldiers, who will be committed to a battle, which goes beyond the limits of Iraq and of the Arab homeland, which has an authentically international dimension. The university is a revolutionary institution and no break can be tolerated between the knowledge, which it spreads, and the necessities of the current historical stage. The professors have the duty of preparing militant generations who will have faith in the inevitability of the victory of the Arab Revolution. That is necessary, since nationalization in itself is a beginning of revolution and a battle for the reconstruction of the country, as well for the reconstruction of the national life on the bases of advanced militancy. Nationalization constitutes a qualitative bond for this country and we will find ourselves out of touch with our historical situation if we continue to follow the rhythm of the preceding stage, if we do not rid ourselves of worn-out ideas and if we do not adapt our activities to new realities. The institutions must also evolve in order to reach a level corresponding to that attained in the course of nationalization. Thus, we will be at the height of this historic achievement, we will not hinder its potential impact and we will not obstruct its development. This nationalization is as much of a challenge thrown at us, as it is a challenge thrown in the face of colonialism, the monopolies and the Zionists. It is as much of an eternal battle as it is a victory over the external enemy.
This celebration of the year’s end is actually a phase of preparation for the battle. There lies its profound meaning and it is impossible to ignore it. For the struggle, it no longer suffices to be a mere academic tradition. It basks in this great joy born of great achievements, this joy which, in the course of the combat, re-established the links between the glorious historical past of our nation end the authentic choice, victorious progress, self-confidence and re-assumption of our destiny. Before the great historic responsibilities, which we must accomplish, the academic tradition should be transformed into an authentic revolution in order to become the crucible of this great joy.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The new awarding of university diplomas today is going to reach a society and social situation of profound change, in a regional context as well as a national one. The current historical stage, the great historical step that we have just taken on the way of the Revolution in these countries, authorizes neither immobility nor self- satisfaction.
With nationalization, this historic act, the Arab nation has assumed its ascending march after all the setbacks suffered in the sixties. The "generation of the nationalization" is part of this ascending march. It will not play an effective role, however, unless it has "revolutionary" qualities, the only ones capable of preserving this historic attainment, of building a new Iraq and of consolidating our country’s role in the heart of the Arab Revolution.
Speaking of the Revolution and revolutionary conditions today comprises a meaning which revolutionary action did not possess before the defeat of June 5 and before the annihilation of the monopolies since, earlier, revolutionary action was rather superficial and banal.
In order for these students who are soon going to enter into productive life to be revolutionaries —in the new sense— they must be fully conscious of their new role: they are going to know a new ascending phase of the Nation. They must accept with modesty, while practicing their self-critique in a healthy and honest way, that learning and the academic specializations, which they have acquired, do not, in themselves, suffice in preparing them for the new tasks, which await them. This learning and this specialization should be linked to present political contexts, placed in the framework of the historical stage that the nation is crossing, with the new structures that it has acquired since the re-absorption of the cancerous monopolies.
In the past, too many academics only aimed at utilizing their university diplomas toward material ends. They wanted to earn comfortable livings and raise families. They dreamed of the sweetness of life, of a nice place to live and of a nice car. They lived practically outside of any social context, each one of them building his own particular world, cutting himself off from the life of the people and from the struggle, worrying neither about the crisis which shook the homeland nor about the needs of the nation. Living in the alienation of their personal well-being, they existed as foreigners in the middle of a society where many problems prevailed. At this moment, however, no gap, no barrier between the life of the individual, of the generation or of the society can be tolerated. The historical stage, which we are crossing, condemns any gap of this sort and holds such a split responsible for the evils we are facing. The existence of individuals, as well as their liberty and their means of subsistence, depends on the victory of the homeland and the resistance of the nation.
The life of individuals, the bread of the popular masses and the happiness of generations turned toward the future depend today more than ever on the continuity of the revolution. These greatly awaited radical social transformations, the deepening of the militant Arab movement and the victory of the nation after its defeat all depend on the victory of the revolution.
The graduates coming up to the platform in order to j, take the key which will permit them to enter into public, productive life must prepare themselves for this life as would heroic fighters entering onto the field of battle. Their personal dreams must be in agreement with the ambitions of the people and with the needs of the nation if they want to triumph over disunion, to reunify the Arab homeland and to conduct the struggle for unity against the external enemy and under-development.
The Revolution honors these students, establishing a link between the end of their studies and the greatest achievement the Arab nation has known after the nationalization of the Suez Canal and the unity of 1958. It is thus their duty to prove their ability for safeguarding this revolutionary attainment and, given its profound democratic dimension, to take into account its importance for Arab unity and the popular masses.
As for the university, which ensured the formation of these students, it is an institution, which must encourage new intellectual attitudes, new pedagogical methods and all that is likely to develop research and to improve life in general. It is also its duty —as is that of any other institution— to combat weaknesses and to be aware of any gaps or delay in relation to the march of the Revolution. The university must make enormous efforts to contribute to the formation of the generations born of the Revolution, and to raise them in an authentically democratic and socialist way, with constant care given to Arab unity.
The great challenges and the serious battles waged against colonialism and its monopolies, as well as those against the Zionist invaders, are the objectives in which the new Arab man and the revolutionary Arab generations are constituted. Their education and their formation can be improved to the point of giving them the means for responding to the challenges, which are thrown at them. Our universities must be transformed. They must become militant institutions where militant thought and spirit are developed and where militancy acquires all its weight and significance.
Our universities, in forming the Arab revolutionary generations, are accomplishing an historical task of crucial importance for the struggle, since they contribute to molding the attitudes, which the Nation will adopt toward itself and toward the world. They also contribute by forging the instrument of the struggle, which expresses the identity of the Nation, its future and the orientations of its combat. If the period of university learning is not put in the service of this historic and militant task, it will become a factor of alienation and even a project of sabotage, since it will halt development. In fact, the Nation cannot provide an accurate image of its profound identity if the "culture" becomes completely cut off from its historical roots. Besides, any true and living scientific idea is inconceivable in a static perspective where the study of the past constitutes an end in itself, without any attention given to attach it to the present or to the process of world evolution. In the same way, a vision, which is attentive to neither cultures, civilizations nor to the progress of humanity, cannot aid a nation in forming the best image of it self.
The role of the university in the Arab homeland is thus that of giving birth to an authentic Arab culture, whose roots reach most deeply into our national history and which, at the same tithe, is capable of comprising the movement of history and its continuity, and of recognizing the links between the past, the present and the future. This culture must be open to all and its civilizing mission must never be forgotten. It must be in continual interaction with the evolution of humanity. Its impact on the Arab situation must be truly revolutionary. The reasons for disunion, for the imperialist presence and for Zionism must be tracked down and abolished. All forms of under-development and all aspects of exploitation must be denounced and done away with. All efforts must be made toward the setting up of a progressive, civilized and human world.
There can be no authentic learning if the very foundation of all learning —society with its problems, situated in a particular historical stage— is ignored. Scientific specialization constitutes only a small parcel of it is called into practice must be given constant attention inside this conscious knowledge. The economic and political framework in which university institutions, since the first conditions to fulfill in order to form an authentically cultured man, an militant intellectual aware of his personal role in the battle of destiny to which the entire Nation has committed itself, is to form him in such a way that he will never be able to ignore the links between knowledge and political and economic revolution.
Like Socrates, who in his time showed the unity between knowledge and virtue, we must, in our time, make the link between knowledge and the Revolution. It is only through establishing this link that the identification between knowledge and revolution can be achieved.
In essence, knowledge is more than a simple comprehension of phenomena and the laws that rule them. At the same time, it is the aptitude for making this comprehension operative, and the capacity for mastering these phenomena by determining the changes and mutations necessary to bring an end to temporary failures and to hasten the restructuring of society on new bases, and to orient the various stages of its evolution in a way which sustains the general march of history.
Knowledge is thus a virtue and a revolution because it is the best _expression of historic responsibilities.
When our universities have the primary objective of being authentically revolutionary centers, of extracting revolution from knowledge and knowledge from revolution, in other words, when the thoughts they bring forth constitute the struggle and also become the fruits of this struggle, then we will be able to say that these universities have truly known how to assume their historic responsibilities. We will able to say that the Arab man and the Arab revolutionary generations have begun to emerge from the university, as the militant man and revolutionary generations emerge in our period. You, the generation of nationalization and liberation, you know that the Revolution of July 17, 1968, in making the historic decision to nationalize Iraqi petroleum, has hewn a breach in the citadel of the imperialist monopolies and has disrupted their policy. You know that you live in a world where it is indispensable that the political map drawn up by the monopolies be overthrown and that the revolutionary generations of the world, the generations of which you are a part, must create a new world for man. You must not consider this revolutionary and historic event outside of this general international context Your march toward liberation, and the march of the revolutionary movement in general must be in harmony with that of all the revolutionary generations that struggle in all the countries of the world, for the creation of a new world where the forces of oppression will no longer have a place. These forces have tried to subjugate nations, to subject individuals to their rule and to obstruct progress. They debase the civilizing values of human evolution.
Your are at the threshold of the year, 2000 only 28 years separate you from it. The twentieth century is nearing its end. If the evolution continues at this rhythm, if its orientation remains the same without serious and unforeseeable events arising to disturb it, the picture of the world that we can use to represent it on the basis of given data is the following: ****
1. The population of the world will reach the level of six billion.
2. One billion 500 million people will comprise the population of the advanced industrial countries alone (USA, URSS, Europe and Japan). The average per capita annual income will vary between a minimum of 5000 dollars and 10.000 a year.
3. The entire population of the Third World, of which you are members, will be four and one-half billion. The average per capita annual income will be only 300 dollars.
On the basis of these figures, you will no doubt grasp the importance of the decision made by this country on the subject of the nationalization of its petroleum. Such acts are likely to change the somber image of the present of the present world, and to liberate 5 billion underprivileged human being living in the heart of proletarian nations, divided and exploited, subjected to under- development and to distress. Only the struggle can bring meaning to their life. It alone constitutes their reason for living and gives a justification for their presence in history.
In confronting the petroleum monopolies and the imperialist -Zionist projects, we are actually confronting all the forces, which the ascending march of history. We want to build a world that is rid of all the capitalists, colonialists, exploiters, oppressors and aggressors.
It would be committing a serious injustice against the Revolution of July 17, 1968, this Revolution which took its inspiration from the principles of the Baath Arab Socialist Party, which acts in the interests of the Iraqi people and the entire Arab Nation, of Which we want to make a permanent revolution —yes, we would be committing a serious injustice if we did not appreciate its real value. It would be a patent injustice not to work for the elevation of all institutions to the level of the needs and the very nature of the Revolution. It would be an injustice if these institutions themselves did not make this effort. We would fail in our responsibilities if we did not become aware of our errors in this context, and if we did not recognize our wrongdoings. It demands of us, as it demands of itself, a constant, objective and disinterested giving of self, expressing an unlimited love and faithful attachment to our duties.
We should carry a critical and bold view of ourselves and we should not cease to evaluate that which we bring to this permanent Revolution and to re-examine our attitudes and positions in its regard.
Nationalization places the country at the highest point of its economic independence, puts it in the front ranks of the countries who are struggling for unity and permits it to take the first truly decisive steps on the way toward the liberation of Palestine. Nationalization is truly one of the great phases of the ascending and continuous march, which aims at achieving all the objectives of the Arab Revolution: Unity, Freedom and Socialism.
We cannot claim to belong to the revolutionary generations unless we participate, unless all our institutions participate in the constantly ascending revolutionary process, which sweeps from its path all that holds back the spirit of the Revolution, all that is opposed to the movement of the popular and their struggle, this process which seeks to go beyond itself and to go beyond the contradictions of the situation in order to make itself completely at one with the movement of history.
My dear students,
The new historical stage, which the Revolution is crossing, puts before you responsibilities which only authentic heroes are capable of fulfilling.
The deepening of our thought and of our revolutionary practice is such that no activity whatsoever that reminds us of the June defeat can be tolerated. You are being called, and you have no other choice, to bring to fruition the historical tasks demanded by the objective conditions of the Revolution.
You must think of the Arab Nation before thinking of only one region of your great homeland. You must think of the future before the present; of the popular masses before yourselves; of respect for values before interest; of devoting yourself to the general good rather than leading a life devoid of any notion of it. The Revolution demands you, as it demands itself, to live for the Nation before living for yourselves, to follow the steps of the great men, to contribute more than you take and to accept that sometimes your own life will seem to be a continual and un-rewarded sacrifice.
These are the criteria that the revolution employs to judge itself and its sons. It is a civilizing Revolution, which goes back to the most distant past, because it has a vast socio-cultural heritage at its disposal. It is turned toward the most distant future because it has an enormous historical mission.
Without this socio-cultural depth, your Revolution could never have realized, on the land of Iraq, the Declaration of March, which our hearts must never forget. It would never have been able to newly maintain peace in the North, which permitted the country to dress its wounds and to rid itself of the sequels of the past, in order to view the future with a deep sense of the Revolution and the Civilization. And these choices constitute the foundation of the positions taken by the Revolution of July 17, this same Revolution that placed Iraq on the way toward economic independence by proclaiming the nationalization.
Without this great civilization, this rich millenary history of a country, without the Arab Nation’s enduring aptitude for renewal and for the rekindling of the flame of the civilization (and Iraq is the crucible from which these aptitudes have sprung forth), the signs of this cultural and artistic renaissance, which, next to revolutionary maturity, constitute the pride of Iraq, would never have been able to appear.
When the generation of nationalization and liberation has assimilated this revolutionary and civilizing vision, the _expression of a profound sense of historical responsibilities, when this vision has become the motive force of life and of the continual struggle of this generation, it will no longer have any difficulty, no longer any obstacle in the way of the victory of the Revolution. A great qualitative transformation can then come about, and all the projects of the colonial-Zionist alliance, all its conspiracies against the Arab future will be placed in check.
Let us then embark together on the path of an ever-evolving life, on the path of struggle and sacrifice. Together, with you, the heroes of the future, we will all be able to realize the dream of the Arab people and the will of history by instituting Unity, Freedom and Socialism.
I thank you all.
* Speech given at Al-Mawsil University, at the closing of the academic year. June 20, 1972.
** The name of the city, Al-Mawsil (Mosul) comes from the Arabic word "wassala", meaning to link, to arrive at, to communicate, on the basis of which the author forms his pun.
*** "Al-Hadbâ", feminine Ahdab, meaning hunch-backed; bent over, curved, from which the author forms his pun.
**** Maurice Grenier, The Last Chance of the Third World.
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