Arab political party and movement in the Middle East, principally in Syria and Iraq, where its local branches still hold the power in the countries.
The basic principles of the Ba'th Party were unity and freedom within an Arab nation. The party also established itself on the conviction that Arabs had a special mission to end Western colonialism.
The Ba'th Party was nationalistic, populistic, socialistic and revolutionary. Its socialism was not communism but it did involve land reform, as well as public ownership of natural resources, transport, large-scale industry and financial institutions.
It did allow workers and peasants to form trade unions, and permitted workers to participate in the management of the companies for which they worked. Nevertheless, the socialism of the Ba'th party did provide for some private ownership.
Central to its ideology was the tendency to ignore class divisions, as well as divisions between different religious groups. This allowed many minorities to gain political power by joining the Ba'th Party.
Central to the original program of the Ba'th Party was freedom of speech and association, even if the governments of Syria and Iraq has permitted little of this.
This branch was established in secret in 1950. Beginning in 1955 it started to cooperate with other nationalist groups. Not until February 1963, however, did they grow strong enough to take control over Iraq. This lasted only until November, when a person outside the Ba'th became prime minister.
Thanks to an initial cooperation with military officers, the Ba'th were able to take full control over Iraq in 1968.
This became the beginning of a process through which both the party and state in many important areas would became identical. This applied to the government, the armed forces, the police and the intelligence.
In the 1980s the socialistic aspects were diluted, and much encouragement was given to the private sector. Also, the Arab nationalism was replaced with Iraqi nationalism.
In March-April 2003, the Ba'th party and its political leadership was destroyed by the US-led forces in the US/British-Iraq War.
This branch, originating from the Arab Ba'th Party, was founded in 1948. It was with the annexation of the West Bank (with its large Palestinian population) that the Ba'th Party really grew strong in the country's nationalist-leftist alliance. This alliance became dominant in the parliament after the elections of 1956.
The members of the Jordanian Ba'th Party were the urban educated, and they had strong support from students.
In the period 1958- 61 the Ba'th Party was active in working against the monarchy of Jordan, and did this with economic aid from Syria.
When the West Bank was occupied by Israel in 1967, the Ba'th Party of Jordan was strongly weakened, and has never recovered from this.
The Arab Ba'th Party was established in 1948, but in the following year, when international parties were banned, their freedom was limited. This situation lasted until 1958.
Lebanon was used for the Ba'th Party's congresses in 1959 and 1968.
During the Lebanese Civil War beginning in 1975, the Ba'th Party could establish its own militia with economic support from Syria. The Ba'th Party formed a union of several parties in 1987. This group later became central in forming a coalition government in Lebanon, in which core leaders from the Ba'th Party were given posts.
The North Yemen branch of the Ba'th Party was established in 1955/6, but did not become an important group until after the end of the Yemeni civil war in 1970. The party never entered office, and was in 1976 merged with other parties to form the National Democratic Front.
Similarly to North Yemen, the South Yemen local branch of the Ba'th Party was set up in 1955/6. It operated freely after 1967, following the independence of South Yemen.
With the introduction of a one-party system in 1978, however, the Ba'th Party was forced to be dissolved.
This local branch of the Ba'th Party is a direct continuation of the original movement, which was first established in Syria. The party was suppressed from 1958 until 1961, during the union between Syria and Egypt, the United Arab Republic.
In 1963 the Ba'th Party took over the power in Syria. But the same year the party also split into two factions, an anti-Marxist civilian part, and a military part. The latter was led by Salah Jadid. In 1966 tensions grew stronger, and Jadid's group forced Michel Aflaq, the leader of the civilian group, into exile.
In 1970 a 2 week party congress tried to solve a conflict between Jadid and Hafez al-Assad, but did not succeed. Soon thereafter Assad had Jadid removed from his position, and put in jail. Following this, Assad took more and more control over the party.
At certain periods there was much dissent with his political line, but in 1979 Assad removed opponents from important positions.
1930s: Michel Aflaq, Salah al-Din Bitar and Zaki Arsuzi travel around Syria to promote an ideology of Arab nationalism.
1943: The Arab Ba'th Party is formed in Damascus by Aflaq and Bitar.
1946: After the French leave Syria, Aflaq and Bitar manage to get a licence for their political group. Later they merge it with the political movement led by Arsuzi.
1947 April 7: At the first party congress in Damascus, the party is officially founded, a constitution is approved and an executive committee is formed.
1954 March: The Arab Ba'th Socialist Party is formed after a merger with the Arab Socialist Party.
1966: A split in the Syrian party, causes many of its members to establish a second Ba'th Party in Beirut, Lebanon.
1968 July: The breakaway branch of Ba'th moves to Baghdad, following the coup in Iraq.