[P4930] Between the National and the International: Arab Communists from the Mashreq to the Maghreb in the 1940s and 1950s

Created by Sana Tannoury Karam
Monday, 11/20/17 8:00am


During the interwar period and up until the beginning of the Cold War, communists constituted a major component of a global internationalist moment that brought together anti-imperialist, as well as anti-war and anti-fascist movements. At the same time, communists in the colonies reconciled their internationalism with their nationalism and their liberation struggles. This panel places Arab communists within this framework and examines how they negotiated their positions vis-à-vis their political and social milieus within their local and global contexts. It approaches Arab communists as mediators between the national and the international, as they worked to reconcile contradictions of competing political, religious, ethnic, and social identities. The papers draw on experiences of communists in Tunisia, Morocco, Lebanon, Palestine and Israel in the 1940s and 1950s to address the role communism played in shaping modern Middle Eastern nation-states at a critical juncture of their formation. This panel complicates the relationship between communists, their parties, and the Soviet Union, showing the fluidity of the concepts of the national and the international in these Arab communists’ political imaginations, and what that meant for the region and world they lived in. It also specifically traces the impact of colonialism, fascism, and WWII on the way Arabs defined and experienced communism.
Paper 1 critically engages the history of the Palestinian communists and their mobilization in the early years of the Israeli state by examining how communists reconciled the contradictions they faced, and arguing that circumventing the resistance/collaboration dichotomy highlights the role they played in shaping Palestinian politics in Israel. Paper 2 argues that the interwar period was one of vast political efflorescence for Moroccan Jews with a transnational genesis, and traces the narrowing of these options following WWII and the anti-Semitic policies of the Vichy regime in Morocco. Paper 3 examines how Lebanese communists defined fascism, arguing that by framing it as colonial and undemocratic, they combined their anti-fascist struggle with their anti-colonial struggle and intensified their calls for more a democratic political system in Lebanon. Paper 4 focuses on the impact of the Vichy legislations and the German occupation of Tunisia on Tunisian Jews’ involvement in the communist movement, arguing that WWII and the anti-Nazi propaganda of the Communist Party of Tunisia increased the involvement of Tunisian Jews in the communist movement.






Zachary Lockman

(New York University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair;

Orit Bashkin

(University of Chicago)
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Alma Heckman

(UC Santa Cruz)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Sana Tannoury Karam

(Northeastern University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Kamilia Rahmouni

(University of Arizona)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;