Between 1982 and 1994 anti-imperialist secular left parties apparently provided the main political opposition to Hafez Assad’s Baath regime. As an essay titled “The Syrian Opposition at the End of the Assad Era,” which appeared in the 1994 book Contemporary Syria, that Eberhard Kienie edited, observed:
“In the post-Hama era some secular parties…constituted the only political opposition of importance inside the country. One of the most active among them is the Party (formerly Association) of Communist Action (PCA) which, like many other leftist opposition parties, recruits many of its activists from among the Alawis and other minorities. The PCA, however, did not join the National Democratic Gathering, a leftist alliance…The Gathering’s leading parties are the CP-Politbureau and the oppositional wing of the Arab Socialist Union (ASU) led by Jamal al-Atassi, who at the same time figures as the chairman of the Gathering at large. Apart from these two parties the Gathering also comprised the Revolutionary Workers’ Party, the pro-Jadid (and anti-Assad, anti-capitalist left faction of the] Baath Party and the pro-Jadid [anti-Assad]…oppositional wing of the Movement of Arab Socialists [MAS]…The Marxist-oriented…PCA…has for some years…been closely cooperating with the Gathering, which is dominated by its rival, the more reformist CP-Politbureau…In 1991 the CP-Politbureau ceased publication of its underground paper nidal al-Sha’b (“People’s Struggle”) in favor of a common publication of the Gathering, al-mauqif al-aimu grati (“Democratic Point of View”) which has since been regularly distributed inside Syria, an operation which continues to be dangerous.”
Yet between the early 1980s and the early 1990s the number of Syrians who were members of Hafez Assad’s Baath Party had increased from 374,352 to 1,008,243, according to Allan George’s Syria: Neither Bread nor Freedom; and during the same period, the number of Syrians who worked in the public sector of Syria’s economy had increased from 757,000 to 1.2 million, including the 530,000 Syrians who were members of the Baath regime’s military or state security agencies in the early 1990s, according to the same book.
In May 1991, Assad’s Baath regime also enacted Law No. 10 which, “strongly” encouraged “Syrian, Arab and even foreign investment in areas” of the Syrian economy which had been “reserved for the public sector” in the previous decade, according to Eberherd Kiene’s introduction to Contemporary Syria. Yet during the 1990s, Syria’s public sector was still dominant in oil, banking and construction, while in agriculture (which accounted for 28 percent of the Syrian economy’s gross domestic product), tourism and domestic and foreign trade, Syria’s private sector was now dominant, according to an essay by Nabil Sukkar that appeared in the same book.
(end of part 23)