The chain of developments unleashed by Gorbachev's perestroika, "glasnost" and '"new political thinking"' culminated in the disintegration of what had hitherto been known in Marxist jargon as the socialist camp or the world of existing socialism. Some of the events in this process were dramatic: the execution of the Romanian dictator Ceaucescu, the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the removal of communist-led regimes through popular protest.
For the Arab radicals, there was the loss of a superpower ally on whose military, economic and political patronage they could count. The demise of the Soviet Union has left a sense of desperation and angst among the new generation of Arab Marxist activists, leaders and intellectuals. The previous experiences of this generation had been traumatic. The orphans of the Gorbachev era had experienced successive defeats at the hands of the rising nationalists (Nasser of Egypt, Boumedienne of Algeria, Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Numeiri of Sudan, to name but a few). The zeal, confidence and vitality of this generation had been eroded by years of persecution, and the vacuum they had left was frequently occupied by the rising new current of Islamic fundamentalism.
The Marxists who have come out of this process are very different from what they had been before it started. Various trends are now in the making. This book attempts to describe and trace the theoretical issues and endeavours which have influenced and shaped this rethinking. The chapters are structured around several major, interconnected themes: an examination of the theoretical, political and organizational responses evident so far among the Marxists in the Arab world. Needless to say, changes in this field are far from final; an analysis of abstract, theoretical issues which have a pivotal importance in the Marxist conception and are shared in different national settings; an examination of globalization; and an analysis of the demise of the Soviet Union itself on the one hand, and how this was seen by the major Arab ruling elites on the other.
Most chapters have an explicit or implicit comparative outlook that reveals to what extent Marxism in the Arab world has common inherited features with, or divergent perspectives from, its European counterpart.