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The Barbarism from Within—Discourses about Fascism amongst Iraqi and Iraqi-Jewish Communists, 1942-1955

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This article looks at the changing significations of the word “fascist” within communist discourses in Iraq and in Israel. I do so in order to illustrate how fascism, a concept signifying a political theory conceptualized and practiced in Italy, Germany, and Spain, became a boarder frame of reference to many leftist intellectuals in the Middle East. The articles shows that communist discourses formulated in Iraq during the years 1941-1945 evoked the word “fascist” not only in order to discredit Germany and Italy but also, and more importantly, as a way of critiquing Iraq’s radical pan-Arab nationalists and Iraq’s conservative elites who proclaimed their loyalty to pan-Arabism as well. In other words, the article studies the ways in which Iraqi communist intellectuals, most notably the leader of the Iraqi Communist Party, Fahd, shifted the antifascist global battle to the Iraqi field and used the prodemocratic agenda of the Allies to criticize the absence of social justice and human rights in Iraq, and the Iraqi leadership’s submissive posture toward Britain. As it became clear to Iraqi communists that World War II was nearing its end, and that Iraq would be an important part of the American-British front, criticism of the Iraqi Premier Nūrī al-Saʿīd and his policies grew sharper, and such policies were increasingly identified as “fascist”. Within this context, Fahd equated chauvinist rightwing Iraqi nationalism in its anti-Jewish and anti- Kurdish manifestations with fascism and Nazi racism. I then look at the ways in which Iraqi Jewish communists internalized the party’s localized antifascist agenda. I argue that Iraqi Jewish communists identified rightwing Iraqi nationalism (especially the agenda espoused by a radical pan-Arab Party called al-Istiqlāl) as symptomatic of a fascist ideology. Finally, I demonstrate how Iraqi Jewish communists who migrated to Israel in the years 1950-1951 continued using the word “fascist” in their campaigns against rightwing Jewish nationalism and how this antifascist discourse influenced prominent Palestinian intellectuals


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