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Political opportunities and collective action in the Iraqi revolution 195859

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The overthrow of the Iraqi monarchy in 1958 was followed by an upsurge in collective action, which took the form of strikes and huge street demonstrations. Tens of thousands joined political organizations that had been forced to operate in secret during the pre-revolutionary era, including the trade unions and political parties, such as the Communist Party and Ba'ath Party. This article takes a contrasting perspective to those existing accounts of this period which focus exclusively on the role of the state in empowering these social movements, arguing that collective action during the Iraqi revolution was both enabled from above, through the actions of elite figures and by processes within the state, and driven from below by the dynamic of the social movements which had fatally undermined the monarchy. The article analyses the dimensions of political opportunity for Communists and Ba'athists in the aftermath of the military coup, the interaction between their two movements and explores the impact of the organizational and ideological legacy of the pre-revolutionary era on the translation of opportunity into collective action.
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Keywords: 1958 revolution; Ba'athists; Communists; Iraq; collective action; political opportunities

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

Publication date: October 24, 2008

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  • The International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies is a new peer-reviewed, tri- annual, academic publication devoted to the study of modern Iraq. In recognition of Iraq's increasingly important position on the world stage, the time is right for a new journal dedicated to scholarly engagement with the country.
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