Unlike historic Ba'athism which advocates Ba'athist political control of the state, the Arab Democratic Socialist Ba'ath Party supports democratic pluralism. The party advocates the implementation of the laws enshrining freedom of speech, assembly, and equality of opportunities. Historic Ba'athism was indeed about a single party dictatorship. When the Ba'ath Party came to power in Syria in 1963, they banned all opposition.
The Syrian Arab Republic had separated themselves from the United Arab Republic in 1961. But the rulers of Syria did not changed much about the feudalistic nature of the nation. The Ba'ath members of the military wanted to impose a more radical leftist government. After the 1963 coup, Salah Jadid became leader of Syria and the Ba'ath Party.
His rule was very close in line with Stalinism. Jadid enforce bureaucratic dictatorial rule all in the name of Arab-socialism. Opponents of his Arab-socialism were suppressed and only Ba'ath Party members were allowed to make decisions. Salah Jadid was very close to Soviet Stalinism who supported him in the 60's. Yet the Arab defeat at the 1967 six day war, was also his downfall. In 1970, Hafez al Assad took power and disposed Jadid. Under Al-Assad the Ba'ath Party moved away from classic Arab-socialism and more towards pragmatism and Syrian nationalism!
Now under a new leadership, Syria ended its Arab-socialist rhetoric. Hafez Al-Assad restored diplomatic relations with the Arab world and ended the so called socialist experiments. The left-wing of the Ba'ath Party was expelled from the party. Some of these leftist Ba'ath members choose to oppose Al-Assad in exile. So in 1980, those leftist exiles of the Ba'ath Party founded the Arab Democratic Socialist Ba'ath Party!
A founder of the Arab Democratic Socialist Ba'ath Party was Ibrahim Makhous. Under Salah Jadid he was a minister and a leftist Ba'ath. When Hafez Al-Assad removed the left-wing of the Ba'ath Party from power he went into exile. In Paris he and other leftist Ba'ath members founded the new Ba'ath Party. The new party remained loyal to class struggle and Marxist scientific socialism, which is unique since many Arab-socialists oppose Marxism!
The party joined the leftist secular anti-Assad opposition in January 1980. This alliance of secular leftists is called the National Democratic Rally and unites these political parties:
- The Democratic Arab Socialist Union - a splinter of the Arab Socialist Union Party of Syria, formerly the main Nasserist party in Syria.
- The Syrian Democratic People's Party - Riad al-Turk's group, formerly called the Syrian Communist Party - Political Bureau, and an offshoot of the Syrian Communist Party.
- The Arab Revolutionary Workers Party - a leftist-Marxist offshoot of the Baath Party from the 1960s, which for some time had active branches in Lebanon and Iraq as well.
- The Movement of Arab Socialists - an Arab socialist group with roots in Akram al-Hawrani's pre-Baath peasant movement.
- The Democratic Socialist Arab Ba'ath Party - a remnant of Salah Jadid's left-wing faction of the Ba'ath Party, led by his former Foreign Minister Ibrahim Makhous.
- The Communist Labour Party - the recreation of a hard-line communist group repressed in the 1980s, which originally had its roots in 1970s Syrian student radicalism, with pro-Sandinista, Guevarist, Trotskyite and Maoist tendencies