Palestinian Marxist historian born in Jerusalem. After working as an office worker for a short time in Palestine, in 1948 he immigrated to amerika, never to be allowed to return to his homeland because of the formation of the apartheid state. After finding work, he won a scholarship that allowed him to attend university, eventually obtaining a doctorate, while working different jobs to support himself. Took an active part in events in support of Palestine. A serious, determined, and humble historian, he spent a period of intense research in Iraq before the 1958 Revolution. During this time he gained access to the political police's files and got to know many political figures and intellectuals, especially communists, and was even able to meet some who were political prisoners at the time. During this first trip to Iraq he was also insistent on hearing the views of normal people and was once arrested for discussing politics with passerbys in downtown Baghdad. Many further research trips to Iraq followed. Batatu stopped writing on Iraq for many years, after the Ba'thist mass torture and executions of communists in 1963, many of whom he had known personally, had a devastating effect on him. He taught for twenty years in Beirut (1962-1981) and then for more than ten years in amerika until his retirement. Batatu retired shortly after the first war on Iraq in 1991: he was fierce opponent of the war and the sanctions which followed and began to feel as if he was training the new generation of amerikan imperialists to exploit the Arab world.
The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq (1978): A Study of Iraq's Old Landed and
Commercial Classes and of it's Communists, Ba'thists and Free Officers: 1245 pages. By far one of the most important and comprehensive books on the history of modern Iraq and the Iraqi Communist Party. Written by an Iraqi historian in English, it starts by breaking down the different classes present in Iraq before and during the British occupation. It discusses at length the various revolts against the occupiers and how the Iraqi upper classes were typically unreliable and traitorous. Batatu goes on to discuss the origins of the communist movement in Iraq and it's development under Fahd into a mass party, the largest in the Arab world. Then recounts the rise of the reactionary Ba'th Party and its origins, as well as the Free Officers movement and it's political tendencies. Batatu goes on to detail the 1958 Revolution, and the period during which Abd el Kareem Qasim ruled Iraq, which was the pinnacle of communist influence in Iraq and a failed occasion for a communist revolution. Batatu also brings to light what many would like to ignore: such was their fierce anti-communism, Nasser and Nasserists allied themselves with the most reactionary forces in Iraq to attempt to bring down the Qasim government. And such was Habash's and PFLP's closeness to Nasser that they approved this line, and some members who were in Iraq in 1963 actively participated in torturing and executing Iraqi communists.
Batatu focuses his book on the political situation up until 1963 and the Ba'thists fascist coup and widespread butchering and torturing of communists and progressives. Although he recounts the details of the first and second Ba'thist coups, he does so only very briefly, as many of the sources he used were killed or imprisoned, and he couldn't conduct research freely in the country as he previously had.