The beginnings of communism in the Middle East can be traced back almost fifty years, but nowhere did it attain any political significance until well after the second world war. Before that an objectively revolutionary situation (to use Leninist terminology) did not exist, and the sectarian-dogmatic approach of the Stalin era narrowly circumscribed the freedom of action of communist parties. Conditions changed only after 194 5, when communism became fashionable among the intelligentsia and occasionally gained influence among the trade unions. The communist parties shed their hostility to Islam, and tried hard to accommodate themselves to Arab, Turkish, and Iranian nationalism. In the early years the ethnic and religious minorities had provided most of their leaders and a high percentage of their rank and file, especially in the Arab world; during the nineteen-fifties this too began to change. The general ferment in the Arab world opened up possibilities for a popular-front policy or even a communist bid for power. But in retrospect the balance sheet has been disappointing; individual communists and fellow-travellers have been members of the government at one time or another in Iraq and Syria, Egypt and the Sudan. But the parties as such have not benefited; they do not even have legal status in any Middle East country other than Israel. In contrast to South-East Asia, in this region communism has not so far succeeded in capturing the leadership of the nationalist movement.