Nasserism ans socialism

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NASSERISM AND SOCIALISM Anouar Abdel-Malek THE military regime in Egypt since 1952 has been analysed in remarkably divergent terms. observers and specialists alike have tended to emphasize two main aspects: nationalism and dictatorship. In spite of many differences the European Left has come close to the general and mostly adverse conclusions agreed upon by the leading political scientists of theWest. The main difference is that whereas the Right has felt, and still feels, a deeply rooted hatred of "Nasserism," the Left is still seeking a way out of its confusion while at the same time deploring the political repression against the Egyptian Left. In Egypt itself, these past twelve years are looked upon as a revolutionary and empirical transition from feudalism to socialism. Such informedopinion as is able to find an outlet in the Press appears divided between a wide range of descriptive categories: state capitalism, the welfare state, Arab socialisn~, scientific socialism, democratic and co-operative socialism-to list only the main ones. Thus the analytical problems involved are not only those of the hitherto West European centred social sciences: the same difficulties and thesame uncertainties confront the Egyptian theoreticians. This essay tries to sum up the main thesis of a recent work by the present writer: which has provoked a wide ranging and vigorous discussion, and it will also endeavour to take the analysis further. It makes no claim to a final, dogmatic solution of the question, for such an attitude would be fundamentally opposed to the author's view ofscientific research in general.2

A first approach may be attempted at the infrastructural level, i.e. the economic, political and sociological aspects of the rCgime. The problems of periodization lie mostly outside the scope of this essay, but on the basis of the work mentioned above, we can distinguish three main stages since the coup d'e'tat of 23 July 1952. Until then, Egypt, though enjoying alarge degree of formal independence, was in fact a semi-dependent state, ruled by the agrarian wing of the Egyptian bourgeoisie in alliance with foreign capital, under the aegis of the palace. Its colonial-type economy could be characterized as an under-developed capitalistic one, with a predominantly agrarian structure. The confusion between agrarian capitalism and feudalism



which existed in most political circles in Egypt led to the political developments initiated by the "Free Officers" being described as antifeudal. In fact, as all serious research has shown, the Egyptian economy has been predominantly of the capitalistic type since the last quarter of the nineteenth century-with large-scale production for the market, especially of cotton, and agrowing use of wage-earning labouralthough there remained many, often deep rooted, features of (Oriental) feudalism, especially in Upper E g ~ p t . ~ From the 1919 Revolution to the coup d'e'tat of 1952, the Wafd was allowed to rule for a bare seven years, though holding an undisputed electoral majority. This gave more than twenty-five years to the minority parties, representing the right-wing ofthe Egyptian bourgeoisie: especially the Liberal-constitutional party, for the big landlords (since 1923); the Saadists, closely linked with the industrial and financial fastgrowing sections of the Egyptian bourgeoisie (since 1937); the Independents, who represented mostly the palace, foreign vested interests, and sections of big capital. This arrangement was imposed on the Egyptian people bymilitary occupation, and the British gave support to whatever forces opposed the militant national liberation movement. This policy could work because of the inefficiency of the Wafdist leadership, especially after 1945, as well as the repression of the Left since the early 'thirties. However, it was clear to all that the unsolved and growing problems of Egypt were bound to provoke a more radical...
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