Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Movement To Democratize Egypt: A People's History--Part 18: 1962-1976 Period

(The following article originally appeared in The Rag Blog on March 1, 2014)

In 1962, Nasser’s military regime also established the “Arab Socialist Union” as the one official political party in Egypt, in an effort “to absorb all progressive political forces” in Egypt “into the state system” of Egypt, according to Tareq Y. Ismael and Rifa‘at El-Sa’id’s The Communist Movement in Egypt: 1920-1988. And after Nasser’s regime released all imprisoned Egyptian communist activists from prison in April 1964, appointed a new General Secretariat of the Arab Socialist Union on Dec. 13, 1964 ( in which 6 of its 15 members were Egyptian leftists), and created a secret unit within the Arab Socialist Union, “al-Tandhim al-Tali’” (which included some leading Egyptian communist activists) to lead the socialist transformation of Egypt, United Communist Party of Egypt and Democratic Movement for National Liberation [DMNL] activists decided to formally dissolve their independent leftist political groups in 1965.
But according to The Communist Movement in Egypt: 1920-1988, “the Nasserized leadership of al-Tanhoni al-Tali” within the Arab Socialist Union “successfully isolated its Egyptian communist members” and “immobilized them;” and “sporadic attempts to reorganize the Communist parties” in Egypt under Nasser’s regime “were quickly squashed by the powerful intelligence and security agencies” of the military regime—that were collectively known as the mukhabarat, according to Jason Thompson’s A History of Egypt. And as Selma Botman’s The Rise of Egyptian Communism, 1939-1970 observed:
“…Nasser accomplished only limited socialist measures…Nasser contained the communists, kept a watchful eye over them, and very cunningly co-opted them. He destroyed communism organizationally and prevented the Marxists from functioning as a viable political alternative…
“Since Marxism was forced to operate underground it was given neither the chance to make its message nationally known nor to develop a measure of credibility which could have won it adherents…Nasser paralyzed the Marxists by repressing and co-opting them…And for the decade between 1965 and 1975 there was no independent Marxist political activity in Egypt.”
In his  September, 2009 Against The Current article, “Egypt’s Long Labor History,” Atef Said also noted that “while granting trade unions many rights, Nasser made sure these unions were designed in a hierarchical structure that put them under the control of ruling-party officials.”
In addition, in August 1965 “more than 220 Muslim Brothers were arrested” and “seven, including Sayid Qutb,” the head of the Muslim Brotherhood,” were hanged for treason,” in 1966, according to A History of Egypt. According to Dilip Hiro’s Holy Wars: The Rise of Islamic Fundamentalism, “in 1964, as part of a general amnesty, Nasser” had “released the Brotherhood members” but “many of its leaders were reportedly implicated in 3 plots to assassinate Nasser;” and “as a result, following the arrest of 1,000 Brothers and the trial of 365, the top leaders were executed in August 1966.”
Still, according to The Communist Movement in Egypt: 1920-1988, “as a result of the shake-up following Egypt’s disastrous military defeat in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war” in which between 15,000 and 20,000 Egyptian soldiers were killed (following the Israeli war machine’s surprise attack and the subsequent Israeli military occupation of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Syria’s Golan Heights territory, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem in June 1967), Egypt’s underground “communist movement was revitalized.” And when it became evident, following Nasser’s death on Sept. 28, 1970, that Nasser’s successor as head of Egypt’s military regime, Anwar Sadat, was now aligning his Egyptian government regime politically and militarily to the US imperialist government, an underground communist party was again re-established in Egypt in 1975. As The Rise of Egyptian Communism, 1939-1970 observed:
“…For most leftists the break with Sadat came…certainly after the 1973 war with Israel [in which about 8,000 Egyptian and over 2,000 Israeli troops were killed] brought him in close cooperation with the United States. By this time, Sadat’s…policies represented a clean break with the Nasserist tradition.”
As Lloyd Gardner’s The Road To Tahir Square recalled:
“[U.S. Secretary of State Henry] Kissinger…arrived in the Egyptian capital on Nov. 5, 1973 for his first meeting with Sadat…Sadat lost no time, in November [1973] and again at a second meeting in December [1973] in outlining his requests to `my friend Henry.’…He wanted to develop the country…as he had already discussed with…David Rockefeller. He had one specific request for the immediate future: he wanted the United States to become responsible for his personal safety…Sadat’s special bodyguards were sent to the United States for training. A new police unit…was established in Cairo. A CIA employee called John Fiz, who could read and speak Arabic, was installed in the [Egyptian] presidential office and had the task of dealing with all matters regarding security…”
According to The Rise of Egyptian Communism, 1939-1970, “ conditions were” thus “ripe for the revival of the Egyptian Communist Party…in 1975 when the earlier decision to disband the party was declared no longer correct;” and “the party was revived as an active, underground organization” at that time.
By the mid-1970s under Sadat’s regime, “the number of millionaires” in Egypt “rose from 500 to 17,000 and an affluent middle class developed,” but “the condition of the urban poor and fellaheen” (peasants of Egypt) “worsened,” according to The Rough Guide To Egypt; and “some 5 million families” in Egypt subsisted on less than $30 a month, and one and a half million Egyptians migrated to work in the Gulf States,” according to the same book. As Dilip Hiro’s Holy Wars: The Rise of Islamic Fundamentalism also observed:
“…Sadat’s economic policies widened the gap between the poor and the rich by causing sharp increases in foods and rents, and by delivering a grievance blow to local industry with imports of cheap foreign goods. Between 1964-5 and 1976 the share of the middle 30 percent of the Egyptian population halved: from 40.2 percent of the gross domestic product to 21.52 percent. The corresponding figures for the lowest 60 percent were 28.7 percent and 19.93 percent. In contrast the top 10 percent nearly doubled their income: from 31.9 percent to 58.55 percent. The new rich flaunted their affluence…”
So, not surprisingly, prior to the re-establishment of an underground party of Egyptian communist activists on May 1, 1975, strong evidence of mass dissatisfaction of Egyptian workers with the U.S. government-aligned Sadat regime’s economic policies appeared. As The Communist Movement in Egypt: 1920-1988 recalled, “on Jan. 1, 1975 a workers’ strike took place in Helwan, Egypt’s major industrial center;” and “it quickly spread to Cairo, where demonstrations in the Bab-Alouq had turned violent.” And, not surprisingly, in response to these protests Sadat’s military regime “arrested about 500” Egyptian “communists, leftists and Nasserists, including members of the underground leftist Jama’al-Bila-Isim” group “which produced al-Intesar and theAhmed ‘Urabi al-Missri” newspapers.
During the mid-1970s, Sadat’s regime also apparently “used the Islamists to deal with those it regarded, at the time, as its main enemies – the left” and “treated the reformist wing of the Islamist movements – grouped around the monthly magazine al-Dawa and on the university campuses by the Islamic Associations – with benevolence, as the Islamicists purged the universities of anything that smelled of Nasserism or Communism,” according to a 1994 article by Chris Harman. In addition, according to Holy Wars: The Rise of Islamic Fundamentalism:
“In May 1971 Sadat carried out a `corrective’ coup against the left-leaning Ali-Sabri group in the ruling Arab Socialist Union, and actively encouraged Islamic sentiment and groups as a counterweight to the leftist influence. He directed General Abdul Munim Amin to establish about 1,000 Islamic Associations in universities and factories with the sole objective of combating…Marxism…Muslim Brotherhood exiles from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere began returning to Egypt.”
During this same 1962 and 1976 period the number of Egyptians of Jewish religious background still living in Egypt also continued to decrease. By 1967 only 3,000 Egyptians of Jewish background still lived in Egypt. And, following the June 1967 attack on Egypt by the Israeli war machine “the few remaining Jewish officials holding public posts” in Egypt “were discharged and hundreds of Jews” in Egypt were arrested, including “the chief rabbi of Egypt, R. Hayyim Duwayk, and the rabbi of Alexandria”, according to the Encyclopedia Judaica. After being released, the detained Egyptians of Jewish background, as well as those Egyptians of Jewish background who hadn’t been detained, were permitted to emigrate from Egypt. So by 1970, less than 1,000 Egyptians of Jewish background still lived in Egypt; and by 1971 only about 400 Egyptians of Jewish background still lived in Egypt.

(end of part 18)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Movement To Democratize Egypt: A People's History of Egypt--Part 17: 1954-1962 Period

(The following article originally appeared in The Rag Blog on February 17, 2014)

Between April 1954 and the second half of 1954, “the arrests and prosecution of communists” in Egypt “was stepped up” by Nasser’s regime and “dozens of” Egyptian leftists received “long-term jail sentences at hard labor,” according to Selma Botman’s The Rise of Egyptian Communism, 1939-1970. In addition, after “an assassination attempt by a Muslim Brother” on Nasser’s life failed, according to Jason Thompson’s A History of Egypt, “perhaps as many as 50,000 people were arrested and over 1,000 put on trial,” “six Brothers were hanged,” and Sayid Qutb, who had inherited Hasan al-Banna’s mantle as” the Muslim Brotherhood’s “leading member spent the next 10 years in prison;” and “within a month, all political parties had been abolished, their leaders imprisoned, and the opposition press closed” in Egypt.
But Nasser’s military regime then signed an arms deal with the Soviet Union in September 1955 (and apparently lost its CIA-backing), finally obtained in January 1956 the withdrawal of all UK troops from Egypt, and next nationalized the previously UK and French-owned Suez Canal in Egypt on July 26, 1956. In response, Israeli, UK and French military forces then invaded and bombed Egyptian territory in the October 1956 Suez War, in a failed attempt at Israeli annexation of the Sinai Peninsula and to return control of Egypt’s Suez Canal to UK and French imperialist interests; and, as a result of this Israeli-UK-French military attack, 1,000 Egyptian civilians and between 1,600 and 3,000 Egyptian troops were killed and 4,900 Egyptian troops were wounded.
Around the time of the October 1956 Suez War, Nasser’s regime then stopped imprisoning Egyptian leftists until 1959. So, not surprisingly, “in Washington, in…October [1956], the [U.S.] National Security Council discussed covert ways of getting rid of Nasser;” since “[then-U.S. President] Eisenhower had declared himself against a frontal attack, but he mused about various alternative methods,” according to Lloyd Gardner’s The Road to Tahir Square. But on Jan. 8, 1958 the now-released leftist members of the Egyptian Movement for National Liberation [EMNL] and other political groups of Egyptian communist activists joined together to form the United Communist Party of Egypt.
Yet between 1956 and 1957 the number of Egyptians of Jewish religious background living in Egypt decreased from 50,000 to less than 9,000. According to the Encyclopedia Judaica, in November 1956, “immediately after the Sinai Campaign” of the Israeli military, “hundreds”  of Egyptians of Jewish background “were arrested” by Nasser’s military regime and “about 3,000 were interned without charge in four detention camps.” In addition, the Egyptian government then “served notice on thousands of Jews to leave the country within a few days;” and “the deportees were made to sign statements agreeing not to return to Egypt and transferring their property to the administration” of the Egyptian government, according to the same book. The Encyclopedia Judaica also noted that “the International Red Cross helped about 8,000” Egyptians of Jewish background “to leave the country, taking most of them to Italy and Greece in chartered boats,” the system of deportation continued into 1957,” and “other Jews left voluntarily” in 1957 “after their livelihoods had been taken from them.” That same year, as A History of Egypt noted, “in retaliation for what became known as the War of the Tripartite Aggression in Egypt, the Egyptian government” also “sequestered all French and British property” in Egypt; and all French and UK citizens, regardless of religious background, “who were resident in Egypt were ordered to pack one suitcase and depart immediately.”
And less than a year after Nasser’s regime merged with a pro-Nasserist regime in Syria on Feb.1, 1958 to form the United Arab Republic (which lasted until a military coup on Sept. 8, 1961 by Lt. Col. Abd al-karim al-Nahlawi in Syria produced a Syrian regime that withdrew from the Nasser-dominated United Arab Republic), Nasser’s military regime again began imprisoning Egyptian leftists. As The Rise of Egyptian Communism, 1939-1970 recalled:
“On Jan. 1, 1959 hundreds of communists were arrested and imprisoned and a campaign of sustained repression was implemented whose goal was the complete destruction of Egyptian Marxism. The communists were stunned by the arrests, and…by the brutal treatment they received in prison. According to Muhammad Sid Ahmad, no one in the movement expected Nasser to behave so harshly since the left had undertaken to endorse the government, and even when it was critical of individual policies of the regime, it was done within a line of general support. Nasser nevertheless…through imprisonment and torture—intended to put an end to organized Marxism in the country…”
Yet at the same time Nasser’s regime continued to imprison Egyptian leftists, it also implemented more anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist economic reforms within Egyptian society after July 1961. As Tareq Y. Ismael and Rifa‘at El-Sa’id’s The Communist Movement in Egypt: 1920-1988 observed:
“The socialist transformation of the Egyptian state was initiated in July 1961 with the following measures: (1) profit sharing, whereby 25 percent of profits in all enterprises were to go to workers; (2) participatory management by which 4 employees (at least 2 from labor) were to be elected by employees to the management boards of all enterprises; (3) a ceiling of 5,000 Egyptian pounds was placed on annual wages; (4) a progressive income tax was enacted to increase to 100 percent of income over 10,000 Egyptian pounds and 149 companies, including 15 banks and 17 insurance companies, were nationalized; (5) 51 percent of 91 companies not nationalized was to be publicly owned; (6) mass transportation was taken over by the public sector; (7) the maximum amount of agricultural land that could be owned was limited to 100 feddans; and (8) all rents were permanently frozen.”
Between 1960 and 1964, real wages also “increased by one-third” for Egyptian workers, “while the number of weekly hours of work declined by 10 percent,” according to Solidarity Center’s 2010 report, The Struggle for Worker Rights in Egypt.
And after Nasser’s military regime also nationalized Egypt’s flour mills and pharmaceutical companies, it adopted a National Charter on May 21, 1962 which “proclaimed Egypt to be a socialist, anti-imperialist, and Arab nationalist state” despite having imprisoned so many Egyptian leftists between 1959 and 1961, according to the same book. In addition, despite its frequent acts of political repression, Nasser’s military regime was able to increase the “average life expectancy” in Egypt “from 43 to 52 years” between 1952 and 1970, according to The Rough Guide To Egypt.
According to James Gelvin’s The Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs To Know, Nasser’s regime also “significantly reduced the ranks of the unemployed” by passing a “Public Employment Guarantee Scheme, which, as the name says, guaranteed every university graduate a job in the public sector;” and “the scheme was amended three years later to include all graduates of secondary technical schools” in Egypt. The same book also recalled that “declaring an education to be a right of every citizen…Nasser eliminated fees at Cairo University” and “the state also attempted to keep household commodities affordable by furnishing subsidies for many of them, including basic foodstuffs, petroleum products, electricity and water.”

(end of part 17)

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Movement To Democratize Egypt: A People's History of Egypt--Part 16: 1953-1954 Period

(This article first appeared in The Rag Blog on February 10, 2014)

In response to the new Egyptian military regime’s political repression, the Democratic Movement for National Liberation [DMNL] and other left groups of Egyptian civilians formed in Alexandria the United Revolutionary Front in February 1953; and in April 1953 a branch of the United Revolutionary Front was formed in Cairo, prior to the United Revolutionary Front renaming itself as Egypt’s National Democratic Front [NDF]. The following demands on Nasser’s military regime were then made by the National Democratic Front: 1. a return to constitutional rule in Egypt ; 2. a restoration of the civil liberties and democratic rights in Egypt ; 3. an end to military dictatorship in Egypt ; 4. the re-establishment of political and civil rights in Egypt ; and 5. the complete liberation of Egypt from the remaining special influence of UK colonialism on Egyptian society.
Egypt’s National Democratic Front also published the first issue of its newspaper al-Jabha (“The Front”) on June 12, 1953, in which it emphasized the following three political goals of the NDF:  1. to expel Anglo-American imperialism and all foreign UK occupation forces from all Egyptian territory; 2. to achieve political and economic democracy in Egypt ; and 3. to offer internationalist solidarity to oppressed and exploited people in other nations and, at the same time, work to prevent war and establish world peace. But in November 1953, around 40 members of Egypt ’s National Democratic Front were placed under arrest by Nasser ’s new military regime.
Although Nasser was the leader of the Free Officers military group and the real power behind the scenes following the July 1952 military coup in Egypt , until early 1954 the official chairman of the RCC and the new regime’s official president and prime minister was an Egyptian General named Naguib. But after Egyptian General Naguib openly criticized Nasser’s new regime for being too politically repressive, Naguib was pressured by Nasser and other RCC leaders to formally resign from his official posts as Egyptian president, prime minister and RCC chairman in February 1954.; and Nasser, himself, was officially proclaimed both prime minister of Egypt and RCC chairman of the post-July 1952 military regime.
Naguib, however, was temporarily reinstated—following street protests in support of Naguib and parliamentary democracy--as the official RCC chairman and official Egyptian prime minister on Mar. 8, 1954, after Nasser promised to convene a Constituent Assembly which would restore constitutional rule in Egypt . But when Nasser and the other RCC leaders decided on Mar. 29, 1954 not to hold a Constituent Assembly until January 1956, Naguib was pressured to permanently give up his official posts as RCC chairman and Egyptian Prime Minister to Nasser—following the suppression of pro-democracy student protests and the closing of Egyptian universities by Nasser’s military troops and police forces. And by Apr. 18, 1954, Nasser was now officially and publicly the most politically powerful leader in Egypt , even before he also eventually assumed, as well, the official position of Egyptian president in June 1956.
Despite the establishment of the State of Israel on Palestinian land in 1948 and the Egyptian military’s defeat in the 1948-49 Arab-Israeli War, the situation of Egyptians of Jewish religious background between late 1949 and 1954 had actually “slightly improved” and “Jewish emigration decreased,” according to the Encyclopedia Judaica. As Joel Beinin’s The Dispersion of Egyptian Jewry noted, “in the early 1950s” Egyptians of Jewish background “freely practiced professions with high public visibility—journalism, law, medicine and finance;” and “in 1951, the London Jewish Chronicle reported that there seemed to be no move toward mass emigration” to Israel .
After the July 23, 1952 military coup that overthrew Egypt ’s monarchical regime, “the new government was” also, initially, “favorably inclined toward Jews,” according to the Encyclopedia Judaica. But the same book also asserts that after Nasser replaced General Naguib as the official Egyptian prime minister and RCC chairman, “there was a change for the worse” in the situation of Egyptians of Jewish background who still chose to continue living in Egypt , even after the establishment of the State of Israel.

(end of part 16)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Lawrence, Massachusetts "Not Seasonally Adjusted" Jobless Rate: 11.9 Percent In July 2014

Eight major Massachusetts cities had “not seasonally adjusted” unemployment rates in July 2014 that exceeded the national “not seasonally adjusted” jobless rate for that month of 6.5 percent, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data:

1. The official “not seasonally adjusted” jobless rate in Lawrence, Massachusetts was 11.9 percent in July 2014;

2. The official “not seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate in Springfield, Massachusetts was 10.5 percent in July 2014;

3. The official “not seasonally adjusted” jobless rate in New Bedford, Massachusetts was 10.5 percent in July 2014;

4. The official “not seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate in Fall River, Massachusetts was 10.1 percent in July 2014;

5. The official “not seasonally adjusted” jobless rate in Brockton, Massachusetts was 8.6 percent in July 2014;

6. The official “not seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate in Worcester, Massachusetts was 8 percent in July 2014;

7. The official “not seasonally adjusted” jobless rate in Lynn, Massachusetts was 7.4 percent in July 2014; and

8. The official “not seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate in Lowell, Massachusetts was 7.4 percent in July 2014.

The official “not seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate in Boston, Massachusetts was also still 6.4 percent in July 2014.

In addition, in Massachusetts between July and August 2014, according to the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development’s September 18, 2014 press release:

“,,,Preliminary estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show Massachusetts lost 5,300 jobs in August…The August total unemployment rate was up 0.2 of a percentage point to 5.8 percent from the July rate…BLS also revised its July job estimates to a 12,200 job gain from the 13,800 gain previously reported for the month…

“…Trade, Transportation and Utilities lost 10,600 (-1.9%) jobs over the month…Construction lost 700 (-0.6%) jobs over the month…Manufacturing lost 700 (-0.3%) over the month….

“The August 2014 estimates show…203,800 were unemployed…as 2,300 fewer residents were employed and 8,100 more residents were unemployed over the month…”

In July 2014, according to the “not seasonally adjusted” data, 217,300 workers in Massachusetts were still unemployed; and 59,478 of these unemployed workers lived in Boston, Brockton, Fall River, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, New Bedford, Springfield or Worcester..

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Movement To Democratize Egypt: A People's History of Egypt--Part 15: 1952-1953 Period

(The following article first appeared in The Rag Blog on February 3, 2014)

While not encouraging Nasser’s Free Officers military coup of July 23, 1952 which set up the Revolutionary Command Council [RCC], prior to the coup the anti-imperialist Democratic Movement for National Liberation [DMNL] secular left Egyptian activists had been supportive of the nationalist Free Officers military group who opposed UK imperialism. As Selma Botman’s Egypt from Independence to Revolution, 1919-1952 observed:
“The Free Officers…from 1950 depended on the DMNL to print their leaflets and address their envelopes, which contained Free Officer enclosures directed to military men outside both organizations. The Free Officers had their own publications which were printed secretly by the DMNL and either distributed by the Free Officers or posted by the mail. Because it was too dangerous for the Free Officers to write, print, and distribute their leaflets, they handed some of that responsibility to their communist allies.
“Nasser himself was the main actor of this scheme…”
Yet after the apparently CIA-supported July 23, 1952 military coup by Nasser’s Free Officers overthrew UK imperialism’s puppet regime and forced Egyptian King Farouk to go into exile on July 26, 1952, “the whole of DMNL’s printing department was arrested by Nasser, then a leader of the Revolutionary Command Council,” according to Egypt from Independence to Revolution, 1919-1952. As the same book also recalled, “this was Nasser’s abrupt way of saying that the…relationship between the Free Officers and the communists was over;” and “it demonstrated to the” Egyptian “left that the Free Officers’ organization was fearful of the communists.” So, not surprisingly, the DMNL then “announced that the Officers had ceded to the pressure of” U.S. “imperialism and were no longer allies.” And as Lloyd Gardner’s The Road To Tahir Square noted, “policy statements prepared by [Kermit] Roosevelt [of the CIA] for Nasser to deliver were often represented on Egyptian presidential letterhead with scarcely any changes…”
But even after 500 troops of Nasser’s RCC were ordered to suppress a strike by Egyptian workers at the Misr Fine Spinning and Weaving Company in Kafr al-Dawwwar on August 12, 1952--and the new RCC government subsequently hanged Egyptian labor leader Mustafa Khamees and a worker named Muhammad Abdel Rahman al-Baqri—the DMNL did not formally “break with the Free Officers until January 1953 when political parties were abolished” in Egypt by Nasser’s government, according to Egypt from Independence to Revolution, 1919-1952.
One reason the DMNL was reluctant to oppose Nasser’s 9-member Revolutionary Command Council until January 1953 was because on Sept. 9, 1952 an agrarian reform law in Egypt had been enacted by Nasser’s Free Officers military regime. As Egypt from Independence to Revolution, 1919-1952 noted:
“The law called for the limitation of ownership of up to 200 feddans of land with the provision that a family with 2 or more children could retain an additional 100 feddans. Every owner was to be indemnified in negotiable government bonds and the government was to be the sole distributor of expropriated land. The plan…succeeded in fragmenting the social, political, and economic power of the large landlords. The DMNL…applauded the program of land redistribution.”
Jason Thompson’s A History of Egypt observed, however, that “according to one estimate,” this agrarian reform law “affected only 10 percent of Egypt’s arable land and 200,000 peasants;” and “therefore benefited just a small portion of the landless rural population” in Egypt.
Then, “after the removal of the royal family, the expropriation of the landlords and pashas, the silencing of the political parties, and the show of force against the working-class” in Egypt, “it became clear that the RCC had decided to take hold of exclusive authority in the country,” according to Egypt from Independence to Revolution, 1919-1952.
On Jan. 16, 1953, for example, Nasser’s initially CIA-backed RCC regime dissolved all Egyptian political parties except the Muslim Brotherhood (which the regime later also banned in January 1954, after the Muslim Brotherhood organized anti-Nasser demonstrations and attacked pro-Nasser nationalist students at Cairo University) and created the RCC government’s own official “Liberation Party” political party on Jan. 23, 1953. Nasser’s RCC regime then arrested and imprisoned all Egyptian communist activists, suppressed anti-imperialist left opposition newspapers like al-Katib [“The Scribe”] and al-Muarasda [“The Opposition”] and harassed members of Egypt’s Peace Movement.

(end of part 15)

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Movement To Democratize Egypt: A People's History of Egypt--Part 14: 1949-1952 Period

(The following article originally appeared in The Rag Blog on January 27, 2014)

By the late 1940s, Egypt’s “playboy king,” Farouk, had become “notorious for womanizing—often with shocking flagrancy—and gambling, passing much of his time at night clubs,” according to Jason Thompson’s A History of Egypt. And despite the arrest of secular left Egyptian activists in the late 1940s, opposition to UK imperialism’s puppet monarchical regime of King Farouk developed among some politically nationalist and anti-imperialist Egyptian military officers, following the Egyptian military’s defeat in the 1948-49 Israeli-Arab War.
In addition, in 1950 “a wing of the Muslim Brotherhood” in Egypt even “called for collaboration with `communists’ against imperialism” since the 39,000 UK imperialist troops still occupying Egyptian soil in 1950 were three times the number of UK troops legally allowed in Egypt under the terms of the 1936 treaty between the UK and Egyptian governments, according to Selma Botman’s The Rise of Egyptian Communism, 1939-1970.
So, not surprisingly, by October 1951, the prime minister of the Egyptian monarchical regime, al-Nahhas, was pressured by anti-imperialist nationalist public opinion in Egypt to declare “null and void” the monarchical regime’s 1936 treaty with the UK government. And between October 1951 and January 1952, “applying the tactics of the united front," anti-establishment "left and right-wing political forces” in Egypt “engaged in the Battle of the Canal Zone,” according to The Rise of Egyptian Communism, 1939-1970. As the same book also recalled:
“The termination of the 1936 Treaty precipitated…concerted activity. Demonstrations raged in the larger cities. Guerrilla warfare broke out in the Suez Canal base [of the UK military]…80,000 Egyptian workers and office employees left their…British-affiliated jobs, thus paralyzing the workings of the Suez Canal base…Workers deserted British factories…Longshoremen refused to handle British supplies…”
And on Jan. 19, 1952, the UK military base at Tell-al-Kabir was attacked by anti-imperialist Egyptian commandos; and, in response 50 members of Egypt’s Bullaq Nizam auxiliary police force were massacred by UK imperialist troops. Then, according to The Rise of Egyptian Communism, 1939-1970, the following happened on Jan. 26, 1952 in Egypt:
“…A general strike closed all factories in the country. Students from the universities and al-Azhar marched on the center of Cairo and joined forces with workers gathering from the suburbs…The business district of Cairo, with its foreign-owned…businesses, was set afire.”
According to A History of Egypt:
“…Jan. 26, 1952 became known as Black Saturday…Some 400 hundred buildings were destroyed and 30 people lost their lives. Only after several hours…did the army restore order.”
In an attempt to prevent the Jan. 26, 1952 general strike in Egypt from developing quickly into a mass-based anti-imperialist revolutionary movement to overthrow Egypt’s monarchical regime and finally democratize Egyptian society, the regime’s prime minister then imposed martial law in Egypt again, suspended the Egyptian Constitution, arrested about 250 Egyptian political opponents of the regime and imposed censorship on all the mainstream Egyptian newspapers.
Yet between late January and July 1952, the objective conditions for an anti-imperialist political revolution in Egypt apparently continued to exist, since “the British soldiers were still in occupation of part of Egypt,” “rising prices were accompanied by increased unemployment” in Egyptian cities, “and the higher rents being imposed on Egyptian peasants by Egypt’s landowning elite” had increased the suffering in Egypt’s rural areas, according to The Rise of Egyptian Communism, 1939-1970.
So although the secular left Democratic Movement for National Liberation [DMNL] opponents of the regime in Egypt did not encourage the secret dissident Free Officers military group of Egyptian nationalist opponents of UK Imperialism--that Gamal Abdel Nasser led--to overthrow the monarchical regime, on July 23, 1952 the Free Officers group seized power from King Farouk’s regime in a bloodless military coup—with the apparent approval of the CIA--and created a Revolutionary Command Council [RCC] in Egypt; and “on July 26 [1952], Farouk sailed from Alexandria aboard the royal yacht al-Mahrussa into an inglorious exile that ended with his death in a Rome nightclub 13 years later,” according to A History of Egypt.
According to Rutgers University Professor of History Lloyd Gardner’s The Road To Tahir Square book, “there is some evidence that” the coup by Nasser’s Free Officers group “had CIA involvement—or at least a friendly nod.” As the same book also noted:
“A few hours after the takeover, one of the plotters met with a U.S. military attache’ to assure him of the revolutionary council’s pro-Western sentiments and to ask for his help in persuading the British not to intervene…There remains considerable mystery about what, if any, role the CIA played in Farouk’s overthrow. Because Kermit `Kim’ Roosevelt Jr….who had played a key role in returning the Shah of Iran to his throne, had been assigned to arrange a liaison with the Egyptian colonels, there were stories about the `company’s’ role even at the beginning. And there were many boasts about `my boys,’ as [then-U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Jefferson] Caffery supposedly referred to the new regime…”
But according to The Rise of Egyptian Communism, 1939-1970, “the DMNL was given advanced knowledge of the military coup d’etat through Ahmad Hamraash, leader of the DMNL’s military branch, who was summoned to Cairo from Alexandria by Nasser” the day before the coup and was “briefed” by Nasser “on the events to take place;” and since “two prominent Free Officers, Aid dl-Halim Ami and Yusuf Siddiq, were sympathetic to the idea of the Left,” after the coup took place, “the DMNL initially supported the Free Officers’ coup.”

(end of part 14)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Movement To Democratize Egypt: A People's History of Egypt--Part 13: 1948-1949 Period

(The following article was originally posted on The Rag Blog on January 20, 2014)

Despite the Egyptian monarchical regime’s previous business links with some pro-Zionist Egyptian businesspeople, in 1948 it joined other Arab governments in attempting to block the eviction of Palestinian Arabs from Palestine and the establishment of a Zionist state in Palestine by militarily opposing the Zionist movement’s military forces. And when the State of Israel was established on May 15, 1948, an emergency law was decreed by the Egyptian government that prohibited many Egyptians of Jewish religious background from leaving Egypt without a special permit. In addition, “hundreds of Jews were arrested and many had their property confiscated” in Egypt during the first Arab-Israeli War of the late 1940s, according to the Encyclopedia Judaica.
Yet the Egyptian monarchical regime of King Farouk also apparently had other, more self-serving, motives for militarily confronting the Zionist movement’s military forces in the late 1940s Arab-Israeli War than just defending the national rights of Palestinian Arabs. As Selma Botman’s The Rise of Egyptian Communism, 1939-1970 observed:
“King Farouk used the war as a means of restoring himself to the role of national leader. His intent…was to direct popular feeling away from local problems and toward the conflict abroad…In Egypt, the war also meant the imposition of martial law, the resumption of anti-democratic measures, and the opening of concentration camps. It thereby provided the Palace with a choice opportunity to strike the leftists who were accused of national treason for their stand on Palestine .
“When martial law was proclaimed [in Egypt] on May 15, 1948 a brutal wave of internment of the revolutionary left began…The widespread arrests struck at the core of the movement…”
But the imposition of martial law in Egypt did not enable the Egyptian military to militarily defeat the Zionist movement’s military units that consisted of “more fighters with better arms,” according to Jason Thompson’s A History of Egypt. And as the same book also recalled:
“… Egypt was not ready for the war. Farouk was a troublesome, interfering grand strategist; equipment was inferior or missing, support always inadequate… Egypt signed the armistice in early 1949…Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees poured into Gaza , where Egypt assumed administrative control. Egyptian losses in the war were 2,000 dead and many more wounded and missing…Rumors circulated that members of the royal court and high-ranking officers had colluded to supply the military with inferior equipment for personal profit…”
Although there had been only limited support for the Zionist movement and its goal of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine among Egyptians of Jewish religious background prior to 1948, following the 1948-49 Arab-Israeli War around 25,000 Egyptians of Jewish religious background ended up emigrating from Egypt between 1948 and 1950.  According to Gilles Perrault’s 1987 book, A Man Apart: The Life of Henri Curiel:
“The first victims of the creation of Israel were the Palestinians hounded out of their country; a second, the Oriental Jews condemned, for the foreseeable future, to a new exodus. Zionist secret services, aware of a lack of enthusiasm on the part of Cairo and Baghdad Jews to move to Israel , undertook to speed up the process by instigating a campaign of bomb attacks designed to convince the more reticent of the impossibility of staying in an Arab country. Their co-religionists, little suspecting such Machiavellianism, attributed the explosions to Muslim fanaticism until the day when the secret leaked out, causing a serious political scandal in Israel .”
History of Egypt also asserts that “the Zionists also staged attacks on Egyptian Jews to frighten them into leaving Egypt for Israel , with unfortunate success.”
Yet according to Joel Beinin’s The Dispersion of Egyptian Jewry, the bombing attacks in Cairo during the first Arab-Israeli War between June and November 1948 (unlike the bombings in Baghdad)  were apparently the work of Egypt’s right-wing Society of Muslim Brothers and “in a 1950 trial” in Egypt, “members of the Society were charged” by the Egyptian monarchical government “with carrying out all the bombings against the Jews of Cairo from June to November 1948;” and “the prosecution argued that the bombings were part of a strategy to exploit the issue of Palestine to destabilize and undermine the” UK imperialist-backed “regime” by the right-wing Islamic fundamentalist leaders.
In apparent response to the Zionist movement’s eviction of Palestinian Arabs from their homeland and establishment of the State of Israel on May 15, 1948, a bomb had apparently been planted in the Karaiate Jewish quarter of Cairo that exploded on June 20, 1948--killing 22 Egyptians of Jewish background and wounding 41 other Egyptians of Jewish background. Then, in an apparent response to a July 15, 1948 bombing by Israeli planes of “a residential neighborhood near the Qubba Palace in Cairo” that killed “many civilians and destroyed many homes” and provoked “an angry march on the Jewish quarter” of Cairo, “an explosion in the Rabbinite Jewish Quarter in Cairo killed 19 and wounded 62 victims” on Sept. 22, 1948, according to The Dispersion of Egyptian Jewry.

(end of part 13)