(The following article was originally posted on The Rag Blog on August 20, 2013)
Despite the 1882 to 1956 occupation of Egypt by UK imperialists, until 1914 Egypt was still considered to be a legal part of Turkey ’s Ottoman Empire . But after Turkey ’s Ottoman dynasty rulers--on Oct. 29, 1914--allied with German imperialism during World War I, on Nov. 2, 1914 “the British declared martial law in Egypt ” and “imposed censorship,” according to Jason Thompson’s A History of Egypt. Then, on Dec. 18, 1914, “the British government severed Egypt’s ceremonial connection with the Turks and declared the country a British protectorate, changing its territorial status and regularizing Anglo control,” according to Selma Botman’s Egypt from Independence to Revolution, 1919-1952; and on Dec. 19, 1914, the UK imperialists “deposed Abbas Hilmy II” as Egypt’s official ruler “for having `definitely thrown in his lot with his Majesty’s enemies’” and “replaced Abbas with his uncle Husein Kamil, an elderly man, easily managed,” who “was given the title of sultan,” according to A History of Egypt.
But Egypt from Independence to Revolution, 1919-1952 noted how more direct and overt UK imperialist rule after 1914 brought increased national oppression to most people in Egypt :
“As World War I progressed, the British became more aggressive in their efforts to control the entire country. In addition to British civil servants who were brought to Cairo to run the bureaucracy, British Empire troops swarmed the larger cities. With the war came high inflation and a degree of hardship that was painful to the majority of the population. In consequence, Anglo-Egyptian hostility deepened…Military authorities forced the peasants to exchange grain, cotton, and livestock for limited compensation.”
As A History of Egypt also recalled:
“…Large numbers of men were conscripted into auxiliary forces such as the Camel Corps and the Labor Corps. Beginning in 1916, desperate for soldiers, the British began drafting Egyptians into the army. The British also conscripted people’s livestock, taking the donkeys and camels that were often necessary for subsistence…The tightness of the British grip on Egypt became glaringly apparent when Sultan Husein Kamil died in October 1917 and the British…altered the terms of succession so that he was succeeded not by his son, who was viewed as anti-British, but by his half-brother Ahmed Fuad…”
So, not surprisingly, near the end of World War I an Egyptian “nationalist leader, Saad Zaghlul, with support from the entire country, openly demanded” from the UK imperialist government “that Egypt be allowed to determine” its “own destiny;” and “in November 1918, an Egyptian delegation of nationalist politicians and well-paid notables was formed”—that “became the nucleus” of the Egyptian landowning elite’s nationalist Wafd party—“and prepared itself to represent Egypt at the postwar conference in Paris,” according to Egypt from Independence to Revolution, 1919-1952. But on Mar. 8, 1919, UK authorities in Egypt arrested Zaghlul and his political associates and deported them to Malta . Yet in response to these arrests, according to the same book, the following happened:
“Within days, the country erupted in revolt, protesting against the deportation of Zaghlul, the British occupation and Britain ’s refusal to allow Egyptian nationalists to represent their country in negotiations to determine Egypt ’s postwar status. Students, government employees, workers, lawyers, and professionals took to the streets…demonstrating, protesting…Throughout the country, British installations were attacked, railway lines damaged, and the nationalist movement gained credibility.”
And, according to A History of Egypt, “by the time the British rushed in troops and restored order later in the month, more than 1,000 Egyptians were dead from the violence, as were 36 British military personnel and 4 British civilians.”
Zaghlul and his imprisoned Wafd colleagues were then released on Apr. 7, 1919—following what became known as the “Egyptian Revolution of 1919”—and were now allowed to attend the post-World War I peace conference in Paris to demand political independence from UK imperialism for Egypt. When the Egyptian nationalist leaders arrived, however, in Paris “the American envoy recognized Britain ’s protectorate over Egypt ;” and “ Egypt ’s right to self-rule was not established” in 1919, according to Egypt from Independence to Revolution, 1919-1952.
Although Egyptian labor movement activists and Egyptian workers joined with nationalist Egyptian businesspeople in making a nationalist Egyptian revolution in 1919, “the revolution did not produce any movement toward labor reform” in Egypt; “and the alliance between labor and the bourgeoisie quickly dissipated” in Egypt, according to Tareq Y. Ismael and Rifa‘at El-Sa’id’s The Communist Movement in Egypt: 1920-1988.
So Egyptian labor organizer “Rosenthal and Egyptian intellectuals committed to the labor movement—among the most prominent were Hosni al-‘Arabi, Ali Al’-‘Anony, Salamah Musa, and Mohammed ‘Abdallah ‘Anan—set out to establish an Egyptian Socialist Party (“al-Hizb al-Ishtiraki al-Misr”) with Egyptian members who would represent the unionized workers,” according to the same book. And in August 1921, they founded the Egyptian Socialist Party.
The Egyptian Socialist Party then opened a party headquarters office in Cairo and established branches of the Egyptian Socialist Party in Alexandria , Tanta , Shibin al-Kawm and Mansura. But when the party “applied for a license to publish a newspaper “ it was denied a license “because of its opposition to British and government policy” in Egypt , according to The Communist Movement in Egypt : 1920-1988. In its Aug. 28, 1921 program the Egyptian Socialist Party had demanded, for example, “the liberation of Egypt from the tyranny of imperialism and the expulsion of imperialism from the entire Nile Valley;” and in a Dec. 22, 1921 manifesto, the Egyptian Socialist Party also declared that it would “maintain its socialist program and” would “not renounce the struggle against the Egyptian capitalist tyrants and oppressors, accomplices and associates of the tyrannical foreign domination.”