Monday, August 25, 2014

The Movement To Democratize Egypt: A People's History of Egypt--Part 9: 1924-1930 Period

(This article was originally posted on The Rag Blog on September 16, 2013) 

After an Egyptian constitution was promulgated in 1923, martial law in Egypt was abolished, an Egyptian election was held and Saad Zaghlul, the leader of the Egyptian landowning elite’s nationalist Wafd party, became the Egyptian monarchical government’s prime minister in January 1924. A Wafd government was then formed in Egypt which just “represented bourgeois landowner and upper-class interests and aspirations,” did not represent the interest of Egypt ’s “poverty-stricken rural peasants and urban workers” and “was inherently hostile towards the labor movement” in Egypt , according to Tareq Y. Ismael and Rifa‘at El-Sa’id’s The Communist Movement in Egypt : 1920-1988. So during the 1920s, the plots of arable land owned by 1 million Egyptian peasants were “too small for subsistence,” and “fully one-fifth of rural families” in Egypt “owned no land at all,” according to A History of Egypt.

By late 1924 the nationalist Wafd government of the large landowners and business elite’s monarchical regime had interned the entire leadership of the Egyptian Communist Party and disbanded Egypt ’s Confederation of Trade Unions. For example, after 1,200 to 1,500 Egyptian workers had gone on strike in Alexandria at the Filatunes Nationales of Egypt firm in February 1924—and workers at Egyptian Oil Industries, Egyptian Salt and Soda Company, Kafr-El-Zayat-Coffon Company and Abouchanabs had also gone on strike during the same month—the Wafd government banned gatherings of Egyptian workers; and on Mar. 3, 1924 the Wafd government arrested Egyptian Communist Party leaders such as Hosni al-‘Arabi, Anton Maroun and Sheikh Safwan Abu-al-Fatah and destroyed the Egyptian Communist Party of the early 1920s.

But “the Comintern put together a new central committee from the remnants of the Egyptian Communist Party” still active “and not imprisoned;” and “a new” Egyptian Communist Party “organization—this time more tightly structured, with cells and a private printing press—was implemented in Cairo, Alexandria, and Port Said,” according to The Communist Movement in Egypt: 1920-1988.  And, as the same book recalled, on Mar. 6, 1925 the Egyptian communists “acquired a small newspaper, al-Hisab” and “managed to publish” prior to May 18, 1925 “eight issues before it was shut down and its editor and staff jailed.”

Yet “from the first, the organizational meetings of the” re-established Egyptian Communist Party’s’ “new central committee were infiltrated by British intelligence;” and “an intelligence agent, Mohammed ‘Abd al-‘Aziz,” even “became secretary general of the central committee in late 1924 and served in that post for 4 years,” according to The Communist Movement in Egypt: 1920-1988.

So, not surprisingly, all members of the re-established Egyptian Communist Party’s Central Committee were arrested by the Egyptian government after Ahmad Ziwar Pasha succeeded Saad Zaghhoul as the semi-colonial/neo-colonial Egyptian monarchical government’s prime minister on May 30, 1925. But, as Selma Botman observed in The Rise of Egyptian Communism, 1939-1970, “despite the demise of organized Egyptian communism” during the 1920s, “small pockets of legal leftist activists appeared…some years later…”

(end of part 9)

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