Nasserism

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Nasserism
التيار الناصري
Ideology
Political positionLeft-wing[16]
Revolutionary flag[17]

Nasserism (Arabic: التيار الناصري at-Tayyār an-Nāṣirī) is an Arab nationalist and Arab socialist political ideology based on the thinking of Gamal Abdel Nasser, one of the two principal leaders of the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, and Egypt's second President. Spanning the domestic and international spheres, it combines elements of Arab socialism, republicanism, secularism, nationalism, anti-imperialism, developing world solidarity, Pan-Arabism, and international non-alignment. According to Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, Nasserism symbolised "the direction of liberation, socialist transformation, the people’s control of their own resources, and the democracy of the peoples working forces."[18]

Many other Arab countries have adopted Nasserist forms of government during the 20th century, most being formed during the 1960s, including Algeria under the FLN[19] and the Libyan Arab Republic under Muammar Gaddafi.[20] The Nasserist ideology is also similar in theory to the Ba'athist ideology which was also notably practiced under Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist Iraq (1968–2003) and under Hafez al-Assad and now Bashar al-Assad's Syrian Arab Republic (1971–present).

History[edit]

In the 1950s and 1960s, Nasserism was amongst the most potent political ideologies in the Arab world. This was especially true following the Suez Crisis of 1956 (known in Egypt as the Tripartite Aggression), the political outcome of which was seen as a validation of Nasserism and a tremendous defeat for Western imperial powers. During the Cold War, its influence was also felt in other parts of Africa and the developing world, particularly with regard to anti-imperialism and non-alignment.

The scale of the Arab defeat in the Six-Day War of 1967 damaged the standing of Nasser and the ideology associated with him. Though it survived Nasser's death in 1970, certain important tenets of Nasserism were revised or abandoned totally by his successor Anwar Sadat during what he termed the Corrective Revolution and later his Infitah economic policies.[21] Under the three decade rule of Sadat's successor Hosni Mubarak, most of the remaining Arab-socialist infrastructure of Egypt was replaced by neoliberal policies strongly at odds with Nasserist principles. In the international arena, Mubarak departed almost entirely from traditional Egyptian policy, becoming a steadfast ally of both the United States government and Israel, the latter still viewed by most Egyptians with enmity and distrust, derived largely from the five wars that Egypt fought against Israel between 1948 and 1973.[21]

Gamal Abdel Nasser, 1958

During Nasser's lifetime, Nasserist groups were encouraged and often supported financially by Egypt to the extent that many became seen as willing agents of the Egyptian government in its efforts to spread revolutionary nationalism in the Arab world. In the 1970s, as a younger generation of Arab revolutionaries came to the fore Nasserism outside Egypt metamorphosed into other Arab nationalist and pan-Arabist movements, including component groups of the Lebanese National Movement during the Lebanese Civil War. The main Nasserite movements that continued to be active until today on the Lebanese scene are mainly represented by the organization in Sidon of populist Nasserist partisans (at-Tanzim ash-Sha'bi an-Nassiri) that are led by Oussama Saad and in Beirut as represented mainly by the Al-Mourabitoun movement. Both groups have been mainly active since the early 1950s among Arabs and they are currently associated politically with the March 8 coalitions in Lebanese politics.

Nasserism continues to have significant resonance throughout the Arab world, and informs much of the public dialogue on politics in Egypt and the wider region. Prominent Nasserist Hamdeen Sabahi competed in the first round of the 2012 Egyptian presidential election and only narrowly avoided securing a position in the run-off against eventual winner Mohamed Morsi; he later competed in the 2014 presidential election as one of only two candidates in a run-off, but lost to the other candidate, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, in a significant landslide victory for the latter.[22]

Interpretations[edit]

"Nasserism", the broad term used in literature to describe the aspects of Nasser's rule and his legacy, can be interpreted in many ways. Granted that there is a multitude of ways in which the term is read and used, P. J. Vatikiotis in his book Nasser and his Generation (1978)[23] argues that Nasserism had the limited political connotation of a phenomenon of "personal charismatic leadership, not to a movement or ideology". Vatikiotis elaborates upon Nasser's use of speech as a political tool to sway his constituents despite their deprivation of any participation in their leader's policies. To this end, Nasser frequently addressed masses on both radio and television as well as in huge rallies, with a "repeated hypnotic incantation of "imperialism" and "agents of imperialism", "reactionaries", "revenge", "dignity and self-respect", "Zionism" and "Arabism". Crowds were galvanized to hysteria as Nasser excited them with hopes and aspirations of strong leadership and Arab unity.[23][24]

In Rethinking Nasserism (2004),[25] Podeh and Winckler discuss another interpretation of Nasserism. According to them, "Western social scientists in the 1950s and 1960s, perceived Nasserism as a modernization movement and Nasser as a modernizing leader…Egypt was seen as a typical Third World country undergoing a process of decolonization and, under new revolutionary leadership, aspiring to national prosperity through modernization. Thus, Nasserism was perceived as an attempt to transform Egyptian traditional society through the modernization of its economy and society".

Yet another insight into Nasserism is provided in Political Trends in the Fertile Crescent (1958) by Walid Khalidi,[26] who discusses it as not an ideological movement, rather an "attitude of mind" that is "eclectic, empirical, radical, and yet conservative". According to Walidi, Nasserism was able to attract support in the Arab world because it "transferred, if only partially, to the Arab world itself, the center of decisions concerning the future of that world". Khalidi asserts that this change inspired self-confidence in the Arab community, which was particularly welcome after the recent shock over the loss of Palestine. In A History of the Modern Middle East (2018),[27] the author also talks about how Nasserism inspired self-confidence in the Arab community. The author states, "Egypt had gained a measure of independence and pride that at that time seemed enviable and worthy of emulation."

Ideology[edit]

Nasserism is an Arab nationalist and pan-Arabist ideology, combined with a vaguely defined socialism, often distinguished from Eastern Bloc or Western thought by the label "Arab socialism". Though opposed ideologically to Western capitalism, Arab socialism also developed as a rejection of communism, which was seen as incompatible with Arab traditions and the religious underpinnings of Arab society. As a consequence, Nasserists from the 1950s to the 1980s sought to prevent the rise of communism in the Arab world and advocated harsh penalties for individuals and organizations identified as attempting to spread communism within the region.[28]

Though mindful of the spiritual heritage of the Arab world, as with Ba'athism, Nasserism is largely a secular ideology.[29][30] Just as with other manifestations of Arab nationalism, this led to direct conflict with ideologically Islamic-oriented political movements in the Arab world from the 1950s onward, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood. Nasserists espouse an end to Western interference in Arab affairs, developing world solidarity, international non-alignment, modernisation and industrialisation. Nasser himself was opposed vehemently to Western imperialism, sharing the commonly held Arab view that Zionism was an extension of European colonialism on Arab soil.[31]

Khalifa Alfadhel describes Nasserism as an Arab socialist, secular, republican and pan-Arab nationalist ideology. Particularly central to Nasserism was anti-imperialism - Nasser was one of the main founders of the Non-Alignment Movement. The secularist nature of the movement can be seen through its policies, which neutralised the Al-Azhar Mosque through the imposition of non-religious education, regulation of Islamic endowments, and abolition of Shari'ah courts. However, the secularism of Nasserism was milder in comparison to the ideology of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.[32]

The slogans adopted by Nasser and his movement gave Nasserism a populist character. After coming to power, the movement defined itself by the following six principles:[33]

  • The destruction of "imperialism and its stooges among Egyptian traitors";
  • The ending of feudalism;
  • The ending of monopoly and of the domination of capital over government;
  • Establishment of social justice;
  • Founding of a strong national army;
  • Establishment of a sound democratic life.

One of the most unique properties of Nasserism was its embracement of socialism, an ideology hitherto deeply popular in Egypt. The notion of socialism was treated with hostility in pre-Nasser Egypt, as socialism was considered to be an inherently anti-religious doctrine that sought to displace the traditions and religion of Egypt. However, Nasserism adopted the term of socialism, implementing several meanings to it - while at first the Nasserite commitment to socialism was ambiguous and often included contradictory concept, the movement never wavered in promoting it. As a result, Nasser "made it very popular among the Arab masses".[33]

In world politics, Nasser's Egypt, along with Yugoslavia under Josip Broz Tito and India under Jawaharlal Nehru, was a major proponent of the Non-Aligned Movement, which advocated developing countries remaining outside the influence of the superpower blocs. However, notwithstanding this policy and government suppression of communist organisations within Egypt, Egypt's deteriorating relations with Western powers, particularly following the Tripartite Aggression of 1956, made Egypt heavily dependent on military and civil assistance from the USSR. The same was true for other revolutionary Arab governments, which although repressive of communism within Arab borders, entered into strong longstanding relationships with communist states outside the Arab world. The Egyptian-Soviet alliance continued well into the presidency of Nasser's successor as president, Anwar Sadat, especially with regard to the Arab–Israeli conflict.

Today[edit]

Nasserism remains a political force throughout the Arab world, but in a markedly different manner than in its heyday. Whereas in the 1950s and 1960s Nasserism existed as a revolutionary and dynamic movement with definite political and social goals, by the 1980s it had become a much less pronounced and distinct ideology. Today, many more Arabs are informed by Nasserism in a general sense than actually espouse its specific ideals and objectives. In terms of political organisations within Egypt itself and during the presidency of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Nasserism's scope was confined generally to writers, intellectuals and minor opposition parties. Nasserist movements were largely overshadowed by Islamic political organisations, especially the Muslim Brotherhood. This was a part of an overall trend within Egypt and the Arab world of Arab nationalism being overshadowed, and even eclipsed by political Islam. In Egypt, the Nasserist Party styles itself as the successor to Nasser and his Arab Socialist Union as does its offshoot, the Karama Party of Hamdeen Sabahi. However, as with all opposition parties in Egypt, their activities was severely limited by the Mubarak regime prior to the Egyptian revolution of 2011.

Whilst Nasser governed Egypt through a strictly authoritarian one-party system, with extreme limits on any form of political dissent, present-day Nasserists stress their support for democracy, explaining Nasser's autocratic excesses as necessary to implement his revolutionary policies.

Influence outside the Arab World[edit]

Nasser and Che Guevara in 1966

Despite being a quintessentially Arab ideology, Nasserism influenced to a degree left-wing movements in other parts of the developing world, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Under Nasser, the Egyptian government gave support both moral and material to Sub-Saharan liberation movements fighting European imperialism. Nelson Mandela, the former South African President and Leader of the African National Congress, remarked that this support was crucial in helping sustain the morale of such movements, including in South Africa. Similar sentiments have been expressed by Fidel Castro, the former Cuban President, with regard to the Cuban Revolution and Cuba's later adversities with the United States Government. Both men stated that Egypt's resistance under Nasser against the joint British, French and Israeli invasion of Egypt in 1956 proved to be inspirational for their own movements.

Hugo Chávez, late President of Venezuela and leader of the self-styled Bolivarian Revolution, cited Nasserism as a direct influence on his own political thinking by stating: "Someone talked to me about his pessimism regarding the future of Arab nationalism. I told him that I was optimistic, because the ideas of Nasser are still alive. Nasser was one of the greatest people of Arab history. To say the least, I am a Nasserist, ever since I was a young soldier".[34][35]

Left-wing British politician George Galloway has referred to Gamal Abdel Nasser as "one of the greatest men of the 20th century"[36] and has called repeatedly for Arab governments to embrace the tenets of Nasserism in the 21st century.

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Salem 2020, p. 136-137: "The building of the High Dam, the financing for which came from the nationalization of the Canal, was similarly connected to global debates around industry and self-sufficiency, and was a pivotal moment of decolonization, symbolizing both the end of Britain’s global influence and the emergence of Nasser as the leader of Arab nationalism."
  2. ^ Ismael, Tareq Y. (1976). The Arab Left. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press. p. 10. ISBN 0-8156-0124-7. Chapters 2, 3, 4, and 5 examine the four principal leftist nationalist forces that emerged in the post-World War II era: the Ba'ath, the Progressive Socialists of Lebanon, the Arab Nationalist Movement, and Nasserism (written by Jacqueline Ismael).
  3. ^ Alfadhel, Khalifa A. (2016). The Failure of the Arab Spring. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-4438-9789-1. Nasser's period of leftist nationalism was known as Nasserism. The ideological roots of Nasserism are found in his magnum opus: Egypt's Liberation.
  4. ^
  5. ^ https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/egypt_mahfouz_4025jsp/
  6. ^ "Nasserism".
  7. ^ Anis H. Bajrektarevic (2017). "No Asian Century without the pan-Asian Institution". tnp.no. It has served a dual purpose; originally, to contain the leftist Nasseristic pan-Arabism which was introducing a republican type of egalitarian government in the Middle Eastern theater.
  8. ^ Ihsan Yilmaz; Raja M. Ali Saleem (1 March 2022). "Military and Populism: A Global Tour with a Special Emphasis on the Case of Pakistan" (PDF). Populism & Politics. European Center for Populism Studies (ECPS) (10): 12. doi:10.55271/pp0010. S2CID 247207638. Left-wing populism was also adopted by many military coup leaders in Africa, such as Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt (ruled 1956-70), Ben Bella (ruled 1962-65) in Algeria, and Thomas Sankara (ruled 1983-87) in Burkina Faso. Some of these generals "thickened" their populism with nationalism and transnationalism. Nasser was traditionally a left-wing populist leader, yet he used the ideas of pan-Arabism to create not only a national identity for Egypt but for Arabs around the Middle East.
  9. ^ Farah, Nadia Ramsis (1986). Religious Strife in Egypt: Crisis and Ideological Conflict in the Seventies. Vol. 9. Gordon and Breach Science Publishers. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-415-81122-4. Arab socialism was advocated as the dominant ideology of Nasser's regime. The Islamic dimension played a role in Arab socialism. However, Islam was reduced to the personal sphere and the regime did not advocate Islam, except in periods of crisis such as the period that followed the Arab defeat in 1967.
  10. ^ Friedman, Jeremy (4 January 2022). Ripe for Revolution: Building Socialism in the Third World. Harvard University Press. p. 173. ISBN 9780674269767. "At a time when the leading lights of African socialism-people such as Gamal Abdel Nasser,...
  11. ^ Paolo Chiocchetti (23 January 2017). "Populism". resume.uni.lu. Revue de l'euro, Université du Luxembourg. doi:10.25517/RESuME-JyutQzd-2017. In the scholarly literature, it has been used to describe a wide range of seemingly disparate political phenomena: Latin American "national-populists" (e.g. Peronists), "third-worldist" authoritarian regimes (e.g. Nasserism), contemporary radical right (e.g. the French Front national) and radical left (e.g. the Greek SYRIZA) parties, Islamic fundamentalists (e.g. the Muslim Brotherhood), and charismatic leaders of all stripes (e.g. Alberto Fujimori, Ross Perot, Silvio Berlusconi, Pim Fortuyn, and Hugo Chavez).
  12. ^ Mili, Amel (May 2009). Exploring The Relation Between Gender Politics and Representative Government in the Maghreb: Analytical and Empirical Observations (Doctor of Philosophy thesis). Newark, New Jersey: State University of New Jersey. p. 51. Some of the ideologies that gained some traction, at least for some time, include Baathism (Iraq, Syria), Socialism (Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen since the 1950's), Communism (South Yemen in the 1960s), Pan-Arabic Nasserism (Egypt, as well as the few countries that have joined it at one time or another in short lived unions), and state capitalism fused with monarchy (the Gulf states, Jordan and Morocco).
  13. ^ Salem, Sara (April 2020). "2 - Hegemony in Egypt". Anticolonial Afterlives in Egypt: The Politics of Hegemony. The Global Middle East. Cambridge University Press. p. 98. ISBN 9781108868969. Nasser's anti-imperialism and the discourse of Arab socialism proved relatable to the majority of Egyptians for whom social justice and economic independence were central concerns.
  14. ^ Range, Willard (1959). "An Interpretation of Nasserism". The Western Political Quarterly. 12 (4): 1005–1016. doi:10.2307/443794. JSTOR 443794.
  15. ^ https://etd.lib.metu.edu.tr/upload/12617062/index.pdf
  16. ^
    • Ismael, Tareq Y. (1976). The Arab Left. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press. p. 10. ISBN 0-8156-0124-7. Chapters 2, 3, 4, and 5 examine the four principal leftist nationalist forces that emerged in the post-World War II era: the Ba'ath, the Progressive Socialists of Lebanon, the Arab Nationalist Movement, and Nasserism (written by Jacqueline Ismael).
    • Alfadhel, Khalifa A. (2016). The Failure of the Arab Spring. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-4438-9789-1. Nasser's period of leftist nationalism was known as Nasserism. The ideological roots of Nasserism are found in his magnum opus: Egypt's Liberation.
    • Ginat, Rami (1997). Egypt's Incomplete Revolution: Lutfi al-Khuli and Nasser's Socialism in the 1960s. Portland, Oregon: Frank Cass & Co Ltd. p. 190. ISBN 0-7146-4295-9. At the same time, Nasser, keen to prove the depth of his commitment to socialism, turned to al-Khuli: 'Lutfi! Don't you find it difficult to be on my left? Nobody can possibly be more leftist than me.'
    • Katherine Barymow (9 August 2017). "Proxy Conflict Turned Civil Crisis: Understanding Syrian Political Movements to United States Foreign Policy". Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. Syracuse University. 992: 35. The Eisenhower Doctrine was thus an attempt through economic and military aid to encourage the governments to side openly with the West in the Cold War, therefore swinging away from the Leftist Nasser regime and his regional allies, including the Syrian government and the Nasserist opposition parties in other Arab countries.
  17. ^ Pan-Arab Colors, crwflags.com
  18. ^ Ismael, Tareq Y. (1976). The Arab Left. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press. p. 91. ISBN 0-8156-0124-7.
  19. ^ Harmon, Stephen A. (2016-03-09). Terror and Insurgency in the Sahara-Sahel Region: Corruption, Contraband, Jihad and the Mali War of 2012-2013. Routledge. p. 46. ISBN 978-1-317-04606-6.
  20. ^ Sayigh, Yusuf A. (2014-10-30). The Economies of the Arab World (RLE Economy of Middle East): Development since 1945. Routledge. p. 433. ISBN 978-1-317-59805-3.
  21. ^ a b Ross, Jeffrey Ian (2015-03-04). Religion and Violence: An Encyclopedia of Faith and Conflict from Antiquity to the Present. Routledge. pp. 486–487. ISBN 978-1-317-46109-8.
  22. ^ "Nasserist leaders unite around presidential hopeful Hamdeen Sabahi". en.aswatmasriya.com. Retrieved 2023-12-27.
  23. ^ a b Vatikiotis, Panayiotis Jerasimof (1 January 1978). Nasser and his generation. Croom Helm. pp. 297–299. ISBN 0856644331. OCLC 464697929.
  24. ^ Rejwan, Nissim. Nasserist Ideology: Its Exponents and Critics. Routledge.
  25. ^ Elie., Podeh; Onn., Winckler (1 January 2004). Rethinking Nasserism : revolution and historical memory in modern Egypt. University Press of Florida. ISBN 9780813031378. OCLC 77585878.
  26. ^ Laqueur, Walter Z. (1958). "Political Trends in the Fertile Crescent by Walid Khalidi". The Middle East in Transition. New York: F. A. Praeger. p. 125.
  27. ^ Cleveland, William (2018). A History of the Modern Middle East. United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis. p. 305. ISBN 9780429975134.
  28. ^ "What Is Nasserism?". 30 December 2020.
  29. ^ Sheikh 2003, p. 34.
  30. ^ Shehadi & Mills 1988, p. 265.
  31. ^ Helal, Yasmin (2019). "The Phantoms of Nasserism in Latin America".
  32. ^ Alfadhel, Khalifa A. (2016). The Failure of the Arab Spring. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 15–16. ISBN 978-1-4438-9789-1.
  33. ^ a b Ismael, Tareq Y. (1976). The Arab Left. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press. pp. 78–84. ISBN 0-8156-0124-7.
  34. ^ "President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez". MEMRI.
  35. ^ "President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez: Israel Uses the Methods of Hitler, the U.S. Uses the Methods of Dracula. I'm a Nasserist who Has Crossed the Deserts, Ridden Camels, and Sung Along with the Bedouins. Al-Jazeera Plays a Role in Liberating the World". MEMRI. Clip No. 1220 (4 August 2006). Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  36. ^ George Galloway (2005). I'm Not the Only One.

References[edit]

  • Shehadi, Nadim; Mills, Dana Haffar (1988). Lebanon: a history of conflict and consensus. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 978-1-85043-119-0.
  • Sheikh, Naveed S. (2003). The new politics of Islam: pan-Islamic foreign policy in a world of states. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-7007-1592-3.
  • Choueiri, Youssef M. (2000). Arab nationalism: a history : nation and state in the Arab world. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-0-631-21729-9.
  • Mansfield, Peter (1973). "Nasser and Nasserism". International Journal. Canadian International Council. 28 (4): 670–688. doi:10.2307/40201172. JSTOR 40201172.
  • Ajami, Fouad (1974). "On Nasser and His Legacy". Journal of Peace Research. Sage Publications, Ltd. 11 (1): 41–49. doi:10.1177/002234337401100104. S2CID 110926973.