Gamal Abdel Nasser was the Egyptian statesman and a key political figure, the second president of Egypt serving from 1956 until his death in 1970. The Egyptian revolution in which he played a great role as well as his presidency drastically changed the future of several generations of the country’s inhabitants. Even nowadays, Nasser is considered to be a source of inspiration for some politics due to his strides towards social justice and policy of modernization. In the given essay, Gamal Abdel Nasser’s objectives and vision for the establishment of a new state have been discussed, as well as his work as the leader of the Egyptian Republic.
The role of Gamal Abdel Nasser in the events of 1952-53 maybe not conspicuous at first sight, since the actual ruler of the country was General Mohamed Naguib. Nevertheless, it was young lieutenant Nasser, who formed a clandestine group called the Free Officers to abolish the monarchy (Ahmed). One of the main achievements of Gamal Abdel Nasser is considered to be the nationalization of the Suez Canal. Since that time, Egypt began to play an even more prominent role in the Middle East, and the figure of Nasser became a symbol of Arab unity (Ohsten and Merli). Apart from that, wholesale agrarian reform and huge industrialization programs initiated by Nasser led to a great period of infrastructure building.
On 23 July 1952, Colonel Nasser alongside General Naguib and Colonel Anwar Sadat led the Free Officers to bring the rule of King Farouk I to an end (“1952: Egyptian Army Ousts Prime Minister”). This was the first military coup that took place in the Arab world. After the power was assumed, Nasser and the Free Officers established the Revolutionary Command Council to take full control of Egypt with Nasser being a secretary of the authority. In 1953, the Egyptian Republic was declared, with General Mohamed Naguib as the first president of it.
With the proliferation of the internal political struggle, armed clashes between Egyptian partisans and British troops continued, and demonstrations were held demanding the withdrawal of the British from the Suez Canal zone (Ohsten and Merli). When Nasser nationalized the channel, France and the United Kingdom made desperate efforts to return the Suez Canal to their control. Due to the intervention of the US and the USSR, France and the United Kingdom announced the cessation of hostilities and withdrew their troops in 1956.
The Egyptian revolution was caused by feudal-colonial oppression and the unwillingness of the ruling circles of Egypt to solve the urgent tasks of national liberation and the revival of the country. Other reasons included the dire economic situation of the working class, general hatred towards the corrupt political bourgeois parties that expressed the will of the ruling elite, and British imperialism (“Egypt”). The revolution was accelerated by the defeat of Egypt in the Arab-Israeli war of 1948-49 and a partisan struggle against British troops in the Suez Canal.
The 1952 revolution was based on several principles, such as restoration of the parliamentary democracy and setting a strong national army as well as social justice. However, Nasser appeared to have more ambitious political aims, such as abolishing the constitutional monarchy and ending the British occupation of the country. Nasser had his own vision for both a new nation and the Arab world. He believed that social justice and equality would make people more united (“Arab Unity: Nasser’s Revolution”). The future leader of Egypt adhered to the ideology of pan-Arabism, as he wanted to consolidate all Arabic states into one.
It should be mentioned that since it was formed by Nasser in 1945, the Free Officers Movement had a heterogeneous composition. All the members of the framework had different visions for the establishment of a new state, that is why there was a sharp struggle for leadership among them (Ohsten and Merli). In particular, there was an escalating conflict between General Mohamed Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser who was the secretary and the chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council.
Nasser wanted the abolition of all political parties except for the Revolutionary Command Council, whereas Naguib showed signs of rapprochement and willingness to cooperate with the old political forces, such as the Muslim Brotherhood. Naguib had a more conservative outlook than did Nasser, as well as other members of the Free Officers. In particular, Naguib wanted Egypt to be ruled by a constitutional government. He proposed to stay in power using counterrevolution including disbanding of the Revolutionary Command Council. Nasser, however, had more radical views and wanted to continue the Egyptian revolution.
In 1954, General Naguib was arrested and ousted from his position, as Nasser accused him of supporting the banned Muslim Brotherhood group and having dictatorial intentions. Naguib then was replaced by Nasser first as prime minister and then as president of Egypt in 1956. As president, Nasser devoted considerable attention to the development of the country’s economy. The Republic of Egypt entered a new period of modernization and economic growth since Nasser instituted a program of land reform and social development.
Being the first major domestic measure of the Revolutionary Command Council, land reform is considered to be the cornerstone of Nasser’s social policy, since it was aimed at improving the conditions of the Egyptian peasants. The main points of the reform included a dramatic decrease in agricultural rents and expropriation of all private holdings above 200 acres. The land confiscated by the government was distributed among the small Egyptian landholders.
As a result, lands of more than 400,000 landowners were expropriated, and the incomes of the poor peasants were doubled (Ohsten and Merli). Therefore, one may note that agrarian reform significantly contributed to social justice.
As has been mentioned before, Gamal Abdel Nasser had a rather radical vision for creating a new country. It is difficult to summarize the ideology of the leader, as it was revolutionary, anti-imperialistic, authoritarian, nationalistic, and pan-Arabic. Nasser put much effort into strengthening Arab identity, nationalism, and independence. He was a key figure in the Egyptian revolution which resulted in the declaration of the Egyptian Republic. The president wanted to consolidate the nation and spread the idea of revolution around other Arab countries. Nasser wanted Egypt to be a state with all people being equal in their rights and freedoms, that is why he implemented agrarian reform. Also, he wanted Egypt to be a democratic republic with a well-run industrial sector.
To sum up, in the given essay, the complex social and economic reasons for the Egyptian revolution have been discussed. The role of Gamal Abdel Nasser as a key figure in the revolution as well as his objectives for it have been explained. Finally, it has been discussed how Nasser became a leader of Egypt and how he worked on establishing social justice through the project of land reform.
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“Arab Unity: Nasser’s Revolution.” Al Jazeera, 2008. Web.
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“1952: Egyptian Army Ousts Prime Minister.” BBC News. Web.
Ohsten, Frederik, and Francesco Merli. “Nasser and the Arab Revolution.” In Defence of Marxism, 2011. Web.