The Middle East in Transition: Studies in Contemporary History

By Walter Z. Laqueur | Go to book overview

tion; it was he who negotiated with the King and gave him the manifesto to sign. Watanists and representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood took part in the post-revolutionary governments. The Wafd leader Nahhas greeted Naguib as the 'saviour of the country'; but when the 'free officers' refused to hand over power to the Wafd, and promulgated agrarian reforms, Nahhas went into opposition to the new régime. But many patriotic elements, leaving the Wafd, began sooner or later to co-operate with the Revolutionary Council.

This feature of the Egyptian Revolution is obviously explained by the fact that the July coup occurred shortly after the savage destruction of organizations of the national-liberation movement by the forces of reaction in January, 1952. Between January 26 and July 23, 1952, only six months elapsed, and in that short time these organizations had not managed to recover from the blow dealt them. The havoc caused in January had demoralized a large part of the national bourgeoisie, discredited and eliminated the biggest political party, the Wafd. The 'free officers', however, had maintained their organization intact. It was still an underground organization that had not come out into the open, and it was in control of the army. This new force suddenly dealt a crushing blow against the forces of internal reaction and imperialism at a moment when it was least expected.

At the moment of the coup it still had no connections with the popular masses, and this circumstance explains another peculiarity of the Egyptian Revolution. Apart from the soldiery, the popular masses did not take a direct part in the July coup, the tasks and aims of which corresponded with their interests. Not only was the revolution led by officers; it was actually carried out by the army.9

But on July 26 itself the popular masses of Egypt greeted with demonstrations of wild enthusiasm the overthrow of King Farouk. On September 9, 1952, when the agrarian reform was promulgated, the people supported it. The popular masses also welcomed the proclamation of the Republic. In the struggle between Naguib and Nasser, which developed in 1954, the Egyptian working class was firmly on the side of Nasser, who stood for the further development of the anti-feudal, anti-imperialist revolution, and this decided the struggle in his favour. With the support of the popular masses the national government of Egypt is continuing to feel its way forward into the further stages of the Egyptian Revolution. The people supports the policy of fighting for Egypt's economic independence, and approves the government's foreign policy, which is to keep Egypt out of aggressive military alliances and blocs, to practise the five principles of peaceful co-existence, to establish a close alliance

____________________
9
Gamal Abdul-Nasser, Egypt's Liberation: The Philosophy of the Revolution ( Washington, 1955).

-497-

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