Socialism, and the Evolution of Socialist Thought in Colonial Egypt

By Samar Nour
Submitted to Session P4948 (Arab Leftist Intellectuals as (re)Active Agents in times of Change, 2017 Annual Meeting
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
Socialism and the Evolution of Socialist Thought in Colonial Egypt

The rise, and dominance, of socialism in Egypt in the 1950s and 1960s has been mostly attributed to Gamal Abdel Nasser, so much so that socialism is often conflated, and even erroneously used interchangeably, with “Nasserism.” While it is true that socialism, as an official state ideology reached its zenith under Nasserist Egypt, socialist thought was not a freshly–minted manifesto introduced by the Egyptian leader. This exposé, thus, attempts to trace the genealogy of socialism and the evolution of socialist thought in Egypt at the turn of the nineteenth-century and early twentieth century, through examining the works and ideas of a group of writers who consciously identified themselves as socialists. This group includes, but is not exclusive to, Farah Antun (1874- 1922), Niqula Haddad (1878-1954), Dr. Shibli Shumayyil (1875- 1914), Salama Musa (1887- 1958) and Mustafa Hasanayn al-Mansuri (1890- 1972). It should be clear, however, that this paper does not claim that Nasser’s version of socialism is a linear and natural extension of the socialist thought under discussion.

Whilst socialist thought was not a dominant trend in Egypt, at least on the intellectual level, during the period under study, the fact that some major newspapers and magazines as early as the 1890s, such as al-Muqtataf, al-Hilal and al-Jaridah, used the term ishtirakiyya (socialism) and maintained an anti-socialist stance, suggests that socialism must have had a resonance in the intellectual circles. This presentation, hence, attempts to contextualize the socialist thought of the above mentioned intellectuals and explore the content of their thought, perception of socialism and examine their theoretical and ideological sources and identify their “problem-space”, in the Scottian sense, to analyze the relevance of socialism, both “evolutionary” and “revolutionary,” in the Egyptian context.