“Transnationalism and nationalism: the case of Egyptian communism (1920-1965)”

By Rami Ginat
Submitted to Session P4800 ((Trans)nationalisms and the Left in the Greater Maghrib, 1910-1970, 2017 Annual Meeting
“Transnationalism and nationalism: the case of Egyptian communism (1920-1965)”
The communist movements of the first part of the twentieth century were dominated by foreign activists. Many of them were archetypal cosmopolitans. Among them were Jews, Armenians, Greeks, Russians, Egyptian Muslims and others. Egypt under the British rule attracted many foreigners of European origins among them thousands of Jews who were geographically mobile. They looked at Egypt as a country of opportunity not necessarily materialistically. Some emigrants like Joseph Resenthal, the founder of Egyptian communism, maintained strong transnational ties. His admiration to the Marxist-Leninist doctrine made him enthusiastic to import, implant, develop and execute such revolutionary ideas in his host country which he regarded homeland yet wanted to see her going through a social revolution, and consequently be inextricably bound up with Soviet Russia – the homeland of communism. In my paper, I will examine ideas, issues, groups, and practices which have crossed national boundaries. Transnational ideas and practices were more noticeable in the interwar period yet we can easily point at their existence also in the post-World War II years (including the revolutionary era) – a period that is commonly known as the nationalist phase in the history of Egyptian communism. However, the shift towards socialism in the very outset of the 1960s with the participation of Marxist intellectuals who moved in international circles, and the implementation of the social revolution by the Nasserite regime, were a good example of the impact of transnational ideas upon the new socio-political order. Indeed, the new ruling doctrine was heavily influenced by foreign nationalist socialism imported from abroad by intellectuals and politicians who took pains to accommodate it with Egypt’s special circumstances and conditions.