Communist Regime under Gamal Abdel Nasser and Muammar Gaddafi

| March 12, 2020

Question

research question:

-How the communist regime under Gamal Abdel Nasser rule in Egypt was different than the one that was under Gaddafi in Libya and similar?

instruction

The research paper (7-9 pages) should address a research question. In other words, the paper has to be analytical not only descriptive. you need to make arguments supported by evidence, not just personal statements. you allowed using only academic sources (books and journal articles). They should consult at least 7 academic sources in writing the paper.

Similarities and differences between the communist regime under Gamal Abdel Nasser rule in Egypt and the one that was under Gaddafi in Libya

Answer

Egyptian communism under the rule of Gamal Abdel Nasser was different in several ways to that of Libya under Muammar Gaddafi’s rule. For example, Egypt belonged to the non-aligned movement while Libya did not. Moreover, Gaddafi was fiercely opposed to Western capitalism without necessarily declaring his outright support for communism. However, certain similarities between Gaddafi and Nasser may be said to exist in terms of these leaders’ association with communism. A case in point is the way both leaders used communism to benefit politically. Nasser coopted communist ideas to enhance operations in his own government while Gaddafi relied on friendship with the Soviet Union in his emboldened opposition to the West. Moreover, both leaders repressed communism at some point; Gaddafi deported Sudanese communists soon after ascending to power while Nasser threw many Egyptian communists into prison in 1961. The aim of this paper is to compare communism under Gamal Abdel Nasser’s rule in Egypt and the one under Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.

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            Gamal Abdel Nasser was the president of Egypt between 1956and 1970. During this time, he endeavored to contain communists and was intent on keeping a watchful eye on their activities. At the same time, he wanted to embrace their ideas in a shrewd move aimed at gaining a competitive political edge over the bitter communist rivals. At the same time, Nasser’s multidimensional strategy also entailed efforts to secure the communists’ loyalty. This explains why the Egyptian leader was keen to attract the attention of all mainstream Egyptian communist organizations during the 1960s.

            Abdel Nasser was more articulate than Gaddafi on the political objectives he wanted to achieve in his dalliances with communists. Unlike Nasser, Gaddafi was driven a lot by a deep, obsessive hatred for certain political factions, ideologies, and economic systems in his decisions on whether to support or oppose communism. Gaddafi was brutal in his approach to political issues while Nasser adopted a high sense of political shrewdness to deal with the challenge that communism presented for his regime. For example, in the open, Nasser declared that communism had been dismantled while in reality, he exploited the personal abilities of communists for his own political benefit.

Nasser destroyed communism organizationally, rendering it incapable of functioning effectively as a political alternative. He was worried about the dangers of communism in the long run but was also worried about was also concerned about foreign imperialism in the short run. Long-term worries in Egypt arose from the deepening influence of communism in neighboring countries especially Syria and Jordan while short-term worries arose from the understanding that communism if entrenched into the country organizationally, could easily pose a potent threat to Nasser’s rule (Kerr and Nasser 59).

During Nasser’s era, Egypt was keen to be part of a regional pact that would offer defense against the growing influence of communism (Jankowski 78). In this strategy, opposition to the West was necessary; support of the West would easily breed nationalist resistance and subsequently the resurgence of pro-communist sentiments. In Nasser’s view, it was important for his country to play a greater role in curtailing the influence of communism in the Middle East. In fact, Egypt felt obliged to lead the war against communists in the Middle East, chiefly Syria. Nasser felt that communism could easily bring about civil strife in Syria before eventually spreading to Egypt and across the Middle East. Gaddafi did not face such a precarious political situation in his country. This meant that he could afford to take align himself with any ideological position during the early days of the Cold War without facing serious political consequences.

Once Nasser succeeded in dismantling Egyptian communism organizationally, he started to view them as useful consultants in his government (Botman 19). He viewed them in this new light not because he liked communism but because the ideology did not present any meaningful threat to his regime. Since the 1940s, communism in Egypt was a disjointed movement comprising of numerous political parties. By the time Nasser came to power, these parties had not yet coalesced into a mass movement. Moreover, inter-party conflicts among communists were common during Nasser’s rule. This made them lose sight of the greater goal of transforming society. Nevertheless, communists somehow found time to express their interest in the need to encourage local supporters to promote local leaders who could facilitate the process of development. Incidentally, communists never succeeded in coming up with a viable political program that could actualize the establishment of a mass communist movement in Egypt.

Similarly, Gaddafi did not face any serious threat from Libyan communists. Communism was not as strongly entrenched in Libya as it was in Egypt. This means that it was even easier for Gaddafi to avoid anything to do with communism openly without any fear of political setbacks. Like in Egypt a major challenge for communists in Libya was on how to transform political ideas into concrete activities at the local level. In Egypt, a large section of the population did not see the sense in committing to the political ideas that communists kept presenting to them. This is because these ideas were already being actualized by the Nasser regime.

Despite the lack of political unity, communism maintained an enduring presence in Egypt during Nasser’s reign as the country’s president. It became an integral part of the country’s political and intellectual fabric. Journalists, literary artists, and scholars alike kept producing publications that highlighted the benefits of communism. In fact, Nasser was a beneficiary of communist infiltration into Egypt. The popularization of Marxist ideas had a profound effect on the toppling of the Egyptian Monarchy through a popular revolution, which led to Nasser’s rise to power. Throughout Nasser’s rule, communists hoped that they would trigger more far-reaching changes in the Egyptian public life. This is unlike the situation in Libya, where communism had no realistic chance of emerging as a political alternative to Gaddafi’s ideology.

Nasser cleverly coopted communist ideas into his political ideology. Some of the ideas he adopted from communism included socialist economic planning, nationalization, land reform, skepticism of Western powers, and alliance with countries belonging to the socialist bloc. He also sought to oppose the influence of the British, a view that was held dear by many communists in the country. The adoption of these policies made communism less appealing in Egypt. Many Egyptians learned to appreciate the positive contributions of Nasser to the country’s economic development mainly through the elimination of feudalism, improvement of working conditions, housing, and education, and the negotiation of a British withdrawal. Nasser also established a positive image for himself through a stature as a non-aligned movement leader. All these factors greatly contributed to the loss of popularity for communism in Egypt.

Although Nasser cleverly adopted policies proposed by communists, he was at times openly opposed to communist influence. A case in point was the clash that emerged following the Egyptian-Syrian Union in 1959. During this clash, virtually all Egyptian communists were imprisoned. For the next five years, communists operated from concentration camps and prisons. However, incarceration did not deter the communists from being politically active. They held discussions, offered their compatriots with training, and engaged oppositional groups in debates. Despite being incarcerated, these communists remained supportive of the government’s opposition to imperialism. They also supported the nationalization process that commenced in 1961. In essence, they were convinced that Egypt was slowing headed towards the path of socialist development.

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            During the last years of Nasser’s rule, he continued to perceive leftist communists as ideologically significant. For example, whenever police officers confiscated documents from communist leaders in prison, they would not put prisoners who were found in possession of those documents on trial. On the contrary, they would keep coming for more documents, which gave them an ideal platform through which to probe the communists’ minds.

            During the last five years of his presidency, Nasser endeavored to improve relations between Egypt and the Soviet Union. One of the ways of achieving this goal was the release of communist prisoners. However, Nasser imposed certain conditions on the communists; they need to integrate into the mainstream Egyptian socio-political and intellectual life, by among other things, dissolving their organizations. Since the communists were optimistic about the prospects of cooperation between “Nasserism” and communism, they agreed to dissolve their organizations. Nasser reciprocated this move by absorbing many communists into his administrative bureaucracy. This move greatly boosted the Marxists’ imagination that they would ultimately be well placed to bring about ideological transformation in Egypt.

In a strange turn of twist, the cooption of Marxists turned out to be Nasser’s masterful strategy of paralyzing them. By hiring the communists into his government, Nasser was able to exploit is ideas and abilities. This shrewd move by Nasser led to a virtual collapse of communism in Egypt. Consequently, during the last five years of Nasser’s presidency, Egypt experienced no independent communist political activity. During Nasser’s rule, the most notable influence of communism was experienced in 1961, when several socialist laws were issued. These laws greatly transformed the way wealth was owned and distributed in Egypt, thereby triggering a flurry of supportive sentiments by Egyptian Marxists.

            During the reign of Muammar Gaddafi as Libya’s leader, the country was widely viewed by the West to be inclined towards communism (Davis 34). This is in sharp contrast to Nasser’s Egypt, which had succeeded to entrench itself as one of the pioneers of the non-aligned movement. However, Gaddafi was at first opposed to communism. When he became Libya’s leader in 1969, he took a tough anti-communist stance. He even deported Sudanese communists back to the country. At that time, Gaddafi saw the communist ideology as a serious threat to humankind.

            Between 1977 and the early 2000s, Gaddafi’s view of communism changed. He became a close friend of the Soviet Union. Although Gaddafi never endorsed the communist ideology as a model for Libya’s development, he relied on communist friends such as the Soviet Union to score political points against Western imperialist powers (Bahgat 114). This was evident in his decision to change the country’s name to reflect his defiance to the West as well as the steadfast process of nationalizing private companies. To some extent, this contrasts sharply with the situation in Egypt. Egypt’s Nasser was more cautious with both capitalism and communism. He adopted a pragmatic approach, which was evident in the way he was willing to experiment with different ideas, both communist and capitalist, in a flexible manner (Crabbs 386). Gaddafi also seems to have been more radical and less flexible than Nasser in terms of the way he articulated his ideological preferences (Bruce 111). However, these two Arab leaders seem to have adopted a similar approach in the way they used the communist ideology to advance their political interests. For example, Nasser coopted communist ideas to increase his political clout while Gaddafi’s friendship with the communist Soviet Union gave him enough confidence to call the West’s bluff.

            Between 1969 and 1977, Gaddafi vehemently opposed communism. Between 1977 and 2003, his views seemed to change; he henceforth became a fierce opponent of capitalism and Western imperialism. The fall of the Soviet Union was a major blow to Libya under Gaddafi. This turn of political events compelled the country’s leader to be more pragmatic about its continued adoption of socialist policies. In a world where powerful states such as China had started putting in place structures that would facilitate the adoption of capitalism, there was little that a small country like Libya could do to survive the economic isolation that came with being linked to communism and socialism. This explains Gaddafi’s decision to warm up to the West in the mid-2000s.

In conclusion, prospects for communism during Nasser’s rule in Egypt and Gaddafi’s rule in Libya were similar in some ways and different in others. One similarity is that both Nasser and Gaddafi used communism as a tool for political expediency. Gaddafi teamed up with communist regimes such as the Soviet Union to attack Western imperialism. Similarly, Nasser relied on the cooption of mainstream communist ideas in an effort to promote the public image of his regime while at the same time rendering Egyptian communist leaders politically irrelevant. The main difference was that Gaddafi was more amenable to the communist ideology given his staunch opposition to capitalism while Nasser was keen to tap into the benefits of both capitalism and communism at the same time. For Nasser, this political strategy fitted well into his country’s role as a member of the non-aligned movement.

Works Cited

Bahgat, Gawdat. “Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Case of Libya.” International Relations, 22.1 (2008): 105-126.

Botman, Selma. The rise of Egyptian communism, 1939-1970. New York: Syracuse University Press,1988, Print.

Bruce, Ronald. “Terrorism and Libyan Foreign Policy, 1981-1986.” The World Today, 42.7 (1986): 111-115.

Crabbs, Jack. “Politics, History, and Culture in Nasser’s Egypt.” International Journal of Middle East Studies, 6 .4 (1975): 386-420.

Davis, Brian. Qaddafi, Terrorism, and the Origins of the US Attack on Libya. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1990. Print.

Jankowski, James. Nasser’s Egypt, Arab Nationalism, and the United Arab Republic. Rynne Rienner Publishers, Inc, 2002. Print.

Kerr, Malcolm, and Nasser, Gamal. The Arab Cold War: Gamal’Abd al-Nasir and His Rivals, 1958-1970.New York: Oxford University Press, 1971. Print.

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