Nasserism and the impossibility of innocence

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  1. 1.

    The invaluable oral history which has been compiled by Abu Al-Leil (2015) also supports Salem's point.

  2. 2.

    As Marx and Engels note, the petite bourgeoisie is always "fluctuating between proletariat and bourgeoisie, ever renewing itself as a supplementary part of bourgeois society" (Marx and Engels 2007, 34).

  3. 3.

    This is the real import of the frequent laments that are heard in Egypt today about the "decline of the middle class".

  4. 4.

    Sadat may have been a traitor, but Sadat is also what you get when you try to build "socialism without socialists".

  5. 5.

    In the aftermath of 1967, there were also calls by the Marxist writers around al-Tali'a for Egypt to follow the Cuban model (Gervasio 2010, 232).

  6. 6.

    Cuba is an example of this second path. Maybe Nasserists would do well to study Cuba, since undoubtedly there were "Sadats" in Cuba (for surely, they exist everywhere), but unlike in Egypt, they have never been able to obtain state power.

  7. 7.

    We also should not forget that under the monarchy Egyptian Nubia was even more neglected by the central government than it is today. For example, in the decades before 1952, there was only one primary school in all of Egyptian Nubia (Abu Al-Leil 2015, 160).

  8. 8.

    I emphasize "internal conflicts" because I think that it is obvious that Nasserism's external conflicts with colonialism and neo-colonialism did not instantiate a struggle of "right against right". No right can be found on the colonial/neo-colonial side.

  9. 9.

    Hegel's analysis of the beautiful soul can serve as an analysis of "ultra-leftism" and its consequences. Readers can decide for themselves whether, for example, much of the contemporary discourse on the left around Bolivia's "exctractivism", under the rule of the Movement for Socialism party, is the product of "beautiful souls" in the aforementioned sense.

  10. 10.

    The Nasserist government's policy of holding down food prices meant that the relative prosperity of the workers in the large urban centers was coming at the expense of the peasantry (Mansfield, 1969, 175). However, the Nasserist government seems to have been aware of this, and by 1964 there was an attempt to remove all price controls on locally produced food items.

  11. 11.

    This is the kind of freedom that (along with the personal freedom to choose our own ends) Hegel took to be distinctive of modernity: "the right to recognize nothing that I do not perceive as rational is the highest right of the subject" (Hegel 1991, 159). To use the language of "self-legislation" to describe Hegel's position might be taken to imply that I neglect the differences between Kant and Hegel. However, it seems clear to me that Hegel does not abandon the modernist Kantian concept of self-legislation, but rather he historicizes it. For an overview of interpretive debates regarding this issue, see Stern (2017).

  12. 12.

    The concept of collective autonomy can be derived from the concept of individual autonomy. Rousseau is often identified as a key thinker in the development of the concept of collective autonomy and its analogues (Todorov 2009). A point that is also made by C. L. R. James who makes the bold claim that “after Karl Marx, Rousseau is the most important figure in modern history” (James 2009, 105).


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I am grateful for Alina Sajed's tremendously helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

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Correspondence to Zeyad el Nabolsy.

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el Nabolsy, Z. Nasserism and the impossibility of innocence. Int Polit Rev (2021).

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