Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Does history repeat itself?

I continue writing about Talaat Harb and challenging colonization… the role of Bank Misr in industrialization in the time span from 1920 to 1941 based on the highly important reference rich in its information and in-depth analyses “Challenging colonization: Bank Misr and Egyptian industrialization 1920 – 1941" written by Eric Davis, translated by Hisham Soliman Abdel-Ghaffar, revised and introduced by Mr. Dr. Ibrahim Fawzi; the one who attracted my attention to the importance of rereading the reference especially in this time in our country’s history wishing that those elite bunch possessing power in Egypt; whether the wealthy, businessmen, officials in charge or others, may make use of the lessons learnt from that era in our history.

Here, I would like to appeal to the officials in charge of Bank Misr right now and ask them to publish this book on a wide scale in Maktabet al-Osra’ publications series or other one so that every Egyptian, who wants to learn and look up to great pioneers like Talaat Harb and those who helped him, can read it… in doing such thing, Bank Misr would be returning part of the favor of that man who took the responsibility of establishing this bank.

The book author says that the support offered from students’ groups and agricultural bourgeoisie to Bank Misr resulted in that the merchants all over Egypt started forming commercial chambers in the wake of 1919 revolution… despite no evidence was given that these institutions were immersed in the promotion for buying Bank Misr’s shares, these commercial chambers were fierce in their call for boycott… they issued several statements calling for withdrawing deposits from the foreign banks and directing them to Bank Misr… they also asked for replacing Al-Ahli or the National Bank with Bank Misr since the former was controlled by the English as the very important state bank…

Also, comparisons between Al-Ahli or the National Bank enjoying the high status and Bank Misr that was just established contributed to reinforcing the position of the latter to people in general… they also helped undoubtedly in encouraging the Egyptians hesitating; those who were known to prefer investing in real estate than bank deposits in saving their money… such comparisons encouraged them to buy shares and have bank accounts in Bank Misr… Abdel-Maged al-Ramalli; secretary of Cairo commercial chamber, confirmed that if every Egyptian bought a single share of Bank Misr capital, the whole yield would be enough to fund the industrial projects Bank Misr was hoping to do.

If we added to the commercial chambers what the “agricultural bourgeoisie” did, that bourgeoisie that became more aware of its interests and so it established strong pressure group in 1920; that was the public Egyptian agricultural syndicate, to practice pressure over the government to follow policies where there interests are taken into consideration… adding to this also the orientation to establish and strengthen the cooperative movement… we would realize that the process of establishing a national bank has turned into what we may call an epic of a conscious national act where the participants in it became aware of their interests and of the conflict with the foreign capitalism.

However, things did not go well all the time as the conflict between “national” and “foreign” led the foreign capital to adopt tricks and tactics supporting it in such conflict… and so, many foreign companies tended to re-register themselves as Egyptian companies to make use of the laws and policies applied by the patriotic governments at that era…

Those companies meant to attract a number of the high class members… some other companies meant to depend on those who were granted their Egyptian nationality recently especially those of the Greek, Levant, Armenian and Jewish origins… then those foreign companies, which had re-registered as Egyptian companies, sought the help of political activists at that time… especially ex-ministers and deputy ministers; those experts in the governmental affairs and complications of laws related to the work of the Egyptian joint-stock companies.

Some of those sought for help were owners of vast areas of lands despite they did not inherit any of those lands… actually, their ownership of all those lands came from practicing politics and assuming public job positions during which they usually received bribes as “supplements for their income”.

Here, the author stops at a remarkable phenomenon and which is almost recurring since the beginning of the last century to date; that is the class resulting from the Egyptian bourgeoisie – meaning those who did not decent from families enjoying wealth or power and their grandfathers were not villages’ mayors… but actually most of their fathers were humble farmers and government employees – this class or sector was the most subordinate to the foreign capital.

In such regard, author Eric Davis wrote a very serious paragraph saying: “members of the Egyptian bourgeoisie who collaborated with the foreign capital during the thirties of the twentieth century should be looked at by using terms of the new occupation… as they represented a front hiding behind the principle controller in the companies under scrutiny… on the surface, it looked as if the Egyptians became more powerful in controlling their economy than it was the case in reality… also, a number of the members of those class were the ones who turned the tables against the financially-distressed companies of Bank Misr in 1939”!

My stating exclaiming question now: does history repeat itself?... do we witness the same phenomenon again in Egypt with the political activists since 2000 to date… those who turned the tables against the national principles when they accepted to receive foreign funds and commit to the agendas of those funding them overseas?

Translated into English by: Dalia Elnaggar

This article was published in Almasry alyoum newspaper on June 28, 2017.

To see the original article, go to:

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