Wednesday, 14 June 2017

National economy in the middle of conflict

It is only a coincidence that the advertisement saying “Talaat Harb is coming back” is broadcasted in the same time of writing those lines about the same man… that man who became like many other examples in the history of our country… those whose life circumstances and details turned them from mere individuals into legends occupying the collective memory throughout consecutive historical eras.

Two weeks ago, I wrote an article that contained an introduction including details about the book “Challenging colonization: Bank Misr and Egyptian industrialization 1920 – 1941” authored by Eric Davis, translated by Hesham Soliman Abdel-Ghaffar, revised and introduced by the honorable scientist Dr. Ibrahim Fawzi; professor in Cairo University, ex-minister of industry and one of the most distinguished Egyptian minds concerned in the good scientific establishment of the coming generations.

First, I apologize to the reader for the insufficient space of the article that may be not enough to present an analytical review for what came in the book… this book is a doctorate thesis presented at Chicago University… and in my opinion, this study – just like other serious studies in the Egyptian socio-economic history – is a scientific reference that includes a distinguished analysis for the Egyptian socio-economic development and its connection to the political aspects in the first half of the twentieth century.

Here, I would like to hint quickly at the role of the department of history at the faculty of arts in Ain Shams University and the scientific seminar used to be headed by our great mentor; the late Dr. Ahmed Ezzat Abdel-Karim along with our distinguished late professor Dr. Ahmed Abdel-Rahim Mustafa in encouraging a group of researchers in the master’s and doctorate stages to tackle the socio-economic history and break the monopoly of research over political history which was regarded as the backbone of the historical studies… it also makes one feel proud when we find citations in Eric Davis’ sources and references to researches of professor Dr. Assem ad-Dessouqi; the Egyptian historian who had his PhD thesis over prominent owners of agricultural land.

Now we are about to ask a recurring question: does history repeat itself?... do its events repeat again so that one can easily say that “Talaat Harb is coming back” or that a certain era of time is recurring?... the answer to this is very simple… the past does not come back… living nations do not reproduce what have already been done in their historical eras… but what really happens or should happen is that those eras must be scientifically detected and analyzed… we should also make morals of the lessons learnt from those eras… we must make use of the accumulation of positive things that took place in those eras and not repeat the same mistakes and negative things that happened at those times too.

The most important thing one can pick from a study like this one we are talking about is what I can call the manifestations of the political-socio-economic phenomenon and what connects to it of political aspects and struggles among then-existing powers… those powers – at the time period researched by the study from 1920 to 1941 – are social classes like prominent owners of agricultural land, big merchants and groups of what is called national bourgeoisie; high, middle and low… and also like political parties; atop of them at that time was al-Wafd party, al-Omma party… then al-Ahrar ad-Dostorieen party, national or al-Watani party, ash-Sha’ab party… and standing against all those was the British occupation.

The researcher detected a backbone that connected all those developments; that is the controversial relationship between Egyptian national capital and foreign capital… and how the reality imposed by the latter; meaning foreign capital represented in banks, companies and socio-economic influence and consequently political, was the thing that contributed to creating the hope of an Egyptian national capital that started to grow to go into a clear conflict against the foreign hegemony.

The main foundation for this was what was happening in the field of agricultural land and agricultural reclamation… here, the researcher’s ability in the field of socio-economic history becomes apparent in detecting the backgrounds and introductions that reached a critical limit… the thing that prompted national powers and figures represented in some big owners of agricultural lands, some of certain families and districts like families of ash-Shirie’i, Abdel-Razeq, Khalifa Marzouq, Ahmed Ismail, at-Taweel, al-Wakeel, al-Khatieb, al-Gazzar, ash-Sha’rawi, Lamloum, Dos and al-Basel to contribute to this national capital… and so one finds in the list of those who contributed to the establishment of Bank Misr names like Swares, Rolo, Sarofeem, Mina Ebied, Salib Bey Mankariyos!

Eric Davis shortens the signs of the start when the conflict set off in lines saying: “Egypt’s incorporation in the international market during the eighteenth century was the start of important transformations in the Egyptian social structure… also the foreign capital working in Egypt increased heavily during the nineteenth century along with the change in the Egyptian economy towards trading due to the expansion in agriculture of long-staple cotton… also the economic confusion resulted from Muhammed Ali’ policies in the economic field… adding to this the need to develop the infra-structure of Egypt… all this resulted in a huge public debts…”

“This financial crisis resulted in a change in the economic and political balance of powers for the benefit of a new class formed from dignitaries of the countryside on the expense of the ruling class of Turks and Circassians… cotton agriculture represented the common ground as to the interests… the thing that paved the way for the awareness development of those dignitaries that they belong to this class… also, the common challenges that faced them like heavy taxes, their migration to urban centres, their growing participation in the national policies and the incorporation of increasing numbers of Egyptians in the government bureaucratic administration and armed forces… all these factors augmented that feeling”… we shall continue later.

Translated into English by: Dalia Elnaggar

This article was published in Almasry alyoum newspaper on June 14, 2017.

To see the original article, go to:

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