Gamal Abdel Nasser: Biography, Political Thought And Contributions

Gamal Abdel Nasser  (1918-1970), also written as Yamal Abd Al Nasir, was the greatest Egyptian political leader and strategist of the 20th century. He promoted the independence and dignity of the Egyptian people and in turn raised the voice in defense of the Arab countries against British imperialism.

His thoughts and actions are a mandatory reference and object of study for leaders from all over the world. The study of their actions and ideals raise the flags of the sovereignty of the peoples and the union of the exploited countries against the oppressive imperial powers.

He was an ideologist and founder of the Non-Aligned Movement and promoter of the so-called Arab Socialism, known in his honor under the name of “Nasserism”.

Biography

Yamal Abd Al Nasir was born on January 15, 1918 in the populous Bakos neighborhood of Alexandria. This city, founded by Alexander the Great, had a luminous past for being considered the cultural capital of the ancient world. Its present places it as the second largest city in Egypt and the cradle of notable men and women.

His mother was Fahima Nasser Hussein (a native of Mallawi- El Miynya) and his father Abdel Nasser Hussein (born in Bani Murr-Asiut). They got married in 1917.

Later his two brothers Izz al-Arab and later al-Leithi were born. Giving birth to the latter, her mother died in 1926, an event that deeply affected her.

Because his father had the post of post office, he had to move on several occasions, first to Asyut (1923) and later to Khatatba. His maternal uncle gave him accommodation in the capital (Cairo) so that he could attend primary school in Nahhassin.

By this time, the boy Gamal Abder maintained a very close relationship with his mother, to whom he wrote very frequently since he felt a true and great affection for her. His death represented a severe blow to what would be the future leader of the Arab world. His father, a widower, with two small children and a newborn, was remarried.

At age 10, orphaned by a mother, he was left in the care of his maternal grandfather, who lived in Alexandria and continued his primary studies there. Then he started high school in Ras El Tin and at the same time supported his father in his postal work.

First political actions

As a teenager and impulsive, he witnessed a clash in Manshia Square between militants of the Youth Society and the police forces of the Egyptian monarchy. 

Gamal Nasser got involved by siding with his contemporaries, but ignoring the motivation that pushed them to protest: the end of the colonialist regime in Egypt. He fell prisoner for the first time, although his father managed to rescue him.

In 1933, his father was transferred to Cairo, the capital of Egypt and with him was Gamal, now a 15-year-old boy. He continued his studies, this time in Masria (Al Nahda). At this time his humanistic leanings flourished.

He also had an approach with the world of theater in his educational institution and even wrote some articles for the school newspaper. One of the writings was dedicated to the philosopher Voltaire and his libertarian ideas.

Nasser’s political future was looming when he was 17 years old and led an anti-British youth protest. Nasser received a head injury from the police forces and was described by his first and last name in a story published in the national press through the newspaper Al Gihad.

The political activism that Gamal Nasser maintained in his last year of high school was notorious. It was recorded that his attendance at classes was only one month and 15 days.

Ideological formation

The young Gamal was a regular reader in his spare time. Living near the National Library of his country motivated him to read. He was fond of the biographies of great leaders who fought to vindicate their countries.

He also admired authors who promoted nationalism, such as Mustafa Kamel, Ahmed shawqi, and Tawfik Al Hakimde. The latter was the author of Return of the Spirit, a work that inspired him to carry out the Revolution in 1952, as declared by Nasser himself.

Being of humble origin and moving frequently, he was able to witness very closely the enormous and unjust social differences that prevailed in his environment. The feeling of love for his country and desire to liberate it took hold in his soul since his adolescence.

These ideals never left him until he gave his last breath in the exercise of the presidency of the Republic of Egypt.

As a 19-year-old young adult, he clearly understood the need to enter a military career to initiate the transformations of his country. That is why he applied as a candidate at the Military Academy.

However, his unruly record in defense of causes adverse to the system and his multiple incursions into prison for political reasons, generated his repudiation in the institution.

University studies

Faced with this situation, he enrolled in the law school of King Fuad University. There he studied for a year, after which he returned to insist on the military academy.

This time he was sponsored by Khairy Pasha, who was a secretary of war and a member of the Academic Selection Board. He was the one who took steps that paved the way and led to its acceptance in 1937.

They were years of intense learning that further stoked the libertarian fire within him as he deepened his knowledge of the life and work of great military leaders and universal heroes.

He graduated in 1938 and already by then he had a group of colleagues who recognized his natural leadership. Since then, they have adhered to their cause.

Marriage

In 1944, Nasser married Tahia Kazem and they had five children: two daughters and three boys.

First war experience

In 1948 he participated in his first war experience in the Arab-Israeli confrontation. Nasser was directed in the 6th infantry battalion and acted as deputy commander in Fallujah, which through negotiations was ceded to Israel.

During his stay in the region he and his group were regarded as heroes. They withstood the ordeal of the bombing in isolation. It was precisely during this critical experience that he began to work on his book Philosophy of the Revolution.

Post-war Nasserism thought

After the war, Nasser returned to perform duties as an instructor at the Academy. At the same time, the group of insurgent officers and opponents of the pro-imperialist Egyptian monarchy was gestating, which it later baptized as the Movement of Free Officers.

The purpose of this movement was the restoration of dignity to Egypt and the consolidation of its sovereignty as a nation. Nasser chaired this group.

In 1952 the circumstances were causing a revolt. Thus it was that on July 22, the Free Officers Movement gave a coup to King Farouk. Then the beginning of the Egyptian Revolution was marked, so the monarchical regime was abolished in 1953.

General Muhammab Naguib was declared as president, as Nasser was only Lieutenant Colonel and considered his rank too low to hold such a position. But in this way, he was serving as vice president.

However, the undisputed leadership belonged to Nasser, so in 1954 and under pressure from Nasser, Naguib resigned and was placed under a house-for-prison regime. Nagib tried to move his supporters to retake power but the attempt was unsuccessful in the face of Nasser’s clever tactics.

Dissident forces opposed to Nasser, self-styled the Muslim brotherhood, carried out an attack on October 26, 1954. The leader, unharmed and keeping calm, took advantage of the incident to further catapult his popularity among the masses.

Leadership consolidation

Nasser gripped and tightly controlled his adversaries, establishing himself as the undisputed leader of Egypt. His nationalist ideals and vindication of the Egyptian people led him to devise the project to establish the Aswan dam, on the Nile River. This project was done with the purpose of achieving two objectives.

The first is to control its floods to avoid the loss of crops. The second generate electricity to supply the population.

He then requested international support for this project. However, not finding support, he made a radical decision: the nationalization of the Suez Canal, in order to generate resources for the construction of the dam and other infrastructure in his country.

This earned him threats and attacks from the British government and the French government, both powers with actions in the structure. Nasser argued that the canal belonged to Egypt, first because it was on Egyptian soil and secondly because it was built by the labor of the Egyptian peasantry, in which more than 120 thousand fellahs died.

This action catalyzed his popularity not only in his country but also among the countries of the then called third world.

Death

Gamal Abdel Nasser died in 1970 of a heart attack, deeply affected by his defeat in the face of the war with Israel.

Political thought

Nasser was the creator and fervent promoter of the so-called Arab socialism. Its purpose was the recovery of the post-colonial Arab nations that had to unite in a block called pan-Arabism, to fight the imperial countries.

His particularity was to combine traditional socialist postulates with the religious and cultural influence of the Muslim doctrines established in his holy book, The Koran. The influence of his thought spread like a shock wave in all Arab countries.

Its postulates advocated social equality and the search for an alternative path to capitalism and extreme non-religious socialism. This current was a transcendent option through which the Arab peoples found a spokesperson.

This leader unified his concerns and his desires for liberation and autonomy that were gestated during hundreds of years of being subdued by the Ottoman and European empires. During the rise of Egyptian socialism, the issue of women’s rights was brought to the fore.

Also, important demands were reached, such as obtaining the female vote in 1954. Unfortunately, after what was achieved, it has been blurred.

Decline of Nasserism

The so-called Six-Day War against Israel, initiated the decline of Nasserism. The Egyptian army was completely demoralized after the massive destruction of its air fleet.

Nasser made the attempt to realize the Arab union, joining Syria in the so-called United Arab Republic (RAU), but this experiment did not prosper. He was close to the USSR, a nation that offered him support and defense on several occasions against the giants of the time: Great Britain, France and the initial American power.

But then this relationship weakened and this also contributed to the fading of Arab socialism in the region.

It evidenced Israel’s pro-imperialist and expansionist intentions by being a counterpart in the so-called Six-Day War (1967), a military confrontation in which it was defeated.

In this conflict, it was evident that Israel was organized with a powerful espionage apparatus (Mosab) and US military and financial backing that contributed enormously to its victory.

Contributions

During his tenure, Nasser made numerous advances for his people. Among them is the Agrarian Reform of 1952, the nationalization of the main industries of the nation, as well as the banking.

In 1955 he founded the Non-Aligned Movement. He was a born communicator who used the media such as radio to spread his message. His program “The voice of the Arabs” was the generator of multiple riots in the countries where it was broadcast.

Nasser was the inspirer of numerous leaders who were close to his ideals. He even met personally with them. Such was the case of Ernesto Ché Guevara, leader of the Cuban revolution.

In the same way, in our days, this military man and politician served as a guide for new leaderships of the 21st century. Thus, in latitudes as distant as Latin America, his thinking was also praised and admired.

Nasser became one of the benchmarks of universal fighters in the face of imperial outrages. This was expressed by leaders such as the President of Venezuela Hugo Chávez, who on more than one occasion confessed himself a follower of Nasserian thought.

References

  1. Maestre, E. (2011) The Unfinished Revolution and Gamal Abdel Nasser’s thesis. Albatv. Recovered at: albatv.org
  2. Ocaña, J (2003) Gamal Abdel Nasser. Historiasiglo20.com. Recovered in: historiesiglo20.org
  3. Halim, A (2016). Philosophy, modernity and revolution in Egypt. Recovered in: diversitycultural.net
  4. Velandia, C (2016). Nasser’s Nationalist project in Egypt: an attempt at National unity. Recovered at: repository.javeriana.edu.co
  5. (2018) The Famous People. Recovered at: thefamouspeople.com

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