Nasser and Arab Socialism

Nasser and Arab Socialism

Nasser concentrated on implementing his doctrine of Arab socialism internally, especially after the break with Syria. The National Charter, essentially drawn up by Nasser, was promulgated in 1962. It established the basis of authority for the new constitution that was to follow. It showed a change in orientation from the nationalist goals of the original revolution and emphasized that Egypt was an Arab nation based on Islamic principles. In addition, the Arab Socialist Union (ASU) was created to be the sole political party and a means of gathering the support of the masses.

In July on the ninth anniversary of the 1952 coup, Nasser announced a list of nationalizations that cut more deeply into the private sector than had occurred in any country outside of Eastern Europe. The decrees nationalized all private banks, all insurance companies, and fifty shipping companies and firms in heavy and basic industries. Eighty-three companies were obliged to sell 50 percent or more of their shares to public agencies. A second agrarian reform law lowered the limit for an individual owner from 200 to 100 feddans. The nationalization program continued in successive waves through 1962 and 1963 and involved shipping companies, cotton-ginning factories, cotton-exporting companies, pharmaceutical producers, ocean and river transport companies, trucking companies, glass factories, and the largest book-publishing company in Egypt. Between 1952 and 1966, ŁE7 billion in shared and public assets were transferred to public ownership.

The decrees also included legislation such as taxing gross incomes over ŁE5,000 at the rate of 90 percent, limiting base salaries of public sector directors to ŁE5,000, and limiting membership on all boards of directors to seven persons, two of whom must be workers. All joint-stock companies were required to place 5 percent of all profits in government bonds and to allot 10 percent to workers in cash and 15 percent to worker housing and community infrastructure. The work week was reduced to fortytwo hours, and the minimum wage was raised. Half of all seats in Parliament and on all elective bodies and worker-management boards were reserved for peasants and workers.

Elections were held in March 1964 for a new National Assembly from a list of candidates drawn up by the ASU. Immediately after the election, Nasser released a draft constitution that functioned until 1971. The constitution was based on the National Charter and emphasized freedom, socialism, and unity.

The position of some minority groups changed during this period. Most Jews left Egypt, the last large group being several thousand who did not have Egyptian citizenship and who were expelled during the Suez crisis. The Greek community also decreased considerably because many Greeks who did not like socialism returned to Greece.

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