Middle East Diary

Tory Nationalisation
Nationalisation—that is the state control and regulation of industry on behalf of the Capitalist owners—has, as our pamphlet “Nationalisation Or Socialism” shows, been advocated or put into practice by most political parties. Of recent years, it has become the almost exclusive prerogative of Labour and Communist parties. (Since the recent election defeats, however, the British Labour Party have soft pedaled it, as it is not the vote-catcher it used to be, some workers presumably realising that nationalisation doesn’t solve their problems). So that when one hears of a Conservative Party putting forward such measures, one feels the wheel has swung full circle!

One of the most recent and rather curious examples to appear on the nationalisation scene, is the Israeli General Zionist (Conservative) Party. They want to nationalise the various Israeli water-schemes, the Health Service and the Labour Exchanges.

Strangely enough the Mapai (Labour) Party, who have been in power since 1948 are bitterly opposed. Through their domination of the Jewish Agency and the Histadrut (roughly analagous to the T.U.C. but also owning and controlling the major part of Israel’s industry) the Mapai control most of Israel’s economy and are extremely loth to give up their political plums!

The General Zionists, on the other hand, want nationalisation measures to break the Mapai Party’s hold on the state machine, all of which we can well understand, sectional struggles amongst the Capitalist class being a regular feature of Capitalism. The tragedy is that Israeli workers take sides in this struggle between these parties, (both of whom are only interested in perpetuating Capitalism) instead of organising for Socialism.

Two Classes in Israeli Society
In March of last year the Jewish Observer and Middle East Review (25.3.55) informed its readers that

   “Israel has become divided into two nations . . .  an upper crust and a lower layer. The privileged crust is composed of a variety of substantial and mixed elements who enjoy a privileged position in the country. They are made up by the plutocracy of some three hundred families, by the Government ‘aristocracy’ which includes a wide range of officialdom, the Histadrutocracy with its manifold operations, the business pressure groups entrenched in the upper reaches of the General Zionists, the old Kibbutzim, such workers’ organisations as the Dan and Egged Bus Co-operatives, the upper reaches of such institutions as the Jewish Agency and of the main political parties—Mapai, the General Zionists . . . ”
The four per cent.: These are the people in the swim. They can get things—flats, cars, trips abroad, the comforts and conveniences of life, or the profits of business, or the positions of power, according to the category to which they belong. . . .
“Newcomers since 1948 comprise 60 per cent. of the population and occupy one per cent. of all Government posts and virtually none in the high grades.’’


The article goes on to point out that the personal consumption budgets of the above mentioned 300 families is “around £50,000 per year per family at a time when the income of the highest official is less than a tenth of this amount.”


All of which was pointed out by the Socialist Party of Great Britain years ago and only goes to prove our contention, that national struggles—whether of the Zionist (Jewish Home) category or otherwise, are not in the interest of the working-class.


“Socialist” Egypt


On Monday, the 16th of January, Mr. Nasser, the Egyptian Premier, announced Egypt’s new constitution. The constitution, according to Nasser, provides for the establishment of a “Socialist democratic system of government,” (Jewish Observer and Middle East Review, 20.1.56. All quotations in this article are from the above dated journal).


With this announcement we see yet another ruling group ushering in Capitalism under the name of Socialism.


The idea of introducing Socialism in Egypt is even more ludicrous than the idea was in Russia in 1917. For (apart from the fact that Socialism must be world-wide) Egypt, like Russia in 1917, is still largely feudal in character, with an agrarian economy—very little industry and an illiterate peasantry and a landowning class, but not the vast resources, mineral and other, that Russia had. This is certainly not the sort of soil in which one would expect to sow successfully the seeds of Socialism—let alone establish it.


Nasser and his Liberation Rally have their historical counterparts in Cromwell and the Roundheads, and of course the Moslem Brotherhood (which supports them) is not unlike the Puritanical sects that backed up Cromwell initially. In his speech. Nasser said that “Capitalism shall not be allowed to control the Government” but one can take that with a pinch of salt, for Nasser and his confederates, like Cromwell and his gang before them, arc acting as the handmaiden of Egyptian Capitalism.


The legislation (decreed by them) on land reform to limit the power of the Landlords; the dethroning of Farouk and declaration of Egypt as a Republic; have all been part of the process. The announcement of this constitution and the ideas contained within it are a continuation of that ineluctible process which is establishing Capitalism in Egypt. The constitution in line with Capitalist ideology declares the “sanctity of private property,” but “limits land ownership . . . ” “Private economic activity,” that is the right to rob (exploit) wage labour, “is free from state interference providing it does not prejudice public interests, endanger the people’s security or infringe upon their freedom and dignity.” All of which must give any Socialist a big laugh, for who can imagine a wage slavery-capital set-up where the wage slaves are free and dignified. Obviously it is a contradiction in terms; people who have to prostitute their mental and physical capabilities in order to get a wage or salary so that they can live, are not free, except to starve. They are dependent on the Capitalist, and those who are dependent in that sense are certainly not dignified.


The constitution apparently has many of the Labour, Communist, nostrums, such as equality of opportunity (whatever that may be), abolition of social distinctions and social justice, none of which mean anything to a worker under Capitalism. Also provided for are social insurance, public health services and free compulsory education, the last measure of course, being a truly Capitalist “must,” for how can one have an efficient Capitalist State without a literate working-class?



Jon Keys