Caught between Internationalism, Transnationalism and Immigration: A Brief Account of the History of Anarchism in Egypt until 1945

By Laura Galián, Costantino Paonessa

Anarchism first appeared in the Southern Mediterranean countries at the end of the nineteenth century with the immigration of European workers and political exiles. Despite the important role anarchists played in introducing radical and revolutionary political thought in Egypt, only historians Anthony Gorman and Ilham Khuri-Makdisi have paid attention to these narratives. The main goal of this article is twofold: on one hand, to analyse the reasons for the paucity of studies related to anarchism in Egypt, and, on the other hand, to delve into the history of anarchism in Egypt before and after the First World War to contribute to the writing of the history of postcolonial Egypt. This article explores two different anarchist experiences in Egypt. The first one is related to the Italian political exiles in Egypt who developed a strong anarchist movement in the country through the construction of trade unions, educational institutions and study groups. The second experience emerged in the interwar period due to the rise of Fascism and the disillusionment with parliamentary politics through the artistic and revolutionary project of al-Fann wa al-Hurriyya (Art and Liberty Group). Our goal is to demonstrate that before the arrival of Gammal Abdel Nasser, anarchism was a potent political culture and philosophy and an existing way of doing politics in the country. Tracing this hidden history is crucial to understanding the developments of non-party politics in the history of modern Egypt.


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