GAMAL ABDUL NASSER has now held absolute power in Egypt for over a decade. During that time his regime has settled into a regular and recognizable-if not altogether stable-pattern. It has, moreover, developed along lines broadly similar in many of the newly created nationalist states-Ghana and Indonesia, for example-and has served as an inspiration if not actually a model, to some. And while it has proved to be neither a full- blown political nor ideological system, Nasserism can no longer be viewed-as many of Nasser’s critics, both in the Arab world and in the West, prefer to view it-as merely the particular reflection of a personal dictatorship.
What, then, is Nasserism and what are likely to be its long-range effects on Arab society? The now-certain failure of Nasser to realize his ambition for a centrally organized Eastern Arab federation under Egyptian hegemony, combined with the virtual disintegration of his hoped for “Casablanca bloc,” provide what is perhaps the most convenient point for assessing both the phenomenon and its future. For these failures of his ambitions in foreign policy are no more fortuitous than his fantastic success in consolidating his position inside Egypt. And though Western observers have usually paid more attention to the pan-Arab aspects of Nasserism than to its domestic political content, Nasser’s policies for Egypt, unlike his aims for the Arab world as a whole-which are elusive and changeable, and by no means special to him-have undergone a clear and necessary evolution and tell us a good deal about “emerging” revolutionary society.
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