The President and the Field Marshall

Civil-Military Relations in Egypt Today

by Robert Springborg
published in MER147

Husni Mubarak succeeded Anwar al-Sadat in October 1981 at a time of troubled civil-military relations. Sadat’s pursuit of a separate peace with Israel after the war in 1973 raised important questions about the military’s future role, size and sources of weapons. If Egypt was no longer at war, it would no longer need its huge military establishment. Over the following decade, the number of men under arms declined as Sadat began to convert the military into a rapid strike force that could intervene in the Horn of Africa, the Gulf or Libya.

Egypt's Infitah Bourgeoisie

by Robert Vitalis
published in MER142

A recent story illustrates the political power of the bourgeoisie in contemporary Egypt: At the beginning of 1985, the Egyptian minister of economy, Mustafa al-Sa‘id, unveiled a set of new trade and banking laws. They aimed, among other things, at imposing a greater degree of Central Bank control over the foreign exchange operations of private banks. Such controls were urgently needed by the state, which is facing acute shortages of foreign exchange and mounting financial pressures.

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Private Capital in Israel

by Joel Beinin
published in MER142

The overwhelming majority of big capitalists in Israel today emerged from a group of no more than 60,000 “veterans” of the Jewish settlement in Palestine who arrived before the creation of the state or are descendants of such veterans. Some, especially from Sephardic families who settled in Palestine without any connection to the European Zionist movement, already had prosperous businesses or land holdings in Jerusalem or Jaffa by the early twentieth century. Of the 160,000 immigrants to Palestine in the 1932-1935 period, many, especially those from Poland and Germany, brought significant amounts of capital with them. 41 million pounds, mainly in private capital, was imported into Palestine during this period.

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Turkey's Super-Rich

by Ömer Karasapan
published in MER142

Turkey’s big businessmen are getting the best press they have had for decades. Their profiles are a regular feature in a number of publications. Nokta, the country’s most popular weekly, runs a yearly feature on Turkey’s 100 richest families. Businessmen exude a new self-confidence in public and are granting journalists easy access. High-powered public relations firms have helped give this new publicity increasing sophistication. Resources abound to pay for all this favorable attention, for Turkey’s wealthiest families are very rich indeed. The Koç and Sabancı families are worth more than $1 billion each and many other families have wealth in the hundreds of millions.

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The Exile Bourgeoisie of Palestine

by Pamela Ann Smith
published in MER142

‘Umar ‘Aqqad is planning to export bottled water from Saudi Arabia. Not the kind of project you might expect in a desert kingdom where water is scarce. But then, ‘Aqqad is one of the shrewdest and most successful businessmen in the region. Not coincidentally, he is also a Palestinian. For Palestinians, stateless and living by their wits, have been among the leading capitalists of the Middle East. Their number has included Beirut’s greatest banking genius, partners in the foremost contracting firms of the Gulf, Jordan’s top banker, and several of Saudi Arabia’s leading managers and industrialists.

The New Bourgeoisie of the Gulf

by James Paul
published in MER142

A blue helicopter flies out over the harbor at Nice, landing gently on an enormous yacht of teak and mahogany, swaying gently at anchor. The passengers step out: A correspondent and photographer from the Spanish photo magazine Hola! are arriving to get a feature story on ‘Adnan Khashoggi, flamboyant Saudi millionaire, reputed to be one of the world’s richest men. Khashoggi emerges to greet them in a white suit, then shows them around his plush vessel, introduces his beautiful Italian wife and gestures to the many white telephones from which he does business all over the world. Amid the grandeur, Khashoggi admits he has recently had a few setbacks: A business deal in Salt Lake City has lost some $70 million. But overall business is prospering, he reports.

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Morocco's Bourgeoisie

Monarchy, State and Owning Class

by Jean-Francois Clement
published in MER142

From the elegant office towers of downtown Casablanca to the palatial villas on the outskirts of every major city, evidence abounds of Morocco’s owning class. The luxury cars of the bourgeoisie fill downtown streets. Nightclubs, posh restaurants and expensive boutiques flourish even in a time of national austerity. But all this should come as no surprise. Unlike many countries of the region that lay claim to “Arab socialism,” Morocco has always had an official commitment to capitalism and a clear policy of promoting capital accumulation in local hands. “Morocco has chosen the path of liberalism,” announced Finance Minister Mamoun Tahiri at a World Bank conference in the late 1960s.

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State and Capitalism in Iraq

A Comment

by Hanna Batatu
published in MER142

Isam al-Khafaji’s article is the most interesting essay on Iraq that I have read in a long time. It sheds much light on the actual workings of Saddam Hussein’s regime. From the vantage point of 1985, it appears clear that the pattern of spending of state revenues, particularly from the middle 1970s onward, has led to the strengthening of capitalism in Iraq. But can one infer from this that the social power or political weight of Iraq’s capitalists has commensurately increased? What power of leverage do these capitalists have over the state structure and to what degree do they influence the pattern of state spending? Are we witnessing the growth of an autonomous or of an essentially parasitic type of capitalism?

State Incubation of Iraqi Capitalism

by Isam al-Khafaji
published in MER142

The scene was the presidential palace in Baghdad, July 7, 1983. A campaign to solicit gold and money donations from ordinary citizens to support the Iraqi war effort had just begun. A furious Saddam Hussein was receiving a group of Iraqi contractors to convince them to increase their donations. He scolded them relentlessly, telling them the story of the literally barefoot man who had become a millionaire under “the revolution.” The 1968 Baath coup, it seems, had turned the man into a big contractor. Said Saddam:

Bush and Ayeb, Marginality and Exclusion in Egypt

by Mona Atia
published in MER265

Ray Bush and Habib Ayeb, eds. Marginality and Exclusion in Egypt (London: Zed Books, 2012).

Marginality and Exclusion in Egypt is an insightful volume addressing the various forms of inequality that plague Egyptian society, with particular focus on the poor and working classes. With few exceptions, the chapters have a strong structuralist undertone; many use a political economy approach to describe class conflict. The volume’s title notwithstanding, most chapters treat the concepts of marginality and exclusion as afterthoughts, and only a few grapple with marginality as a theory.

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