A Comparison of the Revolutionary Methods of Kamel and Nasser

The ideology of a revolution has historically followed with an idealistic sense of the overthrow of oppression, the disruption of a despotic regime and fulfilling the sentiment of the people. Whether it is Marx’s ideas on the rise of the proletariat or the American Revolution with its pillars of liberty and independence this mentality of popular uprising has always run in tandem with the mainstream concept of revolution. A revolution, or even the ideas which drive one, are never as archetypical as history surmise. Many revolutionary movements have occurred in the recent history or Egypt, with the rise of Muhammad Ali Pasha to Nasser’s officers revolution to the Arab spring uprisings in Tahrir, all of which have brought with them a piece of the ideological rise of the people however their messages and impetus have been strikingly varied. This variance of rationale has allowed for many arguments to emerge, from both the thinkers and the actors of these movements, on the nature of the revolution and what makes it necessary to come about. Hannah Arendt provides a blueprint for revolutionary movements dividing the movements into either political reforms looking to change the nature of the regime or social reforms looking to change the balance of power within society. Gamal Abdel Nasser and Mustafa Kamel Pasha both provide arguments towards the implementation of their revolutionary movements however they do so with contrasting views on the nature of the revolution and as such provide insight into the ideology of their movements and the precident they placed on both the social and political facets. Both men centered their revolutionary movements on the ouster of the western influenced leaders in power during their time playing on the nationalism of Egyptian rule by Egyptians. However, the tow views contrast on the means of their revolutions as Nasser argues for the necessity of the military in seizing power while Kamel instead focused on the non-violent push to gain rights. Nasser demonstrates an active movement of the taking of freedom which had been previously denied while Kamel instead sought to earn liberty through the mechanisms of the current rule of European influence.

NasserWhile Nasser demonstrates that the movement of the military provided the impetus for the political revolution in Egypt; Kamel, on the other hand, sought to create a social movement to foster the revolution, attempting to enliven the apathetic and oppressed masses of the Egyptian people. Nasser argues that the rise of the military provided the political upheaval that is necessary for the instigation of a revolution and in doing so portrays the military as the vanguard of change in the movement of the Egyptian revolution. To Nasser the political movement of the military overthrow was to in turn open the movement to the rise of the people and allow for social change on their part. In contrast Mustafa Kamel sought to drive the revolution through the invigoration of the apathetic Egyptian masses. Kamel pushed for the rise of a social movement to counter the oppression of the English ruling elite and in doing so he hoped to create the forum through which Egypt could seek its independent rule by a necessitating it through the new social structure. Both revolutionary leaders demonstrate that the duality of the revolutionary movements however in doing so they pursue them in differing order believing that one may bring about the other.

The two revolutionaries also differ on their connections and the driving cause for their nationalist movements with Nasser driving towards the connection to the historical nature of Egyptian oppression while Kamel connects to the uniting ideal of Islam as well as the nationalist leader of the Khedive. Nasser’s “philosophy of the revolution” weighs strongly on the history of Egypt’s oppression harkening back as far as the era of the pharaohs to times when Egypt was ruled by non-Egyptians. Nasser’s argument here is rooted in the unifying ideal of Egypt being ruled by native Egyptians and the emergence of a truly Egyptian state which has been missing since the time of the pyramids. Kamel in turn attempts to unite the Egyptians through a response to the oppression of the English. His movement sought less to infuse a sense of unity or national pride but instead strove to create unrest at the actions of the Egyptian occupation, uniting against a common enemy as opposed to in pursuit of a common ideal.

Finally the two revolutionaries differed drastically on their ideological perspectives on the use of Islam as a uniting force of the revolutionary movements. Kamel attempted to generate support for Islam as a counter to the English regime. He harkened to Sufi mysticism in his speeches while also supporting the moves of the Turkish sultan as the Caliph of Islam, a political tactic focused on garnering a unified sense of rebellion by the Muslim Egyptians. In contrast Nasser turns from the political power of the Muslim Brotherhood, at times going as far as to force them into hiding and imprison them. These contrasting movements demonstrate the final contrast of the two revolutionaries and also touches on the inherent differences in their movements, while Kemal sought to create a realm of liberty in which the people united to garner new respect and rights from the existing regimes Nasser instead chose to pursue a path of enacting new freedoms through his revolution arguing that the actions of the military were done so in an effort to bolster the rise of the lower classes into social reform.

Whether either of these revolutionaries truly strove for their goals is debatable at best and whether they reached them is impossible to confirm. However the inherent differences seen between the two men demonstrate a contrasting ideology rooted in the duality of revolution that Ahrendt lays out and in the pursuance of both social and political change they followed different paths and resulted in very different outcomes.





al-Sayyid-Marsot, Afaf Lufi. Egypt and Cromer: a study in Anglo-Egyptian relations. New York: Praeger; First American Edition edition, 1968.

Arendt, Hannah. On Revolution. New York: Penguin Books, 1990.

Nasser, Gamal Abdel. The Philosophy of the Revolution, Book 1. Cairo: Dar al-Maraf, 1955.