Petty bourgeois

Xxxx Xxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx at
Wed May 16 18:08:17 MDT 2001

Thanks, John, for your views on the diferences between Kemalism and
Nasserism. I agree that Kemalism was more of a pragmatic response to the
decay of the Ottoman Empire. For example, Kemalists originated out of the
cadre of _Young Turks_ who were occupied with the task of  "saving the
state" (=Ottoman empire) rather than building a new nation-state. Young
Turks were restorationist, not revolutionary in the anti-imperialist sense.
When the Ottomans lost the WW1 and the rest of Turkey occupied by the
British in 1918, with the head of the state conspiring with the
imperialists,  Kemalists broke up with Young Turks and started the
nationalist struggle. Some of the Young Turks were still in the cabinet of
Sultan Vahdettin. .

I agree with most of  what you said. I am now too busy to continue, grading
100 papers. I will continue later..

bye, Xxxx

Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx
Ph.D Student
Department of Political Science
SUNY at Albany
Nelson A. Rockefeller College
135 Western Ave.; Milne 102
Albany, NY 12222

> From: jenyan1 <jenyan1 at>
> To: marxism at
> Subject: Re: Petty bourgeois
> Date: Monday, May 14, 2001 11:41 PM
> On Mon, 14 May 2001, Xxxx Xxxxxx wrote:
> >
> > You are certainly right, Nestor. I should, however, add that we
> > should find ways of _conceptualizing_ (or to
> > in methodological terms) the meaning of  "petty bourgeois" in the third
> > world context. To my memory, we discussed this issue before. The
> > nationalists that led their countries into victory against imperialism
> > not petty bourgeois in the technical sense. I don't know about the
> > origins of Nasser or Peron that much, but Kemal was a military officer,
> > whose class roots had tied to the military/bureaucratic class in the
> > Ottoman empire. If the meaning of  "petty bourgeois" corresponds to a
> > situation somewhere the between middle and working class, those folks
> > not terribly fit in that typology.
> >
> > adios, Xxxx
> >
> Xxxx,
> I realise that is a difficult question and that I was being a bit
> in my use of the term petty bourgeois. I'll try and redress this as best
> can in an explanation below.
> The choice of terminology is made more tricky by the fact that there is
> rarely a real bourgeoisie in the capitalist sense to be found in the
> periphery. Indeed one might suggest that the relative strength of the
> bourgeois class in the capitalist countries, almost by definition, gives
> good relative measure of the degree of peripheralisation.
> Second thing is that I would be cautious in drawing too many parallels
> between the Kemalists whom you say were  tied to the
> class in the Ottoman empire and the Nasserists. This for the reason that
> Kemalism grew in the centre of the decaying Ottoman empire while
> was in large part a movement that sought to liberate Egypt from the
> of foreign domination (by the Ottomans and then the British) and the
> latifundists and other domestic reactionaries who flourished under the
> tutelage of the British. Thus the Nasserist revolution could and did draw
> on a wide base of support from the Egyptian felaheen and the exploited
> oppressed generally. In fact I found the following quote attributed to
> Nasser himself:
>    "I am proud to belong to this small village of Beni Morr. And I am
>    proud to be a member of a poor family from that village. I am saying
>    these words for history that Nasser was born in a poor family and I
>    promise that he will live and die a poor man."
> Now I don't want to be caught out making the mistake of reading too much
> into biographical detail, but this quote is quite consistent with
> everything that I have previously heard about the radical-populist
> character of the Nasser regime.
> So why did I use the term petty bourgeois to characterise Nasserism?
> I guess my perception is coloured by what I know of Sub-Saharan Africa.
> Here the bourgeois in the technical sense is almost completely lacking,
> and the independence movement was generally led by a western educated
> strata who, though a product of colonialism, were apparently best
> positioned at the time to mobilise the masses (here we mean the
> against colonial domination. Now it is clearly absurd to call this strata
> bourgeois, since has never owned any capital to speak of. They did and
> still do come from the the small and medium sized traders and merchants,
> the professions, the bureaucracy and the military, but at the same time
> retain strong ties to the peasant classes from whence they emerged
> relatively recently, over the last 50-100 years or so.
> So, if I might be so bold as to draw parallels between Egypt and
> Sub-Saharan Africa, I would argue that while both Nasserism and the
> revolutions in the Nkrumist mould, drew on a large base of support from
> the masses, they were led neither by the masses or the bourgeoisie, but
> intermediate hybrid class that had recently emerged from peasant roots
> grew in the interstices of colonialism.
> I would also add that through their ideological confusion and no small
> amount of opportunism, the Nassers and Nkrumahs of this world, for all
> their achievements in the fight against imperialism and the domestic
> reactionaries, frittered away and, in the final analysis squandered the
> support of the masses. This is the difficult hand history has dealt us
> Nestor.
> So Xxxx, I'm not satisfied with the unqualified use of the catch all
> term "petit bourgeois" to describe the class character of third world
> nationalist movements like Nasserism. But in the absence of a more
> accurate term I'd be prepared to forgive its continued use.
> Regards,
> John Enyang

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