Arab Socialist Union (Egypt)

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This article refers to the ASU in Egypt. For sister parties in other Arab states, see Arab Socialist Union (disambiguation)
Arab Socialist Union
الاتحاد الاشتراكى العربى
Founder Gamal Abdel Nasser
First leader Gamal Abdel Nasser
Last leader Anwar Sadat
Founded 1962 (1962)
Dissolved 1978 (1978)
Succeeded by National Democratic Party
Headquarters Cairo, Egypt
Ideology Arab nationalism
Arab socialism
Religion Secularism
Politics of Egypt
Political parties
The Executive Committee of the ASU at a party conference, March 1969. From right to left: Diaa al-Din Dawoud, Mahmoud Fawzi, Hussein el-Shafei, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat, Ali Sabri and Labib Shukair

The Arab Socialist Union (Arabic: الاتحاد الاشتراكى العربىal-Ittiḥād al-Ištirākī al-ʿArabī) was an Egyptian political party based on the principles of Nasserist Arab socialism.[1]


The Arab Socialist Union was founded in Egypt in December 1962 by Gamal Abdel Nasser as the country's sole political party. The ASU grew out of the Free Officers Movement of the Egyptian Revolution of 1952. The party's formation was just one part in Nasser's National Charter. The Charter set out an agenda of nationalisation, agrarian reform, and constitutional reform, which formed the basis of ASU policy. The programme of nationalisation under Nasser saw seven billion Egyptian pounds of private assets transferred into the public sector. Banks, insurance companies, many large shipping companies, major heavy industries and major basic industries were converted to public control. Land reforms saw the maximum area of private land ownership successively reduced from 200 to 100 feddans. A 90% top rate of income tax was levied on income over ten thousand Egyptian pounds. Boards of directors were required to have a minimum number of workers, and workers and peasants were guaranteed at least half of the seats in the People's Assembly. The Charter also saw a strong assertion of Arab nationalism, within the context of historical Egyptian nationalism.[1]

Post-Nasser period[edit]

After Nasser's death in 1970, Anwar Sadat quickly moved away from his radical socialist position. This was demonstrated clearly in 1974, with Sadat's Infitah, or Open Door, economic policy, which allowed the emergence of a modern entrepreneurial and consumerist society. Then, in 1976, the beginning of political pluralism allowed three political platforms — left, centre and right — to form within the Arab Socialist Union. In 1978, the platforms were allowed to become fully independent political parties, and the ASU was disbanded. Many of today's political parties in Egypt have their origin in the breakup of the ASU.

The Arab Socialist Union goals at that point reflected the following:

  • There should be state control over the national economy and the public sector should establish institutions to undertake the development process.
  • Arab nationalism and pan-Arabism should be pursued.
  • Class struggle is not required for Arab socialism.
  • The state should be answerable to the people and run as a democracy.
  • Commitment to religion and freedom of faith and worship are essential.


Following the 1967 War and massive demonstrations in February and October 1969, Egypt was in a state of political turmoil, leading to raising calls for granting citizens more democratic rights and demanding self-expression for political affiliations.

Following assuming office in 1970, late president Anwar Sadat adopted the slogans of rule of law and the institutional state. In August 1974, Sadat put forward a working paper to revamp the Arab Socialist Union. In July 1975, the Arab Socialist Union's general conference adopted a resolution on establishing political forums within the union for expression of opinion in accordance with basic principles of the Egyptian Revolution. In March 1976, president Sadat issued a decree allowing three forums to represent the right wing (the Liberal Socialist Organization), the center wing (Egypt Arab Socialist Organization) and the left wing (the National Progressive Unionist Organization).

These forums were later transformed into parties, forming today's Egyptian major political parties. During the first meeting of the People's Assembly on November 22, 1976, president Sadat declared the three political organizations turned into parties.

In June 1977, the law of political party was enacted, allowed the existence of several political parties and demonstrated the shift to a multi-party system. However the ratification of this law had not meant cancellation of the Arab Socialist Union, rather it had given the Union more powers to allow party formation.

The centre wing of the ASU evolved into the National Democratic Party, which was the nation's dominant (and de facto only) party until the 2011 Egyptian revolution. The left wing became the National Progressive Unionist Party, which remains a player on the Left of Egyptian political spectrum, while the right wing became the Liberal Socialists Party which survives as a less significant player on the scene.

See also[edit]