Suez: Britain’s Illegal 1956 War Against Egypt

A Very British Crisis

BBC (2006)

Film Review

In 1956 Britain, France and Israel launched an illegal war of aggression against Egypt after President Gamal Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal. As in the more recent US invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, UK Prime Minister Anthony Eden’s real goal was regime change – the removal of Nasser as president. Eden, like Bush and Obama believed the local population would welcome the foreign invasion – that they would use it to rise up and topple their leader.

The humiliation Britain faced over the Suez Crisis would spell the end of their role as the world’s foremost super power.

Part 1 covers Egypt’s war of independence, which began as a mass popular uprising against British military occupation. In 1952, a secret group of Egyptian military officers, led by Nasser, took advantage of the civil unrest to topple King Farouk, establish a revolutionary council and demand the withdrawal of British troops. When Britain and the US tried to isolate Nassar by blocking a World Bank loan for Egypt’s Aswan Dam, Nasser responded by nationalizing the Suez Canal Company (jointly owned by Britain and France). His intention was to use canal profits to pay for the dam.

Part 2 concerns the secret conspiracy hatched by Britain, France and and Israel to invade Egypt, reclaim the Suez Canal and remove Nasser from power.

Part 3 covers the brutal invasion and the armed civilian resistance that fought back against the invaders. It also reveals the humiliating circumstances that forced Britain to withdraw their troops before they ever reached the canal. Because both France and Britain hold vetoes on the UN Security Council, Eisenhower used economic warfare to force Britain to agree to a ceasefire. A coordinated attack on the British pound by Wall Street banks* forced Eden to request Eisenhower’s support for an IMF loan. The latter demanded an immediate ceasefire as a condition of the loan.


*The filmmakers are a bit fuzzy about the coordinated sell-off of the British pound that caused its value to plummet. Based on what Willim Engdahl has written about US economic warfare (see How the US Uses War to Protect the Dollar), I suspect it was instigated by the Economy Warfare division of US Treasury.

How to Have a Revolution

Wretched of the Earth

by Frantz Fanon (1961)

Free PDF:Wretched of the Earth

Book Review

Wretched of the Earth is a sociopolitical analysis of how revolution happens, based on the author’s personal experience in Algeria and his study of nationalist revolutions in sub-Saharan Africa, Vietnam, Latin America and Cuba.

Many Marxist scholars consider Fanon’s work to be the first major expansion of Marxist theory after Lenin. His primary contribution is to delineate the potential revolutionary forces of third world countries. His chief disagreement with Marx concerns the revolutionary potential of the lumpenproletariat, the urban beggars, petty criminals, prostitutes and gang members who lack access to formal work. According to Fanon, the lumpenproletariat make up the majority of the population in third world countries (and increasingly, in 2017, the industrialized world)  thanks to first world colonizers who have driven them off their land.

Marx believed the lumpenproletariat were incapable of achieving class consciousness and thus of no use in the revolutionary struggle. In contrast, Fanon feels they help to instigate revolution owing to their high proportion of young people and their belief they had nothing to lose.

Unlike Marx, Fanon believes third world revolutionary struggles must originate with rural peasants (like the Chiapas uprising in Mexico), that city dwellers are too “colonized,” ie too invested in existing political and economic structures to want to dismantle them.

Wretched of the Earth also describes the phenomenon of economic colonialism, as manifested in Latin America (and later South Africa). In these cases, a country achieves political independence but continues to be economically (and militarily) oppressed by first world multinational corporations.

Fanon makes a number of recommendations for preventing this, including

  1. immediate nationalization and decentralization (via the creation of wholesale and retail cooperatives) of the economy
  2. mass political education aimed at enabling the masses to govern themselves,
  3. rapid economic restructuring aimed at developing soil and other natural resources for national use (as opposed to first world benefit),
  4. land reform to stem the migration of peasants to the city,
  5. guarding against feudal traditions that view men as superior to women, and
  6. avoiding the trap of political parties.

Frantz Fanon was born in 1925 of mixed heritage in Martinique. He fought with the French resistance during World War II and received a scholarship to study medicine and psychiatry in France. In 1953, he was offered a hospital position in Algeria, where he joined the Algerian National Liberation Front. He died of leukemia in 1961, shortly after the publication of Wretched of the Earth.