Tali`a al-`Ummal Collection

Biographical / Historical Note

طليعة العمال Ṭalīʻat al-ʿUmmāl (The Workers' Vanguard) was founded in 1945 in Cairo as one of the communist organizations that came about in Egypt at the end of the Second World War; one of its founders was Raymond Duwayk.

The name Ṭalīʻat al-ʿUmmāl (The Workers' Vanguard) was only adopted at the beginning of the 1950s. In the early 1940s it was called the ‘Organization' (al-Munaẓẓamah) by its own members. In September 1946 the group temporarily adopted the name of al-Ṭalīʻah al-al-Shaʻbīyah lil-taḥarrur (الطليعة الشعبية للتحرر, Popular Vanguard for Liberation). In this period, it numbered twenty-five to thirty members. In the years 1945 and 1946 the group was also known by the name of its most important publication al-Fajr al-Jadīd (الفجر الجديد, The New Dawn). With the merger with another communist faction in 1949 it adopted the name of al-Dīmuqrāṭīyah al-Shaʻbīyah (الديمقراطية الشعبية, Popular Democracy), while it changed its name to Hizb al-‘Ummāl wa-al-Fallāḥīn al-Shuyūʻī al-Miṣrī (الحزب العمال والفلاحين الشيوعي المصري, The Egyptian Communist Party of Workers and Peasants) in 1957, before merging with the Communist Party of Egypt in November 1958. .

Founders of the Workers' Vanguard are Yūsuf Darwīsh (يوسف درويش b. 1910-2006), who belonged to a Qarait Jewish family who had lived in Egypt for a long time. He obtained a degree in Commerce in France and in 1934 he received a degree at the University of Cairo. Raymond (Raymūn) Duwayk (ريمون دويك 1918-198?) came from a family that originally lived in Aleppo, while Aḥmad Ṣādiq Sa‘d (احمد صادق سعد 1919-1989) came from a Jewish Turkish family that migrated to Egypt at the beginning of the 19th century. Aḥmad Ṣādiq Sa‘d was born and raised in Alexandria where he visited the French lycée. After having learnt Arabic, he studied engineering at the Cairo University, graduating in 1942. Later members of the group had their roots in the trade union movement: Muḥammad Yūsuf al-Mudarrik (محمد يوسف المدرك 1902-1977), Ṭaha Sa‘d ʿUthmān (طه سعد عثمان b. 1916), and Maḥmūd al-ʿAskarī (محمود العسكري 1916-1987). In 1946 the group numbered about twenty-five to thirty members. The low number of its members was in line with its policy to remain secret, and does not reflect its influence in the trade union movement and its support and influence among the Egyptian intelligentsia. .

Throughout its history The Workers' Vanguard held two congresses: its founding congress in 1946 and the congress in 1957 when its name was changed to The Egyptian Communist Party of Workers and Peasants. Despite the regular change of names its organizational structure remained the same. From 1946 to 1957 the policy-making body in the organization was the central committee, formed first by Aḥmad Ṣādiq Sa‘d as secretary-general (1946-1948), followed by Aḥmad Rushdī Ṣāliḥ (أحمد رشدي صالح 1948 to 1951), and finally Abū Sayf Yūsuf (أبو سيف يوسف 1951-1957). .

Ṭalīʻat al-ʿUmmāl had its origins in the organization Partisans for Peace, which consisted of two sections, one in Alexandria and one in Cairo. The Partisans of Peace was founded in 1935 to oppose Italian aggression in Ethiopia and consisted of different foreign nationalities and minorities living in Egypt: Greeks, Italians, Armenians, British, Jews. The organization was bilingual (Arabic and French) and organized lectures and meetings. Although its European orientation was underlined by its involvement in the Spanish Civil War, in 1936 it began to pay greater attention to Egyptian affairs and started to support the Egyptian struggle for independence. It called for membership of Egypt of the League of Nations in The Hague and supported the abolition of Capitulation Rights during the Conference of Montreux in 1937. .

In 1935 several members of the Partisans of Peace established an independent study group, La groupe d'études (جماعة البحوث, Jamāʻat al-Buḥūth). It was led by Paul Jacot des Combes, and included the future leaders of the Workers' Vanguard, Yūsuf Darwīsh, Raymond Duwayk, and Aḥmad Ṣādiq Sa‘d. The purpose of the group was to study and debate Marxist classics. Special attention was given to books on peasants written by Karl Kautsky, father Henry Ayrout and Yūsuf Bey Naḥḥās. In regard with the growing Zionism in Palestine and the position of Jews in Egypt, the group also became interested in Otto Hiller's Le fin du judaisme, a book that influenced Aḥmad Ṣādiq Sa‘d when he wrote Filasṭīn bayna makhālib al-istiʻmār.( فلسطين بين مخالب الاستعمار) Lectures were held by Aḥmad Ṣādiq Sa‘d and others on capitalism in Egypt and the workers' movement. In this period most of the members remained foreigners, although numbers of Egyptian students grew. At the beginning of the 1940s this group founded the Jamāʻat al-Shabāb lil-Thaqāfah al-Sha‘bīyah (جماعة الشباب للثقافة الشعبية, Youth Association for the Popular Culture) with literacy projects in different neighborhoods in Cairo, such as Bulaq and Mit Uqba. .

In 1942 this group merged with Munaẓẓamah Ḥarakah Taḥrīr al-Shaʿb (منظمة حركة تحرير الشعب) and established the Lajnat Nashr al-Thaqāfah al-Ḥadīthah (لجنة نشر الثقافة الحديثة, Committee for the Dissemination of Modern Culture). Besides organizing lectures it published the magazine al-Usbū‘ (The Weekly) from 1943-1944. In this period Raymond Duwayk also established the Publishing House Dār al-Qarn al-‘Ishrīn (دار القرن العشرين, Twentieth Century Publishing House) and co-operated with Salāmah Mūsá (سلامة موسى) in 1944 in publishing the weekly al-ʿAhd al-Jadīd (The New Age). In addition, they worked together with Trotskyite group of the poet Ramsīs Yūnān (رمسيس يونان) and Luṭfallāh Sulaymān (لطف الله سليمان). An important new member in this period was Aḥmad Rushdī Ṣāliḥ who worked for the Egyptian Radio. Together with him the group founded its most famous and innovative journal al-Fajr al-Jadīd (الفجر الجديد, The New Dawn) in May 1945. With this journal the group remained associated, even after the publication was banned by the government in July 1946. .

In the 1940s the Workers' Vanguard did not find the time suitable to establish a communist party. It showed this policy by keeping its communist character secret and by working together with leftist organizations which partly supported its policy. It found an important ally in the Wafdist Vanguard, the left-wing of the Wafd. Members of the Workers' Vanguard wrote for its newspapers al-Wafd al-Miṣrī (الوفد المصري), Rābiṭat al-Shabāb (1947) (رابطة الشباب, League of the Youth), al-Bashir (1951), and participated in its student movement and other activities. An important field of activity of the Workers' Vanguard was its relations with the trade union movement. The group was influential within the Shubra al-Khayma Mechanized Textile Textile Workers' Union (SKMTWU) which was led by Yūsuf al-Mudarrik and Maḥmūd al-ʿAskarī, the general secretary, and Ṭaha Sa‘d ʿUthmān. All three played an important role in emancipating the trade unions from the patronage of the traditional political parties and the social elite of Egypt. During World War Two the SKMTWU booked impressive successes in receiving equal pay as non-Egyptian workers, in the release of jailed workers, and in the support of the Wafd government against owners of the textile mills. Partly as a result of the activities SKMTWU labor unions were officially legalized in 1942. Despite attempts of the Wafd to reassert its control over trade unions when it came to power after 1942, the successor to the SKMTWU, General Union of Mechanized Textile Workers in Shubra al-Khayma in Cairo (GUMTWSKC), increased its independence and asserted the right of workers' to strike. The new leadership recognized the Egyptian workers as a distinct class with separate interests and goals. After trade unions had been recognized by the Wafd in 1942, they published the first independent trade union paper, Shubra. In this period Yūsuf Darwīsh became legal counsel for the GUMTWSK, thereby strengthening the link between the communist movement and the trade union movement. .

Directly after World War Two Maḥmūd al-ʿAskarī, Ṭaha Sa‘d ʿUthmān and Yūsuf al-Mudarrik were involved in sending an Egyptian representative to the founding congress of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU). Its program was: 1) Enactment of comprehensive labor legislation, including the legalization of trade union federations, a forty hour week, a minimum wage, a week day off, comprehensive social insurance; 2) Extension of the right to unionize agricultural laborers; 3) Recognition of the right to work, education, and medical care for all; 4) Opposition to domination of the economy by monopolies; 5) Evacuation of imperialist armies of occupation from all countries; 6) Abolition of the remnants of reaction and fascism and the establishment of true internal democracy in Egypt. Despite some dispute among the Egyptian delegates, Yūsuf al-Mudarrik was recognized as the official representative of the Egyptian trade union. Upon his return to Egypt the Workers' Vanguard tried to launch him as leader of united trade unions in Egypt. Around the same time the Workers' Vanguard decided to organize The Workers' Committee for National Liberation (WCNL) as a political organization of the working class. As a legal and public organization it launched the weekly organ, al-Ḍamīr (الضمير, The Conscience). In the ensuing confrontation with the government the WCNL declared a general strike in Shubra al-Khayma, In January 1946 all three trade union leaders were arrested. .

The confrontation between the workers' movement and the government ran parallel with a nationalist upsurge against the policy of the government towards Great Britain. Student strikes and demonstrations led to the merger of workers' and student movement in the National Committee of Workers and Students (NCWS) in February 1946. The Workers' Vanguard was severely handicapped during this period because its trade union leaders were arrested. The NCWS called for a general strike on February 21 when a crowd of 40,000 to 100,000 rallied at the Opera Square in Cairo. Although the immediate results of the NCWS was limited, it did inject in the Egyptian nationalist movement a new radical element that spelled the end of the control the Wafd exerted over the trade union movement. .

However, both the trade union movement and the student movement encountered harsh repression in the summer of 1946. Most of the leaders of the communist movement were arrested and their publications, among those of the Workers' Vanguard, al-Ḍamīr and al-Fajr al-Jadīd, were suppressed in July. In the period 1947-1952 the Workers' Vanguard continued to be involved in the trade union movement, the nationalist movement, and maintained its contacts with the left-wing of the Wafd. It kept its distance from the problems most organizations of the communist movement had with unification. .

Although the Workers' Vanguard welcomed the new regime when it took over power on July 1952, it considered the regime ‘fascist' after it had suppressed the workers' strike in Kafr al-Dawwar near Alexandria in August 1952. It only started to support the regime after the Bandung Conference in April 1955 and especially after the Suez Canal crisis in 1956. Abū Sayf Yūsuf expressed the support of the Workers' Vanguard for the regime in the left-wing daily newspaper al-Masāʼ. During this period the Workers' Vanguard established two publishing houses: Lajnat al-Thaqāfah al-Sha‘bīyah (لجنة الثقافة الشعبية, Committee for Popular Culture) in 1953, and al-Mu'assasah al-Qawmīyah lil-Nashr wa-al-Tawzīʿ (المؤسسة القومية للنشر والتوزيع, The National Foundation for Publication and Distribution) between 1956 and 1958.


Gift Nadia Douek (daughter of Raymond Douek) 2000


Collection of Raymond Duwayk consisting of statutes, a programme, some Central Committee resolutions, a manual for cadre training, bulletins, pamphlets, leaflets and copies of periodicals, including copies of al-Fajr al-Jadīd (الفجر الجديد), Majallat al-Ḍamīr (مجلة الضمير), Kifāḥ al-Shaʿb (كفاح الشعب), Al-Nashrah (النشرة), Majallat al-Hadaf (مجلة الهدف), al-Muqāwamah al-Shaʿbīyah (المقاومة الشعبية) and other periodicals 1945-c. 1956.

Processing Information

Inventory made by Roel Meijer in 2000.