Three months have passed since the death of the novelist, writer and the leftist politician Sherif Hatata in May, and last week Dr. Refaat El-Saeed also died.
El-Saeed’s death constituted a heavy loss among the second generation of the pillars of the leftist movement in Egypt. He wasn't just a writer, historian, journalist, member of parliament and the secretary-general of the Tagammu Party (the Nationalist Progressive Unionist Party), he was an influential leftist figure who played a prominent role in the Egyptian political movement for six decades.
This was in spite of his differences and standpoints which ran in contradiction to and even in opposition to the leftist factions in Egypt.
El-Saeed, who was born in 1932, first joined the Democratic Movement for National Liberation (HADITU), the biggest underground leftist organisation in Egypt. He continued struggling among its ranks until it was disbanded and hundreds of its members were detained and tortured in Al-Wahat Prison in the Western Desert.
A quick look at the titles of the books he has written will be enough to show his contribution in this sphere alone. El-Saeed wrote six volumes on the history of the socialist movement from 1900 to 1957, three books on socialist thought pioneers, including Nicola Haddad, Essam El-Din, Hefny Nassef and others, seven books on leaders of political action in Egypt starting with Mohammed Farid and ending with Gamal Abdel-Nasser, two novels and his autobiography in two parts.
In addition, he wrote essays in Al-Taliaa(The Vanguard) monthly magazine, being its managing editor in the sixties and the early seventies, and in Al-Akhbar newspaper, in which he has worked for a long time, and Al-Ahaly newspaper, the Nationalist Progressive Unionist Party’s organ.
What's surprising is the volume of his work despite his spending fifteen years behind bars. According to his autobiography, he was imprisoned for the first time in his life when he was fifteen years old, wearing schoolboy shorts. He was the youngest political prisoner ahead of the 1946 student and workers’ uprising.
Following his release from detention he didn't stop participating in demonstrations and distributing pamphlets. Then he was detained once again during the Cairo Fire in January 1952. His family paid EGP 500 as a bribe bribe to the chief of the Royal Diwan in order to secure his release and allow him to complete his university studies.
He was detained several times during the royal and republican eras and he wasn’t able to pursue his university’s studies in the Faculty of Law, but he earned a PhD in history after his release from Al-Wahat Prison.
He devoted himself to writing, especially after President Sadat ordered the closure of Al-Taliaa.
As for the three different political platforms which Sadat launched in 1975, and which developed into political parties in time, El-Saeed was an early participant. He remained working within the ranks of the Tagammu Party until he was elected its secretary-general before finally retiring and holding an honorary post.
Regardless, whatever the differences with El-Saeed due to his strong links with the regime, according to his opponents, and his compliance with the restrictions imposed by the security bodies on the political parties, the demise of El-Saeed means the loss of a main player in the Egyptian political movement for over six decades.