Soldiers, Spies, and Statesmen: Egypt's Road to Revolt

Gripping analysis of Egypt's transformation from military regime to police state, on the road to revolution

One of the most momentous events in the Arab uprisings that swept across the Middle East in 2011 was the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak. As dramatic and sudden as this seemed, it was only one further episode in an ongoing power struggle between the three components of Egypt’s authoritarian regime: the military, the security services, and the government. A detailed study of the interactions within this invidious triangle over six decades of war, conspiracy, and sociopolitical transformation, Soldiers, Spies, and Statesmen is the first systematic analysis of recent Egyptian history. 

This paperback edition, updated to incorporate events in 2013, provides the background necessary to understanding how the military rebranded itself as the defender of democracy and ousted Mubarak’s successor, Muhammad Morsi. Impeccably researched and filled with intrigue, Soldiers, Spies, and Statesmen is an indispensable guide for anyone trying to fathom what this latest development means for Egypt’s future.


  • “This is a fascinating book that should be required reading for anybody interested in Egypt’s past and what happens next. It gives a unique insight into what the military and security forces were thinking and doing, and why they were not the monolithic force that most had imagined.”
  • “Hazem Kandil’s important book … effectively rewrites the inner history of the Free Officers’ state and his book deserves to spark sustained debate. It provides an exceptionally detailed account of the endless power struggle… and offers startling new accounts of the major crises.”
  • “An indispensable read for anyone seeking clarity on the ongoing struggle between the military, security and political apparatuses of Egypt’s autocracy.”
  • “Meticulous documentation, engaging style and skilful weaving of complex phenomena into a coherent narrative.”
  • “At last comes a book which links the coups and revolutions witnessed by father and son. The Cambridge sociologist Hazem Kandil has produced a compelling history of Egypt’s 60-year power struggle. It is a tale of ruinous incompetence and staggering venality which consumes the country to this day. Unlike the modern-era pharaohs responsible, this book takes no prisoners. Beginning with Nasser, this is a withering denunciation of Egypt’s myth-makers and their phoney myths.”


  • "A present defaults – unless the crowd declares itself": Alain Badiou on Ukraine, Egypt and finitude

    I will say once again that I think that the fundamental figure of contemporary oppression is finitude. The strategic axis of this seminar is to provide the means for a critique of the contemporary world by identifying something within its propaganda, activity etc. at whose centre is the imposition of finitude, that is to say, the exclusion of the infinite from humanity’s possible set of horizons. At each session, from now up until the end of the year, I want to give you an example of the way in which something taking place today, or some commonplace or constantly used category, can be represented as a figure or operation of reduction to finitude. As such, each of these things can be encapsulated in terms of the general oppressive vision of finitude.

    Today I would like to take the example of Ukraine, the way in which the historic events in Ukraine serve the propagandist consensus that both constitutes and envelops it (at our next sessions I will address two connected notions, which are similarly hegemonic and bask in consensus: the notions of the republic and of secularism – and what I call false invariants: what is assumed to be an invariant, a commonplace of thought, and even a proof of what it is that unites us).

    Continue Reading

  • What to Read on Egypt

    As tumultuous events in Egypt unfold at speed, with former President Morsi currently in custody, we present Verso's updated reading list of key titles and articles addressing the challenges facing Egypt and the Middle East.

    Seamus Milne considers the current situation in Egypt in the context of the Arab Spring and its historical precedents in the "Spring of Nations" of 1848 in his latest article for the Guardian. His latest book, The Revenge of History, follows the events of the Arab Spring as they unfold, as well as providing a rich geopolitical context for the uprisings.

    The Journey to Tahrir: Revolution, Protest, and Social Change in Egypt
    Edited by Jeannie Sowers and Chris Toensing

    The account of how it all began, this collection of reports from the region details the causes that underpinned the revolution before it amassed in scale. Starting with the eighteen days of protest in the lead up to Mubarak’s resignation, it is a first hand account of the collective dissent of workers, anti-war activists and campaigners for social change.

    Soldiers, Spies and Statesmen: Egypt's Road to Revolt
    by Hazem Kandil

    When the military turned against Mubarak, so too did the revolt, from outbursts of protest to full on revolution. Hazem Kandil challenges the siding of the military with the people, instead documenting the power struggle between the three components of Egypt’s authoritarian regime: the military, the security services, and the political apparatus. Analysing what it means for Egypt to transition from military to police state, Kandil looks toward future revolution.

    In an article in the Guardian on the recent events in Egypt, Kandil explains why liberal western critics can't simply say: "I told you so."

    You can also read an interview with Kandil in New Left Review on the Egyptian revoution.

    Continue Reading

  • Hazem Kandil on post-revolutionary Egypt

    Today in Dissent, Hazem Kandilauthor of Soldiers, Spies and Statesmen: Egypt's Road to Revolt, forthcoming from Verso in November—writes on the occasion of the Egyptian presidential results, "Whither the Egyptian Revolution?" 

    Kandil considers that—in light of the candidate options for Egypt's presidency, between the old guard of Omar Suleiman and Ahmed Shafiq, and the ultimate winner, the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi, with its ambivalence to the revolution—"Though a year and a half have gone by, the final verdict on the Egyptian Revolution—including whether it actually was one—is still to come."

    Kandil’s analysis of post-revolt politics here is grounded in the feeling that “it is clear that the uprising fell short of its declared goal of overthrowing the regime.” The deeply entrenched tripartite alliance between the military, security, and political institutions held a strong preventive grip on revolutionary movements before the revolt, and they remained in place in the post-revolt police state. Kandil then hones in on the various ways Egypt is witnessing a “moment that is neither a relapse to politics as usual nor the emergence of a new regime, but rather the reconstitution of the power balance within the ruling bloc.”

    Visit Dissent to read the article in full.