|Thousands of Mahalla textile workers are still on strike (Photo: Al-Ahram)|
Since the beginning of the week, a new wave of strikes and protests
has spread over Egypt. Textile workers are on strike in the Nile Delta
town of Mahalla al-Kubra, in Alexandria and in the coastal governorate
Ceramic workers in the industrial city of Suez,
doctors in Marsa Matrouh, university workers in Kafr el-Sheikh, postal
workers in Alexandria and Assiut and health workers on the Sinai
Peninsula are also on strike. Other protests and strikes have been
reported from Cairo, Bani Sueif and Minya.
The renewed strikes
and protests reflect growing hostility in the working class to the
reactionary policies of the US-backed military junta and its new
Islamist figurehead, President Mohamed Mursi.
inauguration as the first president after the revolutionary ouster of
dictator Hosni Mubarak last year, the Egyptian ruling elite’s main goal
is to further privatize the Egyptian economy, cut subsidies, and attract
more foreign investment.
The Islamists and the junta generals
are currently in discussions about forming a new cabinet, tasked with
further attacks on the Egyptian masses. Among the names discussed for
the new prime minister are three prominent bankers—Farouk El-Oqda, the
current governor of the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), former CBE governor
Mahmoud Abul-Oyoun, and former deputy CBE governor Hesham Ramez.
The strikes are the working class’ answer to the continuation of Mubarak-style free-market policies.
Sunday 25,000 textile workers at the state-owned Mahalla Misr Spinning
and Weaving Company in the industrial town of Mahalla al-Kubra went on
strike and staged a sit-in at the factory. Workers demand an increase in
their share of the company’s annual profits, higher retirement bonuses
and the removal of the management.
The workers of Mahalla played
a leading role in last year’s revolution, and the Egyptian ruling elite
is concerned that the mass strike could spark another revolution. On
Monday and Tuesday workers of seven other Nile Delta textile factories
went on strike, raising the same demands as Mahalla workers.
of the Freedom Justice Party (FJP), the political arm of the MB,
reportedly tried to convince the Mahalla workers to end their strike,
but were chased away.
The Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm published a video of the striking Mahalla workers which gives a picture of the militant mood among workers in Egypt.
In the video,
a female worker expresses her disillusionment with the Islamist
president who only cares about a tiny wealthy elite. “The first thing he
does when he gets his hands on the presidency is to forget about us.
He’s only thinking about those earning 200,000 or half a million. He
doesn’t think about the workers who are sweating blood. Where are our
rights? We can’t even afford a crust of bread. Where is our president
now? We want the minimum wage. Not one of our demands has been met.”
male colleague adds: “The revolution didn’t bring anything to the
workers of Misr Spinning in Mahalla. Back in 2006, we were getting
profit-sharing bonuses of four and a half months. Other people are
getting more and we’re getting less. How can they bring in someone like
Fouad Abd-al-Alim [the new head of the public sector Holding Company for
Textiles and Garment Production]? He was the most corrupt one here. He
destroyed the factory in Mahalla and is destroying the rest of the
public textile factories. The workers here are making the revolution
again from the start. The coming revolution will be a workers’
Threatened by the specter of a renewed revolution, the junta and the Islamists are seeking to violently repress the strike wave.
Suez, one of the epicenters of the revolution, security forces fired
tear gas at hundreds of factory workers of the Cleopatra Ceramics
company on Tuesday. The workers stormed government buildings in the port
town, demanding the prosecution of the owner of the factory, Mohamed Abul
Enein, a former member of Mubarak’s now-dissolved National Democratic
Party (NDP). The workers accuse Enein of not paying wages, illegally
firing workers, and being involved in the infamous “Battle of the
Camels”—when Mubarak’s thugs attacked protesting workers and youth on
Military units reportedly entered Suez after the
clashes between the workers and police forces, in which at least 15
workers were injured and 6 arrested.
In South Sinai, security
forces reportedly fired live ammunition to disperse hundreds of health
workers staging a sit-in in front of the office of the undersecretary of
the Ministry of Health. The workers demanded higher incentives and
protested poor health conditions inside the hospitals in South Sinai and
the lack of medicines and equipment.
The regime did not dare to
attack the Mahalla textile workers yet, however. It aims to rely on its
pseudo-left supporters to bring the situation under control. Egypt’s
Minister of Industry and Commerce, Mahmoud Issa, reportedly plans to
visit the Mahalla workers on Wednesday. On Tuesday evening, the
secretary general of the Gharbiya governorate who went to the factory
was not able to calm down the workers and they said they would continue
Amongst the negotiators are experienced
petty-bourgeois elements, such as Kamal al-Fayoumi, who aim to shut down
and sell out the strike. These figures try to present themselves as
representatives of the workers but their policies are directly opposed
to the interests of the working class and play into the hands of the
Fayoumi is a member of the misnamed
pseudo-left Revolutionary Socialists (RS) group, which is opposed to a
second revolution against the junta, and a struggle for workers power
and socialism. The RS supported Mursi in the presidential elections and
claim that the Islamists can be pressured for social reforms.
Mursi and the junta are violently cracking down on striking workers,
the RS claim in their latest statement that “pressure on Mursi and the
Muslim Brotherhood is just what will drive their decision in the right
direction, the direction of completing the objectives of the revolution
and overthrow the rule of the military and purge the state.”