Sunday, April 01, 2007

Egyptian Strikes

According to Nicholas Wroe in the Guardian at a talk at the ICA with Slavoj Zizek, Gerry Cohen called a philosopher "an extremely unpleasant man".

Searching for the name of the philospher drew a blank. However I visited Lenin's Amusement Park, and a piece on labour strikes and uprisings in Egypt aiming to overthrow the corrupt regime of Mubarak. Lenin reports on
Recently, a remarkable article in Merip's Middle East Report by Hossam and Joel Beinin, discussed how Egyptians workers are challenging not only Mubarak's deep-state, but the whole economic order that the US seeks to impose. The privatisation drives, the cuts to wages and the attempts to reduce social protections for workers established under Nasser, have all provoked the fierce strike waves that have intensified even while state terror has intimidated opposition groups.
The Merip article itself gives a history of Egyptian Trade Unions. It seems that the General Federation of Egyptian Trade Unions is the government's main means of getting people in the street on pro-government rallies.
labor activists and strike leaders in the textile and railway sectors frequently mention the phrase “independent parallel national labor union.” Various leftist organizations are talking about building such a thing: the Trotskyist Revolutionary Socialists, the Nasserist Karama Party, the remnants of the Egyptian Communist Party, the People’s Socialist Party, the Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Rights, and the Workers’ Coordination Committee. (Nearly absent from these deliberations is the “legal left” Tagammu‘ Party.) As of yet, however, there are no concrete plans.

The success of such endeavors will depend on whether industrial militancy is sustained, whether political activists can intervene in the strikes and whether workers can establish effective coordination among themselves. It will also depend on whether the Misr Spinning and Weaving workers indeed manage to withdraw from their government-dominated union. If they do score a victory against the union bureaucracy, other workers will be encouraged to emulate them. It is no secret that there is tremendous frustration with union leaders among the rank and file in the railways and other sectors.

Because of the high price of oil and receipts from the sale of public-sector firms, the government has significant cash reserves and can afford to meet workers’ bread-and-butter demands. It has done so in the hopes that workers will return complacent to their jobs. But some workers, and it is not yet clear how many, have begun to connect their thin wallets with broader political and economic circumstances -- the entrenchment of autocracy, widespread government incompetence and corruption, the regime’s subservience to the United States and its inability to offer meaningful support for the Palestinian people or meaningful opposition to the war in Iraq, high unemployment and the painfully obvious gap between rich and poor. Many Egyptians have begun to speak openly about the need for real change. Public-sector workers are well-positioned to play a role if they can organize themselves on a national basis.
There are many things wrong in Mubarak's Egypt (incompetence, corruption, torture, authoritarianism to give an incomplete list) and overthrowing the government may the only way to fix them.

What is meant by "meaningful support for the Palestinian people"? Financial support to develop the Palestinian economy? Military support? Financial support to develop the economy would be a good thing. Military support would just lead to more Palestinian and Israeli deaths and more instability in the region which would not be a good thing.

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