Egyptian workers the key

Despite an international conspiracy of silence, as we have reported over the past year Egypt has seen a major upturn in the class struggle. Workers have shown fantastic bravery and made enormous sacrifices. The working class, especially the massive Egyptian workers movement, is the key to the future of the Middle East, not the so-called war on terror or the blind alley of Islamism.

Despite an international conspiracy of silence, as we have reported over the past year Egypt has seen a major upturn in the class struggle. Workers have shown fantastic bravery and made enormous sacrifices.

In 2007 there were nearly 600 industrial actions, at least 350 of them involving over 150,000 workers. 35 strikes were reported as late as November. The year ended with a big victory for civil servants.

The textile industry saw a series of strikes throughout the Nile Delta. The biggest was at Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in Al-Mahalla Al-Kobra. Unrest started in late 2006 and escalated in 2007. The workers thought they had won increased pay and a corruption investigation, but their demands were never met so in September they walked out.

They set up a tent-city of 27,000 people and won enormous national publicity. At the end of November 2007 the government gave in to their demand for the sacking of the chairman of the state owned company and on promises it had made in December 2006 over wage rises, bonus payments and working conditions. 

In early December, fifty railway safety technicians led a protest at Ramses station in Cairo and won some gains in their struggle against low wages and poor working conditions.

Most recently the Real Estate Tax Collectors have won a major victory. Following a series of civil service strikes that began in April, about 55,000 tax collectors shut down their offices and went on strike. In December hundreds of them from all over the country demonstrated for ten days outside the Cabinet office - despite the riot police. After an eleven day sit-in the Finance Minister agreed their main demands at the end of December; including wage parity with general tax collectors, bonuses worth four months' pay and no victimizations. This is the first work stoppage for improved conditions by civil servants since 1924 and has already inspired workers at the Ministry of Health to threaten a walk-out.

The working class, especially the massive Egyptian workers movement, is the key to the future of the Middle East, not the so-called war on terror or the blind alley of Islamism.


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