The Egyptian revolution and the working class

by · February 7, 2011


Photo by Hossam el-Hamalawy

It’s worth reading in full an interview on Saturday night, Cairo time, with Egyptian blogger and journalist Hossam el-Hamalawy, on the excellent Occupied Cairo blog. But on the question of class polarisation and independent workers’ action he has this to say:

The uprising up until now contained elements from all Egyptian society, whether it is the urban poor, the working class, and even sons and daughters of the Egyptian elite could be seen in the protest. But as the revolution continues, some polarization has started to happen naturally. Between those who are tired, meaning the middle class and the upper middle class who are saying that we should stop now and try to reach some compromise with the government, and those who basically have nothing to loose and who have sacrificed a lot, like the urban poor and the working class.

The intervention of the working class in the movement is also another question mark, because definitely in some of the provinces where mass protests were organized they contained a majority of workers. But we still haven’t seen an independent movement by those workers. Except in very few cases. For example I received a report about a textile mill owned by a company called Ghazl Meit Ghamr in Daqahliya, which is a province in the Nile Delta. The workers there have kicked out the CEO, they have occupied the factory and are self-managing it. This type of action has also been repeated in a printing house south of Cairo called Dar El-Ta’awon. There as well the workers have kicked out the CEO and are self managing the company. There are two other cases in Suez, where the clashes were the worst with the security forces during the uprising. The death toll is very high in Suez, we don’t actually know the real death toll until now. In two factories there, the Suez Steel Mill and the Suez Fertilizer Factory, workers have declared an open-ended strike until the regime falls. Other than that we have not seen, at least to my knowledge, independent working class action.

Meanwhile the Muslim Brotherhood has entered centre stage by opening itself to negotiations with the regime, as well as rejecting publicly the Iranian regime’s in attempt to paint the Egyptian revolt as “Islamic”:

The MB regards the revolution as the Egyptian People’s Revolution not an Islamic Revolution” said a statement published on the Muslim Brotherhood’s official website just hours after Khamenei’s remarks on Friday, while “asserting that the Egyptian People’s Revolution includes Muslims, Christians, from all sects and political.

Filed under: class, Egypt, revolution