Egypt’s workers defy U.S.-backed junta
Published Feb 16, 2011 4:02 PM
Victory rally, Washington, D.C., Feb. 12.
WW photo: Sharon Black
Feb. 15 — The Egyptian military would like to put the genie of the
Egyptian Revolution back in the bottle. But it won’t go back. The
so-called “orderly transition” — backed by the Obama
administration, NATO and the Egyptian ruling class — has the immediate
tactical goal of pushing the masses of people off the streets and off the stage
But millions of Egyptians for the last few weeks have fought and demonstrated
in historic numbers, with passionate intensity, for a better future and against
30 years of police repression, thievery and growing economic hardship. They
will not be pushed back into submission by commands from an outmoded,
reactionary military junta.
WW managing editor
speaks at rally at U.N.
in NYC, Feb. 11.
WW photo: G. Dunkel
The 19-member Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has assumed power in the
aftermath of the downfall of hated former President Hosni Mubarak. The junta
quickly declared that the 1979 Peace Treaty with Israel would remain in force.
Thus, the generals promised to uphold the cornerstone of Washington’s and
the Pentagon’s strategic policy in the Middle East.
The council issued a series of demagogic communiqués praising the protests
and promising to establish democracy, but also calling for an end to protests
and for things to go back to “normal.”
A council of Mubarak’s generals
This is a council of Mubarak’s generals. They have thrived off $50
billion in U.S. military aid over the last 30 years. They are intimately tied
to U.S. imperialism and the Pentagon. They own businesses in many sectors of
the economy and are firmly entrenched. They have operated behind the scenes for
30 years. But having been forced by a titanic mass struggle to get rid of
Mubarak, they now have to step forward and rule openly on an emergency
The next phase of the struggle has not yet begun. At this moment things are at
the stage of maneuver between the council and its behind-the-scenes backers in
Washington, on the one hand, and the revolution and its various representatives
on the other.
The generals have dissolved the old corrupt parliament. They are forming a
committee to amend the constitution and are promising elections in six months.
But the council did not lift the emergency law of 1981, under which the
military/police state can seize and imprison anyone. Neither have they freed
the thousands of political prisoners. These were key demands of the
In a controversial move, two representatives of the 13-member Revolutionary
Youth Alliance met with the Council and gave an equally controversial positive
reaction to the meeting. The Alliance is a coalition of the various forces,
some of whom helped organize or otherwise played a role in the demonstrations.
Among them were representatives of the April 6 Movement, the youth of the
Muslim Brotherhood and the forces around Mohamed ElBaridei. Another meeting is
Of course the aim of the military is to break the momentum of the revolution
while keeping the old order in place behind a false democratic façade.
The aim of the revolution is to achieve a genuine popular democracy and an end
to the military/police dictatorship, which is still in place but has to act
with caution and deception in the face of the revolution. Only the struggle
will determine the ultimate outcome. It has been reported that mass
“Victory” demonstrations are scheduled for Friday. The mass
struggle is the only genuine leverage that the revolution has.
Strike wave sweeps the country
In the aftermath of the downfall of Mubarak, workers all over Egypt have
exploded in protest. The Supreme Council has issued “Communiqué No.
5,” stating, “Noble Egyptians see that strikes, at this delicate
time, lead to negative results.” This was a thinly veiled threat, but can
the generals enforce it?
The Central Bank had to order all banks closed on Feb. 14 after “massive
worker protests apparently drove the chairman of the National Bank of Egypt,
Tarek Amer, out of the institution,” said CNN. The workers are demanding
that their temporary jobs be made permanent, among other things.
The stock exchange had to postpone reopening. It had closed on Jan. 30 and was
scheduled to reopen on Feb. 16, but the workers at the stock exchange went on
strike. It is now rescheduled to open on Feb. 21.
There are also strikes at textile companies, media organizations, steel
companies, the postal service, railways and the health ministry.
(Aljazeera.net, Feb. 14) Other strikes were reported among public bus drivers,
phosphate miners and state electrical workers. (online.wsj.com, Feb. 15)
Hundreds of public transport workers demonstrated outside the television and
state radio building demanding higher pay. Hundreds more ambulance drivers
lined up their vehicles on a road along the Nile in the capital’s Gaza
district demanding higher pay. Workers at a key Cairo traffic tunnel threatened
to shut down the route unless they got a raise in pay. (abcnews.go.com, Feb.
Striking employees at EgyptAir, the national commercial carrier, got their boss
fired. And 500 employees at the Opera House demanded the dismissal of the
chairman of the facility, accusing him of corruption.
One of the activists in the revolution, Hossam El Hamalavy, posted pictures of
striking workers outside the Ministry of Petroleum building. Hamalavy said that
thousands of workers were demanding the ouster of the oil minister and, in
addition to economic demands, were making political demands such as
“stopping gas exports to Israel.” (hinuonett.com, Feb. 15)
Outside Cairo, strikes were reported in the southernmost city of Aswan and the
northernmost city of Alexandria. In Beni Sweif and Qalioubiya, impoverished
cities south of Cairo, thousands of people demanded distribution of
state-built, low-cost apartments. Police reports said that the people seized
60,000 empty units of such housing.
A strike was reported at the Sukari gold mine near the Red Sea, near the
coastal town of Marsa Alam. This gold mine is one of the largest in the
More than 700 workers who service the multinational peacekeeping forces in the
Sinai Peninsula staged sit-ins. These forces watch over the enforcement of the
Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty of 1978. Hundreds gathered outside the
headquarters in Sharm El-Sheik and El Gorah demanding raises in pay.
In general, it was impossible to keep track of all the strikes triggered by the
revolution. The strike wave actually started during the struggle to oust
Mubarak. Toward the end, 6,000 workers went on strike at five service companies
owned by the Suez Canal Authority. More than 2,000 textile workers and others
in Suez demonstrated also. At a factory in the textile town in Mahalla, 1,500
striking workers blocked roads. More than 2,000 workers at the Sigma
pharmaceutical company went on strike in Quesna. And 5,000 unemployed youth
stormed a government building in Aswan. (nytimes.com, Feb. 9)
In the last few years, 3,000 strikes have been reported in Egypt, involving
more than 2 million workers. This formed a militant background to the
revolution that began on Jan. 25.
Thus it is clear that the Egyptian proletariat has entered the arena of
struggle in the midst of a political upheaval of monumental proportions. It
will eventually assume its proper place in the political leadership of the
Egyptian revolution. When it does, this will have the greatest long-term
significance for the ultimate victory of the revolution.
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