Conditions and Workers’ Struggles in the World


The powerful struggle that the Egyptian proletariat is waging shows yet again how the conditions of life for workers are ever more unsustainable.

The situation in Egypt has been aggravated by the policy of privatisation of public services and has revealed once again how the union organisations openly side with the bosses.

The struggle had a turning point on the 25th of September at Mahalla al-Kubra, when thousands of textile workers decided to no longer put up with the false promises their leaders had been making for months.

The dispute in fact began last December when the workers, driven by rising inflation (estimated around 12%), began to fight to obtain a substantial wage rise. The casus belli was the question of the annual indemnity due to public sector workers and which is worth about two months wages. The struggle in fact began amongst the workers of the State textile enterprises, probably one of the most protected strata of the Egyptian proletariat, but, due to the common conditions of life of all the workers, quickly extended to the cement workers (partially controlled by the Italian Italcementi), workers in farming, miners and soon afterwards to those working in urban transport, railways and health, and the waste collectors of Cairo.

The State owned factory from where the struggle began is one of the largest textile plants in the Middle East; workers need licensing from the bosses and especially from their Union representatives, accused of failing to defend their interests.

So strikes and protests have been carried out since December, always involving thousands of workers; but now the workers uniting in a sit-in in front of the plant number more than 27 000. Despite the “Emergency Laws” that harshly repress public demonstrations which have been in force for over 20 years, the textile workers have still decided to fight to defend their own economic interests.

Two phenomena are extremely positive; the wide scale participation of workers in the struggle (at least a third of the strikers) and the formation of several workers organisations distanced from official unionism.

New workers’ struggle organisations have naturally developed out of this fight and a powerful hatred has grown against the official unions and the government.

Now many are calling for the new “unions” to be legalised, but they need to be careful. And it iscorrect to fight against State persecution, but coming out of conditions of illegality should not be at the price of renouncing the defence of workers’ interests and should not repeat the logic of the unions which are throttling the proletariat all over the world.

After a week of occupying plants, after a struggle supported by so many other layers of the proletariat, the workers of the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company of Mahalla obtained a 40% wage increase and production awards.