Taimour Lay reflects on the origins and future of the Egyptian movement that toppled Mubarak
‘Politics and workers’ rights are inseparable. Work is politics by itself.’ – A striking worker at Mahalla, 2008
‘Call for a general assembly of all sectors and political trends of the people to develop a new constitution and elect real popular committees without waiting for the consent or negotiation with the regime.’ – Demand of Egyptian Iron and Steel Workers, February 2011
‘Immensely courageous and a force for good’ – Tony Blair defends Hosni Mubarak
Three thousand women garment workers left their stations and marched through the vast mill complex of the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company, only to find their male colleagues had failed to heed the call to walk out. ‘Where are the men? Here are the women!’ went the chant before 10,000 workers gathered in the main square of the Nile Delta town of Mahalla al-Kubra, the centre of Egypt’s militant labour movement for the last 8 years.
The four-day occupation that began on 7 December 2006 was no isolated uprising. Struggles at textile and flour mills in Alexandria and across the Delta had led to over 220 major strikes that year alone. The news of victories over pay created a resurgent politics of protest not seen the bread riots of 1977. Under extreme economic pressure, the balance of power between workers and government was changing but no one could predict what could come next. Continue reading “egypt beyond mubarak”