The longest and strongest wave of worker protest since the end of World War II is rolling through Egypt. In March, the liberal daily al-Masri al-Yawm estimated that no fewer than 222 sit-in strikes, work stoppages, hunger strikes and demonstrations had occurred during 2006. In the first five months of 2007, the paper has reported a new labor action nearly every day. The citizen group Egyptian Workers and Trade Union Watch documented 56 incidents during the month of April, and another 15 during the first week of May alone.
Skipping to the end, we learn about Kifaya. Kifaya was mentioned as one of the opposition groups that reportedly worked with the US as controlled opposition.
Though the Mubarak regime is showing signs of desperation, internal division and weakness, lashing out at Muslim Brothers, bloggers, journalists, striking workers and NGO activists alike, the opposition is even weaker and more divided....A common strategy, however, has yet to be established. Kifaya, which showed so much promise from late 2004 through mid-2005, has been unable to mobilize effectively since the end of the Lebanon war in August 2006. Primarily a movement of students, intellectuals and middle-class professionals, Kifaya has only tenuous relations with the insurgent workers’ movement. The few candidates from its labor affiliate Workers for Change who were not banned by the security forces from running in the fall 2006 union elections performed poorly.
While Kifaya and the rest of the oppositional intelligentsia remain incapable of providing the technical and logistical support required to launch an independent trade union federation in the face of fierce opposition from the regime, the strike wave has opened a channel of communication for radical activists in Cairo with those in the provinces. Since the December strike in Mahalla al-Kubra, leftist elements in Kifaya have worked to establish links with the industrial centers in the Nile Delta by organizing solidarity trips, mobilizing media support and raising strike funds. The Misr Spinning and Weaving workers’ planned trip to Cairo on April 15, though aborted by security forces, was nonetheless a landmark. Some of the strike leaders contacted leftist Kifaya activists in Cairo to ask for their support on that day, suggesting that they are beginning to consider political issues beyond their immediate economic demands, perhaps including regime change.
The organized oppositional intelligentsia still has a long way to go before it establishes the necessary credibility and grassroots support to provide political leadership. The Egyptian left has long been dominated by a perspective that treated the “national question” and the “social question” as mutually exclusive arenas, even as leftists paid lip service to the organic link between the two. The result was the subjugation of the demands of labor and other social justice movements to the nationalist agenda of opposition to Western colonialism and Israel’s dispossession of the Palestinians. There is a link between US domination of the Middle East in alliance with Israel and the current strike wave, which is in great measure a response to the US-sponsored neoliberal program for Egypt. But few opposition intellectuals have been able to translate their general opposition to Zionism and imperialism into concrete support for the one social movement in Egypt that has a mass base and a track record of measurable victories. Under these circumstances, the mere fact that a workers’ movement has persisted and achieved as much as it has is eloquent testimony that the struggle between labor and capital is alive and well -- and likely to intensify as the neoliberal project in Egypt advances.
This Steve Lendman article cites some Wikileaks documents that link various opposition forces, including Kifaya, to US plans to overthrow Mubarak.
Dated February 2008 from the US Cairo embassy to Washington, they "disclose the extent of American support for" Mubarak opponents, saying "Egyptians need to replace the current regime with (the appearance of) a parliamentary democracy. Under undisclosed US control, of course, "several opposition forces - including the Wafd, Nasserite, Marama and Tagammu parties, and the Muslim brotherhood, Kifaya and Revolutionary Socialist movements - have agreed to support an unwritten plan for a transition to (a new order), involving a weakened presidency and an empowered prime minister and parliament, before the scheduled (September) 2011 presidential elections."
There must be some reason, beneficial to Israel, that Wikileaks would release this particular information. Does this information delegitimize events in Egypt? We think it does to some extent. But when we look at the history, we see that the strike wave existed first, and sustained itself as a labor movement, and THEN some of the strike leaders ended up working together with Kifaya. Presumably some of these strike leaders and Kifaya activists were "on the payroll," along with many others.
See: Honk Bonk Man's list of NED (CIA/Mossad) Tentacles in Egypt.
The strikes have been going on for years, and today we learn that there will be a bank holiday due to strikes.
Egyptian Central Bank orders banks to close due to worker strikes
Cairo - State media reported that the Egyptian Central Bank had ordered banks to close nationwide on Monday, following strikes by workers at state-owned banks who alleged corruption and rampant abuse was still taking place.Suez and steel workers continue to strike.
...The decision to close banks on Monday was announced within hours of Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq saying that Egypt's economic position was solid.
...Meanwhile, the stock exchange is to reopen on Wednesday. The exchange has been closed since January 30. Egypt's benchmark EGX 30 index fell 17 per cent in the last week it was open. In two days alone, some 12 billion dollars were wiped off the exchange's market value, according to some estimates. The country has also seen Fitch Ratings change the outlook for its credit rating from Stable to Negative, and Moody's downgraded the country by one notch from Ba1 to Ba2 with outlook Negative. The cost of insuring against Egypt's debt also rose.
Strikes are also reported from railroad technicians and oil workers.
All classes in Egypt took part in the uprising. In Tahrir Square you found sons and daughters of the Egyptian elite, together with the workers, middle class citizens, and the urban poor. Mubarak has managed to alienate all social classes in society including wide section of the bourgeoisie. But remember that it’s only when the mass strikes started three days ago that’s when the regime started crumbling and the army had to force Mubarak to resign because the system was about to collapse.
Today we also learn that Hosni Mubarak has reportedly fallen into a coma and is in a Baden hospital in Germany (h/t Switters). The source reports that he is between life and death, and his fragile health was the real reason the army didn't push him out, knowing he was near death.
In Why Egypt's Progressives Win, by Paul Amar, we learn more about the politics and alliances in play. According to Amar:
1. A coalition of nationalist businessmen in alliance with the military has formed. This alliance ejected the "crony globalizers" associated with Gamal Mubarak. The new nationalist business-military bloc recognizes that it cannot develop Egypt without aligning with the people.
2. Egypt recently reemerged as a manufacturing country due to investment by Russia and China. That would of course make some people very displeased.
"Several Russian free-trade zones and manufacturing settlements have opened up, and China has invested in all parts of the Egyptian economy. Brazil, Turkey, the Central Asian Republics and the Gulf Emirates are diversifying their investments. They are moving out of the oil sector and real estate and into manufacturing, piece-goods, informatics, infrastructure, etc. Factories all over Egypt have been dusted off and reopened, or newly built."
3. Many of the workers in the newly revived economy are women. These people organized into the April 6 movement in 2008, a group that reportedly receives covert aid from Washington. Was Asmaa Mahfouz, credited with successfully calling people to protest on January 25th, one of the people who received training from Freedom House and the National Endowment for Democracy?
4. Two movements converged: the movement for workers’ rights in the newly revived factory towns and micro-sweatshops of Egypt, and the movement against police brutality and torture.
5. Since the 1990s, welfare and social services to working-class and lower-middle-class Egyptians has been cut and replaced by micro-credit loans targeted to women and youth, "with the IMF and World Bank's enthusiastic blessing." Since the applicants lacked collateral to guarantee the loans, payback has been enforced by force.
"This means that your body is your collateral. The police extract pain and humiliation if you do not pay your bill. Thus the micro-enterprise system has become a massive set of police rackets and “loan shark” operations. Police sexualized brutalization of youth and women became central to the “regulation” of the massive small-business economy."
6. This is what happened to Khalid Saeed. Bribes and police beatings became standard practice in the micro-enterprise landscape. Thus the micro-entrepreneur class form the basis for the huge and passionate anti-police brutality movement.
A legitimate labor movement exists in Egypt. True. It was apparently infiltrated in order to steer events to the liking of the US/UK/Israel/NATO. True to the best of our knowledge. Which truth is larger or more powerful? That is what we are going to find out in the days ahead.