Monday, February 21, 2011
Can the Egyptian labour movement become the deciding factor?
I haven't seen a report of this demo but it's a start.
Top article by Seumas Milne in The Guardian, Thursday 17 February : Only pressure from below can bring Egypt democracy.
Interestingly the Muslim Brotherhood doesn't even get a mention. The West and the army want a slow-motion, "orderly" transition to allow the ruling élite to control and buy off sections of the opposition. Milne points out that in all genuine popular revolutions, the initial unity that binds together a broad social alliance against a tyrannical regime inevitably fractures once the immediate focus of rage has been removed. Political and class differences about where and how deep the social transformation should go then come into play. That is already happening in Egypt and Tunisia, he says.
Correspondence in The Guardian has emphasised the role of organised workers in the Egyptian revolution. One letter estimated that over 20,000 were participating in strikes, thrusting aside the official Egyptian trade union federation and establishing their own independent Federation of Egyptian Trade Unions. On the 13th, the country's military government announced that it would ban strikes, and while it seems to have stepped back from this, the threat remains.
The Global day of action for Egypt was spearheaded by Amnesty International and the International Trade Union Confederation, and supported by British trade unions including UNISON and Unite. I've seen a complaint of Labour silence on the events in Egypt, but it’s to be hoped this is only due to the lumbering pace of the official union machinery.
I see that this week, the union Unite hosted a solidarity building meeting to support the new independent Egyptian labour movement, and to call for solidarity with the wave of strikes and workers' protests spreading across Egypt.