Around 10,000 workers demonstrated in Mahalla Textile Company together with members of opposition parties and the Egyptian Movement for Change (Kefaya).
They protested against rising prices, low salaries and the government's immobility after unprecedented high prices.
The workers held loafs of bread during the demonstration and demanded providing basic commodities after the price of lentils went up to LE 10 per kilo and chickens to LE 5.12 per kilo, while non-subsidized bread rose by 100%. As a result of these highs, low-income people are forced to line up for hours in front of bakeries to get enough bread to feed their children.
The demonstrators demanded that bakeries be provided with bread and basic commodities, which has lately become almost impossible to obtain. They also called for minimum wages to be raised so that they are compatible with soaring prices.
The demonstrators raised slogans against rising prices and the government failing to control monopoly.
The protesters also accused PM Ahmed Nazif and Interior Minister Habib el-Adli of being behind this wave of increases and wage paralysis.
The demonstrators stood in front of the company gates and were joined by Kefaya members and representatives of political parties and forces. They called on President Mubarak to intervene quickly to stop prices from rising further.
Security forces closed all the roads leading to the company from all directions, while traffic police diverted traffic to side roads. As for the demonstrators, they marched more than a kilometer in the city and stopped in front of the company's social club.The police finally intervened to break the demonstration and prevent it from spreading.
The protest was organized by labor activists in the Ghazl el-Mahalla company in secrecy, and they notified in advance only a selected number of activist journalists.. This demonstration is ULTRA-SIGNIFICANT:
1- Whatever happens in Ghazl el-Mahalla sets the tone for the entire working class in Egypt, both in the textile sector and others.. This is not new… The strikes by the biggest textile mill in the Middle East, with its 27,000-strong labor force working shoulder to shoulder on the factory floor, have been instrumental in pressuring the regime into economic concessions that get generalized for the whole class since the 1970s if not before.. The most recent example of course is the December 2006 strike that launched the Winter of Labor Discontent… HOWEVER, in previous strikes Ghazl el-Mahalla workers struck over demands related to the company ONLY.. and the generalization of gains to other fellow workers used to come by the domino effect… BUT in today’s demo, it was the first time since the January 1977 Bread Intifada that Ghazl el-Mahalla workers took to the streets with NATIONAL demands for the whole class..
2- There’s an increasing process of politicization among the workers in Ghazl el-Mahalla (and elsewhere)… with a clear anti-Mubarak sentiments… I wasn’t present in the December 2006 strike, but those who were there said the anti-regime chants could be heard quietly every now and then but not as much as they were heard in the September 2007.. and certainly it was never as clear as yesterday… The chants against Mubarak and his family means more political crystallization for the current labor movement.. and what a leap forward today’s chants in that regards were…
3- Despite repeated requests from friends and readers, I deliberately do NOT blog about the internal politics of strikes, and Who’s Who, and what faction is doing this and what group is doing that… because we are living under a dictatorship, and speaking in details about what’s going on will bloody jeopardize the security of the activists in the factories and will mess up the future of some strikes… Having said that, it is no secret that the revolutionary left is witnessing a revival now, with the establishment of a foothold in some of the major industrial centers… and today’s demonstration which was mobilized by our friends in Mahalla is a clear example of the increasing mobilization capabilities of this leftist revival… One thing I can divulge about Mahalla though, is that among the independent activists whose role was central in December 2006 and in lobbying for the impeachment of the corrupt govt-backed Factory Union Committee officials, there are some who have been gradually co-opted by the authorities in exchange for promises that they would be the “unofficial representatives” of the workers.. This was sensed by some activists including myself in the summer of 2007 during their negotiations with the Labor Ministry and the General Federation, but became clear in the September 2007 Strike (and I’m not gonna mention names or add details, but I think those in Cairo and Mahalla who are reading this know exactly whom I’m talking about). I wouldn’t have even mentioned that, except it’s becoming clear that their role is increasingly negative now in the factory politics, and they have intervened more than once to abort or diffuse protests, or ride the wave if it became clear that the protest will go ahead whether they were there or not… Their role has become sabotaging on occasions, in the same fashion as trade union bureaucrats in Western bourgeois democracies act… It even reached the extent that one of them told Al-Jazeera and Orbit today that the demo included only 150 workers!!!!!! However, this is already costing them politically a lot on the factory floor, in terms of their legitimacy.. And probably the only positive outcome from this is that the other more militant strike leaders who are either members or close to the revolutionary left are now gaining more ground and credibility…
Some Socialists I spoke to earlier in Cairo and Mahalla were literally in tears… tears of joy and happiness that today’s demo was successful… It is another landmark in the struggle to overthrow the West-sponsored Mubarak’s dictatorship… and I can assure you, dear readers, this is just the beginning…
Keep your eyes on Mahalla… more to come…