Once again the 20,000 workers at Misr Spinning in Mahalla have taken the lead in challenging the Egyptian regime. They have rejected president Mohamed Mursi’s constitutional amendments and the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Workers in the mill called a protest at the end of the first shift on 27 November. The demonstration set off amid chants about the dire situation and the continuation of policies hostile to the popular classes. The workers called for an end to the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule.
Large numbers of local people and revolutionary groups joined the protest as it set off for the centre of town, chanting “The people demand the fall of the regime”.
As the demonstration reached Shoun Square in the town centre, protesters were attacked by members of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party who threw fireworks and missiles at them.
The square was turned into a battlefield and around 400 were injured as protesters fought back with bricks and Molotov cocktails. The security forces arrived much later and launched a barrage of hundreds of tear gas canisters.
The Revolutionary Socialists’ statement “Workers of Egypt, rise up against the constitutional declaration and poverty!” was distributed on the protest.
The statement argues that Mursi sees protests by workers as the main enemy. His efforts to secure exceptional powers are aimed at suppressing workers who demonstrate to demand the completion of the 25 January 2011 revolution and social justice.
Mursi’s moves come after a huge wave of sackings and victimisation of workers’ leaders failed to stop an unprecedented rise in workers’ struggles.
The workers and people of Mahalla have reminded the political elites now jockeying for influence after the fall of Hosni Mubarak that their uprising on 6 April 2008 was a dress rehearsal for the 25 January 2011 revolution.
On that day revolutionaries in Mahalla tore down the dictator’s picture and endured every kind of abuse in order to claim freedom and justice.
Meanwhile the Islamists and liberals alike have omitted workers’ demands and rights from the draft constitution. This document is completely devoid of any rights for the popular classes to health care, education or decent pay.
The Mahalla workers’ mobilisation is an important step in linking anger at their worsening living conditions to the current political struggle. This process has already become apparent in mobilisations by other workers who have recently begun to adopt political demands.
Metro workers during their strike demanded that their director resign and that old regime elements be kicked out. Workers in privatised companies have demanded renationalisation. In the new industrial cities, workers have been fighting to take control of their factories as bosses threaten to shut them.
The initiative of the Mahalla workers opens the door to other sections of the workers’ movement to enter the political struggle.
We should remember the role that workers played in ending Mubarak’s rule. Hundreds of thousands joined strikes and sit-ins, forcing the dictator to quit in terror that the revolution would turn into a popular revolution against the rule of the businessmen.
This could lead to the creation of a workers’ state and the adoption of a new social order based on the redistribution of wealth in society and the people’s ownership of factories and land.
Revolutionaries—and at their heart, revolutionary socialists—must be agitating throughout the working class for strikes and sit-ins against the constitutional declaration which criminalises strikes. They must link this tyrannical declaration with the economic policies hostile to the poor.
This is what will give the protests in the squares immeasurable power and influence over the authorities, because the working masses can halt the wheels of production and stop the delivery of services. Workers can force the government to respond to political and social demands.
The fusion between political and economic demands will be achieved when millions of workers decide to join the revolution in their workplaces. Then we will witness the dawn of a new society and overthrow the system of exploitation and poverty.
We don’t want simply to recycle the people at the top—from Mubarak to Mursi, from Mursi to ElBaradei. We want new policies biased in favour of the majority—and this will only happen if millions of workers take part in the political struggle for the overthrow of the regime.
Demonstrate from 1:30pm this Saturday at the Egyptian embassy, 26 South Street, London W1K 1DW. Protest called by United Egyptians