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Vol. 75/No. 9      March 7, 2011

Egypt’s military
demands strikes end
(front page)
For the sixth time since taking power after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s Supreme Military Council issued a directive February 18 for workers to end strikes and sit-ins. If they don’t they “will be confronted and legal steps will be taken against them to protect the security of the nation,” the generals threatened. But new strikes and sit-ins continue to take place daily, as well as protests by farmers.

On February 21 Al Masry Al Youm reported that workers at seven power plants held sit-ins and demonstrations. According to the newspaper, workers decided to sit-in so that work can continue while they press their demands for wage increases, permanent jobs for temporary workers, dismissal of corrupt officials at the electrical ministry, and resignation of the head of the Egyptian Electric Holding Company.

Banks reopened February 20. The Central Bank had closed all banks February 14 after bank workers went on strike. Protesting bank employees are now electing representatives to negotiate with government officials. According to Al Ahram newspaper, workers at Banque Misr, Egypt’s second largest bank, refused demands by the Central Bank to name bank managers as their representatives.

Workers at Misr Spinning and Weaving, a state-owned factory in Al Mahalla Al-Kubra 60 miles north of Cairo, went back to work February 20 after winning a 25 percent wage increase and dismissal of a corrupt manager. Workers there are also asserting their right to have a union independent of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation, which is run by supporters of deposed ruler Mubarak.An army tank was stationed outside the main gate during the strike in an attempt to intimidate the workers. Workers at Mahalla have a history of standing up to the bosses, conducting strikes in 2006, 2007, and 2008.  
Boss: Strikes starting to scare us
After the ouster of Mubarak “everything was about to go back to normal,” complained garment boss Magdi Tolba to the Financial Times, “but our problem nowadays is workers and employees—everybody has started to ask for his personal benefits and this is really starting to scare us.” While most textile mills are state-owned, most garment shops are privately owned.

“We have made it clear we will discuss the employees’ benefits, but definitely they cannot choose which management they want, this is not open for discussion,” Hisham Ramez, a Central Bank official, told the Times.

The movement to oust Mubarak has also spurred other protests. Some 2,000 family members of political prisoners demonstrated February 16 in Cairo in front of the attorney general’s office demanding their release. There are thousands of political prisoners in Egypt, some imprisoned since the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, Mubarak’s predecessor.

In an action February 18 in Alexandria celebrating Mubarak’s ouster, many of the 200,000 marchers carried signs with photos of imprisoned relatives and called for their release. The day before, 45 prisoners in Arish, North Sinai, launched a hunger strike to protest being held without trial.

Al Ahram reported that hundreds of peasants in Qamh Province are protesting to demand irrigation water for their fields.

Working people in Egypt do not have their own party. Various bourgeois parties, which represented a weak opposition to Mubarak, are now maneuvering to put themselves in the best position to lead, or at least be part of, a new capitalist government.

One of the main groups is the Muslim Brotherhood, many of whose members were imprisoned under the Mubarak regime. It announced it is setting up a new political party the “Freedom and Justice Party,” open to all Egyptians.

Brotherhood member Mohsen Radi told the press that the group does not “object to the election of women or Copts to cabinet seats” but that it “does not believe it would be appropriate” for women or Coptic Christians to head the party or the government. A rally of hundreds of thousands in Tahrir Square took place February 18 to celebrate Mubarak’s ouster and demand the army free political prisoners, remove members of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP) from the government, and lift the emergency laws. A featured speaker was Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, an ally of the Muslim Brotherhood.  
Muslim cleric: ‘Be patient’
“I call on everyone who has stopped working, gone on strike, or who is at a sit-in, that they support this revolution” by returning to work, he told the crowd. “Be patient.”

Another capitalist figure, Mohamed ElBaradei, returned to Egypt as the protests against Mubarak were under way. ElBaradei heads a coalition of capitalist parties called the National Association for Change. He is a former director of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency. “The army plays a central role,” ElBaradei told the press, “We need the army to defend the early stages of democracy.” He says he is for a government of “national unity” that would include technocrats and a military official.

Egyptian press reports February 21 said the Military Council had replaced some members of the cabinet. As minister of tourism it named a leader of the Wafd Party, which had functioned as a loyal opposition to Mubarak; a National Association for Change member as deputy prime minister; and a member of the Tagammu Party as minister of social solidarity and social justice. The Tagammu Party includes members of the former Communist Party of Egypt. The key ministries of justice, foreign affairs, and interior, however, would remain in the hands of Mubarak’s NDP.
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