Protests grow against
dictatorship in Egypt
Strikes by workers, farmers expand fight
Suez Canal Company workers in Ismailia City protest February 9 as part of open-ended strike demanding pay raise and resignation of hated boss.
BY SETH GALINSKY
Strikes and demonstrations by textile, pharmaceutical, telephone, canal, rail, oil, and government workers and by farmers are spreading throughout Egypt as working people put their stamp on the fight to overthrow the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak.
Attempts by the Mubarak regime, backed by Washington and other imperialist powers, to use cosmetic changes combined with threats of greater repression to convince demonstrators to stop their protests have backfired. Working people and others demanding an end to the dictatorial government and the lifting of state of emergency laws that restrict the right to free speech, assembly, and organization refuse to back down. On February 8 more than 1 million people filled Cairos Tahrir Square in one of the largest actions since the movement began.
Thousands of Suez Canal Company workers began sit-down strikes in Suez, Port Said, and Ismailia February 8. According to Egypts Al Ahram newspaper, they are protesting poor wages and working conditions and will continue their protest in front of the companys headquarters until their demands are met.
That same day 10,000 telephone workers from Telecom Egypt, staged sit-ins at six telephone exchange centers. They are demanding an adequate minimum wage for workers and a maximum wage for bosses.
In Mahalla, where a strike by 27,000 textile workers was attacked by police in April 2008, more than 1,500 workers at the Abu-El Subaa company blocked a road and are demanding overdue wages and bonuses.
Some 4,000 workers at the Coke Coal and Basic Chemicals company in Helwan, an industrial city south of Cairo, also went on strike demanding higher wages, permanent jobs for temporary workers, and an end to corruption.
Violent attacks by plainclothes security agents and other supporters of the regime failed to dislodge the protesters at Tahrir Square February 2 and 3. Army tanks had abandoned many of the entrances to the square, allowing thugs to enter. The anti-Mubarak forces stood their ground against the hired thugssome of whom rode horses and camels, attacked demonstrators with poles and rocks, and at times fired live ammunition.
On February 5 the army brought out tanks to bulldoze away burned out vehicles and remove other barricades set up to protect the demonstrators in the square. Protesters climbed on the tanks and lay down in front. The barricades remained.
Press reports have commented on the transformations taking place as working people gain confidence in the fight, noting that Muslims and Christians, young and old, men and women have joined together in opposition to the U.S.-backed regime.
Al Jazeera points to the absence of sexual harassment, a common problem elsewhere in the country. Thousands of women visited the square each day, and there was none of the catcalling and grabbing that they are often forced to endure in public.
Mubarak has attempted to split the opposition groups by offering to negotiate minor reforms. Several bourgeois parties that at best weakly resisted the dictatorship in the past, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood, which reluctantly joined the protests, are working with the April 6 Youth Movement, which called the first actions.
Over the last two weeks Mubarak, with support from Washington and other imperialist powers, took measures he hoped would end the protests. He named a new cabinet; promised not to run in the September presidential elections; named Gen. Omar Suleiman, head of the hated secret police, as vice president to organize a transition; announced a small wage increase for government workers beginning in April; and began prosecution of some of the most despised corrupt businessmen.
Al Jazeera reported February 8 that 34 political prisoners were released. But thousands more are still in prison, some since 1981 when Mubaraks predecessor, Anwar Sadat, was assassinated.
While the regime was offering to negotiate, its police forces were still torturing and brutalizing those who oppose it. On February 8 police used tear gas, live ammunition, and rubber bullets against protesters in Kharga, 370 miles south of Cairo, who were protesting the reinstatement of a particularly hated cop.
An estimated 300 people have been killed around the country by the regime since the protests began.
I dont care what people say about me, Mubarak said February 3. If I resign today, there will be chaos. As tens of thousands poured into Tahrir Square February 8, Suleiman threatened that the regime will not tolerate the protest movement.
Worried about the impact of the overthrow of the Ben Ali dictatorship in Tunisia and the growing protest movement in Egypt, U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton complained that the region is being battered by a perfect storm of powerful trends.
Clinton has openly said that the U.S. government backs Suleimans efforts to defuse street protests. According to the New York Times, Clinton suggested that the United States was not insisting on the immediate departure of Mubarak. There are certain things that have to be done in order to prepare, she said.
But the orderly transition that Washington and the capitalist class in Egypt are organizing keeps crashing into the determination of working people there.
Hosni Mubarak is illegitimate, The parliament is illegitimate, Omar Suleiman is illegitimate, protesters chanted February 8.
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