The Role of Labor Movements in Egypt

Some things about Egypt that you may not have read about until now: “From 2004 to 2008 alone, about 1.7 million workers have engaged in 1,900 strikes and other forms of protest, demanding everything from wage increases to job security in state-owned industries that were privatized.” (That is not a thing that newspapers have room for in general, so we would not have heard much until now.) Here is a history of the labor movement in Egypt, from a socialist perspective; and here is an interesting history of “the co-option of the trade union structure” that began in the early 80s. As a sideline, here is a report from 2001 on the conditions of the more than one-million children aged seven through twelve who work in the cotton fields. Labor movements live and die in regime changes: for instance, Iran’s vigorous labor movement that was destroyed in 1953; similarly, labor movements can be strangled when support to them is denied by allies and neighbors, as in the Tunisian labor movement of the mid-1920s. Something people can do in London tomorrow: go demonstrate outside the embassy.