Egypt and Lebanon: Two Labour strikes, a Strategy, and One Reality
On April 6th a general strike was called in Egypt. One month later, on May 7th, another one was called in
Together with the direct repression (hundreds of detainees, starting with imprisonments almost a month before the strike was held, along with police deployment in the main streets and squares of principal cities like
The strike call was made by makeshift means, from traditional pamphlets via e-mails and word of mouth so as to evade repression. Few official or allied media dared to mention the demands. The protest was against the government's neoliberal, IMF policies and made clear the strike's social and political reasons. Among the main reasons, "rejection of price increases, the need for education for our children, for adequate transport, hospitals that care for our health, medicine for our infants, a fair courts system." Other demands were, "we don't want murderous police officers or police torture - no more arrests, corruption and bribery."
Despite all the Mubarak government's efforts, the strike was successful. That day,
But complete success was achieved in Al-Mahallah Al-Kubra. Textile workers have been the front rank in the struggle against the Mubarak regime (2) and the government was especially anxious for the strike to fail there. (Textiles here are the most important productive activity employing 20,000 workers). Police prevented the night shift of Al-Mahallah Al-Kubra's main textile factory from leaving, so that they might continue working on the day of the 6th (strike day) without interrupting production. Police took over the area's main streets but failed to stop 6000 workers meeting and confronting the forces there to repress them. This resulted in 331 workers detained and 60 wounded. A video bears witness to the combativity of the workers and can be seen on YouTube. (3)
The success of the strike encouraged the political opposition to call another stoppage for May 4th but this did not have the same following. Along with another increase in the repression (70 groups of the Central Security Forces mobilised in the striking districts in addition to those still there from the April strike) (4), one has to include government conscience buying : they rewarded Al-Mallah Al-Kubra workers who stayed out of the April strike with a month's extra pay. Curiously, they also rewarded the workers who did go on strike, but with a fortnight's pay. For the remaining workers, right on the eve of the second strike call, a 30% rise in the minimum wage was announced.
Something similar to what happened in
In January 2007
The success of the strike moves in
During that war, the streets of the Arab cities, regardless of religious or party affiliations filled with placards on which the figure of Hizbollah's Secretary General accompanied that of
While the reactionary governments resumed business as usual - in
Come what may and at whatever cost, that is something imperialism wants to avoid. The strategy is to internationalize the crisis - calling on the right to intervene, that was invoked in
The general strike in
Hizbollah has pounded its fist on the table. One cannot talk of a legitimate government in a country where the economy is adrift, where the only prescription offered is hardline IMF, neoliberal policy, a country whose national defence strategy is incapable of responding to Israeli aggression and where electoral law - inherited from French colonialism - favours Christians, who only represent 35% of the population.
The reason for what happened in
As regards the airport, the system was installed on the certainty that strips one through seven would be used by Israel for a lightning raid against resistance installations at the end of April, a raid which was, in the end, cancelled. This, common knowledge in Beirut has also been mentioned by Robert Fisk in his reports (8) where he wonders, like most of the Lebanese population, whether the Lebanese government is not playing Israel's game by proposing to dismantle that system. The speculation turns especially around Druze leader Walid Jumblat who is considered the main ally of
What happened makes the reality clear: the power of Hizbollah can only be stopped by foreign military intervention. The forces that prop up the Siniora government, whose supposed military support has dissolved like sugar in a cup of coffee, openly plead with the imperialists and their allies (the famous "international community") "to intervene so as to end the coup". (9)
In order to save the Siniora government, they are beginning to talk about setting up an air bridge in which
So the internationalization of the Lebanese crisis gathers momentum. But here Hizbollah is strong, the airport is in Hizbollah's hands. So where then will they site their air bridge if the incipient interventionism of the reactionary Arab countries does not want to risk an open confrontation with a group that has demonstrated its power? There is only one alternative, in the north of the country where NATO is proposing a base near Qleiat, close to Tripoli where the Nahr el Bared Palestinian refugee camp is sited and close, too, to the northern frontier with Syria. The base would accommodate a helicopter squadron and NATO special forces. (10)
It is ever more obvious that the presence of US warships, NATO plans and UNIFIL manoeuvres are all components moving in one direction : preparations for a new war with the aim of completely defeating the opposition forces and especially Hizbollah as a political and military actor not just in
That is something progressives the world over must seek to avoid. In Lebanon, leftwing organizations like the lay Sunni organization, the Independent Nasserite Movement (Morabitun), say they are "fed up with being hijacked, making Sunnis part of something that does not represent us and does not express our values", expressing its recognition of Hizbollah and referring to the group led by Saad Hariri and Fouad Siniora himself. The Maronite Christian organization, the Free Patriotic Movement, regards as culprits both the UN Security Council and the so-called international community, for supporting a government that "marginalizes the majority of its people".
Hizbollah has not sought the government's defeat but rather a government of national unity reflecting the real composition of the country. Even ignoring what has been said by other progressive Lebanese organizations, like the Communist Party, the leftwing should note that the Leabnese people's struggle against a pro-Western, pro-IMF neoliberal government is of great importance for the whole region not just Lebanon.
(1) Al-Masri Al-Yawm (
(2) Joel Beinin and Hossam el-Hamalawy : “El sector obrero egipcio hace frente al Nuevo Orden Económico”, http://www.nodo50.org/ceprid/spip.php?article48
(5) The Daily Star, May 6th 2008.
(6) Alberto Cruz: “Líbano, una guerra fría cada vez más caliente” http://www.nodo50.org/ceprid/spip.php?article81
(8) The Independent, May 8th 2008.
(9) The Daily Star, May 10th 2008.
(10) Alberto Cruz: “La nueva estrategia de EEUU en Líbano: la guerra secreta contra Hizbulá” http://www.nodo50.org/ceprid/spip.php?article31
Alberto Cruz is a journalist, political analyst and writer. He specializes in international relations - firstname.lastname@example.org
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