Labor and the State in Egypt: Workers, Unions, and Economic Restructuring

Labor and the State in Egypt: Workers, Unions, and Economic Restructuring

Labor and the State in Egypt: Workers, Unions, and Economic Restructuring

Labor and the State in Egypt: Workers, Unions, and Economic Restructuring

Excerpt

On August 12,1952, just a few weeks after the Free Officers military group, led by Gamal 'Abd al-Nasir, had overthrown the British-backed monarchy in Egypt, workers at the Misr Fine Spinning and Weaving plant in Kafr al- Dawwar went on a sit-down strike in demand of wage increases and an end to company unionism. The army quickly crushed the strike, and the new regime tried 29 workers before a military tribunal as instigators. Two, accused of membership in illegal communist organizations, were publicly hanged.

Some ten years later, the same plant was again occupied by workers. It had since been nationalized, becoming part of a rapidly expanding public industrial sector in a mixed economy the Nasir regime called "Arab socialism." Workers were demanding repayment of deductions that had been taken from their pay prior to nationalization. They electrified the factory fence to prevent company officials from entering but, to demonstrate their loyalty to the government and its development strategy, they continued to operate their machines.

While the 1963 incident was resolved peacefully, bloodshed returned to Kafr al-Dawwar in 1994. Parastatals like the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company were now being restructured as part of the government's pledge to privatize the economy. Workers again occupied the factory, protesting the threat of layoffs and benefit cutbacks initiated by a new manager trying to make the plant more profitable prior to sale. State security forces opened fire on the workers and their supporters outside the plant, killing six and wounding more than a hundred.

Volumes have been written about the history of Egypt since the military came to power, but in most of this scholarship informal workers' protests like . . .

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