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The Reality of the Egyptian Proletariat

saeedslama@hotmail.com writes:

From an Egyptian Website dedicated to Arabic texts in the social sciences
from the (communist) libertarian view. Egyptians writers and researchers,
participating in the libertarian radical left wing.

The Reality of the Egyptian Proletariat

By Sameh Saeed Abbood

Translation from Arabic

In the modern capitalist society, there are two concepts of the labor class.
The former expands to include all that are deprived of any control over
financial resources. Such concept also includes those who own nothing but
their mental and physical fore, which they are obliged to sell for, wages in
return.Moreover it encompasses those who have no authority concerning the process
of decisions-making -- in this sense, such concept covers the vast majority
of the various capitalist societies. The later
concept, on the other hand, is restricted only to what is refrained to as "

Actually, the reason behind such differentiation lies in the changes accrued
among the working class by the beginning of a new scientific technological
revolution during the 20th century.

Due to such revolution, the working class "proletariat" transformed from
being a homogeneous block of craftsmen, close to each other in term of wages
and standard of living, into inhomogeneous block including various types of
labors in term of wages, standard of living, culture, awareness, values, and
even work type itself, now, new layers of the working class are to be added.
For instance, there are the wageworkers that have no authority to take
decisions. Also, there are these who produce vital part of the surplus value
while being oppressed under the capitalist and bureaucracy exploitation, and
alienation equally with the handcraft proletariat. The newly introduced
layer, however, are different in terms of their high standard of living,
their bourgeoisie culture & awareness, their official education, and
bourgeoisie values which all alienated them from traditional layers of
working class.

Undoubtedly, the bourgeoisie is misusing such disparity and disintegration
among the proletariat to strength it full power and authority. Hence, it
seems that there's no hope for the working class except for union and
overcoming such disparity.

Being an Egyptian, I will try to shed light on the present status of the
Egyptian proletariat. This is to be cited as an example for the Arab
proletariat as a whole, especially. That there is a great similarity between
labors status in Egypt, in the Arab world, and the world as a whole Except
Ghordan, Tunisia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco's, The Arab countries do not
allow having independent social, political unions and organizations.
Ironically, before such deterioration, Egyptian, labors were considered
largest, greatest, and even oldest in terms of organization.

This article calibrates of the international workers Day, especially that,
while we are watching workers demonstrations launched celebrating this day,
here in Egypt, workers are satisfied with having a day off and enjoying
listening to the Mr. president annual speech.

Undoubtedly, being aware of the origin and progress of Egyptian working
class will provide a clue the might help in the liberation of such class.
It is highly noticeable that there is a great similarity between Egyptian
workers and Arab one, especially those who have experienced fascist
experiences close to the Egyptian one .For example;
this is the case in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Algeria. But we have to admit
that workers in Egypt and Algeria have been to some extent, liberated from
fascist cuffs.

The beginning of the 19th century, with the emerged of the working class in
Egypt .The oldest documented strike was in the beginning of the 80th of the
same century. By the end of 19th, the first trade union was established
after another labor strike in 1899. Later on, strikes succeeded, different
trade unions emerged with different attempts from the part of the old
National party and socialist cycles to domesticate them. By the end of the
world war I followed by the inflamed national struggle for independence, the
first Egyptian trade unions was founded such union was controlling
Leninists communists, especially, after a wide labors movements, the
movement was strong enough to occupy factories sometimes, However, in 1924 the union was dissolved and crushed by the liberal national "ELWAFD" the
deputation government.

Throughout the 20th century, and after crushing of labor unions, the
different capitalist parties including the liberal, conservative and
fascist, attempted to domesticate the movement mainly for their interests
and namely, through what's known as "class cooperation " rather than "class
struggle" by the 20th century, the labor movement became so strong that it
formed a labor political declared organization under the name of "the
labors committee for national liberty" the second upraise of the labors
movement ended with the formation of an independent democratic labor union
dominated mainly by the different Stalinist Marxist organizations. After
fascist coup d'etat 23 of July 1952 and long period of bloody oppression for
the labor movement and its organizations, the above unions have lost their
independence and democratic feature as well. Meanwhile, this second upraise,
thought led and developed by the competed Marxist organizations, was
deformed either by mixing the nationalist and class struggle or even by
raising the former over the later. Perhaps, such mixing paved the way for
the receipt of Naserian fascism and its counterparts in the Arab area till

In 1957, the labor movements was nationalized through the formation of a one
bureaucratic labor union organized by a law securing the total damnation of
the government and its security agency over it. Accordingly -- the union chief was to be appointed automatically a work minister, union membership
became obligatory for all who work in the establishment with union

According to the law and the way the unions were not based on the idea of
representing labors in their class struggle against the administration and
the employers.

Now, they became a "service supplying institutions", and therefore, should
cooperate with the administration and employers to accomplish such services
for the laborers.

After a so years of the taming by the stick and the bribe, and by the
demagogic brainwashing propaganda by the Nasserism fascism followed by the
almost liberal variations, the labor movement has lost its social political
and union competence away from the bureaucratic state agency .now, the law
prevent establishing Independent organizations, Meanwhile, politicians who
are interested in working class issues refuse to snatch the human and legal
rights. They refuse establishing alternative unions claiming that workers
themselves will prefer the official ones. Others claim that this might
threat labors unity, therefore, they often inset on participating in the
comic official unions election play .On the other hand, the spontaneous
labor movement stands completely away from such organizations, and its comic
ironic way of formation. Workers themselves do not trust such organizations,
and during the last 40 years, all uproars were away or even against official

Unfortunately, no one has comprehended the real danger of the actual
disassembly of labors unity.

No one has confronted labors' transformation into a disorganized and unaware
group in capable even of understanding their social reality as a unique
class having different interests against capitalists and state. Most of
those workers miss class sense and awareness. They aspire to accent into the
capital class, and actually, they believe in its values and ideologies. What
is more surprisingly is that the anti-labor ideology and the retarded
ossified values are spreading widely among them. This is made clear --through
the retarded concepts of the democratic process relating to voting and

Moreover there's the whole retarded vision about unions as service supplying
institutions devoted to personal needs and individual interests instead of
being organizations struggling for labor' common interests a whole class.
Concerning labor class, awareness it's restricted to mere comprehension laws
regulating work relations as assigned by government.

Aspiring for any benefits, however, those labors stand only to petitions and
cases. In this sense, labors become incapable of using pressure policy to
improve their life and work conditions, for they are satisfied with such
great grants granted upon them by bureaucratic and capitalism. Under the new
world economic circumstances, workers are waiting helplessly for mercy from
masters of cruelty .Now they are even unable to get at least keep the
social, political and economic benefits which the liberal "ELWAFED" the
deputation party and "Nasserian" fascism government have granted during the
GLORIOUS º century that followed the World War 2.

By the end of this period, and the economic changes accompanied the
beginning of the globalization capitalism, labor did not fight against
losing these benefits .Now they are facing difficult circumstances bare of
an organized labors unity weapon, class awareness and labor strife methods
as well. Along with the crisis of unemployment and marginalization, workers
are losing competence of pressure over employees for the improvement of
their life and work conditions. Furthermore, they became compelled to accept
whatever conditions they employees impose. Perhaps, this paves the way for
the refreshment of retarded ossified fascism.

There are the actual bases according to which laborers prefer individual
solutions to collective ones.

As a result, most of them attempted to improve their standard of living by
extra work or by being committed to more than one job at the same time to
the extent that they might work 12 hours per-day or as to compensate
litheness of their salaries. Others prefer the choice of immigration wither
to Europe or to the Arabic Gulf, whereas some of them have chosen investment
in small business brokerage or small stuffs selling. A number of them,
however, indulged in illegal economic activities.

Perhaps, here lies the answer for the question "how can millions of workers
provide for their families"? Their wages and the prices, if taken seriously
into consideration, will know a real famine.

All these conditions weakened the labor unity and disrupted the proletariat
essence. A dramatic disaster, however, has taken place a as result a series
of denials; labor are deprived of from striving independently in their
unions, they are deprived even from regularity as political independent

Moreover, they were denied their class political rights.

The state is shackling labor union with law-cuffs, which in turn have
transformed those unions into real depended satellites for the capitalist
state. Meanwhile, labor unions have totally lost their
original democratic feature. Holding the motto of respecting laws, unions
are formed only under bureaucratic supremacy from the part of the state and
its security agencies. Owing to such corruption, labors are practically
alienated from these unions except from the individual services and
advantages they might obtain from them. Though the constitution grantees the
right of forming organizations, and congregating, no one have seriously
practiced such human and legal right, Or even strive for real independent
labor unions.

Now, I have exhibited a portrait for the real status of Egyptian worker,
however, since, I am not an advocate of determinism in the history, nor am I
a naive optimist, I perceive a one remaining hope for saving such class
from more deterioration. I believe that there should be an organized
democratic movement completely independent from the bureaucratic state,
capitalism and authoritarian politicians. Such movement should affiliate in
the real class struggle vice all the previously mentioned entities with the
objective of achieving the labor class benefits. However, we still have a
remaining question -- how?

Actually, the plight we are facing now is spacious enough to contain
different struggling innovation independent from state, bureaucracy,
capitalism and authoritarian politicians as a vital step towards
workers liberation. Now, I perceive two parallel points as an outlet from
such plight.

1. A political strife that are aiming at setting unions for free it from
state and capitalism. This is to accomplish through toppling all laws and
restrictions chaining the right of forming unions. Besides, overthrowing the
state right in enactment laws governing and organizing unions, transferring
such right to unions members themselves.

In this case's however, labors are totally responsible for toppling laws,
which contain anti-human and unconstitutional articles. This might be
achieved either by the legal contention against these laws, or through the
legislative institutions represented by people assembly, or even through the
labours effective pressure over decisions -makers. Perhaps, labors have no
way but being politically organized to accomplish such goal as a preparation
for more success and achievements.

Resorting to the civil law still secure a minimum supervision over unions
either through general assemblies that might supervise its elected board or
then breaching transparency rules. Undoubtedly, permitting the formation of
unions an a democratic base, will activate unions role and refresh labors,
potential energy that was curbed since the 1952 coup d'etat.

2. A mass initiative from the part of labors to form "alternative unions"
away from the bureaucratic state .For those who are individually able to
manage their difficult life circumstances through nonofficial economic
practices and primitive social solidarity forms, are equally able to
practice, a more useful and elevated solidarity through the preferred to
"alternative unions".

This initiative is neither as difficult a perceived by the worshipers of the
state institutions and legal strife, nor as expedient a perceived by those
who worship theories instead of real practices.

The whole matter does not need, at first, but some initiative, need
organizing a number of independent unions; producing models of workers
applicable for spread and imitation. Workers might keep -their membership in
their official unions as long as they are delivering services from its.
However this should not prevent them from directing their class struggle
against capitalism .The whole matter, then, is left to innovation,
flexibility and daily initiative.

In Poland for instance, workers managed to form a union of solidarity from
and against the mighty Stalinist state. Such strife was the seed from for
the collapse of Stalinism. Even fascism in Spain, Italy, Japan and Germany
was unable to prevent workers from their economic strife through their
secret unions. Frankly, Egyptians are enjoying a liberty nerve available
during fascism and Stalinism. The Egyptian state, to some extent, the
publicity of some activities, perhaps, under a full grip of control. This is
like for instance, The Egyptian public committee for solidarity with the
Palestinian people an upsurge, The Egyptian groups for resistance the
capitalism globalization and the coordination committee for defending
workers rights.

The problem, as I believe, does not lie in the state and its laws or means
of oppression; the problem lies in the traditional ossified and conservative
minds that worship legality, state bureaucratic and formalities.
I also believe that, the current economic circumstances, and present
globalization, might result in a new upraising for workers movements as well
as new nationalist or religious fascism. Well, will the circumstances push
us towards a more proper, way of thinking and behaving?

Only the future will answer such a question.