6 April 2008 — The government’s police attacked the Mahalla workers’ strike. Since the night of 5 April, so many worker leaders have been arrested. Police besieged the city. The strike couldn’t start in the morning. In the afternoon, workers, their families, and the unemployed started demonstrations. Police have attacked brutally with real bullets and gas bombs and killed 7 people, one of whom was a 9-year-old boy. 200 have been arrested in Cairo and 400 in Mahallah. Two of them are professors. Hundreds of wounded demonstrator are in three hospitals. Half a million demonstrators are in streets and clashes with police are continuing. However, workers are trying to start the strike. Below are calls for solidarity issued before the strike. — Cigdem Cidamli
Call for Class Solidarity from Egyptian El Mahalla Workers
6th April will be a very significant day for the laborers in both southern and northern coasts of the Mediterranean sea. That day, the labourers in Turkey will take another important step in their struggle against the neo-liberal social security reform law. And in Egypt, El Mahalla textile workers, the pioneers of the two years of the strike wave in this country, declared a new wildcat strike for 6th of April and a general strike atmosphere is constituted against the neo-liberal, oppressive, corrupted Hosni Mubarak regime. 25 thousand workers of Mahalla factory, which is one of the largest textile factories in all Middle East, declared a strike action on 6th April, which is a work day in Egypt, demanding their wages at the level of an average 350 Egyptian pounds (60 dollars) to be increased with the high inflation rate and the conditions in the factory clinic to be improved.
However, the strike of the Mahalla workers has a meaning beyond their mere demands for the Egyptian working class and people. If Mahalla workers can really do the strike and be successful, the broader struggle against the Mubarak regime will be gaining a very important new achievement by the hands of the Egyptian working class. Hence the strike action of the Mahalla workers, pioneers of the wave of independent and de facto trade union organisations and strikes of the last two years, is declared illegal today by the Ministry of Interior. The state security forces, hand in hand with the official trade union organisation General Federation of Trade Unions and Ministery of Labour, announced that they will use all measures in order the prevent 6th April strike. Mahalla, which is a worker town in two hours distance to the capital city Cairo, is surrounded by 35 thousand security police and entrance to the town is prevented. And in the capital city at least 5 people distributing solidarity leaflets are arrested today. The worker leaders of the factory are not staying in their houses in order to prevent the arrests to halt the strike action.
On the other hand, the tax collectors movement, which shares the leadership of the strike wave with Mahalla workers and various other independent worker organisations in different cities in the whole country, decided to make solidarity strikes and demonstrations the same day. Solidarity Commission in Support of Mahalla Workers called on all Egyptian workers and people to support the strike action of the Mahalla workers. It seems that neo-liberal, pro-market and corrupted Hosni Mubarak regime will use all kinds of oppression to prevent the 6th April action. Militant workers of Mahalla are calling all workers and laboring people of the world to support their fair cause and to show their solidarity.
Contact for solidarity:
Workers of Mahalla
Unite behind Your Rights
A great comprador’s salute to the militant workers of Ghazl El-Mahalla, who announced that they will go on strike today in order to demand their rights, and above all their right to a fair fixed minimum wage, along with the need to link wages with prices.
And, all the shame and condemnation is the share of the workers’ syndicate that does its best to halt the workers movement and break their rightful strike.
Your strike, today, is an enormous step forward since it does not only relate to you, but concerns each and every person who works in return for a wage in Egypt.
Workers of Mahalla, you are not alone today for the whole of Egypt supports you in your just demands. Do not be dissuaded by the continuous trials at breaking your unity and stand firm against all the games of the treacherous syndicate and the regime’s oppressive machine and media used to break your will.
Long live the struggles of all the Egyptian people, and the workers’ struggle at their core, to free themselves, win back their rights, and fight against the strategies of oppression, exploitation, and corruption.
Long Live the militancy and revolt of El-Mahalla workers
The Solidarity Commission in Support of Mahalla Workers
A Call to All Egyptians, Workers, and Populace at Large!
Stand Together and Unite!
To every honourable effort, and every drop of sweat exerted by those who worked hard for a morsel of bread soaked in the blood and sweat of a worker. To those whose wages have been enveloped by the deamon that is inflation, subjected to the monstrosity of those who invest in the workers’ efforts and feast on their sweat.
To all the workers . . .
To the hope of this nation, of its peoples, its children and its women . . .
You are called upon today to stand together as one, with all that you have; be it your effort, your words, or your actions; behind the pioneers of your struggle; behind the workers of Mahalla.
The pioneers that stand today, declaring a strike and calling for their rights to a minimum wage rate aligned with inflation and market prices. These demands they do not call for the workers of Mahalla only, but for every workers in Egypt, for every wager-earner on this land.
Undaunted by the treachery of the General Federation of Egyptian Workers, or the Ministry of Labour, who supposedly represent the plight of every wage-earner for his/her rights. The workers of Mahalla were not daunted by the state securitys’ various attempts to instill fear in their hearts. Nay, they stood strong in the forefront, speaking in the names of the hopes and aspirations of all Egyptians for a more dignified life, particularly after the inconceivable rise in prices.
We are called upon today to lend our voices to yours, God is with you, and so are we. Standing behind you to support your every effort and every cause for a more dignified life for us and our children.
The committee in solidarity with the workers of Mahallah.
Cigdem Cidamli is a co-editor of the Turkish edition of Monthly Review.