Socialist Appeal - the Marxist voice of Labour and youth.
thumb_egyptA strike wave erupted in Egypt in the early months of this year, a nation whose government is a key US ally in the middle eastern region.

A strike wave erupted in Egypt in the early months of this year which was ignored by the international media.

The government's role in working with Saudi and Jordan on behalf of US imperialism to counter the growth of Iran's regional influence is reported positively. But not the extent to which the Iraq war is intensifying all the domestic contradictions and state repression is increasing.

Two processes are running side by side in Egypt. On the one hand the workers movement waged widespread strikes. On the other, the government is moving to clamp down on opposition.

The government is currently passing constitutional amendments which are opposed by the main opposition parties. They are intended to undermine the existing level of democracy and strengthen the hand of President Mubarak.

They are particularly aimed against the Muslim Brotherhood which won a fifth of the votes at the last elections in 2005 but will also reduce the space for any other opposition. The Kefayah (Enough) pressure group which is calling for democratic reforms has also been subject to repression.

State brutality has reached the point that even Mubarak's US ally has had to protest. There are tens of thousands of political prisoners and their treatment has caused widespread condemnation.

But despite low wages and the threat of beatings and imprisonment there has been a wave of workers revolt.

In first months of 2007 the important textile industry was paralysed. Cement and poultry workers also went on strike. "Train engineers, miners and even riot police have walked off the job or held demonstrations in the past 2 1/2 months" reported the San Francisco Chronicle on 20 February. But in general the media has ignored all of it.

These struggles have been triggered by rising prices and IMF-inspired privatisations which seek to dismantle the old Nasserite nationalised industries. With a population approaching 80 million and the biggest working class by far, Egypt is the key country of the region.

This upturn in the class struggle shows once again the crucial role of the working class in the struggle against capitalism. Despite the bankruptcy of the government-controlled trade unions and the rise of Islamism the workers continue to struggle on their own issues.

The failure of Nasserism, and the Arab left, has left a vacuum which the Islamists seek to fill. But against enormous difficulties these spontaneous struggles show the potential for a revolutionary movement armed with a clear class programme.