egypt’s textile workers; in 2007 the women were the most militant, will the men try to reign them in again?
21.02.2011 § 1 Comment
Men’s oppression (exploitation?) of women keeps showing itself as the internal limit to worker’s struggle.
So in spite of the warnings of Egypt’s military regime against any strikes, the ENORMOUS Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in Mahalla al-Kubra called a strike of 24 thousand workers 3 days ago (on Feb 16). This is the SAME textile company that went on strike back in 2007, and then it was widely reported that the women workers pushed past the reticence and dilly-dallying of the male workers, were much more militant, and generally tore shit up.
During the 2007 strike, the MEN ACTUALLY PUSHED THE MILITANT, STRIKING WOMEN TO GO HOME TO THEIR FAMILIES INSTEAD OF CONTINUING THE FIGHT. The women were pushed to go get back to their reproductive labor. This is a very similar situation as was heard from the barricades in the Oaxaca uprising in 2006, where women were militantly defending the barricades, but were pulled home by their husbands and families who demanded they get back to their domestic work (thanks comrade b for that report).
From the libcom article on the 2007 textile strike (which you can find here: libcom on textile strike):
A fighting spirit was in the air. Over the following two days, groups of workers refused to accept their salaries in protest. Then, on December 7, thousands of workers from the morning shift started assembling in Mahalla’s Tal‘at Harb Square, facing the entrance to the mill. The pace of factory work was already slowing, but production ground to a halt when around 3,000 female garment workers left their stations, and marched over to the spinning and weaving sections, where their male colleagues had not yet stopped their machines. The female workers stormed in chanting: “Where are the men? Here are the women!” Ashamed, the men joined the strike.
Around 10,000 workers gathered in the square, shouting “Two months! Two months!” to assert their claim to the bonuses they had been promised. Black-clad riot police were quickly deployed around the factory and throughout the town, but they did not act to quell the protest. “They were shocked by our numbers,” ‘Attar said. “They were hoping we’d fizzle out by the night or the following day.” With the encouragement of state security, management offered a bonus of 21 days’ pay. But, as ‘Attar laughingly recalled, “The women [workers] almost tore apart every representative from the management who came to negotiate.”
As night fell, said Sayyid Habib, the men found it “very difficult to convince the women to go home. They wanted to stay and sleep over. It took us hours to convince them to go home to their families, and return the following day.” Grinning broadly, ‘Attar added, “The women were more militant than the men. They were subject to security intimidation and threats, but they held out.”