strikes, barricades: the people who work with cloth

09.09.2011 § Leave a comment

All around the world, people working with textiles (a feminized sector) are  striking and shit – in China, a lingerie factory is on strike against their death-making wage; in Egypt, the largest textile factory is threatening serious strike; in Nigeria, ex-textile workers are protesting non-payment:

Coalition of textile workers laid off about 10 years ago protested yesterday over non-payment of entitlements and gratuity accrued to them to the tune of N7 billion. The textile workers, therefore, gave the Federal Government seven-day ultimatum to pay the money.

The protesting ex-workers said if the government failed, they would mobilize over 7, 000 of their members to take to the streets.
The aggrieved workers, who barricaded the entrance of the closed Kaduna Textile Limited yesterday, were carrying placards with different inscriptions ranging from; ‘we are dying of hunger’, ‘pay us our benefits’ and ‘our children are engaging in prostitution’, among others.

Speaking through the coalition’s Chairman, Wordam Simdik, the protesting textile workers from Kaduna Textile Limited, Arewa Textile Limited, Nortex and Finetex, said after the closure of the companies in 2002 and 2003 respectively, they had been left with no terminal benefit and gratuity which had led to the death of 2, 700 of their members.



“Women were betrayed by the revolution they helped to make” – Gender, Class and Security Politics in Iran

06.04.2011 § Leave a comment

Fabulous article just finished, focuses intensively on role of women and labor in recent uprisings as well as Iranian revolution. Some passages excerpted below.

New Middle Eastern Uprisings: Gender, Class and Security Politics in Iran

” The two groups that most contested Khomeini’s consolidation of power were women and labor. Iranian women were at the forefront of the struggle to overthrow the Shah; they participated in leftist guerilla struggle as well as in the mass demonstrations that formed the iconic images and collective strength of the revolution. Women’s experience of making the revolution empowered them to launch the modern Iranian feminist movement in its immediate aftermath. Missing from most histories and timelines are a series of marches and sit-ins organized and led by women demanding that gender equality be written into the new post-revolutionary constitution. On International Women’s Day, March 8, 1979, just weeks after the revolution had triumphed, tens of thousands of womenfrom all classes, some veiled, some nottook to the streets. “We didn’t make a revolution to go backwards,” they chanted. For Iranian women, a new phase of struggle against new state forms of patriarchy began at the very moment when the struggle for national liberation was over, when Khomeini told everyone to stop protesting and go home. They marched for days against Khomeini’s draconian family law and mandatory veiling and sat in at the Ministry of Justice. On March 9, Khomeini revoked the mandatory veil decree, only reinstituting it after discrediting the women as corrupted by Western-influenceand then driving them off the streets with violent repression.

Women were betrayed by the revolution they helped to make. Subsequent generations of women’s rights activists have taken this legacy seriously and drawn the lesson that national self-determination in no way guarantees self-determination for women (a reversal of the common wisdom at the time). Significantly, among the first groups of Iranians, if not the first, to express solidarity with the Tunisian revolution, was the women’s movement, which issued a statement excerpted here:
“Tunisian women’s rights activists should know that what they manage to accomplish in their quest for democracy and the equality of women will significantly impact the region and serve as a model for us all. Today, a gain for the women of Tunisia is a gain for all the nations in the region and for all women in Islamic countries.” 

The above clip summarizes the work of a
grassroots feminist campaign in Iran from 2005-2008.
Iranian women were out in front of the riot squads in 2009 and joined the protests again this past week despite the violence. The women’s movement struggles to find ways of injecting feminist politics into the broader struggle. This is, of course, not an easy task but activists have continued to organize under severe repression. All of the major feminist leaders are in jail or exile, but new leaders have stepped up and the decentralized structure and word-of-mouth strategies enable the work to go on.
Also rarely mentioned in references to the Iranian revolution is the role of labor. Not only were there strikes in every sector of the economy in 1979, including most decisively a protracted strike by oil workers at the Abadan refinery (one of the world’s largest at that time), but workers formed their own councils, or shoras, to coordinate their activities and put forward demands. [2] Again, the experience of making the revolution translated into demands that could not be met within the framework of patriarchal capitalism that Khomeini was attempting to consolidate. Instead, workers demands revealed competing definitions of what an Islamic Republic should look like. On March 1, 1979, less two weeks after the revolution had been victorious, the Founding Council of the Iranian National Workers’ Union issued 24 demands including: “government recognition of theshoras; the expulsion of all foreign and Iranian capitalists and expropriation of their capitals in the interests of all workers; and the inclusion of workers’ shoras in industrial decisions such as investment and the general conditions of the plant, as well as buying, selling, pricing and the distribution of profit.” [3]

Int’l media following protests across ‘Arab world’ but ignoring those in Africa

02.03.2011 § 1 Comment

International media is following protests across the ‘Arab world’ but ignoring those in Africa. SUPRISE SUPRISE, U STILL CANT ACCEPT THE HAITIAN REVOLUTION EITHER M#@*$$%*#S.

So clearly Egypt and etc have gotten a lotta international recognition re: revolutionary furvor, but its never compared with or covered alongside any other parts of Africa — only other places in the “Middle East”. Great article HERE tackling the issue, bringing up some struggles that in fact ARE going on south of egypt and libya, and are super connected to the North African/Far West Asian uprisings.

… reports surfaced of political unrest in a West African country called Gabon. With little geo-political importance, news organisations seem largely oblivious to the drama that began unfolding on January 29, when the opposition protested against Ali Bhongo Odhimba’s government, whom they accuse of hijacking recent elections. The demonstrators demanded free elections and the security forces duly stepped in to lay those ambitions to rest. The clashes between protesters and police that followed show few signs of relenting.

Elsewhere on the continent protests have broken out in Khartoum, Sudan where students held Egypt-inspired demonstrations against proposed cuts to subsidies on petroleum products and sugar…

Ethiopian media have also reported that police there detained the well-known journalist Eskinder Nega for “attempts to incite” Egypt-style protests. In Cameroon, the Social Democratic Front Party has said that the country might experience an uprising similar to those in North Africa if the government does not slash food prices.

And a thesis about why sub-saharan africa may have a harder time with ‘succesful’ riots – but this sounds a little too much like the common story told of an enormous area, and the nothing wants to know more…

“In most of the countries that have had fairly ‘successful riots’ the societies are fairly homogeneous compared to sub-Saharan Africa where there are a multiplicity of ethnic groups that are themselves very polarised. In sub-Saharan Africa, where governments have been able to divide people along ethnic-political lines, it becomes easier to hijack an uprising because of ethnic differences, unlike in North Africa.”

But check the Ivory Coast:

[Int’l media totally neglected] Ivory Coast, where the UN estimates that at least 300 people have died and the opposition puts the figure at 500.

“With due deference to the bravery of the Egyptian demonstrators, protesters who gathered this weekend in Abidjan [in Ivory Coast] aren’t up against a military that safeguards them – it shoots at them.

“The country’s economy has been coughing up blood since November, with banks shutting by the day, businesses closing by the hour and thousands of families fleeing their homes,” he continues. “And in all of this where is Anderson Cooper? Where is Nicolas Kristof? Why is Bahrain a front page news story while Ivory Coast is something buried at the bottom of the news stack?”

[In] Djibouti… 20,000 people protested this weekend according to the opposition.”

Fear of a black planet.

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.”

Egypt’s Military and Wiscansin’s Gov: reminding us that the historical material conditions of capitalism don’t require a conspiracy…

21.02.2011 § Leave a comment

Egypt’s military effectively bans strikes,  (See reuter’s article HERE) Wisconsin’s tryna make em illegal (see cheesy video HERE, note sign at 0:18 which reads “BIEBER SAYS: HELL NO!”).

But isn’t that wacky? Was telling workers “don’t strike!”  usually a central tactic of capital to destroy working class power? we didn’t think so… when was it, when wasn’t it? and it doens’t seem to really matter whether or not they are “allowed” (see: Egypt’s largest Factory strikes despite warnings)…

What does it mean to use legal action against strikes and worker uprisings? what does it mean that the biggest threat is to render worker organizing illegal ? Because it is irrelevant whether something is legal if there are enough people doing it… ? Does this mean that the state is assuming workers are not strong enough? Is there a gap in reality? soooo not sure…

Ok, and whats up with the gender question here? Its a lot of reproductive workers, teachers espesh, in wisconsin. The textile factory in egypt that struck back in 2007 just went on strike again, in which there were mad amounts of women. More on this issue momentarily…

Gendered Violence, Microcredit, and Revolution in Egypt… (plus: what the *&#$^ is the deal with the Egyptian Military?)

14.02.2011 § Leave a comment

the social base of the movement in a new debt/microbusiness economy, on the new BRIC funded manufacturing boom, on gender politics in relation to these two, on intra-elite struggles, and more…


“thus the micro-enterprise system has become a massive set of police rackets and “loan shark” operations. Police sexualized brutalization of youth and women became central to the “regulation” of the massive small-business economy. In this context, the micro-business economy is a tough place to operate, but it does shape women and youth into tough survivors who see themselves as an organized force opposed to the police-state.”

“The Muslim Brotherhood (the ones that emerged in the 1980s) have retained a primary focus on cultural, moral and identity politics. Moral-cultural conservatism is still seen by this group as what distinguishes the Brothers from other parties, a fact they confirmed by appointing a rigid social conservative, Muhammad Badeea, as leader in 2010. This turn was rejected by women and youth in the movement…Youth and Women’s wings feel drawn toward the 6 April coalition.”

[Women protesting in Tahrir Square; Image from AP]

[Women protesting in Tahrir Square]


On the questions we’ve all been asking re: egyptian military…

The Egyptian military is one of the most interesting and misunderstood economic actors in the country. The military’s economic interests are split in interesting ways. Since the military has been prevented by the Camp David treaty from making war, it has instead used its sovereignty over huge tracks of desert and coastal property to develop shopping malls, gated cities and beach resorts, catering to rich and modest Egyptians, local and international consumers and tourists. Their position vis-à-vis the uprising is thus complicated. They hated the rapacious capitalists around Gamal Mubarak, who sold off national lands, assets and resources to US and European corporations. But the military also wants tourists, shoppers and investors to consume in their multi-billion dollar resorts and venues. The military identifies very strongly with representing and protecting “the people,” but also wants the people to go home and stop scaring away the tourists. The military will continue to mobilize this in-between position in interesting ways in the coming years.

Suleiman’s General Intelligence Services are nominally part of the military, but are institutionally quite separate. Intelligence is dependent on foreign patrons (Israel and the US primarily) and are looked on skeptically by Egyptians. But the actual Army and Air Force are quite grounded in the economic and social interests of national territory. The army’s role in countering Suleiman’s lust for repression was crucial to saving the momentum of this uprising. On 4 February, the day of the most terrifying police/thug brutality in Tahrir Square, many commentators noted that the military were trying to stop the thug attacks but were not being very forceful or aggressive. Was this a sign that the military really wanted the protesters to be crushed? Since then, we have learned that the military in the square were not provisioned with bullets. The military were trying as best they could to battle the police/thugs, but Suleiman had taken away their bullets for fear the military would side with the protesters and use the ammunition to overthrow him.


Why Egypt’s Progressives Win

20 Feb 08 2011 by Paul Amar

and we will see how strong the Egyptian Thermidor…

13.02.2011 § Leave a comment

Egypt’s new military rulers will issue a warning on Sunday against anyone who creates “chaos and disorder”, an army source said.

The Higher Military Council will also ban meetings by labour unions or professional syndicates, effectively forbidding strikes, and tell all Egyptians to get back to work after the unrest that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

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