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.”
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.”
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.