Workers, Trade Unions and Egypt's Political Future

by Joel Beinin | published January 18, 2013

During the week of December 15-22, 2012, between the two rounds of the referendum on Egypt’s newly adopted constitution, workers struck at three large, strategic industrial enterprises. At two, the strikers quickly achieved their main demands.

Goldberg, Tinker, Tailor and Textile Worker

by Eric Davis
published in MER156

Ellis Goldberg, Tinker, Tailor and Textile Worker: Class and Politics in Egypt, 1930-1952 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1986).

The critique of modernization theory that began in the late 1960s had an especially significant impact on a new generation of Western scholars who rejected the prevailing academic focus on political elites to the exclusion of other political forces. Not only were elites largely studied in isolation from the masses they dominated, but the masses themselves were not attributed any role in the political process. Today, this younger generation of scholars, working in the political economy paradigm, is beginning to publish the results of its research on the role of the masses in politics.

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Occupational Health and Safety in Turkey

by Aliza Marcus
published in MER161

Kandir Baysu has been hospitalized twice over the past eight years, both times for more than two months and requiring dozens of blood transfusions. Baysu, a worker at a battery manufacturing plant on the outskirts of Istanbul, thinks he is about due for another hospital stay. As in the past, he expects the diagnosis to be the same: lead poisoning.

Unlike hundreds of thousands of factory workers across Turkey, Baysu is relatively lucky. A lengthy series of newspaper articles and union-backed court battles in the late 1970s drew nationwide attention to health and safety conditions at Mutlu, forcing the government to take the rare move of shutting down the plant until certain changes were instituted.

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From the Editors

by The Editors
published in MER161

When the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund met in Washington in September, President Husni Mubarak was on hand to speak about the Third World debt crisis. For more than a year, Cairo has been negotiating a new $500 million agreement with the IMF that would allow Egypt to reschedule $10 billion worth of debt payments falling due before December 1990. At one stage Mubarak denounced the IMF as a “quack doctor,” but his government has had to swallow many IMF “reform” prescriptions. (Currency devaluations, for instance, have tripled the Egyptian pound value of dollar-denominated debt contracted in the early 1980s.)

Shafir, Land, Labor and the Origins of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

by Joel Beinin
published in MER164

Gershon Shafir, Land, Labor and the Origins of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, 1882-1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989).

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Sustaining Movement, Creating Space

Trade Unions and Women's Committees

by Joost Hiltermann
published in MER164

“Up here at the encampment,” said Abu Tha’ir, peering ahead through the windshield, “we cross the Green Line into ’48. If there is a checkpoint and they stop us, they’ll send me back to prison.” He looked at me as if asking for my opinion, but he did not slow down as we approached the army post perched on the hillside overlooking the road north of Tulkarm.

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Lessons from Egypt's Tax Collectors

by Jean Lachapelle
published in MER264

In December 2007, employees from the Real Estate Tax Authority in Egypt staged the largest occupation of a downtown Cairo area prior to the uprising that unseated Husni Mubarak. Angry about their working conditions, 8,000 tax collectors slept in front of the Ministers’ Council building on Husayn Higazi Street, a short walk from Parliament, for 11 consecutive nights. Like their successors in Tahrir Square in 2011, the Authority employees pitched tents and brought in gas stoves to sustain them as they chanted anti-government slogans. They won an impressive 325 percent wage increase, and their efforts laid the groundwork for the creation of Egypt’s first independent trade union.

The Emergence of a New Labor Movement in Jordan

by Fida Adely
published in MER264

Although Jordan may appear little affected by the Arab uprisings, as early as January 2011 Jordanians were in the streets for the same reasons Tunisians and Egyptians were: protesting against economic conditions and privatization of state resources, demanding the resignation of the prime minister and his cabinet, and calling for political reform and an end to elite corruption. The protests persist, with marches nearly every week, and include traditional opposition groups like the Muslim Brothers and leftists, as well as self-proclaimed “popular reform movements” that are forming throughout the country. At least two umbrella organizations have emerged to bring these movements together.

Beinin and Lockman, Workers on the Nile

by Robert Vitalis
published in MER168

Joel Beinin and Zachary Lockman, Workers on the Nile: Nationalism, Communism, Islam and the Egyptian Working Class, 1882-1954 (Princeton, 1987).

Women and Work in Istanbul

Linking the Urban Poor to the World Market

by Jenny White
published in MER173

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