T. Cliff

Egypt’s Fight for Freedom
Headed by New Leadership

(17 August 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 33, 17 August 1946, p. 7.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

During the last six months, when strike struggles in Egypt have reached a new high in militancy and numbers participating there has also been an important development in the political struggle of the workers. For the first time in history, the Egyptian workers have not only constituted the vanguard of the struggling masses but have also brought forth from their midst an independent leadership.

This leadership is centered in the Workers’ and Students’ Committee which is a popular democratic body; every faculty in the University and every trade union elected its delegate to a common council, from which the Committee was elected. The different quarters of Cairo also have their elected quarter committee.

February 21 – Evacuation Day – brought the Workers’ and Students’ Committee a great victory. In Cairo 100,000 people demonstrated under its banner. In Alexandria the students, under the influence of Trotskyist members of the committee, approached the workers’ quarters and together they marched in magnificent demonstration.

When the fascist leader, Ahmed Hussein, tried to speak to the masses, he was shouted down with cries of “Down with fascism!” The Moslem Brotherhood, a clerical-fascist organization, fiercely attacked the “Evacuation Movement,” and told the masses not to take part in it – but to no avail. The workers and students remained triumphant throughout.

The spirit that prevailed in the demonstrations was clearly expressed in the slogans of solidarity between Christians, Moslems and Jews, of solidarity between Egypt and Sudan (Sudanese students declaring a common struggle against British imperialism were carried shoulder high).

The end of March and the first of May saw further large demonstrations of workers. Delegates from all trade unions of the country came to Cairo on May 1. Their meeting was prohibited by the police, but the delegates nevertheless assembled in a private house and proclaimed the establishment of the “General Congress of Workers’ Unions In Egypt.” Until now the law has prohibited the establishment of any union beyond one industry or one trade. The main demand of the Congress was “The Full Economic and Military Independence of the Nile Valley.”

V-Day was the occasion of the calling of another strike, this time by the General Congress which called upon the workers to boycott the Victory celebrations and instead to strike on the same day. The government arrested the chairman of the trade unions. On June 25 the Congress called for a general strike of the Egyptian workers, but on the eve of the strike all the leaders of the trade unions which signed the strike appeal were arrested.

Faced with the revolutionary wave passing over Egypt, British imperialism tries to give concessions by taking at least part of its armies out of Egypt. It thus hopes to cheat the masses by making them believe that its rule over Egypt has come to an end. Of course, at the same time, British imperialism does its utmost to help the Egyptian capitalists in the suppression of the working class.

In order to achieve this aim, the clerical-fascist organization of the Moslem Brotherhood receives financial support from “obscure” sources. Besides this, the English heads of the police in Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said and Suez continue in the service of the national capitalists. A crusade against the working class has begun during the last few weeks.

On July 2, Ismail Sidky passed a law in Parliament which he himself called the “Law against the Communists.” According to this law, every leader of an organization whose aim is to bring one class to dominate another or to annihilate a social class or to change the basis of the social or economic system of the state, is liable to be arrested for ten years’ hard labor and to pay a fine of 100 to 1,000 pounds.

A similar punishment is given to everyone participating in such an organization or spreading propaganda to change the existing constitution. The same fate awaits everyone who belongs to an organization of an international character. As judicial justification of the law, the Minister of Justice in Parliament quoted the Italian fascist Constitution of 1930.

The government did not satisfy itself with threats alone, but a few days after publishing the law, mass arrests were carried out against trade union leaders, left intellectuals, Trotskyists and Stalinists. Till now about 600 have been cast into prison.

The situation in Egypt is pre-revolutionary. The main task of the moment is to deepen the class consciousness and strengthen the organization of the workers.

In the wake of the strikes in Egypt there have been a large series of strikes in other countries of the Middle East. In Syria and Lebanon, strikes broke out in the big tobacco monopoly, the railways, the port of Beirut and the Electric Company. The strikes were suppressed with characteristic brutality. In the strike of the tobacco workers, for instance, the police did not refrain from shooting unarmed workers, killing one and wounding many.

The Syrian government arrested 700 railway workers in one day and threatened them with court martials. Iraq also experienced a large-scale strike in the petroleum works in July which led to a clash with government forces, five workers being killed.

In face of these fierce struggles it is necessary for the trade unions of the Middle-East to realize the demand of the Egyptian and Palestinian Trotskyists to convene a conference of workers of the Middle East.

Last updated on 18 June 2021