The Factory (Must Watch Al Jazeera Documentary)

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Pierre
The Factory (Must Watch Al Jazeera Documentary)
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Hello cdes, everyone

Here is a really interesting bit of video from Al Jazeera. Granted, this information is not coming from left communists but the message is still strong. The workers of Mahalla inspired the revolution we are seeing today. Check it out!

http://aje.me/yqr2zN
(sorry had trouble embedding)

LoneLondoner
Thanks for this

Many thanks for posting this - given the situation we're in today we have to use what we can and read between the lines and it looks really interesting: as soon as I can I'll take time off to watch it.

The first few frames, of workers talking, really ring true. Also, it's interesting to see the leading role that Mahalla has played in the past - like the Putilov workers in 1917, or Renault Billancourt in 1968...

Pierre
LL, its glad to see you had

LL, its glad to see you had enthusiam over this like I did. I think its a really a great portrait and history of the workers of Mahalla. I personally had no idea about the level of unity and coordination, and numbers. Not that the workers actions surprised me, its the ideas and things they had to say that I found really profound.

For example, Prof. Walid Kazziha says around 29 minutes that during a large strike, the trade union clearly sided with the state and Mubarak telling the workers to go back to work. The workers at this point elected their own leaders, formed an independent union, and continued the strike while also sending out delegates to other regions! Damn! Quite significant, we should seek contact with people on the ground. Anymore I can read from the ICC on this??

Al Jazeera has a TON more videos freely available here: http://www.aljazeera.com/profile/revolution-through-arab-eyes.html

There was another film called "Tweets from Tahrir" which was equally as good.

Pierre
One more quote from "Tweets

One more quote from "Tweets from Tahrir", this ones from Hossam el-Hamalawy;

"This is going to be unpopular with many people. But it's not us in Tahrir who toppled Mubarak. And it's definitely not the army, and it's not America. What toppled Mubarak were the mass labor strikes which took places during the last week of the uprising."

He continues on about how after being forced away from work, etc. by curfews when curfews lifted periodically workers immeadiately began striking, shouting the same slogans heard in Tahrir...

baboon
Great info and political

Great info and political analysis PP; like Lone says, given the grip over information by the bourgeoisie it's often necessary to "read between the lines". The proletarian "line" from Mahalla in the film couldn't be clearer.

In the ICC's French paper, there's a review of a new film on Tahrir seeing this as the epicentre of a democratic revolution and responsible for getting rid of Murbarak. Compare the two pieces when the article is translated.

Pierre
Thanks Baboon for your

Thanks Baboon for your responses. I'm glad you enjoyed these as well. I'll check out that article when I can, cheers. By the way, it's never too late to follow your dreams! Haha Anyways, I too was really inspired and refreshed by the class consciousness of the workers in Egypt and specifically Mahalla. In the second documentary Hamalawy says that before the uprising there were only 5 independent unions. Today there are 147 and rising!

On another note, how do folks feel about the formation of the "Workers Democratic Party"? They don't seem to have participated in the elections, because they are apparently still an illegal party (parties based on class divisions are illegal). They say the party was founded with the intent of being the workers political arm, and they don't see themselves as the revolutionary party. This is really very interesting.

Leo
strikes in mahalla

Hey PP, thanks for the video, its very interesting! Here's several articles we wrote about the struggles in Mahalla and Egypt in general since 2007. The first four are specifically about the earlier struggles in Mahalla whereas the later ones refer to the more recent events and strikes. The fourth article is specifically about the idea of independent workers unions in Egypt and elsewhere. It is not surprising that Hamalawy is enthusiastic about the new unions, since he is a member of the Revolutionary Socialists, the Egyptian section of the Trotskyist/Cliffite Socialist Workers' Party's international organization, the IST.

https://en.internationalism.org/wr/302/egypt-textile-struggles

https://en.internationalism.org/wr/304/egypt-germs-of-mass-strike

https://en.internationalism.org/wr/308/struggles-egypt-bangladesh

https://en.internationalism.org/wr/309/egypt-independent-unions

https://en.internationalism.org/icconline/2011/2/egypt-tunisia

https://en.internationalism.org/icconline/2011/02/egypt-class-struggle-c...

https://en.internationalism.org/icconline/2011/03/middle-east

https://en.internationalism.org/icconline/2011/04/middle-east-libya-egyp...

https://en.internationalism.org/wr/11/348/egypt

https://en.internationalism.org/icconline/201202/4690/drama-port-said-eg...

I am very skeptical about the Workers Democratic Party to be honest. It was created by the merger of the Cliffite RS group and the the Popular Democratic Movement for Change (HASHD) which, in the words of one of their founders: “Our program is one of ‘demands. We believe that if these demands are implemented, Egypt will achieve the social justice and democracy that are crucial for this country before it can move forward". HASHD is a leftist front of sorts in itself and it is the major partner of the WDP, whereas the RS group is the minor one. The WDP entered a front sort of coalition with three other Egyptian leftist organizations, namely the Egyptian Communist Party (obviously Stalinist), the Egyptian Socialist Party (a social democratic formation with its roots partially in the social-liberal Kefaya movement) and the Socialist Popular Alliance Party (mainly made up of the former leftist party of the Mubarak regime, the Tagammu Party). The coalition is said to number 5,000 members now perhaps, however this number I think is mainly made up of two of the organizations in the coalition, the Socialist Party of Egypt and the Socialist Popular Alliance Party. These two organizations have also became a part of the Revolution Continues Alliance, which includes several liberal parties and a faction of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian Stream Party and this alliance managed to get seven people elected into parliament at the elections. Since the Coalition still exists, and also given the politics of the groups making it up, I would imagine the Workers Democratic Party (as well as the Egyptian Communist Party, of course) supported the electoral alliance despite not being able to participate in it themselves for legal reasons.

LoneLondoner
This film raises a lot of questions

Now I've taken the time to watch the movie, it is certainly fascinating, not least because it shows the events around "Tahrir" from the perspective of a workers' town, not just the very mixed bag that the Western media always showed us on the telly.

That said, you certainly have to "read between the lines", so here are some quick thoughts on watching the movie:

  1. It's interesting - whatever the sincerity of the union activists interviewed - to see how the unions consistently supported the Egyptian state: demos in favour of Nasser (which of course made it easier for Nasser to draft workers into the army for the war against Israel), propaganda in favour of Nasser's "socialism" (very reminiscent of the unions in the West during the '70s), the unions constant concern for the factory's budget and profits, and so on... I notice that they mention in passing that one of the demands workers raised at one point was for the "impeachment" of union officials - but it doesn't tell you any more than that: I wonder why.
  2. Interesting the way the workers say they "love their factory". In a sense it's a mystification, but you can understand why: the factory is where the workers have a sense of belonging, and of collective strength. Especially inspiring is the woman worker explaining that in the factory we're all together, it doesn't matter if we're Christians or Muslims: reminds me of that moving film Harlan county USA (there's a preview on YouTube) where a white worker (asked about race prejudice) replies "we're all black when we come up from the pit").
  3. Also very interesting - the role of women workers.
  4. One of the effects of the "Tahrir" movement and the "struggle for democracy": one of the women workers saying "Before the Egyptian flag meant nothing to me, now it has become very important to me"
  5. But on the positive side, the fact that the workers are not just demanding money but making what you might call "moral" demands to do with their own self-respect: demands for education and the removal of corrupt officials.

Finally, on PP's comment on the 147 "independent unions": I wonder what these things are. I find it hard to imagine there's room (even in Mahalla) for 147 unions, so maybe some of them at least are more like what we would call struggle committees - just a thought

Pierre
LL; thanks for outlining

LL; thanks for outlining those points. I think many of us were considering them in the back of our minds.

After of course highlighting the things LL has, what stood out most to me was the nature of the workers unity. They were consistently shown to act out against the status quo, whether were talking about the Trade Unions, the Regime, etc. It's hard to see from where I'm sitting how the relations between workers became this way. Generation after generation has a personal history at that plant, that has to play a big role.

I got the feeling, even with the various political leanings throughout the film, that the consciousness in Mahalla goes beyond the ideologies of whatever groups trying to influence the workers. They seemed very self-confident and organic.

Also, thank you Leo you are the LinkMaster!!1! I've read them and they help give a much clearer picture and an understanding of the various (many of them Trotskyist and Stalinist) groups.