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Tahrir: "Enjoy the revolution" (they are, up to now)...

Paul Mason | 23:31 UK time, Saturday, 30 April 2011

Mayday in Tahrir Square

In white letters, across a wall next to Tahrir, is grafitti which says: "Enjoy the Revolution". In English. At midnight local time, on the eve of 1 May, a lot of people are out doing precisely that. The zippy motorbike youths, the youths arm-in-arm on the bridge over the Nile, the families on their plastic chairs taking in the air on the Nile bridges.

Tomorrow (today) will be interesting because it is May Day.

Under Mubarak, the official trade unions (ETUF) would hold a soviet-style celebration, but their ex leader is now under investigation for his alleged role in mobilising the camel attack on 28 January.

Today however something different is expected. Overnight a coalition of labour unions and leftists has formed the Democratic Labour Party; the flaming fist on their logo suggests they will not be applying to become a sister party with Ed Miliband's Labour Party. 

Independent unions will be trying to demonstrate in the square in the afternoon of 1 May - which will be a first for a country that rigorously policed the holiday in previous years.

I've met a group of doctors - the Doctors' Coalition - who are trying to bring the entire country's publicly employed medical profession out on strike in mid-May. The issue: well they have two demands - the sacking of the health minister and the imposition of a maximum wage and a minimum wage in the health service.

Here's why.

Egyptian doctors in the state sector earn the equivalent of £30 a month. 

This is not a misprint or a decimal point misplacement or a fat finger: thirty quid a month. I am talking about "residents" and other junior doctors. Some hospital managers however earn £1,700 to £2,000 a month. This is how one doctor explained it to me:

"The corruption was official. The hospital managers would cut deals with drug suppliers, with other contracts etc and pass what they wished down to the workforce on the basis of favouritism: to this nurse, to that doctor, who would then be required to repress their part of the workforce."

"What we want is for the health budget to rise: it is 3.5% of GDP and it should be 15%. But if we place a maximum salary of 15x the minimum in the health service we can stop the corruption."

One hospital, in Heliopolis, on the outskirts of Cairo, already overthrew its managers and elected new ones; they faxed the name of the newly elected manager to the health ministry and two hours later a fax came back confirming recognition. Others are considering the same thing. 

The doctor I spoke to alleged that the Muslim Brotherhood, which controls the Doctors' Syndicate, would try to stop the strike. I only managed to speak to secularist, progressive doctors - so I can't get the other side of the story from the MB. But the secularists are in a debate about how soon and how long to strike for, and whether to link up with other health professions. They have absolutely no idea whether they can get people to support them.

This organised labour aspect of the Egyptian revolution is in its infancy. I sense an uneasiness about it among the educated youth who sparked the revolution. It is for some simultaneously unglamorous and potentially divisive; it takes the revolution into the realm of pounds and piasters, out of the realms of high ideals. It is certainly not the key dynamic in any sense, yet.

It's been confirmed today that the army is to reopen the Rafa crossing with Gaza next week. There is general mystification about the actions and intentions of the army, even among very savvy youth. They don't get much of a clue about the factional struggle inside the army: in fact I would say the average Chinese intellectual has better information about the intra-factional fighting in the CCP than the average Egyptian Facebook youth has about what's really going on in the army.

Nevertheless, in civil society, parties are forming. And they do represent, respectively, the liberal middle classes, the Muslim Brotherhood and its more critical youth section - which in turn represents a large part of the rural and urban poor and youth; and then various leftist projects, and now the Democratic Labour Party. 

The former regime gets on with its life - those that are not incarcerated - and it is generally expected they will form some kind of jeunesses d'oree kind of party when they are allowed to (many of their offspring are immensely rich).


  • Comment number 1.

    #16 & 17 naughty boy!

    There you go again, talking about personalities when it's really all about policies. Or more accurately, about an ideology. Cameron's deviousness is manufactured by others. They're the same ones that manufacture it for Obama you know.

    I will try and make it easier for you to understand...have you ever seen this picture?

    Pyramid of the Capitalist System

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    okey outta here, Cairo big town, you guys know what is going down.

  • Comment number 6.

    Maximum wage - now where else could that work! If they do find a solution to general managers, skilled only in politics, getting paid more than the doers, let us know. Sadly this is not a new problem, although 17K vs 30 quid is an outrageous ratio. 566 times - it's like Fred the Shred vs an RBS cashier. If the cashier is on 30K in London (maybe wishful thinking sorry RBS cashiers!) that would be about £17M.

    Sounds like a real protean soup of ideas. They should take the opportunity to strike out all their trivial laws and cull a similar percentage of lawyers!

  • Comment number 7.


    Not seen that before - thanks!

    I see it all now. One man band: St Tony of Bleah, is really the tip of a sick corporate structure that controls his every aberration. As an INDIVIDUAL, he is NOT in the least megalomaniac, messianic or Machiavellian!

    I can now love Big Brother.

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi Paul - I'm interested in the consequences of the Egyptian revolution for the Israelis.

    Mubbarak's willingness to go along with the Israeli blockade of Palestine has been an essential element in isolating the Palestinians from the other arab nations - opening the land border would seem to me to hole the Israeli containment strategy below the waterline - and I don't think the hawks in Jerusalem will sit on their hands.

    The apparent rapproachment of Hamas and Fatah adds another key factor into the situation - if the Israelis become surrounded by newly democratising arab nations who positively engage with the palestinians and are supported by Obama, this is pretty close to the nightmare scenario for the zionists who seem to be to be hell bent on ethnically cleansing arabs from biblical Israel.

    Its interesting that their claim is based on the assertion that King David united the tribes to create the Kingdom of Israel - a claim which recent archaeology is seriously calling into question. If there never was a unified Kingdom of Israel at all, then how can the land grab since the Arab-Israeli war be justified, even on religious grounds?

    And in a post-Soviet world with pro-western democratising arab nations, where is the sense in Washington continuing with the blank cheque approach to Israel? This is true at many levels - the vast financial and military support given to the Israelis, as well as the USA's veto at the UN.

    Without despots to keep the oil taps open for them, the West must engage the new emerging democratic arab regimes on a more level playing field, so the Israeli proxy military becomes redundant.

    The old chinese curse "may you live in interesting times" seems extremely apt for the Israeli government.....

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    PUZZLED - AS EVER (#8)

    I thought Zionists claimed a specific stretch of land, involving several current states, was given to them in perpetuity by their God? In passing, their God (at that time - he might have softened since) clearly regarded all other ethnicities, much as we saw black-skinned people, in the slave-trade days - inferior and exterminable.

    If, as I suspect, HomSap is inexorably juvenile, religious-belief based aberrance is here to stay. Only if our world-zoo gets an enlightened manager (New World Order?) might gods be overruled. But could that be 'letting go of Nurse'?

  • Comment number 11.

    #8 rb wrote:

    'And in a post-Soviet world with pro-western democratising arab nations, where is the sense in Washington continuing with the blank cheque approach to Israel?'

    Did you see the analysis (by Chomsky) in the link on the previous blog?

    Benghazi aside, I don't think the democratizing Arab nations are quite so pro-Western as you state. Even recent Western initiated polls of the Arab nations are now confirming this.
    Also, the post-Soviet world that you mention is not quite what we all would like to think it is. It is still essentially a statist nation that is using capitalism for its own ends (just like China).
    As one astute poster on here commented in the recent past:
    'Think back to 1962 when the USA secretly agreed to remove their missiles from Turkey (USSR's back yard) in return for removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba. In effect, the USA just moved weapons further down the road a bit did they not? Look at how the Israelis/Jews have played/exploited this over the years, and at whose cost economically?'

    You also wrote:

    'Without despots to keep the oil taps open for them, the West must engage the new emerging democratic arab regimes on a more level playing field, so the Israeli proxy military becomes redundant.'

    The idea of the West engaging with new emerging democratic arab regimes is a tad naive in my humble opinion.

    Engaging is not's why the West is still very wary of Russia (think of BP lately).

    As barrie has lately discovered, psychopaths DON'T DO engaging. All they DO is domination at any cost.

    Off at atangent slightly, do you remember these headlines btw...

    US government behind Sept 11 attacks, Ahmadinejad says

    WikiLeaks: US referred to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as 'Hitler'

    Note how they are you notice a pattern?

    Ahmadinejad has been having other problems over the past week.

  • Comment number 12.

    There's a new Egyptian independent labour union calling for celebrations in Tahrir
    Ridding themselves of Egypt's old regime labour union. The Egypt Federation for Independent Unions was established as a result of the revolution and gave their first press conference at their headquarters to begin May Day celebrations as ell as explain several issues.
    Kamal Abbas, one of the founders, said that before the revolution all laws limited the syndicates’ activities, but the constitutional decree gave workers back their rights.
    Thousands of labourers are expected to celebrate Labour Day in in a way that will be as new as their revised union(s).
    According to Abbas, the union has informed the military council, the ministry of interior and the Egyptian cabinet about the celebration. It will begin with a 20-minute play, then several speeches by the heads of the unions, followed by a concert of famous Egyptian singer, Ali El-Haggar.
    As for the current issues, Abbas, speaking to the Egyptian state council spoke to dissolving the General Federation of Trade Unions of Egypt. He explained that this is a remnant of the old regime. The new organization is petitioning for the NDP-affiliated trade union to have their assets frozen and transferred to the strongest independent available labour union.
    The General Federation of Trade Unions of Egypt is accused of being too closely related to the old, corrupt regime, but its head, Hussein Megawer is furthermore accused of taking part in the planning of the “Battle of the Camel,” - a camel/horse deadly attack spearheaded by the NDP against peaceful protesters.
    The Ministry of Manpower and Immigration is proposing new laws that will incorporate freedom of association, especially as related to labour.
    The Labour movement is working on a law that ensures freedoms to be able to attend the International Labour Conference held in Geneva by the beginning of June and delete Egypt from its blacklist.
    Egypt was blacklisted from the International Labour Conference because the Mubarak regime denied Egyptian workers the right to organise independent trade unions, but now the Egypt Federation for Independent Unions has 12 syndicates and 250 thousands members.
    As you write "There is general mystification about the actions and intentions of the army, even among very savvy youth. They don't get much of a clue about the factional struggle inside the army..."
    I feel this way too - uncertain; yet, parties are forming and these parties appear to be representative.
    I feel Egypt, May Day, 2011 will reveal a%2

  • Comment number 13.


    Both slow to catch on apparently.

    Off to catch Spiteful and Spineless on the 'MARR' Show (iPlayer). There a god! (:o)

  • Comment number 14.


    It pays to view politicians on iPlayer - you can pop back and spot the weaselling.

    I had no idea that, IN DAVE'S DOUBLETHINK MIND, there are TWO 'NO' CAMPAIGNS! Apparently: there is 'The NO Campaign', and the 'Conservative NO Campaign' (of which Dave declares himself, UNEQUIVOCALLY, THE LEADER). I had not heard of this duality. Anyone?

    NOW HEAR THIS: The CONSERVATIVE 'NO' Campaign is whiter than white, purer than pure. In Dave's words to Marr: the Conservative campaign "has been putting across a POSITIVE CASE for the current system". That explains a lot:

    Every time Marr tried to stick the swathe of lies, used in the No campaign leaflet I saw, to Double think Dave, in that divided mind, Marr was OF COURSE referring to the OTHER campaign - nothing to do with Dave (which will be why he addressed anything but in response - presumably).

    Dave is all for the current system. The current system gave us Dave - Doublethink Dave.


  • Comment number 15.

    The Egyptian Government has surprised me with some innovative moves, which I hope will include freedom of assembly and union participation, but these moves come with a price-tag, the price of which cannot be foreseen.
    Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood says it will contest half of the seats in the country's parliamentary elections in September, revealing plans to become a major force in the country's post-revolution politics. This may be good; this may be bad, but the west of course will see it as bad.
    The group named the leaders of its new "Freedom and Justice Party" at a news conference on Saturday. It had previously promised it would not compete for more than 30% of seats.
    Mahmoud Mosri, the party's leader says that the party is NOT religious, NOT theocratic. He describes the platform of the Freedom and Justice party as civil but with an Islamic background that adheres to the constitution.
    The party's caucus will be open to Muslims, Christians and women.
    Brotherhood members, however, are barred from joining any other party.
    The Muslim Brotherhood is seen as the country's most organised political force.
    The September elections will be the first since the popular uprising.
    It successfully fielded candidates in previous parliamentary elections as independents.
    Tahrir: "Enjoy the revolution" (they are, up to now), but the world waits
    1. for May Day developments and
    2. September election results.

  • Comment number 16.


    Who has the most drive: the desperate wannabe or the contented neednotbe? Which of these two tends to shrink back from the other in de facto deference, regardless of ability to lead (manage)?

    Mankind has a problem - himself. He has added TV - now international - to that problem; a cannula to the unconscious (in addition to institutionalising schooling).

    They will get their Blair, or Cameron - perhaps a Thatcher - swapping one kind of tyranny for another. OK, no one gets killed at IKEA; but something dies.

  • Comment number 17.

    The nutters on here continue their rants about Israel and Zionism, I see.
    For example, #10:
    "I thought Zionists claimed a specific stretch of land, involving several current states, was given to them in perpetuity by their God?"

    No, only in someone here's anti-Semitic imagination is that true of Zionist, who were orginally mostly more international communist than religious. However, of course, you can always find other crazy individuals, particularly ultra-religious ones, be they Christian, Jewish, Moslem, etc. - in every society, who believe all sorts of mad things.

  • Comment number 18.


    Have you tried it gce? It's 'good for the soul'.

  • Comment number 19.

    museV @ 11

    Your post reminds me of wikileaks reporting a US cable that the Arabs wanted the US to take a more extreme position towards Iran's nuclear programme as it would be a threat to the region. This cable highlights America's contempt for democracy - as opinion polls carried out in the region showed that Arabs overwhelmingly support Iran having nuclear weapons and didn't see them as a threat. Incidently, the overwhelming majority opinion was that the greatest threat for Arabs is America and Israel.

    That is a great article by Chomsky you linked to. Here's another ( by Gideon Levy that is more specific to Israel. Here's a snippet:

    "We favor free access and worship at Joseph's Tomb but not at Al Aqsa. We remember 1948 but without the Nakba. We oppose returning Palestinian property from before 1948 but we evict Palestinian inhabitants in Hebron and Sheikh Jarrah on the grounds that their homes were under Jewish ownership before 1948. We shoot passengers in Palestinian cars who refuse to stop at roadblocks, but when the Palestinian police do the same, we call it a “murderous terror attack.” We call the Israeli army Defense Forces, while most of its work is occupation."

    Orwell would marvel at the Israeli right wingopoly use of doublespeak.

  • Comment number 20.

    goldchrisevans @ 17

    There are many strands of Zionism. It used to be predominately a left wing movement, but alas this revisionist Zionism that we have today is a right wing movement supporting settler-colonialism and State Terror.

    You don't have to be a Zionist to be Jewish, and you don't have to be Jewish to a Zionist. As far as I know, the majority of Zionists today are Christian.

  • Comment number 21.


    Might Bin Laden have left a file on 9/11 Truth?

    Might the BBC interview NY firefighters WHO WERE THERE, rather than grieving relatives (as on 'Today')?

  • Comment number 22.


    Hague jubilant that the world is freed from threat FOR MANY YEARS TO COME by the death of an OLD terrorist. How does that work then?


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