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