The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Textile Mill Strike Win

Mar 25, 2024

This article is translated from the March 8 issue, #2901 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, re-elected in January during the war in Gaza and an acute social and economic crisis, announced a 50% increase in the monthly minimum wage for many workers, bringing it to 6,000 Egyptian pounds, or 121 U.S. dollars. This increase took effect March 1, but barely makes up for inflation. The official annual inflation rate is 39.7%—but for food it’s 70% or higher. The price of sugar has almost quadrupled.

On the eve of Ramadan, when families spend more money, this raise, granted to public servants, was a breath of fresh air.

But it was not granted to workers at publicly-owned companies, and these workers did not accept being excluded from the salary increases. The 3,700 workers at the Ghazl al-Mahalla spinning mill went on strike over their pay on February 22. The mill is one of the factories of MSWC, a publicly-owned textile company employing more than 16,000 workers in Mahalla el Kubra in the Nile delta.

Workers chanted slogans in the mill and then stopped working. Their slogans spread from one factory to another. Their anger shot up again on pay day when they saw the government was withholding their pay instead of conceding to their demand. “The government is depriving us of our pay and using the weapon of starvation, as if we are in Gaza,” a worker told the press.

The strikers succeeded in drawing workers from other textile factories and from the Assiout oil company into their movement. On February 24, 7,000 of them gathered in Talaat Harb Square in Mahalla. These determined strikers were not intimidated by 100 arrests. No doubt fearing the conflict would spread, Sisi hastened to announce they also will get the monthly minimum $121 pay.

The workers returned to work. But they also made another demand about their lunch credit, demanding it be raised to 61 cents, roughly the price of a quart of milk. Mass outrage is brewing in Egypt, where two thirds of the population live at or below the poverty line and most people are getting poorer.

The dictatorial Sisi has exercised power with an iron fist since 2013. But he gave in to the textile workers’ anger. He knew he risked confronting a bigger strike wave that would be much harder to control. This is encouraging to workers in the private sector, and to workers in the informal sector who get no raises. This victory encourages all who oppose this regime supported by the imperialist powers.