07 July, 2011

Solidarity with Egypt's workers and trade unions

This letter of solidarity is being circulated among Swedish trade unionists,
parliamentarians and activists. If you want to sign it, send an e-mail to

Solidarity with Egypt’s workers and free unions

On June 8, the Egyptian transitional government announced its
intention to enforce a ban on strikes and protests that “obstruct the
work of public institutions” or harm “national unity, societal peace
or public order”, penalizing those who participate in such actions
with a fine of 30.000 – 100.000 Egyptian pounds or a prison sentence
of no less than one year. On that same day riot police forcibly tried
to break up a peaceful sit-in outside the People’s Assembly in Cairo
and arrested at least 5 of the participating tenant farmers, according
to press reports and eyewitness accounts. A few days earlier, military
police arrested 5 petroleum workers following a sit-in outside the
Ministry of petroleum.

We are deeply concerned about these and numerous other reports of
repression against peaceful protests since the resignation of Hosni
Mubarak on February 11, and strongly urge the Egyptian authorities to
refrain from all forms of violence against demonstrators or striking
workers. We call upon the government to reconsider the decision to
impose the ban on strikes – a clear violation of international
conventions signed by Egypt. As the right to strike is a fundamental
human right under international law, imposing such a ban would amount
to nothing less than a betrayal of the revolution of the Egyptian
people, and its legitimate demands for a just and democratic society.

We also call upon the government of Egypt to uphold its promise to
guarantee the right of all Egyptian workers to form independent and
democratic unions, and extend our full support to the Egyptian
Federation of Independent Trade Unions and all the workers of Egypt in
their struggle to realize this demand. The emergence of free and
independent trade unions is an event of enormous significance for
Egypt and the entire region and is to be welcomed by trade unionists
and all democratic forces around the world.


Björn A. Borg, Swedish Dockworkers Union
Hans Linde, Left Party of Sweden, Member of Swedish Parliament
Josefin Brink, Left Party of Sweden, Member of Swedish Parliament
Amineh Kakabaveh, Left Party of Sweden, Member of Swedish Parliament
Lotta Johnsson Fornarve, Left Party of Sweden, Member of the Party
Central Committee
Mussie Ephrem, Left Party of Sweden, Member of the Party Central Committee
Ann-Margarethe Livh, Chairman, Left International Forum
Jytte Guteland, President of Swedish Social Democratic Youth

08 June, 2011

A return to the past? Egypt's neoliberal counter-revolution

In a harshly worded statement Egypt's "interim government" led by Essam Sharaf - a former member of the influential "higher policies secretariat" of the ruling party NDP - today vowed to begin enforcing the "anti-strike law" that was issued in April and bans any strikes or protests that disrupts the economy (in contradiction with international treaties signed by Egypt that confirm the right of workers to resort to peaceful strikes to press their demands on employers).

Shortly after the statement was issued on the governments web page, Central security forces and plain-clothes agents descended on tenant farmers that had been staging a peaceful sit-in outside the Cabinet, protesting years (or rather decades) of displacement and ill-treatment by the state. Several farmers were arrested and hauled into police vans, according to Nora Shalaby who was there and took these pictures:

These images are a dark reminder of the state of things before January 25, when central security forces in cooperation with plain-clothes agents and thugs routinely clamped down on peaceful demonstrations in Egypt, and comes days after the military arrested five Petrojet workers, who had been taking part in a two-week sit-in outside the petroleum ministry protesting the sacking of 1200 workers. It also comes after renewed accusations of police brutaliy, most notably in the case of a bus driver that was allegedly taken to the police station in Ezbekiyya and beaten to death last week after refusing to pay a bribe to a police officer - an event that sparked protests and riots in the area.

On the same day Samir Radwaan, new minister of finance after Youssef Boutrous Ghali (who fled Egypt before Mubaraks ouster and was handed a prison sentence of 30 years in absentia last week on charges of corruption and squandering of public wealth), promised that Egypt won't back away from the "economic reforms" and free-market polices pursued under Mubaraks decades-long rule. (He doesn't seem to understand that in a supposedly democratic Egypt, that should be up to the voters to decide). As elsewhere where the neoliberal doctrine has been applied since the 70's, these "reforms" (mainly privatization of public enterprises and tax-cuts for companies and the rich) resulted in exploding inequality, a rapid decline in the quality of public welfare and increasing poverty. They have proved disastrous for the majority of the population, to the extent that they may be identified as the single most important cause of the revolution.

In what was perhaps an unintended coincidence but still a very clear signal of the inclinations of Egypt's current rulers, a proposed capital gains tax of 10% was reportedly cancelled today, after pressure from investors and the head of the national stock exchange. So today's events can be summed up: at the same time as the government vows to use force against farmers and workers who insists on demanding a fairer share of Egypt's wealth after the revolution, demanding "patience" of poor families who can barely feed their children let alone send them to decent schools, they quickly bow to pressure from the privileged minority who benefited most of Mubarak's corrupt and neglectful rule. Disturbing, but hardly surprising.

30 May, 2011

Egypt, the Left and International Solidarity

Note: As I was about to publish the post below, I read the news on twitter that Egyptian journalist and blogger Hossam al-Hamalawy has been summoned to a military prosecutor for questioning tomorrow, after talking about military tribunals against civilians and violations by the military police against peaceful protestors on a TV-show broadcast last thursday (the clip above). This futile - I'm sure - attempt to silence one of Egypt's most well-known radical voices, and one who has played a vital role in spreading news about Egypt's nascent labour movement and the wave of strikes and protests that lead to the revolution has to be condemned. More than anything it underlines the need for international solidarity with the democratic and progressive forces in Egypt as they struggle to create a just and democratic society. Protests in solidarity with Hossam and the other summoned journalists will be held tomorrow in Cairo and Alexandria.

Here it goes - another attempt to revive the blog which consumed so much of my time back in they days, when strikes and protests occured almost every day but a revolution stilled seemed like a distant possibility (a funny thing I learned about revolutions is that they always do, even as more and more people tell you it has become inevitable). I switched to blogging in Swedish after I was kicked out of Egypt back in 2009 and have been blogging intensely the past few months, as well as giving talks about Egypt around Sweden. However, there are very few resources in English about the Egyptian left and labour movement (Hossam al-Hamalawy’s blog remains one of the best place to go to find such news), which is one of the reasons I have decided to go back to writing in English - at least now and then. Being barred still from entering Egypt this is at least something I can do. Don't expect daily updates however - expect irregular postings, far-from-perfect-translations of news or articles, and an occasional commentary or rant.

Besides the labour movement and left in Egypt, another theme that I will try and highlight in this blog is that of international solidarity. Last week the Egyptian doctor and leftist Alaa Shukrallah and the women’s rights activist and author Azza Kamel visited Sweden to meet political activists, feminists and unionists, and to speak at a seminar at the Worker’s Educational Association (ABF) in Stockholm (watch part of Alaa's speech here). The subject was international solidarity, and
if the importance of this wasn’t already apparent it became so the next day, when news reached us that Azza Kamel’s daughter had been arrested by military police while putting up posters ahead of the May 27 protest in Cairo (she was released later that same day).

While there is a great need for
immediate solidarity work and campaigns against human rights abuses in post-Mubarak Egypt, both Alaa and Azza stressed the importance of another task for the left in Europe today: to raise awareness about the link between democracy and social justice in Egypt and the region. This involves exposing and resisting the failed neoliberal economic policies that caused increasing poverty and inequality and ultimately led to the revolution - but are still being promoted by the international financial institutions and European and US governments. An international campaign for debt cancellation would be very helpful, as the regime now uses the external debt and the threat of “bankruptcy” as a propaganda weapon against any demands for social reforms.

The international left should also work to expose the regional counter-revolutionary alliance with Saudiarabia as the driving force, and the hypocrisy of Western governments that still ally themselves with authoritarian regimes while claiming to “support democracy” in Egypt and Tunisia. (Another suggestion that came up during the meeting was for international activists to put together lists of companies from their countries that collaborated with Mubaraks regime, especially within the security field, or benefited from or contributed to corruption in Egypt.)

Both Alaa and Azza pointed out that the Egyptian people need support in hard times as well as good times. While some in the west (as well as within Egypt) may have had unrealistic expectations of what the revolution would achieve in the short term it is necessary to realize that the people of Egypt are only in the beginning of a long and difficult struggle – the outcome of which will not only decide the future of Egypt for decades to come but will influence the whole region and the world. Alaa stressed again and again that the left in Egypt doesn’t need or ask for financial support (something which foreign embassies and NGO:s has been all to eager to throw on Egyptian youth activists and bloggers) but practical solidarity and cooperation based on the notion that “our struggle is one”: “A democratic and just Egypt can only survive in a democratic and just region, which in turn can only be built in a democratic and just world”.

26 May, 2011

Video: Alaa Shukrallah on the Egyptian revolution - causes and prospects

Watch Alaa Shukrallah from the Popular Socialist Alliance speak about the Egyptian revolution at a meeting in Stockholm on 25 may 2011 (filmed by Lennart Kjörling):

17 February, 2011

Appeal for solidarity from Bahrain

Comrades at various leftist parties and organizations

Bahraini people went out on the streets on the Feb. 14 on the 10th Anniversary of the National Action Charter . The national reform document on which people have voted in a referendum with 98.4% for it in 2001. On this date, the people decided to demand the royal regime to start implement the political reforms it promised. The demands state that to start effective procedures towards reforming the political regime, combatting corruption, abolishing racist and sectarian discrimination in Bahrain, guaranteeing fair distribution of wealth. And these protests were faced with a crazy reaction from the Bahraini authorities, the number of casualties till now is 7 so far, and this repressive campaign continues to use live ammunition, blocking entrances to a number of villages and towns, raiding and attacking homes in addition to the spreading of armed military tanks in roads.

This repressive attack is considered abandonment from the government of the reform project which guaranteed to the people their right to protest as per the 2002 Bahraini constitution.

Henceforth, we call on all Arab and International organizations to begin a protesting campaign to expose these practices of Bahraini authorities and to protest in front of Bahraini Embassies and UN headquarters in their countries and to maintain contact with Rights organizations regarding this matter. We also call on them to send denunciation letters to those embassies or to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs against these policies. The Bahraini people awaits your courageous stance for its struggle to its legitimate right to live in freedom, justice and dignity.Our path you know is rough and filled with thorns, death on its sides... but we will march on.

Please send your solidarity appeal to:


PO Box 547

Fix Line +973-17227555 +973-17227555

Fax +973-17212603

Fax +973-17210575

Fax +973-17225107


PO Box 1000, 26141

Fix Line +973-17223366

Fax +973-17211363

31 January, 2011

Blog resting for now...

To all old and new readers that might have returned to this blog recently: The blog is resting and I'm currently blogging about Egypt (mainly) in Swedish here. Check out the blogroll to the left for some interesting blogs on Egypt in English...

24 November, 2010

Solidarity with Youssef Shaaban

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Activists will demontrate today in solidarity with journalist Youssef Shaaban who was detained while covering a demonstration on Friday:

Solidarity with Yucef Shabaan and all the detainees

The popular democratic movement for change (7ashd),

The Justice and Freedom Movement,

The Free Front for Peaceful Change

The 6th of April movement

Invite you to join their open sit in

Wednesday at 7 p.m.

At Press Syndicate

Freedom for Yucef Shabaan

Freedom for all Detainees