Demonstration in Mahalla

At least 10,000 (and as many as 20,000) took to the streets of Mahalla yesterday to protest the rising price of commodities and the lack of a corresponding increase in the minimum wage. Mahalla, north of Cairo, is one of the largest industrial centres in Egypt; 10,000 workers from the largest textile mill in Egypt started the protest around 4pm and were joined by 5,000-10,000 citizens of Mahalla, chanting anti-Mubarak slogans and marching through the town. 3arabawy points out this is significant for several reasons – firstly, that Mahalla ‘sets the tone’ for the rest of industrial and working class Egypt, having been the site of major strikes before that have produced changes in Egyptian government policy. Yet even beyond labour protest, the politicised nature of the demonstration was significant. The slogans and demands went beyond economic grievances to direct criticism of Mubarak and his government on a national scale. According to 3arabawy this is a result of a resurgence of the revolutionary left in Egypt which gives opportunities for mobilisation in industrial centres such as Mahalla. 10,000, never mind 20,000, is an astonishing number – add that to the constant daily sit-ins and demonstrations by workers in Cairo and it’s hard to see how Egypt is ‘stagnating’.

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