Travail et emancipation nationale: le comite ouvrier de liberation nationale (1945-46): une tentative avortee de creation d’un parti politique ouvrier legal dans l’egypte dite liberale
Title: Travail et emancipation nationale: le comite ouvrier de liberation nationale (1945-46): une tentative avortee de creation d’un parti politique ouvrier legal dans l’egypte dite liberale
Author: MONCIAUD, Didier
Series/Number: EUI RSCAS; 2009/57; Mediterranean Programme Series
From the 1930’s, Choubra al-Khyma, the northen suburb of Cairo, becomes rapidly an important industrial and labor stronghold, mostly based on the textile industry. An influential trade unionism arises to become a significant actor of the Egyptian politics shaped by the British colonial rule and an authoritarian monarchy. Enrooted in powerful nationalist and anti-colonial feelings, this trade unionist current promotes an autonomous path, refusing any political tutelage on the trade union movement from the political parties and non-worker figures. The General Union of Mechanical Textile Workers is the main strength of such a trend. It gains a significant influence in Choubra al-Khyma and expands its links with textile workers from other zones. Its leadership gradually shifts from a purely economic perspective to a peculiar form of political consciousness. Progressively, a radical network is set up, made of several textile workers (Mahmoud al ‘Askari, Taha Sa’d ‘Uthmân, …) plus a figure such as the trade unionist Youssef al-Medarek with the jewish marxist lawyer Youssef Darwich. He is himself involved in a secret marxist circle made up of three young jewish Egyptian intellectuals with Sâdeq Sa’d and Raymond Doueik. Progressively, this militant team is moving towards a kind of national labour Marxism. This network gets involved in different campaigns and activities : running the unions, editing its own paper Choubra, supporting a worker candidate for the 1945 parliamentary elections, campaigning to get an Egyptian delegate to the 1945 Paris founding conference of the world trade unions movement At the autumn 1945, a public initiative is launched : the Workers’ Committee for National Liberation (« lagna ‘ummâl lil-tahrîr al-qawmî »). Their campaign aims to pave the way for the setting up of a legal workers party. The impact is important in the country to the point that the Prime Minister, Mahmoud Fahmy Al-Naqrochi, decides to meet the key leaders. Our paper is a case study of such rich and experiment. This project expresses a specific and moving political consciousness : a labour militant network with a strong patriotic profile progressively evolves from a matrix made of nationalism, a strong worker consciousness, religiosity and a feeling for social justice towards a political progressive outlook influenced by marxism. We will firstly examine the general context and origins of such a project. Then, we will deal with its political agenda before dealing with its trajectory on the political scene at a time of huge social and nationalist upheavals. A part will discuss the political identity that was at stake. The last section will examine the tensions and finally the failure of such a rare experiment.
Subject: labour; trade unions; social movement; mobilization; nationalism; national question; Marxism; political party; Egypt; Arab world; Middle East
An earlier version of this paper was presented in Workshop 14: Workers’ Struggles and Nationalist Movements in the Arab World, 1900-Present at the Tenth Mediterranean Research Meeting, Florence & Montecatini Terme, 25-28 March 2009, organised by the Mediterranean Programme of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute.
Type of Access: openAccess