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The Role of Workers and Labor Unions in the Egyptian Revolution: Video Interview with Hossam Hamalawy (Part 1)

[Image from Jadaliyya interview] [Image from Jadaliyya interview]

Jadaliyya is hereby presenting the first (deliberately belated) installment in a series called "A Portrait of a Revolutionary," featuring interviews with an Egyptian journalist and activist who was at the forefront of the Egyptian protest movement, Hossam Hamalawy.

Below is the first part of the interview, recorded in Arabic prior to Part 2 (on the role of the Egyptian army) and Part 3 (on the role of the Egyptial political and economic elite. The first part below deals with the role of the Egyptian Labor Unions in tipping the scale during the last days before Mubrak's resignation. This video was recorded on February 23rd. I opted for featuring the English language parts first. If any of our readers would like to volunteer to translate this video into English, please email me at


Hossam addresses herein several themes including what the revolution was about and by whom. He also addresses the split between the more advantaged social groups/classes who are somewhat satisfied with the post-revolution status-quo. This separates them from the less privileged social groups/classes. The principal demands of workers are to end  corruption and institute full-time (as opposed to temporary) employment. Hossam also addresses the history of labor unions and their role in both the Egyptian context and in the revolution, including how they differ from the Tunisian labor unions. Finally, he also discusses the views of Egyptian protesters on the spread of demonstrations across the Arab world, as well as the impact of this on the United State and Israel.


I would like to make this a somewhat interactive interview by asking readers to pose their own questions to Hossam after watching the interview. Hossam already answered the readers' questions from the past interview. I will relay the most productive questions, so please feel free to post your (clear/concise) questions under the comments, below. 

The upcoming fourth part will be about the role and prospects of the Muslim Brotherhood, during and after the revolution. We will also address the question of "Islamists" and the fear of an "Islamist" take-over that is dinner-table discussion in mainstream circles in the United States (and perhaps in some circles in the Arab world).

Hossam El-Hamalawy is an Egyptian journalist and activist who maintains the popular site and has a piece on Jadaliyya here.

The Role of Workers and Labor Unions in the Egyptian Revolution: Video Interview with Hossam Hamalawy (Part 1) from Jadaliyya on Vimeo.

2 comments for "The Role of Workers and Labor Unions in the Egyptian Revolution: Video Interview with Hossam Hamalawy (Part 1)"


Thanks so much for a series of extremely important interviews; it's amazing how so many 'serious' commentary websites simply overlook the whole workers/working class dimension and can't see beyond the unholy 'Elites-Islamists-Shabab' trinity. So thanks for the corrective.

My question seeks to pick up on 2 points Hossam raised: he mentioned 1) Workers' unions were coopted and incorporated into the post-revolutionary (1952) regime and 2) he and other leftists are seeking to set up an independent workers' party.

So I want to know how politically fragmented is the working class at the moment and how much work does your new party need to do to gain strong support from within it. How successful has the regime/NDP been at keeping radical ideas away from large segments of it, and how successful have groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood been amongst it? We know how important workers were in the uprisings, but I want to know how widespread and challenged such sentiments are amongst the class as a whole.

يعطيكم الف عافيه يا حسام وبسام

SK wrote on April 09, 2011 at 07:17 AM

Dear Hossam, I agree with your points regarding the nature of the Egyptian revolution (not youth but all classes), the particular role the Egyptian working class played in the revolution, and not to trust the army particularly the top generals. One observation from reading the 3 interviews is the absence of the peasantry, in fact they are mentioned only once. This happens when Egypt is a rural society and majority of its population are rural. The Egyptian left according to you is looking to win over the junior army officers and conscripts, but the majority of these are from rural Egypt. Mobilization of rural sector can offer an opening for effective class struggle and real revolutionary transformation.

Mohamed Aly wrote on June 27, 2011 at 12:30 PM

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