But the revolution has changed that. The centrepiece of Monday’s demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square was thousands of members of the new unions that are independent of the state, the bosses—and NGOs. Some of these, like the tax collectors, existed before the revolution, and played an important role in its development. Others, like the bus workers, the rail workers, the postal workers and the teachers, have emerged since Mubarak’s overthrow.
They are asking sharp social questions. Everywhere there are calls for better pay. Many workers get only £40 a month and they are demanding three times that as a minimum. Everywhere there are demands to drive out the autocratic mini-Mubaraks in workplace—managements who were imposed under the old regime—and in some places they have gone.
Hope and freedom are in the Cairo air. But there are formidable challenges ahead. The military remain in charge and are trying to tame the radical elements of the revolution. A key test is the attempt by the state to smash the powerful bus workers’ union. Its leader, Ali Fattouh, faces prison on 7 May if he is found guilty of inciting strikes.
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