The Power of Workers in Egypt's 2011 Uprising

Dina Bishara

in Arab Spring in Egypt

Published by American University in Cairo Press

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9789774165368
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9781617971365 | DOI:
The Power of Workers in Egypt's 2011 Uprising

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This chapter argues that sustained and widespread workers' mobilization during the last three days before Mubarak stepped down, played a critical role in bringing about this outcome, despite the fact that this form of mobilization did not uniformly adopt the goal of toppling the regime. In addition—and in contrast to the widespread perception that workers joined the uprising only at the end—individual workers as well as some workers groups, especially those who had established independent unions prior to 25 January, collectively mobilized at the start of the uprising and embraced its political demands. This analysis contributes two important insights to the broader literature on the role of labor in democratization. First, the Egyptian case highlights the potential for workers to play a decisive role in bringing down an authoritarian incumbent without uniformly articulating a pro-democracy stance. The existing literature accords little attention to this possibility, because it focuses solely on the conditions under which labor explicitly advocates for democratic change. Second, the Egyptian case highlights that labor mobilization need not be orchestrated or coordinated by organized groups, such as unions or parties, in order to have a consequential impact on democratization.

Keywords: workers; mobilization; independent unions; democratization

Chapter.  7941 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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