Swans Commentary » swans.com March 28, 2011  



Reporting On Egyptian Workers
Solidarity in the Name of Capitalism


by Michael Barker





(Swans - March 28, 2011)   Genuine worker solidarity as exemplified by the actions of rank-and-file union members the world over has always represented a serious threat to capitalist exploitation and imperial oppression. Thus, for the past hundred years or so, the more far-sighted members of the oligarchy have sought to isolate and marginalize this democratic threat by nurturing a labor movement whose leaders' actions were counterpoised to the long-term interests of workers. Not surprisingly, such pro-business labor bosses have supplemented their domestic contributions to labor "management" by facilitating imperial conquests through the provision of "aid" to labor struggles all over the world. In the distant past, such labor inference was organized in coordination with the activities of the CIA, but since the early 1980s, this work has been guided by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) -- an organization that was created to overtly undertake the work that had formerly been organized covertly by the CIA.

Kim Scipes provides a comprehensive historical overview of the interaction between the US government, the NED and organized labor in his book AFL-CIO's Secret War Against Developing Country Workers: Solidarity or Sabotage? (Lexington Books, 2010). He states:

The NED was specifically established by the US State to advance US foreign policy interests and, despite the supposed "non-governmental" nature of the NED, it has functioned on behalf of the US State for almost thirty years. The AFL-CIO was one of the founders and core institutes of NED, and the Solidarity Center [formally known as the American Center for International Labor Solidarity] continues to play a core role to this day. Long-standing members of Labor play or have played key roles within NED, most notably Carl Gershman, Lane Kirkland, Thomas R. Donahue, and John Sweeney. (1)

Needless to say, this labor movement imperialism is not being done through labor movement procedures, but behind the backs of members. (2) This point was emphasized almost twenty years ago by Beth Sims, who wrote:

Although many of the individual programs sponsored by the AFL-CIO have helped foreign labor and even been sought by it, the overall foreign policy which is carried out by the AFL-CIO and its institutes often harms workers both in [the United States] and overseas. Derived from the ideological biases of a select group of top labor bureaucrats -- many of whom lack actual trade union experience -- the resulting policies have stressed anticommunism at the expense of worker militancy. Simultaneously, these policies have affirmed the right of the United States to intervene in the affairs of other countries, whether through governmental or private actors. (3)

The Solidarity Center in Egypt

Considering this unwholesome history, it should not be too shocking to learn that for the last decade, the AFL-CIO's foreign "arm," the Solidarity Center, has been lending an imperial helping hand to Egypt's blossoming labor movement. For example, in 2004, the NED gave their first Egyptian-related grant to the Solidarity Center so they could "work with the Egyptian Trade Union Federation" to "establish an Egyptian Trade Union Technical Organization." Subsequent NED labor grants have, amongst other things, been used to organize a "workshop with the International Transport Federation for Egypt's port workers"; and helped "increase and improve the advocacy efforts of four labor support organizations on behalf of Egyptian workers in the absence of an independent trade union movement." In 2009, the last year for which the NED's grant records are publicly available, the Solidarity Center received their largest grant yet, worth a sizable $318,757. In February 2010, the Solidarity Center published an important report entitled "Justice for All: The Struggle for Worker Rights in Egypt"-- a report that has informed much of the recent political commentary on the rise of Egyptian unionism. So bearing in mind the central role that the Solidarity Center has fulfilled in promoting labor movement imperialism, this article will provide the first critical reflection on "Justice for All," and point out some of its most problematic flaws.

The Solidarity Center's "Justice for All" Report

The principal author of "Justice for All" is Stanford University's well-respected, progressive professor of Middle East history, Joel Beinin, who in recent years, has worked in Egypt as the Director of Middle East Studies at the American University in Cairo (2006-08). Beinin's previous scholarship has won high accolades, and his ongoing analyses of the rise of labor activism in Egypt have been widely cited, and so his decision to write for the imperialist Solidarity Center appears strange to say the least. However, as I demonstrate, at the time of writing "Justice for All," he appears to have been totally unaware of the propaganda service his work might provide for the imperial "democracy-promoting" community; a shortcoming that I now hope I have made him aware of. (4)

My first significant problem with Professor Beinin's detailed 136-page report concerns the short shrift he gives to imperial power-brokers in shaping Egyptian history. Beinin begins the first chapter of his report (which provides a historical overview of labor organizing in Egypt), by observing that for half of Egypt's "history it was ruled and exploited by foreigners," but no mention is ever made of the significant involvement of the US and UK governments in overseeing this oppression, a fact that becomes increasingly relevant as I discuss their activities in contemporary Egypt below. He does, however, highlight how "the fundamentally autocratic character of the [current] regime has not changed since 1952," (5) that is, the year that Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser came to power. Here it would have been immensely useful if Beinin had provided a little critical analysis -- or at the very least a footnote -- that outlined the pivotal role British and American intelligence agencies played in Nasser's rise to power, and in his eventual demise. (For further details, see Douglas Little's 2004 article in the journal Diplomatic History, "Mission impossible: the CIA and the cult of covert action in the Middle East." (pdf) Unfortunately, Beinin's only indirect reference to imperial interventions in Egypt comes when he writes how: "Presidents Anwar al-Sadat (1970-81) and Hosni Mubarak (1981- ) reversed Nasser's economic and political orientation and turned towards free enterprise and alliance with the United States." (6)

One of the most important parts of Beinin's study is the voluminous strike data he summarizes, which provides a handy and succinct illustration of the rising numerical power of the labor movement in recent years. He reports that "[o]ver 1.7 million workers engaged in more than 1,900 strikes and other forms of protest from 2004 to 2008." (7) While I certainly have no problem with this data, or the positive message it promotes, I would suggest that Beinin should have highlighted the fact that the work of the sole group responsible for collating this strike data (Sons of Land Center for Human Rights) has been supported by the NED. This is not to say that their data is not accurate, but it does further emphasize the central role that the US government has fulfilled in supporting the Egyptian opposition movement.

If the Solidarity Center was proud of its longstanding commitment to imperialism, one would assume that they would have encouraged Beinin to publicly highlight every instance of support that the labor and pro-democracy movement in Egypt has received from the NED. Yet quite the opposite appears to be the case; and even though Beinin draws heavily upon the published work of NED-funded groups, he makes absolutely no reference to the NED in his detailed report. This deception, whether deliberate or unwitting, reflects the longstanding secrecy with which the national leaders of the AFL-CIO and their Solidarity Center have "actively participated in US foreign policy initiatives without informing their affiliated unions and their members, much less asking for a mandate to do so." As Scipes continues:

They have consciously kept these affiliations secret from their members, and have lied when they have been exposed. In short, they have actively betrayed the trust of workers, American and those throughout the rest of the world. (8)

Moreover, for what ostensibly passes as a labor report -- and regarding labor operations by a labor center that has long been engaged in labor imperialism (9) -- it is truly astounding that Beinin only makes one vaguely critical statement about the US government within the entire document. This passing concern with the United States comes on page twenty-seven, whereby he talks about the anti-democratic role of the Egyptian security authorities in intervening to impede the activities of independent labor organizations, which he suggests "is comparable" to the work undertaken by the FBI in the United States. (10) By way of a contrast to this minor criticism (if one could even call it that), the rest of Beinin's report has only positive things to say about US influence in the Middle East. In fact, the next time that he mentions the U.S. it is to praise their government's good work, and the "reasonable" work of US-directed factories (which should read: sweatshops) in Egypt. He writes:

Officials of the US Embassy in Cairo who visited factories in the QIZs [Qualifying Industrial Zones] in late 2008 concluded that Egypt's national labor laws are not the standard by which factory owners operate. If they produce for socially conscious corporations that demand good treatment of workers, like Levi Strauss & Co., then they maintain a reasonable standard of labor relations. Otherwise, they do as they wish. (p.54

It is as if Beinin wrote his report within a political vacuum, such that his writing is divorced from any engagement with the major forces destroying global labor movements, that is, US-led imperialism. Under a subheading reading Intent to Control, Not Liberate, Workers Beinin thus distillates his ahistorical mindset (in this report anyway) by on the one hand ignoring US imperialism, and on the other, highlighting the oppressive nature of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) -- which, he correctly describes as "an arm of the state." (11) The unspoken irony is that the AFL-CIO's Solidarity Center likewise acts as a well-established arm of the US government, but not just as an arm of the state that represses local labor struggles, but as the long arm of the state (some might say tentacle) that also seeks to undermine the vitality of labor movements worldwide.

On the subject of state oppression, Beinin informs his readers that the 55,000 municipal real estate tax collectors who have organized to form the Independent General Union of Real Estate Tax Authority Workers "are the only workers so far to have succeeded in establishing an independent union" in Egypt. Much like in the U.S., the Egyptian government fears workers who choose to fight collectively for their rights. Thus it should come as no surprise that "the ETUF has sought to impede the formation" of the Independent General Union of Real Estate Tax Authority Workers "at every step." (12) An integral part of the Mubarak regime's efforts to counter successful union organizing in this regard is "Law 84 of 2002," which Beinin explains "empowers the government to regulate and interfere" with democratic union operations. And so in an act of resistance, in November 2008, "the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights hosted a workshop attended by 150 NGOs from 14 governorates" that "endorsed draft legislation to replace" this law. (13) Beinin continues:

However, the government has shown no interest in amending the law. On the contrary, NGOs [non-governmental organizations] that have sought to organize and represent workers independently, such as the Center for Trade Union and Workers Services (CTUWS), have been subjected to legal harassment, as have many independent trade unionists. (p.35)

There is no question that union organizing against oppressive laws is fantastic, but one can understand the Egyptian government's repressive response in light of foreign-run NGOs -- and especially those partnering with the US government -- channeling considerable monies to Egyptian organizations that might not have the Egyptian government's best interest in mind.

NED Links with Egyptian Personages and Organizations

As has been pointed out above -- see Footnote 1 -- the NED operates by intervening in the civil society of interest (as defined by US foreign policy goals) BEFORE popular mobilization becomes developed so as to channel potential mobilization in the direction desired by the US government. In other words, it seeks out important people and organizations in civil society, and tries to enmesh them in NED networks and operations so as to limit their ability to coalesce with other local allies in meaningful and independent (i.e., self-determining) ways, and which also raises questions about trustworthiness among allies and potential allies concerning the NED-affiliated organizations' operations. This is not to say that connection with the NED is automatically "evil," but it raises serious questions, and requires affiliated organizations to consciously act on their own defined interests and not those of the NED.

Bearing this proviso in mind, it is important to recognize that the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, the group that hosted the workshop Beinin discusses (see above), has received almost continuous annual support from the NED between 1994 and 2005. (14) In addition, this human rights group's current president, Hisham Kassem was, until recently, the publisher of Egypt's first independent daily paper, Al-Masry Al-Youm (The Egyptian Today), is the former vice president of the liberal opposition party Al-Ghad, is currently the Egyptian representative on the steering committee of the NED-initiated World Movement for Democracy, and in 2007 was the recipient of the NED's annual Democracy Award. Likewise, it is worth emphasizing that the aforementioned union service center, the Center for Trade Union and Workers Services -- which was founded in 1990 by Kamal Abbas and the late Yusuf Darwish -- is "a partner" organization of the Solidarity Center. (15) This very significant fact remains unmentioned in Beinin's report, although he does vaguely allude to CTUWS's connection to the AFL-CIO.

One labor activist told a Solidarity Center researcher that he believes the CTUWS has been targeted for greater repression than other labor-oriented NGOs because its good relations with the ITUC [International Trade Union Confederation], European trade union federations, and the ILO [International Labor Organization] have exposed the Egyptian government to international embarrassment. While it has backed away from its most egregious measures, the government has continued to subject the CTUWS to harassment by, for example, impeding the movement of Kamal Abbas as he was traveling to an ITUC meeting in Brussels in July 2009 and the national convention of the AFL-CIO in September 2009. (16)

Although I do not condone the repression of such union activities, it is hardly surprising that CTUWS has been harassed by the Egyptian dictatorship, particularly given the union's intimate associations with the US government's "democracy-promoting" establishment. (17)

Again it is critical to emphasize that such connections do not mean that the Egyptian organizations agree with the labor imperialism promoted by their foreign backers. Indeed, after years of US-backed oppression, Egyptian activists are more than aware of the contradictions inherent in their acceptance of US aid. Nevertheless, this paradoxical funding problem needs to be discussed openly if Egyptian organizations' political activities are to be less restricted by foreign interference. Moreover, they need to be clear about who they are asking for support, so that their getting help from foreign imperialist funders like the NED and Solidarity Center doesn't harm their links with other local organizations that have either declined, or were never offered, access to such foreign aid. Imperial funders clearly have foreign policy priorities that are at odds with rank and file activists, and so groups obtaining backing from such foreign financiers should wherever possible seek to challenge the insidious idea that groups like the Solidarity Center are a "progressive champion" for workers rights and democracy.

This awareness of the broader agenda of unions that are part of the NED's global "democracy-promoting" network is sadly something that Beinin does not possess, and his commentary even misleadingly describes the International Trade Union Confederation as being "a leading advocate of democratic trade unionism..." This, however, is far from the case, and it seems that this powerful international union promotes much of the same labor imperialism and business unionism favored by the Solidarity Center. (18) Indeed, in 2003 the ITUC's deputy chairman, Wellington Chibebe, was a recipient of the AFL-CIO's George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award, an award whose significance is particularly pertinent to this article, because in August 2010 the AFL-CIO gave their award to two Egyptian labor activists (making it the "first time the US union movement has honored a workers' organization from the Middle East"). (19) These two trade unionists were the Center for Trade Union and Workers Services' organizer Kamal Abbas, and Kamal Abu Eita, who is the president of the Independent General Union of Real Estate Tax Authority Workers.

The geostrategic nature of the AFL-CIO's selective displays of worker solidarity -- shown in this instance by their allocation of support by their awards -- indicates that President Mubarak was correct to be concerned with the growing tide of foreign-backed "democratic" activities occurring within Egypt. Beinin recognizes that this anxiety, in large part, owes much to such open displays of "international solidarity," and he writes that to date the Coordinating Committee for Trade Union and Workers Rights and Liberties (CCTUWRL) "has been more reluctant than the CTUWS to accept international solidarity." However, while I would suggest that radical unions have good reason to decline offers of such imperial labor solidarity, Beinin has no such misapprehensions, and counsels that: "Consistent support and solidarity from the international labor community could help to erode mistrust and strengthen the CCTUWRL." But while Beinin implies that the CCTUWRL offers an example of a union that is "reluctant" to accept international labor solidarity, it still works closely with pro-democracy groups that do accept aid from the imperial "democracy-promoting" community. As Beinin points out:

Since 2001 the Coordinating Committee for Trade Union and Workers Rights and Liberties (CCTUWRL) has been holding monthly meetings in the Cairo office of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center [which is based in the same offices as the April 6 Movement, and is a partner organization of Oxfam International], where workers from all over Egypt come to share information about struggles in their workplaces, discuss strategy, and seek legal advice. The leading figure in the CCTUWRL is Sabr Barakat, a former steel worker. He and Khalid Ali Umar, co-founder of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center and an activist lawyer specializing in labor law, have authored many reports and books published by the CCTUWRL. Khalid Ali Umar participated in the September 2008 delegation hosted by the Solidarity Center. (p.118)

Either way, compared to the Mubarak government's Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), even the compromised unions that are backed by the Solidarity Center offer a ray of hope for Egyptian workers. Highlighting this point, Beinin writes:

Since 1957, with rare exceptions, only pro-government loyalists have served as ETUF leaders. All 23 members of the ETUF executive committee in office for the 2006-2011 term are members of the NDP [National Democratic Party]. The current president, Hussein Megawer, has been head of the NDP parliamentary bloc and now serves as chair of the parliamentary Committee on Manpower. Megawer also serves as the Egyptian government's representative on the boards of directors of both the Suez Cement Company and the Turah Cement Company. (The Egyptian government is a part owner of both companies, while Italcementi Group has a majority interest in both.) (p.40)

These corporate connections are intriguing, and just a little more research on Beinin's part would have revealed that the chairman of Suez Cement Company is Omar Mohanna. This is worth acknowledging because Mohanna is the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt, which indicates that the US government, if it chose to, could exert significant indirect pressure on reforming the ETUF through their good friend Mohanna. One would expect, however, that such pressure is already being applied given that Mohanna is involved with numerous groups that work closely with the NED's "democracy-promoting" apparatus. For example, Mohanna is the vice chairman of the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies (a group that has received aid from the NED in 1995 and 1997 via the Center for International Private Enterprise), and his work as a board member of the NED-connected New Civic Forum. (20)

In fact, as mentioned earlier, the NED has already given the Solidarity Center grants to work with the ETUF, and Beinin himself even explains how the ETUF "received funding and technical assistance from the Solidarity Center to establish child labor programs in the rural governorates (provinces) of Sharqiyyya, Minufiyya, Buhayra, Fayyum, and Kafral-Shaykh, and in Alexandria." Then, remaining on his theme of uncritical support for the US government, Beinin continues by adding that: "These programs were positively evaluated in reports prepared for USAID..." (21) Now there is a surprise!

Instead of putting his hope in the creation of militant unions working to build a genuine workers' democracy, who will be able to fight against the Solidarity Center's bankrupt model of labor imperialism, Beinin hopes that the ETUF will (with sufficient pressure from imperial elites) be forced to move away from repressing workers to a position of supporting them -- to "join the struggle" as he puts it. It seems that there is as much chance of this happening as of Beinin and rank and file workers in the U.S. managing to persuade the AFL-CIO and their Solidarity Center from refraining to undertake labor "solidarity" in the service of imperialism. (22) Thus given such unrealistic expectations, Beinin starts the final chapter of "Justice for All" by noting:

The new shape of the labor market in the neoliberal era and how the government and the ETUF respond to it will be a big factor in determining the future of worker rights in Egypt. So far, the record has not been encouraging. Egypt's privatization program and other neoliberal measures have won accolades from the international financial institutions. The IMF, the World Bank, and the World Economic Forum all rank Egypt high among "global economic reformers", i.e., countries that make it easier for private-sector enterprises to do business. (p.111)

Here at least Beinin acknowledges the negative effects of such neoliberal developments -- typically promoted by the Solidarity Center's work -- writing that: "The neoliberal project is creating a new Egypt that many believe is benefiting no more than the top 10 percent of the population." He continues, pointing out how the Special Economic Zones and Qualify Industrial Zones "have contributed greatly to Egypt becoming the second largest market for foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa after South Africa"; with the United States acting as "the largest source of FDI in Egypt." (23) But despite highlighting the key role of the US's neoliberalizing investments in Egypt, Beinin finds no serious fault with such investments.

Instead, he quickly moves on to suggest that the real danger comes from China.

The Chinese are positioning themselves to become major investors in Egypt. Chinese investments in Egypt reached over US$500 million by 2009. In September 2008 an agreement to establish a joint Sino-Egyptian industrial center to manufacture textiles, footwear and pharmaceuticals was signed. Citic Group, China's biggest state-run company, will invest US$800 million in an aluminum smelter. China is expected to become Egypt's largest trade partner by 2010.

These shifts of global capital indicate that there is a great danger that Egypt will lead a regional "race to the bottom" which will undermine the living standards and fundamental rights of its workers. (p.113)

Beinin's message as presented here is a powerful appeal to US imperial self-interest, as, he warns, if the US government does not pick up its game and start "promoting democracy" with serious intent, then all their precious investment opportunities will be lost to their capitalist rival, China. (24) His concluding chapter even suggests potential policy responses for the US government.

But to make such recommendations, Beinin must (again) first mischaracterise the extremely oppressive relationship between the two countries, writing: "Egypt is an important ally of the United States in the Middle East"; with "[o]ther countries in the region... looking to Egypt to see whether or not the United States will be serious in backing up its verbal claims to support democracy with meaningful actions." Evidently Beinin has decided to ignore the fact the Egypt is and has been the US government's most favored dictatorship in the world and, with no sense of irony, suggest that the U.S. "should not ignore the shortcomings of the current governmental system or be an obstacle to the Egyptian people's desire for social justice and democracy."

Admittedly Beinin does observe that "Egypt has been the second-largest recipient of US foreign aid since its 1979 peace treaty with Israel"; but he fails to mention that most of this "aid" was directed to Egypt's enormous and brutal military machine. Either way, he says that "military aid should... be conditioned on ending operations of the internal security apparatus that inhibit freedom of expression and association, quash legitimate political protests, and undermine independent workers' organizations and struggles for worker rights." (25)

Of course, no one would deny that attaching conditions to future aid would prove an effective way of forcing Egypt's hand. But by ignoring the fact that foreign aid has been used to maintain Mubarak's regime for the express purpose of promoting US foreign policy objectives, Beinin fails to implicate the US government as being the major reason why Egyptian elites have erased its democratic history, not to mention the labor movement.

Likewise, Beinin is deluded when he emphasizes the continued positive role that can be played by US corporations in the growth of a democratic trade union movement in Egypt. Indeed, he points out: "As the US Embassy in Cairo has noted, the labor standards required by US firms are currently the most effective standards for companies that produce for them in Egypt." No doubt the US Embassy did report on the positive achievements of their own government, and such uncritical reporting on Beinin's behalf is sadly very much in keeping with the labor movement imperialism typically promoted by the NED and the Solidarity Center. So it is appropriate that Beinin ends his report not with a call for increasing labor militancy, but by making a further plea for "international solidarity." (26)

Working for Solidarity Now

This article has not examined particular Solidarity Center activities in Egypt --despite their receiving over $319,000 for them in 2009 -- but has instead focused on the major report regarding Egyptian workers that has been produced for the Solidarity Center. As a corollary of Beinin's uncritical acceptance of the Solidarity Center's democratic rhetoric, we have seen that his report ignored the "enmeshment" of prominent Egyptian activists into NED-related organizations and networks. Thus despite extensive US interests in the region, and extensive operations and connections with and for the US government's NED, almost none of this has even been acknowledged, much less explained in this report, thereby limiting its validity. Likewise, just as problematically, Beinin's report has ignored larger US interests in the region, particularly Egypt's key role in protecting Israel. (27)

This is not to say that the Egyptians who work with the US "democracy-promoting" community will not, and cannot, engage in radical actions that lie beyond those limited goals envisaged by their foreign "allies." Indeed, accepting money from groups like the NED or Solidarity Center can often be seen as the "least bad" option in a dire situation; but the main point to emphasize is that all pro-democracy groups must be transparent about their funding relations, and strive to openly discuss what negative influences such ties may exert on their overarching political priorities and objectives.

Finally, in the imperial heartland itself, it is imperative that all US citizens who are concerned with the oppressive repercussions of labor imperialism demand a full and honest report by the AFL-CIO on the activities of the Solidarity Center in Egypt. International solidarity is essential to creating a more equitable global order, and labor imperialism disguised as international solidarity needs to be undermined at every turn. Therefore, at present, the most effective action that can be taken by people residing outside of Egypt is thus to continue to work to create genuine and democratic forms of solidarity, that seek to promote human, and not imperial, interests.


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1.  Kim Scipes, AFL-CIO's Secret War Against Developing Country Workers: Solidarity or Sabotage? (Lexington Books, 2010), p.104. Scipes writes that the National Endowment for Democracy "is a product of a shift of US foreign policy from 'earlier strategies to contain social and political mobilization through a focus on control of the state and governmental apparatus' to a process of 'democracy promotion,' whereby 'the United States and local elites thoroughly penetrate civil society, and from therein, assure control over popular mobilization and mass movements...' What this means is that instead of waiting for a client government to be threatened by its people and then responding, US foreign policy shifted to intervening in the civil society of an country 'of interest' (as defined by US foreign policy goals) before popular mobilization could become significant, and by supporting certain groups and certain politicians, then channel any potential mobilization in the direction desired by the US Government." (p.96)  (back)

2.  As Scipes concludes: "The government has actively worked to incorporate Labor's foreign policy program into its own, and overwhelmingly -- behind the backs of their members -- the AFL-CIO foreign policy leaders have acquiesced to this, and subsequently became active participants in consciously advancing US foreign policy efforts. The AFL-CIO's program overwhelmingly serves the interests of the US Government and its corporate allies -- at the direct expense of working people around the world, and at the increasing expense of American workers." Scipes, AFL-CIO's Secret War Against Developing Country Workers, p.112.  (back)

3.  Beth Sims, Workers of the World Undermined: American Labor's Role in US Foreign Policy (South End Press, 1992), p.2.  (back)

4.  On February 11, 2011, I wrote an email to Professor Beinin that said, "aside from your great work on the [Justice for All] pamphlet, I wanted to ask you what you think about the Solidarity Center's role in implementing the US government's foreign policy. Here I am thinking of the criticisms raised in two books in particular." I then cited the two aforementioned books written by Kim Scipes and Beth Sims. I continued: "These books highlight amongst much else how the Solidarity Center is a primary grantee of the US government's imperialist National Endowment for Democracy. Thus it is interesting that it is only in the past few years that the NED has been providing the Solidarity Center funding for their work in Egypt." After obtaining no response to this e-mail I sent a follow-up e-mail on February 17, 2011 -- and to date have received no response from Professor Beinin.  (back)

5.  Beinin, Justice for All, p.4.  (back)

6.  Beinin, Justice for All, p.12. Beinin reiterates this observation, pointing out how: "Since 1952 Egypt has pursued two very different economic development strategies: Arab Socialism under Nasser and free market neoliberalism under Sadat and Mubarak. Despite the sharp policy differences between these strategies, the governments of the three presidents have shared the belief that economic development required controlling workers so that their demands and potential collective protests did not disrupt economic growth. The difference is that, as noted above, Nasser believed it was necessary to 'give' something to workers, and he did. In contrast, the history of labor under Sadat and Mubarak is largely one of take aways, making it even more necessary for the government to exercise control over workers and unions." (p.15)  (back)

7.  Beinin, Justice for All, p.14. He continues: "These labor actions have been amplified politically, because they coincided with a campaign for democracy organized by Kifaya (Enough) -- The Egyptian Movement for Change -- and other groups comprised mainly of the urban middle classes and intellectual workers." (p.14)  (back)

8.  Scipes, AFL-CIO's Secret War Against Developing Country Workers, p.103.  (back)

9.  Kim Scipes, "Why Labor Imperialism? AFL-CIO's Foreign Policy Leaders and the Developing World," Working USA: The Journal the Journal of Labor and Society, 13 December 2010, pp. 465-79.  (back)

10.  Beinin, Justice for All, p.27.  (back)

11.  Beinin, Justice for All, p.11, In Egypt he emphasizes, "it is illegal to organize a union independently of the single trade union center recognized by the Egyptian state." (p.30)  (back)

12.  Beinin, Justice for All, p.31, p.32.  (back)

13.  Beinin, Justice for All, p.35.  (back)

14.  Earlier in Beinin's report (in a footnote on page twenty-seven), he points out how the government threatened to close the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights "for allegedly violating Law 84 of 2002." (p.56) It is ironic that for the evidence of the "threatened closure" of the NED-funded Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, Beinin cites a press release published by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) -- a group that is funded by the British and Canadian versions of the NED (the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, and Rights and Democracy respectively). In addition, FIDH's executive director, Antoine Bernard, serves on the steering committee of the NED-initiated World Movement for Democracy.

Likewise in his report, Beinin refers to the good work of the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights (p.73), a group that has been rewarded for its work by the World Bank, and has received seven grants from the NED between 1998 and 2005 -- with the most recent grant being used to amongst other things organize "training workshops for 2,600 election monitors." Another group whose work Beinin refers to is the Association for the Development and Enhancement of Women (p.102), whose chairlady is Iman Bibars, an individual who acts as the regional director vice president of Ashoka Global -- a US project to groom "social entrepreneurs" whose two major corporate partners are PR/propaganda giant Hill & Knowlton and management consultant McKinsey & Company.

Beinin writes that the "most comprehensive study of migrant workers in Egypt is a report by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights" (p.76) -- a group that is a "partner organization" of FIDH. The Initiative's founder and Director, Hossam Bahgat, is the vice president of Egyptian Association against Torture (a group whose president is the prominent Kifaya activist, Aida Seif el-Dawla), a board member of the Tide Center's International Network for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (the Tide Center being one of George Soros's key US-based projects), and a board member of one of the US leading "human rights" foundations, the Fund for Global Human Rights. Finally, another example of a project that obtains support from the US "democracy promoting" network is the Egypt New Woman Research Center, which Beinin writes "has received funding from the Ford Foundation" (p.118). For criticisms of the Ford Foundation's role in promoting US foreign policy objectives, see Michael Barker, "The Ideology of Philanthropy," Dissident Voice, June 12, 2010.  (back)

15.  Since 2004, the regional program director for the Middle East and North Africa programs at the Solidarity Center has been Heba F. El-Shazl, who prior to this appointment had been the deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (another core grantee of the NED). She is presently a visiting professor of international studies and modern languages at the Virginia Military Institute, and on February 11, 2011, referred to Kamal Abbas as "my good dear trade union brother." Note: The former commander-in-chief of US Central Command, General J.H. Binford Peay III (US Army, Retired), has commanded the Virginia Military Institute since 2003, and currently resides on the board of directors of many key military contractors (e.g., BAE Systems, United Defense Industries, and Allied Defense Group Inc).  (back)

16.  Beinin, Justice for All, p.45. "For several years the CTUWS tried to register as an NGO in accord with Law 84 of 2002. But the Ministry of Social Solidarity refused to accept its request to register because the security apparatus advised against it. In the spring of 2007 provincial governors ordered CTUWS's two regional offices shut down. In response, Guy Ryder, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, wrote to President Mubarak requesting removal of the restrictions on the activities of the CTUWS." (p.44)  (back)

17.  Beinin acknowledges that CTUWS has "good relations with the Dutch Labor Movement Federation (FNV), other European labor federations, and with the ILO"; noting that it has "been supported by the Dutch NGO Oxfam Novib since 1993." (p.118) It is important to point out that since 2008 the executive director of Oxfam Novib has been Farah Karimi, an Iranian-born activist who is currently the president of the Foundation for Human Security in the Middle East. For a discussion of the latter group's connection to the NED, see Ron Jacobs, "Keep Your Eyes On the Prize: Protest US Aggression," Dissident Voice, July 13, 2009.  (back)

18.  Beinin, Justice for All, p.121. The recently appointed general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is Australian labor leader, Sharan Burrow, who serves alongside many of the US leading "democracy promoters" on the advisory council of the World Justice Project (i.e., Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell). The ITUC's deputy secretary general, Wellington Chibebe, is also the secretary general of the NED-funded Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, and is the former chairman of the NED-funded Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition. The ITUC was formerly known as the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, and a notable former member of their executive committee is John Joyce, who is a former board member of the NED and their "democracy-manipulating" union, the Free Trade Union Institute, and has served on the executive council of the AFL-CIO (from 1984 to 1999). Writing about the ITUC's predecessor Kim Scipes notes that:

"AFL operations in Latin America were revived after World War II. Initially, they worked through ORIT -- the Latin American regional organization of the anti-Communist International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) that the AFL helped establish in 1949 -- and helped overthrow the democratically-elected government in Guatemala in 1954." Kim Scipes, AFL-CIO's Secret War Against Developing Country Workers, p.31.  (back)

19.  The award has long been suspect. "In 1982, the AFL-CIO gave its George Meany Human Rights Award to apartheid collaborator Gatsha Buthelezi, who had created a labor center -- United Workers of South Africa -- specifically to undercut the Federation of South African Trade Unions (FOSATU) and the rest of the liberation movement." Kim Scipes, AFL-CIO's Secret War Against Developing Country Workers, pp.35-6.  (back)

20.  Human rights youth activist, Ahmed Samih Farag, is the founder of a project known as the Liberal Youth Seminar which was sponsored by the New Civic Forum. Farag has recently acted as a media adviser and director of media observation for a USAID sponsored electoral monitoring campaign in Egypt, serves on the advisory council of the NED-initiated World Youth Movement for Democracy, and is the Director of the NED-funded Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies.  (back)

21.  Beinin, Justice for All, p.86. Later, he writes: "The US State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor has forthrightly stated, 'Enforcement of child labor laws remained spotty, and when offenders were prosecuted, the fines imposed... had questionable deterrent effects.'" (p.96)  (back)

22.  Beinin, Justice for All, p.117. There has been an ongoing campaign by rank and file unionists within the AFL-CIO to prevent their labor center from engaging in such imperialist ventures since the early 1970s, when Fred Hirsch first documented the AFL-CIO's involvement in the CIA-backed coup against Chile's president Salvador Allende.  (back)

23.  Beinin, Justice for All, p.111.  (back)

24.  Beinin counsels, "The ETUF, Egyptian NGOs, the Egyptian government, the US government, the international labor and human rights communities, and the US corporations can all play a role in protecting the fundamental rights of Egyptian workers and including them as essential partners in Egypt's development." Beinin, Justice for All, pp.116-7.  (back)

25.  Beinin, Justice for All, p.121.  (back)

26.  Beinin, Justice for All, p.122. He concludes: "If the international community consistently insists on the need for the government of Egypt to respect democracy, human rights, and worker rights, it is possible that the ETUF, or some elements of it, maybe empowered to assert their autonomy from the government and the NDP and join Egyptian workers' struggle for a decent life and social and economic justice." (p.123)  (back)

27.  Alison Weir, "Egypt, the US and the Israel Lobby: Critical Connections," CounterPunch, February 4 - 6, 2011.  (back)


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Published March 28, 2011