Egyptian union support for the Libyan people

Posted below is a statement from the Egyptian Real Estate Tax Authority Union (RETA) published by British Socialist Worker.

As a one-time low-level Australian Tax Office worker and former member of the Community & Public Sector Union (CPSU), I am curious about RETA – the Egyptian Real Estate Tax Authority Union.

Is it a bosses’ union? The CPSU was run by my managers .

My union has never supported any revolution let alone the ones in the Middle East.

They say that RETA has 27,000 members.

My union is one of the largest in the country (but it hides its real numbers and list of members). The CPSU does support the Labor Party and is a stepping stone into government for the leadership.

Any call from the leadership of the CPSU is pretty much meaningless because the members don’t get a say.

Any union member should ‘support the Libyan people in their revolution and for their right to freedom’. So too we should ‘reject foreign intervention and the aggression by foreign military forces against people in Libya’.

But what does that mean in practice? Whenever the members of my union voted to oppose privatisation (i.e. of the Commonwealth Employment Service) the state secretary (now Senator Claire Moore) subverted the call for action. We got privatisation and she got a senate seat.

Similarly, with this statement.

The problem is, that when push comes to shove, Libyan rebels chose foreign intervention and made direct calls for planes and missiles.

Worse still, as the conflict with the Libyan army escalated, rebels made calls for targeted attacks on Libyans by the United States and its allies.

When victory was imminent rebels phoned Libyan positions on the ground to bomb direct to NATO pilots.

Now that there is a stalemate, brought about by lack of military training by the rebels, reports say they are calling for more weapons and for NATO advisors & trainers on the ground.

Bob Fisk reports:

“Desperate to avoid US military involvement in Libya in the event of a prolonged struggle between the Gaddafi regime and its opponents, the Americans have asked Saudi Arabia if it can supply weapons to the rebels in Benghazi.”

The Saudis have played a role in putting down revolt by the people of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia & in Egypt itself.

Strikes and demonstrations continue. Our union brothers and sisters in the RETA are waging such campaigns.

I support my union brothers and sisters in Egypt but cannot support the rebel leadership in Libya. I mistrust the leadership of my own union so why should I trust the leadership of people who call for foreign intervention?

“Egypt’s real estate tax collectors started their strike and open sit-in at the heart of down town Cairo, facing the cabinet and Ministry of Finance on Dec 3, 2007. By the 11th day, the government responded to all demands of the 55,000 strikers”
excerpt from the vimeo video sent by Mark (below, not the youtube video above – trying to get confirmation from different sources).

“…I think it possible that the Egyptian army will send peace keeping forces into Libya at some point.

This may answer RETA’s call for Arab intervention.

But I oppose it strongly.

It amounts to foreign intervention. Given the relationship between the United States and the Egyptian army such intervention will help the imperialists – so it is a mistake.

Just as much a mistake as the Syrian army’s intervention in Lebanon during the civil war 1975-1990. Their excuse was to save Lebanon from an israeli attack. The Israeli assault came anyway.”

But then it is easy from this tiny outpost to speculate about what should be done. I am not there on the ground. What would I do if the Americans came here? I hope that I would stick with my principles and deny the imperialist even the tiniest foothold on our land. Ooops, I forget, they are here already 🙂 and they did not even need to drop a single bomb on us – the Australian government welcomed the US military in with open arms, gave them spy bases with the licence to operate in secrecy from the poeple & our  government. Worst still the US can count on committment from the government in unjust and illegal wars

Ian Curr
7 April 2011

Statement against intervention in Libya from the Egyptian tax collectors’ union

No to Foreign Intervention

Yes to Arab Intervention

Our union has been following the events of the revolution of our Arab people in Libya closely, and we affirm our complete support for the Libyan people in their revolution and for their right to freedom from the rule of Gaddafi and his family.

We also affirm our complete condemnation of all the acts of repression which Gaddafi has carried out against our people in Libya. At the same time we reject foreign intervention and the aggression by foreign military forces against our people in Libya and call for Arab intervention to stop the shedding of the Libyan people’s blood and to stop Gaddafi’s aggression and bring him to justice.

Our union affirms its complete condemnation of the position of the Libyan trade unions which are collaborating with the Libyan regime and supporting the regimes destruction of the Libyan people. By doing this, these organisations shown that they have nothing in common with genuine trade unions and we call for their overthrow and for non-cooperation with them in the international and Arab arenas as they have the blood of the revolutionaries on their hands.

Long live the Libyan Revolution

Long live the Arab Revolution

Real Estate Tax Authority Union (RETA)

6 thoughts on “Egyptian union support for the Libyan people

  1. Mark Gillespie says:

    You ask is the RETA a bosses union? Far from it. In 2007 it led a very militant strike and forced concesssions from the regime. It too is one of the founding unions of the new independant trade union movement in Egypt, a very important development. See this link below:

    You say you can’t support the rebel leadership in Libya. That is OK but it’s not clear if you support the people in Libya fighing the Gaddafi dictatorship, or are you using the politics of the leadership as an excuse not to support a genuine revolutionary movement? That would be a serious mistake and akin to refusing to support Palestinian rights because you don’t like the politics of HAMAS. Is is right for activists in the West to demand the people of Libya sellect leaders we like before they get our support? I think not.

    You say you’re not on the ground so it is had to make judgements. Well the RETA are on the ground and they are a union at the centre of the struggle for democratic rights in Egypt and they are supporting the Libyian revolution. That gives use a clue about the nature of the struggle in Libya. It’s a struggle that deserves our support.


  2. RETA is a construction of the U.S. Congress funded “International Endowment for Democracy”.

    The question is why have socialist groups been such enthusiastic supporters of agencies of globalised free-marketeering in Africa such as the Egyptian so-called independent trade unions and the MDC in Zimbabwe? Is it because of an inherent failure of traditional Marxism to address the new epoch of global capitalism? Is it just ignorance and lazy research? Or are these socialist sects also funded by the US Congress to legitimise global capital and its puppets? I can’t decide which.

  3. Sorry, I meant the US congress funded “National Endowment for Democracy” (NED).

    However there is an “International Endowment for Democracy” which has a very thorough critique of NED .

  4. Hello John,

    Did you listen to what brother Tariq from the Independent Union of Real Estate Tax Collectors said (see YouTube video sent by Mark)?

    Tariq concentrated on the struggles his union had with the Egyptian regime to obtain fair wages for its members.

    Tariq made no mention of politics or globalisation, he did call for international solidarity of workers.

    Tariq did what a good union leader does – seeks to further the interests of his union’s members.

    No different to Peter Simpson (ETU Qld) trying to stop the loss of his members jobs as Bligh privatises Queensland. The same thing happened in my union when we voted down the leadership (inclusing Claire Moore) attempt to sell-out the workers at the Commonwealth Employment Service. Unfortuneatley they sold us anyway.

    I do not know what the politics of the union are – does anyone? In the CPSU we had members from the Liberal Party, Labor, Greens, One Nation, Socialists, Anarchists – you name it.

    A union is not a political party – it is a workers organisation. Just becasue the CPSU leadership co-opted the CPSU into Labor party affiliation does not mean the members liked it. Nor did they like giving their dues to have Rudd & Gillard elected.

    Why would RETA be any different to the CPSU?

    As for the reserach links you sent – I do not see any active trade unionists in the list of the researchers. Unless you are an active member of a union it is hard to understand what a union really is or what it is about. Academics & Intellectuals and journalists like Noam Chomsky & Gore Vidal are notorious individualists, that is why they rarely make good unionists. For example they abhor the notion of the closed shop seeing it asd an infringement on their civil liberties. When, in fact, it is a protection from the freedom to exploit by the bossess. Which brings me to the question of funding unions.

    You probably do not recall that ‘The Daily Mirror’ owned by Robert Maxwell accused Arthur Scargill, the president of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), of taking money from Qadhafi to pay off his mortgage of £25,000. The reports claimed that the National Union of Miners was funded by the Libyan government. It may seem bizaare now but these accusations were made at the height of the Miners Strike (1984-85) and played a role in their defeat by Thatcher. You wil recall that there were fears in England that Libya was funding the IRA. But Qadhafi never funded the NUM. The government shut the coal mines, ending in misery for miners and the working class of Britain. These accusations were printed and reprinted in the British Press – especially by the Murdoch press.

    Years later, the accusations that Scargill or the miners union (NUM) took money from Qadhafi lies. Read ‘The Enemy Within: The Secret War Against the Miners‘ by Seumas Milne. Some of Scargill’s accusers even retratcted their lies. I recall a court ruling on the matter. Both MI5 and Special Branch were implicated in the deception. Yet not one of the newspapers that had spread this malicious lie every admitted the concocted story or, to my knowledge, ever printed a retraction.

    in solidarity

  5. Ian,

    1/There are two names on the IED committee that I reckognised that, to me, suggests credibility. One is Mumia Abu Jamal and the other is Howard Zinn. These two people are in positions to have valid points about colonisation. Of the names I do not recognise, many are academic specialists in class and labour issues. One is even said to be a labour activist. Given that many of the academics are experts in union issues, I suspect at least some of them will be unionists. However, the US union movement is even more co-opted by capitalism than the OZ movement is and I would not take membership of a US union to be any badge of merit.

    2/ The Gadaffi/Scarghill analogy is irrelevant because Libya does not dominate the English economy and has not imposed a no fly zone on Scotland and is not propping up a Zionist regime in Ireland. The US role in manipulating African/Middle East politics – and socialist critique of it – is no comparison at all to Murdoch’s demonisation of Scargill.

    3/ The tax collectors strike was in 2007. They decided in 2008 to form a union and the union was formed in 2009. The RETA as it exists today did not orchestrate the strike. I would be very interested to find out whether the leadership of the strike and the original proponents of a union became the leadership of the union – or whether careerists and US functionaries trained through the NED and US union networks expropriated the leadership.

    4/ Yes I did watch the video of Tariq’s speech to the British Socialist workers party. Some nice rhetoric about international solidarity but no analysis at all of what is happening in Egypt. In particular he had nothing to say about the privatisation and globalisation of Egypt’s nationalised industry or any question at all about the ownership of the means of production. He did not speak of the struggle with the regime, he spoke of their much publicised 2007 strike in a very Ciaron-esque way, as if the bravery and risk of the flashpoint was all that was needed to be known of the issues.

    5/ RETA would be no different to OZ unions that are already well entrenched as cogs of capitalism’s infrastructure. Oz unions have embraced globalisation and privatisation in general, trying to get the best out of it for their members. RETA and other unions probably have a bit of catching up to do before they become as effective a dampener on working class rebellion and threats to the ownership of the means of production as Oz and US unions are. This is why the NED is funding the US AFL-CIO to train them.

    6/ “Did US-backed NGOs Help to Topple Mubarak”

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