In Egypt on Wednesday, the revolution was gaining even greater popular momentum. Workers began striking all over the country, demonstrating a much broader base of support among Egypt’s lower classes. It’s true that the crowds on Tahrir Square include protesters from all walks of Egyptian life; I’ve seen them myself. The protests in Cairo, though, have been attended by a disproportionately large share of young intellectuals, and until Wednesday it was hard to know if they really represented the majority of their countrymen.
Workers’ strikes shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s been watching Egypt over the last several years. Strikes, sit-ins and work slowdowns in Egypt’s factories have been a sporadic nuisance to the business interests of both military and civilian employers for some time. Workers have even been able to gain some concessions in recent years, but Wednesday proved that those concessions were not nearly enough.
That’s why virtually everyone I know, in Egypt, Jordan and America, was certain that Hosni Mubarak would relinquish the presidency in his speech Thursday night. It’s increasingly clear that what’s happening in Egypt is not an intellectual exercise, or a mere youth movement. My roommate confirms that at least three young junior officers of the army have also joined protesters on Tahrir Square, and perhaps as many as fifteen. The military brass may have other plans, but the rank and file are beginning to show their sympathy for the protesters and their own desire for freedom and democracy.
Even as a youth movement, it had power. More than half of Egypt’s population is under 35 years old, and most of them unemployed or underemployed, unable to marry, and with little hope for the future before 25 January. With the working class joining demonstrations, it seems inevitable that the old regime must fall. It seems that only the regime hasn’t yet recognized its fate.