May Day in the Land of the Pharaohs [1921]

For the first time in the history of Egypt, May Day was celebrated this year by a procession and public meeting in Alexandria. Egypt is under the rule of the Union Jack, and there is neither free speech nor free press, and it was only after much trouble that the Jardin Rossette Skating Rink was hired for the meeting. The procession started at 10.30 from Mohamed Ali Square, and for two hours paraded the streets of the city. The Confederation of Labour, with their band, headed the procession, followed by other Labour organisations and various groups and political clubs. The “International” was sung, and cheers were given for the Free Commune, international solidarity, and the Social Revolution.

At the meeting all the 3,000 seats were filled, and many people had to stand. The chairman, an Egyptian, opened the meeting, and was followed by other speakers in French, Arabic, and Italian. Then our comrade Edward Zaidman was called on, and he made a powerful revolutionary speech in English. The chairman had spoken of May Day as a holiday for the workers, but Zaidman said it was not a holiday but a day of international protest against Capitalism and Militarism; a day on which to prepare for the Social Revolution and to organise the attack on Capitalism and its corrupt supporters – State, Church, press, police, prisons, and Labour fakirs. A day on which to begin the building of a new free society, without master or slave, where love, joy, and co-operation will conspire to create something worthy of mankind. The Audience cheered our comrade again and again for his fearless speech, at the conclusion of which he sold Freedom – yes, Freedom! – Arbeiter Freund, and Anarchist pamphlets. Police, mounted and un­mounted, were outside the hall, but there was no disturbance. Five thousand proclamations in Italian and 15,000 in Arabic were distributed throughout Alexandria.

This is only a beginning in Egypt, but with the aid of a few energetic comrades a strong movement could be built up. R.Z.


Edward Zaidman, anarchist and then Bolshevik and Comintern agent is apparently not the same person as E. Zaidman, secretary of the East London Anarchist Group (for more on the London one, See Nick Heath’s Echoes of Ferrer in an East End back street