Moses calls for general strike in Egypt…
Reflection on Exodus 5 and 6
“It lets go to my people to the desert,
there so that it makes a celebration in my honor… “
Call to General Strike
General strike, popular insurrection and war of guerrillas have been diverse modalities of struggle implemented by the social movements throughout history, for conquering independence or to free itself of the yoke of a brutal tyranny. The liberating experience of Moses in Egypt was in its initial phase a general strike against the Pharaoh.
The popular sectors have used with much creativity the most varied methods to impel the revolutionary transformations and the defense of their national identity, that are going from the rejection to speak the language of the invader to the assault to the colonial quarters of the empire.
The responsibility of the revolutionary vanguard is to systematize the different forms of struggle by means of which, the popular sectors and the oppressed classes respond, political, ideological and military to the economic aggressions that arise from the systems of oppression to the service of the powerful ones. This was what they Moses and Aaron made.
The last century was a time of intense social fights that even lead to the formation of an ample one and varied socialist field that by their same contradictions collapse in 1989. Amongst the most excellent experiences of that period excel the Great Socialist Revolution of October that in 1917 with Lenin at the head formed the first proletarian state; the Chinese Revolution of 1949 and the Cuban Revolution of 1959.
In the history of the Hebrew people, the patriotic resistance before the empires and the class struggle of the oppressed sectors included the wars against the cannaneans local dictators; against the philistines invaders between which it was Goliath; against the cruel Assyrians, against the Chaldeans.
Against Persian and the Roman ones until arriving at the prophetic denunciation of the injustice, pronounced by Isaiah, Jeremiah and Amos; from the clandestine revolutionary work in Babylonia to the return to construct the destroyed walls of Jerusalem. In each one of these moments certain fight method was the main one.
The revolutionary experience of Moses and Aaron
But between the diverse revolutionary experiences of the Hebrew people, it excels by its wealth and depth, the process lead by Moses and Aaron and a group of revolutionaries who faced the more powerful military machinery of that time, the one of the Pharaoh of Egypt and managed to defeat it. The exodus from Egypt was the Dien Bien Fu that underwent the empire of the Pharaoh.
The Hebrew were enslaved in Egypt. They had arrived looking for food and they were put under the slavery. And the existing tributary system forced them to work like laborers in the construction of great cities of wheat storage. These Hebrew farmers turned workers of the construction were a mass of people, oppressed and exploited by the powerful ones who incarnated themselves in the Pharaoh.
Moses that was exiled in Median receives the divine mandate to return to Egypt and to put itself to the front of the liberation movement. When returning, first thing that does it is to maintain a meeting with the elders Hebrew-Israelites and to share with them his plans. The elders listen to it with attention and they rejoice before the news that Yahweh has listened to its moans and was ready to accompany them.
Moses looks first of all for its people to organize the resistance. And it manages to gain them to the idea of the revolution. They thank Yahweh for its solidarity. When people organize themselves and assuming tasks as leading force it turns in a people in resistance, and begin to walk with dignity. Where there is oppression there is resistance.
Immediately afterwards they meet with the Pharaoh of Egypt. It was an encounter between the Hebrew resistance and the Egyptian empire. They were already two powers, one that rose and other that lowered. It was the power of the weak and of the powerful ones. When the oppressed ones are organized they become a force and allow that the dignity of the exploited ones emerge challenging the pride of the powerful ones. It is then that arises the flower of the victory.
Moses, speaking in the name of the oppressed ones, talks to the Pharaoh with much authority, with the force of the people: This says the Lord; let’s go to my people to the desert so that it makes a celebration in my honor. This was a bold demand. The slaves reivindicates the right to celebration; they demanded the right to practice its religion, demanded its liberation of the chains of slavery. And they did it in the name of a God that listened to them and it accompanied them.
The Nicaraguan theologian Jorge Pixley teaches that “the knowledge that God is in the side of the oppressed ones is always an impact for the oppressor; and most of the times this experience is denied with an indignation that appears of a guilty sense.”
And who is the Lord?
And the Pharaoh responds furious: And who is the Lord? In its imperial mentality the only God is he. In his world of ideas it did not fit that the slaves were organizing and rebelling. Moses breaks the schemes to him. And Moses and Aaron respond to him: the God of the Hebrews has come to our encounter, so we will go to a distance of three days away to offer sacrifices to him.
And then the Pharaoh understands the magnitude of the threat and reacts angry: Moses and Aaron, so you are distracting the people of his work? Go to continue working! And it adds, revealing his true fears: now that is as much people are going you to cause that they stop working? The Pharaoh discovers his basic interest to follow exploiting them and to avoid the development of a General Strike.
It is probable to the light of the text, that while these representatives of the empire and the resistance were engaged in a dialog, the General Strike broke through by all the constructions and the hammers of these workers of the construction became paralyzed by the subversive call.
The oppressed ones showed the force of their unit. And the Pharaoh soon would show the repressive answer of the empire. And the workers learned that the fruit of the struggle is the victory, but that the fight is difficult. It was the shock of two wills.
And to the call to General Strike the Pharaoh responds hardening the already hard conditions of work of the Hebrews and orders his overseers: no longer give straw to the Israelites. Now they themselves are going to gather the straw! But demand them the same amount of bricks that they have done until now. Neither a single one brick less! They are idlers and for that reason they shout: we want to go to offer sacrifices to our God! Make them work harder to that people, keep them occupied so that they do not pay attention to lies.
The Pharaoh took them away the raw material. They were enslaved and they also had to look for the construction equipments. They were mechanisms to deepen the exploitation. Of the same form the landowners thought and acted when our farmers demanded their rights. And of the same form the Taiwanese and South Koreans owners act today in the sweatshops, where they exploit to our women in the free duties zones. It is the globalization of the exploitation.
And this repression that bit the Hebrew workers also hit its leading team and even to Moses. It happened that when the heads of the Hebrews went to the Pharaoh to protest these repressive actions, He responded to them: idle, to work! And he managed to divide them, to open a breach between the organized sectors since these said to Moses: you are the guilty. And then Moses also vacillates and complaint with Yahweh, the liberating God.
Yahweh does not get impress or confuse, it is sure of the strategic course and it responds to Moses with much authority: this says the Lord; it will be only by force that the Pharaoh will let them to leave its country. The Pharaohs, the powerful, the czars, the generals, the capitalists are only expelled from their situation of privilege by means of force. Yahweh was clear of the situation, was necessary to confront. The word had to be accompanied by action. And the action was the General Strike.
And Yahweh added with much authority: I will say to the Israelites that I, the Lord, am going to free them of his slavery and the hard works that they have been put under by the Egyptians. It will unfold my power and it will save them with great acts of justice. You will be my people and I will be your God. I will take them to the country that I promised to give them. I am the Lord.
When Moses returned with the Israelite leaders to inform them this, they did not listen to him. The fear had seized already of its souls, the majority were discouraged by the hardness of its slavery. And then the Lord reiterates to Moses the order to go to the to the Pharaoh and ask him to lets leave the Israelites. It was a fight until the end.
As Salvadoran people in diverse occasions we have made use of General Strike. In May of 1944 we managed to overthrow a dictatorship of thirteen years by means of general strike of Fallen Arms that paralyzed the country. It was a successful experience. In August of 1980 the call to General Strike was made by the Democratic Revolutionary Front (FDR) and did not obtain the predicted result because people already had been struck by the repression and did not have confidence in the force of the popular vanguard.
Since 1992 the electoral struggle happened to occupy in our country the main place in the strategic design for building and taking power displacing armed warfare as it main mechanism of struggle. As the basis of this were the openings of democratic spaces through one long war of twelve years, from the 1980 to the 1992.
At the present time, on the verge of concluding year 2006, the closing of those same spaces because of the crisis of the political and social system, originates a permanent social protest, and it can lead again to the search of modalities of social mobilization that guarantee the self-defense of the popular sectors. The right threat again with jail to the popular fighters, the left must be prepared for new challenges. Like Popular Lutheran Church we can said that in any situation, we will continue accompanying our people.
Rev. Roberto Pineda
Popular Lutheran Church
San Salvador, November 18th 2006