Sudanese revolution: what road to freedom?

09 February 2022

By Dave Stockton

Once more across the length and breadth of Sudan we are witnessing a massive revolutionary upsurge against the military junta of General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemeti), which seized power in the coup of 25 October.

Since 2 January the military has lost its fig leaf prime minister, civilian technocrat Abdalla Hamdok. During his six weeks in office it rapidly became clear that he had absolutely no authority and the mass demonstrations resumed, as did the repression which has now claimed over 76 lives in three months.

On 6 January demonstrations, named by organisers as “Marches of the Millions” filled the streets of the capital Khartoum and its adjacent cities Omdurman and Ombada, plus Port Sudan. Other cities in the north of the country, Atbara, Ed Damer, and Dongola, also joined in.

Demonstrators packed streets chanting the slogans ‘No legitimacy! No negotiations! No partnership!’ and ‘Power to the People!’ They called on soldiers to return to their barracks and allow the formation of a wholly civilian government.

The Khartoum Resistance Committees Coordination set as the marchers’ goal the Republican Palace. The junta’s response, as on previous occasions, was harsh repression, led by paramilitaries from Hermeti’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF). At least three deaths and dozens of injuries were reported in Omdurman and Khartoum. Hospitals treating demonstrators were attacked.

Beware imperialism

At his online ‘democracy summit’ in December US President Joe Biden and his Secretary of State Antony Blinken did not even raise the issue of repression and military dictatorship. Indeed Washington has continued to accept Al Burhan’s legitimacy and even praised the military leaders. The White House has suggested that the demonstrators’ demands are ‘unrealistic’.

US allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have also lauded the military regime for its efforts. This is payback for the Saudis’ use of Sudanese forces to prop up its operations in the bloody civil war in Yemen.

As for the Western democracies’ rival, the new imperialist kid on the block, ‘Communist’ China, it is unsurprisingly silent on the crimes of the military. Indeed its global speciality is supporting murderous military juntas (see Myanmar) as well as committing its own crimes in Xingang and Hong Kong.

In short, neither of the rival imperialisms engaged in their new cold war have anything to offer freedom fighters worldwide, as Putin’s Russia showed in Kazakhstan. But working class and revolutionary movements in all countries must do all they can to aid their courageous class sisters and brothers in Sudan.

The opposition

A series of interlocking democratic alliances support the mass demonstrations aimed at replacing the military with a civilian government. Important from the outset was the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA). Founded in the 2010s as opposition to al-Bashir grew, its core was composed of three of Sudan’s largest professional groups: doctors, journalists and lawyers.

As the movement developed it was joined by 18 other trade unions including, academics and teachers, engineers and health professionals. It is therefore largely composed of the radical middle class which revolted against al Bashir’s stifling political Islamism and his genocidal wars waged in Dafur and South Sudan.

Such ‘broad fronts’, what Trotskyists call popular fronts, exist in the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), which includes sizable bourgeois parties, like the National Umma Party (NUP) and the Sudanese Congress Party (SCP) but also involves the SPA and the Sudanese Communist Party. The more conservative parts of the FFC, like the NUP, supported Hamdok’s November deal with al-Burhan and mourned his resignation. Clearly these forces would welcome another compromise with the military.

In contrast, Siddig Yousef, a leader of the Sudanese Communist Party said Hamdok’s resignation was long overdue. The Communist Party members represent a serious working class force within the resistance committees that organise the demonstrations, strikes and public square sit-ins that regularly take place.

These local resistance committees (there are about a dozen in Khartoum alone) have mushroomed since October and are beginning to coordinate nationally, between themselves and with the SPA. Together they are preparing a joint ‘political charter’, due at the end of January, to ‘collect all the civil forces that want to limit the role of the military and form a civil government,’ in the words of Faisal al-Saeed, spokesperson of the Salha resistance committee.

However, their pacifism in the face of bullets and their goal of a ‘technocratic’ government are serious weaknesses, indeed ones which floored the neighbourhood committees in the early part of the Syrian revolution.

This reflects what the CP leadership calls a ‘dual strategy’, typical of the more radical wing of Stalinism in many semi-colonial countries. On the one hand it works for a general strike and for workers’ and peasants’ committees to organise and control it, but at the same time it wants to build a ‘broad front’ with liberal and patriotic bourgeois forces, because it envisages the military dictatorship being replaced by a democratic (i.e. still capitalist) government, albeit one that denounces the influences of the USA, the IMF, neoliberalism etc.

CP spokesperson Fathi Al Fadl made this clear in an interview on Facebook: ‘At the moment, talks are proceeding for reaching the Broad Front leadership which may include women’s and other civil society organisations and political parties. The leadership of such a body will facilitate the complete defeat of the present regime and the wrenching of power by the hands of the people.’

Workers’ democracy

In fact the major contradiction in this strategy is that it obstructs and hampers the goals and actions of the masses of workers, peasants and youth not just to force the military out of political power but to break up the high command and the entire corrupt military caste and their control over the soldiers.

The last two years in Sudan and the fate of the Arab Spring revolutions should teach the lesson that as long as such a caste remains in control of the armed forces coup after coup will occur. Bourgeois democracy with the ‘permission’ of the generals is a reactionary utopia.

The only course to achieving the democratic demands of the workers and driving Al-Burhan and Hemeti from power would be to build true, working class democracy through the means of resistance committees and preparing an insurrectionary general strike of the workers, peasants, women and youth. To be effective, the movement must win over the rank and file soldiers to turn on the RSF thugs, arrest their officers, arm the workers and form soldiers’ councils.

The rank and file of the SCP need now to follow Lenin’s path in 1917 and fight for a workers’ and peasants’ government – in effect a dictatorship of the proletariat – in alliance with all the fighting popular forces. If, on the other hand, the Sudanese revolution stops halfway, it will suffer the fate of the courageous fighters in neighbouring Egypt, who ended up with a dictatorship even more repressive than that of Hosni Mubarak.

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