In Sudan, interclassism and democratism are getting the revolt defeated
(«Proletarian»; Nr. 16; Spring-Summer 2020)
On Monday June 3, after having cut off the electricity in the centre of Khartoum, the capital, and after having blocked the internet, the Transitional Military Council (TMC), the military authority currently governing the country, had police and paramilitary commandos attack the sit-in that had been taking place for weeks in front of the armed forces’ general headquarters, and remove the barricades that had been erected in some parts of the city. The commandos attacked hospitals harboring wounded people and went after medical staff, women were raped, etc. Soldiers intervened in the country’s other cities as well: Nuhood, Atbara and Port Sudan, among others.
As we write these lines, the provisional death toll stands at 116 (including the bodies retrieved from the Nile), with several hundreds wounded, and an undisclosed number of political leaders and activists have been arrested or have gone missing.
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The Sudanese protests had started at the beginning of last year against increases in the price of flour and bread, a consequence of the austerity measures arranged with the IMF in order to redress the country’s balance sheet. With the South’s secession, Sudan lost 75% of its oil production, which is its main export industry and source of foreign currency, while it needs to import a large part of its food. Although the resources’ pillaging at the hands of the governing circles (who keep the embezzled billions safe in western banks) justifiably provokes the population’s outrage, it only comes on the top of the consequences of the international capitalist crisis, which is the root cause of Sudan’s economic issues.
With inflation already as high as 60%, it is December’s fresh, drastic rises in the prices of basic goods (among which bread price’s threefold increase) following the cut in subsidies decreed as per the IMF’s recommendations that have sparked the unrest. The IMF’s economists most certainly expected the regime’s repressive apparatus to enforce successfully what can only be called starvation measures. Indeed, until then, a mighty military and police apparatus had been able to crush the first waves of protest and rebellion that Sudan had experienced since the June 1989 coup that brought Omar al-Bashir to power.
The civilian regime that was toppled then was going through an open crisis because of its inability to solve a conflict with the South that provoked in this region a famine that killed about 250,000 people, according to some NGOs’ estimates. The new military regime, with the support of Islamist organizations, outlawed political parties, worker unions and other non-religious organizations, purged the armed forces, the police, and the civil service from all potential opponents, and imposed the Islamic law (Sharia). It built a complete repressive apparatus, with paramilitary forces and militias specialized in suppressing social movements and revolts, like in Darfur.
Yet these repressive forces proved unable to prevent the widespread discontent from finding its expression in massive protests; initiated in Atbara, a city with a rich working class struggle history, these protests spread to the whole country and quickly started making political demands, like al-Bashir’s departure and his regime’s fall.
On April 11, the military finally reconciled itself to deposing al-Bashir and to arresting some of his closest acquaintances (1)
After talks with the “Forces of Freedom and Change”, also known as the “Alliance for Freedom and Change” (AFC), the military founded the Transitional Military Council. Formed in January, the AFC consists of several opposition forces: the “Sudanese Professionals Association” (SPA: clandestinely founded in October, 2016, as an organization for physicians, attorneys and other professions), the National Consensus Forces (NCF), of which the Sudanese Communist Party is a member, the National Umma Party (a fully bourgeois party that governed several times before al-Bashir’s military regime), etc. The AFC’s constitutive agreement is the “Declaration for Freedom and Change”i; it makes two demands: al-Bashir’s departure and the formation of a transitional government consisting of “qualified people based on merits of competency and good reputation, representing various Sudanese groups and receiving the consensus of the majority” that would govern for four years, “until a sound democratic structure is established, and elections held”.
Nothing there that answers the needs of the deprived masses who rose up for their survival and cannot wait for four years. One should not be deceived by the Communist Party’s presence: in spite of its name, this party is actually a nationalist organization that has always support the bourgeois order and the national State, even though it was itself hit by repression.
While, despite some TMC measures like the end of the state of emergency, the masses’ distrust of the military drove them to perform a sit-in in front of the armed forces’ general headquarters and to go on with the protests, negotiations were starting between the AFC and the TMC. On April 27, it was generally understood that a joint Council would replace the TMC in order to lead a three-year transition; yet as the military leaders wanted to preserve their control over this Council, the follow-up negotiations proved more difficult, and on May 20 they were suspended. The support from Egypt, the Emirates and Saudi Arabia (which together pledged a total of $3bn in various aids for the TMC) emboldened the military into making no significant concession. As it was trying to take advantage of the enduringly widespread religious convictions (chiefly in the countryside, most of the country’s population still working in agriculture), it launched a media campaign against the AFC, accusing it of trying to repeal the Sharia.
The AFC tried to respond with a two-days “pacific” general strike on May 27 and 28 – an initiative from which the Umma Party dissociate itself. The SPA, which claims to have incorporated railway men’ and workers’ organizations, is the Alliance’s wheeling flank; it constantly repeated its pacifist declarations, for the continuation of social peace and for the interclassist unity of all Sudanese. While making its call for the general strike, it devoted itself to emphasizing its non-subversive nature: the strike “only hampers the TMC by alerting it to the fact that it could be deemed powerless and utterly dysfunctional overnight”, adding, “Unless it desperately and solely resorts to the use of arms and force thereby stripping itself of any legitimacy. […] Such a self-inflicting paradigm could easily be diffused with our peaceful antidote and our harmonious unity as attested to repetitively by our own practice and experience”.
Yet as soon as the strike ended, the TMC responded by unleashing repression and the military leaders announced that the negotiations were over and that they would organize elections themselves.
Woe betides petty bourgeois with their democratic illusions! The SPA was reduced to desperate calls for the armed forces to protect the protestersiii (!), while the Alliance launched a “escalation of the revolution” consisting chiefly in putting an end to the negotiations (already shunned by the military!) and asking big imperialist powers to put pressure on the TMC…
On June 8, after the repression that took place in the beginning of the week, the Organization of African Unity (currently presided over by Egypt) sent the Ethiopian prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, as a “mediator” between the military and its Alliance’s opponents. Ahmed left after some nice speeches about democracy… but the repression went on, targeting even the very Alliance’s leaders whom he had met with.
The UN Security Council tried to issue a resolution condemning the violence, but Russia and China opposed it. The US, fearing a new centre of disturbance, asked Saudi Arabia to make use of its influence on the TMC in order to calm things down.
Indeed, its position on the Red Sea and between Egypt and Ethiopia makes Sudan strategically important. It provokes rivalries among regional powers and global imperialism.
Once close to Iran, al-Bashir’s regime had revived ties with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to such an extent that it sent an expeditionary force to fight in Yemen’s war. Today, according to France’s official statement, Saudi Arabia “provides political and financial support to the Sudanese armed forces”. Last year, the US have lifted their last remaining sanctions (against a regime they had accused of genocide in Darfur!) and opened a CIA centre in Khartoum. The European Union had made a deal with the regime in order to halt immigration (Sudan being a crossing point), thereby strengthening the militias and thus the regime’s repressive nature. China too, as well as Turkey and Russia, are interested in Sudan’s situation.
In short, Sudan is at the confluence of inter-capitalist conflicts. All these bourgeois States are and will keep trying to alter the course of events.
Proletarians in other countries must show an interest in these events as well; they must make the demonstration of their solidarity with Sudan’s proletarians and impoverished masses, first by denouncing “their own” bourgeoisie’s schemes, until they have the strength to express in the struggle against capitalism the true solidarity of an active class.
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Gilbert Achcar, the “expert” on Middle-East for the Fourth International (ex-USFI), writes in an articleIV that the Sudanese movement is superior to the Algerian one because it has an “exceptional political leadership” – the Alliance, within which “the SPA is central” –, while such a leadership is lacking in Algeria.
Yet because of its essentially petty bourgeois social nature, and of its democratic, pacifist, interclassist orientations, this so-called exceptional political leadership can only get the movement defeated!
At the end of his text, Achcar quotes, to approve it, a Financial Times (the City’s mouthpiece) article stating that the Sudanese movement reminds of Russia’s situation in 1917, after the Czar’s fall. It is no coincidence that our Trotskyist “forgot” about the party that, in 1917 Russia, fought the bourgeois democratic leadership: today’s degenerated Trotskyism resolutely turned its back on classist positions and Marxist principles while espousing bourgeois democratism.
The Bolshevik party fought relentlessly for the proletariat to break with the interclassist coalition, to stop passively following bourgeois orientations, and to be the head of the struggle on a class basis – the only way for it to lead the exploited and oppressed masses, in cities and countryside, against the bourgeois power, instead of serving as petty bourgeois parties’ auxiliary force.
Without a vanguard that rejects interclassism, fights the bourgeois democratic orientations and conquers the leading role in the proletarian struggle, in other words, without a firmly organized and politically sound communist revolutionary party, proletarians find themselves helpless in their struggle against the bourgeoisie, reduced to being used by other classes at best, to be felled in the face of the enemy class at worst.
The current events underline the pressing need for this internationalist, international, proletarian party. It will not form by itself, but will rather result for the most conscious proletarians’ effort in search for a reliable compass in their struggle; this compass is the authentic communist program that our current has restored and defended against all deviations, and thank to which we work on forming this proletarian class’s combat organ in the lack of which even the most pugnacious effort is vain.
Class solidarity with Sudanese proletarians and oppressed masses!
For the formation of the international revolutionary party of the proletarian class!
June 10, 2019
The events that took place since we published the above text have clearly confirmed our analysis of the bourgeois democratic opposition’s nefarious role.
After the slaughters in the beginning of June, the SPA tried to respond with a pacific campaign for “civil disobedience” (it even mentioned blocking the country), with gatherings in mosques to honor the dead, etc. Yet the repression soon discouraged the attempts to gather and block the streets of Khartoum. After a few days, the SPA and other opposition forces called for the campaign’s end and resumed negotiations with the military.
A few weeks later, as the negotiations were dragging on and people kept getting arrested, the opposition forces called for a two-week mobilization, starting with a big protest day on June 30 (the “Millions march”) and concluding with a general strike on July 14, in order to put pressure on the military.
People attended the protest day en masse; hundreds of thousands across the country demonstrated despite the military’s effort to prevent them through preventive arrests, social networks’ blocking, and threats. The repression was brutal; from official sources, there has been 10 casualties and hundreds wounded in Khartoum, while soldiers were shooting protesters with live rounds in several cities, where no official toll has been published.
At the end of this first day, the SPA declared: “Sudanese showed today that they will not retreat until they have achieved civilian rule, as they consider this is the only way to achieve the goals of the revolution as outlined in the Declaration of Freedom and Change (…).Today the Sudanese people showed they are strong and courageous, and that they are capable of achieving all the revolution’s goals. There is no-one who can defeat them. There is no weapon which will make them turn back from achieving all of their demands.”
However, a few days later, the Alliance’s opposition parties and groups called for the end of the mobilizations, as a preliminary agreement had been drafted with the military about a three-year period during which the country would be governed by a sovereign council including military representatives as well as civilians. According to the New York Times (July 5), this agreement was reached through discrete negotiations conducted in a rich Sudanese capitalist’s home by diplomats from the US, the UK (former colonial power), Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with the opposition’s organizations.
This agreement was signed in a ceremony in Khartoum on August 17th in spite of new killings.
AN AGREEMENT TO PRESERVE THE REGIME
Contrary to what one could read in the press, this agreement was not met with euphoria in the streets of Khartoum, and it was rejected by the armed groups in Darfur and the South as a “revolution’s betrayal”: the Sudan Liberation Movement said that “the elites of Khartoum now are stealing the revolution”.
As reported by Reuters on July 13, the agreement provoked outrage in Burri, Khartoum’s proletarian district, which was the heart of the mobilizations. Besides the fact that, contrary to population’s will, the military preserves its firm grip on power (including those directly responsible for the slaughters, among which the Janjawid militias), the agreement’s terms and conditions are excessively vague. None of them aims at providing some relief to the masses suffering from the crisis, and the agreement provides for the formation of a technocratic government that will most certainly be in charge of enforcing what the IMF and the previous Sudanese government had agreed on.
In the obvious endeavor of preserving its own legitimacy in the masses’ eyes, the SPA eventually called for a day of “peaceful demonstrations” to honor the repression’s victims on July 13, forty days after Khartoum’s slaughter. Yet while the SPA was calling for a “commemoration” day, the thousands of protesters who have marched in Khartoum and other cities in Sudan have made, by keeping on demanding the military’s departure, the demonstration of the masses’ enduring combativeness and implicit distrust of the opposition.
The following days new massacres occurred: on July 29 soldiers fired on a youth rally in El Obeid over bread and fuel shortages, killing six people, including 4 school children. This massacre provoked protest reactions throughout the country; during a large demonstration in Khartoum on August 1 to demand justice; the soldiers fired on the demonstrators, killing at least 4 people. The opposition then announced that it suspended negotiations with the military until those responsible for the killings were arrested and brought to justice.
But a few days later, negotiations resumed and the agreement was formally ratified, and the Janjawid militia leader confirmed as the head of the “transition committee”!
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The Sudanese Communist Party has refused to endorse the agreement: it has called for keeping pressure on the military and has criticized the “deep ambiguity” of the negotiation process. Yet it doesn’t question the opposition’s bourgeois democratic orientations: it is actually this party that feeds the “ambiguity” by trying to restrict the mobilization’s aims to a mere democratization of the regime! The opposition has not “betrayed”: in accordance with its class nature, it has remained in line with its bourgeois political orientations. It has shown that it fears an unrestrained movement of the proletarian masses more than the military’s repression!
Whatever the terms and conditions that bourgeois democrats and military leaders have finally agree on, the situation of Sudanese proletarians and impoverished masses will not change. The solution cannot be found in a democratic “transition” or a civilian regime – which remains a bourgeois regime in which capitalism prevails –, but in toppling bourgeois domination, be it dictatorial or democratic, and establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat in order to get rid of capitalism alongside proletarians in other countries.
However, before reaching that goal, in order to reach it, the first step must be to break with interclassism, to break with the petty bourgeois democratic opposition: the proletariat’s independence regarding all bourgeois orientations, so that it can organize itself as a class both in political and economic struggles, is absolutely necessary for the fight against the regime not to end up in a mere papering over its cracks, but rather in a real struggle against capitalism and the bourgeois State.
August 19, 2019
(1) https://www.s udaneseprofessionals. org/ en/declaration-of-freedom-and-change/
The Alliance’s opposition parties are essentially emigrants’ parties and they estimate at four years the time they will need to take root in Sudan.
(2) https://www. sudaneseprofessionals. org/en/understanding-and-gearing-up-for-our-announced-political-strike/
(3) https://www. sudaneseprofessionals. org/en/urgent-call-killing-and-burning-at-the-sit-in/
International Communist Party