The fearless and determined mass mobilisations, led principally by the youth but with all ages participating, continue in Sudan against the 25 October 2021 military coup that removed the civilian part of the civilian/military ruling council. This is truly a mass of youth, workers and women movement across Sudan seeking to overthrow the military coup and its leaders who order increasing violence in 2022.
By Martin Ralph International Socialist League and a founder member of Liverpool’s Justice for Sudan.
The Resistance Committees and opposition forces are demanding:
- Removal of the military;
- Release all political prisoners;
- Trial for all the military leadership responsible for the coup and bloodshed.
Over 60 people have been killed, and many more tear-gassed, raped, tortured and arrested, but the Marches of Millions do not stop, and some soldiers refuse to fire, and others are AWOL.
The resistance committees of Khartoum, when asked recently to talk to the United Nations, replied we “…promise the masses of our people in all cities, villages, and townships that there will be no retreat or complacency…”. And they stated, “No deliberation, No compromise, No partnership with criminals”. They are referring to the military high command and the Janjaweed leading officers.
Who are the masses fighting?
The Transitional Military Council (TMC) was a civilian/military junta governing Sudan established on 11 April 2019, headed by Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan and Lt Gen Mohamed Hamdan’ Hemeti’i. The TMC and the Forces of Freedom and Change alliance (FFC) (the central leadership of the revolution at the time) signed a political agreement on 17 July 2019.
The civilian/military council was a mistake primarily of the leadership and yet accepted by many with illusions that the agreement could bring democracy and peace. It weakened but did not end the revolution.
Resistance developed to the unelected government council, and many forces did not sign the agreement or were excluded. These forces include the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), a coalition of Sudanese armed movements, declared its categorical rejection, Sudan Call, Communist Party of Sudan, and Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM-MM).
There was opposition inside the growing neighbourhood committees, which are an essential force of today’s youth in leading the revolution and includes many workers and poor people.
After the agreement, General Burhan and Hemeti demanded in September 2019 that all civilians hand their weapons over or be treated as criminals. Hemeti was the leader of the Janjaweed (or Rapid Support Forces) who led the genocide in Darfur since 2003.
The 2019 civilian/military agreement was supported by all the big powers, while the October coup in 2021 had agreement from the governments of Egypt, China and Russia, and Saudi Arabia.
While the USA says it opposes the military junta and there are expressions of support in Congress, the Biden administration continues to give hundreds of millions of dollars to the military. Biden’s call for a “year of action” to support democratic struggles means zero. Instead, they heap praise on the military and state that the resistance committees demands for no legitimacy for the military are ‘unrealistic”.ii
The first demands of the 2018/19 revolution were to get rid of al-Bashir and the regime; the president went, but the regime remained as the majority revolutionary leadership dropped the demand to destroy the regime.
In June 2019, the civilian/military council agreed to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) austerity programme to remove subsidies from food and fuel, which helped stoke inflation to 400%. The IMF and the World Bank aim to control and rule Sudan through austerity and reform measures to benefit the leading imperialist countries of the USA, EU and UK.
After the 25 October coup, the military brought back the civilian President Hamdok (who had implemented the IMF austerity programme), demanded by the USA.
We need a strategy to ges rid of them
A recent statement by a Sudanese refugee, who is a member of Justice For Sudan in Liverpool, said,
“The big devils are Burhan and Hemeti who order them (the killings of protestors MR). I think peace doesn’t work with people like this gang. We need a strategy that gets rid of them, or else we will end up like Syria and Libya.”
We agree. So, the question is how to defeat the military, the regime, and forces that support them.
When the military use civilian political leadership, they do so to continue the rule of the big bosses, international companies, and geopolitical control. The military leaders are deeply embedded in the capitalist regime and own around 200 enterprises, which developed under the 30-year dictatorship of al-Bashir. They get support from China and are compliant with the IMF, which the USA, EU, and UK primarily control.
Like the rest of Africa, Sudan is subject to the struggle for control between the USA and China.
That is why the power of the masses must grow into more powerful revolutionary organisations.
There is no easy road. It is essential to become familiar with and study the history of other revolutions. The new surge of the revolution started 150 years after the Paris Commune. One of the great lessons from the 1871 revolution was it is impossible to simply re-organise the existing regime or state, such as in Sudan. It must be overthrown.
The mass movement must find a way to arm itself and organise lower army orders that refuse to fire on the revolution. Millions say to the soldiers, “do not fire on us. We are defending Sudan.” And they are correct. They are defending Sudan.
Al-Bashir ran the economy down; the regime sold Sudan to the Arab bourgeois and others, they ran down the rail system and tried to destroy any area that opposed them. Al-Bashir lasted for 30 years and built the Arab horseback militia into a genocidal force in Darfur. The Janjaweed killed men, raped women, and destroyed villages, while al-Bashir’s air force bombed the villages.
In 2013 the United Nations (UN) estimated that up to 300,000 people had been killed during the genocide. By 2015, it was estimated that the death toll could be 400,000.
Build dual power
The Sudanese revolution in 2018/19 was powerful enough to create elements of dual power, for example, taking over the trains from Atbara and using them to help the masses join the revolution, such as the mass occupation outside the military headquarters that went on for weeks. It organised food, transport, education and more. It can be an embryonic model for the whole of Sudan.
The Janjaweed attacked the occupation, and they killed 120, but the lower orders of the army mobilised to defend the occupation and beat off the Janjaweed.
Today there are splits from the Janjaweed. The Sudanese Translators For Change, January 2022, posted a video that said, “A senior Janjaweed officer laments mass desertion among recruits returning from Yemen”.
The revolution must win these forces to the revolution, find a way to organise a revolutionary alliance including the working class and its unions and build an alternative to the military and regime to establish an organised power of the revolution.
By dual power, we mean the control of streets, bridges, buildings – such as the presidential palace taken on 19 December by the masses (but then taken back), going over to the masses or neutralising the army. We also mean the strikes and occupations that have taken place in Port Sudan in the past to stop the privatisation of the port as is happening on some occasions.
The only force capable of rebuilding Sudan and its industrial and rural production are the masses themselves. The working class has the most significant role in alliance with the rural populations and the oppressed.
The resistance committees, working-class unions and the rural fighters and armed units must combine under a programme of destroying the capitalist regime, without the military and the dominance of the USA and China.
We think a constituent assembly, where elections can be organised under the control of the revolutionary organisations and called by the mass organisations and not become any farce like the civilian/military council that ruled the country.
Millions of Sudanese would agree that the starting road to peace is the revolution; only a revolution and the defeat of the military and regime can bring peace. There is an absolute need for transitional measures. To organise a Constituent Assembly means to call for down with the military and elections now. But it must also have a constitution and programme.
The demand for a constituent assembly is very important because there are no democratic institutions in Sudan that can govern the country. But a constituent assembly must be sovereign over the national economy and all institutions and not some appendage of the military council or a pro-bourgeois national council.
After 32 years of military rule and dictatorship, there is not yet a national workers and toilers council that can take power and form a workers and farmers government. That is why we raise the demand for a sovereign constituent assembly. There have been many examples, in Latin America, for example, where such an assembly is controlled from above and failed.
The following comments are from recent experience in Chile when a Constituent Convention (which is not yet a sovereign constituent assembly) was called. The leader of our party in Chile, Maria Rivera (International Movement for Socialism), who was elected to that body, said in July 2021 that the constituent convention “…must be allowed to set its own rules and discuss and decide on everything… As a sovereign entity, the convention must begin to write the new constitution, and for the extent of this project, it must hold power above all other institutions. The current constitution, written by Pinochet [the old dictator] and maintained by all successive democratic governments, is illegitimate in the eyes of the people, and with it all the institutions of the Chilean state, including the president, the supreme court, the parliament, the army, and the federal police.” iii
The fight for a constituent assembly must go hand in hand with the ending of military power, and all present state institutions, and assume legislative and executive power. It would release all political prisoners. It would arrest and put all the military officers responsible for brutality against the revolutionary mobilisations on trial.
The assembly could have to have the combined weight of the resistance committees that include workers committees, the parties of the revolution, liberation army parties, the regional parties, and work out mechanisms for the millions of internally displaced to have representation.
To safeguard Sudan, the assembly would cancel all agreements between the Janjaweed and all international bodies such as the EU and Saudi Arabia; remove all Sudanese military from Yemen; organise those lower-order military forces that refuse to carry out their orders to fire on revolutionaries and who are deserting from the Janjaweed. An organised civil body must control the police and military under assembly control.
Democratic measures are needed that permit the extension of direct popular participation in the constituent assembly process.
An emergency plan is needed to fight for workers control and a worker’s plan of investment for health, land, and work. All the financing for this plan must come from the nationalisation of large companies, banks, and other businesses without compensation and under worker control.
Such a plan would mean renegotiating all free trade agreements signed by the military, immediately breaking all ties with Israel, which is responsible for terrible crimes against humanity. It would also defend the right of self-determination, end all violence and oppression against areas like Darfur and the Nuba Mountains, and discuss the problem of South Sudan breaking away and renew fraternal relations with the masses in South Sudan.
For the constituent assembly to implement such a programme, it would have to break from all imperialist organisations like IMF, World Bank and all such bodies that want to control Sudan for the multi-nationals.
Sudan, a history of struggle and revolution
In 1989, al-Bashir took power in a coup while the country was experiencing a civil war. The dictatorship destroyed working-class organisations and atomised the working class.
But the Sudanese people have a history of revolutions. On 21 October 21, 1964, police stormed a Khartoum University’s Student Union meeting, whose members were discussing the political situation. Mass protests and strikes ensued in what became referred to as the October Revolution. Abboud, the military president, was forced out.
Coalitions of political parties spearheaded the 1964 and 1985 revolutions and professional unions centred in cities in Sudan’s northern half. The country’s armed rebel movements, then based exclusively in the south, were not involved in the opposition alliances or the governments they ushered in. The new regime in Khartoum’s capital continued their predecessors’ civil wars against southern rebels.iv
Since 1985, however, new rebellions have broken out in Darfur and South Kordofan. Unlike Sudan’s previous revolutions and uprisings, many of the armed groups from these regions participate in today’s movements. The influential coalition, known as Sudan Call, includes, for example, one major rebel group and prominent factions of two others.
In 2013, thousands protested the rising fuel and cooking gas costs. Multiple people were arrested, and, according to civil rights groups, more than 200 people were killed. The government used force to crack down on the demonstrations.
In 2016, life came to a virtual standstill on the streets of Khartoum when people took part in several days of civil disobedience, with many staying home from work, universities, and schools. The strike was in response to a dramatic increase in the price of medication, fuel, and electricity.
Then the greatest revolution in Sudan’s history exploded in December 2018. Protesters in Sudan set fire to the ruling National Congress Party in Atbara offices (320 km north of Khartoum) as part of a series of actions against rising bread prices and shortages of fuel, both subsidised by the government.
No EU or Red Cross support for the Janjaweed
The support that imperialist governments and their institutions give the military should be exposed, denounced internationally, and stopped, that includes:
- Support for Saudi Arabia against Yemen from the US and Europe;
- EU support for Janjaweed to control migration from and through Sudan;
- The recent international Committee of the Red Cross agreement with the Janjaweed;
- The IMF deal and its relationship with Israel.
Europe aimed to curb migration from Sudan from November 2014, with the launch of the Khartoum Process – a dialogue between the EU and Horn of Africa countries in operation has been a law enforcement response to migration. “Oxfam found that of the €400 million allocated through the fund, only three per cent went towards developing safe and regular routes for migration. The bulk was spent on migration control.”v
The head of the RSF (Janjaweed) regularly boasts about the RSF’s role in assisting the EU. He recently told Al Jazeera: “[The EU] lose[s] millions in fighting migration, that’s why [it has] to support us.” vi
All refugees are welcome
All those who live in imperialist countries must welcome Sudanese refugees and fight for their rights. We should work with the Sudanese people to rouse the working class and its organisations to fight for the Sudanese revolution in the UK and elsewhere.
We should demand Labour MPs that they fight in the British parliament to end the arms trade with Saudi Arabia, demand the release of political prisoners and support trial for the military.
The necessity for a revolutionary party
While many political forces oppose the civilian/military council, there is no clear programme to unite the masses with the working class at its centre to overthrow both the military and regime. It must call for deepening the creation of dual power, uniting all those forces that want to build an alternative power to what exists: the regime of al-Bashir.
The fight for a constituent assembly and its programme is linked with the need to build a revolutionary party because only such a party will fight for this programme — a socialist programme towards the fight for a government of workers, the oppressed and rural workers.
We want to discuss this with Sudanese and African militants, wherever they are because a revolution needs a revolutionary programme, a revolutionary party and a revolutionary international.
We want to help build a revolutionary party in Sudan and Britain, part of the International Workers League-Fourth International and help build a Marxist cadre and leadership.
- Down with the military;
- No deliberation, No compromise, No partnership with the military;
- Mobilise internationally for Marches of the Millions;
- Build the revolution – end the regime.
i Lt Gen Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemeti’, Member of Sudan’s Sovereign Council and commander of the notorious Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia