Many sectors of the mass movement fight the deepening economic catastrophe
By Martin Ralph – International Socialist League
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in February 2020 that Sudan’s economic prospects are alarming due to Covid-19 and the deepening world economic crisis. The IMF statement shows a great alarm for the interests of the USA, EU and UK multi-nationals because the resistance can rekindle the revolution that began in 2018.
The problems are not only due to the past dictatorship and continuing military control (with a civilian face) it is due to imperialist and foreign domination that uses the external debt and military control of the economy. Friends of the USA, such as Saudi Arabia and UAE, were dominant partners over Sudan during the reign of al-Bashir. The USA imposed sanctions on Sudan for 17 years, but their Middle East friends kept economic, political and military relations with Sudan.
Sudan is not alone. Zambia is the sixth nation to default or restructure debts in 2020 and the Financial Times said that both Brazil and South Africa (both in the G20) could face severe economic challenges. The concern of the IMF then is how to keep robbing African countries, while the civilian governments bow to their political pressure.
The USA ended economic sanctions in 2017, but it did not lift the designation of State Sponsor of Terrorism. Under Trump, the civilian part of the government was pushed deeper into debt. Trump demanded $300m for the families of the north Americans killed in 1998 bombings by al-Qaeda outside US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salam, Tanzania. If Sudan new government did not pay, it would remain on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list.
The civilian government is not responsible for what happened under the dictatorship 20 years ago, which killed 500,000 people in Darfur and elsewhere. The USA action involves the idea that while the figurehead was removed, the regime remains the same – not a problem for US investment companies or multi-nationals.
As part of the deal, Trump demanded Khartoum normalise diplomatic relations with Israel. Trump threatened increased pressure to pay $60bn of past debts or the international banks could write them off. But as is typical in these cases debt restructuring means new loans from the international banks and the IMF will saddle the country with new foreign debt. The civilian government agreed to recognise this Israel – a terrorist state.
The military ownership of increasing areas of Sudanese companies has risen rapidly under the ‘new’ government, and they can put tremendous financial pressure on a weak capitalist government.
Capitalism in Sudan
Capitalism in Sudan is bound up with the power and repression of the military, and the army remained with enormous power – was always the backbone of the 30-year-Al-Bashir dictatorship. It and the Arab militias called the Janjaweed(later designated as RSF – Rapid Support Forces and now incorporated into the armed forces under the control of their old leader) defeated the Sudanese Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, amongst others, fought the dictatorship from the early 2000s. During this time the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa people were ethnically cleansed. Encouraged by Saudi Arabia while the USA and the UK looked on. Both the SLA and JEM signed the Juba Peace agreement in 2020.
The dictatorship divided the country, and the military advanced its control in areas like Darfur and the Nuba mountains (that also fought militarily for self-determination). Since 2011 Nuba suffered almost daily bombing.[i]
The military leaders and Arab militias grabbed land and mineral mines. They destroyed villages, killed men, raped women and committed genocide (the people of Darfur say it reached 500,000dead with 2.5 million non-Arab Darfuris internally displaced or refugees in neighbouring countries). The genocide was organised by Lt Gen Mohamed Hamdan’Hemeti’ who ran the killer force of the Janjaweed.
During the genocide, the CIA and the British had meetings with the Janjaweed leaders such as Major General Gosh, (one of 17 listed by the UNwho they consider were most responsible for war crimes and was has been called a minder for Osama bin Laden[ii] who was in Sudan). Gosh was the head of Sudan’s National Security Agency – who was a contact for the CIA in 2005 and today is protected by Egypt. Who the US uses or does not use has little to do with finding “terrorists”.
Britain (and France) played a crucial role in trying to block the prosecution of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for the carnage in Darfur in 2008[iii]Blair’s Labour government supported moves to halt the indictment of Bashir by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. But “al-Bashir to ICC” was a powerful slogan taken up by the people of Darfur and Nuba mountains before and during the revolution.
Darfur students’ struggles were increasingly denied access to Sudan’s universities but never gave up their battle. Then the revolution exploded in December 2017, and the mass struggle of workers, students, women and neighbour committees across Sudan meant Bashir had to go. In the end, Bashir managed to create the thing he hated most of all – a mass struggle of workers and youth.
Friends of Sudan and junior partners of imperialism
The great friends of imperialism, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, had very close relations with Sudan. They bought Sudanese fertile land for their needs, and loaned money to the dictatorship to get them to send troops to fight in Yemen – they are still there. Al- Bashir sent 30,000 troops to support Saudi, while of course, the USA, UK and the French governments supported the Saudi genocide against the Yemen liberation struggle.
And now the civilian/military government opens the door wider to them, even though one of the demands of the masses fighting for the revolution was to withdraw Sudanese troops from Yemen. A brave example of internationalism.
In June 2018, the generals and the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC)made a power-sharing agreement – even as a “march of the million” organised by grassroots organisations showed demonstrations. On 4 August, the generals and the FFC signed the constitutional declaration. The struggle should have continued on the streets.
This agreement was a betrayal and against the interests of the mass struggle. The previous support of the FFC by the CP and their peaceful road position helped lay illusions in the FFC ability to fight control by the military because they have no interest in fighting capitalist control or imperialist agencies such as the IMF.
The Sudan CP may criticise the FFC now, but in 2018 they said, “The struggle continues between two projects: that of the forces for Freedom and Change (F&C) — supported by the majority of the population — and the “Soft Landing” project designed by international and regional interests to halt radical change. This seeks to attract part of the opposition.”[iv]
While they criticise the FFC for signing the agreement the article by the Fathi Alfadl, spokesman and secretary for information of the Sudanese Communist Party also stated, “That is why the SCP continues to fight for a complete civilian rule that will promote social justice, help the re-establishment of free trade unions and pave the way for the completion of the tasks of the national democratic revolution.”
They argue for a presidential council, a council of ministers and a legislative body which acts as a parliament.
What does mean in practice, the CP acknowledges“the importance of the role of the International Monetary Fund and the need to deal with it, but with a different approach. He referred to the possibility of offsetting Sudan’s debts with the World Bank with the large sums of money smuggled abroad by the former regime.”[v]
So, the CP while criticising the civilian government supports its outlook, they can see no alternative but an agreement with the “international community” of imperialism, they just want a ‘different’ one.
But to end the increasing might of the military and its control over the civilian section of the government, it is necessary to unite all those working-class and rural forces on the streets and prepare for a general strike. The military showed in 2018, yet again it is always prepared to use extreme violence to attack democratic and workers’ rights because behind the military is the bourgeoisie, the USA and the IMF. A programme of organising and preparing self-defence Committees built from assemblies in the neighbourhoods, the workplaces and factories.
The action to overthrow the regime must be accompanied by the convening of a constituent assembly that removes all laws restricting the political and social rights of workers, women, young people and the poor. Only this can release the incredible energy that the masses have shown since 2018. A constituent assembly has to be fought for that guarantees the nationalisation of natural resources such as oil, gold and the big factories and ports.
But the Sudanese CP does not speak about a programme and struggle for workers control and socialism, they keep their ideas to social justice and a peaceful change to remove military control. What they think should be done with the military if it is no longer part of the government and its control over the economy they do not explain, or how the revolution should have defended itself in 2018 and today, they also do not explain.
The agreement was based on the outlook that only a peaceful struggle could succeed against the military, but the military remains and is growing more powerful. Military leaders built a potent economic base, part of which they made under the dictatorship, but from 2018 rapidly increased their economic hold in the new government and consolidated control over many companies.
Hemeti became the head of the Emergency Economic Committee – a powerful executive body in April 2019 and has increased his capitalist ownership since then.
The determination of the mass struggle overthrew al-Bashir. Dockworkers, railway workers (who organised many revolutionary train journeys from Atbara to the mass occupation outside the military headquarters), the protests of workers in the sugar factories, the liberation movements, masses of women, the rural workers, and the widespread neighbourhood committees all took action.
While al-Bashir went the regime remained, the civilian/military government protects the regime, the military is protecting its powerful interests as it did with al-Bashir. It’s is using violence against the population. The civilian section also represents the capitalist interest that has no will to carry through a struggle against military control. Because they would have to fight all the foreign capitalist interests in Sudan above all the influence of the USA, UK and EU and to not bow to their demands such as recognising Israel, foreign debt restructures and opening up the economy.
Devastation awaits Sudan and its peoples if the international companies are allowed to plunder as they plan because they are there for one reason only – to make money and realise profit. But that can only be done with mass struggle, a revolutionary programme to march the heroism of the millions who took to the streets in 2018 and who are beginning to do that again.
No form of capitalism has an interest in solving the problems that the masses face in Sudan. Some say this is“Islamic capitalism” but behind control and ownership from Saudi Arabia and UAE stands imperialism, there is no great divide of interests between the USA and those Middle Eastern countries with which it has close relations.
How does the EU imperialism deepen its hold in Sudan?
The Janjaweed(or RSF) involved in war crimes in Darfur “is receiving training from the United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), paid for by the European Union (EU) despite the latter repeatedly claiming to refuse to offer material and financial support to the RSF.”[vi] The money comes from the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa.
The reason for the Trust Fund is to help the RSF prevent migration from Sudan to Europe.
There is a struggle for who can gain in Sudan between the EU and the USA, and so the EU will also use any way to get a presence. Above all to help the European multi-nationals start to make a profit in Sudan. All they will talk about the need for “democracy,”i.e., the right of EU multi-nationals to build their business interests.
The Juba Peace Agreement (Sudan and South Sudan)
The civilian/military government has been pursuing a “peace agreement” called the Juba Peace Agreement. Hemeti, Vice President of the Sovereign Council, said in his speech at Freedom Square that “the peace agreement is not an opponent of anyone but an attempt to restore the Sudanese state on just foundations”.
The peace agreement includes eight protocols for five regions (Darfur, South Kordofan and the Blue Nile, central Sudan, eastern Sudan, and northern Sudan). The negotiations hadUS Special Envoy to Sudan, Donald Booth who supported the agreement alongside the EU, UK and the African Union.
The great Port Sudan strike in October and November 2020 was against one aspect of the ‘peace’ process – privatising the port.
Juba talks about peace but is driven by the military and the military/business interests. It involves all of Sudan, including South Sudan. While the UNcharacterise the Juba agreement as historic, the military elite both in South Sudan and Sudan has great influence. While the agreement also pursues a reconciliation policy similar to that in South Africa after the removal of Apartheid.
South Sudan has the third-largest oil reserves in sub-Saharan Africa, and its military is directly connected to oil interests. The country is rich in natural resources (oil, iron, diamond, copper, nickel, marble, and gold). In 2018 Juba hosted the Africa Oil and Power conference attended by 400 companies including Russia, China, India, Malaysia and Nigeria.
This area of great riches and deep problems for the local people and their needs for the necessities of life also underlines that the Juba “peace” agreement is about who controls what in Sudan and the interests of the peoples of all Sudan are omitted.
The Juba agreement may have much more to do with the struggle for control in South Sudan between sectors of the military and consolidation of power across Sudan alongside foreign multinationals vying for more direct control.
Problems and protests
Life had changed little for the vast majority since the overthrow of al-Bashir. Millions will go hungry this year, women’s rights are violated, violence continues, and occupations in Darfur continue with thousands of people. There is a significant gap in Covid-19 medicines. A quarter of the population on 1 July the “March of Millions” took to the streets to confront their issues. The Resistance Committees Coordination continues.
In 2020. “Multiple protests continued to take place across Sudan, as residents of Zamzam camp called for more food provisions, the Education Workers Union demanded a fair salary system, and the Union of Workers of the Sennar Dam Reservoir continued to strike.”[vii]
Military take control behind a subservient capitalist government
Buoyed by regional government backing, the generals resisted any concession that would have threatened their dominance. Meanwhile, the Military Industry Corporation – a Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) holding company that owns hundreds of firms – is in charge of many of the companies once owned by NCP (the old ruling party) leaders and Bashir’s family. The RSF has gained control of many of the businesses previously run by the NISS (Sudanese intelligence services). Besides, the military now retains the profits of SAF companies that, under the previous regime, were primarily channelled to the NCP.
Today, the military and security apparatus has shares in, or owns, companies involved in the production and export of gold, oil, gum Arabic, sesame, and weapons; the import of fuel, wheat, and cars; telecommunications; banking; water distribution; contracting; construction; real estate development; aviation; trucking; limousine services; and the management of tourist parks and events venues. Defence companies manufacture air conditioners, water pipes, pharmaceuticals, cleaning products, and textiles. They operate marble quarries, leather tanneries, and slaughterhouses. Even the firm that produces Sudan’s banknotes is under the control of the security sector.
Because they are central actors in the markets for fuel and wheat imports. Companies owned by the SAF and the RSF benefit directly from subsidies on these commodities (and are well-positioned to gain further profits by diverting them onto the black market), for instance, SIN, a firm which was formerly owned by the NISS and which Burhan (Chairman of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan, the country’s collective transitional head of state and a Sudanese army general) recently brought under the exclusive authority of the SAF, reportedly controls 60% of the wheat market.
This is what the military means by a peaceful transition; they want to keep control and become an ever-larger part of the capitalist class. Meanwhile, the population everywhere goes hungry.
Since the revolution, Burhan has appointed loyalists to manage many military-controlled companies. General Al-Mirghani Idris, a friend of Burhan’s from his time at the Military College, is now the head of the Military Industry Corporation. General Abbas Abdelaziz – a former head of the RSF who is also a close friend of Burhan – is now in charge of Al-Sati, another holding firm. Another former classmate, General Mohalab Hassan Ahmed, became the head of the Martyrs’ Organisation, a holding firm that previously funded the NCP, and that has investments in gold mining and entertainment venues. The need to ensure that these companies make a profit appears to have encouraged Burhan – who initially purged many prominent Islamist officers from the ranks of the SAF and the NISS – to bring some his loyal friends out of retirement.
Until recently, the RSF focused its commercial activities on the gold market, which it largely controls, as well as on construction, contracting, and human trafficking. But the RSF has expanded its economic activities in the past year. The organisation is using the hard currency it earns from gold sales in Dubai to buy agricultural projects and real estate. In one recent purchase, the RSF reportedly acquired 200,000 acres of agricultural land in Northern state; the project involves digging an irrigation canal to the Nile.
This is the regime that will buy and sell anything, including fleeing refugees who they can turn into slaves, courtesy of the EU.
In May, the Multiple Directions Company, a subsidiary of the Military Industry Corporation, inaugurated with great fanfare the Kadaru industrial slaughterhouse – an investment worth $40m, whose first shipment went to Saudi Arabia. Hemeti is currently building a slaughterhouse on the same scale north of Khartoum.
Hamdok’s government has neither control over these firms nor access to their books. None of the profits from the Kadaruslaughterhouse’s exports would go to the Ministry of Finance. Yet he hopes to use the USA to squeeze the military, but it is the USA and military that will squeeze him.
Under US approval the government has tried to lift the $2.8bn fuel subsidies, but because of fear of igniting another upsurge of struggle the civilian government has not done so.
“Before the novel coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) considerably slowed economic and commercial activity globally, American companies inquired and visited Sudan with a view to foreign direct investment and promotion of US products. There has been robust demand for US goods, services, technology, and training/capacity programs, particularly in the fields of agriculture, energy, and medicine.”
“Banking and financial services companies have increasingly begun taking an interest in Sudan. Oracle and Visa recently executed deals allowing local banks to access their banking technologies and payment systems.”[viii]
The USA and many others begin to move in
The USA is looking to make money in many areas of Sudan. According to the Public Authority for Geological Research, Sudan’s confirmed gold reserves amount to 533 tons, and only 20% of Sudan’sgold reserves are being exploited. The US Geological Survey (USGS) reports that 105 tons of gold, 1.9 million tons of zinc, 500,000 tons of copper, and 4,500 tons of silver are located in the Red Sea Hills in north-eastern Sudan. They want to turn Sudan into another Congo with the centralised authority of the military.
“Sudan has 30 signed bilateral investment agreements – specifically with Algeria, Bahrain, Belarus, the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union, Bulgaria, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, the Netherlands, Oman, Qatar, Romania, South Africa, Switzerland, the Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates.”[ix]
The government controls most of the agricultural land in Sudan and has sold millions of acres to Saudi Arabia and other countries, including those robbed by the Janjaweed. In some cases, displaced persons returned to their land only to be denied access.
The Sudanese government has signed an agreement that recognises the investor is entitled to transfer his or her money and profits and has an exemption from taxes on profits for a term of not less than ten years. So, the Sudanese civilian/military government is making Sudan an area of rich pickings for foreign multi-nationals.
“Most foreign banks operating in Sudan are based in Gulf states, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, or Qatar.”[x]In 2019 the trillion-dollar fund Blackrock managers opened an office in Saudi Arabia. Their KSA investment gives access to the Saudi Arabian stock market, which has historically been closed to foreign investors. So, finance capital finds ways to invest in the Middle East and therefore has access to Sudan.
All this has profound implications for the Sudanese masses who are or will be used to labour for the military companies alongside the US, EU and UK.
The revolution has to re-ignite
There is no way out except by re-igniting the 2018 revolution but this time not just bringing down a President but by fighting for their rights as they did before, by linking internationally with workers against all their oppressors in Africa, and building solidarity against the barbarity of imperialist, military and capitalist ownership of what belongs to the masses. And by destroying the regime.
We call on workers of the world and in the imperialist countries to support Sudan and Africa, our world will continue to decay as long as imperialism rules the world.
The resistance is building against the collapse of the economy and for the rights of all Sudanese nations. The peace process is meant to rob the workers and people of what they thought they had gained in 2018. We believe the Sudanese masses will not let that happen.
- Full rights to organise trade unions, demonstrate, occupy and to strike
- Only strike action and the mass struggle will stop the “peace’ process of privatisation and robbery
- End the new deal with Israel
- For workers control of big industry and agrarian reform
- For the right of self-determination
- Continue the revolution through mass mobilisations
- For a constituent assembly based on the mass struggle
- City and rural workers have the right to defend themselves against the military and the Janjaweed who act together
- Build a revolutionary programme and party with and for the working classes and masses