Fearful of the continuing mass uprising across Sudan in opposition to the military coup of October 25th, Prime Minister Hamdok was formally restored to his position, on Sunday 21 November, following an internationally brokered agreement reached with coup leader General Al-Burham.
This attempt to restore peace to the streets with another deal between civilian figures and the military will achieve nothing for the masses. They are seeking an end to brutal military oppression, increasing poverty through food and fuel shortages, alongside the IMF austerity measures which the Hamdok led civilian ministers implemented earlier this year.
Protests have continued in opposition to the announced deal and were met by renewed oppression. The growing doubts about Hamdok’s role have been strengthened by this deal. He told Al Jazeera TV that he had “absolute freedom” to form a cabinet made up of “independent technocrats” after he had consulted Sudanese “mediators” who he refused to name. Clearly, Hamdok is trying to sideline the mass movement that blocked the coup. Hamdok was quite explicit that he signed the new agreement despite knowing “that many may disagree, object, or reject it simply because the people’s ambitions and aspirations were much higher”.
The reality is that the new ‘technocratic’ government will be, like the previous one, a pro-capitalist regime and subservient to the military-dominated “sovereign council”. General Al-Burham explained to the Financial Times that it will be “an independent technocratic government without politicians”, in other words an attempt to isolate it from the pressures of the mass movement, but not from the generals’ demands. One European analyst said that the “political agreement is understood as not even a return to the status quo but a diminishment of the civilians’ role to a junior partner.”
Mass demonstrations took place across the country in protest at this deal which leaves the coup leaders untouched in their positions. More mass protests are planned for November 25th. Under popular pressure, many political parties rapidly distanced themselves from the deal.
A statement by the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) trade union body announced its total rejection of what it described as an agreement of treachery and subservience “far from the aspirations of our people.” It said that the agreement between Hamdok and El Burhan is “just a false attempt to legitimise the recent coup and the authority of the Military Council, and a political suicide for Abdallah Hamdok”. It called for dropping “the blood partnership and everyone who joins it”.
The SPA also declared that “The revolution is a revolution of the people. Power and wealth belong to the people. And not the military coup.” Against this background, it is not certain how long this latest deal will last.
Mass protests undermine coup
The eruption of determined mass protests against the coup across Sudan, coming under fire from the military forces, resulting in over 40 deaths, marks a new stage in the revolution in Sudan.
How can these developments ensure an end to military rule and open the way for a revolutionary government of the workers and poor in Sudan? The question is how can the fine words of the SPA and others be put into effect?
Earlier in October, before the actual military takeover, open threats of a coup provoked mass anti-military demonstrations proclaiming, “Either civil power or eternal revolution” and “All power should be in the hands of the people”. But now the very partial stepping back of the military leaders does not satisfy these demands, the challenge is how can they be put into effect?
The coup launched on 25 October was an attempt to roll back the gains of the revolutionary movement of 2019. This was carried out under the banner of restoring ‘law and order’ but was a move to restore the control of the military over the profiteering from the wealth of Sudan as was done by the military clique around the ex-dictator Al Bashir.
The timing was partly the result of the mass anti-coup protests already taking place. Military leaders feared the transition to a civilian chairmanship of the joint civilian-military “sovereign council” due on 17 November would have increased pressure for the implementation of the mass movement’s demands. They wanted to stop any investigation into the military atrocities they ordered in 2019 against the revolution and to prevent their profiteering from gold mining and other business links from being undermined.
Despite the renewed savagery of the coup leaders in ordering their forces to open fire on the protests, the mood of the masses was not deterred and the mass protests continued. Such action signifies the revolutionary intent of the masses that there can be no return to the military government in Sudan. That is why many reject this latest deal.
Al-Burham and the coup plotters underestimated the opposition they would face. They hoped to exploit the dismay of many at the interim government’s measures to carry out the very cuts to subsidies that triggered the revolutionary movements that led to the overthrow of Al-Bashir in 2019. Supporters of the military attacked what they called Hamdok’s “hunger government”. As the economic crisis has worsened under the covid pandemic, many are forced to queue for hours for bread and fuel. But the broad masses knew that military rule was no salvation.
With the popular offensive on the streets continuing, a programme for a government of the workers and poor, elected by a revolutionary constituent assembly reversing the cuts to fuel and food subsidies and carrying out decisive measures to end poverty and unemployment by nationalizing the banks and wealth, would gain overwhelming support.
Mobilising the neighbourhood committees that led the revolutionary movement in 2019, and electing delegates to such a body, would represent the beginnings of carrying through a political and social revolution. A similar appeal to the trade unions that have grown since 2019, and poor farmers, to elect delegates, could draw together all the mass of oppressed layers to unite against the coup leaders’ attempts to remain in power behind the fig-leaf Hamdok. On this basis, it would be possible to organize the defence of demonstrations, communities and workplaces from attacks by the military.
Such a body could make an appeal to the lower ranks of the army, who came to the side of the masses in 2019, to join the revolutionary movement, to arrest and jail officers involved in coordinating the coup, elect their own delegates to the constituent assembly and assist in the defence of the revolution. They should form their own committees, with a purge of all reactionary officers and elect their own.
A mass party of working-class needed
At the same time, the launch of a new mass party of the workers and poor would assist in mobilizing the protests, building the neighbourhood committees and winning support for a decisive battle with the coup plotters, raise consciousness of the concrete tasks a government of the workers and poor would need to take and build support for socialist measures to nationalize the economy. On the basis of democratic workers’ control and management, it would be possible to develop a plan to start to meet the needs of all, for bread, fuel, jobs and homes, for all.
Undoubtedly the experience of the past period has steeled many to understand the military are not with the people. Equally many will have begun to draw conclusions about the mistakes of the leaders of the 2019 movement joining the interim government. The lesson of the last two years, and of many revolutions in other countries, is that there can be no revolutionary change through collaboration with former Al Bashir figures, or pro-capitalist elements. These include the Umma Party and those within the Forces for Freedom and Change who have acted to hold back the development of the revolution. They have failed to take economic measures in the interests of the masses and have helped prepare the ground for this coup.
No trust should be given to foreign capitalist governments who have given support to the military and pro-capitalist forces in Sudan and now seek to once again trap the mass movement in an alliance with its oppressors.
In 2019, the CWI warned of the dangers of the interim government. We said: “There should be no support for any coalition with the military tops or pro-capitalist leaders. It aims to pacify the mass movement, with promises for future elections, so the military can regain brutal control over the situation, with further repression certain to follow.”
Left in power, the military has sought to sabotage and undermine the revolutionary movement and lay the ground for the coup and the return of the military.
These lessons will be acknowledged by many of the most conscious layers of workers and youth in Sudan, who can form the framework of a revolutionary socialist party that could grow rapidly in the days ahead if organised around a clear socialist programme and plan of action.
Whilst all revolutions have their unique features, general laws can be drawn from the revolutionary history of the working class.
Lessons of Russia 1917
Lenin, leader of the victorious October Russian Revolution in 1917, outlined the four conditions for a revolutionary situation to develop. Splits in the ruling class at the tops of society; a mass movement of the masses unwilling to continue living in the old ways; turmoil in the middle layers looking for leadership to end the crisis; and critically, a far-sighted revolutionary party of the workers and poor, with a clear understanding of the tasks required to take power and consolidate a government of the workers and poor peasants.
Whilst support for Lenin’s Bolshevik Party in the soviets (workers councils) was small in the opening months of 1917, based on a clear understanding of what was necessary to form a government of the workers and poor, outlined in Lenin’s April Theses, and through patient explanation, support grew from the most conscious layers. The reformists, the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries, were compromised by supporting and participating in the capitalist Provisional Government. After reactionary military forces, like in Sudan, attempted a coup in August 1917, mass support swung behind the Bolshevik’s call for all power to the Soviets. This was seen as the means to end Russian participation in the First World War, feed the masses, give land to the poor peasants and take the revolution forward.
Lessons from this latest coup attempt must be drawn. There can be no trust in General Burhan or the other military leaders like Hemeti, commander of the brutal paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). There must be no support for any figures in the interim government that have sought to compromise with the military.
The masses have shown who is the revolutionary force in Sudan; it is the workers and poor who have shown the consistent opposition to the cuts to food and fuel subsidies, who have mobilized the mass demonstrations and organised the general strikes to bring down Al Bashir and now the coup.
It is based on these forces that the revolution can be won. Those opposed to this deal need both a plan of action to build support and their own programme to complete the revolution. Popular organisations, like the trade unions and the neighbourhood resistance committees, need to be strengthened and developed. This way they can form the basis for a revolutionary government that represents the majority, the workers, poor and oppressed.
On this basis, a mighty challenge to both the military tops and the pro-capitalists can be built. Steps must be made to prepare for an all-out, indefinite, general strike to oust the semi-military regime, and to replace it with a government of workers and poor that organises a genuinely democratic discussion and decision on Sudan’s future. This can be the basis to ensure the mass mobilization against the coup and military rule leads to a victory of the workers and poor in Sudan.
For a revolutionary government of the workers and poor!
It is necessary to make clear that a revolutionary government of the workers and poor in Sudan will support the rights of all minorities, and will support the right of self-determination if that is the wish of exploited nationalities within Sudan repressed under previous regimes. Such policies by revolutionary government would have an enormous effect in Africa, inspiring similar movements. A call for a voluntary federation of socialist states of Sudan and North Africa would be a means of spreading support for the revolution and laying the basis for the maximum unity in developing a socialist economic plan of production, developed on the basis of democratic workers’ control and management, to meet the needs of all.
The CWI appeals to those in Sudan who support the outline of these ideas to come together in a revolutionary party that can assist in the urgent tasks of defeating the coup, ending military rule, preparing the ground for a revolutionary constituent assembly and building of a socialist future for Sudan.
Such a revolutionary government could then enact a programme that would include:
- Convening elections to a revolutionary constituent assembly
- The establishment of workers’ tribunals to bring to trial all those collaborating with the former regime and TMC
- A purge of the supporters and collaborators of the old regime in the state
- Disbanding the RSF and all repressive forces
- The right to organise political parties, and free and democratic trade unions
- A democratic press and media based on public ownership of printing and broadcasting resources and outlets, under democratic control and allocation of press and media facilities, based on support
- Nationalisation of all major companies, banks and multinational corporations under democratic workers’ control and management
- Massive investment in infrastructure and the economy
- No to foreign capitalist intervention
- For a democratic socialist Sudan, with full democratic rights for all minorities, and an international appeal for support and solidarity from the working class of Africa and internationally