End military rule and poverty – fight for “People’s Power” in Sudan

Revolutionary protest, 6 November 2019 (Photo: Abbasher/Wikimedia Commons)

Mass protests across Sudan have continued in response to the latest agreement between Abdalla Hamdok and the military tops. Continuing demands for ‘Power to the People’ show this mass movement is determined to end the rule of the military and is angered at the betrayal of Hamdok in willingly acting for the military.

The mass protests across Sudan have been organised by the Resistance Committees (RCs). They have been at the forefront of mobilizing the revolution since 2019 and were involved in vital community work before and after the fall of former dictator Bashir.

This mass opposition of workers and youth across Sudan has forced other parties such as Umma, the Sudan Professional Association (SPA) and the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), previously involved in the governing council, to echo the streets with a rejection of the deal.

Under mass pressure following the October 25 coup, leaders have been forced to retreat behind the fig leaf of a Hamdok government. They overestimated their power to repress the revolutionary movement organised by the Resistance Committees.

The United Nations and the imperialist troika of Norway, UK and US governments are now attempting to pressure all opposition forces to accept the new Hamdok regime installed by the military. This must be firmly rejected. Their aim is to strangle the revolution. Only an independent movement of the masses, of the workers and poor, can establish a new revolutionary government and ‘People’s Power’.

Statements from protestors indicate that the masses have lost their fear of the regime and understand there can be no compromise. They are determined to end military rule with a democratic, civilian government.

The discussion across society, and especially those in the forefront of leading the protests, is how can that be achieved?

There can be no trust in the Hamdok regime that leaves the butchers of the people – the army Generals Burham, Hemetti and others – in power. Only a new government of the masses, of the workers and poor, based on the developing movement led by the Resistance Committees can end military rule and open up the prospect of a new revolutionary democracy in Sudan to end oppression, poverty and tribal conflict.

Elements of dual power now exist in Sudan

 Despite the resources of the army, the role of the militias and their brutality, they have been forced to retreat under the power of the mass movement that took to the streets after the October 25 coup and again following the Burham/Hamdok deal on 21st November. Whilst Burham and Hamdok sit in government they have little real power other than the repression of the army and their militia allies. It is the independent mass movement in the streets demonstrating its power that has the potential to end the rule of the military.

Led by the RCs, mobilizing the mass of workers, youth and poor, it is clear that an alternative potential power exists to the rule of the military and the repressive state machine.

Established under the dictatorship of Al-Bashir, developed through the revolutionary movement of 2019 and under the era of the new Council forced to carry out aspects of the state in providing food, fuel and medicines, the RCs have shown the potential to become a new form of organizing society that has the involvement and overwhelming confidence of the majority.

Develop the Resistance Committees to build ‘People’s Power’

It is essential that the RCs develop if they are to play a decisive role in the struggle for power. Part of this is to learn from the experience of some ‘leaders’ being prepared to sit alongside the military tops. This shows the importance of all representatives being both regularly elected, and subject to recall, by those who have elected them. These bodies can become the democratic forum around which discussion can be developed on how to build the movement, defend the protests and activists from repression and outline and then help the implementation of the programme of a new government that addresses the issues of poverty, jobs, housing, health and education. But such a government needs to be completely different from all previous ones.

The building of new workplace and community organisations, electing their own representatives, are not just a sign of the developing mass movement. Most importantly it shows the potential to create, alongside the RCs, a genuine ‘People’s Power’, the basis for a new democratic government that represents the interests of the workers and poor.

Clearly such a new government would have to remove the threat of future military repression and counter-revolution and deal with the urgent economic, social and political issues facing the mass of Sudanese.

How can the military and militias be silenced?

While the military have been forced to retreat, arrests and suppression continues. So long as the military remains in place, a new repressive clampdown is certain, unless the mass movement succeeds in carrying through the revolution.

The mass protests have shaken the military and exposed their limitations once the demonstrators lost their fear and showed the determination and courage to continue the struggle.

The movement has to develop its ability to defend itself from attack. Popular defence forces need to be developed, forces democratically controlled through the Resistance Committees and other popular bodies. Such defence forces would need to be able both to act and, at the same time, exploit divisions within the state and militia forces.

Throughout the revolution, the army has also shown some critical weaknesses. Divisions have developed within the tops of the army over how to deal with the revolution, whether to step up repression or to make concessions and who will come to dominate in a new regime. It is clear that tensions exist between different wings of the army and militias, which could come to the fore as the situation escalates.

As the masses poured onto the streets in 2019, lower ranks in the army in significant numbers came over to the side of the protests or remained passive when called on to shoot at demonstrators.

An appeal to the lower ranks of the army to join the side of the revolution and carry out a purge of the army by arresting the coup plotters and officers would gain a big echo. The lower ranks, who share none of the riches held by the tops of the army, come from the poorest sections of Sudanese society and can be won over to the side of the revolution. Then electing their own representatives they could join the RCs and assist with the defence of demonstrations, factories, trade unions and activists.

The use of militias under the guidance of some of the army tops is also a threat that needs addressing. These militias have been built by recruiting young children and criminals, desperate for food and shelter, maintaining them through regular payments.

Other rebel forces and their leaders have been drawn to the military by promises of sharing in the economic spoils of the military regime.

Support for these militias can be undermined by a programme put forward by the RCs for a new Sudan that ends repression but also that tackles poverty by putting forward policies on employment, pay and housing that can meet the needs of all.

A revolutionary socialist Sudan would also put an end to the repression of religious and ethnic minorities and guarantee the rights of all, including the right to self-determination, thereby undermining the support for separatist rebel and tribal leaders and the basis of their militias.

Build a mass movement to prepare for power

It is unclear how events in the next few days will unfold but already the outline of how this movement could take power can be seen. The military and pro-capitalist parties that have propped up the ruling council have been undermined and are divided on the way forward.  They have failed to end military rule and have carried out economic counter-reforms; the ending of food and fuel subsidies similar to those that led to the revolutionary movement against Al-Bashir in 2019. The masses who came out and risked their lives to rescue Hamdok, now denounce him.

The masses have lost their fear and are determined to end military rule and establish a civilian government. Led by the Resistance Committees, a vanguard has formed with the overwhelming support of the workers and youth who have been the most determined revolutionary force in Sudan, time and time again.

Other forces and parties such as Umma, SPA and FFC have had to follow their lead, reflecting the support from middle layers and professionals to the side of the RCs mass protests and demand for civilian rule. But these parties and others are either pro-capitalist or not prepared to challenge capitalism now. This is what leads them into conflict with the revolution whose aims actually challenge capitalist rule.

Elect representatives to a National Resistance Assembly

If the RCs elected representatives to a national body, calling for trade unions to send delegates and lower ranks of the army to elect their own delegates, as well, the outline of a new civilian government of the workers and poor would be in place.

Only such a government could guarantee the Sudanese people to freely decide their future; any interim government which based itself on retaining the essentials of Sudan today, namely the repressive state and capitalism, would be a smokescreen for the ruling class to continue in power.

Decisive action in the form of an indefinite general strike needs to be prepared alongside the dissolution of the Sovereign Council and Hamdok’s new “technocratic” government. Military and militia leaders should be arrested. The power of the National Resistance Assembly should then be consolidated by establishing a democratically run and controlled RC militia, drawn from the ranks of the RCs to defend the new government.

What kind of government is needed to end poverty and repression?

In power, what kind of measures would be necessary to establish the aims of a new Sudan that can establish democracy, end military repression, economic crisis and poverty and end tribal and ethnic tensions?

With the economy and government budget in the hands of the military, up to 80% of the budget ends up in the hands of the military tops, with the remainder unable to meet the costs of providing food, fuel, housing and healthcare to the masses.

All the assets and business interests of the military tops must be immediately confiscated and nationalised.

The accumulated wealth of Sudan, under the direct control of the revolutionary government through the nationalization of the banks, mines, and foreign-owned corporations that dominate the economy, with compensation based on proven need, would be the basis on which a democratic plan could be drawn up through the local RCs to address the needs of all and provide the basis for an end to the poverty and insecurity of the masses.

The transformation of the economy on socialist lines, through nationalized ownership, is the only way to meet the needs of the masses and break the power of the military and the elites in Sudan. Such bold measures would inspire solidarity from workers, the youth and poor across North Africa, Africa and also beyond, support that could help prevent any attempts at military intervention, sanctions or blockades etc. from pro-capitalist governments.

It would be a revolutionary government that would reignite the Arab Spring and have an impact within Africa, with a revolutionary democratic socialist model to follow. This could become the basis for a socialist confederation of the region that could rapidly utilize the wealth, resources and productive potential to develop the economy through democratic planning to transform society.

For a mass socialist party of workers, youth and poor farmers

Debate on the way forward in Sudan is reaching all corners of society. But this revolutionary movement of workers, youth and the poor has no party of its own. Riddled with corruption, compromised by supporting the military presence in the government, deep scepticism exists towards the existing parties such as Umma and the Forces of Freedom and Change.

Whilst the Communist Party has opposed the military, despite its rich history, it has not provided a clear programme of action to take power. It has not drawn on the historic revolutionary experience of the working class, especially the lessons of the Russian revolution, encapsulated in the writings and actions of its leaders Lenin and Trotsky and the Bolshevik Party that led the successful struggle for power in October 1917. Instead, its leaders follow the exact opposite of Lenin’s approach in 1917, as they seek alliances and coalitions with capitalist forces which lead to trapping and eventual defeat of revolutions.

But an organized independent revolutionary party is a vital element in the current situation to build the support for a clear socialist alternative to the economic crisis and a clear programme of action, with a strategy and tactics to end the rule of the military. Drawing together all those who see what needs to be done, an independently organized party will enormously strengthen the revolutionary movement and begin to actively win support for its ideas in the RCs, workplaces, trade unions and the ranks of the army and militias.

Such a party would grow very rapidly in the favourable situation that currently exists, where an enormous vacuum has grown that requires a conscious and audacious party to seize the time for change. Without it, there is the grave danger that this revolutionary opportunity will be lost.

Revolution and Counter-revolution

Without clear ideas, without a mass party prepared to drive the movement forward to a decisive victory, the situation in Sudan will be more protracted. The energy of the masses shown currently cannot last indefinitely. The temporary retreat of the military, accompanied with continued repression, may over time, help to consolidate its position.

But in whatever form that regime evolves, as a possible government of ‘technocrats’, it will act in the interests of the military and the elite, to defend its interests and the capitalist basis on which their profits and wealth are accrued.

On this basis, poverty for the masses will continue and worsen alongside military power, however, it may be embellished by democratic fig leaves.

But the Sudanese ruling class and foreign western powers, whatever lip service they pay to ‘restraint’ and respect for democracy, oppose any social revolution. If they think it is necessary they will side with the military and take measures to contain and suppress the revolution in order to defend their power and wealth.

Right now, faced with the mighty strength of the revolution and, in particular, the huge opposition to any military involvement in government, the imperialists and their agents, like the United Nations, are trying to bring leaders of the movement into some kind of coalition with pro-capitalist forces to contain the revolution. Such a coalition, possibly under slogans like ‘defeat reaction’ or ‘unity to defend the revolution’, is not the same as the unity of working people, youth and the poor. Any deal between leaders of the revolution and sections of the ruling class would only be possible on the basis of accepting the continuation of the capitalist status quo. While the ruling class may offer some temporary concessions their aim would be to buy time, weaken the revolution and prepare to re-establish their full power.

This is why it is vital that urgent steps are taken to advance the revolution. Based on the masses, the resistance committees must prepare to form a government of their own, carry out decisive measures to nationalise the key sectors of the economy, cancel the foreign debt, sweep away the poverty and repression that has plagued Sudan, and open up a new socialist future for the exploited mass of North Africa, throughout the region and beyond.

 

 

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