Coup d’état in Sudan
Tragical dead end of inter-class democratism
(«Proletarian»; Nr. 18; Winter 2021-2022)
On Monday, October 25, the Sudanese military assumed full power, declaring a state of emergency and dissolving the existing government, arresting the prime minister and, in the following days, political leaders of the democratic movement.
Despite a fierce repression the gigantic revolt movement of 2018-2019, had led to the fall of the dictator al-Bashir, after 30 years at the head of the country. Al-Bashir came to power after a coup in June 1989, and he was overthrown in April 2019 by the military who deemed it necessary to separate from this disgraced character to better preserve the established order.
Constituted as a « Transitional Military Council » (TMC), the military leaders engaged in bloody massacres to break the revolt; in particular, it is estimated that more than 100 people were killed in the early June 2019 crackdown by RSF (« Rapid Support Forces ») militiamen and soldiers on a peaceful sit-in in front of the army headquarters in the capital Khartoum. But despite the repression, the demonstrations and strikes continued en masse for regime change and an end to the military’s rule, when in July the leaders of the movement – the « Forces of Freedom and Change », which includes bourgeois and petty bourgeois parties, trade union organizations and the Sudanese CP - reached an agreement with the TMC under imperialist sponsorship: formation of a provisional government, the « Sovereignty Council » (SC), with two military men as president and vice-president and a civilian prime minister; then, after 21 months, a fully civilian government was to be formed and elections were to take place. It is precisely the president of the SC, General Burhan, head of the army, and the vice-president Hemetti, head of the RSF, who are the leaders of this coup d’état, which was carried out shortly before giving way to the civilians!
Burhan and Hemetti are not only former pillars of the dictatorial regime and directly responsible for its crimes (notably in Darfur); they also represent important economic interests, as the army manages a military-industrial complex, while the RSF, a para-military militia reputed to be sometimes more powerful than the regular army, exploits gold mines and other businesses in an opaque manner (1). They are also linked to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where contingents of the RSF have gone to help Saudi troops against the Yemeni rebels.
The democrats had presented the interim government as a great victory for the sudanese « revolution », but its actions demonstrated the reality of this agreement with the military. The government benefited from the end of U.S. sanctions, but in return for IMF loans and debt relief, it agreed to eliminate most subsidies for basic necessities. As a result, according to the official statistics themselves, inflation, which had been soaring since the transitional government was installed, reached 400 per cent on an annual basis by June!
The government was in a hurry to satisfy the wishes of the international financial community, but was much less so with regard to the demands of the masses; of course, it turned a deaf ear to the demands to put on trial those responsible for the massacres of 2019 - the president and vice-president of the SC! The conditions of the proletarians continued to deteriorate and many dismissals of workers who had made demands took place. A new law on trade unions was being prepared, but this law was to limit industrial action; this repressive law was approved by the Sudanese CP and the « Sudan Professional’s Association » (SPA, a gathering of trade unions where the CP is influential) (2)! The CP is above all interested in union with the bourgeois democratic parties, and like its colleagues all over the world, it sacrifices proletarian interests to the perspective of defense of the state and the economy of the country.
Disenchantment with the transitional government was therefore growing, and the military leaders, citing the risk of social unrest, considered that the government had exhausted its usefulness (passing antisocial and anti-proletarian measures without significant reaction) and was in danger of attacking their particular interests. They probably even stirred up unrest by allowing regionalist forces close to the former dictator to blockade Port Sudan (in protest against the advantages granted to other regions), the economic lung of the country, which led to serious shortages in the capital. They mobilized religious elements for demonstrations against the government.
In this climate of growing tension, a coup attempt was foiled on September 21, after clashes between soldiers in Ondurman, the twin city of Khartoum. General Burhan, while assuring that it would never attempt a coup, said on September 22 that the Army was the « guardian of Sudan’s security and unity » and Hemetti told his militia that « politicians are the main cause of coups because they neglect the ordinary citizen [...] and because they are more interested in fighting to stay in power » These threatening statements did not stop al-Faki Suleiman, one of these politicians, spokesman for the Sovereignty Council (and « revolutionary icon » it seems), from then boasting to the demonstrators gathered in support of the government: « the revolution is victorious! » (3). A month later he was arrested by the coup plotters along with other government officials... The coup attempt had in fact served as a dress rehearsal, and the weakness of the reaction was a green light for the military.
However, the coup provoked a strong reaction among the masses; strikes called not only by the trade unions but also by the bourgeois Umma party broke out and became widespread, including civil servants in the ministries. Tens and tens of thousands of people demonstrated on October 30 in Khartoum, Ondurman, Port Sudan and many other cities against the coup. The military responded by using their weapons against the demonstrators in Khartoum ; a total of 20 to 30 people were reportedly killed. Subsequently, the Forces of Change called for two days of « civil disobedience » in early November for the restoration of a civilian government, a call that met with limited success: clearly the masses did not see this initiative as being what was needed.
While the democratic parties are pinning their hopes on the diplomatic pressure of imperialism on the military (4), it seems that it is the grassroots « Resistance Committees », independent of these parties, that are the driving force of the struggle. The coordination of the committees of éGreater Khartoum » (Khartoum, Ondurman, Bahri) has drawn up a platform of demands that has been taken up by the SPA, the CP and others: it is centered on the refusal of any compromise with the military, the establishment of a civilian regime, the formation of a new national army and the « complete sovereignty of the Sudanese state » (5) : these demands remain entirely on bourgeois terrain, even though the bourgeois civilian politicians have shown themselves to be adversaries of the proletarians and the poor masses!
Although Sudan remains a predominantly agricultural country, there is a working class with a significant history of struggle behind it. Unfortunately, its combativeness has been put at the service of interests that are not its own, as was again the case during the struggles of 2019. The collaborationist trade union organizations, the CP and even these Resistance Committees want to do the same by calling once again for an interclassist union to establish a democratic bourgeois regime.
In order that the struggle of the proletarians and the poor masses against the repression and the military dictatorship, not only doesn’t end in a new rotten compromise with the military, but be the beginning of a real emancipation struggle against exploitation and misery, it will have to be carried out on class bases and on an anti-capitalist orientation, in total rupture with interclassism. This means that it will have to pass through the constitution of the proletarian class organization, whether it is for the economic struggle or for the political struggle, in collaboration with the proletarians of other countries.
Even if it cannot be immediate, it is the only non illusory perspective for the proletarians in the struggles that await them ; then « revolution » will no longer be a hollow word serving only to put them to sleep or to put their energy and their fighting spirit at the service of the bourgeois, civil or military, but a fighting slogan gathering all the exploited.
Long live the struggle of the Sudanese proletarians and poor masses against repression and oppression!
For the proletarian revolution in Sudan and in all countries!
For the reconstitution of the internationalist and international class party!
November, 8th 2021
(1) Africa confidential, vol.62, n°15, 7/22/2021
(2) cf «Sudan’s workers on the march for their rights» Mena Solidarity Network, 1/30/21
(3) Middle East Eye, 10/19/2021
(4) The coup was condemned by Western imperialisms, especially by the United States, which threatened to suspend aid, but also (with lip service) by Saudi Arabia, while Egypt remained silent and Israel implicitly supported it. Russia and China (which had been the dictator’s last supporter) refused to condemn him. UN and OAU « mediators » are trying to restore « dialogue » between the military and civilian politicians
(5) cf «Powering the uprising: Sudan’s Resistance Committees» Mena Solidarity Network,11/5/2021
International Communist Party