By JOHN LESLIE
At dawn on Oct. 25, the Sudanese military, under the command of Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, seized power and announced that they were dissolving the transitional government formed after the popular upsurge of 2018-2019. Civilian members of the transitional government were placed under arrest. Minister Abdallah Hamdok, the top civilian in the Sovereignty Council, was reportedly placed under arrest and taken to an undisclosed location after he refused to sign a statement in support of the coup. This was just weeks before al-Burhan was supposed to hand over control of the Sovereignty Council to a civilian minister.
The popular response was immediate and furious. The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) and trade unions have all called for protest and a campaign of civil disobedience, blocking all roads with barricades, and a general strike in order to “deny any cooperation with the coup.” The Sudanese Communist Party called for “revolution until victory,” saying that “this coup is completely rejected by the Sudanese masses.” A million Sudanese across the country responded immediately to defend their revolution—flooding into the streets, barricading roads, and burning tires to block streets.
The military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Force, a band of thugs associated with the old regime and known to have perpetrated atrocities in Darfur, have moved against protesters and fired on demonstrators. The Sudanese doctors’ union reports at least 10 dead and more than 140 wounded. Military forces seized control of the state-owned radio station and detained the employees. The armed forces are conducting house-to-house searches in neighborhoods looking for protest organizers. Internet service in the country is shut down, making it difficult to get accurate information on the current situation.
The December revolution
Beginning in December 2018, demonstrations and strikes mobilized hundreds of thousands of workers, women, and students across Sudan for months. This led to a coup on April 11, 2019, that removed dictator Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir in an attempt by the military to preserve the regime by placing a new face in power. Al-Bashir’s military-installed replacement lasted less than 48 hours as the masses continued to mobilize and insisted on a transition to a civilian government.
A general strike on May 28-29, 2019, shut down industry, ports, transport, and government ministries, with high levels of participation by workers. The general strike was followed by violent repression on June 3 as demonstrators took to the streets. Government-aligned militias slaughtered more than 120 people, raped protesters and medical personnel, and wounded more than 700.
On July 5, 2019, the military and civilian opposition forces reached an accord to end the months of unrest. U.S. imperialism and its regional allies, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, exerted enormous pressure on both the movement and the Transitional Military Council to reach a deal. Similar pressure to resolve the situation came from both Russia and China, which have economic interests in the country. Subsequently, the Sudanese Communist Party withdrew from the negotiations and urged continued mass protests. Sections of the opposition broke ranks and negotiated with the military regime ahead of the rest of the opposition.
In the year following the formation of the transitional government, episodic demonstrations have been held to protest continued violence by state forces and allied militias and continued economic insecurity. These protests have been met with repression and attacks by militias. Activists have continued to press for the arrest and trial of perpetrators of violence against the revolutionary upsurge.
A series of protests in June and July of 2020 demanded a more rapid transition to civilian rule, economic reforms, accountability of regime officials responsible for repression, and the formation of a parliament. Protests mounted again this summer after the government instituted economic measures urged by the International Monetary Fund, which cut subsidies on diesel oil and gasoline.
The ruling Sovereign Council, a body with six civilian and five military representatives, fulfilled (or partially fulfilled) some promises by firing a police chief and his deputy, negotiating with armed rebel groups, an anti-corruption campaign, and withdrawing about two-thirds of Sudanese military troops from Yemen. Throughout this “transition,” the military has retained control over the process and worked to delay civilian control of institutions.
Tensions between the civilian and military components of the government have grown in recent months as the military was accused of trying to short circuit a transition to civilian rule. On Oct. 21, there were mass marches of more than a million people in Khartoum and other cities to put the military on notice that the December Revolution was still alive and well. Demands raised by the protesters indicate a level of radicalization calling for the transition to a full civilian government without military participation. Military chief al-Burhan has allied himself with former regime supporters and rightist parties against the democratic movement.
Halfway revolutions don’t work
Key elements of victory in a revolutionary situation are a revolutionary party with roots in the working class and popular sectors. Another crucial factor is a programmatic and strategic outlook that fights for power independent of bourgeois and petty bourgeois political organizations.
In a struggle for democracy, the working class can’t stop halfway but has to contend for the formation of a government of the working class and its allies. The democratic revolution has to grow over into one that takes socialist measures and destroys the power of the ruling classes. Only a government of the workers and their allies can defeat the machinations of imperialism—which would, once again, impose a dictatorship on the country in alliance with pro-imperialist forces.
Down with the coup! Free all prisoners! Revolution until victory!