What Next After Sudan’s Million Man March?

For more background and information on the current revolutionary upsurge of the Sudanese masses, we recommend the following articles:

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Yesterday, hundreds of thousands of workers, peasants, and poor took to the streets throughout Sudan to protest against the vicious rule of the Junta organized in the Transitional Military Council (TMC).

Young, old men and women from across the country took to the street in brave defiance of counterrevolution in all corners of the country. Chanting, from the top of their lungs, slogans such as “Freedom,” “Civilian rule,” and “Kabashi you liar, our revolution has just started” they were a testament of the enormous bravery and heroism of the masses. At least 7 people were killed and hundreds injured as armed forces loyal to the TMC attacked the masses throughout the country, yet the movement persisted. In the historical revolutionary city of Atbara, they chanted: “The bullet doesn’t kill. What kills is one’s silence. Atbara is out, Atbara is out!”

While exact figures are impossible to come by it is almost certain that these protests were some of the largest in the history of the country, and probably surpassing the 1 million man aim set up by the organizers, the Sudanese Professional Association (SPA). Confirmed mass protests took place in Rabak, Halfa, Jabra, Arkaweet-Albalabel, Atbara, Nuri, Alshajara, Alsahafa, Aliskan, ElObied, Kauda, Kasala, Alruseiris, Dongola, Wad madani, Burri, Kareema, Souq alarabi, Khartoum, Umdurman-wad nubawi and Port Sudan.

The day of action was even more impressive seeing that it came after the 3 June massacre, carried out by TMC affiliated Rapid Support Forces (RSF), brutally killing hundreds and injuring many more. This was followed by a counterrevolutionary offensive which saw weeks of violence, rape, and plunder on a massive scale carried out by RSF forces. In the run up to this protest, the TMC had not hidden its intention to continue the bloody repression. An anonymous military official told Middle East Eye that “The military council has no path other than going further with the use of violence regarding these protests of 30 June and they have actually begun preparing for that.” Nevertheless, the officer went on to add that there was no certainty that the TMC could trust in the police to actually carry out the repression. Thus the rabid dogs of the RSF were the main force for the TMC to lean on.

But far from forcing the masses into submission, the killing, raping, and threatening only spurred them forward, hardening their resolve. In spite of never ending threats and daily violence by the TMC, the revolution has been building up to yesterday’s event for weeks. The internet and media blackout imposed by the TMC also meant that most people had no information about whether many people would come out or if they would be isolated alone on the streets, easily targeted by the counterrevolution. Many people, trying to reach Khartoum where the largest protests would be, had travelled for days to get there.

Deepening organization

In the run-up to the protest, the repression and the media blockade had forced the movement to strengthen its organization on the ground. SPA leader Medani Abas told Middle East Eye that, “Despite the [military’s] internet shutdown and the ongoing hunting down of activists and protests leaders in the streets of Khartoum, we could reach the people by organizing community meetings to address the people in their neighborhoods.”

With the internet and social media cut off the SPA carried out the agitation through Neighborhood Resistance Committees which have now spread and taken up the role as organizers of the movement in many places. SPA leaders toured a number of cities and areas where meetings and discussions were organized with hundreds of people discussing the status of the movement and the steps forward. Blocked from protesting during the day, the committees also organized night vigils and protests in the weeks leading up to yesterday.

Gradually overcoming the shock of 3 June, the movement regained more and more of its confidence. In an inspiring display of the mood developing in the country, two high school student marches last week, upon seeing each other, suddenly spurted towards each other joining up in ecstatic celebration.

Leadership

The SPA has been the de facto leadership of the revolution since its inception. It won its position because of its role in the radical strikes of doctors and other professionals in 2018. This put it ahead of numerically stronger organizations such as the Communist Party, which has been dragging its feet with a weak and reformist program in the past period. The SPA on the other hand intervened immediately when the present movement sprung up in Atbara in December 2018, giving its full support, calling for the downfall of the regime and its replacement with a civilian government. It was its radical approach, calling for a complete break with the previous regime, which won it the leadership of the movement. This position was cemented at each stage as it directed, organized, and continuously called for the escalation of action; from radical street protests to full blown general strikes.

Yet, beyond from different forms of protest, the SPA has shown limited perspective for how to move forward. Following the removal of Omar Bashir by the TMC in April, the SPA leaders merely called for negotiations with the TMC, which composed solely of Bashir era military leaders and other warlords connected to the old regime. Then at the end of May the SPA called for a 2 day general strike against the TMC rule. This was the first, properly organized political general strike for years and it clearly put the question of power on the agenda. Throughout the country it was clear that a dual power situation had developed, with the state and the SPA competing for control. In fact, all the main ministries were following the SPA lead during the strike, as were other sectors such as the airline workers, port workers and so on. The working class and poor had risen up. Yet after two days in which power was essentially in the hands of the SPA, it called off the movement saying that it would call for new “civil disobedience” at an undisclosed point of time in the future.

Seeing this as a sign of weakness the TMC, spearheaded by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo also known as Hemeti, and his tribal based RSF, set in motion a vicious counterrevolution. On 3 June they struck, killing hundreds of revolutionaries and injuring thousands. This was followed by weeks of terror where hundreds of people were killed, beaten up, raped, and harassed, and revolutionaries were hounded in the streets by Hemeti’s troops.

Again the SPA hesitated and only called for a general strike on 9 June—almost one week later! But this general strike, in spite of its instant success and the heavy sacrifices of those who braved the conditions to make it happen, was immediately called off. The reason was that the SPA wanted to show “goodwill” to the TMC and Ethiopian mediators who had arrived in the country to negotiate an agreement on a transitional government between the TMC and the SPA. The real reason why the TMC and the Ethiopians were demanding the end of the general strike was that it was a direct threat to the regime as well as a threat to ruling classes throughout Africa, should the idea spread that society could be run by workers without the bosses, chiefs and domestic and international capitalists.

The SPA withdrew and entered negotiations with the TMC, which by now has proven beyond doubt that it is purely a counterrevolutionary group. The interests of the TMC and the masses are mutually exclusive, yet the SPA is to this day negotiating a power-sharing agreement with the TMC.

At any point during the big days of action—such as yesterday, during the days of the general strikes or in the last days of the Bashir rule—the SPA could have issued a call for the army ranks to organize and join the movement, linking up soldiers’ and workers’ committees on a national level and taking over the key strategic infrastructure of the country. This would have been a relatively easy operation and it could have led to a relatively peaceful transition. Reactionary militias such as the RSF could easily have been disarmed by the armed masses, backed by the rank-and-file soldiers. It is no secret that the vast majority of the ranks of the army are sympathetic to the revolution and not the TMC. But without appealing to them forcefully and organizing a campaign to reach these layers, they will remain in the barracks for fear of reprisals if they should defect. With the excuse of keeping the movement peaceful, the SPA is not even allowing basic self-defense militias to be set up by the workers and poor. Instead of forcefully and radically stepping up measures on a steady basis—which is the foundation of their position to begin with—the SPA is hesitating just when it reaches the critical point, even to the extent that it put in a “legal request” for the armed forces to guarantee the safety of the 30 June protests.

But it should be clear to all that the law means nothing for the TMC (or the revolution for that matter, which has been breaking the unjust laws of the ruling class and calling for its downfall). Legalistic tricks and calls for peace will not solve anything. The result, as we can see, has not been lack of blood, but a bloodbath carried out by a tiny minority of reactionary militiamen against the millions and millions of workers, peasants, and poor who are fighting for democracy and better lives.

Laws and superficial moral appeals are meaningless in a revolution, which is the violent clash of the mutually exclusive interests of two opposing classes. In Sudan you have on the one hand the TMC, the old regime, the butchers and bloodsuckers, counting among them the rich capitalists, the puppets of international capital, tribal chiefs, warlords and Islamists. That is, all the forces who for their own narrow benefit are ready to see the whole of the country dragged down into the swamp of backwardness.

On the other hand you have the millions and millions of workers, peasants, poor, youth, and women who fight for democracy, decent lives and for the raising of the nation out of barbarism, traditionalism and generalized misery. These two camps cannot be reconciled. The counterrevolution realizes this and is willing to do anything to remain in power.

Yesterday’s movement showed beyond doubt the enormous courage and capabilities of the Sudanese people. But there can be no government of the people and their butchers. In the last days a joint mediation offer has been proposed by the Ethiopian government and the African Union. This proposes a new governing body composed of seven ministers by the TMC and seven by the Alliance for Freedom and Change (AFC, an umbrella organization led by the SPA) with some sort of compromise candidate at its head. But this will solve exactly nothing. We have seen conclusively that the TMC is not interested in any power sharing. Any deal with the TMC will only serve to tire and demobilize the revolution while preparing for new offensives by the counterrevolution.

What is needed is to connect the Neighborhood Resistance Committees, the strike committees and other revolutionary organizations, on a local and national level with the aim of taking power. At the same time a vigorous campaign must be organized in the armed forces setting up soldiers’ committees to connect with the rest of the revolutionary movement. Along with workers’ defense committees these soldiers’ committees should begin a campaign of disarming the RSF and all other counterrevolutionary forces, arresting all of the people responsible for killing and other crimes against the people and prepare for putting these people on trial.

The Sudanese revolution has already risen as a beacon of revolutionary inspiration for the masses throughout Africa, the Middle East and beyond. In a matter of months the Sudanese masses, “storming heaven” with their bare hands and by their direct intervention, have achieved more than decades of NGO and liberal petitioning. The only way forward is to take this revolutionary path to its logical conclusion by preparing the complete uprooting of the whole capitalist regime which has been keeping the whole nation in a stranglehold for generations!

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