The Sudanese Revolution entered a new stage after carrying out a powerful general strike, which paralysed the whole country on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. The organisers are demanding that the Transitional Military Council (TMC), which usurped power in April, cede power to a civilian-led government, which is to be installed.
Defying numerous threats by the military junta known as TMC, the Sudanese masses brought the country to a complete standstill. Throughout the nation, the Sudanese working class, flanked by the poor, the peasants and the youth, showed that, once organised, their power is unmatched.
The strike crippled economic life throughout the country, only leaving intact sectors that the working class mercifully allowed to continue operating. In Khartoum, observance of the strike was almost 100 percent, whereas in more rural areas of the country, adherence to the call was slightly lower. All ministries and government institutions, schools and hospitals were closed. Buses and truck drivers shut down operations. So did airport workers and civil aviation engineers, with large protests taking place at Khartoum airport.
Think of the fallen ... their souls are GONE— Saad (@SaadAbedine) May 28, 2019
Forget about the military threats, screw it, the job can GO
It's time to save the country#Sudan 🇸🇩 protesters strike as deadlock with military persistshttps://t.co/BpVXKAKXyV pic.twitter.com/l43JWOUWd5
Port Sudan, home of the country’s main port, saw all operations, including hospitals, the airport, electricity, banks, loading and unloading agents, customs clearance agents, tax authorities and a number of ministries and government agencies shut down. Port operations only continued at the smaller Red Sea port of Suakin for the transport of Haj pilgrims to Mecca. Crucially, employees of the oil and gas companies, Petrodar and Petro Energy, were also reported to be on strike, most probably along with wider layers of the sector.
At the same time, thousands of branches of banks were shut down, rendering economic transactions impossible. Workers in power plants, electricity sector workers, mine workers, and most workers in the small industrial sector all downed tools. Amongst many others, reports came from Khartoum about protests and strikes by workers at the Military Industry Corporation, Garden City University, African Bioethics Company Newtec, pharmacists and staff at Pharmaland pharmaceutical factory, flour mills, cigarette and foodstuff manufacturers, cement factories and many more.
These working-class layers were joined by lawyers, journalists, scientists, university staff, shop owners and many street vendors. Resolutions came from strike committees all over the country in support of the strike and declaring their willingness to adhere to any further instructions by the leaders of the movement.
After going on strike, the workers then converged in pickets in front of their workplaces, with many merging into bigger protests later in the evening. In Khartoum, tens of thousands of people chanted “Support get out”, referring to the counter-revolutionary, tribal-based Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which are stationed with 50,000 troops around Khartoum.
Workers not intimidated
The Head of the RSF, who is also the deputy of the TMC, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (“Hemeti”), had issued several threats in anticipation of the strike, telling anyone who wanted to strike not to bother to come back to work. But these threats only added to the anger that was fueling the strike, and government institutions observed an almost 100 participation everywhere.
The TMC head, Abdel Fattah Burhan, was out of the country, being showered in presidential pomp and ceremony on his tour visiting heads of state in the region. Meanwhile, back home, the calloused-handed workers, peasants and poor of the country exposed his and the rest of the TMC’s complete powerlessness faced with the power of the revolutionary masses.
In fact, while the government was powerless to do anything, the AFC had de facto become the highest power in the country. A resolution by the port authority workers was a clear indication of this:
“According to the schedule declared by the Sudanese Professionals Association – the organisation that represents us – and after the conclusion of the final hours of the strike, work in the port was resumed straight away. We reaffirm our readiness and responsiveness to all the decisions by the SPA in the context of restoring full civil authority and sovereignty, and declare our readiness for civil disobedience and an open political strike until the handover of authority into civilian hands. And as we have previously said, the instructions are with you and the [deed – ed.] is with us.”
Another, similar statement was made by workers and owners (mainly of small shops) in the autoparts industry:
“The committee of workers and owners of spare car parts companies and their accessories for all honourable people in the automotive spare parts and accessories sector will present their honourable solidarity with the decision of their committee to strike on Tuesday, 28 May 2019 and Wednesday 29 May 2019 in response to the appeal of the Sudanese Professionals Association and the nation’s tremendous success. We also declare our readiness to execute every decision agreed upon by the great masses of the free Sudanese people.
“We also reaffirm our commitment to the realisation of the hopes and aspirations of the great Sudanese people currently represented in the transfer of power to civilians through a civilian transitional government. And we honourably grieve for the souls of the martyrs of the glorious December Revolution, and we affirm that their pure blood has not been shed in vain, and that salvation is coming.
“Our stand in the crossfire will be great and beautiful.
“We will teach history the meaning of persistence and heroism.
“The committee of workers and owners of spare car parts companies and their accessories, and shops.
“30 May 2019.“
In several instances, the armed forces, mainly connected to the RSF, tried to break the strike by force. In Khartoum, the RSF and other forces stormed the offices of the electricity company in the El Riyad district in eastern Khartoum on Tuesday, detaining 10 striking employees and demanding to buy electricity. But they were forced to release their detainees after other workers of the company threatened to cut off the electricity supply. Far from frightening them, this “whip of counter-revolution” has radicalised the workers of the company who are beginning to feel the power they hold and are now asserting it. The workers have gone onto an offensive with an open-ended strike to cleanse the company of the henchmen of the old regime. In a statement following the strike they wrote:
“Association of Professionals in the electric power sector,
“To the masses of our persistent and victorious people.
“The Sudanese people remained patient in the face of political blocs, repression, injustice, and financial and administrative corruption under the previous government until the revolution of change broke out, in which the citizen has put his hopes and aspirations into achieving the desired goals.
“We organised a strike on Tuesday and Wednesday (28-29) of May, with the aim of gathering the Sudanese Professionals as well as the Forces of Freedom and Change. We made sure to explain the arrangement of the strike to our customers in advance to take the necessary precautions.
“For the sake of transparency and ownership of the facts without falsification we clarify the following:
“1) There is an illegal body in the Sudanese company for the distribution of electricity called the insurance department, that works within the company, moves and drains its resources and acquisitions, and was formed under the ministry of the notorious Osama Abdullah.
This strange and cancerous body is representative of the security apparatus and the remnants of the former regime and its shadow battalions and members of the Popular Defense.
“These are the same people who are working to suppress peaceful demonstrations and putting up their weapons in the face of electricity workers, threatening them to implement the agenda of the former regime.
“2) After our first sit-in, a decision was issued to dissolve the Insurance Department with a letter from the Board of Directors and the transfer of the department's employees to the administration. The transfer should be carried out by a committee to study their qualifications, which has not been done yet. We also requested their removal and transfer to the Ministry after they practiced violence and threats to prevent workers from striking on the day of the 28th, but the undersecretary refused to implement this important requirement.
“Our majestic citizens,
“We hope that you stand with us in the battle to remove the remnants of the system until the electricity is cleared from the remnants of the former regime, and therefore we apologise to our citizens for not being able to provide our services in the presence of those who threaten the stability of the company and the lives of workers.
“We report that we are now on strike for all individual reports in all of Sudan until the insurance department is finally dissolved and all its members are expelled from the electricity sector.
“The employees in the company:
“We declare a comprehensive strike in all public administrations, and assistance, workshops and factories affiliated to the distribution, until the removal and transfer of employees of the insurance department to the Ministry.
“Our goal is to serve the citizens and the country.
“The struggle of the Sudanese people remains.
“Association of Professionals in the electric power sector – The Public Information Office.
“30 May 2019.”
Similar incidents happened elsewhere too. On Tuesday, the strike in the Central Bank of Sudan led to a complete suspension of financial transactions in the country, after which armed detachments besieged the main premises of the bank in Khartoum. The counter-revolutionaries were demanding to be paid their wages. Nevertheless, the bank staff refused to resume work. On the following day, a large solidarity protest formed outside of the bank, with workers from Zain telecommunications, the oil industry, Khartoum power supply company, and employees from the Ministry of Finance:
At Khartoum Airport, there was a heavy RSF presence, but planes remained grounded. In Jebel Awlia in southern Khartoum, RSF members fired at the workers of El Bashayer fuel pumping station to force them to break the strike, seriously wounding two of them, who were taken to the emergency hospital in Jebel Awlia.
According to Radio Dabang, in El Gedaref too, the acting governor, the police chief and a number of military officials stormed the Savings Bank to force the staff to break their strike on its second day, but the bank's staff did not respond to the governor's threats and continued their strike.
Despite these acts of violence and intimidation (and many others), the movement did not give in. What we can see here is that, once the working class begins to move in organised manner, no force on earth can stop it. In the end, it is the working masses who create all of the wealth that the ruling class leeches off. This fact was clearly exposed during the general strike.
No negotiations with the old regime: all power to the people!
The strike was called by the Alliance for Freedom and Change, headed by the Sudanese Professional Association – an umbrella organisation of unions and professional organisations – in response to the TMC breaking up negotiations over the future governing bodies in the country.
According to reports, the TMC and AFC have negotiated a deal that would see a 300-seat parliament, along with a technocratic government that would stay in place for three years before new elections are called. The disputed part of the deal is that the AFC is calling for the TMC to step back from power, whereas the TMC is demanding to maintain the position of head of state.
According to official reports on Monday, Hemeti said that the TMC will not hand the entire government to the AFC, “which can become part of [the government] if it wants”. He said that, “We have been deceived by the slogans of the AFC and now they have confirmed the truth of their intentions (...) The AFC is not looking for partners but for symbolic participation.” He accused the AFC of seeking to change all state organs, including the RSF militia, and security and civil services.
Hemeti seems to be shocked at the fact that the AFC does not wish to see unelected and hated military officials from the old regime continue ruling the nation. Hemeti, Burhan and the rest of the TMC gang, regardless of their own internal disputes, are the henchmen of the old regime and ruled comfortably alongside Omar Bashir for decades. It is no secret that the revolution wants them out of power and the reactionary armed forces dismantled. Not only have they brutalised the Sudanese masses for years, but they continue to do it to this day, attacking strikers and pickets and protests on a daily basis. There can be no talk of a peaceful alliance between the revolution and these forces.
There is no need for the AFC to negotiate with these people. As Leon Trotsky once said, a general strike puts the question of power on the agenda. This week, we saw who really holds power in Sudan. By becoming the organised expression of the revolution, the AFC has become the strongest power in society, even within the old state apparatus. While hundreds of thousands of ministry workers adhered to the directives of the AFC, they completely ignored the threats of the “ruling body”, the TMC.
The mass of workers and peasants, without whom no wheel turns and no lightbulb shines, see the AFC as their main representative. In fact, the only reason why the TMC can still, formally remain in power, is because the AFC has not ejected it. The argument goes that, if the AFC did this, the armed forces would throw Sudan into chaos and civil war, but the fact is that the majority of the ranks of the army are loyal to the revolution and not the TMC. It is only Hemeti’s pitiful reactionary militiamen who can be trusted to attack the revolution, but they could not stop the fall of Bashir before, and they certainly cannot stop the revolution now.
Already, the strike and neighbourhood committees have more authority than the official institutions of the ruling class. The same goes for the SPA, which has far more authority than the government. There is no need for negotiations with the butchers of the old regime. All that needs to be done is to connect the committees on a regional and national level, calling for an open-ended general strike in order to take power immediately, without negotiating with the counter-revolution and without waiting several years for elections to be organised.
The revolutionary masses are fully capable of organising democratic elections for their own institutions and of running society. In fact, during the revolution, where power has de facto resided, at least partially in the streets, society has been far more orderly and smoothly run than during the rule of the previous, rotten regime. The general strike has shown that, in every factory, school, hospital and government institution, it is the workers who really run society, whereas the bosses and bureaucrats only leech, plunder and destroy. These people must be ejected from the main levers of power – the state and the commanding heights of the economy – by the working class.
Only by overthrowing capitalism and carrying out a socialist revolution can the main problems of the revolution be solved. That is, only by taking over state power and taking over the main levers of the economy themselves can the working class, and the poor and peasant masses transform and reorganise Sudanese society according to their own interests.
Unfortunately, the SPA has not put forward this perspective and has described itself as a non-political organisation. That is ironic, because leading a revolution is the most political of all actions. Thus, the most radical and consistent revolutionaries lack organisation and a revolutionary leadership. The key task of the hour, therefore, is to organise the best, most-farsighted and determined revolutionaries in a party that can lead the revolution to its logical conclusion.
The Sudanese masses have shown unmatched levels of power, determination and imagination, what is needed is to focus this power on the key tasks of the revolution: the complete overthrow of the old regime, along with all of its militias and the armed forces, and breaking its grip on the economy. There is no time to waste, the generals are only manoeuvring for time in order to strike back. They must be removed and thrown into the dustbin of history where they belong along, with the rest of their rotten class and the capitalist system.