The number of casualties at the hands of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia in Sudan, after they clamped down on the protests last week, has reached 113. But if the people at the top who ordered this butchery thought it would quell the revolt of the Sudanese people, they clearly miscalculated.
The counter-revolution has been manoeuvring to try and create a situation of apparent breakdown in social order, using criminal gangs pretending to be revolutionaries. This is a means of provoking open conflicts in which the RSF could step in and claim to be restoring law and order. But these manoeuvres have also failed, as the people can see straight through them for what they are. They are not falling for the provocations, but instead have been stepping up the movement.
In a statement issued on Friday, the SPA (Sudanese Professional Association) alerted the Sudanese public to these dirty tactics being used by the TMC in its desperate attempt to cause the general strike and the civil disobedience to fail, and called for mass civil disobedience and a further general strike.
Regime’s internal divisions
Faced with this mass reaction, the regime is revealing its internal divisions. These were already present and they were the classic divisions present in all revolutions. One wing of the ruling class tends towards greater repression, as it views giving concessions as merely strengthening the resolve of the revolution. The other wing highlights the fact that to increase repression when a revolution is on the rise merely serves to harden its resolve. The point is: they are both right and both wrong at the same time. Whatever they do, the revolution is on the rise.
It seems, however, that the hard-line wing may have moved too early. Their brutal repression has even had effects within the ranks of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), sections of which were disgusted by what they witnessed being carried out by the RSF. Many rank-and-file soldiers, but also officers, were saying they were not represented by the TMC regime. There are even reports coming out of SAF forces intervening to protect protestors from the militiamen.
Such events will be a warning to the men at the top of the TMC (Transitional Military Council) presently in power, in effect the old regime minus al-Bashir. Let us not forget that the TMC has at its disposal some brutal military forces. The RSF under the command of General Mohamed Dagalo (“Hemeti”) was forged out of the infamous Janjaweed militias who carried out mass killings in Darfur. There is no limit to the brutality these forces are prepared to unleash on the Sudanese people. The only thing that can stop them is a mass mobilisation that wins over the rank-and-file soldiers in the process. There are also the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) that carry out similar atrocities to the RSF, and other reactionary militia groups linked to the old National Congress Party.
If the regime pushes the situation too far with the use of these forces, however, they could provoke a reaction of those layers within the ranks of the army who sympathise with the revolution. This confirms what we have said in a previous article. Had the leadership of the revolution issued a call to bring down the TMC immediately via an all-out general strike, with appeals to the ranks of the army, these would have come over and the revolution would have been armed. But no such call has been issued.
On the contrary, to this day, in spite of the brutality of the regime, the leaders of the opposition continue to issue calls for peaceful protest! Therefore, the instinctive solidarity of the rank-and-file soldiers remains as potential, but is not transformed into active support for the revolution. For soldiers to break ranks and turn against the state, they need to be sure that the revolution is prepared to go all the way. Unless that happens, the regime will do its best to keep them in their barracks, thus maintaining the balance of physical force in favour of the RSF and the other counter-revolutionary security forces.
General strike prepared
On Friday, after prayers, people coming out of different mosques around the country organised big demonstrations. In some cases, the mosques where pro-regime speeches had been made were boycotted. The people were calling for the overthrow of the ruling junta and among their slogans was the call for another general strike.
A general strike was then prepared for yesterday, Sunday 9 June, and is now ongoing. The Alliance for Freedom and Change (AFC) [also referred to as the FFC, Forces for Freedom and Change] of which the Sudanese Professionals’ Association is a key component, together with trade union organisations, called on people to stay away from work, bringing the capital and all main cities and ports in the country to a standstill, involving millions of people. The SPA has posted photos that reveal that Khartoum international airport has been totally paralysed. The same has happened at the Central Bank, where many of the staff have stayed away from work.
— Thomas van Linge (@ThomasVLinge) June 9, 2019
Reports indicate that bank workers, doctors, airport workers, pilots, electrical engineers and other sectors have been on the receiving end of the security forces’ attempts to break the strike. Hundreds of workers and protestors have been arrested. The BBC has published reports of security forces using tear-gas and live ammunition to break up demonstrations and disperse protesters setting up barricades in Khartoum. In spite of this, the strike seems to be holding. The TMC, on the other hand, is hoping the general strike will not last long. Whether their hopes will be met, we will see in the coming days.
For now, reports from around the country indicate that the movement is on the rise again. In Ed Damazin, in the Blue Nile state, the local resistance committees are blocking roads despite the militias attempting to stop them. In El Gadaref, similar preparations have been underway. The AFC in El Obeid in North Kordofan has held mass rallies, with a large response from the local resistance committees, and widespread participation in the strike. Port Sudan Airport is also on strike, as are also the port workers. The railway workers’ union in Atbara has also organised a strike.
Attempts at mediation
The Ethiopian prime minister, Abiy Ahmed – no doubt expressing the concerns of his imperialist masters – rushed to Khartoum on Friday in an attempt to calm the situation down. He met with two opposition leaders, with the aim of getting them to resume negotiations with the TMC, something easier said than done in the present conditions, when the masses are calling for the downfall of the regime. Abiy’s role is to mediate between the opposition and the regime, but is finding it difficult when the two opposition leaders were promptly arrested by the regime after they had met with the Ethiopian premier.
Faced with such a widespread mass reaction, sections within the regime itself, however, may be thinking that they might have to temporarily retreat and return to the strategy of playing for time. So-called “international observers” (i.e. US and European imperialism), the Egyptian and Saudi regimes and other interested parties in the region have also been putting pressure on the TMC to back off and return to the negotiating table. China also has a stake in the country, being one of the major trading partners of Sudan, holding for a 40 percent share in the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company for instance, and also selling Sudan small weapons, which have been used in the various internal conflicts in the recent period. The Chinese regime will undoubtedly be intervening behind the scenes to stabilise the country.
Resilience of the revolution
The revolution is proving to be far more resilient than the men of the old regime had imagined, however. This is because they do not understand what is driving the revolution. Official unemployment stands at around 20 percent; over 45 percent of the population lives below the poverty line; inflation stands at over 30 percent; public debt is more than 120 percent of GDP; external debt stands at over US$60bn; a third of Sudanese children are considered underweight. There are chronic shortages of bread, petrol, diesel and cash. The collapse of the local currency in the recent period, with the Sudanese pound dropping from 26 to almost 100 to the USD in one year alone, in effect wiped out the middle class, not to speak of the devastating effects on the poor masses, both urban and rural. On top of this, we have to add years of corruption, mismanagement and sanctions on the economy imposed by imperialism.
All this eventually left the people of Sudan with nothing – and so, nothing to lose – and they took to the streets, demanding an end to the old regime. This is an element that no amount of manoeuvring by the TMC can magic away.
— Thomas van Linge (@ThomasVLinge) June 9, 2019
Thus, although they have come out with brutal violence, they have not finished off the revolution. Last week’s vicious clampdown may have temporarily emptied the streets, but it has proven to be a pyrrhic victory.
So where do we go from here? The counter-revolution may have to change tactics. Some of the men of the old regime may have to be removed if they wish to restore a “dialogue” with the opposition. They could do this by blaming “extreme elements” within the RSF – who have done the dirty work for them – and give the military a greater role in the process. This could involve heaping all the blame on RSF leader, Hemeti.
Then they could adopt the Egyptian model, which was to first use the Muslim Brotherhood to cut across the revolution before power could be placed back firmly in the hands of the military. There is such an organisation in Sudan, the National Umma Party, which is part of the opposition, but in reality is the Trojan horse of the regime within the opposition movement. It is a Muslim Brotherhood type of loyal opposition, which was semi-legal before.
Here is a statement of the Ummah Party leader that they tweeted yesterday:
“1) The continual exchange of escalations between the Opposition Alliance (Freedom & Change Announcement) + TMC will harm the country.
“2) There is still a chance for a peaceful way out; especially with Abiye Ahmed’s involvement & the suspension of Sudan from the African Union.
“3) There is a strong need for a recognised international body to investigate the violent circumstances & crimes.
“4) It’s not right to continue a civil disobedience without a timeframe.”
These people are still a part of the opposition. The role of such organisations is to pretend to be with the revolution, while constantly holding it back. The problem is that the SPA, in spite of its radicalism, refuses to break with them, even though they sabotage the movement at all stages.
The truth is that parties like the Ummah Party will exploit the fact that they were a kind of semi-opposition to the regime in the past – in reality tolerated by the regime, as the Muslim Brotherhood was in Egypt – to step in when and if elections are held, in an attempt to fill the vacuum. Whether they will achieve this is another matter, but that is their aim. Even if they did not win an outright majority, they could emerge as a sufficiently large force to hold back any radical elements that could emerge.
Let us not forget that Sudan is still a very underdeveloped country, with only 34 percent of the total population living in urban areas, with the remaining 66 percent in the rural areas. In such conditions, unless the revolution resolutely moves forward, the initiative can pass to more reactionary forces, who would dress in the clothes of the revolution in order to derail it. This is what happened in Egypt.
Counter-revolution biding its time
Thus, the counter-revolution could be forced to bide its time, put to one side some of the uglier and more-exposed elements from within its ranks, and present its more “reasonable” figures. This would be a counter-revolution in “democratic clothing”. If this were allowed to take place, the country would end up with some form of government, coalition or otherwise, made up of forces that would preserve the essence of the old regime, the private property of the means of production, of the land, etc., which would not solve any of the pressing problems the masses want addressed.
If this doesn’t work, then they can always play the ethnic card. The 43 million population is 70 percent Sudanese Arab, with the remaining 30 percent being Arabized ethnic groups of Beja, Copts, Nubians and other peoples. There are also close to 600 tribes in Sudan who speak more than 400 dialects and languages. And although 97 percent of the population adheres to Islam, the vast majority of which are Sunni, these are divided among different forms of Sufism. There is also a small Shia minority, mainly in Khartoum. Such divisions can be exploited, as they were in Syria and Libya, to split the people and push the country towards barbarism.
This is not the immediate perspective, but the warnings are there. If the revolution is derailed, the RSF would have no scruples in unleashing the bloodiest of civil wars if this served the purpose of keeping in power the privileged elite of Sudan.
To avoid such possible future scenarios, the revolution must move forward. Last week it received a serious warning of what could happen in the future. The counter-revolution reared its ugly head. The masses, recognising what it represents, have reacted courageously. But courage alone is not enough. The masses want an end to corruption, to privilege, to the unjust distribution of wealth, to poverty and unemployment. None of this can be ended if capitalism survives in Sudan. The country will remain subject to imperialist domination and its wealth will be sucked out, vampire-like.
The opposition should first break with the false friends who are simply waiting to stab it in the back when the moment is right. Then they should build on the general strike, bring together all the resistance committees under one body with elected delegated from all the workplaces and neighbourhoods, extending these committees to the ranks of the army, winning over the soldiers, and they should then declare themselves as the government of the country and take power. By doing so, they would offer the masses a concrete way out of the present impasse. It is either this or the slow death of the revolution. The executioners are waiting. The Sudanese masses must not let them get the upper hand.