General strike shakes Sudan

June 2019 Sudan 2

By STEVE XAVIER

“The strike is our revolutionary duty!”

Sudan’s government responded with violence after a two-day general strike, demanding a transition to civilian rule, rocked the country. As we go to press on June 3, reports stated that at least 36 were killed as army troops broke up a weeks-long sit-in in Khartoum. CNN reported on June 5 that the number of people who were killed exceeded 100.

Newspaper workers and bank employees observed the May 28-29 strike with 100 percent participation, despite threats to fire striking workers and military raids on press agencies on the first day of the action. In the second day, bus drivers struck. Red Sea ports were shut down as dockers refused to work. Professionals, government ministry, factory, telecommunications, and medical workers observed the strike. Power-plant employees also joined in. Domestic flights from Khartoum airport were cancelled after airline workers and the meteorological staff of the airport walked out.

Strike organizers deemed the strike an “unprecedented success,” with 80-100 percent taking part throughout all sectors of the economy. Participation was not limited to the capital city of Khartoum, with workers in Darfur, Blue Nile state, Red Sea ports, El Gezira, Sennar, North and South Kordofan, and Kassala walking out. According to a statement issued by the Sudanese Communist Party, four leaders of the dock workers strike were arrested.

Two demonstrators were killed by gunfire on the second day of the general strike, as paramilitary and official military forces tried  disperse crowds outside of the army headquarters and the defense ministry. The paramilitary organization, called the Rapid Support Force and headed by the vice president of the junta, is linked to genocide in Darfur.

According to sources, marches headed to the main sit-in in Khartoum at the end of the second day of the strike were fired on by security forces, wounding eight and with one killed. Transitional Military Council representatives promised a crackdown on “unruly elements” in response to demonstrations.

As Socialist Action reported in last month’s issue, the mass mobilization of Sudanese workers, youth, and women brought down two presidents in a short period of time. On April 11, the dictator, Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, was removed from office by the military after months of unrest. Al-Bashir had presided over a reactionary Islamist regime for 30 years.  Al-Bashir’s military-appointed replacement, General Awad Ibn Auf, lasted less than 48 hours as mass protests intensified. The military intends to preserve the state machinery that maintained al-Bashir in power for decades, while making cosmetic changes.

On May 21, talks between military and civilian opposition forces broke down over the nature of a previously agreed-upon three-year transition to civilian rule. The opposition insists on a civilian-led transition to democracy, while the military wants to maintain control over the state. At issue is whether civilians or the military will have majority control over a transitional “sovereign council.”

The opposition Sudanese Professional Association (SPA) issued a call for a general political strike, without initially setting date for such a strike. One opposition party, the Umma Party, opposed strike preparations. Islamist parties are backing a military-controlled transition, fearing a relaxation of sharia law.

A statement by the SPA made the stakes clear: “In order to achieve a full victory, we are calling for a huge participation in a general political strike, … the strike is our revolutionary duty and the participation in the sit-in … is a crucial guarantee to achieve the goals of the revolution.”

The Sudanese Doctors Associations in Ireland and the UK joined the strike call. stating that “Sudan people are united more than ever. We stand with the Sudanese Professionals Association call for all unions, civil societies and community leaders to sign ‘the attendance book’ in preparation for a general strike and political disobedience.

The mass struggle against the dictatorship, including the general strike, represents a political opening for the Sudanese working class and its allies to challenge austerity and privatization, and to build their own independent political instrument. In semi-colonial countries, bourgeois political forces can’t be relied upon to carry the struggle for democracy forward. Ties to foreign imperialist interests will push them to compromise the goals of the democratic revolution.

Of course, the imperialist powers fear the contagion of revolution above everything and will seek to find ways to resolve the situation in favor of capitalist rule. Western imperialism also fears the competition from Chinese and Russian imperialism for vital mineral and oil resources.

Only the working class, organized independently of bourgeois political forces, can be relied upon to complete the struggle for democracy. Such a struggle opens the possibility of overturning capitalism and fighting for the rule of workers and farmers in their own name. To accomplish this requires the building of a revolutionary party that can play the decisive role in resolving the mass explosion in favor of the oppressed and exploited. 

Photo: New Delhi Times