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Sudanese revolution: interview with Egyptian socialist

Police block student march on Nile Street in Khartoum

June 3, 2019

In late May, spoke with Ibrahim, an Egyptian socialist, about the events unfolding in Sudan. As this article was published on June 3rd, the Sudanese military launched a deadly assault on a peaceful sit-in in Khartoum, killing at least 30 and wounding an estimated 500 people. The Sudanese movement has called for an unlimited strike until the military regime falls. The revolution is in grave danger. In this interview, Ibrahim provides important background to the unfolding revolutionary crisis.

Looking at Sudan today, what about this situation is similar and different from the Egyptian revolution of 2011?

The most important thing in the Arab world today is the idea that revolution is dead. Now, no one can talk about this. Now, all people have seen revolution on TV in Algeria and Sudan and remember the Egyptian revolution. Answers to difficult questions come very easily now. What is the role of the military? They are the enemy of the people, they are not one hand with the people. In 2011, we chanted “Army and people: one hand!” Now in Sudan, “the Army is the enemy of people!”

What is the state of the left in Sudan?

The situation of the left in Sudan is much better than in Egypt. There is the Sudanese Communist Party, and we have an Egyptian Communist Party. While both are Stalinist, the Sudanese CP is a fighting party. They have strong contact with trade unions and with peasants in villages. When they held their first conference after the overthrow of Gaafar Nimeiry, they filled a stadium with tens of thousands of people! The Sudanese CP is in the heart of this revolution, because they exist in all middle-class trade unions like doctors or engineers, they have a lot of members in those unions. But now we are beginning to see some radical organizations, more radical than the Sudanese CP. Their strategy and tactics have been inspiring young people to sit in in front of the military headquarters [in Khartoum].

The Gulf States, the military, the Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood call this revolution a ‘communist revolution’. The situation in Sudan is different than Egypt – they learned from the Egyptian revolution. The Egyptian Revolution is very useful for them. In Sudan, Islamists are anti-revolution from the beginning and try to crush the general strike. Now it is very clear: revolution is left. If you want to make a social revolution, you have to go left.

How significant was the May 28-29 general strike? How does it compare to strikes during the Egyptian revolution?

In Egypt in 2011, we had great worker movements – especially in the beginning, from February 5th to 9th – over four days, we saw a lot of workers’ strikes. But we did not have a general strike in the form of a political strike. We saw workers come to Tahrir square, factory by factory, one by one. But a general strike like Sudan, we did not see this in 2011.

The Sudan general strike was very successful, we can say 80%. After the general strike, people are talking about taking power, “power to the people”. It is not only small groups or organizations on the left in Sudan talking about taking complete power from the military. Before the general strike, we heard this idea, but only whispered: “We need all the power”. After the general strike, where the military wants seven seats in the Sovereign Council and three for civilians, now civilians are talking about having all ten – “We don’t need any for the military, all of them belong to Bashir”.

We are now in a moment where we will see repression. The military shot and killed people May 30th, one of them a pregnant woman, and two young people in the sit-in. They threatened to crush the sit-in by force.

The question of Sudan does not belong only to the Sudanese people, it belongs to all the regimes in the Middle East, especially the Gulf States. The Sudanese military played a bloody role in the war in Yemen. The second in command, General Hemeti, was a leader of massacres in Darfur, and led Sudanese forces in Yemen. They have an alliance with Saudi Arabia and the United Emirates. These countries, and Egypt of course, their intelligence meets every day to consider the situation and how to face it day by day. So the Sudanese people don’t face only the Sudanese military. Counterrevolution is not just the military and capitalists in Sudan, but all the regimes.

When [Lieutenant General] Abdel Fattah al-Burhan visited Egypt, he saluted Al-Sisi – as if he was an officer in his army! This is a sign. This shows the role of Egyptian intelligence in what happens in Sudan now. I don’t know what will happen in the coming days. Sudan as a country is very poor. But we will see. People are always suprising us, especially in revolutions. We can’t predict what people will do in a revolution.

What role do young people play?

On May 29th, a youth march was blocked by police on Nile Street as they were trying to walk to the square. This is a very strategic street. The military killed people on this street because if the protesters occupy it, they occupy the capital. The protesters are now divided about this issue: do they stay and occupy, or go away from the street? It’s like a war. There is no media. They shut down the Al Jazeera office May 30th. The journalists for Reuters are Sudanese, and they are afraid. You can’t tell the truth. In Egypt they killed journalists, so they know the consequences.

In the general strike, workers in the electricity sector struck because the military arrested many in the sector. Workers threatened to cut electricity to the generals’ building. Can you imagine? The military released all of them. This shows what we are talking about, working class people’s power.

If the Egyptian revolution did only this, it is good. Because the people in the region learned about difficult questions. You remember the Russian revolution of 1917 – after February, the situation was very clear. Because the ordinary people know the answer of the question without any complicated debate. A sign of great revolutions is that answers to difficult questions come easily: who is an enemy, who is a friend. This is very easy. And you know, lies are not as useful as before in Sudan. So the military lied, and people say “We heard this before in Egypt”. Because the scenario, shot by shot, is the same. Some comrades in Sudan say “It’s like we watch the Egyptian revolution – every day, the same tactics. But we don’t have the answer”. So now, what will happen in Sudan, we don’t know. But until now, this is inspiring all people in the region.

Urgent appeal for international solidarity – call or email the Sudanese Embassy

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