As the grassroots protests against the despotic regime of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al Bashir continue, the Sudanese Communist Party is calling for unity behind a program of removing the government to replace it with a democratic and secularist regime that works for the wellbeing of the working class and masses, and for national unity.
Al Bashir, who took power in 1989 through a military coup and declared his government to be Islamic, attempted to subdue the mostly non-Muslim southern part of the country by brutal force. The result was a bloody civil war and the achievement of independence of the Southern region in 2011, with the creation of the new Republic of South Sudan. The Sudanese Communist Party (SCP), with members and activists in both countries, had agitated for a solution to the conflict through a return to democracy and the end of efforts to repress and Islamize the South. It did not support the breakup of the country.
After the secession of South Sudan, Sudan found itself in a dilemma because more than two thirds of the country’s most important asset, its oil reserves, ended up in South Sudan. Friction over how much Sudan could charge South Sudan to transship oil through a long pipeline that takes the product through Sudan to Port Sudan on the Red Sea led to armed conflict earlier this year.
Moreover, the agreement to let South Sudan go its own way has not left either country conflict-free. Rebel forces remain North of the South Sudan-Sudan border, in the oil-rich Abyei region of South Kordofan and in Blue Nile Province. There is also a long-running armed conflict in the huge Darfur area in the West.
All this has put Al Bashir’s government and the Sudanese economy under strain. In the spring, the government decided to increase oil and food prices, claiming that it was necessary to sharply reduce government subsidies because of the loss of oil revenues. Many, including the SCP, do not buy that, and instead point to corruption, pressure from international creditors and especially a bloated military and police budget caused by al Bashir’s repressive policies as being the real cause.
The increased prices led to demonstrations, which spread to all major cities in the Sudan. Al Bashir’s regime used brutal repression to try to stop the protests, resulting in the deaths of hundreds, the wounding of many others, and the jailing of opposition leaders including a number of communists. The opposition press was muzzled, including the SCP’s daily newspaper, Al Midan.
An important sector of the organized opposition to Al Bashir is grouped in the National Consensus Forces (NCF), formed in 2010, in which the SCP participates. In the NCF also are two groups headed by venerable Islamic politicians: Hassan Al-Turabi’s Popular Congress Party (PCP), and Sadiq al Mahdi’s National Umma Party (NUP). In addition, there are unions, student groups and civil rights organizations. The protests brought into the street many people without party or other organizational affiliation. In 2012, these and others signed the Democratic Alternative Charter (DAC), which requires them to work together to oust the Al Bashir government and replace it with a unified democratic and secular regime.
The government is feeling its hold slipping. A number of key ruling National Congress Party figures and retired military officers have broken with precedent by calling for policy changes, including a roll back of the food and fuel price increases and an end to repression. There is also dissention within the Consensus Forces. The National Umma Party, as well as the Democratic Unionist Party (which is not in the National Consensus Forces but signed the DAC) are showing signs of wanting to break away from the untied position and toward some sort of negotiated compromise.
The SCP has criticized the latter moves. In a party meeting on November 8, it characterized the Al Bashir regime as “an expression of the parasitic Islamic capitalists” whose policies have led to the splitting of the country, massive repression and an economic disaster. The SCP also denounced chronic corruption, and the privatization of key national enterprises and services. “Because of the inability of [the] parasitic class to change its self-interest[ed] policies, and unwillingness to relinquish its monopoly over power, they have formed allegiances with the petro dollar regimes in the Arab and Islamic countries…” The Al Bashir regime has played the role of imperialist agent in the interventions in Libya and Syria, and has become subordinate to the dictates of the International Monetary Fund.
Therefore the SCP is opposed to temporizing with the regime or its dissident elements, and calls for maximum unity in pressing for it to be removed from power. This will be done by the establishment of “a broad front” uniting all aspects and goals of the struggle. Mass demonstrations and political general strikes should be supported.
Photo: Workers at the inauguration of an oil facility in South Kordofan, Sudan, Dec. 20, 2012. Abd Raouf/AP