Across Sudan activists are mobilising to support a call by the Resistance Committees (bodies based in local neighbourhoods which coordinate and mobilise for protests and build the popular revolutionary movement) for a general strike on 24 August. The strike aims to bring down the ruling military regime, led by generals who threw civilian politicians out of office in October 2021, bringing to an end to a period of cooperation between Sudan’s military and representatives of opposition parties who entered government following the popular uprising against dictator Omar El Bashir in 2019.
The coup leaders have faced months of mass protests, civil disobedience and strikes in some sectors. They have failed to crush the popular movement and the Resistance Committees have continued to mobilise regular demonstrations, preventing the generals from establishing a stable government. Their refusal to negotiate with the generals, grant them legitimacy or participate in government is supported by millions of people. They have also developed initiatives proposing reform of the existing state institutions, such as the Charter for the Establishment of the People’s Authority and the Revolutionary Charter for People’s Power through a process of democratic discussion in neighbourhoods and with grassroots organisations.
Meanwhile, the economic situation has massively worsened for ordinary people, with prices spiralling, leaving millions scrambling to afford basic goods, electricity and cooking gas bills and transport costs. In parallel with the revolutionary mobilisations in the streets against the generals, there have also been big strikes in some sectors over wages and conditions. Teachers across Sudan went on strike and boycotted exam marking in the spring this year, succeeding in forcing some concessions over pay and conditions. There were also strikes by civil servants and bank workers. After years when the trade unions were just arms of the ruling party, new unions are being built from below.
Following their gains in the strike, activists from the Sudanese Teachers’ Committee (STC) are organising mass meetings across Sudan to create a democratically elected leadership for a new teachers’ union, with a mass base among teachers at primary and secondary level.
The challenge for activists in the Resistance Committees and workplace organisers is how to link the anger over the cost of living and working conditions to questions about the nature of the state and the role of the generals within it so as to bring the economic and political wings of the revolutionary mobilisation together. In the education sector, the connections are clear to see: the military regime has hit back after being forced into concessions by the successful mass teachers’ strike by victimising STC activists and is now trying to reactivate the old regime-supporting teachers’ union with the backing of Hemedti, current Vice-President and leader of the brutal Rapid Support Forces militia. The regime’s plan is to take back full administrative control of education and stop teachers organising independently of the state.
In response STC activists have launched an appeal for teachers and activists from the revolutionary movement to work together to counter Hemedti’s plan, and take control of the education sector. In Khartoum state, STC committees are contacting the Resistance Committees to coordinate a campaign to defend education and the right to organise.
The health sector also has strong independent union organisation through the doctors’ and pharmacists’ unions which have played a key role in the revolution. However the regime has been successful in sacking many revolutionary activists in other key sectors such as civil aviation, the electricity sector and banking since the October 2021 coup. There is also the question of how to link across generations of activists – most of the leaders of the Resistance Committees are young people, students and recent graduates who are not embedded in workplaces.
Sudanese activists continue to call for solidarity from the international trade union movement. They are also mobilising solidarity for workers in struggle elsewhere. The organisers of a sit-in against the gold mining companies in River Nile State sent the following message to British trade unionists on 17 August. The Alliance of Demand-based Bodies (TAM), a coalition of more than 70 grassroots campaigns for environmental justice, workers’ and refugee rights said:
“We commend the struggles of the British trade unions and support your demands. We want to build a movement without borders to raise the demands of ordinary people. The impoverishment of the majority for the benefit of a rich minority is clearly unjust. Big corporations are the source of great misery. Strikes and protests are a human right. Access to life-saving medicines is part of the right to life. Lives before profits. Laying off workers is a crime against society. We stand in solidarity with those who stand in solidarity with us. Rights do not stop at any border. Together towards the eradication of colonialism and exploitation.”The Alliance of Demand-based Bodies (TAM) and protesters at the Al-Obeidiya sit-in, River Nile State
The Al-Obeidiya sit-in has mobilised hundreds of mineworkers and local people to demand basic services and an end to the pollution caused by the gold minining corporations which plunder the region’s natural resources in alliance with corrupt and brutal militia leaders such as Hemedti (Mohamed Dagalo) who commands the Rapid Support Forces militia.
The RSF is responsible for numerous massacres yet Western governments constantly put pressure on the revolutionary forces to compromise over their demands for complete democratic civilian rule and include militia and military figures in government. They continue to work with Hemedti, who is currently vice-president of Sudan, as well as General Abdelfattah al-Burhan who leads the junta. The coup leaders are also supported by regional powers such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Israel which are all armed and backed by the US, Britain and European governments.
STRIKE SOLIDARITY TOOLKIT
- Send a message of solidarity for the general strike email firstname.lastname@example.org or message us on Facebook. We will collect the messages and pass them on https://www.facebook.com/MenaSolidarityNetwork/ – You can also message TAM directly at https://www.facebook.com/TAMSudan
- Sign our statement condemning repression in Sudan https://menasolidaritynetwork.com/sudan30june/ (download a copy of the statement for use on picketlines and protests)
- Take a solidarity photo to send a message from picket lines and strike rallies – download a poster here
- Download and print a copy of this Sudan Update with striking workers