The Alliance of Demand-Based Campaigns (TAM) has over 70 affiliates across Sudan ranging from workers’ organisations to campaigns for environment justice and refugee rights. Middle East Solidarity magazine spoke to Khalid Taha of TAM about the role of strikes and protests in the revolution. Make a donation for a digital copy here
Sudan has witnessed an important wave of strikes in different sectors over the past months. Some have been organised by workers’ committees and not unions, why?
The recent strikes by workers in different sectors and services have indeed been mainly organised and prepared by committees formed on a temporary basis, or for the purpose of mobilising over specific demands, rather than trade unions.
This is not only due to the absence of unions in some sectors where workers are raising demands or organising strikes and protests, but also because the trade union work has been suspended by the authorities since the military coup on October 25, 2021.
Even before that date unions were not being led effectively by executive bodies elected by the rank-and-file or arising from it. There were union “steering committees” pushed by the authorities (which was the civilian government at the time), but regardless of the scale and type of this drive from above, these committees represented a blatant interference in workers and wage earners’ choices of their representatives in any kind of public action.
How are workers organised in these sectors without a trade union structure? For example, do workers meet to discuss their demands?
Each sector has specific ways and means to choose its representatives, especially in trade union affairs. These include holding meetings and direct voting, taking into account factors such as the history of trade union struggles in that sector, workers’ organisational coherence and their experience in general.
Of course, talking about the absence of a trade union structure does not mean that it did not exist at all. There are cases where the battle is to build stronger and more effective organisation, and efforts are focused towards correcting and restoring trade unions.
What is the state’s position towards the demand-based campaigns?
If we talk about “the position of the authorities” towards anything, it has to be understood that these “authorities” seized power from the people by force of arms.
Given the absence of constitutional mechanisms, the activity of the repressive machine, and the attempts of the coup authorities to impose a fait accompli by various means, we cannot talk about a “position of the state”, as there is no “state” as such. Rather, there is a brutal regime confronting a peaceful resistance movement, which is seeking to restore normality and establish the foundations of a democratic civil state.
Are the demands only related to material problems or are there political demands as well?
These campaigns generally do raise demands for political reasons, because they are the result of wrong policies and unfair treatment. Some of the causes are chronic and go back to the beginning of the period after colonialism. The most important and fundamental aspects of the demands are related to political issues, building the institutions of the state, and programmes for economic development, services and human rights. Demands of a direct material nature thus have constitutional and human rights dimensions and cannot be reduced to questions of finance or temporary solutions.
To what extent is there coordination between the demand-based campaigns and the other revolutionary forces, such as the Resistance Committees, trade unions and civil organisations?
The demand-based campaigns are part of various civil society groups. They work within and with them, engaging in coordination, participation and networking.
What is the future outlook for the demand-based campaigns in the event that a purely civilian government comes to power?
The Alliance of Demand-Based Campaigns and our affiliated bodies are generally not interested in participation or access to power. We are not concerned who is to govern Sudan, but expect a fair answer to the question: how is Sudan to be governed? Any future authority must be civilian, democratic, and guarantor of the rights of all. In that sense a civilian authority by itself is not enough: we will certainly not accept a military or civilian dictatorship or even a mix of the two. Our criteria relate to the form and content of the system of government and not its name, and of course we will not be satisfied with the repetition of experiences which failed in the past.
What is the role of international organisations and forces in the Sudanese revolution?
The African Union has been fire-fighting internal issues in Sudan and providing temporary solutions, but as a body it does not know anything about democracy as most of its members are from the military. The international community, if it is serious, should listen to the voice of the revolutionary forces, but they want to support only those who share their interests and the interests of the World Bank.
The Sudanese revolution is still standing firm against both Western and Eastern camps, despite them spying on the revolutionaries, shutting down websites, flooding the media with disinformation and supporting the looting of Sudan by militias which are fomenting internal conflicts. The Sudanese revolution is at war with both the Western and Eastern powers.