The Sudanese Communist Movement
The Sudanese Communist Movement
- Yoshiko KuritaYoshiko KuritaDepartment of History, Chiba University
Throughout the political history of Sudan, the presence of the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP, established in 1946) has been quite conspicuous. Often referred to (rather exaggeratedly) as one of the strongest communist parties in the Middle East and Africa, it has undoubtedly played a significant role in Sudanese society, struggling for both the expansion of civil and political rights of the ordinary masses and the achievement of social justice.
The significance of the communist movement in Sudan might be better understood when located within the context of the history of the national liberation movement in Sudan. As its original name, the Sudanese Movement for National Liberation (SMNL) suggests, the communist party started initially as a movement by a group of Sudanese students and youth, who aspired to the liberation of their country from British colonial rule (to which Sudan had been subjected since 1899) but were disappointed with the attitude of the traditional political elites and, guided by Marxist ideology, came to realize the importance of the social dimension of national liberation. Subsequently, the party succeeded in expanding its social basis among the working masses, notably the railway workers and the peasants working for large-scale cotton schemes.
After the independence of Sudan (1956), while the ruling elites who came to power (tribal and religious leaders, big merchants, elite officials, and so on) were not interested in changing the essentially colonial nature of the Sudanese state they inherited from the British (such as the unbalanced development and the oppressive nature of the state apparatus), the Sudanese Communist Party called for making radical changes in the economic and political structure of the country, advocating a “national and democratic program.” This aimed at the de-colonization of the economic structure, democratization of the state apparatus, and the expansion of civil and political rights. It also called for a democratic solution for the question of economically and politically marginalized peoples and regions inside Sudan, such as the South.
One of the most remarkable achievements of the SCP was its role in the struggle against military dictatorships, which came to dominate the Sudanese political scene only a few years after independence. When, in order to contain the growing strength of the working masses, the traditional elites involved the army in politics (1958) and the ‘Abbud military regime came to power, the SCP played a significant role in organizing popular struggle and paved the way for the 1964 “October Revolution,” which put an end to the dictatorship. Again, the SCP played a significant role in the struggle against the Numeiry regime (a military dictatorship that took a quasi-leftist posture when it came to power in 1969 but eventually revealed its reactionary character) and contributed to the success of the 1985 intifada (popular uprising), which toppled the dictatorship. Finally, when another coup d’état took place in 1989 and ‘Umar Bashir and the other army officers affiliated with the National Islamic Front came to power, the SCP played a key role in the establishment of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), a broad umbrella organization that included not only the political parties in the North but also political forces representing the interests of marginalized areas, such as the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). The SCP contributed to the crystallization of the program of the NDA, which agreed on important principles concerning the future of Sudan, such as democracy, a balanced economy, the separation of religion and politics, and the right to self-determination for the South.
Developments since the conclusion of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (2005) between the Bashir regime and the SPLM have been presenting new challenges to the SCP. As a result of the independence of the South (2011), the party members in the South established a new party, the Communist Party of South Sudan. In the North, the dictatorial regime still persists, and suppression of the working masses and marginalized areas (such as Dar Fur) intensifies. Changes in the international and global milieu, such as the failure of Soviet-type socialism and the fragmentation of the working class as a result of the onslaught of neoliberalism, have also had their repercussions, and the Sudanese communists in the early decades of the 21st century are obviously experiencing a time of ordeal, politically, socially, and intellectually.
In assessing the role of the communist movement in Sudan, social and cultural aspects should not be overlooked. Being a movement basically aimed at the democratization of Sudanese society, it has inspired the movements by hitherto-neglected social groups such as women, youth, and people from marginalized regions. Culturally also, it has been a source of inspiration for many artists and musicians, such as the singer Muhammad Wardi and the poet Mahjub Sharif.
- Northeastern Africa
- Political History
The experiences of the communist movement in Sudan constitute part of the anti-colonial struggle of the Sudanese people, who have been, since the late 19th century, resisting foreign rule and fighting for national liberation in various forms, such as the Mahdist movement (1881–1898) and the 1924 Revolution. Established in 1946, the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP) began its activities as the “Sudanese Movement for National Liberation.” After the independence of Sudan in 1956, the SCP has been in the vanguard of struggle for overcoming the essentially colonial nature of the newly independent Sudanese state (both in political and economic spheres), calling for democratization, balanced development, and national unity. Constituting an indispensable part of democratic movement in Sudan, the SCP has been influential, not only among the workers and peasants but also among such social forces as students, intellectuals, youth, and women. Its ideas and activities have also inspired movements in marginalized areas, such as the South and the Nuba Mountains.
Colonialism and a series of anti-colonial popular struggles have been essential factors that characterize modern Sudanese history. Since its conquest by the armies of Muhammad ‘Ali in 1820–1821, Sudan was subject to Egyptian rule for sixty years. The prototype of the modern “Sudanese state” itself emerged during this period, with areas and peoples of different historical and cultural backgrounds being conquered and violently unified in the course of colonial rule. From the latter half of the 1870s onward, Egypt itself became increasingly subject to financial and political colonial pressure from European powers and was eventually occupied by the British in 1882. Under these circumstances, the Sudanese people who rose up in their first large-scale anti-colonial struggle, the Mahdist movement (1881–1898), were compelled not only to fight against Egyptian rule but also to enter a direct confrontation with British imperialism itself.1
After the overthrow of the Mahdist state by the British in 1898, Sudan was placed under an Anglo-Egyptian “Condominium” (which, in effect, amounted to British rule, since Egypt itself was under British occupation). In 1924, however, a serious challenge against British colonial rule took place: the 1924 Revolution. While the guiding concept of the Mahdist movement had been that of the mahdi (a messianic idea in Islam), and the movement was carried out using religious vocabulary, the 1924 Revolution was the first Sudanese political movement in the course of which the concept of “nationalism” was consciously adopted. It was also characterized by the leading role played by modern social forces in the movement, such as government employees and army officers, among others, who had received modern education and constituted the lowest stratum of the colonial administration. Most conspicuously, it was a revolution in the course of which the Sudanese people attempted to achieve national liberation, this time in cooperation with the Egyptian people. Thus the White Flag League, a political organization that led the 1924 Revolution, advocated the cause of “Sudanese nationalism” and that of the “unity of the Nile Valley” (i.e., an alliance between Egypt and Sudan) at the same time.2
However, the 1924 Revolution was eventually suppressed by the British, and in the subsequent two decades Sudan entered an era of political regression. In order to contain the progressive trend in Sudanese society that was witnessed in 1924, the British did their best to enhance the strength of tribal leaders, big merchants, and senior government officials: that is, social forces who constituted the pillar of colonial administration in Sudan and consequently found vested interests in the continuation of colonial rule. It was also observed that, in the course of this process, two specific religious families began to serve as rallying points for these social forces: the House of Mahdi, that is, the descendants of the 19th-century Sudanese Mahdi; and the House of Mirghani, or the chief of the Khatmiyya order, the largest Sufi sect in Sudan. This marked the beginning of “sectarian politics” (ta’ifiyya) in Sudan. Consequently, when Sudanese intellectuals resumed their political activities in the late 1930s (for example, the “Graduates’ Congress,” an organization for the graduates of the higher educational institutions such as Gordon College, was inaugurated in 1938) and subsequently proceeded to establish political parties in the early 1940s, it was natural that they were eventually compelled to enter an entente with these conservative social forces, increasingly succumbing to the logic of sectarian politics in that process. The main political parties were ultimately polarized between the two axes, the House of Mahdi (which patronized and virtually led the Umma Party) and the House of Mirghani (which exercised its influence over the so-called “unionist” parties such as the National Unionist Party), who rivaled each other but represented the interests of more or less the same social forces.3
It was under these circumstances that Sudanese communist movement was born.
The Establishment and the Early Days of the Sudanese Communist Party
The Sudanese Movement for National Liberation (SMNL, later the Sudanese Communist Party, SCP) was established in August 1946 in Khartoum.4 It was started by a group of young Sudanese intellectuals and students, who were deeply committed to the cause of national liberation but were disappointed with the existing political leadership and were looking for a new type of political vision for combating colonialism. As is revealed in the reflections by ‘Abd al-Khaliq Mahjub, later secretary-general of the SCP, Marxist ideology expressing the interests of the ordinary masses as opposed to those of the ruling elite and stressing the role of the former in bringing about changes appeared an attractive alternative in this context.5 Marxism was attractive for young Sudanese intellectuals also because it provided them with a theoretical basis for criticizing colonialism in a scientific and comprehensive manner, while, until then, they had been entrapped within the logic of a cultural dichotomy between “Western civilization” and “Arab civilization.”6
As for the channels through which Marxism reached the Sudanese youth, the most important one was Egypt.7 At that moment, just after the end of World War II, Egypt was entering a new stage in its national liberation struggle. Now that the international battle between the fascist countries and the “democratic” countries (including Britain) had been finalized in favor of the latter, the popular struggle aimed to end British occupation was resumed in Egypt, demanding the cancellation of both the 1899 British-Egyptian treaty and the 1936 defense treaty between the two countries. Large-scale demonstrations by workers, students, and women took place, and, in the course of this nationwide struggle, Marxist organizations such as the Egyptian Movement for National Liberation (EMNL) and Iskra played a significant role.8 It was this upsurge of the Egyptian communist movement that inspired the Sudanese youth. In those days, many Sudanese students, after spending some time at the Gordon Memorial College (which provided them with high-school level education), used to proceed to Egypt to continue their studies at Egyptian universities, such as the King Fu’ad I College (i.e., Cairo University today). Most of the early members of the SCP, such as ‘Abd al-Khaliq Mahjub, ‘Izz al-Din ‘Amir, and al-Tijani al-Tayyib, encountered communism in this way during their stay in Egypt.9 It is noteworthy that the Egyptian communist movement, on its part, was quite conscious about the importance of cooperation with the Sudanese people in the struggle against their common enemy—British colonialism. Thus the Egyptian Movement for National Liberation had, in the latter half of 1945, come to adopt the slogan “the joint struggle” (al-kifah al-mushtarak) between the Egyptian people and the Sudanese people. The essential idea was cooperation and solidarity between the two peoples on an equal basis (not unification under the “Egyptian crown”), acknowledging the right to self-determination of the Sudanese nation.10 This principle, which might be located within the context of the history of revolutionary solidarity in the “Nile Valley” since the days of the 1924 Revolution, enabled the progressive forces in both Egypt and Sudan to work together.11
In this way, a group of Sudanese youth encountered Marxism in Egypt and, after initially joining the Egyptian communist organizations (either the EMNL or Iskra), proceeded to establish their own organization in Sudan, the SMNL, as well. (There seems to have been a “transitory period,” so to speak, in which they used to work both as members of Egyptian communist organizations and of the SMNL. Eventually communist organizations were united in Egypt itself, when the Democratic Movement for National Liberation, the present Egyptian Communist Party, was established, as a result of the merger between the EMNL and Iskra.)
Although started by a handful of young intellectuals and students, the SMNL, guided by its Marxist ideology, endeavored to expand its basis among the working masses in Sudan. In 1947, the SMNL succeeded in establishing contact with railway workers, supporting their struggles for the right to form a labor union. In the course of a historic strike that took place in July that year in Atbara, a railway town in northern Sudan, which continued for eleven days and eventually led to the achievement of the right to form a union, members of the SMNL such as Qasim Amin Muhammad and Shafi‘ Ahmad al-Shaykh played a significant role.12 (Shafi‘ Ahmad was later elected the president of the Sudanese Federation of Labor Unions, on its establishment in 1950.) The SMNL also encouraged the movement of peasants working as “tenants” for the Gezira Scheme, a large-scale state-owned cotton plantation established by the British colonial administration. By 1953, the SMNL was playing a significant role in the tenants’ movement.13
Being a movement of essentially democratic orientation and seeking to overcome various forms of social and political oppression produced in Sudan in the course of colonial rule, the SMNL succeeded in receiving in its ranks both women and southerners. Among the early female members of the party are such names as Khalida Zahir Surur al-Sadati (the first Sudanese woman to be become a medical doctor) and Fatima Ahmad Ibrahim.14 Southerners such as Joseph Garang also joined the party in its early stages.15 In order to address its audience in the South, the SCP started to publish, alongside its Arabic organ al-Midan, an English organ, Advance, as well.
At the level of Sudanese party politics, the first major political campaign the SMNL launched was the struggle against the “Legislative Assembly” plan in 1948. A gesture of sham democratization on the part of the colonial administration, this plan involved introducing an “assembly” of only advisory nature, with no substantial powers. The SMNL called for boycotting the elections for the Legislative Assembly, gaining in that process the sympathy and support of the ordinary masses. In the end, the assembly was boycotted by the majority of the Sudanese people, the conservative Umma Party being almost the only major political force taking part in the elections.
Sudanese Politics after Independence: The SCP’s National Democratic Program and the Advent of the ‘Abbud Regime
As a result of the upsurge of anti-colonial popular movements both in Egypt and Sudan from the mid-1940s onward, and under the impact of the Egyptian July 1952 Revolution in particular (which toppled the monarchy, carried out a series of radical socio-economic policies such as land reform, and ultimately succeeded in ending the British occupation), the British were compelled to terminate their colonial administration in Sudan. In 1953, an agreement concerning the self-government of Sudan was concluded between the two condomini powers, that is, Britain and Egypt, and at the end of the self-government period that lasted two years, Sudan achieved its independence in January 1956.
However, even after independence, the economic and political structure of the Sudanese state, which had been inherited from the colonial era, did not undergo much change. The Sudanese ruling elites (composed of tribal and religious notables, big merchants, and senior officials—social forces that had been nurtured by the colonial administration) who came to power instead of the British did not pay attention to the condition of the ordinary masses, only interested in keeping their own socio-economic status. This was revealed in a most striking way by the Jawdat incident in February 1956, when the newly independent Sudanese government ruthlessly suppressed the movement of peasants and agricultural laborers working for privately owned cotton schemes.16 The undemocratic nature of the leaders of the newly independent state was also expressed in their attitude toward the undeveloped areas inside Sudan such as the South. When the people of the South began to rise in resistance (even as early as 1955, on the eve of independence), the central government responded only with coercion.17
The SMNL (Sudanese Movement for National Liberation) criticized this situation. During the self-government period (1953–1955), operating under the name The Anti-Colonialism Front (al-Jabha al-Mu‘adiyya li-l-Isti’mar), which was established to enable overt activities for the party, the SMNL had already begun arguing that the future Sudanese state should be above all a democratic state, in which the rights of the common masses (including those of the underdeveloped areas) are guaranteed.18 In the SMNL’s third conference in 1956 (the new name, the Sudanese Communist Party [SCP], was adopted on this occasion), the party pointed out the essentially colonial features of the Sudanese state, such as unbalanced development and the oppressive state apparatus, and called for radical changes in socio-economic, political, and cultural spheres. These included balanced development, democratization and the expansion of civil and political rights, a cultural renaissance, and a democratic solution for the question of underdeveloped areas such as the South.19 This was a vision of a “national democratic program” presented by the SCP, as an alternative for the socio-economic and political realities in Sudan inherited from the colonial era. While the SCP, as a Marxist party, aimed ultimately at a socialist revolution, the fulfillment of this national democratic program was regarded as a prerequisite for the building of socialism in Sudan in the future.
It turned out, however, that the quest for a “national democratic program” was not a smooth process. This was partly due not only to domestic factors but also to developments in international and regional politics in the 1950s and the 1960s. At that time, although the sway of traditional colonial powers such as Britain and France over the Middle East and Africa was in decline (as was demonstrated by the 1956 Suez War), the economic and political influence of the United States as the most powerful capitalist country was increasing (a phenomenon that came to be described as “neocolonialism”). The conflict between the peoples of Asia and Africa and the advanced capitalist countries had entered a new stage, and this had its effect on Sudan as well. In 1958, a political crisis intensified in Sudan over the question of proposed US economic aid based on the “Eisenhower doctrine”: while the ruling party, the Umma, was willing to accept the aid, the majority of the people were opposed, aware of the neocolonial nature of the project. As a result, the prime minister surrendered his powers to General Ibrahim ‘Abbud, thus inviting the army into political involvement and causing the first (quasi-“official”) military coup d’état in Sudan. The coup d’état was blessed by the heads of the two sectarian families, Sayyid ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Mahdi and Sayyid ‘Ali al-Mirgani, as well.20
The 1958 event showed that the Sudanese ruling classes, when faced with the upsurge of popular protest movements and unable to cope with them by ordinary means, were ready to take recourse even to military coup d’états, abandoning in that process the facade of democracy such as parliament, political parties, and respect for civil and political freedoms. Under the ‘Abbud military regime (1958–1964), political parties were dissolved and popular movements by workers and peasants were suppressed. The ‘Abbud regime was also characterized by its coercive attitude toward the South. Violently suppressing the local population who protested against economic and political underdevelopment, it also sought to impose Arab-Muslim culture on the South (as seen in, for example, the push for the “Arabization” of education), thus adding a racial and cultural dimension to the conflict. It was under this military dictatorship that the armed struggle in the South (led by the Anya Nya) started and intensified.
The 1964 “October Revolution” and Its Backlash
The ‘Abbud regime was overthrown in October 1964 as a result of the large-scale protests by the Sudanese people, which consisted essentially of general strikes and a series of peaceful demonstrations. This was a nationwide movement in which various social forces such as workers (trade unions); peasants (especially the tenant union at the Gezira scheme); professionals (engineers, lawyers, doctors, university professors); women; and the youth (university and high school students) participated.21
The SCP (Sudanese Communist Party) played a significant role in this “October Revolution” (which was later analyzed and described by the party itself as the “most important event in the modern history of Sudan since the Mahdist movement”). It is noteworthy that the concept of “political strike” (al-idrab al-siyasi, i.e., a general strike for achieving political purposes, which constitutes a “weapon of the working class”), advocated by the SCP since 1961 during its struggle under the ‘Abbud regime, came to function as a leading concept of the movement.22 Although it is a mistake to attribute the whole process of the October Revolution to the leadership of the SCP only (the revolution was, as has been noted, the product of joint efforts of different social forces, not necessarily of Marxist orientation), it is undeniable that the SCP’s activities among the working masses as well as its theoretical contributions inspired the people and led to the success of the movement.
The October Revolution seemed to usher in a new democratic stage in Sudanese politics. Political parties resumed their activities. Women’s suffrage was realized, as a recognition of their active role in recovering democracy. A roundtable on the South convened, seeking possibilities for peaceful solutions to the issue. As for the SCP, a significant increase in its popularity and influence was observed, and in the first parliamentary elections after the revolution, eleven seats were won by the SCP candidates (including Fatima Ahmad Ibrahim, the first woman MP [member of parliament]). Sudanese society after the 1964 October Revolution was on the whole characterized by growing interest in socialism, partly influenced by the developments in the world and the region (such as the experiments of the Egyptian Nasserist regime) as well.23
In its fourth conference held in 1967, the SCP proceeded to further develop its “national democratic program,” advocating a series of socio-economic reforms (such as a proposal for effective land reform in the traditional agricultural sector through the abolition of the “native administration” system, which had been introduced by British colonial rule for strengthening the powers of tribal leaders and which had been functioning as the economic pillar of the tribal-religious establishment) and stressing the necessity of a democratic solution for the question of underdeveloped areas. In this conference, the SCP adopted the principle of regional autonomy for the South.24
The upsurge of democratic tendencies in Sudanese society after the October Revolution, however, inevitably led to the emergence of “counter-revolutionary” attempts on the part of the ruling classes. The most conspicuous element of this phenomenon was the use of Islam as a political weapon against communism. Although the political use of religion had been observed ever since the days of British colonialism (as has been expressed by the phenomenon of sectarianism), this was the first time that Islam was used in Sudanese politics consciously and specifically as an anti-communist ideological tool, in accordance with the logic of a “cold war,” so to speak. Thus, immediately after the October Revolution, the “Islamic Charter Front” (ICF, which originated in the Sudanese branch of the Muslim Brotherhood established in the late 1940s) came into being under the leadership of Hasan al-Turabi, calling for the building of an “Islamic state” based on an “Islamic constitution.”25 And in 1965, as a result of the vehement anti-communist campaign carried out by the ICF and the traditional political parties such as the Umma Party (in which communists were accused, unjustly, of insulting Islam and being “renegades”), the SCP was outlawed and its MPs were expelled from the parliament.26
The Numeyri Regime (1969–1985) and the Ordeal of the SCP
In May 1969, another coup d’état took place, and Sudan entered, for the second time, an era of military dictatorship lasting until 1985. Unlike the ‘Abbud regime, the new military regime (the May regime) posed as quasi-leftist at the beginning, the coup being carried out by a group of officers of progressive tendency (“Free Officers”) led by Ja ‘far Numeyri. Emulating the image of the Egyptian Nasserist regime to a considerable degree, the new government launched a series of apparently socialistic policies such as the nationalization of foreign banks, the strengthening of economic relations with socialist countries, and the abolition of the “native administration” system.
The SCP (Sudanese Communist Party), while assessing from the beginning that the new regime was a “product of a military coup d’état” of a “petit-bourgeois nature,” nevertheless acknowledged its positive aspects as well, suggesting the possibilities of cooperating with it, and stressing the necessity of protecting it from counterrevolutionary forces (i.e., the traditional ruling elites, such as the Umma Party).27 Thus the regime’s first RCC (Revolutionary Command Council) included some communist officers as well. Joseph Garang, along with several other members of the SCP, joined the regime’s cabinet, and this led to the “9 June Declaration,” in accordance with which the principle of regional autonomy for the South was acknowledged.28 This somehow complex attitude toward the May regime on the part of the SCP might have been influenced, to a certain degree, by similar developments in the region, where in Egypt, for example, communists sometimes chose to cooperate with the Nasserist regime, acknowledging the positive aspects of the latter. (In the case of Egypt, the communist party went as far as to dissolve itself in 1965 to be absorbed into the “Arab Socialist Union,” the sole political party under the Nasserist regime, though it later decided to re-establish itself in 1975.) This, in its turn, had been influenced by official Soviet policy in the 1960s, in accordance with which the role of the progressive petit-bourgeois regimes (which were described as “revolutionary democrats”) in Afro-Asian countries was positively esteemed, and it was suggested that, with the help of the Socialist camp, these countries might be safely guided onto the path of “non-capitalist development,” not necessarily under the leadership of their respective communist parties.
Soon, however, the conflict intensified between the SCP and the May regime over leadership of the revolution. In an attempt to seize the upper hand in the political process, in April 1970 the regime dissolved mass organizations such as the Sudanese Youth Union and the Sudanese Women’s Union, which were under the influence of the SCP. In May it was declared that the Sudanese Socialist Union would be established as the sole political party in Sudan. The struggle between the regime and SCP went hand in hand with the struggle within the SCP as well, for while the main faction led by ‘Abd al-Khaliq Mahjub, the secretary-general, was keen to maintain the independence of the party, another faction (led by Mu‘awiya Ibrahim and Ahmad Sulayman) called for dissolving the party. This led to the split of the central committee of the SCP in the summer of 1970, the most serious split the party had experienced since its establishment. In November 1970, the regime expelled the communist members from its RCC, and detained ‘Abd al-Khaliq Mahjub’ himself.29
It was under these circumstances that, on July 19, 1971, a group of communist officers led by Hashim ‘Ata and Babikr al-Nur launched a coup d’état against the May regime. Describing themselves as a “national democratic front” government, they detained Numeyri and assumed power for three days. Although the SCP leadership had not been able to provide advice or instructions beforehand, it expressed its full support for the movement, assisting the new government in drafting its program. On July 22, however, Numeyri succeeded in returning to power, and the “19 July Movement” was suppressed. Within a few days, not only were Hashim ‘Ata and his colleagues shot, but also three members of the SCP central committee, ‘Abd al-Khaliq Mahjub, Shafi‘ Ahmad al-Shaykh, and Joseph Garang, were executed. A nationwide suppression of the communists started, and numerous members were hunted down, arrested, or even shot on the street. Two weeks after Mahjub’s execution, the SCP convened the meeting of its central committee underground and selected Muhammad Ibrahim Nuqud as the new secretary-general.30
The Numeyri regime, after its dramatic confrontation with the SCP, underwent a gradual process of “transformation,” so to speak, throughout the 1970s, abandoning its quasi-leftist policies and becoming more pro-Western and development oriented. The one-party system of the Sudanese Socialist Union functioned, under these circumstances, as a guise under which bureaucrats and technocrats of the May regime monopolized power and accumulated wealth, paving the way for the emergence of a new type of Sudanese capitalist.
Another factor that characterized the Numeyri regime especially in its later stages was its recourse to “political Islam,” in order to strengthen the social basis of the regime, politically and economically. In 1977–1978, Numeyri tried, in order to contain the anti-government movement by the masses (who were rising in protest against economic difficulties and the lack of political freedom), to reconcile with political forces such as the Umma Party, the Democratic Unionist Party, and the Muslim Brotherhood (a so-called “National Reconciliation”), but when the traditional major parties (such as the Umma) eventually withdrew from this pact, his reliance on the Muslim Brotherhood (led by Hasan al-Turabi) increased. By joining the regime, the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood grew steadily within the state apparatus, especially in the domains of local administration and education. The spread of political Islam in Sudan was encouraged also by the growing influence of the oil-producing Gulf states (such as Saudi Arabia), whose capital began to penetrate the country in the late 1970s. The “Islamic banks” such as the Faisal Islamic Bank were introduced into Sudan, and it was these Islamic financial and commercial networks that enabled the Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood to accumulate wealth and strengthen their power.
Consequently, the Numeyri regime, by the early 1980s, came to embody the interests of a special type of Sudanese capitalist, which the SCP described as “parasitic” capitalists—those who accumulate wealth in non-productive ways, either relying (parasitically) on and profiting from institutions such as state apparatus, the public sector, and the local administration or operating in domains such as Islamic financing and commerce. This “parasitic capitalism” was, according to the SCP, a sort of dependent capitalism supporting neocolonialism.31
Numeyri’s use of Islam for political purposes subsequently led to a decision in September 1983 according to which it was declared that henceforth in Sudan “Islamic criminal laws” (hudud) would be applied.
The latter stage of the Numeyri dictatorial regime was also characterized by the coercive attitude and the escalation of oppression toward underdeveloped areas. Protests by the populations of these areas (for instance, in Dar Fur in the mid-1970s) were violently suppressed. As for the South, although the regime had acknowledged its right to regional autonomy and a Southern regional government had been established in 1972 (in the Adis Abeba Agreement), the stipulations of the agreement were annulled in 1983, when it was suddenly decided to divide the South into three provinces. This led to the outbreak of armed resistance in the South by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).
From the 1985 Intifada to the 1989 Coup d’État
The Numeyri regime collapsed in 1985 as a result of a popular uprising (intifada). The Sudanese people, for the second time since independence, succeeded in overthrowing a military dictatorship through a series of demonstrations and strikes, continuing from March 26 to April 6, in which a wide range of social forces took part. Two “blocks” played leading roles: the Trade Unions’ Block (al-Tajammu‘ al-Niqabi), which was established on April 1; and the Block of the Patriotic Forces for the National Salvation (Tajammu‘ al-Quwa al-Wataniyya li Inqadh al-Watan), which was established on April 5 jointly by the Trade Unions’ Block and three political parties (the SCP, the Umma Party, and the Democratic Unionist Party). The whole political process, generally speaking, bore great similarities to that of the 1964 October Revolution.
The 1985 intifada, however, was not a totally successful one. Labor movement had been considerably weakened, a result of many years of repression under the Numeyri regime. Also, the neglect of the public sector and the start of privatization, a tendency that characterized the latter half of the Numeyri period, had affected the nature of the Sudanese working class and the efficacy of actions such as strikes. (The Sudanese railways, the workers of which used to play a crucial role in the labor movement, had been neglected and virtually dismantled as a result of a conscious policy on the part of the regime, which encouraged, in its stead, the expansion of long-distance bus networks, privately owned by pro-regime capitalists.) The relative weakness of democratic forces made it possible, according to the SCP’s later analysis, for the army to step in at the final stage of the intifada, establish the “transitional military committee,” and take the upper hand of the civil democratic forces in the course of the subsequent interim period. Political parties, though having succeeded in the intifada in uniting against the Numeyri dictatorship, failed to work together efficiently in the course of the interim period, and this provided the Muslim Brotherhood, which had supported the regime, the opportunity to resume its activities. The Brotherhood came back to the political scene under the name of the National Islamic Front (al-Jabha al-Qawmiyya al-Islamiyya), established by Hasan al-Turabi, though al-Turabi himself failed to win a seat in the elections held in 1986 at the end of the interim period.32
Thus, while the Numeyri regime was toppled and democracy was recovered, the influence of those social forces that had emerged and grown under the Numeyri regime—that is, the “parasitic capitalists” (according to the SCP’s definition) who had accumulated wealth either working within the state apparatus or in fields such as Islamic financial networks—remained. Consequently, another coup d’état took place on June 30, 1989, this time by ‘Umar al-Bashir and the other army officers affiliated with the National Islamic Front.
The Struggle against the Bashir Regime and the SCP’s Role in the National Democratic Alliance
The Bashir regime that came to power in 1989 embodied, in a sense, all the negative features of Sudanese politics after independence: the oppressive and undemocratic state apparatus, unbalanced development (inherent to the dependent type of capitalism), and the use of religion as a political tool for violently suppressing the popular protest and the resistance of the marginalized areas. Under these circumstances, shortly after the coup the National Democratic Alliance (NDA, al- Tajammu‘al-Watani al-Dimqurati) was established, an umbrella organization for political forces aimed at the overthrow of the regime. The Alliance subsequently came to include not only political parties (the Democratic Unionist Party, the Umma Party, and the SCP) and labor unions in the North, but also the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), which represented the aspirations of the underdeveloped and marginalized areas such as the South and the Nuba Mountains. This was the broadest “front” ever witnessed in the history of modern Sudanese politics.33
It is noteworthy that the National Democratic Alliance was in agreement with regards to their common goals, which included not only toppling the present regime (through a combination of the intifada and armed struggle in the South) but also making radical changes in the political and economic structure of the Sudanese state through democratization and the achievement of balanced development. The unity of Sudan would be guaranteed, it was argued, only on these bases. In the NDA’s Asmara Conference held in June 1995, it was declared that Sudan in the future would be a “New Sudan” based on the principle of citizenship, in which there would be no discrimination based on religion, race, gender, and culture, and the rights of the marginalized peoples would be respected. The NDA also agreed on the principle of the “separation of religion and politics” (i.e., the prohibition of the political use of religion) in future Sudan and recognized the rights to self-determination for the people of the South.34
The SCP participated in the NDA from the beginning, was deeply engaged in its activities (both inside Sudan and overseas), and contributed to the development of its program. As has been noted, the NDA encompassed both traditional political parties of the North as well as the SPLM, a political force representing the interests of the marginalized areas. Therefore it is interesting to see that the SCP, historically of Northern background but progressive and Marxist in nature, was able to play a unique role within the NDA in coordinating between political forces of different cultural and ideological backgrounds and helping them to reach a mutual understanding and common goals. The NDA’s vision of a future Sudan, which was finally crystallized in the Asmara Conference, turned out to reveal strong similarities with that of the “national democratic program” the SCP had been advocating since the 1950s and 1960s.
Although the NDA’s initial plan was the total overthrow of the Bashir regime, this was not an easy task. While armed struggle by the SPLM in the marginalized areas made considerable progress, civil resistance (intifada) in the North was difficult because of the exceptionally coercive nature of the NIF (National Islamic Front) regime, which concentrated its efforts on security and intelligence policy and had recourse to every means (such as arbitrary arrest, detention, and torture) to suffocate popular protest. At the same time, however, on its part the regime was not able to completely exterminate the NDA’s opposition. Consequently, the situation reached that of a “balance of weakness,” so to speak, between the regime and the opposition, in which neither was able to defeat the other completely.
As a result of this stalemate, in 2005 the “Comprehensive Peace Agreement” (CPA) was concluded between the Bashir regime and the SPLM. External factors also affected this agreement, such as Sudan’s renewed significance in US strategy at the turn of the century as part of the greater Horn of Africa and as an inlet into the Great Lakes District, which gave rise to active US involvement in the peace process in Sudan.
The SCP criticized the negative aspects of the CPA, which had been concluded between only two parties, that is, the regime and the SPLM, excluding other members of the NDA, and concentrated on the question of the division of governmental posts and oil revenues. Nevertheless the SCP also acknowledged and welcomed the positive aspects of the CPA as well: the ceasefire, the pledged expansion of political freedoms, and the recovery of democracy in the interim period.35 Like the other members of the NDA, the SCP resumed its overt activities in Sudan after 2005. The SCP’s fifth congress was held in January 2009 in Khartoum, forty-two years after its fourth congress.
The SCP after 2011
When the CPA (Comprehensive Peace Agreement) was concluded in 2005, it was declared that every measure was to be taken during the interim period, which would continue for six years, to democratize Sudanese politics and build confidence between the North and South, so that the people of the South would choose to remain in a united Sudanese state when asked to exercise their right of self-determination at the end of the interim period. These pledges were not fulfilled, however, by the Bashir regime, which was reluctant to expand freedoms and neglected democratization. Under these circumstances, it was natural that, in January 2011, when a referendum was held in the South, the majority of the people voted for independence.
Developments after the independence of the South had their effects on the SCP (Sudanese Communist Party). The Southern members of the SCP proceeded to establish a new party, the Communist Party of South Sudan, under the secretary-generalship of Joseph Modesto. Its main activities in the newly independent South Sudan have been aimed at building democracy, criticizing the neoliberalist economic policies pursued by the SPLM (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement) government, and, after the outbreak of violence in South Sudan since 2013, ending the armed conflicts in the country through peaceful and democratic means.36
The independence of the South led, ironically enough, to a relative decrease of interest in Sudan on the part of the international community, and this made it possible for the dictatorial regime in the North to stay in power and even strengthen its suppressive policies toward the opposition. In 2012 the attacks against the SCP’s organ, al-Midan, began to intensify. In September 2013 popular demonstrations calling for the regime to step down were violently suppressed (more than two hundred people were shot on the street), and since then, the situation in the North has apparently retrogressed to that of the “pre-CPA” days.37 A series of arrests and the prolonged detention of political activists, most notably the communists, has taken place.
At the levels of ideology and political strategy as well, the SCP has been compelled to confront difficult questions. It appears that, in comparison with other communist parties in the world, the SCP was less affected by the impact of the fall of the Soviet Union and the socialist camp. This might be partly attributed to the fact that, in the case of Sudan, the SCP was fighting, throughout the 1990s, in the vanguard of the anti-NIF (National Islamic Front) regime struggle of the Sudanese people, and it was evident, both in the eyes of the common citizens and for the SCP itself, that, whatever might be the fate of the Soviet Union, the role of the SCP as a democratic force in Sudanese society was indisputable. As a result of in-party debate (organized since the mid-1990s in preparation for convening the fifth congress), the SCP, while seriously re-examining the experiences of Soviet-type socialism, decided to retain its criticism of capitalism (and the phenomenon of “globalization” as its latest stage) and remain a Marxist party. At the party’s fifth congress in 2009, it was confirmed that the “national democratic program” that had been advocated by the SCP was still relevant as a blueprint for the Sudanese revolution and constituted a basis for socialist transformation in the future.38
More serious, perhaps, is the question of how to respond to developments that followed the CPA and the independence of the South. Before 2005, the SCP, like the other members of the NDA (National Democratic Alliance), had been committed to the idea of overthrowing the Bashir regime completely through the combination of intifada in the North and armed struggle in the South. Although the situation changed with the advent of the peace agreement and the SCP had decided to resume overt activities in Sudan under the present regime, there are still different views concerning possible strategies and tactics at the present stage, especially in view of the recent intensification of suppression. How to cooperate with movements of marginalized areas that have been “left” inside Sudan after the independence of the South is also a difficult question. After the CPA, part of the SPLM that had been operating in areas such as the Nuba Mountains (the South Kordofan) and the Blue Nile province continued their activities under the name SPLM-North, while in Dar Fur, where a serious crisis had already erupted since 2003 as a result of the suppressive policy of the Bashir regime, armed resistance led by groups such as the Sudan Liberation Movement intensified.39 While the SCP’s attitude toward these movements is basically positive and one of sympathy and solidarity, the idea of waging a joint struggle with these forces against the Bashir regime, for example, is a sensitive one, which needs more consultation, coordination, and careful examination.40
Seventy-three years after its establishment, the SCP is still engaged in a difficult struggle for the fulfillment of its initial purposes, surrounded by circumstances that are seemingly becoming even more complicated and unfavorable. It is undeniable, however, that the ideals advocated by the SCP, that of radical democratization, social justice, balanced development, and the strengthening of national unity based on these principles, have been inspiring the Sudanese people. These ideals have contributed to the awakening of their social and political consciousness, supporting the development of movements by such forces as workers, peasants, women, youth, and the peoples of the marginalized areas.
It is interesting to note that culturally, also, the communist movement has been a source of inspiration for democratic forces in Sudan (especially from the mid-1960s until the 1980s). There are a number of creative artists such as the poet Mahjub Sharif and the singer Muhammad Wardi, who were devoted members of the SCP and at the same time enjoyed nationwide popularity.
Discussion of the Literature
One of the earliest attempts on the part of Western scholars to present an academic analysis of the development of communism in Sudan appeared in Walter Laquer’s Communism and Nationalism in the Middle East, in which he devoted a chapter to a study of Sudan. Originally written in 1955, before the independence of Sudan and amid the heated political atmosphere prevailing in the Middle East in the age of anti-colonial struggle, it succeeds in locating the question of Sudanese communism in a wider regional context, paying special attention to the impact of the Egyptian communist movement on its counterpart in Sudan. This was followed, in 1978, by Gabriel Warburg’s Islam, Nationalism and Communism in a Traditional Society: The Case of Sudan, which, covering the period from the 1940s to the late 1970s, tried to present a somehow comprehensive picture and in-depth analysis of the experiences (and the ordeals) of the Sudanese communist movement. These examples of research, undertaken in an essentially objective and scientific manner and surprisingly free from political prejudices (considering the fact that they were written in the heyday of the Cold War), nevertheless have their shortcomings as well, mainly due to the authors’ limited access to primary sources. Throughout most of the period covered by these works, the SCP (Sudanese Communist Party) was operating underground. It is also natural that, in the milieu of Cold War international politics, it was difficult for scholars from Western countries (or Israel) to have first-hand information on what was occurring within the communist movement in Sudan.41
By contrast, Muhamad Sa‘id al-Qaddal’s al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i al-Sudani wa Inqilab 25 Mayu (The SCP and the coup of 25 May) has the merit of being a study undertaken by a Sudanese historian, himself being a member of the SCP, making extensive use of his access to documents within the party. Also, the official histories, so to speak, of the SCP published by the party itself have their unique value as historical sources, as long as it is kept in mind that, needless to say, these documents are presented from the SCP’s point of view and are therefore open to critical analysis and examination by researchers. ‘Abd al-Khaliq Mahjub’s Lamahat min Ta’rikh al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i al-Sudani (Glimpses from the history of the SCP) is a narrative of the history of the SCP written by its secretary-general in 1960, when he was in prison. Thawra al-Sha‘b (People’s revolution) is a narrative of the anti-‘Abbud dictatorship struggle, compiled by the SCP shortly after the victory of the 1964 October revolution. Al-Marksiyya wa Qadaya al-Thawra al-Sudaniyya (Marxism and the questions of the Sudanese revolution), which is a text of the report submitted to the 4th Congress of the SCP in 1967, includes an in-depth analysis, from the SCP’s point of view, of the political situation that surrounded the party in the mid-1960s. Some of these books, which were originally published in the 1960s, were reprinted in the mid-1980s, after the 1985 Intifada. Ma ‘rid Lamahat min Ta’rikh al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i al-Sudani, the record of the exhibition held by the SCP commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the party, also provides an overview of the history of the SCP. Yoshiko Kurita’s Kindai Sudan-niokeru Taisei Hendou to Minnzoku Keisei (Power and nation in the modern Sudan, published in Japanese) includes some chapters on the development of Sudanese communism, mainly based on the use of these publications by the SCP.42
The most recent study on the SCP is Tareq Y. Ismael’s The Sudanese Communist Party: Ideology and Party Politics, in which the author, as a historian who has been writing extensively on communist parties in various Arab countries, presents an insightful analysis of the experiences of the Sudanese communists. Consulting the sources produced by the SCP since the 1990s and conducting interviews with the SCP members and leadership (especially those who were in exile in Egypt or the United Kingdom and were engaged in their anti-regime struggle overseas), the author examines not only the achievements of the SCP in the past but also the process of its self-renewal and the prospects of its future development. The results of the SCP’s fifth congress in 2009, the record of which has been published as al-Mu’tamar al-‘Amm al-Khamis li-l-Hizb al-Shuyu ‘i al-Sudani (The SCP’s 5th Congress in 2009), are also analyzed in this work.43
Jaafar Muhammad Ali Bakheit’s Communist Activities in the Middle East between 1919–1927 with Special Reference to Egypt and the Sudan, and Mohammed Nuri El-Amin’s The Emergence and Development of the Leftist Movement in the Sudan During the 1930s and 1940s are attempts by Sudanese scholars to explore the historical roots of communist activities in Sudan, going back to the period before the emergence of the SCP. Though attention must be paid to the fact that these works appeared in the late 1970s and 1980s under the Numeyri regime, which was politically opposed to the SCP and therefore was keen to “dilute,” so to speak, the significance of the party in the history of Sudanese communism, they nevertheless raise interesting questions such as the impact of international communism on Sudan in the 1920s and the role possibly played not only by Egyptian but also British communists in the development of Sudanese communism.44
Concerning the condition and movement of the Sudanese working class, which constituted the pillar of the communist movement, Saad Ed Din Fawzi’s The Labour Movement in the Sudan 1946–1955 has been the pioneering work. A more recent work by Ahmad Awad Sikainga, City of Steel and Fire: A Social History of Atbara, Sudan’s Railway Town, 1906–1984, again dealing with the railway workers, explores such questions as their culture and the formation of their class consciousness as well. As for the condition of peasants, especially the tenants of the Gezira cotton scheme, Kamil Mahjub’s Tilka al-Ayyam (Those days) provides a narrative from within, the author himself having been once engaged in the peasant movement in the 1950s. Taisier Ali’s The Cultivation of Hunger, which examines the condition of agricultural laborers, includes a detailed account of the Jowdat incident in 1956. As for the SCP’s activities in the underdeveloped areas, ‘Ata al-Hasan al-Batahini’s Jibal al-Nuba: al-Ithniyya al-Siyasiyya wa al-Haraka al-Fallahin (The Nuba mountains: Ethnic politics and the peasant movement) analyses the rivalry between the SCP and the other local forces in the area, especially the General Union of the Nuba Mountains in the 1960s. Concerning the development of the women’s movement and the SCP’s role, the memoirs of Fatima Ahmad Ibrahim, Hisaduna Khilal ‘Ishrin ‘Aman (Our harvest of the twenty years), is the essential resource.45
The International Institute of Social History (IISH) in Amsterdam is in possession of documents concerning the SCP (Sudanese Communist Party), which were collected by the members of the party living in the United Kingdom and transferred to the institute in the 1990s. These consist of published reports of the central committee, leaflets, pamphlets, and other publications, including copies of al-Midan, the SCP’s organ, from 1972 to 1999. The Library of the IISH is in possession of copies of al-Midan during 1985–1989; copies of Qadaya Sudaniyya, issued by the SCP’s leadership in 1990–1999 in order to activate the discussion concerning the renewal of the party; and books published by the SCP. The list of the collection was compiled by Roel Meijer and Mohammed Abdulhamid in 2000 under the title of “al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i al-Sudani (Communist Party of the Sudan) (1961–) 1969–1999.”
The records of the fourth and fifth congresses of the SCP have been published as books in Khartoum. Concerning the earlier period of the SCP, Muhamad Sulayman’s al-Yasar al-Sudani fi ‘Ashar A‘wam 1954–1963 (The Sudanese left during the ten years) includes many important statements and documents issued by the party.46
- Ali, Taisier Mohamed A. The Cultivation of Hunger: State and Agriculture in Sudan. Khartum: Khartoum University Press, 1989.
- El-Amin, Mohammed Nuri. The Emergence and Development of the Leftist Movement in the Sudan during the 1930s and 1940s. Khartum: Khartoum University Press, 1984.
- Babikr, al-Tijani al-Tayyib. al-Bahth ‘an al-Salam fi al-Sudan [In search of peace in Sudan]. Cairo: al-Sharika al-‘Alamiyya li-l-Tiba ‘a wa al-Nashr, 2005.
- Babikr, al-Tijani al-Tayyib. Man Yuhakim Man? Nass al-Difa ‘Alladhi Qaddamahu al-Munadil al-Shuyu‘i al-Tijani al-Tayyib Babikr Amama al-Mahkama al-‘Askariyya, al-Khartum 1982 [The text of the statement of defense submitted by al-Tijani al-Tayyib before the military court in Khartoum, 1982]. Khartoum: SCP, 2012.
- Bakheit, Jaafar Muhammad Ali. Communist Activities in the Middle East between 1919–1927 with Special Reference to Egypt and the Sudan, 2nd ed. Khartoum: Khartoum University Press, 1975.
- Fawzi, Saad Ed Din. The Labour Movement in the Sudan 1946–1955. London: Oxford University Press, 1957.
- Fawzy-Rossano, Didar D. “Le Soudan: Problèmes du Passage de la Création de l’État a la Libération de la Nation.” PhD diss., University of Paris VII, 1978.
- Hale, Sondora. Gender Politics in Sudan: Islamism, Socialism, and the State. Boulder: Westview Press, 1996.
- al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i al-Sudani (SCP). Thawra al-Sha‘b [People’s revolution]. Cairo, 1965.
- al-Hizb al-Shuyu ‘i al-Sudani (SCP). al-Marksiyya wa Qadaya al-Thawra al-Sudaniyya [Marxism and the questions of the Sudanese revolution: The report adopted at the 4th congress of the SCP in 1967]. Khartoum: Dar al-Wasila li-l-Tiba ‘a wa al-Nashr, 1987.
- al-Hizb al-Shuyu ‘i al-Sudani (SCP). Ma‘rid Lamahat min Ta’rikh al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i al-Sudani al-Muqam ‘ala Sharaf ‘Id al-‘Arba’in li-l-Hizb [The exhibition held on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the SCP]. Khartoum: SCP, 1988.
- al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i al-Sudani (SCP). 19 Juliyu 1971 [19 July 1971 incident]. Khartoum: SCP, 1996.
- al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i al-Sudani (SCP). al-Mu’tamar al-‘Amm al-Khamis li-l-Hizb al-Shuyu ‘i al-Sudani, Yanayir 2009, al-Taqrir al-Siyasi al-‘Amm [The SCP’s 5th Congress in 2009]. Khartoum: Dar al-Tanwir li-l-Tuba ‘a wa al-Nashr al-Mahduda, 2009.
- Ibrahim, Fatima Ahmad. Hisaduna Khilal ‘Ishrin ‘Aman [Our harvest of the twenty years]. Khartoum, n.d.
- Ismael, Tareq Y. The Sudanese Communist Party: Ideology and Party Politics. London: Routledge, 2013.
- Kurita, Yoshiko. Kindai Sudan-niokeru Taisei Hendou to Minnzoku Keisei [Power and nation in the modern Sudan]. Tokyo: Ohtsuki Publishers, 2001.
- Laqueur, Walter Z. Communism and Nationalism in the Middle East, 3rd ed. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961.
- Mahjub, ‘Abd al-Khaliq Mahjub. Lamahat min Ta’rikh al-Hizb al-Shuyu ‘i al-Sudani [Glimpses from the history of the SCP], 3rd ed. Khartoum: Dar al-Wasila li-l-Tiba ‘a wa al-Nashr, 1987.
- Mahjub, Kamil. Tilka al-Ayyam [Those days]. Khartoum, 1988.
- Niblock, Tim. Class and Power in Sudan: Dynamics of Sudanese Politics, 1898–1985. London: Macmillan, 1987.
- al-Qaddal, Muhamad Sa ‘id. al-Hizb al-Shuyu ‘i al-Sudani wa Inqilab 25 Mayu [The SCP and the coup of 25 May]. Khartoum: Dar al-Zahra’, 1986.
- al-Sa ‘id, Rif’at. Ta’rikh al-Haraka al-Shuyu ‘iyya al-Misriyya. Cairo: Sharika al-Amal, 1987.
- Sulayman, Muhamad. al-Yasar al-Sudani fi ‘Ashar A‘wam 1954–1963 [The Sudanese left during the ten years 1954–1963]. Wad Madani: Maktaba al-Fajr, 1971.
- Warburg, Gabriel. Islam, Nationalism and Communism in a Traditional Society. London: Frank Cass, 1978.
1. Concerning the development of the anti-colonial struggle in Sudan, see the article by Yoshiko Kurita, “The History of Sudanese Nationalism,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History (Oxford University Press, 2018). On the Mahdist movement, see P. M. Holt, The Mahdist State in the Sudan, 2nd ed. (Nairobi: Oxford, 1977); and Muhammad Sa’id al-Qaddal, Ta’rikh al-Sudan al-Hadith 1820–1955 [The modern history of Sudan] (Beyrut, 1993), especially chapters two and three.
2. Concerning the 1924 Revolution, see Elena Vezzadini, Lost Nationalism: Revolution, Memory and Anti-Colonial Resistance in Sudan (Suffolk: James Currey, 2015); and Yoshiko Kurita, “The Concept of Nationalism in the White Flag League Movement,” in The Nationalist Movement in the Sudan, ed. Mahasin Abdelgadir Hag al-Safi (Khartoum: University of Khartoum, Institute of Asian and African Studies, 1989), 14–62.
3. On the origin of sectarian politics in Sudan, see, for example, Afaf Abdel Majid Abu Hasabu, Factional Conflict in the Sudanese Nationalist Movement 1918–1948 (Khartoum: Khartoum University Press, 1985). The “unionist” parties, which came eventually to be sponsored by the House of Mirghani, were called “unionist,” because they were, in different degrees, ostensibly committed to the cause of the “unity of the Nile Valley” (i.e., the union with Egypt), while the Umma (Nation) Party, sponsored by the House of Mahdi, upheld the cause of “Sudan for the Sudanese.”
4. This is the date of the establishment of the SCP, officially acknowledged by the party itself. See al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i al-Sudani (SCP), Ma‘rid Lamahat min Ta’rikh al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i al-Sudani al-Muqam‘ala Sharaf ‘Id al-‘Arba’in li-l-Hizb [The exhibition held on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the SCP] (Khartoum: SCP, 1988), 12.
5. See Abd al-Khaliq Mahjub’s narrative in Muhamad Sulayman, al-Yasar al-Sudani fi ‘Ashar A‘wam 1954–1963 [The Sudanese left during the ten years 1954–1963] (Wad Madani: Maktaba al-Fajr, 1971), 65–66. The secretary-generalship of the SCP was assumed first by ‘Abd al-Wahhab Zayn al-‘Abdin (1946) and then by ‘Awad ‘Abd al-Raziq. ‘Abd al-Khaliq al-Mahjub assumed the post from 1949 until his death in 1971.
7. This is not to deny the existence of other channels, such as the influence of British socialists who were staying in Sudan as army officers, engineers, and so on. See Mohammed Nuri El-Amin, The Emergence and Development of the Leftist Movement in the Sudan during the 1930s and 1940s (Khartoum: Khartoum University Press, 1984), 103, where the role of Herbert Storey, a British officer, is emphasized.
8. Concerning the upsurge of anti-colonial popular struggle in Egypt in the 1940s and the emergence of Marxist organizations, see Tariq al-Bishri, al-Haraka al-Siyasiyya fi Misr 1945–1952 [Political movement in Egypt], 2nd ed. (Cairo: Dar al-Shuruq, 1983), 80–91, 100. “Iskra” was named after the title of the organ of the Russian socialists (published by Lenin and his colleagues in 1900).
9. Concerning the career of al-Tijani al-Tayyib Babikr, see the entry on him by Yoshiko Kurita in Dictionary of African Biography (vol. 6, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 22–23. An article by ‘Izz al-Din ‘Amir published in al-Midan, January 1, 1987 also includes valuable information concerning the interaction between Egyptian and Sudanese experiences, especially at the level of student movements. ‘Izz al-Din ‘Amir, “al-Istiqlal nitaj li harakat sha ‘biyya ‘amiqa (Independence was the product of deep-rooted popular movements),” published in al-Midan, January 1, 1987, p. 11.
11. It is interesting to note, in this context, that some of the early members of the SCP were the sons and daughters of those who were actively involved in the 1924 Revolution. Among these are ‘Abd al-Wahhab Zayn al-‘Abdin ‘Abd al-Tamm (the first secretary-general of the SCP), al-Tijani al-Tayyib, and Khalida Zahir Surur al-Sadati.
12. See Abdel Rahman El Tayeb Ali Taha, “The Sudanese Labour Movement: A Study on Labour Unionism in a Developing Society” (PhD diss., University of California Los Angeles, 1970), 61–66. On the railway town of Atbara and the situation of railway workers, see Ahmad Awad Sikainga, City of Steel and Fire: A Social History of Atbara, Sudan’s Railway Town, 1906–1984 (Oxford: James Currey, 2003).
14. Concerning the development of the women’s movement in Sudan, see Fatima Ahmad Ibrahim, Hisaduna Khilal ‘Ishrin ‘Aman [Our harvest of the twenty years] (Khartoum, n.d.).
15. Joseph Garang was born in the Bahr al-Ghazal Province in southern Sudan and after being educated at a Catholic missionary school and at Rumbek secondary school, he proceeded to study at the Faculty of Law, Khartoum University, from 1953 to 1957. He joined the party in in 1954, and at the third conference of the SCP in 1956, he was elected as a member of the central committee. As for his analysis of the situation in the South (from the viewpoint of a southern communist), see Joseph Garang, “The Dilemma of the Southern Intellectual: Is It Justified?,” included in Tareq Y. Ismael, The Sudanese Communist Party: Ideology and Party Politics (London: Routledge, 2013), 195–210 (Appendix 1).
16. See Taisier Mohamed A. Ali, The Cultivation of Hunger: State and Agriculture in Sudan (Khartum: Khartoum University Press, 1989), 114–116. The detailed account of the incident is to be found in al-Munazzama al-Sudaniyya li Huquq al-Insan, Far‘ Kusti, al-Dhikra 31 li Ahdath Jawda [31st anniversary of the Jawdat incident] (Kosti: The Sudanese Human Rights Organization, Kosti Branch, 1987).
17. On the situation in the South, see Mohamed Omer Beshir, The Southern Sudan: Background to Conflict (London: C. Hurst & Company, 1968); and Douglas H. Johnson, The Root Causes of Sudan’s Civil Wars (Oxford: James Currey, 2003), 27–29.
18. Hasan al-Tahir Zarruq, the first SCP member elected as a member of parliament in the general elections in 1953, made a famous speech in August 1955 concerning his party’s vision on the nature of the Sudanese state after independence. See Sulayman, al-Yasar al-Sudani, 137.
19. al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i al-Sudani (SCP), al-Mu’tamar al-‘Amm al-Khamis li-l-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i al-Sudani, Yanayir 2009, al-Taqrir al-Siyasi al-‘Amm [General Report submitted to the SCP’s 5th congress in 2009] (Khartoum: Dar al-Tanwir li-l-Tiba ‘a wa al-Nashr, 2009), 65.
20. The SCP, in the November 3 issue of its organ, al-Midan, had been predicting (and warning against) the possibility of this sort of “quasi-official” coup d’état. Sulayman, al-Yasar al-Sudani, 350.
21. al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i al-Sudani (SCP), Thawra al-Sha‘b (People’s Revolution) (Cairo, 1965) presents a comprehensive picture of the October Revolution from the SCP’s viewpoint. See also Tim Niblock, Class and Power in Sudan: Dynamics of Sudanese Politics, 1898–1985 (London: Macmillan, 1987), 227–228; Didar D. Fawzy-Rossano, “Le Soudan: Problèmes du Passage de la Création de l’État a la Libération de la Nation” (PhD diss., University of Paris VII, 1978), 555–563; and Ruth First, The Barrel of a Gun: Political Power in Africa and the Coup d’Etat (London: Penguin, 1970), 255.
22. Concerning the development of the concept of “political strike,” see al-Hizb al-Shuyu ‘i al-Sudani (SCP), Thawra al-Sha‘b, 415–438. There was a group inside the central committee that was opposed to this tactic and called for armed struggle, apparently influenced by the Chinese experiences. This group, represented by Ahmad Shami and Yusuf ‘Abd al-Majid, eventually split from the party in 1964, shortly before the October Revolution.
23. It has been argued 26, that in the heyday of the SCP (from the victory of the October Revolution until 1971) it had “an estimated 50,000 to 80,000 members and supporters” (see Ismael, The Sudanese Communist Party: Ismael, op. cit., p. 1), though this might have been a rather exaggerated estimation. It is generally accepted that the readers of the SCP’s organ, al-Midan, numbered approximately twenty thousand.
24. al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i al-Sudani (SCP), al-Marksiyya wa Qadaya al-Thawra al-Sudaniyya [Marxism and the questions of the Sudanese revolution: The report adopted at the 4th Congress of the SCP in 1967] (Khartoum: Dar al-Wasila li-l-Tiba ‘a wa al-Nashr, 1987); and al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i al-Sudani (SCP), al-Mu’tamar al-‘Amm al-Khamis, 66–67. An analysis of the results of the fourth congress of the SCP can also be seen in Yoshiko Kurita, Kindai Sudan-niokeru Taisei Hendou to Minnzoku Keisei [Power and nation in the modern Sudan] (Tokyo: Ohtsuki Publishers, 2001), 386–399.
25. Concerning the Muslim Brotherhood in Sudan and the activities of Hasan al-Turabi in the 1960s, see Hasan Makki Muhammad Ahmad, Haraka al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin in Sudan 1944–1969 [The Muslim Brotherhood movement in Sudan] (Khartoum: Khartoum University, Institute of African and Asian Studies, 1982).
26. Ahmad, Haraka al-Ikhwan, 82–84; and Gabriel Warburg, Islam, Nationalism and Communism in a Traditional Society (London: Frank Cass, 1978), 116–117.
27. Muhamad Sa ‘id al-Qaddal, al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i al-Sudani wa Inqilab 25 Mayu [The SCP and the coup of 25 May] (Khartoum: Dar al-Zahra’, 1986), 79–80; and al-Hizb al-Shyu ‘i, al-Mu’tamar al-‘Amm al-Khamis, 56–57.
28. The text of the 9 June Declaration is included in al-Qaddal, al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i , 82–84. Joseph Garang joined the cabinet first as the Minister of Supply and Internal Trade, and was later appointed, subsequently to the 9 June Declaration, Minister of Southern Affairs.
29. al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i al-Sudani (SCP), Ma ‘rid Lamahat, 172–173; and al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i, al-Mu’tamar al-‘Amm al-Khamis, 57.
30. Concerning the attitude of the SCP toward the July 19 incident, see al-Hizb al-Shuyu ‘i al-Sudani (SCP), 19 Juliyu 1971 [19 July 1971 incident] (Khartoum: SCP, 1996); and al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i, al-Mu’tamar al-‘Amm al-Khamis, 58–59. See also “Report of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Sudan Sept.–Nov. Session” included in Warburg, Islam, Nationalism and Communism in a Traditional Society, Warburg, op. cit., pp. 201–215.
31. As an example of the SCP’s analysis of the nature of the Numeyri regime in the early 1980s, see al-Tijani al-Tayyib Babikr, Man Yuhakim Man? Nass al-Difa‘ Alladhi Qaddamahu al-Munadil al-Shuy‘i al-Tijani al-Tayyib Babikr Amama al-Mahkama al-‘Askariyya, al-Khartum 1982 [The text of the statement of defense submitted by al-Tijani al-Tayyib before the military court in Khartoum, 1982] (Khartoum: SCP, 2012), especially 18–26.
32. As for SCP’s analysis of the political process during and after the 1985 Intifada, see al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i, al-Mu’tamar al-‘Amm al-Khamis, 61.
33. al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i, al-Mu’tamar al-‘Amm al-Khamis, 53–54. The SPLM joined the NDA in 1991, while the Umma Party (having participated in its establishment) later “froze” its activities in the NDA.
34. National Democratic Alliance, Conference on Fundamental Issues, Final Communique: Resolution on the Issues of Religion and Politics in the Sudan; Resolution on the Issue of Self-Determination (Asmara, 1995).
35. Concerning SCP’s attitude toward the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, see al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i, al-Mu’tamar al-‘Amm al-Khamis, 37–41, 64.
36. The Communist Party of South Sudan, “Press Conference,” November 19, 2011, Juba; The Central Secretariat, the Communist Party of South Sudan, “Statement by the Communist Party of South Sudan on the Renewal of the War in South Sudan,” July 14, 2016, Juba.
37. Concerning the violent suppression of the demonstrations in September 2013, see the statement issued by the Central Committee of the Sudanese Communist Party, “The Solution Lies in the Formation of a Broad Front to Overthrow the Regime,” November 21, 2013. (solidnet, visited on January 7, 2018). The regime had recourse to force again in December 2018–March 2019, when peaceful popular demonstrations, calling for Bashir to step down, spread in many part of the country.
38. al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i, al-Mu’tamar al-‘Amm al-Khamis, 67–68. As for an analysis of the prospects of revolutionary movement in Sudan in the post–Cold War period, see also Muhammad Ibrahim Nuqud, Qadaya al-Dimuqratiyya fi-Sudan: al-Mutaghayyarat wa al-Tahaddiyat [Questions concerning democracy in Sudan: Changes and challenges], 2nd ed. (Cairo: Dar al-Thaqafa al-Jadida, 1992); and Muhammad Ibrahim Nuqud, Mutaghayyarat al-‘Asr: Nazariyya Jadida li Haraka Thawriyya Jadida, Afaq Jadida li-l-Ishtirakiyya [The changes of the time: A new theory for a new revolutionary movement; New horizons for socialism), 2nd ed. (Cairo: SCP, 1996). Ismael examines in detail the process of in-party debate concerning the future of the SCP; see Ismael, The Sudanese Communist Party, 97–151.
39. As for the crisis in Darfur and an analysis of its nature from the SCP’s point of view, see Sulayman Hamid al-Hajj, Dar Fur: Wad‘ al-Niqat ‘ala al-Huruf [Dar Fur: Dotting the i’s] (Khartum: al-Midan, 2004), in which the root causes of the crisis, such as the “Arabization” scheme on the part of the National Islamic Front, is examined.
40. In November 2011, a Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) was established, in which both the SPLM-North (mainly operating in the Blue Nile and the South Kordofan) and the forces from Dar Fur (two different sects of the Sudan Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement) participated. Meanwhile, the activities of the National Consensus Forces (Quwa al-Ijma‘ al-Watani), which was established in 2008–2009 mainly by the political forces that had been active in the NDA (including the SCP), developed. Eventually, in December 2014, the Sudan Call came into being, a broad umbrella organization encompassing both the members of the Sudan Revolutionary Front and the National Consensus Forces, although differences in tactics and approaches remain. The SCP makes it clear that its basic tactics for toppling the regime are that of “civil disobedience” and “general political strike.”
41. For this reason, their works sometimes include inaccurate remarks and misunderstandings. Thus, for example, although Laqueur stresses the influence of “Chinese and Indian” experiences on Sudanese communism in the 1950s, this has not been testified. Walter Z. Laqueur, Communism and Nationalism in the Middle East, 3rd ed. (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961), 65, 67. Warburg’s narrative that the anti-communist campaign in 1965 was triggered by a speech by a “Syrian communist” in Omdurman is also inaccurate, the speech in question having been made by a Sudanese student. Warburg, Islam, Nationalism and Communism, 116.
42. al-Qaddal, al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i; Mahjub, Lamahat; al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i, Thawra al-Sha‘b; al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i, al-Marksiyya; al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i, Ma ‘rid Lamahat; and Kurita, Kindai Sudan.
43. Ismael, The Sudanese Communist Party; and al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i, al-Mu’tamar al-‘Amm al-Khamis.
44. Jaafar Muhammad Ali Bakheit, Communist Activities in the Middle East between 1919–1927 with Special Reference to Egypt and the Sudan, 2nd ed. (Khartoum: Khartoum University Press, 1975); and El-Amin, The Emergence and Development of the Leftist Movement.
45. Saad Ed Din Fawzi, The Labour Movement in the Sudan 1946–1955 (London: Oxford University Press, 1957); Sikainga, City of Steel and Fire; Mahjub, Tilka al-Ayyam; Ali, The Cultivation of Hunger; ‘Ata al-Hasan al-Batahini, Jibal al-Nuba: al-Ithniyya al-Siyasiyya wa al-Haraka al-Fallahin [The Nuba mountains: Ethnic politics and the peasant movement] (Cairo: The Sudanese Studies Centre); and Ibrahim, Hisaduna.
46. Sulayman, al-Yasar al-Sudani.