Attacks on Communists – Sudan and Turkey
R Arun Kumar
WHILE the heads of States of various countries and economic honchos are meeting at Davos in the World Economic Forum, discussing the ways and means to further their exploitation of resources and markets, people in various parts of the globe are coming out in protests. Determined and militant protests are seen in countries like Sudan and Turkey, initiated by the communists. The dictatorial and authoritarian governments, led by religious fundamentalist forces in these two countries are trying to quell these protests unleashing brutal repression.
The chief reasons for the raging popular demonstrations are: widening inequalities, falling wages and rising prices. A part of this reality was captured in the recently released statistics on widening inequalities by Oxfam. It states: “The world’s richest 1 per cent raked in 82 per cent of the wealth created last year” and that “billionaire wealth has risen by an annual average of 13 per cent since 2010 – while the average worker’s wage has risen by an average of 2 per cent”. The result was ‘billionaire income was booming last year’, while ‘the poorest half of the world saw no increase in wealth’. These conclusions, experienced by the working people around the world, have led to some major protest demonstrations in Sudan, not witnessed since 2013.
Starting from the City of El Geneina in the far west of the Darfur region, popular demonstrations took place all over Sudan. The demonstrations spread from the Central region of Sudan to Eastern Sudan, Northern region cities and towns and in the capital city, Khartoum. Thousands of people have defiantly gathered in Khartoum, chanting anti-government slogans, against depriving them of basic livelihood, lifting subsidies on bread and other goods and commodities. The streets resonated with the slogan, ‘no to hunger, no to high prices’.
Prices of food items, mainly bread have surged in past weeks across Sudan after a jump in the cost of flour. The protests erupted after the cost of a 50 kg sack of flour jumped from 167 Sudanese pounds to 450, as wheat supplies dwindled following the government's decision to leave grain imports to private companies. The increase of the bread prices is part of recommendations made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to float the Sudanese pound and scrap wheat subsidies. These prescriptions were followed in the 2018 budget presented by the government. The first call for these protests was given by the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP), which was later taken by all other opposition parties and groups, in what are now termed as ‘bread price protests’.
Hundreds of people have responded to the call and have joined the protests in various cities. The government authorities panicked and cracked down on these protests with anti-riot police firing tear gas and using baton charge to disperse the rallies. The government agencies shamelessly flooded the streets with sewage water to make holding rallies and staging demonstrations difficult. Sudan's powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) arrested the general secretary of the Sudanese Communist Party, Mokhtar al-Khatib, from his home on January 16. Several other senior Communist Party leaders, including five Polit Bureau members and one central committee member and editorial board member of the Party organ were arrested between January 16-19. They were detained and beaten in front of journalists, before being taken to an unknown destination. Along with them, other opposition leaders and student activists too were arrested since these protests began earlier this month.
Alarmed with these protests and afraid of the threat to its hold on State power, the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), through the NISS, issued instructions to the newspaper editors not to publish any news or comments related to the demonstrations. Security agents seized the print runs of six newspapers after they criticised the government over the rising cost of bread. “No reason was given for confiscating copies of our newspaper, but I think it was due to our transparent coverage of the food price rise”, said the editor of Akhbar Al-Watan which saw its entire run seized along with Al-Tayar, Al-Mustagilla, Al-Karar, Al-Midan and Al-Assayha newspapers.
The brutal suppression of these protests has further angered the people. Along with the economic demands (reduction in prices, increase in wages), political demands like the ouster of the dictatorial government of al-Bashir, have now taken the central stage. The Polit Bureau of the SCP called to continue with the mobilisations and “strengthen the building of the resistance committees and establish the broadest alliance in preparation for the general political strike to topple the dictatorial regime”.
Accordingly, a joint action group had emerged with several opposition parties joining hands and agreeing on seven goals that include, ‘overthrowing the regime through peaceful public protest, guaranteeing human rights and forming a transitional national government until free and fair elections are held’. The parties “agreed to ‘establish a just and comprehensive peace agreement’ with the armed movements, based on eliminating all causes of conflict, defining diversity management in Sudan and implementing agreed alternative policies in all economic, political and social fields. After which, a national constitutional convention will be held to create a permanent constitution”. Sudanese Workers Union along with Syndicate of Sudanese Doctors and all other professional unions of engineers, lawyers, university professors, teachers, also have joined forces against the repressive regime.
SCP and other opposition parties have been leading the protests against the present Omar al Bashir government that assumed power after a military coup. Similar protests were held in late 2016 after the government cut fuel subsidies and also in 2013, when the first round of cuts in subsidy were introduced by the government, as a means to overcome the impact of the global economic crisis. Dozens of people were killed when security forces crushed the 2013 demonstrations. The government authorities are once again cracking down on the protests to prevent a repeat of the 2013 unrest. Uncowed, the protesters are singing a poem of Tunisian revolutionary poet Abulgasim al-Shabby: “If the people will to live; night is destined to fold; And the chains are certain to be broken”.
Kemal Okuyan, the general secretary of Communist Party of Turkey (TKP), has been recently sentenced to 11 months and 20 days of imprisonment on the grounds that he had written a ‘libelous’ article against Turkey’s president Erdoğan on July 28, 2015. With this, sentencing the number of the TKP central committee members who received prison sentences due to their political writings has increased to four. The authoritarian regime in Turkey wants to punish and silence the TKP, like thousands of others in Turkey, because of their political activities.
Apart from this sentencing, the Turkish government is also pursuing many other cases against Kemal Okuyan, in order to threaten and coerce the TKP to submission. In the past few weeks, there has been a significant increase in the number of assaults on the TKP members who were distributing party publications in different cities of Turkey. The Party was also informed about Supreme Electoral Council’s attempts to ‘avoid TKP from running for the elections’.
Expressing their gratitude to the CPI(M)’s expression of solidarity with the TKP, they had stated: “It would not be right to overplay the sentence imposed on Okuyan while scores of people are in prison in Turkey, which has been transformed systematically into a giant penitentiary. The TKP and the leadership of the party have been carrying on their political activities steadfastly and self-confidently….Such imprisonment sentences given to party cadres, although then turned into monetary fines, are lately expanding measures that aim to oppress TKP. TKP is a party well-aware of what kind of a country it struggles within and is resilient enough to endure such challenges. For the past five months, the party has mobilised in a systematic way aiming to increase the number of its members and workplace units. Meanwhile, we opened new party offices in 13 different sites, including some of those in regions where conservative forces are quite strong. By the end of May 2018, we are planning to establish party offices in at least 20 additional cities or districts”. Assuring of their commitment to Marxism-Leninism, the TKP vowed to carry forward its struggle.
It should be remembered that in both Turkey and Sudan, there are authoritarian governments, dominated by religious fundamentalists and supported by imperialist forces. Under the garb of religious fundamentalism, they are fostering sectarian divisions and trying to break the working class unity. Communist parties here, are leading the struggles by taking up the livelihood issues of the people and combining the struggles against neoliberal policies with those against fundamentalism and sectarianism. They identify this as the only way forward.