The new head of the Sudanese Communist Party was elected on June 8. Muhammad Mukhtar al-Khatib is a senior member of the party and is also well known for his unionist activities and his contribution to local agricultural projects, as an influential member of the local farmer’s alliance.
Sudan’s Communist Party (or SCP) was a major force in local politics until the early 1970s when it was repressed by the then government. More recently the party has re-emerged and become more outspoken about its views: for example, it opposed South Sudan’s secession from Sudan and wants a return to democratic rule.
In an interview with The Niles, the party’s new General Secretary, al-Khatib, spoke about the direction the SCP is going in now and why the only way to solve the country’s crises is to bring about an end to the current regime:
Q: In your opinion, where is the country going – especially after negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan in Addis Ababa broke down?
A: Our priority as a party is to stop the current, senseless war. What is going on right now relates to outstanding issues resulting from the non-implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement [negotiated between Sudan and South Sudan in January 2005].
This war must be stopped and all outstanding issues should be resolved through dialogue. There should be some solution other than that which might be imposed by external players. Any such solution can never be comprehensive; it will only be temporary.
Q: What are your party’s thoughts on the Darfur crisis?
A: We think that Darfur crisis should be addressed through a constitutional conference where [Darfurian] leaders are represented because they are an inseparable part of Sudan’s national issues.
Q: Some have called for an end to the current Sudanese regime. What do you think of those calls?
A: We support those calls, mainly because the current regime came about after a coup, then remained in power through unfair elections. As a result, the government has basically stayed the same, with the same agenda, the one that has created all of the current crises.
Q: What are your thoughts on the current economic crisis and the government’s proposed solutions to it?
A: What the government has offered is only part of a solution. Sound, holistic solutions lie in real production – things like irrigation projects, farming and industry. But that’s something that the current regime has destroyed. And now we’re verging on famine.
Ending the war is a top priority that would help toward solving this crisis. Meanwhile, we should support agriculture and industry -- and this includes the re-nationalisation of formerly privatised industries -- as well as focus on healthcare, education and other primary services.
In a word, we are dependent on production now. The current regime, which operates as a parasite system, will never take such steps. Haven’t you noticed that, despite the current crisis, the regime is still privatising sugar plants and selling service centres like the eye hospital and Khartoum hospital?
All the states are now complaining that they are not receiving their respective share of the country’s resources and consequently are living in crisis.
Q: So you think the only solution is to somehow end the current regime?
A: That’s right. However this doesn’t mean we should simply sit and wait for it to leave; the people must struggle for their rights and then gradually overthrow the regime.
Q: As the new Secretary General of the SCP how do you see your party’s prospects in Sudan?
A: The SCP is continuously evolving, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It has involved a genuine, wide and open discussion, which has engaged all SCP members and friends.
Building on these discussions, the fifth SCP conference developed the current SCP platform, where the name was maintained but the philosophy and nature has become more open to modern, humanist concepts.
This, I think, opens the way for the party to help solve Sudan’s contentious issues through the Marxist methodology after a sound analysis of local situations, in addition to raising class consciousness. The SCP is also promoting democratic practices internally.
In this way, and if Sudan’s situation improves, the SCP will certainly be able to attract more members.
Q: What about internal conflicts inside the SCP?
A: Conflict exists in any political entity. It is natural. Conflict is there and it is necessary for party development. However it should be channelled correctly, it should not be destructive.
Q: In a previous interview, you talked about enemies of the SCP – who were you referring to?
A: The working class has a real interest in development and social change in Sudan. But there are groups who like the status quo, these are the SCP’s enemies.
Q: After the death of former party head, Mohammed Ibrahim Nugud, there were rumours that reports written by former party leader, Abdel Khaliq Mahjub, who was executed after a coup led by other Communists, would be published. The reports apparently go into detail about the events and were delivered to party leaders. Do you think these reports will be published now that you are in charge?
A: I know nothing about these documents but I think they should be open to all the Sudanese people. Any papers documenting that period of time could be published but this issue has not been discussed within the party. Personally, I think we don’t think we have anything to conceal from the Sudanese people.