A History of the Sudanese Communist Party

  • Abdelwahab Himmat

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis addresses the largely untold history of communism in Sudan in its changing political and social context. After over throwing Ottoman-Egyptian rule in 1885, Sudan became effectively a British colony under the Condominium Rule of Britain and Egypt in 1898. During this period, 1898-1956, Sudan underwent major transformations from a subsistence agricultural economy to an agricultural exporting economy. With the coming of forms of modernisation, political movements gradually developed, reaching a peak in the 1940s, when the major political parties were established. These post-war years were a period marked by anticolonial struggle.

    The Sudanese Communist Party was initially founded in 1946 as an anticolonial movement known as HASITO. Ten years later it formally became the Sudanese Communist Party. The thesis traces the party’s development from 1946 to the present looking in particular at its structure and day-to-day practice. These are areas that have not been examined in detail before. For most of this time it functioned as an underground party. Much of the originality of the thesis for Sudanese political history lies in its use of rich oral history data which throws light on unexplored dimensions of the party including the daily lives and work of cadres both above and underground.

    For this research I interviewed twenty-six members and former party members about their lives in the Communist Party. Their combined stories, read alongside and against official documents and available secondary literature have enabled me to put together the most detailed picture to date of the culture, organisation and workings of the party. This original research adds a new dimension to the available written literature on the Sudanese Communist Party together with an archive of oral history interviews that future researchers will be able to access. It makes an original contribution both to Sudanese political history and international communist studies.

    I was motivated to write this thesis about the SCP because it played such a formative role in my early years in Sudan. It was this early experience and the people I got to know from my own involvement with the party at that time that enabled me to gain access to interviewees who had never spoken out before. From a Western perspective, the thesis is of particular interest for the light it sheds on how a largely underground Communist movement functioned in a developing society, governed by a traditional, largely oral, Muslim culture.

    Date of Award29 Mar 2021
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorRuth McElroy (Supervisor), Sharif Gemie (Supervisor) & Norman LaPorte (Supervisor)

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