25 March 2013

Thomas Sankara

African Revolutionary Writers, Part 10b

Thomas Sankara

As we said with Huey Newton, the reading of the original words of political leaders is apt to result in a re-evaluation of the received opinions about writers. In the case of Thomas Sankara, the revision is downwards.

Sankara is the legendary President of Burkina Faso, immortalised in the book “Thomas Sankara Speaks”, of which the attached document is an extract.

The only document mentioned by Sankara in this speech, made shortly before his death in a coup organised by his comrade Blaise Compaore, is his own Political Orientation Speech of 2 October 1983 allegedly (according to Wikipedia) written by another comrade, Valère Somé.

Compaore is still President of Burkina Faso in 2012, 25 years later. Valère Somé survives as an oppositionist.

The Political Orientation Speech was given soon after the coup d’état of 1983 that brought Sankara and Compaore to power. It was a kind of ad hoc statement of good intentions. It quotes no antecedents.

Otherwise the speech of 4 August 1987 is all generalisation. No other political figures are quoted, no events, no specific projects. It is not like the speech of a president. It is all exhortation, and every assertion is hedged with a counter-assertion.

At times Sankara indicates that he is about to go into details, but then he does not do so. At times he says we must learn from other revolutions, but he mentions none. Other African countries are not mentioned other than in the salutations at the beginning and the end.

We have all heard such empty speeches. They are called “clap-trap”.

The organizations mentioned are all top-down.

The peasants are insulted from the start.

There is paranoia in this speech. When you read this speech, you can suspect that Sankara already had fears that were born out when he was couped and murdered on 15 October 1987, less than three months later.

There is no actual politics. It all reduces to appeals to strive for happiness and dignity. The mass agency of which Sankara is proud to boast is overwhelmed by the “persuasion” that the proposed vanguard is meant to exercise.

It is necessary to read all, but this one is a shocking discovery. The great Sankara, with such a romantic image and huge following, turns out to be a revolutionary fraud.

The next writer, Walter Rodney, our last, was not a fraud.


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