Thomas Sankara’s Vision: Panafricanism, Internationalism, and Socialism

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Thomas Sankara’s Vision: Panafricanism, Internationalism, and Socialism

Thomas Sankara’s Vision: Panafricanism, Internationalism, and Socialism

By Heather Benno

This text is from a presentation by Heather Benno, Lawyer, Human Rights Activist, and Member of Answer Coalition during the Second Edition of the Thomas Sankara Annual Conference held in Washington, DC on October 12, 2013.

In his Political Orientation Speech of October 2, 1983, Sankara laid out the National Council of the Revolution’s (CNR) program for the revolutionary rebirth of the nation [Upper Volta]. These core goals of the revolution reflected the need for the revolution to make alliances with other revolutionary struggles and anti-imperialist struggles around the world: both to advance those struggles, and to protect and advance the revolution at home. It established a framework by which the revolution would conduct international relations – not on the basis of expansion, enslavement, profiteering or military power as has been the practice of the United States and the European powers – but on the basis of mutual development, national liberation, and political support.

“We must define the place of the … revolution in the world revolutionary process. Our revolution is an integral part of the world movement for peace and democracy against imperialism and all forms of hegemonism. That is why we will strive to establish diplomatic relations with other countries on the basis of the following principles:
(1) Respect for each other’s independence, territorial integrity and national sovereignty;
(2) Mutual nonaggression;
(3) Noninterference in domestic affairs;
(4) Trade with all countries on equal footing and on the basis of mutual benefit.

And Sankara boldly declared solidarity with the national liberation and anti-imperialist/anti-racist struggles on the continent and those farther away.
“We will give active solidarity and support to national liberation movements fighting for the independence of their countries and the liberation of their peoples. This support is directed in particular:
(1) To the Namibian people, under the leadership of the SWAPO
(2) To the Saharawi people, in their struggle to recover their national territory;
(3) To the Palestinian people, for their national rights.

Objectively, the anti-imperialist African countries are allies in our struggle. The neocolonial alliances operating on our continent make closer ties with these countries necessary.”
Sankara’s concept of strength through unity and development by building anti-imperialist alliances led him to travel frequently throughout Africa and around the world, forging alliances with other nationalist and anti-imperialist leaders that were willing to lend political and at times economic support to the Burkinabe revolution without any exploitative terms.

This cross-border Panafrican unity would strengthen nations in the face of the ploys of the West to divide nations with war and exploit all of their resources. He explained, in references to Burkina Faso’s relations with Ghana, “The spirit of liberty and dignity, of counting on one’s own resources, of independence, and of consistent anti-imperialist struggle should blow from north to south and from south to north, crossing borders with ease.”

Sankara drew from the history of the U.S. and Europe in Africa, including the Middle East, and Asia. Just 28 years prior, President Gamal Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal in July 1956 in an act of defiance to world imperialism. Algeria won its independence in 1962. There had been an inspiring escalation in national liberation and independence struggles on the continent and around the world. Libya under Qaddafi was an ally.

Yet as of August 1984 – one year after the revolution, Sankara was still forced by world circumstances to pose the question: “Do you think our country would have any problems or difficulties in its relations if that wind were blowing through our country and all the other countries? Do you think countries would have gotten to the point of threatening each other with the apocalypse today if this same wind were blowing through all the countries of the world? Currently we’re talking about Iran and Iraq – [in reference to the Iran/Iraq war] – don’t you think it would be good if Iranians could go visit Iraqis in the same way that Ghanians go visit Burknabe and vice versa?” The imperialist fueled Iran/Iraq war lasted 8 years and resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths.

To the United Nations, two months later, Sankara elaborated by voicing support for numerous struggles, including the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, Angola and Namibia, the “valiant Palestinian people,” and with the soldiers “of Iran and Iraq who are dying in a fratricidal and suicidal war.” He also expressed solidarity with the struggle in Nicaragua and all across Latin America, in Afghanistan and Ireland, and the peoples of Grenada and East Timor.

He demanded progress in the Burkinabe, continental and international struggle for women’s liberation, which he noted could not be separated from political struggle for self-determination and independence.

In defending the new Burkinabe revolution, Sankara took on the role as the “spokesman for all those who vainly seek a forum in this world where they can make themselves heard.” So we tonight speak in his honor on “behalf of all ‘those left behind - ’” including those still fighting and clinging to the struggle for independence and self determination today.

Today, the people of the Middle East, the African continent, Asia, Latin America – and indeed the working people of the United States - have no smaller of a feat. Yet we in the United States have not yet made a revolution that could redirect the vast resources of this country from military death and destruction to revolutionary support and solidarity assistance. When there was a revolution in Tunisia, kicking out a U.S.-backed dictatorship that robbed the people, the people of the United States wanted to stand in solidarity with that revolution, but the U.S. government – bought and sold by multinational corporations that do not serve our interests – was intent to reining in any renewal of revolutionary fervor in the Middle East and on the African continent.

The Obama administration has increased the drone war on Africa, continued a campaign of murderous bombing in Somalia, enraging the people of the region again imperialism anew. It is also increasing its military presence and aggression in Mali, Niger, and across the continent of Africa, and continuing US interventions in the people struggles in Egypt and around the world.

We saw a truly anti-imperialist struggle break out in the United States in response to the war on Libya, the murderous bombing of Libya, and the murder of the former leader of that country Colonel Gaddafi, and also in response to a threat of another war on Syria.

Thankfully the world Goliath, the world imperialist today, the United States of America, was forced to put that imperialist aggression on the break.
In closing I leave you with the following words of Thomas Sankara he pronounced in Harlem in 1984: “I am not going to speak long because those who spoke before me said about a revolution should be. What is left for us to do is to make the revolution.”
Thank you! .
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