Thomas Sankara

“… One does not make a revolution simply to take the place of the despots who have been deposed. One does not participate in the revolution for vindictive reasons, driven by the desire for a privileged position: “Get out of the way and make room for me!” This kind of motive is alien to the ideals of the August revolution. Those with this motivation demonstrate their petty-bourgeois careerist flaws, if not their dangerous counter-revolutionary opportunism.

The image of the revolutionary that the CNR seeks to impress on everyone’s consciousness is that of an activist who is one with the masses, who has faith in them, and who respects them. He does not see himself as a schoolmaster to whom the masses owe obedience and submission. To the contrary, he learns from them, listens to them carefully, and pays attention to their opinions. He drops all authoritarian methods worthy of reactionary bureaucrats.”

I have heard the name Thomas Sankara a lot, I liked the general gist about the guy even though I did not know details. Fela sang so passionately about him, and growing up, Uncle Eddie spoke about him a lot, so I reckoned he must have been indeed special.

Reading from his compilation of speeches, I am gaining more insight about his character, and as almost all great names we hear about, I am not disappointed at all. In fact, I am immensely impressed by the very deep insight associated with his revolutionary movement. Laid out very clearly and articulately; ambitious enough but not grandiose.

There are many talking points about Sankara’s speeches but the excerpt above is of particular interest to me because it’s something I have always thought and spoken about, but Sankara here says it succinctly. The contemptuous attitude of those in any form of authority, towards the masses and the authoritarian methods of bureaucrats. Sankara must have been bemoaning the kind of egos we see all around us today. People pay no attention at all to what the system expects from them, it’s all about everything but the main job. For most people, any ambition is about “Get out of the way and make room for me!” It’s not about adding any value.

I am yet to finish the book on Sankara, but I can tell already that he wasn’t just a hype. What he is, I don’t know, maybe I would find out and let you know as I read more. One thing I do like him for though is his refusal to be labeled. Who’s a communist? Who is a capitalist? Who is a dictator? Who is a democrat? I think it’s better to make clear our positions, than adopting labels we can hardly define these days.

There is no perfection, as Sankara himself alluded to by proceeding with caution in emulating other revolutionaries like Che Guevara and Lenin. Juxtaposing Sankara’s view with that of Plato, on popular opinion and justice will make an interesting debate I would consider in due course (Sankara thinks popular opinion equals justice, while Plato thinks exactly opposite). Having said this however, I think he is one of the truly special ones.

The leader who will be one with his people, is one who genuinely believes it’s a privilege to serve the people, no matter the sacrifice that leader has made. Some made a few sacrifices and thus believe it is their right to govern and thus the schoolmaster pose, this is a common problem that starts small and increases as power increases and we begin to exaggerate our roles in the bigger scheme of things. Even worse, some made no sacrifices at all, and still believe the people should count themselves lucky to have them ruling them.


The Amateur Philosopher