Burkina Faso Replaces One Dictator with Another

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[Africa] [ULK Issue 41]
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Burkina Faso Replaces One Dictator with Another

On 31 October, after weeks of mass protests in which state media headquarters were stormed and government buildings were torched, the President of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaoré, was forced to resign and flee to the Ivory Coast, another French colony. The military seized power under Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida, who created a committee which appointed Michel Kafando as transitional president. Elections are to be scheduled within 12 months. Kafando was formerly ambassador to the United Nations for Compaoré, among other high posts he held in the government. This change in leadership is nothing more than a shuffling of the neo-colonial compradors who will continue to serve the imperialists while trying to placate the righteously angry Burkinabe (people of Burkina Faso) masses.

The protests that led to this change in government follow long standing unrest and anger about the exploitation and oppression of the people in Burkina Faso. In recent years there has been much civil protest in the country, especially amongst peasants and miners.

Burkina Faso is a small country located in sub-Saharan West Africa. Originally called the Republic of Upper Volta, the country was established as a French neo-colony in 1960. Captain Thomas Sankara became prime minister in 1983 after a military coup, ironically led by Blaise Compaoré and a group of military leaders who considered themselves revolutionary anti-imperialists. While not an uprising of the people, Sankara's politics were more progressive than previous leaders. Sankara implemented many programs to serve the people including nationalizing land and mineral resources, mass-vaccinations, infrastructure improvements, the expansion of wimmin's rights, encouragement of domestic agricultural consumption, and anti-desertification projects. He also changed the country's name to Burkina Faso (land of the upright/honest people). To promote self-reliance and end the poverty of dependency so common in African countries, Sankara called for the cancellation of African debts to Western governments. And setting an example for all Burkinabe, Sankara refused wealth and luxuries for himself and fought against corruption and bribery in the government.

Sankara was a revolutionary nationalist. And while we do not oppose those acting in the interests of the people seizing power from the imperialists through a coup, we know that it is the support of the masses and the political education and activism of the people that will ultimately determine the success or failure of a revolutionary movement.

Burkina Faso provides us with a good lesson on the importance of a cultural revolution. After the communists took power in China in 1949, they soon realized that a new bourgeois class was developing. These individuals may have come from proletarian and peasant backgrounds, but the culture that encourages individualism and self-serving advancement did not disappear with the implementation of socialism. And so some people, once they gained positions of power, abused that power. The Chinese communists realized the road from socialism to communism requires political struggle from all the people, vigilant criticism and self-criticism of and by political leaders and the masses, raising the level of political education, and a long-term campaign to build revolutionary culture. This became the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR). In the end, even with the GPCR, the capitalist interests within the communist party managed to take power after Mao died. This does not negate the need for a GPCR but rather we need to learn how to start sooner and be more effective in this struggle.

Sankara was murdered in 1987 in a coup d'etat that brought Blaise Compaoré to power, a man who once called himself a revolutionary ally and leader alongside Sankara. Before the coup Compaoré held significant power within the government, and his takeover was supported by the French who were eager to return the country to neo-colonial status. Compaoré quickly demonstrated how far he had strayed from his supposedly revolutionary views, reversing nationalization of Burkina Faso's resources, and reentering the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This year, Compaoré attempted to modify the Constitution to extend his 27-year presidency, which led to the protests by Burkinabe last month.

While we support the uprisings and righteous demands of the people of Burkina Faso, we also encourage them to make ceaseless efforts to again increase their general level of political education and organization. Only with deep revolutionary consciousness and leadership can Burkinabe take complete control of their nation from comprador dictatorship, and ensure that it grows with the people's interests at the forefront.

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