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The revolution sought to create an anti-imperialist social democracy in one of the world’s poorest countries. Issues such as land rights, labour rights, agriculture, education and women’s rights were at the forefront of the revolution’s aims.

Sankara stated: "There is no true social revolution without the liberation

of women." It was one of his principal priorities to ban female genital

mutilation; he promoted contraception and discouraged polygamy.



Remembering Maurice Bishop and Thomas Sankara

By Sokari Ekine


This week marks the anniversary of the assassinations of two black revolutionaries, Maurice Bishop [of Granada] on 19 October 1983 and Thomas Sankara [of Burkina Faso] on 15 October 1987. The assassination of Bishop effectively ended the Grenadian revolution and the New Jewel movement, when six days after his death US forces under Ronald Reagan invaded the island.    

A communist threat

The JEWEL Movement (The Joint Endeavour for Welfare, Education & Liberation) originally started in 1972 as a political movement centered on agricultural co-operatives. A year later the New Jewel movement was created; Maurice Bishop became prime minister in March 1979.

Bishop was assassinated in a "palace" coup led by deputy prime minister and childhood friend, Bernard Coard, over ideological differences. Coard and his wife Phyllis were sentenced to death, a decision later softened to life imprisonment. In 2007, the Privy Council of the UK ruled the death sentences unconstitutional, which has implications for the case in the first place.

What is clear is that the New Jewel movement’s socialist ideology and its relationship with Cuba were perceived as a "communist" threat to the US hegemony in the Caribbean. The invasion battle lasted for just over a week and resulted in the death of many Grenadians and 12 Cuban civilians, who were there to help with the construction of an airport.

According to Don Rojas, Bishop’s press secretary, the US invasion had been planned as early as 1981 and the coup provided the perfect excuse:

The coup provided a pretext for the invasion to take place at that particular moment. In other words, taking advantage of an opportunity of internal destabilization as a result of the coup and confusion within the Grenadian society.

The invasion, however, had been planned by the Reagan administration as far back as 1981. In fact, there was mock invasion, military exercises on the island of Viequas off the island of Puerto Rico. Viequas happens to be similar in topography to Grenada. This had been in the works, so to speak, for at least two years before October 1983.

Grenada under the New Jewel movement

The aim of the revolutionary movement, which received aid both from Cuba and the Soviet Union, was to create a modern agricultural programme based on a system of co-operatives, people’s assemblies, free health and education for all and low-cost housing. Workers’ and women’s rights, as well as the struggle against racism and Apartheid, were Bishop’s core principles.

Women’s rights were furthered through the formation of the National Women’s Organization, which participated in policy decisions along with other social groups. Women were given equal pay and paid maternity leave, and sex discrimination was made illegal.

The Grenadian revolution only lasted four years, but in that brief period the New Jewel movement transformed the country from a neo-colonialist state to a Pan-African revolutionary state.

Thomas Sankara seized power in 1983 in a popular Pan-African coup in what was then Upper Volta (he changed the name of the country to Burkina Faso, which means ‘land of honest men’). Like Bishop, Sankara had a vision to change the way things were, to show that there are other ways of socioeconomic and political organization which are in the interest of the people rather than international corporations and Western governments.

The revolution sought to create an anti-imperialist social democracy in one of the world’s poorest countries. Issues such as land rights, labour rights, agriculture, education and women’s rights were at the forefront of the revolution’s aims. Sankara stated: "There is no true social revolution without the liberation of women." It was one of his principal priorities to ban female genital mutilation; he promoted contraception and discouraged polygamy.

Sankara also embarked on a massive nationalization project which no doubt infuriated the business élite and the French government. In 1987 Sankara was assassinated after only four years in power, in an "imperialist" coup by his former comrade, Blaise Compaoré. Compaoré, who overturned most of Sankara’s policies, remains in power today. 

Who killed Thomas Sankara?

The truth of who was behind the assassination is still illusive. It has been suggested that former Liberian warlord Charles Taylor may have been involved. In a 2009 documentary, Italian film maker Silvestro Montanaro implicated the US and the French governments as well as Compaoré and Taylor in Sankara’s assassination.

This brief excerpt from the documentary shows Taylor as working for the CIA to destabilize African liberation movements and this is what his former aide said:

PRINCE: Right, after I spoke, the president of Burkina Faso faced all kinds of problems, and I do not want to end up there again. Besides, if you really want to know what happened in Burkina Faso, why don’t you go there and ask President Blaise Compaoré. . . You are part of the international media, you are like a doctor, to whom the truth must be told. Therefore, go to Burkina Faso . . . [bursts of laughter].

NARRATOR: Then, with the camera ostensibly off . . .

PRINCE: There was an international plot to get rid of this man, and if I tell you how this happened, are you aware the secret services could kill you?

SILVESTRO: An international plot. Because the truth would harm the current president Blaise Compaoré. In 1987, when Sankara was murdered, Compaoré was considered his best friend. Immediately after Sankara’s death, Compaoré said "I was ill."

NARRATOR: Momo and Allen recount to me what exactly happened.

ALLEN: Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, Blaise Compaoré, Thomas Sankara, Domingo Guengeré, and Foday Sankoh, as well as the man from Chad, whose name I can’t recall, had all been trained in Libya and were all friends. They are the ones who actually organized the Burkina revolution and installed Sankara as president. Once in power, he set about putting in place his plans. The next thing you know, the US had infiltrated the liberation movements and set about overthrowing Sankara, who was leaning too far left. The Americans were not happy with Sankara. He was talking of nationalizing his country’s resources to benefit his people. He was a socialist so he had to go.

Burkina critics of Sankara claim he became authoritarian, closing down trade unions and banning strikes.  But in defence of Sankara, "you cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness."  This is the kind of madness African leadership is missing today.

I would like to leave behind me the conviction that if we maintain a certain amount of caution and organization we deserve victory. You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future. It took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen. We must dare to invent the future. Thomas Sankara, 1985

Sokari Ekine is a Nigerian social justice activist and blogger. She writes an award winning blog, Black Looks, which she setup over four years ago, writing on a range of topics such as LGBTI Rights in Africa, gender issues, human rights, the Niger Delta and Land Rights.

Source: NewInt

posted 17 October 2010

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Maurice Bishop.mp3

Excerpt of speech by Maurice Bishop

Maurice Bishop was the Prime Minister of Grenada from March 1979 until October 1983 when he was executed at Fort Rupert. Maurice grew up in the British-controlled Caribbean island of Grenada. Like many people in the country, Bishop led a poverty-stricken childhood due to a lack of industrialization and Britain's lack of concern for the Grenadians' well-being. . . . Bishop installed a revolutionary government that went to work organizing workers' councils and creating a very participatory government. He worked to develop the island, and received aid mainly from Cuba and the Soviet Union, and later—the Sandinistas of Nicaragua. One of the chief efforts of Maurice was the construction of an airplane runway in order to further tourism for the nation. Bishop was closely influenced by the ideas of Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega. Being the only English-speaking of this Caribbean triad, Bishop hoped to appeal to the working-class of United States—especially the oppressed African American population.

While Bishop's government and life were cut short tragically by extremists from both ends of the political spectrum, he remains a light of hope for socialists who see his participatory and egalitarian regime as a perfect example of how a workers' and peasants' government can be arranged.FreedomArchives

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Maurice Bishop and The New Jewel Movement, 1  /  Maurice Bishop and The New Jewel Movement, 2

Maurice Bishop and The New Jewel Movement, 3  /  Maurice Bishop and The New Jewel Movement, 4

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Maurice Bishop Speaks: The Grenada Revolution and Its Overthrow 1979-83

Edited by Bruce Marcus and Michael Taber

Less than 20 years ago Maurice Bishop led a popular revolution there that lasted for three and a half years and involved Grenada's working people of town and countryside in transforming their society and lives. The Grenada Revolution's giant strides in popular education, economic production, slashing unemployment, and developing national pride and internationalism, are graphically detailed in this outstanding book of Bishop's speeches that were made in the course of the revolutionary years. Bishop and the people of Grenada wrote an imperishable chapter in world history.

The speeches address not just the situation of one small island, but the entire world faced with the crisis of capitalism that has sharpened greatly in the past two decades. This book is also valuable for the introductory analysis by Steve Clark of how the revolution was overthrown from within with the murder of Bishop and other revolutionary leaders in October 1983, plus indispensable documents from the Cuban government and speeches by Fidel Castro on Cuba's role in supporting the revolution.George Fyson

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Maurice Bishop—(b. Aruba, 29 May 1944; d. 19 Oct. 1983) Grenadian; Prime Minister 1979 – 83—Born in the Dutch island of Aruba to Grenadian parents, Bishop trained as a barrister in London before returning to Grenada in 1970 to become involved in radical politics. He was instrumental in merging a number of small left-wing groups into the New Jewel Movement (NJM) in 1973, which campaigned against the autocratic government of Premier Eric Gairy. Gairy repressed the NJM and other opponents and in 1974 Bishop was jailed, two weeks after his father had been shot dead during a demonstration. In 1976 Bishop headed a three-party alliance and was elected to parliament, becoming leader of the opposition.

In March 1979 the NJM staged a bloodless coup when Gairy was abroad and proclaimed a People's Revolutionary Government (PRG), in which Bishop was named Prime Minister. Charismatic and popular, he became the figurehead of the PRG, attracting considerable support both within Grenada and from radical circles in Europe and North America.

For all its Marxist rhetoric, the PRG was in reality a pragmatic regime, encouraging co-operation between private and public sectors and attempting to diversify out of the island's dependency on agricultural commodities. It earned the enmity of the USA, however, through its close links with Cuba, which assisted in the building of an international airport.Answers

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Eric Matthew Gairy

Sir Eric Matthew Gairy (February 18, 1920 - August 23, 1997) was a Grenadian primary school teacher and a politician who led Grenada either as Premier or as Prime Minister between 1967 and 1979. He was born in St. Andrew's Parish, near Grenville, Grenada.

He founded the Grenada United Labour Party in 1950, which began as a labour union called as the Grenada Manual, Maritime & Intellectual Workers' Union (GMMIWU) but later took part in elections, and served as Chief Minister from 1954 to 1960 and from1961 until 1962 when he was dismissed for corruption. He served as Premier between 1967 and 1974, and became the first Prime Minister of Grenada from 1974. He led his country to independence from Great Britain in 1974. . . .

On March 13, 1979 while Gairy was at the UN, the New Jewel Movement led by Maurice Bishop launched an armed revolution and overthrew the government. Bishop suspended the constitution, and the New Jewel Movement ruled the country by decree until 1983. . . .

Gairy stayed in exile in the United States until 1983, when the United States, backed by some Caribbean allies—notably, Dame Eugenia Charles, Prime Minister of Dominica—invaded to topple a military government which had overthrown and killed Bishop.

Gairy then returned to Grenada and campaigned in the elections of 1984, claiming to be a changed man. However, his party lost the elections, and attempts by Gairy and his party to return to power in 1990 and 1995 were also unsuccessful. He died in Grand Anse, Grenada.—TravelGrenada

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Thomas Sankara Speaks, The Burkina Faso Revolution 1983- 87

By Thomas Sankara

The originality of Sankara's ideas . . . along with his awareness of the social and economic realities of his country, his understanding of the international relations of forces . . . make this collection a highly useful tool. Expressed with passion and clarity, his views on the necessity of a new balance between the city and the countryside, on the crucial importance of the emancipation of women . . . are in perfect keeping with the demands of the peoples of Africa today.—Le Monde Diplomatique

The courage and originality which made him and Burkina Faso the inspiration they were to so many Africans shine out of this collection of his most important speeches.—London Guardian

Thomas Sankara led the revolution that took place in the West African country Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987. In this collection of speeches and interviews, Sankara explains how during those years the peasants and workers of Burkina Faso: established a popular revolutionary government; started to fight the hunger, illiteracy, and economic backwardness imposed by imperialist domination; and began to combat the oppression of women inherited from thousands of years of class society. Their actions set an example not only for the workers and peasants of Africa but for those of the whole world, then and now.—Pathfinder Press; 2nd edition

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After basic military training in secondary school in 1966, Sankara began his military career at the age of 19, and a year later was sent to Madagascar for officer training at Antsirabe where he witnessed popular uprisings in 1971 and 1972 against the government of Philibert Tsiranana and first read the works of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin, profoundly influencing his political views for the rest of his life. Returning to Upper Volta in 1972, by 1974 he fought in a border war between Upper Volta and Mali.

He earned notoriety for his heroic performance in the border war with Mali, but years later would renounce the war as "useless and unjust", a reflection of his growing political consciousness. He also became a popular figure in the capital of Ouagadougou. The fact that he was a decent guitarist (he played in a band named "Tout-à-Coup Jazz") and rode a motorcycle may have contributed to his charismatic public images.

In 1976 he became commander of the Commando Training Centre in . In the same year he met Blaise Compaoré in Morocco. During the presidency of Colonel Saye Zerbo a group of young officers formed a secret organisation "Communist Officers' Group" (Regroupement des officiers communistes, or ROC) the best-known members being Henri Zongo, Jean-Baptiste Boukary Lingani, Compaoré and Sankara.Wikipedia

Thomas Sankara—The Upright Man Part 1  / Thomas Sankara—The Upright Man Part 2

Thomas Sankara—The Upright Man Part 3  / Thomas Sankara—The Upright Man Part 4

Thomas Sankara—the Upright Man


Who was Thomas Sankara?

Thomas Sankara [December 21, 1949 – October 15, 1987] often referred to as “Africa’s Che Guevara” was the president of Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987.  He seized power in a 1983 popularly supported coup, with the goal of eliminating corruption and the dominance of the former French colonial power.

Sankara’s  foreign policies were centered around anti-imperialism, with his government eschewing all foreign aid because, as he often said, “he who feeds you, controls you.”  He pushed for debt reduction and nationalized all land and mineral wealth,  averting the power and influence of the IMF and World Bank.

His domestic policies were focused on preventing famine with agrarian self-sufficiency and land reform, prioritizing education with a nation-wide literacy campaign, and promoting public health by vaccinating 2.5 million children.  And his was the first African government to publicly recognize the AIDS epidemic as a major threat to Africa.

Thomas Sankara was an extraordinary man.

He outlawed female genital mutilation, forced marriages, and polygamy and was the first African leader to appoint women to major cabinet positions and actively recruit them for the military.  A motorcyclist himself, he formed an all-woman motorcycle personal guard.

He encouraged women to work outside the home and stay in school even if pregnant.

He launched a nation-wide public health  ‘Vaccination Commando’ a state run program that in a period of only 15 days in early November 1984, completed the immunization of 2.5 million children against meningitis (a world record), yellow fever and measles. This operation was so successful in that children in neighbouring countries like the Ivory Coast and Mali were sent to Burkina Faso for free immunization that helped curtail high rates of infant and child mortality.

He sold off the government fleet of Mercedes cars and made the Renault 5 (the cheapest car sold in Burkina Faso at that time) the official service car of the ministers.  He lowered his salary, as President, to only $450 a month and limited his possessions to a car, four bikes, three guitars, and a refrigerator.

He planted over ten million trees to halt the growing desertification of the Sahel and established an ambitious road and rail construction program to “tie the nation together.”

He was known for jogging unaccompanied through the capital city in his track suit and posing in his tailored military fatigues with his mother-of-pearl pistol. And when asked why he didn’t want his portrait hung in public places, as was the norm for other African leaders, he said ”there are seven million Thomas Sankaras.”

Sankara’s revolutionary policies for self-reliance and defiance against the neoliberal development strategies imposed by the West made him an icon to many supporters of African liberation. But his policies alienated and antagonized the vested interests of the small but powerful Burkinabe middle class, the tribal leaders who he stripped of the traditional right to forced labor and tribute payments, and the foreign financial interests in France and their ally Ivory Coast.

Compaore and Sankara

On October 15, 1987 Sankara was killed by an armed militia of twelve officials in a coup d’état organized by Compaore.  Sankara’s body was dismembered and buried in an unmarked grave.   Compaore immediately took power, overturning most of Sankara’s policies.  Compaore reportedly ousted Sankara because he believed that his revolutionary policies were jeopardizing Burkina Faso’s relationship with France and Ivory Coast. 

Sankara and Compaore were not only colleagues, they were childhood friends. This is why ‘Bad Karma’ should be Blaise Compaore’s middle name.  He is a ruthless man who orchestrated the brutal assassination of his best friend.  Yet he is the man routinely designated by the international community to act as a ’mediator’ to help resolve African conflicts… smdh—Fyeahblackhistory

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The revolution and the emancipation of women—Imbued with the invigorating sap of freedom, the men of Burkina, the humiliated and outlawed of yesterday, received the stamp of what is most precious in the world: honor and dignity. From this moment on, happiness became accessible. Every day we advance toward it, heady with the first fruits of our struggles, themselves proof of the great strides we have already taken. But the selfish happiness is an illusion. There is something crucial missing: women. They have been excluded from the joyful procession…The revolution’s promises are already a reality for men. But for women, they are still merely a rumor. And yet the authenticity and the future of our revolution depend on women. Nothing definitive or lasting can be accomplished in our country as long as a crucial part of ourselves is kept in this condition of subjugation - a condition imposed…by various systems of exploitation. Posing the question of women in Burkinabe society today means posing the abolition of the system of slavery to which they have been subjected for millennia.

The first step is to try to understand how this system functions, to grasp its real nature in all its subtlety, in order then to work out a line of action that can lead to women’s total emancipation. . . . .The condition of women is therefore at the heart of the question of humanity itself, here, there, and everywhere.—Thomas Sankara

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So Rich, So Poor: Why It's So Hard to End Poverty in America

By Peter Edelman

If the nation’s gross national income—over $14 trillion—were divided evenly across the entire U.S. population, every household could call itself middle class. Yet the income-level disparity in this country is now wider than at any point since the Great Depression. In 2010 the average salary for CEOs on the S&P 500 was over $1 million—climbing to over $11 million when all forms of compensation are accounted for—while the current median household income for African Americans is just over $32,000. How can some be so rich, while others are so poor? In this provocative book, Peter Edelman, a former top aide to Senator Robert F. Kennedy and a lifelong antipoverty advocate, offers an informed analysis of how this country can be so wealthy yet have a steadily growing number of unemployed and working poor. According to Edelman, we have taken important positive steps without which 25 to 30 million more people would be poor, but poverty fluctuates with the business cycle.

The structure of today’s economy has stultified wage growth for half of America’s workers—with even worse results at the bottom and for people of color—while bestowing billions on those at the top. So Rich, So Poor delves into what is happening to the people behind the statistics and takes a particular look at the continuing crisis of young people of color, whose possibility of a productive life too often is lost on their way to adulthood.DemocracyNow 

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The Benefit and The Burden: Tax Reform

Why We Need It and What It Will Take

By Bruce Bartlett

The United States Tax Code has undergone no serious reform since 1986. Since then, loopholes, exemptions, credits, and deductions have distorted its clarity, increased its inequity, and frustrated our ability to govern ourselves. At its core, any tax system is in place to raise the revenue needed to pay the government’s bills. But where that revenue should come from raises crucial questions: Should our tax code be progressive, with the wealthier paying more than the poor, and if so, to what extent? Should we tax income or consumption or both? Of the various ideas proposed by economists and politicians—from tax increases to tax cuts, from a VAT to a Fair Tax—what will work and won’t? By tracing the history of our own tax system and by assessing the way other countries have solved similar problems, Bartlett explores the surprising answers to all of these questions, giving a sense of the tax code’s many benefits—and its inevitable burdens.

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Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War

By Tony Horwitz

Plotted in secret, launched in the dark, John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry was a pivotal moment in U.S. history. But few Americans know the true story of the men and women who launched a desperate strike at the slaveholding South. Now, Midnight Rising portrays Brown's uprising in vivid color, revealing a country on the brink of explosive conflict. Brown, the descendant of New England Puritans, saw slavery as a sin against America's founding principles. Unlike most abolitionists, he was willing to take up arms, and in 1859 he prepared for battle at a hideout in Maryland, joined by his teenage daughter, three of his sons, and a guerrilla band that included former slaves and a dashing spy. On October 17, the raiders seized Harpers Ferry, stunning the nation and prompting a counterattack led by Robert E. Lee. After Brown's capture, his defiant eloquence galvanized the North and appalled the South, which considered Brown a terrorist. The raid also helped elect Abraham Lincoln, who later began to fulfill Brown's dream with the Emancipation Proclamation, a measure he called "a John Brown raid, on a gigantic scale."

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Negro Comrades of the Crown

African Americans and the British Empire Fight the U.S. Before Emancipation

By Gerald Horne

Dr. Gerald Horne, professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston, said, the American revolt of 1776 against British rule “was basically a successful revolt of racist settlers. It was akin to Rhodesia, in 1965, assuming that Ian Smith and his cabal had triumphed. It was akin to the revolt of the French settlers in Algeria, in the 1950s and 1960s, assuming those French settlers had triumphed.” Dr. Horne explores the racist roots on the American Revolution in his new book, Negroes of the Crown. “It was very difficult to construct a progressive republic in North America after what was basically a racist revolt,” said Horne. “The revolt was motivated in no small part by the fact that abolitionism was growing in London…. This is one of the many reasons more Africans by an order of magnitude fought against the rebels in 1776, than fought alongside them.”In this path-breaking book, Horne rewrites the history of slave resistance by placing it for the first time in the context of military and diplomatic wrangling between Britain and the United States.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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