Thomas Sankara's 1984 speech to the UN general assembly

Thomas Sankara at the UN

Thomas Sankara's speech to the 39th plenary of the United Nations general assembly Thursday, 4 October 1984

There has been a recent campaign to rehabilitate the USSR's 1979 invasion of Afghanistan by both the Russian government and some prominent Leninists. One of the arguments given for this is that opposing the invasion puts you on the side of the CIA or the Taliban. In this 1984 speech, Thomas Sankara, the left wing president of Burkina Faso at the time and often held up as an anti-imperialist hero by those who support the USSR, condemns the invasion.

This is taken from the official OCR of the official UN translation of the speech, but the OCR is bad machine job, so ideally it should be cleaned up and corrected by a human, see the original link below for a more readable version in PDF).

President: Mr. Paul J. F. LUSAKA (Zambia).
General debate (continued)
1. The PRESIDENT: On behalf of the General Assembly, I have the honaur to welcome to the United Nations the Head of State and President of the National Council of the Revolution of Burkina Faso, Captain Thomas Sankara, and to invite him to address the Assembly.

2. Mr. SANKARA (Burkina Faso) (interpretation from French): I bring the fraternal greetings of a country covering 274,000 square kilometres, where 7 million men, women and children refuse henceforth to die of ignorance, hunger and thirst, even though they are not yet able to have a real life, after a quarter of a century as a sovereign State represented here at the United Nations.
3. I come to this thirty-ninth session of the General Assembly to speak on behalf of a people which, on the land of its ancestors, has chosen from now on to assert itself and to take responsibility for its own history, in hoth its positive and negative aspects, without any complexes.
4. I come here, mandated by the National Council of the Revolution of Burkina Faso, to express the views of my people on the problems that have been included on the General Assembly's agenda, which form the tragic background of the events which are sadly undermining the foundations of the world late in this twentieth century. It is a woild of chaos, in which the human race is torn apart by struggles between the great and the not-sa-great, attacked by armed bands and subjected to violence and plunder. It is a world in which the nations, eluding interna- tional jurisdiction., command groups beyond the law, which, with gun in hand, live by preymg on others ~md organizing the most despicable kinds of traffick- Ing.
5. I do not intend to enunciate dogmas here. I am neither a messiah nor a prophet. I possess no truths. My only ambition is a twofold aspiration: first, to be able to speak in simple language, the language offacts and clarity, on behalf of my people, the people of Burkina Faso, and, secondly, to be able·to express In my own way the feelings of that mass of people who are disinherited--those who belong to that world maliciously dubbed "the third world"-and to state, even if I cannot make them understood, the reasons !hat have led us to rise up, all of which explain~ our Interest in the United Nations, the demands of ourights drawing strength in the clear awareness of our duties.
6. Nobody will be surprised to hear us associate the former Upper Volta, now Burkina Faso, with that despised rag-bag, the third world, which the other worlds invented at the time of our independence in orde: better to ensure our intellectual, cultural, economic and political alienation. We want to fit in there without at all justifying this great swindle of history, still less accepting that we are a backwatd world left behind by the West. Rather, we do so to affirm our awareness of belonging to a three-conti- nent whole and to state, as one of the non-aligned countries, our deeply felt conviction that a special solidarity unites the three continents of Asia, Latin America and Africa in the same battle against the same political traffickers and economic exploiters.
7. Thus to recognize our presence in the third world is, to paraphrase Jose Marti, to affirm that we feel on our cheek every blow struck against every other man in the world. So far, we have turned the other cheek. The slaps in the face have been redoubled and the evil-doers have felt no tenderness in their hearts. They have trampled on the truth of the just. They have betrayed the word of Christ. They have turned His cross into a club, and after ~utting on His robe they have tom our bodies and souls to shreds. They have obscured His message, making it a Western one, whereas we saw it as a message of universal libera- tion. Now our eyes have been opened to the class struggle and there will be no more blows dealt against us. It must be proclaimed that there wi!l be no salvation for our peoples unless we turn our backs completely on all the models that all the charlatans of that type have tried to se'! us for 20 years. There can be no salvation for us unless we reject those models; there can be no development without that break.
8. Now ali the new "master minds" are awake.ninJ, roused by the dizzy increase of millions of men ID ra~s and frightened by the- threat to their digestion of thIS multitude hounded hy hunger. They are begin- ning to change their tun.e and are again anxiously seeking among us miracu~ous ideas for new forms of development for our couf.tries. In order to under- stand this it is necessary only to read the proceedings of innumerable colloquys and semin~rs.
9. I certainly do not wish to ridicule the patient effortr .rthose honest intellectuals who, because they have, }S to see, have observed the terrible conse- quences of the ravages caused in the third world by the so-called development specialists.
10. I fear that the results of all the energies seized by the Prosperos of all kinds nlay be turned into a magic wand to be used to turn us back i~'ttoa world of slavery, dressed up according to the taste of our times. This fear IS justified by the fact that the African petite bourgeoisie with its diplomas, if not
that of the whole third world, is not ready-whether because of intellectual laziness or simply because it has sampled the Western way of life-to give up its privileges. It therefore forgets that all true political struggle requires a rigorous theoretical debate, and it refuses to do the thinking necessary in order to invent the new concepts needed to wage the kind of
struggle to .the death that is ah.ead of us. A I?assive ~~~,pathetlcconsumer g~oup, It. overflows wI~h t~e
m. words of the West, j~st as It overflows Wlt~ Its whl~ky a~d champagne, m salon.s where ~here,IS a dubIOUS kmd of harmony. One wIll s,earch m vam~ the c0n,cepts !Jf Black,ness or the AfrIcan I?ersonahty now be~nga lIttle outaated-,for truly ne~Ideas from the ~rams of our so-called mtellectual gIants. Words and, Ideas come to us ~rom elsewhere, qur professors, ~nglneersa~deconomIsts are content SImply to add a lIttle colourI~g, b~~ause ther have brought from t~e Europea~un,1VerSltIes of whIch they are the products
on!y t~eIr dIplomas an~ the s~rface smoothness of
adjectIves and superlatIves. It IS urgently n e c e s s a r y , .
that our qualified personnel and those who work with
ideas learn that there is no innocent writing. In these
tempestuous times, we cannot leave it to our enemies
of the past and of the present to think and to imagine
and to create. We also must do so.
!..,.. ~. BeforeItIStoolat~-andItISal!eadylate-thIs
elIte, these ~en of ~frIca, of the thIrd world, must come ~otheIr se!lst:s, m other words, they ~ustturn
to theIr own socletIe~, they must look at thIS wretch- edness that we have mherIted, to understand that the battle for thought that will help the disinherited masses not only is not a vain one but can become credible at the international level. They must provide
a faithful picture for their own peoples, a pictur~ that wIl~enable the~ ~o carrY o~t profound changes m the socIal and polItIcal slt.uatlOn ~o t~at we can ~ree ~urselvesfrom the foreIgn dommatIon an.d explOlta- tlon that can. lead our States only to faIlure.
12. This is something that we understood, we, the people of Burkiaa Faso, on that night of 4 ~ugust 1983, when the stars first began to shme m the heavens ofour ~o,mela,nd.We had to ~akethe lead of
the peasa!lt uP.rISIngs m the countrysIde, threateped by desertlficatIon, exhausted by. hunger and thIrst, and ~bandoned. We had to gIve some sense of
meamng to the revolts, of the upemplo~ed urJ:>an masses, frustrated and tIred of seemg the hmousmes of the alienated elite flash by following the head of State, who offered them only false solutions devised and conceived in the brains of others. We had to give
an ideological soul to the just struggles of our masses mobilized against the monstrosity of imperialism. Instead ofa minor, short-lived revolt, we had to have revolution, the eternal struggle against all domina- tion. Others have noted this before me and yet others will say after me how broad the gap now is between the rich peoples and those that aspire only to have enough to eat, enough to drink, to survive and to defend their dignity, but nobody could believe how much of the food of our people has gone to feed the rich man's cow.
13. In the case of Upper Volta, the process was even more crystal clear. We demonstrated the essence of all the ~alamities.that have crushed the so-called developmg countrIes.
14. The truth about aid, represented as the panacea for all ills and often praised beyond all rhyme or reason, has been revealed. Very few countries have been so inundated with aid of all kinds as has mine.

consIdered to mean bemg able to read, WrIte and speakalanguage;onedoctorfor50,000inhabitants;
Aid is supposed to help 'development, but one can look in vain in what used to be Upper Volta to see any si~nofany kind ofdevelopment. The people who were m power through either naivety or class self- ishness could not or else did not want to gain control over this inflow from the outside or grasp the scope of it and use it in the interests of our people.
15. Analysing a table that was published in 1983 by the Sahel Club, Jacques Giri, in his book entitled The Sahel Tomorrow,I concluded quite sensibly that aid to the Sahel, because of its content and because of the machinery in place, was only aid for survival. He emphasized that only 30 per cent of that aid would enable the Sahel simply to remain alive. According to Jacques Giri, this outside aid was designed only for the continued development of the unproductive sectors, imposing intolerable burdens on our small budgets, completely disrupting our countryside, creating deficits in our trade balance and, in fact,
speeding up our indebtedness.

16. Here are just a ft;w stanqard fact~ !o d~scrlb,e
what Upper V olta used to be,lI~e: 7 mIllIon I~habl-
tants, :WIth more than 6 mI1~lon peasants; mfant
mortalIty ,at, 180 per 1,000; lIfe expec~an~y of 4,0
year~; an IllIteracy rate ,of 98 per cent, If htt:racy IS

17. The dIagnosIs ~bvlously ~as a very bad one.
The source of the eYI~ was polItIcal and so the only cure must be a polItIcal one.
18. Of course, we encourage aid that can help us to manage without aid, but in general the aId and assistance policies merely led us to become complete- ly disorganized, to enslave ourselves, to shirk our responsibility in our economic, political and cultural areas.
19. We have chosen a different path to achieve better resulb. We have chosen to establish new techniques. We have chosen to seek forms of organi- zation that are better adapted to our civilization, abruptly and once and for all rejecting all kinds of outside diktats, so that we can create the conditions
for a dignity in keeping with our ambitions. ..
20. We refuse SImple survIval. 'Y e want to eas~ the pressur~s, to free ~ur countrysIde from m~dleval sta~nattonor regressIon. We \yant to democ~atIzeour SOCIety" to open ~I? our mmds to a UnIverse of collectIve ~esponslblhty, so that we may be bold enou:~ to l!lvent the future. We ~an~ to cha~gethe a~mlmstr~tI?n and reconstruct It WIth a dIfferent ~md of cI~Il servant. We. want to ~et our army mv~lve~ WIth the people IP. producttye. wor~ ~md remID~ It.constantly ~h~t, Wlt~out patrIotIc tra~mng, a s<?I~ler IS only a cnmmal WIth power. That IS our pohtlcal programme.
21. At the economic level, we are learning to live simply, to accept and to demand of ourselves the aus!erity that we need in order to carry out our great desIgns.
22. T~anks to the revolutio~ary.solidarity fund, which IS fed by voluntary contnbutlons, we are now beginning to deal with the cruel questions posed by the drought. We support and have apylied the principles of the Declaration of Alma-Ata, expand- ing our primary health care. We endorse as a State
16 per cent receiving schooling; and lastly, a gross domestic product of 53,356 CFA francs, that is, just over $100 per capita

policy the global strategy of GOBI FFF3 advocated by UNICEF.

23. We believe that through the United Nations Sudano-Sahelian Office, the United Nations should enable those countries affected by drought to estab- lish a medium- and long-term plan to achieve self- sufficiency in food.
24. To prepare for the twenty-first century, we have begun, by creating a special tombola section an immense campaign for the education and traini~gof our children in a new school. The programme is called "Let's teach O'lf children". Through commit- tees to defend the revolution, we have established a vast house-building programme-500 units in three months-and we are also building roads, small water collectors, and so forth. Our economic ambition is to work to ensure that the use of the mind and the strength of each inhabitant of Burkina Faso will produce what is necessary to provide two meals a day and drinking-water.
25. We swear tb~t in future in Burkina Faso nothing will be done without the participation of the people of Burkina Faso themselves, nothing that has not been decided by us, that has not been prepared by us. There shall be no more attacks on our honour and dignity.
26. Strengthened by this conviction we want our words to cover all those who suffer ~ll those whose dignity has been crushed by a mIn~rity or a system. 27. Let me say to those who are listening to me now that I speak not only on behalf of Burkina Fasc my country which I love so much, but also on behalf of all those who suffer, wherever they may be.
28. I speak on behalf of those millions of human beings who are in ghettos because their skin is black or because they have a different kind ofculture, thos~ whose status is hardly higher than that of an animal. 29. I suffer, too, on behalf of those Indians who have been massacred, trampled on and humiliated and who, for centuries, have been confined to reservat~ons,so that they do not have any aspirations to any rIghts whatsoever, so that their culture cannot become enriched t11rou~contact with other cultures including that of the Invader. ' 30. I speak out on behalf of those who are unem- ployed because of a structurally unjust system which has now been completely disrupted, the unemployed who have been reduced to seeing their lives as only the reflection of the lives ef those who have more than themselves.
31.. I speak on behalf of women throughout the
entIre world who suffer from a system of exploitation imposed on them by men. As far as we are con- cemed, we are willing to welcome aH suggestions from anywhere in the world that will help us to promote the full development and prosperity of the women of Burkina Faso. In retUrIl, we will share with all countries the positive experience we are now undertaking with our women, who are now involved at all. levels of the State apparatus and social life in Burkma Faso, WJmen who struggle a.nd who say with us that the slave who will not shoulder responsibility to rebel does not deserve pity. That slave will alone ~e r~sponsible for his own wretchedness if ~c has any IllusIOns whatsoever about the suspect mdulgence shown by a master who pretends to give him freedom. Only strug~le helps us to become .free, and
32. I speak on behalf ~fthe mothers of our poor countries who see their children dying of malaria and diarrhoea, unaware that to save them there are simple methods available but which the science of the multinationals does not offer to them, preferring to invest in cosmetics laboratories and engage in cosmetic surgery to satisfy the whims and caprices of a few men and women who feel.they have .become too fat because ,?f too many calorIes m the rIch food they consume :WIth regulanty. That must ma~e even members o f thIS Assembly dIZZY-~Ot to mentIon the peoples .of the Sahel. We have decIded to adopt and popularIze the methods that have been advocated by WHO and UNICEF.
33. I speak on behalf of the child, the child of the poor man, who is hungry and who furtively eyes the wealth piled up in the rich man's shop, a shop that is protected by a thick window, a window which is defended by an impassable grille, the grille guarded by a policeman. in a helmet with gloves and a bludgeon, t~epolIceman placed there by the father of another chIld, who comes there to serve himself or rather~o~e.servedbecau~ethesearetheguarantees of capItalIstIc representatIveness and norms of the system.
34. I speak on behalf of the artists-poets, painters, sculptors, musicians, actors and so on-people of good will who see their art being prostituted by the show-business magicians.
35. I cry out on. behalf of the j0l;lrna!ists who haye been reduced to sIlence or else to lIes sImply to avoId the hardships o f unemployment.
36. I protest on behalf of the athletes of the entire world whose muscles are being exploited by political systems or by those who deal in the modern slavery of the stadium.
37. My country is the essence of all the miseries of peoples, a tragIc synthesis of all the suffering of
mankind but also, and above all, the synthesis of the hopes of our s!ruggles. That is why I speak out on behalf ,?f the sIck who are anxiously looki~g to see what SCIence can do for them-but that SCIence has been taken over by the gun merchants. My thoughts go to all those who have been affected by the destruction of nature, those 30 million who are dying every year, crushed by that most fearsome weapon, hunger.
38. As a soldier, I cannot forget that obedient soldier who does what he is told, whose finger is on the trigger and who knows that the bullet which is
going to leave his gun will bring only a message of
39. Lastly, I speak out in indignation as I think of the Palestinians, whom this most inhuman humanity has replaced with another people, a people who only yesterday were themselves being martyred at leisure. I think of the valiant Palestinian people, the families which have been splintered and split up and are wandering throughout the world seeking asylum. C;o~rageous! determined, stoic and tireless, the Pales- t!mans remInd us all of the need and moral obliga- hon to respect the rights of a people. Along with their Jewish brothers, they are anti-Zionists.
40. Standing alongside my soldier brothers of Iran and Iraq, who are dying in a fratricidal and suicidal war, I wish also to feel close to my comrades of Nicaragua, whose ports are being mined, whose
~~:~~~g~~n~Ol~~~~t~t~ ~~;.~;~~~tf:~rIe~gC
i ,~~~~\g~ra1dt3t~~.sist

all those in Latin America who are suffering from imperialist domination.
41. I wish to stand side by side with the peoples of
Afghanistan and Ireland, the peoples of Grenada and East Timor, each of those peoples seeking happiness in keeping with their dignity and the laws of their own culture.
42. I rise up on behalf of all who seek in vain any
forum in the world to make their voices heard and to have themselves taken seriously.
43. Many have already spoken from this rostrum.
Many will speak after me. But only a few will take the
real decisions, although we are all officially consid-
ered equals. I speak on behalf of all those who seek in
vain for a forum in the world where they can be heard. Yes, I wish to speak for all those-the
forgotten-because I am a man and nothing that is human is alien to me.
44. Our revolution in Burkina Faso takes account of the ills of all peoples. We are also inspired by all the experiences of mankind, from the very first breath of the first human being.
45. We wish to enjoy the inheritance of all the revolutions o f the world, all the liberation struggles o f the third-world peoples. We are trying to learn from the great upheavals that have transformed the world. We have drawn the lessons of the American revolu- tion, the lessons of its victory against colonial
domination, and the consequences of that victory. We endorse the doctrine of non-interference by Europeans in American affairs and non-interference
by Americans in European affairs. In 1823, Monroe said "America for the Americans". We would say "Afrka for the Africans; Burkina Faso for the Burkinabe", The French revolution of 1789, which disrupted the foundations of absolutism, has taught
us the rights of man linked to the rights of peoples to freedom. The great revolution of October 1917 transformed the world and made possible the victory o f the proletariat, shook the foundations o f capital- ism and made possible the dreams of justice of the French Commune.
46. Open to all the wishes of the peoples and their revolutions, learning also from the terrible failures that have led to truly sad infringements of human rights, we want to preserve from each revolution only that essence of purity that prohibits us from becom- ing servants to the realities of others, even though in ~ur thinking we find that there is a community of mterests among us.
47. There must be no more deceit. The new interna- tional economic order, for which we are struggling and will continue to struggle, can be achieved only if we manage to do away with the old order, which completely ignores us, only if we insist on the place which is ours in the polItical organization of the world, only if we realize our importance in the world and obtain the right to decision-making with respect to the machinery governing trade, economic and monetary affairs at the world level.
48. The new international economic order is simply one among all the other rights of peoples-the right to independence, to the free choice of the form and structure of government, the right to development- and like all the rights of peoples it is a right which can be gained only through the struggle o f the peoples. I t
will never be obtained by any act ofgenerosity by any Power whatsoever.

49. I continue to have 'unshakeable confidence-a
confidence I share with the immense community of
non-aligned countries-that, despite our peoples'
battering-ram cries of distress, our group will pre- serve its cohesion, strengthen its power of collective
negotiation, find allies among all nations, and begin, together with all who can still hear us, to organize a really new system of international economic rela- tions.
50. I agreed to come to speak before the Assembly because, despite the criticism of certain major con- tributors, the United Nations remains the ideal forum for our demands, the place where the legitima- cy of countries which have no voice is recognized. This was expressed very accurately by the Secretary- G I h h t [ AI':19/1]
enera, w en e wro e see J :
~'The United Nations reflects in a unique way
the aspirations and frustrations of many nations and groups all over the world. One of its great merits is that all nations-including the weak, t..he oppressed and the victims of injustice"-that is, us-"can get a hearing and have a platform even in the face of the hard realities of power. A just cause,
however frustrated or disre~arded,can find a voice in the United Nations. ThIS is not always a well- liked attribute of the Organization, but it is an essential one."
The meaning and scope of the Organization could not be better defined.
51. Therefore, it is absolutly essential for the good
of each of us that the United Nations be strengthened and provided with the means to take action. That is why we endorse the Secretary-General's proposals to this end, to help the Orgamzation break the many deadlocks which have been carefuHy preserved by the great Powers in order to discredit it in the eyes of the
52. Since I recognize the admittedly limited merits of the Organization, I cannot but rejoice to see new Members join us' That is why the delegation of Burkina Faso welcomes the admission of the 159th Member of the United Nations, the State of Brunei
53. The folly of those who, by a quirk of fate, rule the world makes it imperative for the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries-which, I hope, the State of Brunei Darussalam will soon j o i n - t o consider as one of the permanent goals of its struggle the achievement of disarmament, which is an essential aspect of the principal conditions of our right to
54. In our view, there must be serious studies of all the factors which have led to the calamities which have befallen the world. In this connection, President Fidel Castro stated our view admirably at the opening of the Sixth Conference of Heads of State or Government of Non-Aligned Countries, held at Ha- vana in September 1979, when he said:
"Three hundred billion dollars could build
600,000 schools, with a capacity for 400 million
children; or 60 million comfortable homes, for 300 million people; or 30,000 hospitals, with 18 million beds; or 20,000 factories, with jobs for more than 20 million workers; or an irrigation system for 150 million hectares of land-that, with the applica- tion of technology, could feed a billion people."4
If we multiply those numbers by 10-and I am sure that that is a conservative figure-we can see how much mankind wastes every year in the military field, that is, against peace.

55. I t is easy to see why the indignation o f the peoples is easily transformed into rebellion and revolution in the face ofthe crumbs tossed to them in the i~nominiolls fonn of some aid, to which utterly humIliating conditions are sometimes attached. I t can be understood why, in the fight for development, we consider ourselves to be tireless combatants for peace.
56. We swear to struggle to ease tension, to intro- duce the principles of civilized life into international relations and to extend these to all parts of the world. That means that we can no longer stand by passively and watch people haggle Jver concepts.
57. We reiterate our determination to work actively for peace; to take our place in the stru$gle for disarmament; to take action in the field of mterna- tional politics as Cl decisive factor, free of all hin- drance by any of the big Powers, whatever may be their designs.
58. But the quest for peace also involves the strict application of the right of countries to independence. On this point, the most pathetic-indeed, the most appalling-example is found in the Middle East, where, with arrogance, insolence and incredible stubbornness, a small country, Israel, has for more than 20 years, with the unspeakable complicity of its powerful protector, the United States, continued to defy the international community.
59. Only yesterday, Jews were consigned to the horrors of the crematorium, but Israel scorns history by inflicting on others the tortures it suffered.
60. In any event, Israel-whose people we love for its courage and sacrifices of the past-should realize that the conditions for its own tranquillity are not to be found in military strength financed from outside. Israel must begin to learn to be a nation like other nations, one among many.
61. For the present, we declare from this rostrum our militant, active solidarity with the fighters, both men and women, of the wonderful people of Pales- tine, for we know that there is no suffering that has no end.
62. Analysing the economic and political situation in Africa, we cannot fail to stress our serious concern at the dangerous challenges to the rights of' peoples hurled by certain nations which, secure in their alliances, openly flout international morality.
63. We are naturally pleased at the decision to withdraw foreign troops from Chad so that the Chadiau people themselves, without intermediaries, can find the way to put an end to that fratricidal war and finally be able to dry the tears that have been shed for so many years. But, despite the progress made here and there in the struggle of the African peoples for economic emancipation, our continent continues to reflect the essential reality of the contradictions between the big Powers and to be oppressed by the unbearable scourges of today's wor'''!.
64. That is why we cannot accept and must unre- servedly condemn the treatment of the people of Western Sahara by the Kin~dom of Morocco, which has been using delaying tactIcs to postpone the day of reckcming that will in any event be forced upon it by the will of the Saharan people. I have visited the regions liberated by the Saharan people, and I have

come to believe more firmly than ever that nothing will stop its progress towards the total liberation of its country under the militant and enlightened leader- ship of the Frente POLISARIO.5
65. I do not wish to dwell too long on the question of Mayotte and the islands of the Malagasy archipela- go; since the facts are clear and the principles obvious, there is no need to dwell on them. Mayotte belongs to the Comoros; the islands of the archipela- go belong to Madagascar.
66. With regard to Latin America, we welcome the initiative of the Contadora Group as a positive step in the search for a just solution to the explosive situation in the region. Commander Daniel Ortega, speaking here [16th meeting] on behalf o f the revolu- tionary people of Nicaragua, made concrete propos- als and posed some basic, direct questions. We hope to see peace in his country and throu~out Central America on and after 15 October; this IS what world public opinion calls for.
67. Just as we condemned the foreign aggression against the island of Grenada, so we condemn all foreign intervention. Thus, we cannot remain silent about the foreign military intervention in Afghani- stan.
68. And yet there is one point that is so serious that each of us must give a very open and clear explana- tion of it. That question, as members can imagine, is that o f South Africa. The unbelievable insolence o f that country with respect to all nations of the world-even those that support the terrorism which it has erected into a State system designed physically to liquidate the black majority of that country-and the contempt that it has shown for all our resolutions constitute one of the most serious and overwhelming concerns of the world today.
69. But the most tragic factor is not that South Africa has outlawed itself from the international community because of its apartheid laws, not even that it continues to occupy Namibia illegally and keep it under its colonialist and t:acist boot or that it continues with impugnity to subject its neighbours to the laws of banditry. No, what is the most abJect and the most humiliatmg for the human conscience is that it has made this tragedy a matter of everyday reality for millions of human beings, who have only their own body and the heroism of their bare hands to defend themselves. Sure of the complicity of the big Powers and the active support of certain among them, as well as o f the criminal collaboration o f some pathetic African leaders, the white minority simply ignores the feelings ofall those people, everywhere in the world, who find the savage methods of that country to be absolutely intolerable.
70. There was a time when international brig_ades went to defend the honour of nations that suffered aggression. Today, despite the agonizing open wounds that are suffered, all we do is vote for resolutions that do nothing more than call on a nation of pirates, which "destroys a smile as hail kills flowers", to mend its ways.
71. We shall soon be celebrating the one-hundred- and-fiftieth anniversary of the emancipation of slaves in the British Empire. My delegation supports the proposal of Antigua and Barbuda lA/39/241] for the commemoration of that event, which is of very great importance to African countries and the black world. For us, all that can be said throu~out the world during the commemorative ceremomes must empha-

size the terrible cost paid by Africa and the black world in the development of civilization. Nothing was given us in return, which no doubt explains the tragedy on our continent today. It is our blood that nourished the rise of capitalism, that made possible our present condition of dependence and consoli- dated our underdevelopment. But we cannot hide the truth any more; it cannot be ignored. The figures
cannot be simply haggled a~ay. For every black man w~o came to the plantatIons, .five dIe~ or ~ere c!Ippled. And he~eI do not p:tentlOn the dIsorgamza- hon of the contment and Its consequences.
72. While the entire world, thanks to you, Mr. President, with the help of the Secretary-General, will be commemorating that anniversary and noting this truth, it will understand why we long for peace among nations and why we demand our right to development with absolute equality through the organization and distribution of human resources. It is because we belong to one of the races that has
suffered the most that we in Burkina.F~so have sworn that we shall neyer a~cep~ any ~phttmg up of our country o.r any demal ofJustIce. It IS t~e mem9ry o~that sufferIng. that to stan.d by SIde wIt~ the PalestIne LIberatIon Org~mzatIon [PLO) agamst the,armed.bands ofIsrael. It IS the memory of that suffermg WhICh, on the one hand, causes us to support the African National Congress of South Africa [ANe] and the South West Africa People's Organization [SWAPO] and, on the other, makes absolutely intolerable the presence in South Africa of
men who say they are white and feel entitled <?n that account to set t~e whole world on fire. It IS. th~t memory of suff~rmgt~atmakes us put all our f~I!~ID the Umted NatIOns, wIth the common responsIbIlIty, the common task and the common hopes of us all.
73. We demand that throughout the world the campaign to free Nelson Mandela be intensified so that his presence here at the nex'L session of the General Assembly will be a victory of collective pride. In me.mory o~our sufferin~a~d as a. collective
pardon, an mternatIOnal humamtanan pnze should be given for all thos~ who have contri~uted to the defence of human nghts,through theIr work and research. We call for cuttmg all budgets f,?r space research by one ten-!housandth and devotmg that ~mount. to research m th~ field of h~alth and to I~provmg the hu~~n env1fo~me~t WhICh has been dIsrupted by those fireworks WhICh are harmful to the ecosystem.
74. We also propose that the structures of the United Nations be reviewed and revised so that an end may be put to the scandal of the right of veto. The perverse effects of its abuse have, of course, been offset by the vigilance of some States that possess the veto right. However, nothing can justify that right- neither the size of the country nor its wealth.
75. If the argument used to justify that inequity has
been the cost paid during the Second World War,
then those nations that have arrogated those rights to
themselves s:10uld know that each of us has an uncle
or a father who-like thousands of other innocent
people recruited from the third world to defend the rights that had been flouted by the Hitlerite hordes-
also suffered and died from Nazi bullets. Therefore, let those major Powers, which miss no opportunity to question the right of peoples, not be so arrogant. The absence of Africa from the club of those that have the right of veto is an injustice which must be ended.

76. Lastly, my delegation would be failing in its duty if it did not call for the suspension of Israel and the pure a~d simple exclusion of South Africa from the United Nations. When, in the course of time, those countries have done what they must do to justify their presence in the internatIonal commu- nity, then we would be only too happy to welcome them here and to guide their first steps.
77. Vie should like to reconfirm our confidence in the United Nations. We are grateful for the work which its agencies have done in Burkina Faso and for their presence sid~ by side with us in the difficult
times in which we are living. We are grateful to the members of the Security Council for having allowed us twice this year to preside over the work of the Council. We only hope the Council will recognize the principle of the struggle against the extermination of 30 million human beings each year through hunger, which today is more devastating than nuclear weap- ons.
78. Our confidence and faith in the United Nations leads me to thank the Secretary-General for his visit, which we greatly appreciated; he came to see for himself the harsh reality of our life and to get a true picture of the aridity of the Sahel and the tragedy of desertification.
79. I c~nnot conclude wIthout paymg a tnb~te t~
the P~esId~ntofthe General ~ssem~ly,~ho,wIth hIS great .mtel!Igenc.e and pe~ceptIOn,wIll gUIde the work of thIS thIrty-mnth seSSIOn.
80. I have travelled many thousands of kilometres to be here. I have come to ask each member to work together to put an end to the contempt of those who are unreasonable, to eliminate the tragic spectacle of children dying of hunger, to do away with ignorance,
to ensure the triumph of the legitimate rebellion of peoples and to put ~n end to the use of weapons so that they can be .laId ~own ap.d fall sIlent, and to e~sure that mankmd WIll .survIve and t~at together, wIth the great poet NovalIs we can all smg together:
"Soon the stars will come back to the Earth where they have long been gone; soon the sun will return, the star will shine again among the stars, all the races of the world will gather together a$,ain after a long separation, the old orphaned famIlies will find one another again and every day there will be new discoveries, more people will embrace one another; then the inhabitants of the old days will come back to the Earth, the ashes will be relit in
each tom~, the flame .of life will bu~ agaill;, tlte old ho~ses WIll. be rebl;lIlt, the old tImes wIL come agam and hIS~Ory:WIl!,be the dream of the present extended to mfimty.
81. Down with international reaction! Down with imperialism! Down with neo-colonialism! Down with "puppetism"!
82. Eternal glory to the peoples who are struggling for their freedom! Eternal glory to the peoples who stand shoulder to shoulder to defend their dignity! Eternal victory to the peoples of Africa, Latm America and Asia in their struggle!
. 11'
83. Fatherland or death. we sha trIumph.
84. The PRESIDENT: On behalf of the General Assembly, I wish to thank Mr. Sankara, Head ofState and President of the National Council of the Revolu- tion of Burkina Fasa, for the statement he has just made.

Taken from the official transcript of the UN at - machine OCRed.

Posted By

Mike Harman
Mar 31 2019 20:59


Attached files


Apr 1 2019 08:58

The OCR is terrible and really needs to be corrected by a human.

Nymphalis Antiopa
Apr 24 2019 16:14

Sankara - sometime during his presidency - denounced, in a speech to a crowd of supporters, "anarcho-syndicalists" and not from any more radical perspective - see this:

Apr 24 2019 17:53

I would like to know why this speech was posted in the library

Apr 24 2019 18:14
Alf wrote:
I would like to know why this speech was posted in the library

Isn't it for reference, this is the speech where Sankara condemns the USSRs intervention in Afghanistan? It comes up in online arguments with tankies I believe.

Serge Forward
Apr 24 2019 19:48

Reference isn't really an excuse though, is it. We could have some of Stalin's speeches for reference as well while we're at it. But Mike Harman does seem to have a penchant for this kind of stuff.

Nymphalis Antiopa
Apr 25 2019 06:03
We could have some of Stalin's speeches for reference as well while we're at it.

And why not put the full speech of which this is just a small part in libcom's library:

There is no people in history that has won liberation as a gift, there is no people that will keep its freedom as a gift! Always and forever must this precious possession be guarded without ceasing.

1st prize for the person who guesses who said it: leadership of the country of their choice.

Serge Forward
Apr 25 2019 09:41

Was that really in the speech? I just did a search for the quote and... oh dear surprised

Nymphalis Antiopa
Apr 25 2019 10:04

Not sure if you misunderstood what I was saying or if I've misunderstood you - it's not, as far as I know, in Sankara's speech. I simply meant, in a sarcastic way, that the full speech from which I quoted could be put in the library if all Mike H is concerned with is putting up things that could vaguely have a revolutionary interpretation.

Serge Forward
Apr 25 2019 10:20

Yeah, I misunderstood.

Mike Harman
Apr 25 2019 10:41

I posted this to coincide with ...

Having said that, there's archival value to the speech because as Uncreative points out, he denounces the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. There has been a concerted effort on the part of both the current Russian government, as well as well known Leninists like Sorry to Bother You director Boots Riley, to rehabilitate that conflict and suggest that anyone who opposes it is either pro-CIA or pro-Taliban or both. Even the USSR in 1989 was more critical. This was the reason to add it as opposed to something else, because it might make sense to have it on the site anyway.

Leninists whitewashing the USSR invasion of Afghanistan simultaneously point to Sankara as an example of a success of Leninism (despite him being installed by a military coup, then killed in a military coup by the same person who installed him four years later). So clear documentation of Sankara denouncing the conflict prevents them from making both arguments simultaneously, or at least not as easily.

The only way that people can make ridiculous arguments like this, is because the vast majority of people (including a lot of anarchists too) have a wikipedia-level knowledge at best of events like the USSR invasion of Afghanistan, the China-Vietnam war, or Sankara in Burkina-Faso. So blatantly contradictory statements can be made without people matching things up. This is one of the reasons I posted this, which is not remotely anti-state communist either but is one of the more comprehensive histories of the conflict:

Finally, there's a clear difference between including something by Sankara and something by Stalin. This site hosts probably millions of words written about the USSR, and likely tens of thousands about Stalin. They might all be critical but it is covered. Also Stalin's own writing is easily accessible on places like

With Sankara (or Nkrumah, Nyerere, Ben Bella), both the history that they are associated with, and their own writings, are much less well understood and documented. Print books are generally out of print and not much has been digitised. The fact that people can't easily access those writings means that you get quite a lot of misrepresentation and general ignorance both from supporters and detractors.

Nymphalis Antiopa
Apr 25 2019 10:50
Stalin's own writing is easily accessible on places like

So if it wasn't easily accessible on places like libcom would publish works by Stalin?

Mike Harman
Apr 25 2019 12:50
Nymphalis Antiopa wrote:
Stalin's own writing is easily accessible on places like

So if it wasn't easily accessible on places like libcom would publish works by Stalin?

Not only are Stalin's writings easily accessible, but as I said in the bit not quoted by you, there's loads of historical articles about Stalin and the USSR as well as analysis of his (and Lenin's and Trotsky's) distortions of Marx. This is completely different from a situation where there's nothing on a subject at all from any perspective.

We do host some articles by Lenin, but only ones which are completely ignored by Leninists (with the exception of CLR James, which is where I found the latter two):

To my knowledge, with the exception the letter to G. F. Fyodorov, no one has complained about any of these being on the site. In the case of the Fyodorov letter they only complained because the letter makes Lenin look bad (as do the other two IMO although some might disagree). Sometimes the best critique of Lenin is from his own mouth.

If there was a major effort undergoing to rehabilitate Stalin, and we didn't have all of the documents we have about Stalin, then a self-incriminating piece by Stalin would be fair game IMO to host but I can't imagine that ever being necessary. The two things I'd ever be tempted to host are the first three paragraphs from here where he justifies commodity production in the USSR:

And the section here where he states that Marx's 1880s position on Russia is the Narodnik one, not the Marxist one: Which Marx specifically wrote about in the Vasulich correspondence.

But that'd have to be done in the context of a blog post ridiculing them, not standalone.

Apr 25 2019 12:54
Nymphalis Antiopa wrote:
libcom would publish works by Stalin

Why are you saying that we would publish works by Stalin?

(You see? We can all play silly buggers with selective, bad-faith quoting, can't we?).

Nymphalis Antiopa
Apr 25 2019 13:39

Not at all a question of playing "silly buggers with selective, bad-faith quoting". I read MH's "Also Stalin's own writing is easily accessible on places like" as being implicitly one of the reasons you don't publish Stalin's own writing - why mention this if it wasn't a reason? Publishing without critical comment a very badly scanned copy of Sankara's speech implies support for this Leninist-cum-coup d'etatiste; otherwise you'd at least make some kind of critique of it and him. But then you do this kind of thing so often few readers really care or notice.

Apr 25 2019 14:01

Look, I don't want to derail this thread into a discussion about elementary logical thinking, but what you said was:

Nymphalis Antiopa wrote:
So if it wasn't easily accessible on places like libcom would publish works by Stalin?

Now you say:

Nymphalis Antiopa wrote:
I read MH's "Also Stalin's own writing is easily accessible on places like" as being implicitly one of the reasons you don't publish Stalin's own writing - why mention this if it wasn't a reason?

These are two entirely different things: in your second comment you accept that MH mentions a variety of factors (e.g. "Also"; "one of the reasons"; "a reason"), the combination of which means we don't publish Stalin. But in your first comment you mention one factor in isolation, ignoring all the others, to suggest it would logically follow that we would publish Stalin in the event that this single factor was altered.

To give another example: if I say "If I had eggs, flour, butter and sugar then I'd make a cake", it would not make sense to ask "So if you had sugar you'd make a cake?"

Of course, no one would ask such an absurd question. Only someone playing silly buggers and selectively quoting in bad faith would ask a question like that.

Red Marriott
Apr 25 2019 14:35

But April Fool's day is long gone. And when the library hosts stuff with content that's disagreed with the disagreement and its redeeming content are usually pointed out in a critical introduction/disclaimer.

Mike Harman
Apr 25 2019 14:36

Yeah I've been a bit busy since April Fool's day and didn't get back to this - but just added a quick intro now since this thread reminded me.

Nymphalis Antiopa
Apr 25 2019 15:19

Not at all sure that I see Ed's logic lesson as being anything other than him playing silly buggers, but can't seriously be bothered to unravel it.

Let's look again at what MH says: "there's a clear difference between including something by Sankara and something by Stalin. This site hosts probably millions of words written about the USSR, and likely tens of thousands about Stalin. They might all be critical but it is covered. Also Stalin's own writing is easily accessible on places like With Sankara (or Nkrumah, Nyerere, Ben Bella), both the history that they are associated with, and their own writings, are much less well understood and documented. " Here, if I've understood correctly, though it seems that Ed constantly reads things into MH that I honestly can't see (and this is no way "bad faith" on my part), MH justifies putting this hard-to-read badly scanned text up on the site mostly because not much is known or said about Sankara. There must be hundreds of thousands of people about whom not much is known who have not become the head of state of a country who've written or said things that are of greater interest than that speech, things which you've not put up on your site. His speech, despite MH's stated intentions, does not at all help us to understand him or the history he is associated with, which would require critical comments on the part of MH. So why - ostensibly - contribute to publicising a translation of an uninteresting speech by a traditional leftist hero who's not very much discussed outside of Francophone countries? An argument against those who support the Russian invasion of Afghanistan is hardly justification for doing so, any more than publicising Ho Chi Minh's speeches would be an argument against those who might have supported the American bombardment of Vietnam.

Nymphalis Antiopa
Apr 25 2019 15:23

Above comment put up before I saw MH's modifications, though it doesn't alter my argument much since he's not at all critical of Sankara.

Nymphalis Antiopa
Apr 25 2019 15:33

Double post

Mike Harman
Apr 25 2019 15:51
Nymphalis Antiopa wrote:
An argument against those who support the Russian invasion of Afghanistan is hardly justification for doing so, any more than publicising Ho Chi Minh's speeches would be an argument against those who might have supported the American bombardment of Vietnam.

A better analogy would be Americans writing against the American bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which we do actually host, including quotes from Truman and Eisenhower no less. However that article doesn't point out that we disagree with Truman and Eisenhower so we must actually support them...

Nymphalis Antiopa wrote:
uninteresting speech by a traditional leftist hero who's not very much discussed outside of Francophone countries?

There was high praise for him from Viewpoint Magazine last year.

Apr 25 2019 16:29
Nymphalis Antiopa wrote:
So why - ostensibly - contribute to publicising a translation of an uninteresting speech by a traditional leftist hero who's not very much discussed outside of Francophone countries? An argument against those who support the Russian invasion of Afghanistan is hardly justification for doing so, any more than publicising Ho Chi Minh's speeches would be an argument against those who might have supported the American bombardment of Vietnam.

Why do you think they've really put this up, Nymphalis, if not for the reasons they've stated? What do you think is going on?

Serge Forward
Apr 25 2019 16:52

Who knows why Mike Harmon chose to add this as he doesn't really give a reason - and Afghanistan really doesn't work. In fact, I wouldn't have a problem with this being on libcom if it was prefaced with reasons for posting it here. Otherwise, it's just regurgitation of marxist-leninist shite, badly formatted marxist-leninist shite at that. Come on Mike, tidy it up, do an intro and write an introduction where you justify it's conclusion on libcom... or then again, you might decide to just bin it off.

Nymphalis Antiopa
Apr 26 2019 06:18

As far as I can see through this difficult-to-read speech, the only references to Afghanistan are these:

I wish to stand side by side with the peoples of
Afghanistan and Ireland, the peoples of Grenada and East Timor, each of those peoples seeking happiness in keeping with their dignity and the laws of their own culture....Just as we condemned the foreign aggression against the island of Grenada, so we condemn all foreign intervention. Thus, we cannot remain silent about the foreign military intervention in Afghani- stan.

So MH claims that this is the reason for putting up the whole of a speech by a head of state without the slightest critique. It's somehow meant to be an argument against those who support the Russian invasion of Afghanistan merely because they might also consider Sankara to be an anti-imperialist hero/martyr and therefore will be caught up in their own contradictions, as if such a speech is going to somehow convince them of the error of their idiotic views. The more obvious influence of putting up such an article without the slightest critique is that it will be seen as somehow endorsing Sankara and the idea that there can be good heads of state, and maybe that the dispossessed can somehow advance their interests by supporting such heads of state. This despite libcom's ostensible opposition to the state.

MH wrote:

Nymphalis Antiopa wrote:

An argument against those who support the Russian invasion of Afghanistan is hardly justification for doing so, any more than publicising Ho Chi Minh's speeches would be an argument against those who might have supported the American bombardment of Vietnam.
A better analogy would be Americans writing against the American bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which we do actually host, including quotes from Truman and Eisenhower no less. However that article doesn't point out that we disagree with Truman and Eisenhower so we must actually support them...

Agreed, the comparison with Ho Chi Minh doesn't really work since Sankara was not referring to Russia invading his own country. It would be more like reproducing a long speech by General de Gaulle during which, in passing, he condemned America's war in Vietnam. MH's comparison with Eisenhower doesn't work at all as a comparison since he was criticising his own country massacring 100s of thousands of Japanese. A fairer comparison would be Gorbachev's statements announcing the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan -

the withdrawal of Soviet troops is, quite naturally, linked with precluding interference in Afghanistan's internal affairs. ...The question of the withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan was raised at the 27th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. That was a reflection of our current political thinking, of our new, modern view of the world. We wanted thereby to reaffirm our commitment to the tradition of good-neighborliness, good will and mutual respect which trace back to Vladimir Lenin and the first Soviet-Afghan treaty signed in 1921. Progressive forces of Afghan society have understood and accepted our sincere desire for peace and tranquility between our two neighboring countries, which for several decades were showing an example of peaceful coexistence and mutually beneficial equitable cooperation. Any armed conflict, including an internal one, can poison the atmosphere in an entire region and create a situation of anxiety and alarm for a country's neighbors, to say nothing of the suffering and losses among its own people. That is why we are against any armed conflicts. We know that the Afghan leadership, too, takes the same attitude.


Would MH like to reproduce Gorbachev's speech? or are the fucked-up lefty militarists who retrospectively support the invasion against Gorbachev and therefore would only be convinced by the words of someone they've elevated to hero-worship? or what?
No-one who needs the support of an authority figure for their pathetic arguments would be challenged by the fact that one of these authority figures opposed their point of view - they'd probably just think that Sankara was wrong on this point.

Uncreative wrote

Why do you think they've really put this up, Nymphalis, if not for the reasons they've stated? What do you think is going on?

I think that they just have so little discernment, so little question in their heads or their lives about what constitutes contributing to an opposition to this society, that they feel justified in putting up almost anything vaguely 'oppositional' (eg the trashy semi-anti-semitic simplistic Bordigist bollocks here: )

PS I won't bother to reply to any possible post following this post, as I've already wasted far too much time.

Mike Harman
Apr 26 2019 10:03
Serge Forward wrote:
But Mike Harman does seem to have a penchant for this kind of stuff.

What this 'this kind of stuff' that I 'seem to have a penchant for' exactly?

Serge Forward
Apr 26 2019 10:38

Kind of marxist leninist anti colonial national liberation "stuff".

Mike Harman
Apr 26 2019 10:57
Serge Forward wrote:
Kind of marxist leninist anti colonial national liberation "stuff".

Why would you assume that all the anti-colonial "stuff" was Marxist Leninist?

Serge Forward
Apr 26 2019 11:19

Don't be silly with your "assume" but I've seen a fair few of your postings... and in recent years, an increasing amount has been m-l or m-l ish.

Apr 26 2019 13:51

Mike I know, from following libcom on twitter, that you are involved in many left twitter "controversies". Presumably you are purposefully trying to act where you are seen and can influence ideas. I think this no so occasionally takes you to some weird places as the discussions come from a marginal left twitter frame. There's even a bit of the twitter fake (?) outrage thing going on some times when going after something.

The posting of this document and the arguments for it are quite strange if viewed from outside the social media bubble where it makes some sense. This is not the first time it's actually hard to know what you agree with and what/who you just use as an argument because you think the framing will be efficient in taking somebody on.

Mike Harman
Apr 26 2019 14:10
Serge Forward wrote:
Don't be silly with your "assume" but I've seen a fair few of your postings... and in recent years, an increasing amount has been m-l or m-l ish.

Do you have examples?