Sunday, November 09, 2008

More on Thomas Sankara's speeches

I continue to read the speeches of Thomas Sankara, revolutionary leader of Burkina Faso from 1983-87. An interesting speech he gave in 1984 was at the inaugural session of the People's Revolutionary Courts. He argued that bourgeois justice was a sham, because it favored those in power. For example,
In a society such as ours, here the population is 95 percent illiterate and held in obscurantism and ignorance by the ruling classes, bourgeois law , defying all common sense, dares assert that "ignorance of the law is no excuse."
The alternative? Some kind of informal and educational people's justice. he does not in the speech explain how this justice is to get by without written rules, nor how such written rules would once again quickly become the mechanism by which the powerful evaded the law. Sankara was a broad-brush thinker, operating in a small country; he seemed to think that the twenty of them who were in charge could basically make all the decisions about everything. For them, Burkina was like a medium-sized city. A firm hand could easily "master" order and justice. His rhetoric of people's justice I take to be basically rhetoric. If it were not rhetoric, he would at least have devoted some thought to what it would mean to have "people" judging complex cases. Did he think a tailor could investigate the complex financial transactions of a bank? Sankara was silent on these matters.

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