by Todun Jagun
The September 17 failed coup in Burkina Faso reveals the deepening of crisis within the boss-class and the continued rise of working-class people’s power. It is marks the second phase of the revolution which commenced in October, last year with the overthrow of Blaise Compaoré by a mass uprising. But while the situation in Burkina shows how powerful the people are, it also reveals the weaknesses of an absence of radical mass working class party
It is now obviously impossible for the class of bosses to rule as usual.
The National Transition Council led by Michel Kafando, a diplomat has tried to distance the ruling class as a while from the excesses of Blaise Compaoré. All those parties and politicians who supported Compaoré in his attempt to perpetuate himself in office after 27years have been barred from contesting in the forthcoming presidential elections.
This is one of the two major reasons why the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP in French) carried out the botched coup. The second reason, which is closely related to this is the proposed scrapping of the RSP, which is an elite body of soldiers similar to the more discrete “Body Guards” of General Sanu Abacha, with assassins like “Sgt Rogers”. It was the arrowhead of Campaore’s reign of repression.
But the fact of the matter is that it is almost impossible to find any politician in the major parties who had not at some point or the other been part of the Compaoré regime. Even the Monsieur Kafando, interim president, used to be a top official of the Compaoré administration. Of the two major contenders for the presidency, Marc Christian Kaboré who leads the Movement for the People and Progress (MPP) party served at different times as prime minister and president of the national assembly over the past two decades. Zephirin Diabré who is the second major contender is an avowed neoliberal ideologist and supported the coup.
Kaboré’s MPP was formed early last year only because some 75 leaders within Campaore’s party were angry about his not stepping aside for one of them to takeover. As it is in Nigeria, so it is in Burkina Faso and across Africa. Since the state is the major source for accessing wealth for the bosses, party affiliation has no clear lines of demarcation.
While there is no major ideological difference between the bosses’ parties in more advanced capitalist countries (like the republicans and democrats in the US, for example), one can at least find some longstanding commitment to either of the factions masquerading as different parties. The mas of the masquerade in Burkina is indeed very thin.
However, it is important to note that the scapegoating of Campaore’s supporters till the 11th hour by other bosses is out of fear of the working-class people’s power which was demonstrated last year and which again came out boldly to defeat the coup d’état.
This popular power from below is stalking the entire fabric of social life in the country. There has been a wave of workers’ strikes and most of these have been victorious. Longstanding demands from the Compaoré-era have been won and former defeats reversed. For example, at Brakina Sodibo, the largest brewery in the country, workers won improved wages and the recall of workers wrongfully sacked in 1994 and 2004, with a 2-day strike. Transport workers also won the implementation of a 2011 collective agreement, better wages and reduction in driver’s license charges.
In the communities, mass action on the streets have also been on the increase. In Sabce, just 90km from Ouagadougou, the capital, angry protesters chased away the Mayor and demanded his replacement. In Ouagadougou, more than 50,000 people marched on the streets against corruption on April 8. An even bigger demonstration was held on May Day against rising cost of living. Farmers have also come out to protest the fall in the prices of agricultural produce.
There is an urgent need to generalise this revolutionary experiences of the people and unite these in a mass party of the working class-people that can take power and utilise this to better the lot of the poor masses. The Citizens’ Broom (la Balai Citoyen) which played a central role in coalescing the mass anger and eventual uprising last year is organised more as a pressure group kind of social movement. It however has informal links with the UNIR-PS (Union for Rebirth, Sankarist Party) led by Bénéwendé Sankara who played a leading role in the resistance which foiled the coup.
The trade unions in Burkina Faso have a robust history of struggle. Speaking with Socialist Worker Abdoulaye Kaboré, a leading trade unionist in the country informed that despite this, they jealously guide their independence from all political parties. Thus, while many trade union activists are Sankarists for example, the unions have no relationship with any of the Sankarist parties. This might be out of fear of co-optation, remembering undemocratic elements of Thomas Sankara’s efforts at building socialism from above, despite its momentous achievements.
Comrade Kaboré however also made Socialist Worker aware that the trade unions have resolved on fashioning out a five year plan of economic, social and political engagement which could result in the formation of a workers’ party with a socialist programme. This will be a huge step forward. Only such a party rooted in internal democracy can decisively lead the Burkinabe revolution forward.
In the aftermath of the failed coup, the presidential election earlier scheduled for October 11 has been shifted to late November. Irrespective of who comes out victorious in this electoral contest, it will not lead to the betterment of the lives of the working-class people. The ferment from below will also not be contained. The genie is out of the bottle and in the coming period, Sankara’s “Land of the Upright” is likely to once again be a beacon of inspiration to the rising working people and youth across Africa as we battle for the next phase of liberation: our self-emancipation from the bosses.