Insofar as this system still remains in place, changes at the apex will not result in the change of anything fundamental.
Alfred P. B. Kiadii
Illusion is the virus which has always consumed elements of the bankrupt ruling class, believing that their social economic formula and reign are the last words on history, but time and events have falsified such lousy claim. In stances where they articulated that viewpoint, the rising tide of insoluble contradictions make the ruling clique to disintegrate like a rotten apple which falls from a tree.
Today, bankrupt elements of the CDC-led government claim their discredited party will steer the state of ship of the homeland for ages, dismissing any possibilities of a defeat, even boasting that like slave masters they owned the people. Which mean the people will forever remain indifferent to patent misrule, even when their social existence is being extremely undermined. On social media and in the local press, they boldly spew out such bluster, ignoring the law of nature that matter is in constant flux, and contradiction is the basis of all movements and changes in a society.
Apparently, the basis of their assumption is hemmed on the fact that although Madame Sirleaf performed poorly, but she managed to hold onto power for twelfth years. Who can dismiss such fact? However, what they have not understood is the fact that in history things can repeat itself but in a profoundly higher form. Further, to even argue that certain historical blunders were tolerated by the masses of the people in the erstwhile leadership mean they will be condoned now, is to not be accustomed with historical occurrences in the homeland. To liken the current period to that of the erstwhile administration is to not take into consideration the current objective realities.
Obviously, the people tolerated the missteps of the erstwhile administration of Madame Sirleaf because it didn’t have a devastating effect on their survival. Or they wanted to give the government a respite having emerged from fourteen years of fratricidal civil crisis. The same people who tolerated William V.S. Tubman for twenty-seven years did not give Tolbert a respite. A simple review of such occurrence will widen the understanding of the elements who boast about being in control of the state for ages.
For example, Williams V.S. Tubman was gifted twenty-seven years by the Liberian masses to overturn the economic discard of the state and deliver social transformation. He failed terribly. His rule was characterized by oppression, unbridled corruption, marginalization, and an intolerable inefficiency of the public bureaucracy. With all of those clear blunders, he managed to maintain a stranglehold on a population which was decimated by all vices that stalled their movement to the apex of the economic ladder. Notwithstanding, there were challenges to his misrule, it was not enough to depose him—he governed as president of the republic until his demise.
Unlike Tubman, Tolbert became president at a time when the country emerged from rule marked by suppression of democratic debates and attendant clampdown on critical voices, which led to an upsurge in the call for the opening of the democratic space and debate about which direction the nation should take in a Continent faced with struggles to end colonialism. And at the height of those discussions were passionate debates on which economic direction the nation should take.
The Tolbert era started with the making of vague political pronouncements and populist rhetoric about a new socio-economic era that impressed those who yearned for a new order after the decadent rule of Tubman. The reactionary old guys of the True Whig Party saw in him an ally who could protect their class interests and continue their domination. But he was not immune from the fact that Liberia was part of an Africa which was experiencing fierce struggle for self-determination and greater freedom, and he wanted Liberia to be part of such process. His quest for change and his refusal to jettison the old guys defined the dilemma which plagued his rule in an era of demand for greater participation and economic transformation.
Similarly, the CDC-led government has taken power at a time when the struggle for inclusion has taken a more qualitative leap. This time around the people are not advocating for broader political inclusion but broader economic participation. After years of economic deprivation under the misrule of Sirleaf, Weah has emerged with a dramatic change recitation and utterances to dazzle those who hope for a better living standards after Sirleaf.
Here he is vacillating between two insoluble forces: On one hand, he is dining and winning with discredited officials of the erstwhile administrations of Sirleaf, Taylor and Doe; on the other hand, he is making political pronouncements, signaling that he is ready for change. He is unwilling to break with the reactionary and parasitic guys of the erstwhile administrations at the same time trumpeting the change rhetoric. It is this quandary that will define the Weah administration and present him with insoluble choices in an epoch of deafening outcries for broader economic transformation and participation.
President Tolbert, like the CDC-led government, pledged to open the space and take the people along with him into history. For a people who were kept on the margins of society, the utterances from the president was taken seriously. Unfortunately, he toyed with the prospect of social transformation while keeping ties with the conservative old brats of the True Whig Party, assuring them everything was on course. He went down in history due to the fact that his pronouncements were taken seriously by those who wanted a change of the economic and social constructs of the republic. In short, the people decided to move into history while he left behind.
But bourgeois historians have interpreted history as series of unconnected and loose occurrence, missing the point that historical occurrences are series of connected interplay, which are driven by objectives laws. They would go further and ask the question: But weren’t the backward army around when Tubman put up a poor showing as president of the republic. Further, they would pin the overthrow of the degenerate oligarchy of the True Whig Party on the Liberian progressives. Obviously, from a cursory look of thing, who can argue otherwise?
The execution of William David Coleman and his son, the expulsion of D. Twe from the House of Representative, and his forceful exiled to Sierra Leone, the purging of Edwin J. Barclay, the repression of Albert Porte by the state, the persecution of Du Fahnbulleh and so many other contradictions evoked a molecular reaction in various layers of the oppressed class which exploded into a military takeover on April 12, 1980.
Suffice this to mean that the backlog from the action of William VS Tubman were sufficient enough to serve as a catalyst for the action of the army. When William R. Tolbert came, the people were interested in practical actions. They wanted changed at an instant. The army lived through the era of Tubman when he ruled by iron-fist. In the era of Tolbert, although he scattered rhetoric, it was more about praxis than vague pronouncements. The people were impatient. They wanted to move fast, but Tolbert vacillated between the conservative old guards of the True Whig party and that of the progressive people of the homeland who wanted a speedy transformation. He refused to cut his umbilical cord from the old guys. On the other hand, he schemed to the people who wanted speedy change. He gambled wrongly which made him the loser.
Secondly, to argue that the Liberian progressives were responsible for the military takeover on April 12, 1980 is to overlook the objective conditions which gave rise to such option. First, human beings are naturally conservative, and they are uninterested about getting rid of the status quo except in situations of extreme necessity. Second, the Liberian progressive only reported and interpreted the contradictions to the people. They neither created it nor asked the government to be insensitive to the plights of the people. Third, no amount of theorizing, writing, agitation can force any oppressed layer of the society into spontaneous upheaval when it is not prepared to do.
One then would ask the question: Aren’t them the same people and army who waited for twenty-seven years of misrule under Tubman? It is quite simple that the oppressive layers of society only act in history when conditions and circumstances become ripe. Yes, they tolerated Tubman, but they couldn’t tolerate Tolbert because history has fast moved, and they were not prepared to wait anymore.
Today, after thirty-seven years we are at the same juncture, Weah dangles with the possibilities of economic transformation while at the same time maintaining ties with economic and social parasites who have sucked the republic dried. He assured his Asian friends about his ties with them by declaring, in his first State of the Nation Address, his ‘urgent and most imperative priority is the granting of citizenship and property rights to people of non-Negro descent.’ This is happening in a country where the people have been pushed on the margins of the economy due to policies of government that favor foreign capital as opposed to local entrepreneurs.
A lot has happened in just three months of the administration. The government seems to be absolutely confused about the road ahead. From the highest office to all the underlings, there is no clear strategy about governance. For a people who are living in grinding poverty amidst abundance of natural resources in the homeland, continuous hope about the new administration breaking with the cycle of backwardness is a wishful thinking. It is this frustration in the people that will give rise to a social explosion which will have a contagious effect.
Like all governments that are confused about governance, this administration is looking over its shoulders to crush perceived enemies as opposed to taking decisive action to alleviate the people from the cesspool of poverty. It is more concerned about the motive behind reportage in the local press in contrast to addressing the imbalances that are making all strata of the social order in the homeland to disintegrate. As a result of this, a crackdown on key media installations in the country is in full cycle reminiscent of the era of the NPFL/NPP.
Obviously, the people struggle not because of abstract concept, but for an improvement in their material conditions. An opportunity to live a better life, for their children to be given education that will prepare them for the challenges ahead. Even the most loyal peoples the world over have always risen from docility to action for such material improvement. It is against this backdrop that all struggles have been mounted.
The gory reality of the republic’s economic collapse and the attendant bankruptcy of the current administration to shoulder the demands for employment, improved living standards and so on show that the conundrums Liberia faces is not unique to a regime. It is now evident that the economic paralysis of Liberia is not because of a single regime, a political party, or a segment of the ruling class. It is an expression of the capitalist organization of the productive forces of the country. Insofar as this system still remains in place, changes at the apex will not result in the change of anything fundamental.
As a result of this, a seething discontentment is building up since the Sirleaf-led government, but the bankrupt ruling clique, along with its local lackeys and street urchins, has not grappled with such reality. I see no military incursion, but a more qualitative leap of the struggle will unfold: the spontaneous upheaval of the people into history, or a social revolution which will culminate into a seismic shift of the body politics of the republic.
Kiadii studies Political Science with emphasis in Public Administration at the University of Liberia. He is the Secretary General of the Movement for Social Democratic Alternative (MOSODA). You can reach him through Cell#: +233552176627, or [email protected]