Then there is a space in an isolated enclave of West Africa divided into antagonistic layers. Like in Nandine Goldimer’s Train from Rhodesia, a young man was born on July 16, 1949 into a privileged family, not haunted by grinding poverty as he had enough to eat and live. However, conscience imposed on him that revolutionary fervor to unshackle himself of the privilege and help to liberate his people from the claws of oppression and marginalization.
His encounter commenced with the people, like in the Train of Rhodesia, the producer of wealth, being overlooked, ill-treated and marginalized by the unproductive bourgeoisie which due to its late arrival on the stage of history has no progressive potential but elects to serve as the office boy for foreign capital. In this space of asymmetrical power relations, rears the crude arrogance of the ruling clique which held unto the fantasy that the oppressed layers couldn’t have discovered its class independence to unshackle themselves from the yoke of oppression.
In his effort to understand his environment, he landed into prison. As a keen observer focused on unearthing the social ills in his society in order to find a remedy for it, he started to observe and analyze the society from the prism of the relations of production and class rule. While in prison, an interesting episode occurred which sharpened his awareness and thus defined his mission: the democratic overthrow of the rotten oligarchy of the True Whig Party. That scenario mirrors the gory exemplum of the class antagonism that existed in the society, where a servant was ruthlessly beaten and thrown into prison because he broke a plate of his master. He was so thoroughly beaten by the prison guards who are part of the ‘armed bodies of men’ that keep the privilege of the pseudo-bourgeoisie intact and protect its interests against the exploited layers of the society. Here, the prison guards are exploited but they are unaware of their exploitation and thus are used to crush their class brothers and sisters.
This ordeal, although it was an action based on physical interface but draws a striking parallel to the poem “Telephone Conversation” written by Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka. In the poem, the writer unveiled the prejudice and racism which bedeviled the societies of the first world. His poem is an accurate comment on how bizarre it is to judge an individual on the basis of his/her skin. While ‘Telephone Conversation’ revealed the arrogance of race, the situation at the prison compound depicted the arrogance of class in the Liberian society. The point of convergence between the two scenarios is arrogance at its highest level. For the Liberian scenario, it expresses the paradox that yesterday’s victims of oppression metamorphosed into the orchestrators of such vice.
It is in this reflective mood that Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh, Jr. found a reason for existence. Notwithstanding, our class enemies considered him a tragic hero because he was confronted with a conflict not generated as a result of his character defect, but one based purely on the misunderstanding of his thought and the malicious distortion of his principles and the spiteful misrepresentation of his ideas by the class enemies who have struggled to eliminate him from the folklore of the people. For us, by contrast, he is considered a hero because he paid the price and sacrificed his existence for noble causes.
Herein lies the challenge and unveils the hugeness of the task of HB and the progressive forces. The people, living in a prehistoric era, ought to be mobilized to fight for their freedom. Obviously, the objective factors for such progressive march was visible but the subjective ingredients were lacking. It goes without saying other progressive nationalists emerged before them, but their faux pas was they agonized but they didn’t organize the mass of people to agitate for inclusion, dignity and honor. Thus, the emergence of Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh, Jr. and the legion of struggle titans advanced the struggle to a qualitative new level.
On the one hand, HB is acutely aware that the people and only the people make history. However, as a student of the dialectics, he is also cognizant that the subjective factors are keen in ensuring that the movement of the people is thoroughly guided in order to obtain the ultimate objectives. In this matrix of class struggle, he is hounded by the tragic fate of others who came before him, believing that in order for his society to transform men have to put their lives on the line to confront hostile social forces, HB was determined to ensure that the oligarchy of the True Whig Party becomes footnote in history.
He dreamt dream like Edward Wilmot Blyden who exhorted the liberated Africans to develop and build a nation for all the people. He was inspired by the crusading zeal of that progressive nationalist in D. Twe who introduced a bill in the House of Representative to end forced labor and thus stood up to the monstrosity of William V.S. Tubman in the 1952 presidential election. He was seduced by the nationalistic fervor of William D. Coleman, Netie Sie Brownell who shouted their lungs out and to high heavens that the marginalization of the people was the symptom of political sclerosis and social paralysis. He was moved by the passionate nationalism of Du Fahnbulleh who warned the True Whig Party to build a society of shared value and stop marginalizing the people, but the True Whig Party listened not to those pieces of advice.
The objective conditions were such that the mass of people were treated and dismissed as slaves who must perish in silence, but Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh Jr. and the progressive forces refused to accept such determinism. The people were suffering, and have sunk deeply into beggary, backwardness and poverty. Some of the people turned to crime out of desperation for survival. Oppression and unbridled corruption tormented them to the extent that they paid hut taxes but could not get basic social service in return, and they suffocated in poverty and mystery. By the action of the progressive forces and Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh, Jr., they refused to play possum and become indifferent spectators to the deafening cry of the people. Thus, the limit of the tolerance of the progressive forces with the oligarchy exhausted: the moment came for them to choose to play indifferent and perish in intolerable torment or to struggle and rid the people of the manacle of oppression. History proved they chose the path of the latter which made it possible for the people to be respected.
On the emergence of the progressives and Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh on the scene of history, they realized that the most dangerous form of illness was for the oppressed to be oppressed and are not aware of their oppression. Such illness manifested itself through the psychological anomalies of powerlessness, indoctrination and the culture of silence. Those were the conundrums they were confronted with and commenced to mobilize a lethargic people to advocate for greater freedom and inclusion. History shows the progressive forces won nevertheless. In this situation, they conducted political education for elements in the oppressed layers and thus drifted to the University of Liberia to sharpen the consciousness of the students.
It is important to underscore that prior to the height of the struggle for dignity and inclusion, Liberia underwent Iris Young’s five faces of oppression: exploitation, marginalization, culture of silence, cultural imperialism and violence. The ruling clique was so immobile and fixated on class prejudice. They had a space but refused to build a nation. The culture of the people was relegated as a primitive artifact.
Contrary to the tendentious revisionism and scandalous bandy of graduated flunkeys of the deposed oligarchy, HB committed class suicide and thus rejected the values and philosophy of the old order. He and others led a frontal assault on the ruling clique because they wanted to develop a nation where all will be given an opportunity to excel in their respective undertakings, where the rule of law will not be the plaything of the rich and powerful while the ordinary people wallow in despair.
His sin is that he and others transformed the people from passive bystanders to makers of history, and from historical objects to historical subjects. They made the people to realize their class independence and that contrary to the lies that they were nobodies, they, the people, were a history category. On their backs rested the privilege of the ruling class, when they move that class will tumble like a house of cards. Against this background, the class enemies have shown spiteful hate, launched a campaign of slander against him and others because he and other nationalist progressives succeeded in putting the political and economic questions in the homeland on the foundation of the class struggle and thereby waged it against the dominant class in in the society.
Accordingly, the people were educated to understand that only through an intense class struggle that the decadent order could be discarded and a new social order would emerge and thus usher in the collective prosperity and value. The class struggle is to historical transformation as carbon oxide is to plants. Like all old societies that are pregnant with a new one, violence was thus unleashed by the ruling clique to crush the advancement of the people, but they failed miserable as the people incurred pain but assiduously moved to usher in a new era of collective advancement and inclusive politics.
On closer examination, HB’s politics infiltrates, educates and enthuses—it gives us that moral stamina to overcome stasis and subjugation; it provides us with the correct tactic and strategy for agitation, a scientific critique of our class enemies and by which we win the mass of people over to our cause. In addition, it entreats us to have faith in the people only through which we can build a society of shared values. Above all, it is a mixture of virtues with a brand of praxis to unshackle the possessing class. Those virtues are what elevate society, crush domination and set the path for the construction of a society based on the itinerary of collective transformation.
We extol Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh, Jr. not because he is a celebrity or due to the fact that he acquired material wealth. We celebrate him not because of his brilliance and understanding of the struggle. Our appreciation for Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh, Jr. is because he is an ordinary soldier in the struggle for the dignity of suffering humanity. We venerate him because unlike the philistines he exudes with progressive nationalism, pan-Africanist consciousness and beams with the towering commitment to virtues. That is why this character refused to pander to the individual drive with its adjuncts of selfishness, greed, and tribal manipulation, the vaunted appetite for wealth, domination and economic monopoly. Conversely, he beams with that stoicism of social drives which emphasizes collective advancement, social transformation and egalitarianism. It is on the basis of the latter that he sees an individual as an agent for the promotion of inclusive advancement as opposed to individualistic aggrandizement.
Almost 171 years of backwardness call for through thinking and a generation we have made some progress in spite of our setbacks. Now, a discourse on the national questions of leadership and system decay must be at the forefront of our national conversation. It calls for us to commence a passionate debate and do a balance sheet of our collective failure as a people and country. It also calls for us to examine the predatory socio-economic system which has delivered no meaningful development except that our country is on the periphery of capitalism is a hub for the generation of raw materials for industrial economies in the first world. We keep failing ourselves, our children and the African continent. Each time we fail ourselves, the crisis worsens. It presents us as bunch of savages lacking in consciousness to build a new society. It makes our nationality a big burden. Our country a source of batching and desecration. Then our citizenship becomes a batch of dishonor and shame.
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 [email protected] .
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