William V.S. Tubman was not only the ringleader of the right-wing True Whig Party oligarchy for 27years, he was also a poodle of American imperialism. These dispositions of Tubman mutated his reign into an autocracy and thus created devastating consequences not only for progressive nationalism in Liberia but also put a break on African unity. As the godfather of the right–wing oligarchy, Tubman wrecked the little gains made under the progressive President Edwin J. Barclay, who fought to construct a black republic that promotes the dignity of all and sundry, contrary to reducing the majority to sub-human status while centralizing political and economic rights in the hands of a cliquish minority. Barclay intervened to build a wholesome functioning society where everyone succeeds because he/she is a human being while Tubman introduced the system of domination and control to keep the exploited masses in conditions of servitude, damnation and subjugation while he and his fingerfiul cabal looted and plundered the nation.
Considering President Barclay (an Americo-Liberian) as a progressive nationalist is a rebuttal to the reactionary cynics who argue that we derisively regard every member of the Americo-Liberian social formation as an apologist of the depraved True Whig Party (TWP) oligarchy that despoiled the fatherland by its entrenchment of domination and brute control of our people. There are two sides of the Americo-Liberian social formation. One side is the conservative reactionary politicos while the other side is the progressive nationalist wing. The conservative wing which produced and reproduced extremely conservative Americo-Liberian chauvinists like William V.S. Tubman dominated political power while the progressive wing produced revolutionary patriots like Edward Wilmot Blyden, Raymond Horace, TR Bracewell, TJR Faulkner, Edwin J. Barclay and Albert Porte got eclipsed in the power struggle. The right wing blocked every effort by the progressive wing to alter the hegemonic order. Thus, instead of constructing a black republic that makes the people subjects of history and allow their imaginations to blossom, they built a reactionary authoritarian settler-state to dehumanize the masses and keep them at the lowest edge of the economic and political ladder.
We can say the elites of the indigenous social formation was complicit in this class polarization. There are right wing indigenous political elites whereas there are progressive indigenous political elites. The former shares political philosophy and affinity with the right-wing politicos of the Americo-Liberian social caste while the latter formed a common alliance with the progressive and revolutionary Americo-Liberians. The focus of the right-wing indigenous elites has never been social transformation. By that, we mean altering the reactionary settler-state to reflect the popular aims and aspirations of all and sundry in the nation-state. What they have always struggled for is to occupy similar political and economic space of the conservative Americo-Liberian politicos to continue the project of domination and subjugation. This explains why the military coup that ended the 133years of conservative Americo-Liberian political dominance in 1980 did not culminate into a social revolution which alters the economic productive forces and mutate the political superstructure into people-centered institutions of governance. We can say much on this subject. But we need to get back to the theme of this write-out.
As a lapdog of American imperialism, Tubman’s government adopted the capitalist Open Door Policy. Thus, Tubman superimposed on the society the private means of production and the free market economy that did not have the material ingredients to develop the productive forces for the benefits of the Liberian masses based on the capitalist mode of production and exchange of commodities. This integrated Liberia into the unequal international division of labor as a supplier of cheap raw materials to the advanced capitalist economies and as an importer of costly manufactured consumer goods from the metropoles of imperialist capitalism. Hence, although Liberia was never colonized by any of the European powers, as a de facto American protectorate, it still suffered the cruelty of colonial and neo-colonial exploitation of Africa and the black race. Sadly, This remains the pattern of economic production and trade not only for Liberia but other African countries such as Ghana, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, etc.
The Open-Door Policy turned Liberia into a veritable asset for imperialist exploitation of the labor of our people and the mineral and natural resources from our soil and subsoil. Between the 1950s and 1960s, imperialist exploitation was not only concentrated in rubber production, it also extended to the mining sector. Thus, the jump in Liberia’s gross domestic product (economic growth) in the 60s did not culminate into economic development as a vast portion of the surplus values created by the sweat and blood of workers got repatriated and not reinvested or redeployed to other sectors of the economy to reduce poverty and enhance other aspects of social development. They paid workers starvation wages; they paid peanuts as taxes and royalties to government. More frustratingly, the revenue generated by government became the preserves of the bureaucratic parasites who pay themselves huge emoluments while education, healthcare, infrastructure, etc. lie in ruins and tatters. The piecemeal developments that were concentrated in Monrovia were financed either by aid, grants from the imperialist countries or loans from the IMF and World Bank; thus, entrapping the country in the web of debt and mortgaging its sovereignty.
Note: While the political superstructure may have changed its features since the second imperialist war, the economic base of the society has remained the same. Under Tubman, it was a Black Apartheid state in the service of imperialist capitalism. Under Doe, it was a military Bonapartism/dictatorship in the service of imperialist capitalism. Under Taylor, it was Black Fascism in the service of capitalism. The Ellen’s era ushered in a liberal democracy; not a popular democracy but a democracy in the service of neo-liberal capitalism. In the current era under the soccer dolt, the fatherland is drifting away from liberal democracy and neo-colonial capitalism back to Black fascism in the service of private ownership of the properties of production, free market economy and free trade. Under these different conditions, the major aim of the state has been to create the condition for the wholesale exploitation of labor and resources by foreign capital.
On the foreign policy front, Tubman was an unapologetic poster boy of US Cold War interests in Africa. He drifted away from the non-aligned movement and explicitly bowed in submission to the Capitalist America to the disadvantage of the communist Soviet Union. Liberia hosted the VOA (US’ Cold War propaganda machinery) Africa headquarters. Tubman gifted the land of Blyden to Washington to host its Omega Towel and the CIA Africa headquarters which was used to spy on not only soviet satellite states but also genuinely independent African state that elected to develop outside the trappings of Cold War politics. To ensure that Africa become dominated by American economic interest after the European powers were weakened by the Second World War, President Tubman opposed every effort at creating a United Socialist Africa under one government, one economic zone, a common foreign policy, joint military high command, etc. The unification of Africa based on the socialist mode of production would have merged the immense human and material resources of the continent for the benefit of the African people as opposed to the balkanization of the continent and the dominant business interest of American and European imperialism. This was unacceptable to Tubman’s imperialist masters in Washington.
Hence, Mr. Tubman volunteered as a forerunner of the Monrovia Group at the height of the debate relating to the formation of a united Africa. This group comprised English speaking independent African states and was financed by British and American imperialism. There was also the Brazzaville Group which comprised French speaking independent African states and was bankrolled by French imperialism. The two groups were lured to oppose the Casablanca Group (Guinea, Ghana, Mali, Morocco, Egypt, Libya and Algeria’s FLN) proposal for the formation of a united Africa based on one central government, one economic zone, one military, citizenship, currency, etc. At the 1963 All African People’s Congress held in Addis Ababa, the Monrovia and Brazzaville groups “adopted a go-slow attitude towards African emancipation and unity and pursued a policy of conciliation with imperialism.” (Nkrumah, 1969). Thus, instead of uniting Africa, they voted to form the paper tiger Organization of African Unity (OAU) which is now the African Union (AU). This organization, with its subservience to American imperialism, failed to resolve the socioeconomic, political and cultural imbalances brought forward by centuries of slavery and colonialism. Today, Africa is balkanized and exploited by foreign monopoly capital. Its markets are the dumping grounds for European and American manufactured products and its territories are the playgrounds of imperialist military conquest/expansion. Courtesy of backward forces such as William V.S. Tubman who was also the first African head of state to support the 1966 overthrow of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. The current generation of progressive Africans will never forget the pains Tubman and others brought to our continent and race!
—-Moses Yahmia, Uneh
Main Photo: President William VS Tubman, Daily Maverick