By A. Bombo Kiadii
We must not lose focus to convey an outpouring of comradely salutation to a remarkable icon who has fought relentlessly to reshape the historical contours of the fatherland and make his worthwhile contributions to the peoples of the global South in the fight for social justice, equality, and a better world.
As I journey through history and look back to the defeat of the bankrupt oligarchy, I have developed a great admiration for this man and his comrades who placed their lives on the line. As a result, I drew imagery to characterize the intensity of the excitement when they kicked out the rotten oligarchy.
Here is it: Illusion is being extinguished, the charade has ended, and the old moribund True Whig Party has fallen from grace to grass being defenestrated, being consigned to the ash heap of history by their social inferiors, as they call the people. A new day has come. The masses are joyous; the exhilaration is electric, and the celebration has overwhelmed the streets. Monrovia has seen a swarm of stampede, hope high, aspiration reawakened, and a new day has come. The wall of invincibility has fallen like a deck of cards. All the reactionary rhetoric of using the coercive force of the state to teach the working people and Liberian masses a lesson has been all talk, talk and talk.
We celebrate political freedom, notwithstanding the political stasis which has gripped our country and occasioned social desiccation and economic sclerosis, we pause all activities and stop everything to pay homage to a struggle icon whose taste for social justice has never diluted, whose desire for an equal society based on the concept of equality never withered away, and a decent compatriot who lifelong commitments to popular struggles and campaigns even at potential risk and under perilous conditions have been remarkable.
As we say, human beings enter the realm of immortality when they tremble with indignation against injustices and sacrifice for righteous causes, place their lives on the line for justice, and never waver in the face of full-throttle aggression from the camp of the reactionary forces. It is against this background that we pay great homage to progressive politicos, whose struggle yesterday paved the way for the freedom we enjoy today. Our indebtedness to these elements is part of our broader conception of justice, our understanding of the historical forces who array against them, and the many downright revisionist narratives that are cobbled together to erase their sacrifices and airbrush them out of the pages of our history.
Mayson is a progressive icon, a decent Liberian patriot—of which Blyden, Du Fahnbulleh, and David Coleman were the most ideal of that sacred tradition — Prof Dew Mayson. We are happy to congratulate this steadfast revolutionary for his impeccable conduct, his stellar achievements, and for being upright, especially so when one considers the many pains and agonies and other tortures he suffered because he refused to indulge in the spoils and trade his convictions on the altar of egotistical calculations.
If you are an ardent follower of Liberian history, you will recall that Prof Mayson and his colleagues from MOJA who came back with terminal credentials refused to get co-opted in the rotten bureaucracy of the oligarchy but took the path of righteous struggle for inclusion and justice. Looking back at how starkly the odds were stark against them, they gave true meaning to those words of that great Mexican revolution in Emiliano Zapata: “It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.’’ On their feet, they fought for rice and rights, and on their feet, they defeated the oligarchy.
During that period, Mayson and his comrades made manifest Marx’s indelible words: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point, however, is to change’’ It was with this urgency that Mayson threw himself in the vortex of the struggle, throughout remaining true to his convictions. Under this condition, in 1977, he penned a very interesting paper — Neo-Colonialism in a West African State: The Case of Liberia. In it, he exposed Liberia as a neo-colonial contraption, in which he described the oligarchy was the wayward offspring of imperialism, incapable of developing the productive forces of the society because of its late arrival on the scene of history, but committed to keeping the country as a veritable space for the extraction of resources by imperialist capital, outlined by the political framework in that mode of economic arrangement, and the underlying contradictory vulnerabilities that would propel the bursting of the abscess.
With his shrewd understanding of political economy through his voracious devouring of the Marxist classic, he was body and soul involved in the struggle, Mayson became a professor in the classroom exposing students to literature to discover contradictions in their environment at the same time a great organizer on the front lines involved in the activities of MOJA but was a key organizer in SUZUKUU engaged with the working class in the mines and at the plantations explaining to them the rate of exploitation and the disproportionate surplus value that the multinationals were sucking out of the working class, Moja was founded by Comrade Togbah Na Tipoteh.
Fearing his radical posture, outflanked by how enlightened students at the then Cuttington University College about their rights and the unfolding events in the country and globally, the rotten oligarchy went rogue, this time triggering the nuclear option of forcing the College to dismiss him as Assistant Professor of Political Science. It was on 31st January 1975 that they triggered that action which came to expose the conniving spinelessness of the authorities at the university. This move was meant to sap his quest for justice and thus demoralize him for the sagacious role he was playing in the social struggle for a just society. The oligarchy tried, but yet again they couldn’t break the man.
People like Prof Mayson are gifts to the republic, even if the enemy wants to paint a dark image of their struggles and their sacrifices. They elected to transform the historical trajectory of the country by demanding fair play and justice for all. When they mounted the challenge against a regime armed to its teeth, then it was neither fashionable nor safe to do so. In life, as in history, the quest for justice has always enthused social forces to embark on difficult struggles. That was the basis of their resistance against the bankrupt oligarchy.
Although the progressive class— Prof. Mayson included — won the political aspect of the struggle, the fight for economic emancipation hangs in the balance. The economic question remains the determining factor in shaping the direction of our country. It is finding an answer to this question that we can answer the social question and set our country on the path towards social emancipation. It is in this context that we must place the current struggle and, hence to address this question that young the progressive class and the older ones must coalesce to push for final victory.
As we conclude this tribute, our nation Liberia is at the fork in the road—from leadership paralysis to social failures and underdevelopment and beyond. The nation is like a battered whore subjected to the whims and caprices of fiendish men and women who want to satisfy their social fantasies. In this time—the progressives class—old and young, must reflect and live up to this moment. If we ever think about giving up, here is your crime as the very eminent Guatemalan poet in Oto Rene Castillo wrote in his poem entitled Apolitical Intellectual, which applies to the theme of this message—
the apolitical intellectuals
of our land
will be interrogated
by the poorest of people.
They will be asked what they did
while their community
like a sweet fire, small and alone.
No one will ask them about their fashion sense,
or their long lunches at the faculty club.
No one will want to know about their absurd
attempts to discover “the meaning of it all.”
No one will care about or even understand
their economic outlook for
“the current recession.”
They will not be questioned on
nor their new age remedy for
feelings of alienation.
They’ll be asked nothing about their
post-modernist justifications for apathy, concocted as self-serving lies.
On that day the simple folk will come.
Those who had no place in the
papers, books and poems of
the apolitical intellectuals,
but who produced their
food and clothes, built
their homes and cars,
who cleaned their
offices, raised their children, and cooked
and they’ll ask:
“What did you do when the poor
suffered, when tenderness and
life burned out in them?”
you will not be able answer.
A vulture of silence
will eat at your guts. Your own misery
will pick at your soul.
And you will be mute
in your shame.