Self-determination or Third Force Ideology? By Chernoh Alpha M. Bah
The increasing reactionary efforts of the primitive African petty bourgeoisie in this country to defend their class interest have lead to the emergence of vague ideas and arguments purposefully designed to distort our efforts to organize ourselves for genuine liberation and unification of the oppressed masses of our people from neo-colonial and imperialist oppression and exploitation.
This is however not strange to us since we know that the African liberation movement in general has often found itself confronted with these obscuring ideas often emanating from the ever-increasing selfish ambitions of the primitive African petty bourgeoisie to accomplish their immediate political and economic motives through the exploitation of our people’s miserable conditions and aspirations for genuine change.
We in the Africanist Movement believe that this battle of ideas itself constitute a significant part of our struggle for self-determination and our continuous efforts to free ourselves from the numerous contradictions we are faced with as a people. It becomes extremely significant in our struggle since it allows us the opportunity to openly discuss and create a clear understanding of what our responsibility should be to our people. Its appropriateness becomes obvious when we see it as part of our desperate efforts to free ourselves from the death-threatening conditions that we continuously face today because of the actions and inactions of a failed neo-colonial puppet system imposed on us by imperialism and its corporate allies.
This situation can only be understood and taken seriously by the mass of our people if we address it from the basis of a fundamental responsibility we have to put into clear context certain debates over certain issues relating to our problems and our search for a concrete solution to resolve or put an end to these problems. It is obvious today that in Sierra Leone, like any place in Africa, we are faced with so many suggestions and opinions as we continue to find solutions. And the most difficult thing we are confronted with as well is the fact that even when these suggestions appear to identify the sources or circumstances of these problems, the suggestions themselves lack any ideological basis or explanation of the problems hence the suggestions themselves appear to revolve around the same contradictions. This has been and is still the most crucial issue we have to deal with in our struggle for self-determination especially so when certain sections of our people are now talking about a so-called “third force” approach to changing the current status quo.
Third force ideology is a reactionary argument
We all know that the argument advanced by “third force” proponents has its derivation on the reactionary argument that since our so-called independence, our people are being controlled and governed by a single class of individuals who have proficiently developed a fixed system that facilitates their permanent recycling from one position of power to another. And that this system itself has consequently created a situation whereby possibility for access to power has to be done through a marriage or political baptism with the system itself thereby making it impossible for any neutral force not tied to the system to rise to power. This year, for instance, the current Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) government headed by President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah has celebrated ten years of its continuous stay in power. Since 1996, the SLPP and Kabbah have been struggling and are still struggling to maintain control of political power regardless of ceaseless attempts that were made by both the army and former rebels to remove them from power. Kabbah himself is completing his second term as president of the country after he reportedly won two consecutive elections between 1996 and 2002. The SLPP came to power as a consequence of a general campaign for democracy undertaken by the mass of our people. At that time, the argument for a ballot-box solution was so popular that it gave rise to the emergence of what was then called the “election before peace” movement because the belief was that only elections can end our people’s problems.
Middle class opportunism betrayed our people and obscures our struggle
Consequently, our people were eventually miscarried to fight for a “ballot-box democracy” and they successfully removed a heinous military dictatorship from power but paving way for the imposition of a neo-colonial puppet administration that represents the interests of Britain and its imperialist allies. Now people who formed the vanguard of that campaign are equally tongue-tied and completely bewildered because they could not understand how this cohort of middle class sellouts could manipulate our conditions to attain their own selfish political aspirations. But this realization often comes belatedly because the masses of our people often find it extremely difficult to make profound summations to these situations since the aspirations of this class of individuals manifest themselves regularly and ultimately obscures our vision for the future.
It is the misleading actions and activities of this primitive class of selfish kleptomaniacs that is distorting our efforts and aspirations to genuinely free ourselves from the numerous contradictions we are faced with as a people. But the reality is that the current status quo itself is formed to serve the interest of this class and its continuous existence depends on our oppression and the denial of our right to be a self-determining people.
Since 1947, formation of political parties in this country has always had its basis on this notion of exploitation, greed and political banditry. It is the emergence of this status quo through an unhealthy and insincere struggle for power that resultantly created a dichotomy among the people and shaped the foundation for the further development of these corrupt middle class individuals who view political power as the license to personal aggrandizement and ultimate access to wealth and prestige in our society. And it is this phenomenal development that equally propelled and heightened a crude contest for power and greedy accumulation of wealth among these middle class puppets that manifested itself into the bloody onslaught that took the lives of over two hundred thousand of our brothers and sisters, and left the vast majority of our people homeless and without limbs.
It is equally this same exploitative and oppressive desire to control and loot our resources that gave birth not only to this vicious system that functions as a pedestal for imperialist exploitation and oppression but also necessitated the implant and perpetuation of a failed neo-colonial system that remains insensitive to addressing the people’s problems. Today the vast majority of the masses in this country are living in abject poverty and without any access to our numerous resources whilst a thuggish ruling class who run a failed neo-colonial puppet state grow extremely rich by living on the blood of the people and continue to hold the rest of us hostage. Even those who are responsible for this chaotic phenomenon are conscious of the penury they inflict on us. It is a conscious decision they made to protect their own class interests – a primitive petty bourgeois interest designed to reap the people for the benefit of a handful of opportunistic sellouts.
Ideological analysis should form the basis of our struggle
That is why we in the Africanist Movement think it is our responsibility to add our voice to this whole debate over a “third force approach” to solving our people’s problems. We believe primarily that any serious solution to the problems we are confronted with in this country has to have a thorough ideological analysis of the current status quo with a view to helping our people understand the relationship they have with the system in question. And that this analysis itself should not only be based on the simple idea of our people’s aspiration for change, but should have its starting point on our efforts to overturn the existing social system which is the source of the troubles we continue to experience. More importantly, the analysis should also have the potency of presenting a world view that will help our people understand the circumstances that necessitated the existence of this system and how other oppressed people around the world are suffering as a consequence of our collective relationship to an international capitalist order that survives from our own oppression and exploitation. It is only through this systematic analysis that we will be able to juxtapose a strategy that will genuinely answer to our people’s ever increasing aspiration and desire for freedom from this stagnating system responsible for the miserable conditions we collectively face as a people.
Imperialism and neo-colonialism responsible for our misery
Our people should know fully well that this system is not an isolated system but is tied to an international exploiting system referred to as capitalism which itself became a world system as a consequence of the exploitation and oppression of Africa and African people worldwide. They should equally understand that it is this relationship between us and this international capitalist order or imperialist system that blocks and jeopardizes our struggle for self-determination and eventually snatches away our right to take control of our resources and decide how we should live or ought to live. They must also recognize that this process of suppression and or denial of our democratic right to decide how we should live have been made possible by the forceful installation of puppets on the rest of us who function exclusively as agents carrying out imperialist decisions and policies in our various communities. And that it is this international conspiracy, giving support and backing to a rogue middle class, necessitates the functioning of a neo-colonial system serving the interests of imperialism which in turn protects its continuous existence.
For instance, our conditions have worsened and they continue to deteriorate at super sonic speed since the British Union Jack was lowered in 1961 raising the question as to whether it was necessary for this country to demand “independence” from Britain. But the truth is that what happened in 1961 was not an event of independence but another transition of power from one group of colonial exploiters to another; the only difference being Africans taking control of state affairs but working for the interests of the same imperial power. Now 45 years after that event, the British themselves are visibly in the country running the affairs of the state.
The British Department for International Development is in charge of deciding whatever economic programme undertaken in the country while the British International Military Advisory Training Team is in charge of restructuring, training and controlling the country’s army. The office of national security is headed and supervised by British military officers, the senior defense adviser to the president is a British, Deputy Anti-Corruption Commissioner is a British, the Director of Agriculture at the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security is a British, British judges now sit and adjudicate matters in our courts, the British train the police and until recently a British police officer was head of our police and the Commonwealth Police Training Team is still in charge of our police. In November last year, the British government also sent a team to the Sierra Leone Police Training School at Hastings to discuss arrangements of direct affiliation with Bradford University in England. This arrangement now allows police officers from Sierra Leone to be sent to England for advanced imperialist training whilst at the same time making it necessary for British police officers to come to Sierra Leone under the guise of training the country’s police. A British military base has already been created in the country and no one knows the current number of British troops stationed up the Freetown peninsula at Hill Station.
This is being done to provide protection and security for a puppet middle class who are frantic with fear over the increasing aspiration of the oppressed masses to overturn our suffering by ending the life span of this suffocating system. It is a counter insurgency programme designed primarily in response to our efforts to galvanize ourselves in defense of our inalienable right to self-determination.
Building of a third force is no solution
This is also a clear indication and open manifestation that the so-called building of a “third force” is no solution to this political struggle between the mass of our people and the primitive African petty bourgeoisie for the simple reason that the proponents of the “third force” alternative are themselves sections of the middle class who feel alienated from their compatriots due to the growing power struggle within and among the middle class parties themselves. It is this contest for power and leadership within the various existing middle class parties that has lead to the emergence of this other group of disgruntled power hungry politicians whose aim is to manipulate our sufferings and aspirations for genuine change to fulfill their political ambitions and economic motives.
This is exactly what we have witnessed in the formation and creation of all the political parties in this country starting from the All Peoples Congress (APC) under Siaka Stevens to Taimu Bangura’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and United National Peoples Party (UNPP) of Dr. John Kerefa Smarth, Abass Bundu’s Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) to Johnny Paul Koroma’s Peoples Liberation Party (PLP) and the Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP), and lately Charles Margai’s Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC).
The reality is that none of these parties truly represent our needs and aspirations for genuine change. And neither of these parties nor do their various leaders have political programmes that seek to liberate us from neo-colonial and imperialist exploitation and oppression. These parties themselves lack any ideological programme that addresses and or explains the basis of the poverty and appalling conditions we collectively face as a people in this country. The reason being that the leaders of these parties are themselves members of the class that creates and propels our miserable existence. And the emergence of these parties in fact owe their motivations from the increasing power struggle evident among the primitive African petty bourgeoisie as a result of their desperate vaulting ambitious desires to loot and exploit our resources. It is this same insincere desire and hidden political agenda that has equally lead to the production and reproduction of this equivalently similar group of rogues piloting what they describe as “a third force approach” as a final solution to changing the status quo.
It is our firm conviction that the building of another political party made up of disgruntled members of this status quo is no solution to our problems. Rather it will just serve to escalate and worsen the crisis that has been forced upon us by the numerous contradictions created by neo-colonialism and imperialism. Take Charles Margai and the Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) as an example. The PMDC obviously was born as a consequence of leadership acrimony that wrecked the SLPP in part because of the unwillingness of some party members to continue under the leadership of gerontocracts and the latter’s adamancy to create room for new and upcoming leadership. This been the case, it will be correct to say that Margai would have remained an SLPP member if the party had allowed him to be its leader. Since he resigned more than once from the party each time he looses in a convention, Margai’s decision to form the PMDC is born primarily from his conclusion that his continuation in the SLPP is a hindrance to his struggle for state power. Consequently, the PMDC is in no way a party that should represent itself to the people as a credible alternative to changing the status quo because its leadership is part of the status quo but opted out of it because they think their selfish political motives cannot be realized within the SLPP and are no longer compatible with those already in power.
Third force, a middle class strategy to win power at our expense
That is why we also say that the “third force approach” is consequently a plot conceived and hatched by the disgruntled sections of the middle class with the sole ambition of manipulating the people in their selfish struggle to seize power for themselves from their opposing middle class compatriots at our own expense. This has always been a common strategy utilized by those already in power who these “third force” proponents seek to replace through the support of the masses. And the truth is that the primitive African petty bourgeoisie are obviously aware of their insignificance and absolutely conscious of their inability to win a struggle without manipulating the people to accomplish their often selfish desires. Their insignifance is so obvious that it makes this minute class of individuals vulnerable and insecure without the instruments of coercion.
Our freedom lies in our ability to organize ourselves
This is exactly why we equally think it is essential for our people to understand that this system can not be changed by replacing one group of middle class individuals with another nor can it be through the creation of a novel party of some group of self-proclaimed saints who portray themselves as messiahs of the people. But the oppressed masses of our people have to organize themselves into a political organization of their own; one that is made up of the oppressed and exploited masses and represents their interests through a general programme for the future. By this we mean, we have to build and be part of an organization ourselves that has the ability, strength and capacity to lead our struggle for self-determination by ultimately fulfilling our aspirations to be free from neo-colonialism and imperialism. This is primarily important because our struggle for self-determination falls within our general effort to overturn a social system consciously imposed on us by imperialism and is consequently the source of all miserable conditions we face as a people. It is only the building of such political organization that will ultimately lead us to a coherent approach of how we can collectively end our suffering and regain control of our right to become a self-governing people. In the final analysis, it is only through such a process that the primitive African petty bourgeoisie will be destroyed — a process which equally means the defeat of imperialism and the restoration of our right to self-determination. That is our collective task as oppressed people!