The poverty of historical analysis: Darius Dillion and the tragedy of revisionism

By Alfred P. B. Kiadii*

Senator Abraham Darius Dillon

Following his constellation of vitriolic falsifications of the historical records about the violent occurrence on April 14, 1979, in Liberia, the accidental senator for Montserrsado county Darius Dillion has refused to retract his disgraceful statement and apologize for polluting the historical pages with frightening inaccuracies. His intransigence is intentional and well thought of as it is aimed at achieving his grotesque, partisan wet dream of discrediting the progressive forces and desecrating their struggle. Furthermore, his refusal to offer mea culpa, bordering on Napoleon complex and Olympian arrogance, has elicited a slew of brilliantly sharp polemics from the camp of the progressive forces, particularly from the ranks of radical students and stalwart veterans, predominantly a new generation of progressive elements unfazed by the vicious revisionism of class enemies of the Dillion type. People like Darius Dillon are known to us because of their apriori rejection of the pro-democratic struggle and the cause for social transformation in the Fatherland.

Choking on historical fallacies while dismissing unbiased accounts of the April 14 tragedy, Dillion passes non sequitur for comprehensive analysis of the rice demonstration. He lampooned the masses and radical students as ‘brainwashed and ignorant barbarians’ for taking to the streets on that fateful day without an appreciation for their heroic sacrifice and revolutionary agency. He immersed himself in hasty generalization without understanding the historical context in which the rice demonstration took place. He peddled the fiction that the Progressive Alliance of Liberia (PAL) and the Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA) took advantage of the ‘ignorance’of the people because the proposed increment in the price of rice would have benefited the poor and oppressed. Indeed, little education is a dangerous thing, but blatantly lying through one’s teeth is abominable. Dillon is too ignorant to understand that the policy change had nothing to do with the people. For a second, how could an increment in the price of imported rice benefit local rice farmers when approximately 80 percent of Liberian peasants during the 1970s were at the stage of subsistence farming lacking access to advanced skills, new technology and capital to engage in mechanized farming, increase rice productivity, and supply the local market and export the surplus?

For instance, before Great Britain enacted the Corn Laws in the 19th Century to protect British farmers from foreign competition by imposing high tariff on the importation of barley, oat, cereal grain and wheat, the government empowered smallholder farmers through access to arable land, capital, advanced farming methods, etc. These interventions helped to spur local production and give British farmers exclusive ownership of the local market. Until British agriculture developed strong enough to compete in the international capitalist market, those protectionist laws remain unaltered. With Liberia, the increment in the price of imported rice from US$22.00 to US$26.00 had everything to do with an attempt at indecent accumulation by the Tolbert family that owned a large rice farm and therefore tariff on imported rice would have given it a monopoly over the Liberian rice market. It takes disciplined and decent patriots with serious insights to understand these complexities. It takes people committed to the ideas of equality and justice to oppose a government that wanted to dupe the broad masses of dispossessed humankind.

Dillon, jingositically stamped the progressive politicos with a guilty verdict but refused to admit that the Tolbert regime introduced armed violence into Liberian politics when the president ordered forces of the police to shoot and kill hundreds of unarmed protesters whose only crime was to come out en masse to exercise their democratic rights to freedom of assembly guaranteed under the aegis of the 1847 Constitution. This brings us to the question: Isn’t this the same lousy Dillon who, as one of the founding members of the Council of Patriots (COP), called the people out on June 7, 2019, to protest the unending economic crisis, mismanagement of state resources, abuse of the rule of law, repression of dissenting voices, and the clampdown on the free press by the Weah regime? Should we also argue that Dillon took advantage of the ignorance of the masses when he made such a call? Also, if the state had unleashed its forces of repression on June 7 and killed hundreds of unarmed protesters, would it be right to turn a blind eye to the perishing of the innocent masses and draw the same reckless conclusion as Dillon’s?

If the reports of the Brownell Committee and the TRC provide a contrary conclusion on the April 14, 1979 state censored violence against our people, Dillion’s tirade against the progressives, tarring them with the most venomous brush of guilt regarding the occurrence on April 14, 1979, falls to the ground. However, his attempt at side-stepping historical truths only to shore up his solidarity with the rotten oligarchy of the True Whig Party (TWP) shows that this latter-day poster-boy of that rotten ruling class of exploitation and backwardness is on a mission to criminalize dissent and embellish the sordid record of the most backward oligarchy in black Africa as some sort of golden age. This task embarked on by our man to brandish his TWP credentials is akin to being treated to a ridiculous circus where a delusional man claims supernatural powers which place him in the position to resurrect the dead. Here one sees a man glorying in fantasy and completely unaware of his colossal limitations while playing at being a giant interpreter of history far above him and one whose tapestry requires intellectual rigour and academic discipline—qualities that are so lacking in Dillion that one observes at first sight.

His insistence to absolve the Tolbert regime of guilt not only shows his class inclinations but also forcefully confirms our position that while these backward reactionaries pretend class war is not at the heart of their agendas, every action they embark on discredit that narrative. The truth is their instinct is to always defend their class position, ignite a class war against the broad masses of the people, even when it means fabricating history to suit their dark proclivities and dubious objectives. Perhaps the nondescript Dillon is playing to his class base, especially courting political ancients who distributed poverty, ignorance and disease to the defenceless masses of our people. And we stress that even while cloaking self-aggrandizing aims in liberatory rhetoric, one knows the values and politics of a man who venerates the T. C. Goulds and Brumksines of this world, but uses every occasion to lampoon Tipoteh, Fahnbulleh, Matthews, Sawyer, etc. One knows the ideological current a man represents when he picks his side in a bloody historical fight, especially in the penultimate battle between the forces of reaction and revolution. And one sees the sadistic joy of a man who spits over the corpses of martyred comrades while celebrating an oligarchy that cut their existence short.

Crude malapropism does not even begin to describe the rank hypocrisy of a man who learned his history from rabid, scandal sheets that revel in bashing of the progressive forces like erotism. The masquerade is off! The halo around Dillion has been deflated! The illusions of change he parrots have been shattered! Dillion and the ‘man of the people or the light’ epithet cannot even go together in the same sentence let alone stand elementary scrutiny. This storehouse of contradictions has always been a schemer and a first-rate con man who has exploited popular grievances to feather his political nests. And his election victories are part of the continuum of popular rejection of the brand CDC. People were voting against the CDC and not voting for Dillion—and that conclusion is dialectically apt. His election victories have absolutely nothing to do with him; they have everything to do with rectifying the historical anomalies. We have the young people and democratic forces in the country to thank for the massive consciousness-raising efforts. This explains his rise on the historical stage and highlights the fact it is not because of any peculiar intellectual brilliance or entrenched popularity. The Weah government had become a political liability that even if the opposition parties had fielded a less-known candidate, the masses would have rejected the CDC brand.

But it is equally amusing for Dillion to benefit from the fruits of the progressive struggles, and it is the height of folly to condemn the supreme sacrifices they made to obtain democratic pluralism and all its trappings of giving oppressed forces the voice to speak out and live a dignified life. We find not honesty, not fair interpretation from the screed of missive unleashed against the progressive forces by Dillion. To argue that the violent history of the space called Liberia was created by the progressive forces—as if they were not victims of a history of exclusion and the relations of domination and subjugation—is to rehash the cliched regurgitation that vestiges of the oligarchy vomit when confronted with accounts of their abject misrule. It is also to ignore the accumulation of grievances swept under the carpet which plotted for expression in popular organizing and mobilizations. For Dillion to think there is a disconnect between the exclusion of the tribal majority from representation, the pacification of the hinterland, the economic degradation that decimated their lives, and the general climate of fear and hostility against alternative ideas have no relation to conditions that give expression to the upheaval of the rice demonstration of April 14, 1979, is to see history as a series of disconnected occurrences and not a collection of well-connected events that explode onto the surface when they reach the nodal point.

Thus, we assert that the tragedies that befell Liberia on April 14, 1979 and April 12, 1980 are rooted in the collective legacy of the trajectories of violent state-formation, of which the people have been historical victims while rancid elements of the pre-1980 ruling group have been winners. The price paid by Tolbert on April 12, 1980 and the thirteen men April 22, 1980 are far lesser than the price paid by the tribal majority in the political and social history of our country.  This notion of selective grief for victims of the bloodletting starts from the weird notion that the price paid by a slain president is far superior to that of several unnamed and faceless masses slaughtered and buried in mass graves on April 14, 1979. You would say that if you think the people are objects and their victimization is normal. You would say that if you think the people are objects and their victimization is normal. For history teaches us when you dishonour the people and cut the lives of their sons and daughters short and use brute force and sheer savagery to lord over society, it is only time that these same people who are victims of your history of oppression and domination would produce social forces to confront you. Hegel captures it well in his concept of recognition—of lordship and bondage. And this is as true of the anti-colonial struggles as it is of all struggles where oppressed humanity makes demands through radical actions for their God-given rights and collective dignity. I do not expect Dillion to understand; this is like Latin or Greek to him. But I expect him to shout progressives caused the rice riot and the social dislocation of the society like the three witches in Macbeth fond of dabbling in the incantation of apparition, apparition, and apparition!

Here is a man who opportunistically identifies himself with Mandela and the struggle of the ANC against apartheid, yet he condemns the progressives for exercising their democratic rights. What does this clown know about the radical actions of political formations such as the United Democratic Movement when Mandela and other grandees of the ANC were held in prison?  How does he situate the emergence of Steve Biko and Barney Pityana in the Black Consciousness Movement? How does he explain the formation of SASO and its efforts at radicalizing university students, the Soweto Uprising and the drowning of students in blood symbolized the wretchedness and bestiality of the apartheid regime? Does he even know that the ANC had an armed wing called Umkhonto we Sizwe confronted the apartheid elements at the theatre of battle? How does he come to grip with the fact that after the banning of the ANC and the SACP under the Suppression of Communism Act, cadres and members of these political formations went underground and mounted campaigns of sabotage against apartheid?

I want to deal with the question of apologizing for opposing the oligarchy. The question itself is a loaded platitude. You mean after the violent dispossession of the tribal masses of their land, the slaughtering of our comrades who we buried in mass graves, after the crushing of William D. Coleman and his son, after the fight of Juah Nimley, after the expulsion of D. Twe from the House of representative for introducing a bill for putting an end to forced labour, after the show trial of Du Fahnbulleh, after Blyden and others warned the oligarchy to stop victimizing the people and build a nation, after Albert Porte and others were insulted and told they were mad because they demanded the construction of a new society, and after the victimization and subjugation of tens of thousands of our compatriots at Fernando Po and others whose names don’t make the official statistics and rooster—and the progressive elements must apologize after taking that titanic list of causalities? What sheer insanity! What logic of history forces historical victims of crushing repression to apologize for demanding and fighting for a dignified order? How insensitive can one be to tell social forces who fought for a fair society to apologize for demanding it? What level of hate does one need to have for a group of people who were victimized because of fighting for a just cause to tell these people they were wrong?

The progressive forces are to the Liberian poor and working people and dehumanized humanity as Darius Dillon and the rogue’s gallery of reactionaries are to the exploiting classes. Consequently, he does not deserve the solidarity and collective support of the Liberian progressive forces. His slander and deliberate misinformation show he appreciates not the history of struggle and sacrifice and cannot put his life on the line for sainted causes when the existence of society and the condition of the working masses is appalling. No matter how backward and reactionary the Weah regime is, the answer does not lie with Dillon and his likes. And to counter the warped notions of the likes of Dillion’s theory of a‘perfect and working Liberia’ that was rudely disrupted by certain forces who dabbled in foreign ideas, we must proudly claim our progressive histories and engage in the struggle while building theories for the transformation of society. Progressive groups—from student formations to veteran circles must defend the Liberian progressive tradition. At a time when progressive ideas are experiencing a revival, and the official opposition to the political farce is found wanting, forces of the Liberian left must boldly claim their tradition, defend their struggle, and highlight the progressive way is the only way out of the doldrums of despair for the homeland and its battered masses. There are many Dillons out there biding their time to insult the progressive forces. We can only stop the tide of historical revisionism when we defend our tradition against slander and vilification. We must also connect our ideas with the actual struggles of the working people, as it is not enough to have the right ideas.

Long live the Progressive Forces!

Long live the Masses of our People!

The Fatherland or death—we will win!

Kiadii writes from Accra, Ghana, and he can be contacted at 

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